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Two Companies Sentenced in Ethanol Plant Fraud Scheme

Stolen funds used to pay expenses related to the operation a now-defunct ethanol facility


Two Iowa companies were sentenced in September after pleading guilty to wire fraud in federal court.

At the plea hearing, it was found that Darrell Smith was a broker and adviser for several investment firms and a corporate officer of companies Energae, LP and I-Lenders LLC.

From 2010 to 2015, Smith perpetuated a fraud scheme in which he made withdrawals of over $2.4 million in funds from 10 of his investment clients’ accounts without those clients’ knowledge or authorization.

In some instances the clients discovered the fraud, but in other instances they did not learn of the theft because Smith would periodically send the clients checks from an account held in the name of the companies and on which Smith falsely represented was principal or interest on an investment.

Funds used to prop up now-defunct ethanol plant

Smith used the stolen funds to pay expenses related to the operation of Permeate Refining, LLC, which operated a now-defunct ethanol plant in Hopkinton, IA.

In order to transfer funds from client accounts, Smith used authorizations purportedly signed by the client authorizing the withdrawal of funds from the investment account. He either forged his clients’ signatures on the authorizations or used pre-signed, blank authorization forms without the clients’ approval.

Companies given one-year probabtion

Each company was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to make $1,056,909.68 in restitution to 10 victims.

The court also imposed a $2,405,409.68 forfeiture money judgment upon each corporation.

The corporations surrendered over 57 million shares of stock in another company and abandoned certain tax credits the companies claimed to possess.

Sentencing of Smith brothers

The sentencing of the companies follows the sentencing of Darrell Smith and his brother, David Smith, in recent years.

In 2018, Darrell Smith, of Forest City, IA, was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison upon his conviction of one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

In 2019, David Smith, of Pocatello, ID, was sentenced to two months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding.

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