Cover Boy Makes…Bad

It’s only gotten worse for the accused con artist with an expensive mistress.

Robert Firebaugh saw himself as a forward-thinking entrepreneur who invented a way to make diesel truck emissions cleaner. He convinced investors to fund his idea, and built a company called Integrated Fuel Technology. He would make the world a little greener, and himself and his investors rich.At least that's how it was supposed to go. Those investors now say that Firebaugh is actually a con artist who used real estate scams to line his pockets, knows nothing of diesel trucks, and blew some of their money on his mistress.The investors' complaints were detailed by SW in a cover story last November ("Pure Fumes," Nov. 4), and are part of an ongoing lawsuit. Since our story, things have only gotten worse for Firebaugh. The Department of Financial Institutions has now charged him with securities fraud.DFI says Firebaugh failed to inform potential investors that he had previously filed for bankruptcy after several real estate deals went south—which, as SW described, left a whole other trail of disgruntled former business partners. He also neglected to disclose that he had no experience in the emissions field, and that he was using investors' money for personal expenses. (This last must have resulted in an especially awkward conversation: "Please invest in my company; I've got a mistress with expensive tastes.")Firebaugh and his two partners also had no legal right to sell shares in Integrated Fuel, since he hadn't registered with the state Securities Administration. The final tally of the three men's ill-gotten investments is $2 million. According to DFI, Firebaugh told investors they could earn tenfold returns within a year, thanks to contracts he had lined up.Firebaugh's attorney, John Tollefsen, says his client will contest the charges, which aren't criminal, so the most Firebaugh will be subject to is a large fine. But, as anyone who's tried to get money from Firebaugh in a real estate deal already knows, actually collecting from the guy is a pretty hopeless task.

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