Solar Companies And Corporate Officer Ordered To Pay Over $5 Million Relating To Allegations They Defrauded A Renewable Energy Program
DENVER – The United States obtained judgments against two companies and an individual officer of those companies relating to allegations that they violated the False Claims Act when they submitted applications to obtain payments from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for renewable energy projects.
Under a program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, companies could apply to get reimbursements for up to 30 percent of the costs they incurred in initiating and placing into service “renewable energy properties,” such as solar and wind projects. Companies submitted applications for these payments to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. The funds for the reimbursement came from Treasury Department funds. Those funds were set aside under section 1603 of the 2009 Act, under a program commonly known in the renewable energy industry as the 1603 Program.
Defendant New World Renewable Energy Leasing, Inc. (New World) was involved in solar projects across several states, including Colorado. It had a related shell company, Infinergy Solar and Wind, Inc. (Infinergy). Defendant Murray Hambrick was an officer of both companies.
On September 14, 2017, the United States filed a complaint in federal district court in Colorado alleging that Infinergy, New World, and Hambrick had obtained payments from this program by using false or fraudulent statements. The United States alleged that, rather than submit to Treasury and NREL its true cost in the projects, Infinergy engaged in a sham sale of the projects to New World. Through the sham sale, Infinergy attempted to artificially inflate the costs of the projects. New World, in turn, submitted these false claims to Treasury and NREL. In 41 instances, New World obtained 1603 funds to which it was not entitled. Murray Hambrick orchestrated the fraud.
That lawsuit has now been resolved by judgments requiring the defendants to pay more than $5 million. New World and Infinergy failed to appear in court to defend the case, and on July 23, 2018, Judge Raymond P. Moore entered default judgment for the United States against the corporate defendants in the amount of $5,055,467. Hambrick litigated the case, then filed for bankruptcy. To resolve the United States’ claims against him, Hambrick agreed to a non-dischargeable judgment of $225,500. This judgment was approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas on March 6, 2019.
“This program had important goals: jump-starting the economy at a time of crisis, and helping companies that move our renewable energy industry forward. Taxpayers paid for that program. Companies and individuals who lie to take advantage of government programs like this one will face consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.
“The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of the Treasury for their hard work and partnership on this case and previous cases involving the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This settlement reinforces the commitment of the Treasury OIG to pursue cases against those who defraud the U.S. Treasury Department and misuse public funds,” said U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General Eric Thorson.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General. It was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeyen Wu and Andrea Wang.