The owner of an erstwhile renewable energy firm in Excelsior has been charged with defrauding more than 60 customers who ponied up more than $13 million for wind turbines but never received the equipment or a refund.
Shawn Dooling, 50, of Minnetonka also allegedly took $2 million from the accounts of his company, Renewable Energy SD, and spent it on himself, according to a grand jury indictment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
The alleged fraud scheme, which primarily targeted farmers, ran from 2010 to 2013, according to court records.
"Rather than use his customers' money to purchase their promised wind turbines, Dooling unlawfully spent much of their money on personal expenses and diverted their money to pay for other customers' projects," the indictment said. "In addition, Dooling made false and misleading representations to customers and others, including his own employees, in an effort to perpetuate the scheme."
Dooling's attorney, Andrew Birrell of Minneapolis, said in an e-mail that his client, who was indicted on five fraud-related counts, "did nothing wrong" and will plead not guilty.
"Shawn Dooling is 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."
The indictment marks the second time Dooling and Renewable Energy SD have run into major legal trouble.
Dooling and his company were sued for fraud in 2013 by state Attorney General Lori Swanson, who alleged he sold faulty windmills and failed to deliver wind turbines to some customers. That case is slated for a June trial in state court.
Swanson obtained an injunction against Renewable Energy SD to halt it from selling wind turbines and other equipment. In June 2013, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.
Swanson sued Dooling after getting a steady stream of complaints from consumers, many of whom were farmers who had paid six-figure prices for wind power equipment from Renewable Energy.
Swanson claimed the company had sold the turbines using federal stimulus money aimed at helping the country during the recession.
Her lawsuit said Dooling and Renewable Energy spent $1.1 million on two Bentleys, a Lamborghini and other cars. Swanson referred the matter to criminal authorities.
Dooling has been repeatedly sued over his business practices and failure to pay personal debts. He sold security systems in Minnesota and Missouri before forming Renewable Energy in 2009. Renewable Energy sold wind turbines and wind turbine towers, and also installed the systems and maintained them.
The federal indictment said, due to Dooling's "artifice to defraud," more than 60 customers never received wind turbines promised to them by Renewable Energy.