Con Man Sentenced for Defrauding Investors of $1.3 Million
PORTLAND, Ore. – Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown sentenced Lloyd Benton Sharp, aka Kevin Thomas, age 79, of Clackamas, Oregon, to 60 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud investors in biodiesel projects in Ghana, West Africa, and Chile. Judge Brown also sentenced Sharp to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $6,021,482 in restitution.
Between 2007 and 2013, Sharp conspired to defraud investors in a project to produce and sell biodiesel fuel in Ghana, West Africa. When this investment failed, Sharp continued to defraud those same investors by soliciting additional funds for a project to transport biodiesel fuel from Argentina to Chile, and to build biodiesel refineries in Chile. Sharp targeted a Christian men’s group in Beaverton as victims of the fraud scheme.
Sharp falsely told investors that their investment funds would be used to purchase the equipment and feedstock to operate a biodiesel refinery in Ghana. Investors were falsely told that the Ghana refinery would be up and running within two months of them investing their money. Sharp promised victims that if they each invested $50,000, they would receive a return of $7,000 per month for an indefinite period of time as soon as the biodiesel refinery was operational. Sharp guaranteed investors that they could get 100% of their money back at any time. Sharp did not use the investors’ funds to produce and sell biodiesel fuel in Ghana as promised, and the Ghana biodiesel refinery never became operational.
When questioned by investors about the Ghana refinery, Sharp claimed that a more promising investment opportunity had been found in Chile, and that a successful investment there would provide sufficient funds to get the Ghana refinery operational. Sharp solicited and received additional funds from investors for investments in five biodiesel plants in Chile, and for the purchase of Argentinian biodiesel fuel to be trucked to Chile. However, the Argentinian biodiesel was never purchased, and the Chilean biodiesel plants were never built. Sharp used most of his share of the investors’ funds for his personal benefit. In all, investors in the Ghana and Chile biodiesel schemes were defrauded of approximately $1.3 million.
Sharp has operated various fraud schemes in the western United States since at least 1984. These schemes include the marketing and sale of investments in real estate, paulownia trees, luxury vacation condos, gold ore, and gold mines, in addition to the biodiesel project. As part of his plea agreement, Sharp agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $6,021,482, which includes restitution to the victims of all his fraudulent schemes.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Claire M. Fay and Donna B. Maddux.