CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Two defendants who pleaded guilty in 2013 in a case involving investments in nonexistent wind farms in Wyoming and South Dakota are continuing efforts aimed at overturning their convictions.
Lauren Elizabeth Scott of Morgan, Utah, is serving a prison sentence of nearly five years after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Scott filed a federal lawsuit in Wyoming this month claiming federal officials trumped up the charges to justify seizing her assets.
Scott, who is serving her sentence at a federal prison in California, argues in her lawsuit that the term of the federal grand jury that considered the case against her and other defendants had expired by the time she was indicted.
She claims state and federal law enforcement officers improperly obtained evidence and that no investors had missed an anticipated payment before federal prosecutors brought charges.
Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Cheyenne responded to Scott's new lawsuit by noting that she's already failed in earlier appeals and that she shouldn't get to file another one.
Scott's brother, Robert Arthur Reed, also has filed repeated appeals of his 12-year federal prison sentence with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, maintaining the grand jury that indicted him and others in the case was improper and that no actual crime had been committed. Federal prosecutors oppose the appeals of Reed, who is serving his sentence in Texas.
Scott and Reed are not represented by lawyers.
Federal prosecutors filed a lengthy brief Monday with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver urging it to reject four separate appeals Reed has pending with the court.
It said Reed should not have entered a guilty plea if he wants to challenge the legitimacy of the indictment or the integrity of prosecutors.
John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cheyenne, said his office had no further comment on the legal challenges.
Prosecutors maintain that investors lost more than $4.4 million in the scam after being told they had to make a minimum investment of $25,000.
Prosecutors said Scott, Reed and other co-defendants used aliases for themselves and for the companies involved in the scheme — Mountain State Power Group, Mountain State Power and Sovereign Energy Partners.
Court records show the scam involved acquiring land near Casper and in Butte County, South Dakota, to satisfy investors that the projects were moving forward with construction of wind farms. Organizers put up signs at the South Dakota site and took pictures of contractors they hired to push dirt around to make it appear construction was ongoing.
At the 2013 sentencing hearing for Reed, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper read letters from elderly victims without giving their names.
The judge said some stated they had retired early and left jobs where they had health insurance based on promises of high rates of return from their investment in wind farms that were never built. He said they all lost all their money.
The judge quoted from one elderly woman's letter: "I think these guys are more cruel than if they had just gone ahead and killed me."