California Businessman Sentenced for Role in $1 Billion Ponzi Scheme

The owner of DC Solar, a California-based solar energy company, was sentenced for deceiving investors as part of a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

It's an close-up photo of a judge gavel.

Close-up of judge gavel.

It's an close-up photo of a judge gavel.

The owner of solar energy company based in California was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison for swindling investors as part of a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the Department of Justice announced

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez handed down the sentence after Jeff Carpoff, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in January 2020. “He claimed to be an innovator in alternative energy, but he was really just stealing money from investors and costing the American taxpayer hundreds of millions in tax credits,” Phillip Talbert, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, said. 

DC Solar manufactured mobile solar generator, or MSG, units, from 2011 and 2018, which were meant to supply emergency power to cellphone towers, as well as provide lighting at sporting events. The solar nature of these units led investors to believe that they could reap the rewards of generous tax credits. However, Carpoff lied to backers about the demand for these MSG units and earnings through third party involvement in an effort to execute a circular payment structure in which he would use the new money coming in to pay back old investors the supposed lease revenue that they were expecting. 

Carpoff was selling thousands of MSG units that didn’t exist, and using elaborate tactics to cover up the fact that of the approximately 17,000 mobile solar generators DC Solar claimed to have manufactured, at least half were nowhere to be found. According to NBC News, insurance company Progressive and Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway were among the investors. 

The government is looking to use the $120 million in forfeited assets as restitution for those who fell victim to the scheme. 

Carpoff’s wife Paulette also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. Her sentencing is scheduled for next week. 

Latest in Life