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Iowa Companies Sentenced in Ethanol Scheme
USAgNet - 09/29/2022

Two Iowa companies were sentenced in federal court on Sept. 21 in a multi-million dollar fraud perpetuated by a Forest City financial adviser.

Energae LP and I-Lenders LLC, received the sentences after they each pled guilty to one count of wire fraud on Dec. 1, 2020, reports the Globe Gazette.

The companies’ admissions at the plea hearing, as well as evidence presented in other court proceedings, established that Darrell Smith was a broker and adviser for several investment firms. He was also a responsible corporate officer of both companies. From 2010 to 2015, Smith perpetuated a fraud scheme in which he made withdrawals of over $2.4 million in funds from 10 of his investment clients’ accounts without those clients’ knowledge or authorization.

In some instances the clients discovered the fraud, but in other instances they did not learn of the theft because Smith would periodically send the clients checks from an account held in the name of the companies and on which Smith falsely represented was principal or interest on an investment. Smith used the stolen funds to pay expenses related to the operation of Permeate Refining LLC, which operated a now-defunct ethanol plant in Hopkinton.

In order to transfer funds from client accounts, Smith used authorizations purportedly signed by the client authorizing the withdrawal of funds from the investment account. He either forged his clients’ signatures on the authorizations or used pre-signed, blank authorization forms without the clients’ approval.

The companies were sentenced by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand. Each company was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to make $1,056,909.68 in restitution to 10 victims. The court also imposed a $2,405,409.68 forfeiture money judgment upon each corporation. The corporations surrendered over 57 million shares of stock in another company and abandoned certain tax credits the companies claimed to possess.

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