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Businessman admits to grant scam over electric car chargers

Tim Mason | Sun-Times file photo from 2011.

A California businessman who conned $1 million out of the city of Chicago pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday and is looking at a possible prison sentence of roughly five years.

Meanwhile, the feds are deferring prosecution of another co-owner of the Los Angeles-based 350Green LLC.

A grand jury indicted Timothy Mason, 59, and Mariana Gerzanych, 38, in March 2015 for scamming local governments, including Chicago, out of $2.9 million meant to be used to install and maintain charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles.

Their green tech start-up company falsely claimed their other company, Actium Power, had supplied it with Level 3 DC fast chargers, according to the indictment. Actium had not supplied the chargers, and the company that did was never paid, the grand jury alleged. Further, 350Green filed paperwork in Chicago that falsely claimed it had paid subcontractors and vendors.

Mariana Gerzanych | Sun-Times file photo from 2011

Gerzanych and Mason managed to scam money out of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and two entities in California: the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Association of Bay Area Governments, according to the feds.

Mason pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, who scheduled Mason’s sentencing for July 27. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker said Mason could be looking at a likely prison sentence of as many as 63 months.

As part of his plea, Mason admitted he defrauded the city of Chicago out of more than $1 million.

Meanwhile, the feds struck an agreement with Gerzanych to defer prosecution for two years, during which she must pay a $10,000 fine and serve 200 hours of community service. She also agreed to cooperate with any investigation being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

If Gerzanych behaves herself for two years, the feds have agreed to dismiss the charges against her.