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October 25, 2013

Defendants plead in fake power plant case

The final three defendants have pleaded guilty to organized crime charges for their roles in a  scheme to sell shares in a non-existent biodiesel power plant project in Hunt County.

The Texas State Securities Board reported Thursday that Casey Ray Vanloon, Ricky Ray Knowles, and John David Riddle were each placed on 10 years deferred adjudication probation during an October 7 hearing in the 380th State District Court in Collin County.

The defendants were also ordered to pay a total of $580,292 restitution to the victims, most of whom were senior citizens when the scam started in 2008.

Vanloon, Knowles, and Riddle pleaded guilty to indictments alleging they engaged in organized criminal activity. The three sold interests in a purported joint venture, to be managed by Greenway Energy Partners LLC, which would build a plant to produce biodiesel fuel for sale. Investors were promised annualized returns of 33 percent for five years, but no plant was ever built. All told, the joint venture raised more than $800,000 from investors.

The three men cooperated with the investigation into Kenneth Paul Lawrence of Allen, who was sentenced in July to five years in prison on a charge of money laundering and to 10 years of probation on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity. As a condition of his probation, Lawrence, the proposed operator of the biodiesel plant, was ordered to repay investors the $265,000 he received from Greenway Energy Partners’ sale of fraudulent investments.

Another defendant, Ronnie Gene Nichols Jr. was sentenced in 2011 to eight years in state prison on a charge of felony theft.

In 2003, the Texas Securities Commissioner entered an Agreed Cease and Desist Order that fined Lawrence for selling unregistered oil and gas securities and ordered him to stop selling the securities. Lawrence has never been registered in Texas to sell securities.

Lawrence was facing 21 counts of securities fraud, one count of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of money laundering.

All the defendants were prosecuted in cooperation with the Collin County District Attorney’s Office. State Securities Board enforcement attorneys Dale Barron, Alexis Goldate, and Tina Lawrence served as special prosecutors in the cases.

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