NASHVILLE, Tenn. – June 11, 2019 – Christopher B. Warren, 50, of Anthony, Florida was sentenced yesterday to nine years in federal prison for operating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee. Warren was charged in a 12-count indictment in July 2018 and pleaded guilty to mail fraud and securities fraud in December 2018.
In sentencing Warren, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson remarked that this was a “terrible crime with lies everywhere,” and that there was no excuse for this conduct. Judge Richardson also ordered Warren to pay $15,666,418.67 in restitution.
Warren was the founder and chief investment officer of Clean Energy Advisors (CEA), a company registered in Wyoming with offices in Nashville, Tennessee, Florida, and other locations. Beginning in November 2013 and continuing through September 2017, Warren devised and operated a scheme to defraud investors by offering investment opportunities in solar farm projects purportedly owned by CEA. To attract investors, Warren claimed that CEA owned working solar farms throughout the state of North Carolina and further claimed that Duke Power agreed to purchase the energy produced by CEA’s farms and that he would use the revenue to pay dividends to investors. Warren recruited 60 investors for its private investment funds: Utility Solar IV and Utility Income Fund and made numerous false misrepresentations, including that CEA owned several solar farms and made millions of dollars selling solar energy to utility companies, knowing at the time that CEA had no earnings, no profits, and had no contracts with any utility company. Warren also provided investors with a list of solar farms purportedly owned by CEA, many of which did not exist and others that were actually owned by other entities.
To hide the fraud, Warren created phone audited financial statements and made regular Ponzi payments to select investors. As the scheme was uncovered, Warren told investors he would repay the principal investments pending the imminent sale of the company to a foreign purchaser. In fact, no sale could have ever materialized.
During the course of the scheme, Warren raised approximately $28 million from investors, misappropriated a significant portion of those funds, including using almost $7 million for the personal benefit of himself and family members, and caused investors to lose more than $15 million.
Warren must report to the Bureau of Prisons by August 8, 2019. To begin serving his sentence.
This case was investigated by the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie N. Toussaint.