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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 2, 2018

Utah Man Sentenced to 59 Months for Defrauding Plattsburgh Company

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Keith Eric Jergensen, age 58, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was sentenced today to 59 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, for conspiring to defraud a Plattsburgh, New York, company of $2.5 million.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Vadim D. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Jergensen and co-defendant Debashis Ghosh, age 53, of Chicago, Illinois, were convicted in October 2017 of wire fraud conspiracy following a 7-day trial presided over by United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes. 

In imposing sentence, Judge Sannes also ordered Jergensen to pay $2.5 million in restitution to his victims.  Jergensen was taken into custody following the sentencing.

United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith stated: “Jergensen stole $2.5 million from investors trying to bring an innovative business and jobs to Plattsburgh, and then tried to cover up his theft with years of lies.  Today’s sentence holds Jergensen accountable for his greed and treachery.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas stated: “Jergensen and Ghosh abused their investors’ trust, as well as their money.  The FBI is dedicated to investigating these crimes because of their lasting impact on the lives of the victims and our community as a whole.”

The evidence at trial demonstrated that Jergensen and Ghosh were Co-Chief Executive Officers of Verdant Capital Group, LLC (“Verdant”), based in Chicago. 

Plattsburgh-based Laurentian Aerospace Corporation (“Laurentian”) retained Verdant to raise funds for the construction of an airplane maintenance, repair and overhaul facility to be built at the former United States Air Force base in Plattsburgh.

Jergensen and Ghosh asked Laurentian to invest $2.5 million as seed money for the project.  They and Laurentian agreed that this money would remain in a Wells Fargo account and could not be moved without the authorization of Laurentian. 

Laurentian, drawing on funds contributed by its board members and one outside investor, wired $2.5 million into the Wells Fargo account on December 3, 2010.  Five days later, Jergensen and Ghosh began transferring the money out of the account without Laurentian’s authorization. By March 18, 2011 they had transferred all of the $2.5 million out of the account.

Jergensen and Ghosh used Laurentian’s $2.5 million to pay Verdant’s expenses including employees and contractors, and to pay others, including payments totaling $1.75 million to a now-defunct wind turbine company that Ghosh was a minority owner of; transfers of $96,500 to Jergensen’s company Contour Composites, Inc. of Utah; a $55,000 “loan” to a friend that the friend never repaid; and payments totaling $14,500 to an Arizona man who was promising them access to union pension funds.

Having spent the money, and as part of their conspiracy, Jergensen and Ghosh then spent several years falsely assuring Laurentian and its investors that their money was safe and secure, with Jergensen going so far as to forge a memorandum of understanding that purported to show that Laurentian’s money was in a secured bank account at Wells Fargo.  The victim investors included a retired United States Air Force colonel, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, a retired law firm partner, and several retired executives from the financial and airline industries.  To date, Laurentian has been unable to build the airplane facility in Plattsburgh.

The evidence at trial also demonstrated that Jergensen and Ghosh misappropriated an additional $2.4 million in funds that other businesses had entrusted to them.

Ghosh is scheduled to be sentenced on April 2 in Syracuse.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated March 5, 2018