Two El Paso men were sentenced to federal prison terms and ordered to pay $2,013,242 restitution to their victims for carrying out an extensive Ponzi scheme announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez, El Paso Division; and, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Douglas Lindquist, El Paso Division.
This morning, Senior United States District Judge David Briones sentenced 59–year-old Clarence Counterman, owner of an income tax return preparation business known as Taxrite, to 12 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Briones also sentenced Counterman’s co-defendant, 52–year-old Robert Loya, to ten years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release. At the conclusion of today’s hearing, Judge Briones remanded both defendants, who had previously been out on bond, into U.S. Marshals Service custody.
“This classic pyramid scheme robbed unsuspecting investors in new energy technology of more than two million dollars. The punishments meted out by the Court fairly reflect the magnitude of the theft, which the defendants perpetuated for almost five years,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.
On November 2, 2016, jurors convicted the pair of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Jurors also convicted Counterman and Loya of 14 and 13 substantive wire fraud counts, respectively. Jurors acquitted Loya of two substantive wire fraud charges and Counterman of one substantive wire fraud charge.
Evidence presented during trial revealed that from December 2008 to October 2013, the defendants conspired to convince others, including Counterman’s tax preparation clients, into investing into their solar energy related companies, including Renewable Energy Consultant, Inc. (Nevada); EP Solar Technologies, Inc. (Nevada); LITTCE, Inc. (Texas); and, Eco Global Corporation (Texas) by promising high rates of return. Contrary to the agreements with the victim investors, a significant amount of money was converted for personal use by Counterman, Loya and a third defendant, 54-year-old Leopoldo Parra of El Paso. The defendants also paid some returns to earlier investors from monies paid in by newer investors rather than from profits earned by these companies in an effort to avoid detection of their scheme and to lull investors into a false sense of security. Testimony during trial revealed that more than 50 investors lost more than a combined $2.1 million as a result of the defendants’ fraudulent scheme.
On November 30, 2016, Parra was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $486,695 restitution. August 10, 2016, Parra pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and one substantive wire fraud charge.
“These are significant sentences and should serve as a warning to those who seek to profit from fraudulent schemes,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez, El Paso. “HSI is actively engaged in identifying these individuals and stopping their deceitful and unlawful endeavors.”
“This result reflects the hard work of the FBI and our partners in El Paso to protect the community from predatory practices that would cheat citizens out of their hard-earned income,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division
Assistant United States Attorneys Steve Spitzer and Chris Skillern prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.