DC Solar Attorney Indicted in the DC Solar Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Oct. 5, 2023, a federal grand jury returned a 23‑count indictment against Ari J. Lauer, 59, of Lafayette, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud affecting a financial institution, for his role in the biggest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Lauer is an attorney licensed to practice law in California, and from approximately 2009 to January 2019, he was outside counsel to DC Solar and provided legal and business advice concerning DC Solar’s operations. The indictment was unsealed today following Lauer’s arrest.
According to court documents, between 2011 and 2018, DC Solar manufactured mobile solar generators that were mounted on trailers. The company touted the versatility and environmental sustainability of the generators and claimed that they were used to provide emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting and other events. A significant incentive for investors were generous federal tax credits due to the solar nature of the generators. Jeff Carpoff, 52, Paulette Carpoff, 49, both of Martinez, and their co-conspirators solicited investors to invest in the generators in large multimillion-dollar transactions using a variety of fraudulent techniques.
A key part of the fraud was that investors would never actually take possession of the generators. Instead, DC Solar typically leased those generators back from the investors, and claimed to sublease them to third parties to generate revenue. In reality there was very little actual third-party rental demand for the generators, yet when Lauer and the other co-conspirators learned this, they continued to represent falsely to investors that the rental market for the generators was robust.
In June 2012, Lauer, Jeff Carpoff, and others met to discuss the failure to generate third-party lease revenue sufficient to meet their financial obligations to the investors. The conspirators agreed to conceal that lack of third-party lease revenue from current and prospective investors, by, among other things, making periodic transfers of investor money from one account to another while misrepresenting the flow of funds as third-party lease revenue. Lauer and other members of the conspiracy created a circular payment system they referred to as “re-rent.” In 2014, they created a “re-rent agreement,” backdating the document to 2011, and used it to explain the large sums of money being transferred from one account to another. In fact, the real source of money was new investor money, which was being used to pay obligations to existing investors. The indictment further alleges that Lauer and other members of the conspiracy prepared sublease agreements with “concealed addendums” that materially altered the terms of the contracts. They used the sublease agreements to defraud investors.
Between March 2011 and Dec. 18, 2018, investors collectively invested approximately $759,400,000 and several financial institutions and other investors transferred collectively $152,700,000 to DC Solar as part of related transactions for the purchase and lease of generators. In total, DC Solar closed transactions with investors that contributed an aggregate of more than $912 million to purchase generators. Those transactions purportedly involved approximately 17,000 generators, at approximately $2.5 billion in purported value.
During the conspiracy, approximately 94% to 95% of the supposed lease revenue on the books was actually intercompany transfers disguised as new investor money. In truth, third-party end-user demand for generators never exceeded 5% of the revenue that was claimed.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey Hemesath is prosecuting the case.
On Nov. 9, 2021, Jeff Carpoff was sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $790,600,000 in restitution for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His wife Paulette Carpoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. She was sentenced on June 28, 2022, to 11 years and three months in prison.
On Nov. 16, 2021, Joseph W. Bayliss, 48, of Martinez, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $481,300,000 in restitution for securities fraud and conspiracy in connection with the DC Solar scheme. On April 12, 2022, DC Solar CFO Robert A. Karmann, 57, of Clayton, was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $624 million. On May 31, 2022, Alan Hansen was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and aiding and abetting money laundering. Ryan Guidry, 48, of Pleasant Hill, was sentenced on Jan. 31, 2023, to six years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $619,415,950 in restitution for to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and aiding and abetting money laundering.
Ronald J. Roach, 55, of Walnut Creek, pleaded guilty to criminal offenses related to the fraud scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14, 2023. Roach faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Updated October 10, 2023