The co-owner of a California-based solar company was sentenced to 30 years in prison for running a $1 billion Ponzi scheme that attracted big-name investors, among them Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Jeff Carpoff’s DC Solar built mobile solar generators for sporting events and music festivals. It burnished its image with investors by wildly inflating the number of generators it had produced.
Money poured in through complex deals known as tax-equity funds. Buffett’s company invested $340 million. Other backers included Progressive Corp., East West Bancorp Inc., Valley National Bancorp and Sherwin-Williams Co.
But DC Solar manufactured and leased only a fraction of the roughly 17,000 mobile units it claimed were in use, authorities said. Instead, the firm used money from new investors to pay off old ones, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.