A second defendant in the Global Aquaponics case made his initial appearance in Federal Court Thursday.
KELOLAND Investigates spent a year looking into the proposed fish and vegetable farm south of Brookings.
We discovered the phony backgrounds and outright lies told by company organizers about the project.
Last week we told you that Global Aquaponics founder Tobias Ritesman was facing federal charges of wire fraud, accused of taking at least $300,000 from investors and using that money for personal reasons.
His co-defendant in the case is Tim Burns. Burns is a long-time Brookings developer and has even been inducted into the Brookings High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Here’s a look at his role in Global Aquaponics, the charges against him, and other financial troubles Burns and his businesses have faced.
Tim Burns was Tobias Ritesman’s right hand man. As Chief Executive Officer of Global Aquaponics, Burns picked up a shovel as ground was broken on land, still not yet even owned by the company.
Now a year and a half later, Burns is in federal court—represented by well-known criminal defense attorney Mike Butler.
Burns is charged with 10 counts of defrauding investors in the Global Aquaponics scheme to the tune of at least $300,000.
But Ritesman told us they had raised a lot more money than that at the June 2016 ground breaking of the proposed $8 million facility.
June 7, 2016:
Angela Kennecke: Have you gotten all those investors? Have you gotten $2 million?
Ritesman: Oh yeah. We wanted to get as many local people involved in some of our projects and stuff like that.
Burns, as a local developer, headed up Global Aquaponics for at least a year.
Burns is no stranger to financial problems with his various companies. Burns was involved in EB-5 scandal. But he wasn’t the one soliciting investments in that project. His company, Concrete Contractors lost millions when the Aberdeen Northern Beef Packers Plant went bankrupt.
Burns Brookings’ development company, Oakwood Equity owned land next to Brookings newest elementary school. The City built the infrastructure for his development at a cost of $500,000. But Burns only made one payment to the City. Another developer has since taken over the land and agreed to pick up some of those costs. Brookings says the rest will be collected through taxes.
Burns also has multiple judgments against him and his companies in both South Dakota and New York State. In New York the largest judgment against him is in New York State, for more than $300,000, which was awarded to PowerUp Lending, which provides business loans.
Burns plead not guilty to the charges against him in court. He is accused of 10 counts of fraud, that each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Ritesman is facing 18 charges.