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Prosecution wraps up wind farm fraud case Tuesday in Fayetteville

Witness shows how money from investors was diverted by Ron Wood | September 1, 2021 at 3:48 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Prosecutors finished up their case Tuesday against two men accused of bilking investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a failed wind farm deal by showing jurors, in detail, how money moved through bank accounts and was ultimately spent.

Jody Davis and Phillip Vincent Ridings are accused of scamming investors in a proposed wind farm project at Elm Springs, Arkansas One. They are charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, money laundering, and aiding and abetting money laundering. Both men have entered innocent pleas.

Before resting their case, federal prosecutors called as a witness Internal Revenue Service special agent Tim Arsenault who showed jurors, using charts and bank records, how money from investors intended to be used for developing Dragonfly Industry International's wind turbine and other business, ended up being split between Ridings, Davis and their various associates, sometimes on the same day the money was received.

Arsenault took investments from 13 individuals and traced it to bank accounts controlled by Ridings, or sometimes Davis, then back out to other accounts, showing where it was eventually spent for personal expenses such as food, coffee, clothes, beauty supplies, jewelry, cars, houses, hotel rooms, airline tickets, vacations and other things from mid-2014 into 2016.

Davis and Ridings, according to testimony, told investors that the money was needed primarily for an engineering company to finish validating the turbine technology and produce a prototype. The company, Belcan, wasn't even working on the project after Sept. 30, 2015, because it never got paid. It had already determined earlier that the turbine wasn't feasible as presented by Ridings.

Other investors were told that money was needed for wind studies or a model that was being made. There was no wind study, and the model maker never got paid, according to testimony.

Davis and Ridings scammed six investors in Northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri, according to an indictment. The investors are identified only by their initials. They lost amounts ranging from $13,000 to $300,000, the indictment claims.

They weren't the only ones who got stiffed for work they did for Dragonfly.

Bruce Shackleford, an environmental consultant who worked on the proposed site for the wind farm, said he and several subcontractors he hired were left holding the bag after Dragonfly wouldn't pay their bills for studies they did about the impact the proposed wind farm could have on endangered species, such as bats and birds, and on potential wetland.

Shackleford said he was told by Davis there were investors lined up and a $10 million grant was imminent. The work was always needed "yesterday," he said.

"We were promised over and over, 'you're going to get paid, you're going to get paid,'" Shackleford told jurors.

Davis would also say the money was just a couple of weeks from being released, Shackleford said.

"The money was always dangling there, but it never showed up in my account," Shackleford said. "The only thing I was paid was broken promises. I was never paid a penny."

Shackleford said he had unpaid invoices to Dragonfly for $115,138.

Adding insult to injury, Dragonfly was claiming on its website that it had gotten its environmental permits in record time and had the best clearance ever from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Shackleford said he knew those claims were not true because there was still at least a year or more of work required to complete the permitting process.

Shackleford said he learned of Davis' criminal history when it came to light in the local news.

Davis, chief executive officer for Dragonfly, pleaded guilty in 2009 to wire fraud and money laundering after embezzling about $785,000 in Oklahoma.

Davis sent Shackleford an email saying he wanted to ease his mind about his past scars and assuring Shackleford he was going to get paid.

"I am truly a new creation in Christ, and my scars glorify him," Davis wrote.

Christina Hamilton, with the U.S. Department of Energy, said Dragonfly didn't make the cut for the $10 million grant they said was imminent.

Hamilton said Davis was told in May 2015 that Dragonfly wasn't likely to get the money when Dragonfly was discouraged by a review board from making a full application for the grant money. Dragonfly never finished submitting the proposal after that, Hamilton said.

Martin Dalgaard, an engineer in California, worked on a static model of the turbine for Dragonfly in 2018 and early 2019, but it was never completed, he said. Ridings kept referring to the model as a proof of concept, which it was never intended to be, Dalgaard said.

Dalgaard told Ridings and Davis that the model couldn't be used to verify or calculate the efficiency of the design. Dalgaard said he also had doubts that the turbine would work, based on the information provided.

Davis and Ridings were indicted in May 2019.

Print Headline: Prosecutors call IRS agent, rest wind farm case


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