CASPER, Wyo. -- Robert Arthur Reed solicited investors nationwide for a wind farm here.
But a federal judge ruled here this week that all the telephone huckster was really selling was a bunch of hot air.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ordered the 53-year-old Utah man to serve 12 years in prison for defrauding 83 investors nationwide of more than $4.4 million by promoting investment in nonexistent
wind farms in Wyoming and South Dakota.
Reed argued in court that he didn't deserve to go to jail because he hadn't actually committed any crime when he and other co-defendants were arrested.
Many of Reed's victims were elderly. The lead federal prosecutor called him a sociopath. And Skavdahl said Reed was a manipulative person managing a team of crooks over which he served as "puppeteer."
Reed pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money. He said that while he was guilty of moral failings, he and other co-defendants were arrested before they committed crimes.
Reed said investors who sent in their money agreed to lend it to a wind farm development company for three years. He said he was a consultant to the company, and that the three-year loan period hadn't run out before he and the others were arrested.
Victims were told they had to make a minimum investment of $25,000.
Industry officials told the Los Angeles Times that the case was no indication of the honesty of the wind energy companies.
"Clearly not," Jeff Fox of the Montana Wind Group told The Times. "I can't imagine this as any pattern. This industry is very reputable."
Lisa Leschuck, a federal prosecutor, told Skavdahl it was clear from Reed's testimony that he was a sociopath. She urged the judge to go beyond federal sentencing guidelines and sentence Reed to 15 years in prison.
Skavdahl read letters from elderly victims without giving their names, including some who had retired early and left jobs where they had health insurance based on promises of high rates of return from their investment in wind farms that were never built. He said they all lost all their money.
One victim wrote "I think these guys are more cruel than if they had just gone ahead and killed me."
Two other major players in the scam, Lauren Elizabeth Scott, of Morgan, Utah, and Gregory Lee Doss, of Burbank, Calif., pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money. All three were indicted in March 2012.
Before Reed left the court, Skavdahl gave him one more tongue-lashing.
"I have less compassion for a white-collar crook than I do for a drug user," he said. "The drug user puts it in his own vein. The white-collar crook takes it from everyone and leaves them hanging."