Two El Paso men face federal prison terms and restitution after a jury convicted them on Wednesday, November 2, of carrying out an estimated $2 million Ponzi scheme.
Jurors convicted 59–year-old Clarence Counterman, owner of an income tax return preparation business known as Taxrite, and 52–year-old Robert Loya of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Jurors also convicted Counterman and Loya of 14 and 13 substantive counts, respectively, of wire fraud. Jurors acquitted Loya of two substantive wire fraud charges; Counterman, one substantive wire fraud charge.
Evidence presented during trial revealed that from December 2008 to October 2013, the defendants conspired to convince others, including Counterman’s tax preparation clients, into investing into their solar energy related companies, including Renewable Energy Consultant, Inc. (Nevada); EP Solar Technologies, Inc. (Nevada); LITTCE, Inc. (Texas); and, Eco Global Corporation (Texas) by promising high rates of return. Contrary to the agreements with the victim investors, a significant amount of money was converted for personal use by Counterman, Loya and a third defendant, 54-year-old Leopoldo Parra of El Paso. The defendants also paid some returns to earlier investors from monies paid in by newer investors rather than from profits earned by these companies in an effort to avoid detection of their scheme and to lull investors into a false sense of security. Testimony during trial revealed that more than 50 investors lost more than a combined $2.1 million as a result of the defendants’ fraudulent scheme.
Counterman and Loya face up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of conviction and restitution to their victims. Both remain on bond pending sentencing scheduled for February 2, 2017, before United States District Judge David Briones.
Parra, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and one substantive wire fraud charge on August 10, 2016, faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each charge. Parra is scheduled for sentencing on November 30, 2016.