When Connecticut utility regulators approved a license for Positive Energy to sell electricity to residential and commercial customers last year, they were apparently unaware that the real head of the company had recently been fined for making false statements in a mortgage application.
The state banking department in 2008 had issued a finding saying Ventura had made the statements with the intent of defrauding the mortgage lender.
Documents found by CtWatchdog disclose that when Positive Energy applied for permission to be an electric aggregator in Connecticut on Feb. 5 2009, Elena Cahill of Orange was listed as the head of the firm.
But by the time regulators approved the application on April 8, 2009, Joseph Ventura had already taken over as president of the company, records obtained from the Ct Secretary of State’s office show.
Ventura was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine the previous year by the state Banking Department for lying on his mortgage application at a time when he was a mortgage loan officer. The banking commissioner also sought to have criminal charges filed against Ventura, but the statute of limitations had run out.
Ventura, records show, signed a document for the Secretary of State’s office stating that on March 4, 2009 he became the president of the company while the the firm’s application was pending before the utility regulators.
However, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Public Utility Commission, Positive Energy as of Friday had not formally informed the department that Ventura is the head of the company.
DPUC Spokesman Philip Dukes said he did not know if the commissioners would or would not have approved Positive Energy’s application if they had known of Ventura’s involvement with the firm or of his civil conviction. At this point since Positive Energy is licensed Dukes did not believe that the license would be revoked based on the information I told him.
He said the department did eventually learn – though not by a formal notice of change of ownership – of Ventura’s involvement with the company.
Dukes said that a few weeks ago that Ventura was called to DPUC headquarters where he was warned to dial back his company’s aggressive sales approach. He said Positive Energy had 10 complaints with the DPUC, not an unusual number compared to the dozen or so other electric sellers.
Ventura, who became a sponsor at CtWatchdog last month, refused to comment Friday and threatened a libel suit if I printed anything false about him or his company. He said his lawyer would respond next week to my questions.
The light started shining on Ventura’s checkered past after I wrote a column announcing that his company had signed a contract to be one of our sponsors. I explained that I was interested in having the firm associated with my site because I believed in electric competition and was intrigued by the fact that former television consumer advocate Mike Boguslawski was hired to be the spokesman for the company.
A reader – perhaps associated with a competing electrical seller – suggested that I check out his history with the state Banking Department. I did. The summation of the accusations can be found here.
Department spokesman James Heckman – responding to my request for details – said that two years ago his agency ordered Ventura, who runs the Middlebury-based company, to pay a civil fine of $100,000. Positive Energy claims to have about 40,000 residential and commercial customers in Connecticut.
“In August 2008, the department made a criminal referral to the Chief States Attorney’s office, but was advised the closing took place in 2003 and was now outside the one year statute of limitations,” Heckman wrote me.
In November 2008 his department referred the fine to the state Attorney General’s office for collection.
“The only tangible asset was an automobile that would have cost more to confiscate and sell than it was worth,” he wrote me. “In March 2009 the agency wrote off the fine.”
Ventura declined to discuss the allegations, but claimed that it is on ongoing issue that he is appealing.
“This is an ongoing, unsettled matter. Allegations are not defined as guilt. The only thing I will say on this matter is that I am fighting this matter. Per my Attorney, I have been advised to not make any further comment until this matter is resolved,” Ventura wrote me.
Following one of our former president’s policy of “trust, but verify” I asked the banking department whether that was true.
Nope. There is no record of Ventura filing any appeal or making any attempt to pay his fine.
I attempted to question Ventura about why he lied to me, but he refused to respond. However, another official of the company suggested that the sponsorship at my site should end.
Meanwhile, following my hunch that if Ventura lied to my readers, he may have also deceived state public utility regulators.
To me the issue is not that Ventura has a checkered past – if everyone who lied on a bank application was arrested there would be few people left OUTSIDE of prison.
The problem I have is that Ventura then lied about it and appears to have pulled the rug over the eyes of state regulators.
Positive Energy customers won’t be harmed because if anything happen they can simply switch to an alternate supplier or go back to CL&P or UI without penalty.
But just like I can no longer support having Richard Blumenthal – who clearly lied and deceived the public – as the Attorney General, I can’t support a company as a sponsor whose CEO lied about a serious matter.
- Positive Energy Electric President Fined $100,000 For Bank Fraud
- Positive Energy CEO Has No Assets To Pay $100,000 Bank Fraud Fine
- Positive Energy CEO Sued By State To Collect $100,000 Bank Fraud Fine
- Conn Officials Preparing Legal Action To Force Positive Energy CEO To Pay $100,000 Bank Fraud Fine
- Ct Regulators Freeze New Applications For Electric Aggregators
- Positive Energy Electric Ordered To Give Rebates To 3,200 Customers