TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – After a six-day trial, Lee John Maher, 59, of Orlando, Florida, was convicted yesterday afternoon of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and with retaining and concealing federal funds, knowing that they were wrongly taken. Co-defendant Larry Kenneth Long, 75, of Simpsonville, South Carolina, previously pled guilty to mail fraud conspiracy. The verdict was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Maher and Long were officers of Clean Fuel Lakeland, which operated a biodiesel facility in Lakeland, Florida, in 2009 and 2010. When federal money became available for energy initiatives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the men applied for a $2,480,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy through the Florida Governor’s Energy Office. The Act was designed to encourage new energy investment by reimbursing grantees for monies invested in energy businesses. The defendants fraudulently obtained funds under the grant by falsely claiming that Clean Fuel had spent $2,480,000 to buy and install a generator to run the biodiesel plant. As proof that the generator had been purchased, the defendants submitted eight bogus bank checks to the Governor’s Energy Office, reflecting generator payments that had never actually been made. Based upon their submissions, $2,232,000 in grant funds were disbursed to the Clean Fuel bank account in December 2010. Immediately, the grant funds were disbursed through Maher’s other bank accounts, with Long receiving 1%, $22,320. None of the grant funds were ever spent toward the purchase of a generator. The defendants kept the fraud going until November 2012, through the submission of false progress reports. The grant funds were ultimately recovered through federal asset seizure and forfeiture actions.
Maher’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 9, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. at the United States Courthouse in Tallahassee. Maher faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count. Long’s sentencing is scheduled for later this week.
This case resulted from an investigation by the United States Secret Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Inspector General, and the United States Department of Energy Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael T. Simpson prosecuted this case.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.