ESCANABA - A Kincheloe man convicted of scamming 13 Delta County residents out of more than $20,000 in fraudulent windmill sales was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on Friday.
Billy Lee Parish, 57, pleaded no contest to one count of larceny by conversion, $20,000 or more, in Delta County Circuit Court last month.
As an habitual offender, Parish was ordered Friday to spend a minimum of four years to a maximum of 15 years in prison. Judge Stephen Davis also ordered him to pay $24,501 in restitution and $198 in fines and costs. He was given credit for 181 days served in the county jail.
According to the police report, victims paid Paris more than $20,000 as down payments on windmills purchased from him from July 27 to Oct. 14, 2011.
Parish solicited homeowners to buy electricity-generating windmills, taking a minimum $2,000 down payment from customers. He partially completed the work or, in some cases, took the money and never returned, said police.
Parish then fraudulently converted the funds for his own use, spending the money on his day-to-day bills and living expenses, according to police.
Parish is suspected of scamming nearly $100,000 from about 45 customers from throughout the Upper Peninsula, according to area law enforcement. He is also suspected of similar incidents downstate.
Parish fled the area in late 2011 after local police questioned him about the fraudulent sales complaints. Following a two-year joint investigation between the Michigan State Police and the Delta County Sheriff Department, Parish was apprehended by U.S. Marshals in Pennsylvania in December 2013.
Det. Sgt. Matt LaBonte, of the Gladstone state police post, and Det. Sgt. Dan Johnson, from the sheriff's department, drove out to Pennsylvania to pick up the fugitive and transported him to the Delta County Jail.
Paris was originally arrested on 11 counts of false pretenses more than $1,000 but less than $20,000, each a five-year felony. When the case was bound over from district court to circuit court in March, the 11 charges were amended to the one 10-year count of embezzlement.
In exchange for Parish's no contest plea last month, the prosecution agreed to dismiss a fourth offense habitual offender notice.
Parish was sentenced as a second offense habitual offender which upped his maximum sentencing. He was previously convicted of felony forgery in Delta County in 1998.
Parish remained lodged at the county jail this morning.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org