A federal jury in Fayetteville has found two Arkansas men guilty of fraud and money laundering in connection with the development of a wind turbine that was never operational and a proposed wind farm project in Washington County that was never constructed. The convictions were detailed in a press release Friday (Sept. 3) from the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Jody Davis of Searcy and Phillip Ridings North Little Rock formed a limited liability company in Texas in 2014 called Dragonfly Industries International LLC. They also created an Arkansas LLC called Arkansas Wind Power (AWP). They told investors they planned to develop a revolutionary wind turbine design on a 311-acre wind farm proposed for construction in Elm Springs.
According to the superseding indictment, Davis and Ridings conspired with Cody Fell of Springdale and others to obtain money from investors from June 2014 through March 2018. They were told the developers would use their investment to build a wind turbine prototype and develop wind farms in Elm Springs, Iowa, and other states.
According to the DOJ, the evidence presented at trial showed that Davis and Ridings used most of the $700,000 they obtained from investors for their personal use.
Specifically, evidence at trial revealed that the developers told investors:
- Dragonfly’s wind turbine could produce more energy than the traditional three-blade wind turbines commonly used on existing wind farms;
- nationally recognized engineering firms and a University of Memphis mechanical engineering professor had “validated” the Dragonfly wind turbine’s design;
- the Department of Defense has expressed strong interest in acquiring Dragonfly’s wind turbines for use in combat zones;
- a prototype of the wind turbine was nearing completion;
- leaders of underdeveloped countries were ready to buy Dragonfly’s wind turbines;
- a $10 million grant from the Department of Energy was soon to be awarded to Dragonfly.
None of the representations were true, the DOJ said.
Fell pled guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion in December 2018 and will be sentenced on Sept. 17. A sentencing date for Davis and Ridings has not yet been scheduled.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyra Jenner and Kenneth Elser prosecuted the case.