PORTLAND, Ore. – Isaac Benjamin Voss, 41, of Clark County, Washington, pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud for defrauding domestic and foreign investors who believed they were investing in a viable clean energy company.
"Voss robbed victims of investment dollars by preying on their hopes of becoming legal permanent residents in the U.S.," said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. "I implore both domestic and international investors to think twice before supporting schemes that promise immigration shortcuts."
According to court documents, in 2007, Voss made a deal with a Canadian scientist and entrepreneur to raise funds to support the development of a technology that would derive electricity and petroleum-equivalent fuels from any carbon bearing material. Over a four-year period beginning in 2011, Voss used his company, XFuels, as a vehicle for soliciting investments from individuals abroad and in Oregon, California, and Washington state.
Voss defrauded investors using elaborate marketing materials, including flyers, brochures and a website, containing false information about his company, the technology and the investment opportunity. He claimed that XFuels owned a commercial refinery in Canada and that another was being constructed in Washington state. The plants were said to be using the technology to produce "clean fuel, clean chemicals, [and] clean power from garbage, biomass, and plastic."
To reduce the perceived risk of the venture, Voss told investors that more than 90 percent of the project’s funding would come from other institutional and private lenders and that he had commissioned an independent, third-party feasibility study that guaranteed the project’s commercial viability. In reality, XFuels had not constructed any facilities and the only capital raised was from other individual investors in the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, the feasibility study relied solely on information provided by Voss himself and did not employ any commercially accepted methods to validate the technology.
On numerous occasions, Voss hosted foreign investment seminars during which he told investors that supporting XFuels, with a minimum $500,000 investment, would qualify them for American Employment-Based Fifth Category "EB-5" visas. Voss also falsely claimed he would hold foreign investment funds in escrow until the U.S. government had approved investors’ visa applications. The XFuels project did not qualify for the EB-5 program and all investors’ visa applications were denied, as a result.
Voss faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced on August 14, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS and the Department of Homeland Security investigated this case. It is being prosecuted by Michelle H. Kerin and Gavin W. Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.