Bob Walker invented Sleep Number beds but now faces trial in energy investment scheme.
Bob Walker, the founder of Bixby Energy Systems, a nearly bankrupt alternative energy firm that once promised to revolutionize the coal industry, was indicted today by a federal grand jury on 20 counts of mail, wire and securities fraud in an alleged conspiracy that prosecutors say bilked $43 million from investors large and small.
Walker, 69, of Ramsey, had previously faced a single charge in the case.
Two former associates, Dennis Desender and Gary Collyard, have pleaded guilty in the alleged conspiracy and are cooperating in the case against Walker, who could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Walker is best-known as the inventor of Sleep Number beds. After leaving Sleep Comfort in the mid-1990s, he went on to Bixby, which sold high-efficiency stoves that burn corn pellets. The firm is named for Bixby, Minn., a town where Walker, a North Dakota native, traveled while developing the stove in northern Minnesota.
Under Walker's leadership, Bixby switched in 2008 to marketing an invention that converts coal into clean-burning natural gas. He and several associates raised funds in an effort to produce commercial units for sale in China, but the company has struggled to get them to work. Bixby has reported substantial losses.
Walker was indicted in December in connection with an alleged investment fraud scheme involving Bixby stock.
He said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Dan Browning - 612-673-4493