Wind turbine scammers used South Florida sales agents to bilk more than $1.9 million from 60 investors, feds say
By RON HURTIBISESOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL |JUL 16, 2020 AT 12:27 PM
Using sales agents in South Florida, an Arizona-based wind turbine company scammed at least 60 investors out of more than $1.9 million, according to a lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Executives of Thunderbird Power Corp. employed sales agents in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach and Vero Beach to solicit investments into what they said was a “utility-grade wind turbine for use on wind farms,” the SEC said in a suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Miami.
In addition to the company, defendants named in the suit are CEO Richard Hinds of Queens Creek, Ariz.; former president Anthony Goldstein of Ontario, Canada; and John Alexander “Lex” van Arem, also of Ontario, Canada, who served as a consultant to Thunderbird.RELATED: Were you victimized by South Florida’s most depraved scams? »
The fraudulent sales — including to three South Florida investors — took place from “no later than” August 2016 until at least October 2018, the complaint says.
The commission is seeking an injunction barring further violations of securities laws, recovery of investments with interest and civil penalties. It also wants Hinds and Goldstein to be barred from serving as director or officer of any public company, and all three co-defendants barred from participating in any future penny stock offering.
The company did not respond to a request for comment made through its website, which remains active online.RELATED: How to avoid becoming a victim of a moving scam »
The agents, part of a national sales network, emailed and cold-called potential investors with false claims regarding the status of its wind turbine technology, including that it was validated by technology development company Siemens, and also lied about how money raised from investors was being spent, the suit claims.
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In reality, two of the company’s principals and a consultant used $850,000 that was raised “to enrich themselves and pay the sales agents to seek out more unsuspecting investors,” an SEC news release said.
Sales agents used emails, news releases and a YouTube video to claim that its “PowerStack Technology” was able to extract more kinetic energy from wind than any other wind turbine technology on the market and would “produce electricity at a tiny fraction of the cost of any other method, renewable or fossil,” the lawsuit states.
“Both the press releases and the YouTube video were blatantly false and misleading,” it says. Siemens evaluated only a simulation of the technology with proprietary software and did not test any wind turbine in physical form, nor compare it with any other technology or design existing in the wind turbine industry, the suit says.
The video attributes the wind turbine’s “outstanding projected performance” to its “patented multi-blade, four-rotor design” and its “side-flow and shroud rotor technology.”RELATED: Gift cards are most popular payment demanded by scammers »
Of seven Thunderbird investors from Florida, three were from Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and North Miami Beach.
The SEC’s lawsuit does not name the South Florida investors or the South Florida-based sales agents. Reached by email, the SEC’s lead attorney in the case, Robert K. Levenson, declined to identify them.Ron HurtibiseSouth Florida Sun SentinelCONTACT
Ron Hurtibise is a business reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. A Florida resident since 1977, he covers property and health insurance, tourism, the automotive industry, and consumer topics. He is a Florida State University graduate and a former investigative reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. You can call him at 954-356-4071.