An owner of DC Solar, a Benicia-based company, was sentenced today for a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme— the biggest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Jeff Carpoff, 50, of Martinez, to 30 years in prison. On Jan. 24, 2021, Carpoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His wife, Paulette Carpoff, 47, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. The government’s investigation has resulted in approximately $120 million in assets forfeited that the government intends to seek authorization to use towards restitution to victims of the fraud.
According to court documents, between 2011 and 2018, DC Solar manufactured mobile solar generator units (MSG), which were solar generators that were mounted on trailers and were promoted as able to provide emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting events. A significant incentive for investors were generous federal tax credits due to the solar nature of the MSGs.
The conspirators carried out an accounting and lease revenue fraud using Ponzi-like circular payments. Carpoff and others lied to investors about the market demand for DC Solar’s MSGs and its revenue from leasing to third parties, then covered up these lies with techniques including false financial statements and fake lease contracts. Their fraud concealed a circular payment structure where Carpoff and others were simply using new investor money to pay older investors the supposed lease revenue that investors were expecting. As DC Solar lost vast sums of money with this fraudulent model, Carpoff and other conspirators stopped building the MSGs altogether, selling thousands of MSGs that did not even exist to investors. To carry out this part of the fraud, Carpoff and others made it appear that MSGs existed in locations that they did not, swapped vehicle identification number (VIN) stickers on MSGs that had been built earlier, and attempted to deceive certain investors during equipment inspections. In reality, at least half of the approximately 17,000 mobile solar generators claimed to have been manufactured by DC Solar did not exist.
“Jeff Carpoff orchestrated the largest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert. “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. Today’s substantial sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense and provides just punishment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the public and promoting respect for the law.”
— Department of Justice —
DC Solar sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, and Brennan Poole from 2016 – 2018 in both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.
DC Solar also had a partnership with Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2017 and 2018.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity Series team closed followed by the DC Solar scandal in early 2019.