A federal jury on Wednesday convicted the owner of an Excelsior renewable energy firm of multiple fraud charges in connection with bilking more than 70 customers out of millions of dollars for wind turbines they never received.
Prosecutors charged Shawn Robert Dooling, 52, last year after an FBI investigation, alleging that he used Renewable Energy SD LLC, to draw more than $13 million in payments from customers to whom he did not offer refunds when he failed to deliver wind turbines ordered between 2010 and 2013.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Surya Saxena, who helped prosecute the case, said in a statement that Dooling "wanted to live a life of luxury without earning the money to pay for it, so he lied to and stole from people who trusted him, most of whom were hardworking farmers."
A message was left seeking comment Thursday from Dooling's attorney, Andrew Birrell. When a grand jury indicted Dooling in April 2017, Birrell argued that his client was "an honest business person who poured his heart and soul and hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into his alternative-energy wind turbine company, only to lose it all when a dishonest supplier in New Jersey, to whom Shawn's company advanced at least $4.5 million, failed to deliver turbines as promised and as required by contract."
But prosecutors convinced jurors this week that Dooling carried out a yearslong scheme that primarily victimized farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. While the farmers waited for wind turbines to be erected on their land, prosecutors said, Dooling pulled $2 million from his company's bank accounts to pay for luxury automobiles, travel and college tuition payments for his son.
Before being hit by criminal charges, Dooling was the subject of frequent litigation over his business practices and failure to pay personal debts. In 2013, state Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Dooling and his company and halted its equipment sales. In June 2013, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy litigation.
Throughout the scheme, authorities said, Dooling blamed the no-show turbines on third-party manufacturer delays and otherwise lied about the status of their orders. After a six-day trial in St. Paul, jurors convicted Dooling of multiple mail and wire fraud counts and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property. He is now free on bond while awaiting sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who has yet to schedule a sentencing hearing.
"We are grateful for the work of the jury who deliberated this case and saw what we saw, and that was a scheme crafted by Mr. Dooling to defraud innocent and well-intentioned investors of their hard earned money with the empty promise of energy efficiency that would never come to be," said Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI in a statement following the verdict.
Staff writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report. Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor