A Florida man admitted last week that he registered a company in Wyoming and ran a $28 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of $15 million, according to federal court records.

Christopher Warren, 50, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee to one count of mail fraud and one count of securities fraud, according a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Tennessee.

Warren was a founder and chief investment officer for Clean Energy Advisors, LLC, in 2013, and registered it with the Wyoming Secretary of State in 2014. The Secretary of State administratively dissolved it in September 2018.

Why Warren chose Wyoming to register the company was not apparent in the court records.

From November 2013 through September 2017, Warren falsely told investors and others that Clean Energy Advisors, LLC would use their money to finance the acquisition, construction, and operation of solar farms throughout North Carolina, according to the indictment filed in federal court in June.

Warren knew the company had not done that so he released a list of solar farms it supposedly owned. But many of those sites either didn't exist or were owned by other businesses, according to the indictment.

Warren claimed the company made millions of dollars by selling solar energy to utility companies, but he knew it had virtually no earnings or contracts; falsely claimed the solar farms were insured; presented bogus audit reports to investors; and paid certain investors from money coming from new investors, according to the indictment.

He raised about $28 million from more than 60 investors nationwide, pocketed about $6.9 million for himself and family members, and defrauded investors of about $15 million, according to the indictment.

Court records did not indicate whether any of the investors were from Wyoming.

As the scheme unraveled, Warren told investors he would repay the principal investments pending the imminent sale of the company to a foreign purchaser.

Friday, he admitted in court that no sale ever occurred or would materialize, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Warren faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million and three years of supervised release when he is sentenced in March.


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission defines a Ponzi scheme as an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. Organizers often promise to invest your money and generate high returns with little or no risk.

But they often do not invest your money, but rather use it to pay those who invested earlier. They often keep some for themselves, too.

"With little or no legitimate earnings, Ponzi schemes require a constant flow of new money to survive," according to the SEC. "When it becomes hard to recruit new investors, or when large numbers of existing investors cash out, these schemes tend to collapse."

The moniker "Ponzi scheme" originated with Italian con artist Charles Ponzi, who duped investors in the 1920s with a postage stamp speculation scheme.

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