The Feb. 3 federal court hearing against Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. had it all. Tales of extravagant trips, luxury automobiles and a pretty blonde were reminiscent of pulp fiction. And when all the melodrama ended, key questions remained.
1. Where did $19 million of investor money go?
2. Who is Jennifer Ransom?
3. Who or what is Bosco?
First, the $19 million. That's the amount of investor money that prosecutors from the Securities and Exchange Commission said AEHI had spent without any explanation. That's the key reason the SEC asked on Dec. 16 for AEHI's assets to be frozen.
Second, Jennifer Ransom is a pretty blonde. That's how her boss, AEHI CEO Don Gillispie, described her in a Jan. 10 disposition. Asked about his many international travels with Ransom, Gillispie spoke of their trips to the Far East.
"Quite frankly, Asians like a pretty blonde face to look at," said Gillispie. "So it doesn't hurt."
Gillispie hired Ransom in 2008. Just exactly what her duties were was the topic of much debate during the Feb. 3 hearing. AEHI attorneys presented her as a secretary, with "no day-to-day responsibilities." Her official title was senior vice president but Ransom was quick to remind anyone who would listen that she is no longer an employee of AEHI. Rather she is the president of Energy Neutral, a company founded by Gillispie.
Finally, the mysterious Bosco. On numerous occasions during the hearing, attorneys referred to something called Bosco Financial, LLC, through which hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed.
"Bosco is a family dog," Ransom told BW. "It's the name of my consulting company." Ransom confirmed that her only client is Gillispie's AEHI.
To follow the SEC's case against Gillispie, Ransom and AEHI makes your head hurt. Here are the basics: Gillispie tried to shop a nuclear power facility to communities across Southern Idaho for nearly a decade. He had no success in Owyhee or Elmore counties, and had nothing but green lights in Payette County. With promises of thousands of jobs and an increasing tax base, Payette's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that a parcel of land near New Plymouth be rezoned from agriculture to industrial in anticipation of Gillispie's dream.
The price tag? Somewhere around $10 billion. Gillispie began raising capital. While AEHI stock hovered around the 10-cent mark for a couple of years, shares jumped to 77 cents by September 2010. The SEC accused Gillispie of a "pump and dump" scheme, misleading investors with allegedly fraudulent press releases and then selling the stock at inflated prices. The SEC also said that Gillispie and Ransom tried to hide their stock sales, inflated salaries and trips to exotic locales including Acapulco, Mexico, the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the Far East.
AEHI attorney Richard Roth told U.S. Judge Edward Lodge that there were very personal reasons for moving around large sums of cash. Roth said Gillispie spent nearly $200,000 on a new home for Ransom's sister. Then, Roth said, Ransom sold AEHI stock to repay Gillispie, transferring the money from the Bosco bank account. More stock was sold and transferred from Ransom's Bosco account to Gillispie to buy a Lexus hybrid. In addition, Gillispie drove a Maserati as a company car.
The SEC asked that AEHI's assets remain frozen, saying Gillispie and Ransom used the company as their "personal piggy bank."
"This company is dying," pleaded Roth. "Mr. Gillispie and Ms. Ransom have nothing to live on."
After lengthy closed-door negotiations, Lodge lifted the freeze. Simply put, AEHI is back in business.
"I'm not supposed to talk to you," said Ransom outside the U.S. Courthouse in Boise. "But I will tell you that I'm thrilled. We can get back to work. We made a promise to build a nuclear power plant, and we're going to deliver that promise."
SEC attorney Mark Fickes would not comment for the record but confirmed to BW that the file remains open on AEHI.