United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson sentenced James Rivera to 12 years in prison for the operation of a green energy scheme that defrauded dozens of investors in Maine and across the United States. Judge Wilson also ordered Rivera to pay $1 million in restitution.
According to court documents, Rivera, through various California-based companies, including “Apostles, Inc.” and “Almighty Wind,” solicited investments in a purported new form of windmill technology. Rivera falsely claimed that his companies possessed patents for the purportedly new technology, and distributed technical materials to investors that were designed to make the “wind turbines” appear more viable than they were in reality.
Rivera lured investors through “religious rhetoric and imagery” and lies, according to a California press release. Officials say Rivera represented himself as a devoutly religious person in order to inspire trust, and then blatantly lied to investors about every aspect of the investment. In particular, Rivera falsely claimed that the Nigerian government had committed to purchasing over $1 billion of the windmills, and that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was prepared to provide millions of dollars in financing for the business. A jury convicted Rivera of mail fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud in June 2010.
“We are gratified that Mr. Rivera received the maximum sentence recommended by the prosecutor for bilking dozens of investors, including the Thompsons and others in Maine, out of over a million dollars,” said Maine Securities Administrator Judith M. Shaw.
“Rivera exploited investors by falsely claiming they could trust him because he shared their religious faith. He was in reality nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Rivera was a convicted fraudster with eight criminal convictions on his record, a fact he neglected to tell his investors.
In a release announcing Rivera’s sentence, Maine Administrator Shaw stressed the importance of investor due diligence. “Mr. Rivera has been ordered to pay the victims more than $1 million in restitution, but … The safer course for an investor is to be proactive and to check out the investment with regulators before sending money,” said Shaw.
For tips on how to avoid investment fraud through due diligence, including how to minimize the risk of a Ponzi scheme by choosing the right financial advisor, visit our investor resources library.