The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed fraud charges against four individuals and others who allegedly profited by defrauding investors in a cash-strapped California-based renewable energy company.
Patrick Carter, the founder and CEO of 808 Renewable Energy Corp. was charged along with the company, chief operating officer Peter Kirkbride, sales representatives Martin Kinchloe and Thomas Flowers, and three other firms: 808 Investments LLC, West Coast Commodities LLC, and T.A. Flowers LLC. The complaint alleges that the fraud began in 2009 and lasted at least five years, raising more than $30 million from hundreds of investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the defendants misled investors, falsely claiming their funds would be used to acquire new equipment and expand 808 Renewable. Instead, the complaint alleges that Carter paid millions for “consulting fees” by 808 Investments LLC, a company he owned and controlled, and diverted millions more to support his lavish lifestyle, to pay commissions to sales representatives, and to make Ponzi-like payments to investors. The SEC also alleges that in 2013 Carter falsely announced that the New York Stock Exchange had preliminarily approved 808 Renewable’s stock for trading on the AMEX, and sold millions of his own shares to investors.
“We allege that Patrick Carter orchestrated a fraudulent scheme using 808 Renewable Energy Corporation to raise millions,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Office. “While telling investors their funds would be used for the benefit of the company, Carter and his associates looted 808 Renewable.”
The SEC’s complaint charges Carter, 808 Renewable, Kirkbride, Kinchloe, Flowers, 808 Investments, LLC, West Coast Commodities LLC and T.A. Flowers LLC with violating federal antifraud laws and related SEC rules. The SEC seeks disgorgement of allegedly ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and penalties, permanent injunctive relief, and penny-stock bars against the defendants, as well as officer and director bars against Carter and Kirkbride.
Flowers and T.A. Flowers LLC have offered to settle the SEC’s action without admitting or denying the allegations against them. Under the settlement, which is subject to court approval, they will agree to full injunctive relief, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest of $1.4 million, penny-stock bars, and a $160,000 penalty assessed against Flowers.
The SEC’s investigation has been conducted by Yolanda Ochoa, Christopher M. Conte, Finola H. Manvelian, and John W. Berry of the Los Angeles office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by David Van Havermaat.