Appeals court won't overturn wind farm fraud conviction

By Ben Neary, Associated Press

A federal appeals court is rejecting an effort by a Salt Lake City man to overturn his conviction for bilking investors in a fraudulent wind farm business, just days after rejecting a similar appeal from the man's sister.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A federal appeals court is rejecting an effort by a Salt Lake City man to overturn his conviction for bilking investors in a fraudulent wind farm business, just days after rejecting a similar appeal from the man's sister.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday rejected the latest appeal from Robert Arthur Reed of Salt Lake City.

Reed is serving a 12-year federal sentence at a prison in Texas after pleading guilty in 2013 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

The same appeals court on Friday dismissed the latest challenge filed by Reed's sister, Lauren Elizabeth Scott of Morgan, Utah. She's serving a federal prison sentence in California of nearly five years after pleading guilty in 2013 to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors have said investors nationwide lost more than $4.4 million after investing in what they were told were wind farm projects in Wyoming and South Dakota. In fact, prosecutors have said, there were no wind farms and investors lost their money.

According to court records, Reed and others acquired land near Casper and in Butte County, S.D., to satisfy investors that construction of the promised wind farms was moving forward. They put up signs at the South Dakota site and took pictures of contractors they hired to push dirt around to make it appear construction was ongoing, prosecutors have said.

Following Reed's guilty pleas, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper sentenced him to prison in August 2013.

At sentencing, Skavdahl called Reed a manipulative person and said it was clear he served as "puppeteer," directing others how to perpetuate the massive fraud.

Despite pleading guilty, Reed wasted little time after his sentencing before filing court pleadings attacking his convictions. Court records show he's filed eight separate appeals with the Denver court, in addition to other challenges in federal court in Wyoming.

Reed maintains that investors had agreed to lend money to the wind farm enterprise for three years and say no crime was committed before he was arrested before the three-year term had run its course.

Earlier this year, Reed filed a federal lawsuit against Skavdahl in federal court in Wyoming, claiming that the judge had committed fraud and misappropriated millions of dollars by ordering federal prosecutors to seize cash, real estate and other assets from Reed and other defendants. Skavdahl's office recently declined comment on Reed's lawsuit against the judge.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal of Cheyenne dismissed Reed's suit against Skavdahl last month, ruling the judge was immune from the suit.

Neither Reed nor Scott, who's serving time in a federal prison in California, is represented by lawyers in their recent appeals.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne prosecuted both Reed and Scott and has filed responses to their many appeals. Office spokesman John Powell declined comment Monday.

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