NASHVILLE (WSMV) - A Florida man was sentenced in Nashville to nine years in Federal Prison on Monday for running a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.
50-year-old Christopher B. Warren was charged in a 12-count indictment in July 2018, and pleaded guilty to mail fraud and securities fraud in December 2018.
On top of the sentencing, a judge also ordered him to pay more than $15M in restitution.
Warren was the founder and chief investment officer of Clean Energy Advisors (CEA). From November 2013 through September 2017, Warren operated a scheme aimed at defrauding investors by offering investment opportunities in solar farm projects believed to be owned by CEA.
Warren said CEA owned working solar signs throughout North Carolina and also claimed Duke Power agreed to purchase the energy CEA farms produced.
He claimed he would use the revenue to pay dividends in order to attract investors. He recruited 60 investors for its private investment funds and made several false misrepresentations, including the CEA owned numerous solar farms and made millions of dollars selling solar energy to utility companies, knowing CEA had no earnings, profits and contracts with any utility company.
Warren provided investors with a list of solar farms CEA claimed to own, many of which did not exist and others owned by other companies.
To cover it all up, Warren made phone audited financial statements and regular Ponzi payments to select investors. Once investigators discovered the scheme, Warren told them he would repay the principal investments pending the sale of the company to a foreign purchaser; no sale could have ever materialized.
Throughout the duration of the scheme, Warren raised about $28 million from investors and used around $7 million for personal and family benefits. He caused investors to lose more than $15 million.