$1.5M fraud conviction means back to prison for North Oaks wind energy pioneer

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2014 - 9:34 PM

A North Oaks man is guilty of defrauding wind power project investors.

It’s back to prison for a North Oaks wind energy pioneer, this time convicted of defrauding $1.5 million from investors and using some of the money for personal expenses.

Federal court jurors in Minneapolis found Gregory J. Jaunich, 52, guilty Tuesday on five counts of mail fraud. Jaunich had already been convicted and sentenced in 2008 to 21 months in prison for overcharging Xcel Energy Inc. and the state by a half-million dollars for wind-generated electricity from a southwestern Minnesota wind farm in 2003-04.

According to evidence presented at the six-day trial:

From October 2006 through January 2007, Jaunich solicited funding from individuals and groups for the purchase of pieces of membership in Averill Wind, a company that Jaunich created to develop and operate a wind energy project in Clay County, Minn. To induce these investments, Jaunich misled investors about the project’s status, including telling them it was closer to completion than it was.

Jaunich also failed to reveal to potential investors that he was under criminal investigation by federal authorities for overbilling Xcel Energy for wind energy production.

Jaunich used the $1.5 million for personal expenses and to pay bills in connection with other wind energy projects. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled. A phone message was left with his attorney seeking reaction to the verdict.

In the previous case, the government charged that as manager of a limited partnership that owned a small wind farm in Lincoln County, Jaunich ordered employees to bill Xcel for power that he knew probably wasn’t produced because of problems with the turbines in 2003-04 and that he didn’t investigate to determine the real amount of power that was sold.

Along with the prison time, Jaunich paid restitution of $355,000 plus a $5,000 fine.

 

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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