Five years ago, just as the first of a new generation of electric cars were starting to roll off the production lines across the world, there was something of a land grab going on when it came to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
In fact, there was something of a golden age between 2010 and 2012 when a large number of new electric vehicle charging providers were founded with the goal of dominating the public charging marketplace, aided by generous grants from both national and local governments. Of those who chanced their arm in this new and exciting marketplace, some were successful. Others declared bankruptcy, and others disappeared without a trace.
Now two former owners of one of those companies, 350Green LLC, have been charged with fraud by a federal-court judge in a case brought against them by the city of Chicago.
As The Chicago Tribune reported last week, Mariana Gerzanych, former CEO of 350Green, and Timothy Mason, former president of the 350Green allegedly obtained nearly $3 million in federal grants from the City of Chicago and government agencies in Pennsylvania and California to install charging stations in Chicago, Pennsylvania and the San Francisco Bay.
They did so by falsely claiming that their company paid subcontractors and vendors when they did not.
The investigation into the the firm started back in 2013 when the FBI began investigating claims that firm had not paid its suppliers and subcontractors despite filing federal papers showing copies of checks it claimed had been paid. The checks were later found to be fake.
The indictment, filed on Wednesday last week and which you can see in full here, says that the checks filed by the firm were made out to Actium Power — a company created by Gerzanych — for amounts far larger than the actual cost of charging station hardware.
As part of their deception in control of 350Green LLC, Gerzanych and Mason are said to have agreed to provide $6.8 million in funding to be eligible for the $1.9 million granted to the company by the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
But despite promising that funding, the money never materialised.
In a similar the pair sent emails to employees claiming that $4.8 million had been invested into a similar project in the San Francisco Bay area. At the same time, it instructed administrative staff to submit copies of checks to the city of Chicago as evidence that payment had been made to subcontractors so that the city would then reimburse them. While this was happening however, not a single one of the original checks were sent to 350Green LLC’s subcontractors.
When 350Green LLC stopped paying its bills in 2013 — drawing attention from the FBI — 169 of the 280 promised electric car charging stations that the company had agreed to install in Chicago had been installed. Many were reported as being inoperable.
At the time, a Federal judge handed over the Chicago network to JNS Power & Control Systems, which then sold the limited number of rapid charging stations in the Windy City to NRG eVgo. Since then, NRG has managed to perform the necessary repairs on the DC quick charging stations it took ownership of from the original 350Green LLC network, with 17 DC quick charging stations online and operational by November last year.
It has since expanded that to 24 DC quick charging stations, with plans for many more under its nationwide NRG eVgo Network.
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