Owner of Energy Crop Company Sentenced to Prison
FORT MYERS, FL—United States District Judge John E. Steele has sentenced William A. Vasden, Jr. (38, Tampa) to four years’ imprisonment for wire fraud and making false statements. The Court also ordered restitution for the victims in this case. Vasden pleaded guilty in March 2014.
According to court documents, Vasden was the president of a Tampa-based company known as USCJO, Inc. that claimed to grow fuel and energy producing crops in Florida for a profit. The investigation revealed that from August 2010 through November 2011, Vasden defrauded at least three investors and/or buyers out of more than $3.2 million.
Vasden coordinated multiple seminars and meetings around Florida in which he solicited farmers and investors to contract with his company to plant renewable energy crops that he claimed could be refined into usable biofuel and biomass. During the meetings and seminars, Vasden falsely claimed that he was a farmer whose family owned thousands of acres of land. He also claimed that he was growing and selling the harvested crops to end-user consumers and to the United States military for a substantial profit. He lured investors into paying him to plant the crops based on promises of substantial investment returns. He also fraudulently induced a buyer to enter into purchase order agreements for a substantial amount of money to sell citrus chips. In fact, Vasden never purchased the proper equipment to produce the promised results. He used the money from his victims to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
From October 2010 through April of 2011, Vasden provided false statements in an application for a federal clean energy grant. Those government funds were ultimately withheld when Vasden’s fraudulent activities were discovered.
This case was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (Sebring Field Office) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Fort Myers Office), with assistance from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services—Office of the Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tama Koss Caldarone.