Crime

Warrant issued for former nuclear developer after he misses court hearings

Don Gillispie, who pitched a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Southwest Idaho until federal investigators accused his company of fraudulent activity, didn’t show up for two arraignment hearings this week in an ongoing criminal case.

The first time, on Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Larry M. Boyle rescheduled the arraignment for Thursday, court documents state. When Gillispie also missed that hearing, prosecutors asked the judge to issue a warrant for Gillispie’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Gillispie is accused of duping investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funneling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom. Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. For one count, wire fraud, that could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted.

Gillispie and Ransom were first indicted in November on charges including wire fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Ransom pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in April; this week’s hearing was to arraign Gillispie on revised charges from a new indictment that reflects Ransom’s plea.

Gillispie could not be reached for comment Friday. A phone number listed in previous court documents appears to now belong to someone else.

CIVIL RULING REISSUED

Also Thursday, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge reissued a judgment against Gillispie and AEHI in a several-years-old civil case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lodge first released his order in December but withdrew it the following day to give Gillispie and AEHI time to respond to a government motion for final judgment. Thursday’s order is largely the same, prohibiting Gillispie and AEHI from future fraudulent activity and banning Gillispie from any penny stock activity. It calls for slightly lower fines for both — dropping from $300,000 to $200,000 for AEHI, and from $75,000 to $50,000 for Gillispie. But Lodge still requires both to repay nearly $14.6 million in money raised from about 850 investors, plus $245,000 in interest.

Gillispie had sought to put the civil case on hold while his criminal charges proceeded, but withdrew that motion in April. At that time, the former CEO also argued that the $14.6 million was an invalid number to begin with, claiming that AEHI should actually be worth more than $68 million because of the preliminary work done on the plan.

Lodge didn’t address that argument in his renewed order. He did set a June 29 deadline for the SEC to say how it intends to proceed on some remaining claims in the suit.

THE HISTORY

Gillispie announced plans in 2006 to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear plant in Southwest Idaho.

That plan, which was proposed for a succession of sites in Owyhee, Elmore and Payette counties, never gained traction; by 2010, allegations surfaced of fraud and of the Eagle-based company being a sham.

According to court documents, Gillispie and Ransom recruited family members and others to purchase AEHI stock, provided them with company funds and instructed them on the timing, quantity and price in an attempt to artificially inflate the price.

From the $14.6 million in investor money received, Gillispie and Ransom “received significant salaries and other compensation that they did not report as income to the Internal Revenue Service,” according to court files.

Gillispie’s jury trial is scheduled for July 14. Although he has represented himself in the civil case, he has federal public defenders in the criminal case.

Ransom is expected to be sentenced on July 27 and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to forfeit $580,780, the proceeds of the securities fraud offense she pleaded guilty to, and to pay restitution.

In his April filing in the SEC case, Gillispie claimed that “large international investors” visited the Payette County site last fall and were still interested in funding a nuclear plant after the civil case wraps up. He also suggested AEHI planned to again try to build a such a plant.

According to Lodge’s order, the company’s current plan “is to monetize (its) remaining assets and to have no further offerings.”

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