Owner of Energy Crop Company Indicted
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 20, 2012|
FORT MYERS, FL—United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces the return of an indictment charging William A. Vasden, Jr. (36, Tampa) with 30 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements. If convicted, Vasden faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud charge and up to five years in federal prison for the false statement charge.
According to the indictment, Vasden is the president of a Tampa-based for-profit company known as USCJO Inc., which Vasden claimed grew fuel and energy-producing crops in Florida. Beginning on or about August 1, 2010 through on or about November 30, 2011, Vasden allegedly defrauded at least three investors and/or buyers out of $3,231,337 by falsely and fraudulently representing a specific outcome in their investment and/or purchase orders. Vasden coordinated multiple seminars and meetings around the state of 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 bio-fuel and bio-mass for power generation.
During the meetings and seminars, Vasden falsely claimed that he was a farmer whose family owned thousands of acres of land and that he was growing and selling the harvested crops to end user consumers and to the United States military for a substantial profit. Vasden 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.
From October 2010 through April 2011, Vasden provided false statements in an application for a federal clean energy grant. Those government funds were ultimately not issued when Vasden’s fraudulent activities were discovered.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Sebring Field Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Ft. Myers Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tama Koss Caldarone.