Hennepin County Charges Oakdale Solar Company CEO with Theft by Swindle
Hennepin County is going after the owner of an Oakdale-based solar energy company for allegedly swindling customers out of more than $1 million in contract payments.
In an Aug. 25 complaint, Hennepin County prosecutors charged Able Energy Co. CEO and owner Michael Harvey with theft by swindle for allegedly failing to honor contracts for at least 53 paying customers in Minnesota.
The customers paid for their contracts between 2017 and mid-2018, according to the complaint. “Able Energy failed to complete any of these projects and did not even begin work on most of them,” the complaint reads.
Harvey also allegedly used some of the money from customers for his own personal expenses. “Instead of using that money directly for solar installations … it appeared that the money from customer contracts was only sporadically used for expenses related to solar installations,” the complaint said. “A large portion of the money was typically spent on various expenses such as advertising, loan payments, and payroll. Other purchases appeared to be personal such as purchases at restaurants, retailers such as C and R Guns, Cabela’s and The Tile Shop, hotels, and grocery stores.”
“Funds were sometimes transferred directly from business accounts to [Harvey’s] personal accounts,” the complaint said.
When customers tried to get refunds, they hit a dead-end: Able Energy “could not provide refunds to customers who were demanding their money back since their projects had not commenced,” according to the complaint.
Before the charges were officially filed, Harvey denied any wrongdoing, according to the Star Tribune. Instead, he has pinned the company’s woes on a “handful of former employees,” according to the paper.
If convicted, Harvey could face up to 20 years of jail time, $100,000 in fines, or both. Harvey is a resident of River Falls, Wisconsin, according to the complaint.