Former Bixby CEO’s Fraud Case Goes To Jury
Robert Walker—the founder and former leader of Ramsey-based alternative-energy company Bixby Energy Systems, Inc.—awaits a decision from the jury following his fraud trial.
According to the Star Tribune, Walker has been charged with 17 criminal counts for his promotion of sustainable energy that attracted $57 million in investments but never actually made money.
Seven weeks of testimony ended Monday with more than four hours of closing arguments, according to the Minneapolis newspaper. Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Langner testified against Walker and said that he “lied to investors” while Bixby struggled to develop an alternative fuel process, the Star Tribune reported. Langner also accused Walker of using company funds for personal gain while also working to keep shareholders from finding out.
Walker’s attorney, Peter Wold, told the jury that although the former Bixby CEO made mistakes, none of them were criminal, the Star Tribune reported.
“He wanted everyone to win,” Wold said in federal court, according to the Minneapolis newspaper. “What he did wasn’t a crime. He made mistakes and he knows that, but he was not a criminal.”
Walker reportedly testified last week, saying that he took loans from Bixby, not kickbacks, as the federal government alleged. He added that he shut down potentially damaging internal audits to prevent directors from closing Bixby.
“I sincerely believed that the shareholders made their investments partly because of me and not the board,” Walker said, according to the Star Tribune. “I was responding to them.”
Walker was initially arrested and indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in December 2012. He then faced 19 additional federal charges for allegedly defrauding investors (including nine counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, four counts of securities fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud) in June of that year.
According to the indictment, Walker helped raise more than $43 million from at least 1,800 investors by offering company securities based on false or misleading information. After allegedly informing investors that company officers and directors wouldn’t be compensated for selling company securities, he directed approximately $3 million to an officer for doing just that, allegedly receiving kickbacks of more than $600,000 in the process.
In July 2012, Walker pleaded not guilty to the 20 federal charges. He was arrested again in August 2013 after being accused of tampering with a government witness in his case by sending false information via e-mail and raising money for Bixby despite his pending criminal case.
An indictment from a grand jury in October indicated that Walker faced a total of 18 charges and set a trial for January, during which the government witness would testify against him.