A 41-year-old Clark County man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of wire fraud for misleading investors who believed they were funding a clean energy company.
Isaac Benjamin Voss faces up to two decades in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for defrauding domestic and foreign investors, some of whom believed their support would serve as a shortcut to citizenship, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Oregon.
Voss made a deal with a Canadian scientist and entrepreneur in 2007 to raise funds for the development of a technology that would supposedly extract electricity and petroleum-equivalent fuels from any carbon bearing material. He used his company, XFuels, to solicit funding from people across Oregon, California and Washington over a four-year period beginning in 2011, federal prosecutors said.
Those West Coast investors were tricked into handing over their cash because of elaborate marketing materials produced by Voss, including fliers, brochures and a website containing false information about XFuels, the promised technology and the investment opportunity, prosecutors said.
Voss claimed XFuels owned a commercial refinery in Canada and another was under construction in Washington. He told the investors the plants were using the technology to make clean products and power.
“To reduce the perceived risk of the venture, Voss told investors that more than 90 percent of the project’s funding would come from other institutional and private lenders and that he had commissioned an independent, third-party feasibility study that guaranteed the project’s commercial viability,” wrote public affairs officer Kevin Sonoff in the prosecutors’ release.
XFuels did not construct any facilities. It did not raise funds from other sources. The feasibility study was based on unvalidated information produced by Voss, prosecutors said.
Additionally, Voss hosted seminars where he promised a half-million dollar investment in his company would qualify foreign investors for employment based, or EB-5 visas. He further promised to hold the invested money in trust until the government approved their visas.
Some of the investors apparently applied for the visas due to the promise, as federal prosecutors note all of the applications were denied.
“Voss robbed victims of investment dollars by preying on their hopes of becoming legal permanent residents in the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “I implore both domestic and international investors to think twice before supporting schemes that promise immigration shortcuts.”