By Ryan Gueningsman
ST. PAUL, MN Last Monday in federal court in St. Paul, Gary Albert Collyard, 62, of Delano, pleaded guilty to conspiring to mislead investors in an effort to induce them into committing large sums of money to Bixby Energy Systems, Inc., a Ramsey-based alternative energy company.
Collyard specifically pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to a press release from the Minneapolis division of the FBI.
Collyard entered his plea before United States District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson.
In his plea agreement, Collyard admitted that from January 2006 through December 2010, he conspired with Robert Allen Walker, Dennis Luverne Desender, and others to use manipulative and deceptive practices in an effort to sell company securities.
Collyard was a “finder,” responsible for raising funds for Bixby. He accomplished this by communicating by telephone, mail, e-mail, and in person, often providing false information to entice new investors or induce current investors to continue to provide the company with funds, according to the FBI.
Collyard also concealed information or misled investors regarding company projects, including a coal gasification project, which he said was ready for market, when, in fact, it was not.
Also, Collyard failed to disclose that Bixby was in dire financial condition, and he admittedly solicited unqualified investors to invest in the company.
In exchange for investment funds, investors were provided with Bixby securities; and while some investment money was used by the company, a significant portion was spent on high salaries and commissions for Collyard and others, according to the FBI.
In entering his guilty plea, Collyard also admitted that from April 2005 through September 2011, he conspired with others to defraud multiple banks out of approximately $1.3 million through his real estate company, the Collyard Group.
He admitted making numerous misrepresentations to those banks in order to receive business loans, according to the FBI.
Those misrepresentations included stating that the Collyard Group had a successful real estate development business with multiple customers; that he had a personal financial wealth of more than $20 million; that he had an active real estate license; and that he would pay back the loans.
Collyard, however, used the business loans to pay personal debt, living expenses, and private schooling for his children.
In December 2011, Bixby’s founder, Robert Allen Walker, age 69, of Ramsey, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Also in December 2011, the company, Bixby Energy Systems, admitted defrauding investors of between $2.5 and $7 million and took responsibility for the acts of its former officers and agents.
In September 2011, Desender, 64, a consultant and the former acting chief financial officer for Bixby Energy, pleaded guilty to securities fraud, admitting he used manipulative and deceptive practices in an effort to sell company securities.
For his crimes, Collyard faces a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison on each charge.
Nelson will determine his sentence at a future hearing.
This case is the result of an investigation by the US Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian S. Wilton.