: Arkansas wind farmers claimed their technology was more efficient than turbines — but they spent investors’ money on houses, cars and at Disney World


In the end, they were full of hot air.

Two Arkansas wind farmers who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a “revolutionary” turbine that would turn the industry on its head, have been convicted of stealing the cash to buy cars, a house and trips to Disney World

Jody Douglas Davis, 46, and Phillip Vincent Ridings, 64, claimed to investors that turbine technology their firm, Dragonfly Industries International, had developed could produce more energy than the traditional three-blade turbines used at most wind farms, prosecutors said.

They promised that their technology was so cutting edge, that the Department of Defense had expressed interest in acquiring it, that the Department of Energy was preparing to give them a $10 million grant and that several developing nations wanted to build them, federal prosecutors said. No such claims were true.

To make their case, the men provided doctored reports from nationally recognized engineering firms and the University of Memphis claiming the technology worked, the prosecutors said. 

Between 2014 and 2018, Davis and Ridings — along with Davis’ brother-in-law, Cody Fell, who earlier pleaded guilty  — convinced dozens of investors to give the $700,000 to build a prototype and create a wind farm in Elm Springs, Ark.

Prosecutors say the men erroneously claimed the Defense Department wanted to buy their cutting-edge technology.

But prosecutors say the technology didn’t work and the men never tried to build a prototype. Instead, they kept the money for themselves and used it to buy luxury cars, pay for holidays and gym memberships, and for the down payment on a home.

At trial, several victims revealed they were lured into the scheme through Davis’ connection to a prison ministry. Davis had previously been convicted of embezzling money from his employers in Oklahoma and served nearly two years in prison.

“Jody Davis was one of our Christian brothers so I never doubted or thought something was being done,” testified investor Uchenne Obi, who was earlier incarcerated with Davis and brought others into the turbine scheme, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Davis and Ridings had argued that they believed their technology worked and were genuinely trying to develop it. A message left with Davis’ attorney wasn;t immediately returned. Ridings represented himself at trial and couldn’t immediately be reached. 

A federal jury in the Western District of Arkansas, took three hours to convict the men on Friday of wire fraud and money laundering. 

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