Sophisticated solar-power scammers with ties to former President Bill Clinton’s administration were ordered by a judge to pay $3.1 million for fraud last month. Instead of paying up, they brought on high powered lawyers and filed an appeal.
Matinee Energy was ordered to pay after a complex four-year long legal battle over milking investors and pocketing the proceeds. In reality, Matinee had no major financial backing, no land, no construction permits, no way to transport its power to the grid and no customers for any power it generated.
The solar company is even using the money it owes victims to file the appeal, according to an investigation published Monday by the Phoenix New Times.
The most prominent figure in the Matinee scam was Korean attorney Tong Soo Chung, who served as a”political appointee in the Clinton administration” from 1994 to 2001, according to his profile in Bloomberg Business. Chung was the head of three U.S. Department of Commerce trade programs in the International Trade Administration, including deputy assistant secretary for Service Industries and Finance, director of the Advocacy Center, and the director of the Office of Trade Promotion Coordination.
To keep the investment bucks flowing in, Matinee Energy and Chung held bogus “groundbreakings,” staged photographs and even rented 10,000 square feet of office space for a typical staff of three to four people. Many of Matinee’s employees never knew about the scam, and lost thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
Chung’s initial legal defense was that he was a “stateless citizen,” and thus couldn’t be sued in an Arizona court. This defense failed when two Arizona attorneys found evidence Chung had voted in the 2004 presidential election when living in Maryland.
Matinee would have had one of the largest solar power operations in Arizona had the business been real. Suspicion initially fell on Matinee Energy in 2010 when the Phoenix New Times found the company’s leadership had been charged by the Federal Trade Commission in 1988 of conning investors out of millions.
Arizona U.S. District Judge David Bury found that the leadership of Matinee “evaded service, failed to answer and appear until after default was entered against them, then filed motions to set aside the defaults, followed by motions for reconsideration.”
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