Judge gives Bixby figure 10 years

Gary Collyard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud after the collapse of the energy venture.

 

Gary Collyard, a figure in the Bixby Energy Systems swindle, is going to prison for 10 years and must pay his victims more than $5 million in restitution.

A federal judge in St. Paul on Thursday gave the Delano businessman the maximum allowed prison sentence, saying she took his character into account.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said that in her career she has never before seen a criminal defendant fail to show some remorse or apologize to victims. Collyard showed “no acknowledgment of people’s pain,” she said.

“I can only hope you can take this occasion to think clearly about what matters in this world,” Nelson told him.

Collyard, dressed neatly in a dark suit, remained expressionless during the sentencing. A cluster of victims in attendance quietly cheered as he was taken into custody.

Collyard’s seemingly vast web of lies was exposed by the collapse of Bixby Energy, a Ramsey company that was developing a technology for coal gasification. The scheme cost about 1,800 investors and business partners more than $40 million, according to government estimates.

Collyard served as a “finder,” delivering potential investors to the company. At one point he admitted to responsibility for about $3 million of Bixby’s losses.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud related to the sale of Bixby stock, and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to lying to get loans from multiple lenders around the Twin Cities for his personal and business use. The St Paul native’s spendy lifestyle included expensive cars and an 8,000-square-foot home on 50 acres in Delano.

Collyard, 63, will serve more prison time than Dennis Desender, a more central player in the Bixby operation.

Desender, of Minneapolis, was sentenced last year to just over eight years in prison for committing securities fraud and tax evasion related to his dealings with Bixby. Desender served as Bixby’s CFO and was a key fundraiser. His lengthy criminal record was hidden from most investors. Among other things, Desender was convicted of bank fraud in 1998.

Victims were pleased with Collyard’s sentence.

Mike Noonan of Arden Hills, who used to work for Collyard, said he was happy.

“After five years and a very slow judicial process, justice has finally been served,” Noonan told the Star Tribune. “We have one less malicious predator on the streets.”

Noonan said he first reported Collyard to the FBI in 2008.

Leading up to the final sentencing, the judge heard sometimes-tearful testimony from victims who told of Collyard betraying them with lies about being a lawyer, a real estate broker, a securities broker, an MBA and even a hockey player.

Sylvia Kidd of Apple Valley cried as she described to the court how she dated Coll­yard for 15 years, believing him to be single and a lawyer when in fact he was neither. He preyed on gullible women, she told the judge.

Kidd said she withdrew her 401(k) retirement savings for him with a promise he would pay her back in 30 days but only saw the money years later after hiring a lawyer.

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