Biodiesel swindle nets man 5 years in prison

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Federal prosecutors in Portland say “Kevin Thomas'” name was phony and so was his pitch: he told potential investors that he and a partner were going to convert the seeds of 5 million acres of trees in Ghana into oil that would be refined as biodiesel.

The Oregonian reports the man promised that a $50,000 investment would return $7,000 a month and the project would be blessed.

Prosecutors say the man was really Lloyd Benton Sharp, who had been barred from selling securities in six states, including Oregon. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators had tracked him since 1984.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown sentenced the 79-year-old Sharp to five years in prison for bilking 14 investors of $1.4 million in the biodiesel scheme.

Prosecutors say Sharp has agreed to pay more than $6 million in restitution for the biodiesel fraud and other plots.

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