SALT LAKE CITY — The CEO of an energy company known for its heavy advertising with the Utah Jazz, generous political contributions and ties to the Kingston polygamous group has been accused of pocketing $10 million to dodge a creditor.
Washakie Renewable Energy CEO Jacob Kingston leaves federal court on Tuesday. (Image by Manuel Rodriguez, FOX 13 News)
Jacob Kingston appeared in federal court on Tuesday, where attorneys for Singapore-based LifeTree Trading sought sanctions against him in their collections case. They accused Kingston’s legal team of refusing to cooperate in their ongoing litigation.
LifeTree said in court documents it is trying to collect on a $32 million judgment it won last year in New York against Washakie Renewable Energy. LifeTree claims it contracted with Washakie to provide biofuel resources that were never collected, costing LifeTree millions.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Kingston is accused of putting nearly $10 million into a bank in Turkey in an effort to dodge creditors.
“Washakie has been used by Kingston to perpetrate fraud by falsely reporting to be a large and successful producer of bio fuels. Furthermore, Kingston treats Washakie as his personal piggy bank, commingling his own funds with Washakie’s and selectively transferring personal funds, in very large amounts, in and out of Washakie’s bank and other financial accounts as the need arises, and in order to defraud third-parties, such as LifeTree,” attorney Michael Zundel wrote.
Outside court, Kingston declined to comment to FOX 13 but his attorney, Gabriel White, denied the allegations.
“We’re confident at the end of the day, our client will prevail,” he said, adding that the judgment against Washakie in New York is under appeal.
Washakie Renewable Energy has been a sponsor of Utah Jazz games, a big advertiser at movie theaters and a big donor to politicians while touting the benefits of biofuels. But the company has also been under scrutiny in the past by federal authorities.
Washakie once faced a $3 million fine over allegations it “failed to produce any biodiesel” at its facility in Plymouth. Jacob Kingston’s home was among a number of places linked to the Kingston group raided by the Internal Revenue Service in February 2016.
At that time, FOX 13 examined Washakie’s contributions and found they gave to numerous members of the Utah State Legislature; $5,000 to Governor Gary Herbert’s Leadership PAC; $25,000 to the Utah Republican Party; and nearly $40,000 to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. Two months later, Washakie gave notice to the state it would cease its political contributions.
LifeTree’s lawyers claim it was all “a facade,” alleging Washakie failed to produce anywhere near the amount of biofuel it claimed. In their federal complaint, LifeTree included a snippet of a deposition, claiming Kingston could not recall when they last made biofuel.
LifeTree’s attorneys accused Kingston and his legal team of refusing to cooperate as they pursued their litigation. But U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups refused to grant their request for sanctions, telling lawyers to move forward with the case.
Jacob Kingston, the CEO of Washakie Renewable Energy, leaves court with his lawyers on August 7, 2018. (Image by Manuel Rodriguez, FOX 13 News)
“We’ve been working really hard to comply with the rules of the court and to litigate this case in a civil matter,” White told FOX 13 outside of court.
LifeTree’s attorneys refused to comment as they left the courthouse. White said he was confident his client would be exonerated.
“We’re confident at the end of the day, our client will prevail,” he said.