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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Washington

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seattle Man Charged In Spokane Ethanol Plant Investment Scheme

Spokane – Today, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Robert J. Braun, age 53, originally of Spokane, and now residing in Seattle, appeared for an arraignment in United States District Court in Spokane. Braun is charged in a twenty-seven count indictment with multiple allegations of Wire Fraud and Securities Fraud. If convicted, Braun faces up to twenty years of incarceration and up to $5,000,000 in fines on the most serious charges.

According to the indictment, Braun raised approximately $1.5 million as part of a scheme to defraud more than 50 investors. The indictment alleges that Braun claimed that he was raising funds for an ethanol plant that would be built in Spokane County, and that investors could earn extraordinary returns. The indictment also alleges that Braun used various business names including S & B Energy, LLC, S & B Energy Spokane, LLC, Novahol Spokane, LLC, and Novahol Medical Lake, LLC. The indictment alleges further that Braun used investor funds for various unauthorized personal and living expenses, including mortgage payments for three homes that he owned and purchases at department and clothing stores. Braun also allegedly diverted investor funds towards a women's shoe store that he owned in Spokane. Between 2008 and 2012, Braun is alleged to have lulled investors into a false sense of security by telling them funding for the ethanol plant was imminent.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The case is being prosecuted by K. Jill Bolton, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington and Special Assistant United States Attorney Robert Kondrat. Mr. Kondrat is an attorney with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, specially designated to handle securities fraud cases in federal court.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Updated January 29, 2015