WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. legislators have obtained a court order unsealing documents in a case involving a multi-million-dollar cap-and-trade fraud.
Republican legislators say the records--due to be opened to the public in early January--could shed light on the potential challenges of policing a new, trillion-dollar commodities market that would be created under climate legislation that Congress is considering.
In a rare filing by House lawyers, Reps. Joe Barton (R., Texas) and Greg Walden (R., Ore.), the ranking members respectively of the Energy Committee and the Oversight Subcommittee, asked a federal district court in California to unseal all the closed records regarding the successful prosecution for fraud of Anne Masters Sholtz, a former California Institute of Technology economist.
Lawmakers say Sholtz's case could expose the weaknesses of a federal cap-and- trade system because it involved the same market mechanism meant to cut emissions.
In particular, said one Republican aide, the case may shed light on the challenges of prosecuting fraud in such a system.
Sholtz, who helped design a small California cap-and-trade program, allegedly hustled New York Investment firm AG Clean Air out of more than $12 million between 1999 and 2001 by selling fake emission credits.
Despite an estimated $50 million to $80 million in claims against her in bankruptcy filings and nine complaints, she pleaded guilty to one of six counts of wire fraud in 2005. Sholtz received what the lawmakers say was a veritable slap on the wrist for the felony--a sentence of five years probation with one year of home detention.
"Did they not have enough proof? Did they have good leads, but faced practical difficulties? Were there witness, evidence, strategic problems? These are the questions that we hope to answer with the unsealed documents," the Republican aide said.
-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; (202) 862-9285; firstname.lastname@example.org
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