DC Solar founder and owner Jeff Carpoff was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday for masterminding a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
Carpoff had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. He will also have to pay restitution to the victims. Prosecutors called it the biggest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California. Approximately $120 million in assets were forfeited.
“He claimed to be an innovator in alternative energy, but he was really just stealing money from investors and costing the American taxpayer hundreds of millions in tax credits,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. “Today’s substantial sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense and provides just punishment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the public and promoting respect for the law.”
Carpoff, through his DC Solar company, partnered with Chip Ganassi in 2015 to serve as a sponsor of Ganassi’s Xfinity Series program. Over the years, DC Solar expanded into other series, such being a primary on Ganassi cars in the Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series (on a GMS Racing truck) when Kyle Larson took them to victory lane at Eldora in 2016.
Larson won three Xfinity Series races with DC on the car in 2018 at Las Vegas, Daytona, and Bristol. Ross Chastain won with them in the second Lass Vegas race, which was his first career win.
It became a feel-good story from there when Ganassi and DC Solar announced in November of 2018 a full-season partnership to allow Ross Chastain to go full-time in the Xfinity Series. But the story turned ugly a month later when the FBI raided the DC Solar offices, and the subsequent end of the deal left Ganassi having to shutter the team.
DC Solar had also provided mobile solar lighting solutions, EV chargers, and power stations to numerous racetracks. When Phoenix Raceway underwent a $178 million modernization project, one of the fan amenities was called the DC Solar Power Pavilion.
The forfeiture included seizing and auctioning 148 luxury and collector vehicles, which recouped approximately $8.233 million. Carpoff also owned a minor league baseball team; paid for a subscription private jet service; a suite at a professional football stadium; jewelry; and luxury real estate in California, Nevada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and elsewhere.
“Mr. Carpoff lived a luxurious life as a successful businessman,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Pearson. “In reality, he manipulated the system to his advantage by lying to investors, promising significant federal tax credits, and laundering his ill-gotten gains.”
Carpoff’s wife Paulette pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme. She is scheduled to face sentencing next week.