×

2 guilty in $1B fraud as feds auction Burt Reynolds Trans Am

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2019 photo, McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, stands next to a 1967 Ford Shelby GT 500, that was seized along with other cars by the federal government that are now housed in a warehouse in Woodland, Calif. Two employees of a defunct San Francisco Bay Area solar energy company pleaded guilty Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, to participating in what federal prosecutors say was a massive $2.5 billion fraud scheme that defrauded investors of $1 billion. It’s the largest single-owner car collection ever auctioned by the U.S. Marshals Service, with vehicles to be auctioned off on Wednesday. (Randy Pench/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two employees of a San Francisco Bay Area solar energy company pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in what federal prosecutors say was a massive scheme that defrauded investors of $1 billion.

Investigators said the owners, who have not been charged, accumulated nearly 150 classic, performance and luxury vehicles, including a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am once owned by Burt Reynolds.

The replica of the car the late actor drove in “Smokey and the Bandit” and the other vehicles are to be auctioned off on Saturday, with online bidding already pushing their accumulated value past $5.5 million.

Bidding on that Trans Am alone had topped $65,000 by late Tuesday. The auction company said it had been driven less than 3,400 miles (5,472 kilometers).

It’s the largest single-owner car collection ever auctioned by the U.S. Marshals Service. Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Lasha Boyden of the Sacramento office called it “a stunning collection of vehicles” that also includes classic 1960s Ford Mustangs, 1990s Humvees and a 1960 Austin-Healey.

Pleading guilty Tuesday were certified public accountant Ronald Roach, 53, and general contractor Joseph Bayliss, 44, both of the Bay Area.

Roach’s attorney, Christian Picone, declined comment. Bayliss’ attorney, Tom Johnson, did not return a telephone message seeking comment. Both men agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

The two men admitted providing false reports that misled investors of DC Solar, owned by Jeffrey and Paulette Carpoff of Martinez.