Three years ago, a Los Angeles firm named 350Green was picked to build a large network of charging stations for electric vehicles in the Chicago area. Other contracts soon followed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, California and Kansas.
The project is now in limbo, with 350Green soon to be replaced by another company amid evidence of unpaid bills and accounting issues. Several hundred charging stations were supposed to have been installed by 350Green before the end of 2011, but work stopped some time ago, the company said. Projects by the company in 19 other markets also have been halted.
Two Chicago-area contractors working on the project, and others with direct knowledge of the situation, told the Chicago Tribune the FBI has been examining the 350Green project. The status of the investigation isn’t clear. The FBI declined to comment.
Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act show that 350Green submitted copies of checks to the city in order to receive state and federal grant money.
The checks show contractors were paid. But three contractors contacted by the Tribune said they hadn’t received those checks and had been paid only a portion of what they were owed overall. In the hope of getting reimbursed, some have filed liens against retailers that agreed to host charging stations.
Tim Mason, 350Green’s president and co-founder, acknowledged Wednesday there were “clerical errors that took place. Those people involved there who were doing the invoicing and billing are not with the company anymore,” he said, declining to identify the former employees.
Asked about FBI interest in 350Green, Mason acknowledged being contacted by investigators, but he would not identify the agency involved.
Peter Scales, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the department “discovered discrepancies in vendor payments after contracting with 350Green to install, own and operate electric vehicle charging stations in Chicago. We immediately notified the City’s Inspector General and the appropriate authorities and are cooperating fully with those agencies and their investigations.”