CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Forest City investment adviser, previously serving prison time for tax fraud, was sentenced last week to more than 14 years for stealing money from clients to fund an ethanol plant in Hopkinton.
Darrell Smith, 62, pleaded guilty last year in U.S. District Court to one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. During the plea hearing, Smith admitted that he was a broker and adviser for several investment firms. From 2010 to 2013, Smith withdrew funds from his clients’ accounts without their knowledge or authorization then transferred them to Energae LP, a partnership Smith formed with another person to invest in bioenergy companies.
Evidence shows Smith used those funds to pay expenses related to the operation of Permeate Refining LLC, which operated a now-defunct ethanol plant in Hopkinton.
As a broker and investment adviser, Smith solicited many of his clients to invest money in Permeate and other biofuel companies by having those funds transferred to Energae.
As part of the scheme, Smith either used pre-signed, blank authorization forms or forged clients’ signatures without their authorization. Court documents detail allegations regarding three of Smith’s clients in 2012 and 2013 — an Alaska resident, a Forest City clergyman and a trust created for a retired veterinarian from Mississippi.
Sentencing documents show Smith defrauded 10 people over the course of the scheme. Smith disputed that some did not give him permission to use their investments for Energae. He also disputed the amount of loss, according to court documents.
In 2013, Smith consented to having his securities agent license and insurance producer license in Iowa revoked.
Smith was convicted of payroll fraud last year, which stemmed from the same fraud scheme, and served a year in prison.
U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade sentenced Smith on Monday to 175 months in prison on the two convictions. He was also ordered to pay $1,056,910 in restitution and $2,947 for prosecution fees, and sentenced to three years of supervised release.
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