FAYETTEVILLE -- A man charged with fraud in connection with a wind farm scheme wants his federal trial delayed because the covid-19 Delta variant makes having a trial too dangerous, he argued in a motion.
Phillip Vincent Ridings asked Wednesday for a continuance, saying the safety of everyone who must be in the courtroom would be at risk should the case go to trial as scheduled Aug. 23.
Ridings noted his co-defendant, Jody Davis, may have been exposed to the Delta variant last week.
"Given the case studies on any protection or lack of protection with or without the vaccination for all parties involved, it calls into question how high is too high a risk to everyone's life?" the motion says.
Ridings noted federal courts reinstated the wearing of masks in a July 30 order based on federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Masks alone or with a vaccine may not offer sufficient protection from the Delta variant, he argues.
Ridings and Davis are accused of scamming investors in a proposed wind farm project at Elm Springs. They are charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting money laundering.
Both men have entered not guilty pleas.
Dragonfly Industries International of Frisco, Texas, purported to build a wind farm for electric power generation in Elm Springs.
Davis and Ridings of Dragonfly scammed six investors in Northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri, according to an indictment. They are identified only by their initials. Investors lost amounts ranging from $13,000 to $300,000, the indictment claims.
Davis and Ridings intentionally misled investors in the wind farm project about the financial viability of the project and potential returns on investment, according to the indictment. Specifically, they told investors they developed cutting-edge wind turbine technology, a prototype was being developed, companies were lining up to buy it and a $10 million federal grant was imminent when none of it was true, the indictment says.
Davis and Ridings hid bank accounts from their accountants and used investor money transferred to those accounts to buy a luxury vehicle, pay fitness club fees, make a down payment on a home and a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, according to the indictment.
Cody Fell of Springdale, a contractor and principal in the firm, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and tax evasion charges in December 2018. Fell agreed to cooperate with the government and hasn't been sentenced.
Fraud committed using means of electronic communication, such as telephone or computer. The involvement of electronic communications adds to the severity or harshness of the penalty, so it’s greater than the penalty for fraud that’s otherwise identical except for the non-involvement of electronic communications.