Every emerging industry attracts its share of scamsters – especially when there’s an opportunity to rip off the government – and the EVSE biz seems to be no exception. The owners of a company that won a contract to build an EV charging network in Chicago have been charged with fraud.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Mariana Gerzanych and Timothy Mason, the two former heads of 350Green, were charged with five counts of wire fraud in Chicago’s Federal court. They stand accused of pocketing almost $3 million in grant money, and falsely claiming that they had paid subcontractors and vendors for work on charging stations.
In 2010, the city of Chicago awarded 350Green a contract to build a network of 200 Level 2 and 73 DC Fast Charging stations, supported by $1.9 million in grant funding from the DOE. 350Green was supposed to provide $6.8 million of its own funds, but this money never materialized, according to the indictment.
Neither did most of the charging stations. By the spring of 2013, only 169 had been installed, and many of these didn’t work, according to the Tribune. Projects by the company in 19 other markets across the country also fizzled.
Prosecutors allege that Mason and Gerzanych submitted false claims for expenses to obtain the grant money, and created fake checks and fake invoices to cover their trail. According to an FBI search warrant obtained by the Tribune, a bookkeeper for 350Green told authorities copies of checks were submitted to the city as evidence that payment had been made to subcontractors. However, the FBI says that it found $4.3 million in unsent checks for projects around the country stashed at the company’s office.
After 350Green imploded, a federal judge handed the network to a new company, JNS Power & Control Systems, which passed on the DC Fast Chargers to NRG eVgo.
NRG eVgo spokesman David Knox said 24 fast-charging stations are now up and running in the Chicago area, and the company plans to repair the rest and eventually add more.
“We want people to know the charging infrastructure that you gave up on? Hey, it’s out there,” Knox said. “It’s ready to go.”