Arizona Consumers Eligible for Criminal Restitution in Solar Rebate Scam

TUCSON, AZ – June 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Mark Brnovich is letting Arizona consumers know they may be eligible for financial restitution resulting from the fraudulent business practices of Salt River & Wind, LLC (SRSW). Tucson victims may submit restitution claims for lost Tucson Electric Power (TEP) rebates through the Arizona Attorney General’s Tucson Office. Victims who have solar equipment leases held by Michael Fricker d/b/a SRSW also may be eligible to have their leases released by court order in the criminal case.

Michael Allen Fricker, 55, was a principal of Phoenix-based SRSW which specialized in solar panel installation. SRSW ended operations in early 2013. SRSW had several contracting licenses, all of which have been revoked or suspended by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. The Better Business Bureau website gave SRSW an “F” rating and listed numerous complaints against the company. After a criminal investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Phoenix Division, Tucson Resident Agency, Fricker was indicted on multiple felony charges in January, 2014.

The FBI Tucson Resident Agency determined that SRSW’s business model relied heavily on incentives from TEP’s rebate program which offered a cash incentive for consumers to install solar panel systems. Fricker initially solicited customers by championing the features and benefits of a solar panel system. He would then have the customer sign a contract and pay a partial cost of the system up front in anticipation of the receiving the TEP rebate adjustments to SRSW. Fricker then gradually began requiring his customers to pay the amount equivalent to the TEP rebate up front at contract signing, in addition to requiring payment of their initial deposit, stating that SRSW would refund that money to the customer when TEP reimbursed Fricker. However, in many instances, SRSW failed to reimburse customers for the contracted rebates even though TEP had issued the rebate incentive checks to SRSW. TEP’s one-time cash rebates varied over time, but at one point covered up to 50% of the total solar system cost. The TEP program is now defunct, due largely to fraudulent practices like those of SRSW.

On October 29, 2014, Fricker was convicted of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices and Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Class 2 and 3 felonies, and agreed to pay up to $1 million in restitution to his victims. After the guilty plea was entered, the FBI learned that Fricker had violated a term of his plea agreement by marketing solar products in California. The court revoked Fricker’s release conditions and ordered the Defendant held at the Pima County Jail pending sentencing. On May 18, 2015, Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley sentenced Fricker to 5 years in prison, followed by a consecutive term of probation. Final restitution orders are pending.

“The relentless financial stress caused by white collar defendants harms victims physically and emotionally,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim Ortiz of the Tucson office, who successfully prosecuted the case. “While the injury of a violent crime is visceral, insidious financial crimes cause no less mental and emotional violence to its victims.  Judge McGinley saw the Defendant for who he is – a serial financial predator – and gave Fricker the prison sentence he deserved.”

Victims should contact Amy Bocks with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office of Victim Services at amy.bocks (at) azag (dot) gov to determine if they are eligible to claim criminal restitution and/or to receive the lease release order. Victims’ restitution claims must be submitted to the court by Friday, August 14, 2015. Victims are encouraged to submit their completed claim forms through the Attorney General’s Office well in advance of this date.

DOCUMENT: Fricker Sentencing Memorandum
DOCUMENT: Fricker Sentencing Memorandum Supplement

Contact: Ryan Anderson (602) 339-6208 or Ryan.Anderson (at) azag (dot) gov

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