- Updated 12/30/15 (scroll to bottom)
- Updated 03/26/17 & 01/02/18 (scroll to bottom)
Boise Federal Court issues a bench warrant for AEHI CEO Don Gillispie
Readers of this blog with long memories may recall the comical and criminal efforts of penny stock CEO Don Gillispie to develop a nuclear power plant in Idaho. The end of the road, which began in 2007, came for him in May 2015. He didn’t show up for an arraignment hearing in Boise to face federal charges of fraud and tax evasion. His lawyer has no idea where to find him. The U.S. Attorney’s office now considers Gillisipie a fugitive from justice.
Idaho’s invisible wandering nuclear power plant
At one time Gillispie established a site for a 1600 MW reactor in Owyhee County, Idaho, southeast of Mountain Home AFB, only to discover it was on the wrong side of the Snake River which would require a massive and expensive bridge across it to transport reactor components from the railroad and Interstate highway located on the other (north) side.
Later he moved the proposed reactor site to Payette County near a site briefly considered in 2007 by Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican utility which even more bizarrely had at one time floated the idea of building a 1700 MW Mitsubishi supplied PWR in the middle of a rural area 60 miles northwest of Boise, ID. Buffet wisely pulled the plug on his project long before any serious money was ever spent on it.
AEHI’s PR firm, based on Boise, had an unusual ability to cite the potential involvement of large nuclear firms in his project without there ever being a similar press statement from those cited in AEHI’s releases. At least one reactor vendor and several EPC firms found themselves denying any involvement in the project.
In a September 2007 visit to Boise then NRC Chairman Dale Klein, when asked about the AEHI project, commented that the agency had not received an application for a license from the firm. Klein had previously coined in a speech in June 2007 what become known as the “no bozos” rule for new nuclear plants saying that the industry has no room for amateurs.
“My subject is something that each of the five Commissioners believe in, and have said before—which is this: owning a commercial nuclear reactor is not a business for amateurs. If the nuclear power business is treated with less than the seriousness it deserves—and people begin to think that anyone can just jump on the nuclear bandwagon—it opens up the very real danger of making the “wave” of the nuclear resurgence look more like a “bubble.” And bubbles have a tendency to pop.”
AEHI’s Gillispie seemed to be at wits end in terms of getting financing for his project. He would eventually run through at least three separate firms pledged to raise money for him one of which took him for a $25,000 fee. It raised no money. Instead its team spent the fee on ski parties in Utah. None of the firms every produced the promised investment commitments. Litigation over one of these engagements was still unsettled as of August 2016.
The Feds weigh in
The SEC has filed a civil action against AEHI and the IRS sued for back taxes. Gillispie is accused of misleading investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funneling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom.
According to court documents, Gillispie and Ransom recruited family members and others to purchase AEHI stock, provided them with company funds and instructed them on the timing, quantity and price in an attempt to artificially inflate the price. This is sometimes called a “pump & dump” scheme.
Gillispie and Ransom were first indicted in November 2014 on federal charges including wire fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Ransom pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in April. The May 2015 hearing, at which he did not appear, was to arraign Gillispie on revised charges from a new indictment that reflects Ransom’s plea.
Gillispie and Ransom were more or less a couple as well as business partners despite a nearly 30 year age difference.
Gillispie didn’t show up for his court date and a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. With regard to the wire fraud charge, it could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted.
Dust ups with anti-nuclear groups
On a previous blog, I chronicled Gillispie’s efforts starting with a post in 2007 calling the effort an “invisible” power plant. Gillispie sued the Snake River Alliance (SRA) who’s 20-something leader at the time brazenly called him and his company a scam without any paperwork to prove it. She later turned out to be right, but getting ahead of the evidence is never a good idea in the court of public opinion.
In 2008, AEHI filed a lawsuit claiming that the executive director of the Snake River Alliance, Andrea Shipley, made libelous comments in a TV interview. Shipley commented, “regardless of how you feel about nuclear energy, these guys (AEHI) are scamming Idahoans.”
The Idaho courts threw out the lawsuit on the grounds Shipley’s statements were protected free speech.
However, that wasn’t Gillispie’s last run-in with activists. He filed assault charges in 2008 against another anti-nuclear activist, Peter Rickards, a Twin Falls podiatrist, who soaking wet couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds. Rickards was handing out anti-nuclear leaflets at an AEHI public meeting. Someone in the AEHI delegation tried to eject Rickards from the site producing what may have been a one-sided shoving match. The charges were later dropped.
In the end it was AEHI’s financial tactics that brought it to the attention of the SEC and the IRS and which resulted in the current charges. Even so despite considerable coverage in the news media questioning the truthfulness of AEHI’s claims, it took the SEC nearly seven years to bring their prosecution to bear on the firm for its practices.
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Full details on Gillispie’s case including his alleged disappearing act at the Idaho Statesman
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Don Gillispie, AEHI penny stock CEO and sometime grifter who claimed he would build a nuclear power plant somewhere in Idaho, is still on the lam as of 12/30/15 having skipped an appearance in court last spring. The Boise, ID, Federal District Court issued an arrest warrant for his capture. So far he’s eluded arrest.
Gillispie’s partner in crime, Jennifer Ransom, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in a deal with the feds (SEC, IRS) which requires her to pay back the money from her ill gotten gains.
Her sentencing, which is expected to involve jail time, has been postponed several times most recently from November to next month. This leads to speculation that part of the plea deal is that she will testify against Gillispie at his trial if and when he is found.
Gillispie burst upon the nuclear scene in Idaho in 2007 and was promptly called out as a fraud by anyone who knows anything about the challenges of building a nuclear power plant. That didn’t stop him from running a pump and dump scheme for nearly five years that defrauded a lot of people who should have known better.
Update 03/26/17 & 01/02/2018
The US Attorney’s Office in Boise, ID, posted this update in January 2016 on the sentencing of Jennifer Ransom, the AEHI VP who entered a plea in return for leniency and a promise to testify against her former boss AEHI CEO Don Gillispie.
Jennifer R. Ransom, 41, of Meridian, Idaho, was sentenced in United States District Court to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, the first six months of which is home confinement, for the crime of securities fraud, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.
Senior United States District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Ransom to forfeit $580,780 and pay $116,138 in restitution to victim-investors. Ransom pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud on April 21, 2015. The SEC complaint was first filed against Gillispie and Ransom in December 2010.
In May of 2015 Gillispie, failed to appear for two scheduled arraignment hearings. He remains a fugitive and is being pursued by the United States Marshals Service.
As of January 2018 he still has not been found leading to speculation that he successfully adopted a new identify in a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and found a way to keep his money from the stock scam. Alternatively, he died under an assumed identify and may never be found. Gillispie was in his 70s at the time of his disappearance. In the absence of evidence, any theory is as good as the next.
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