Adams County lawsuit one of several legal problems for Rivera

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — By almost any standard John Rivera has had a rough week.

On Wednesday he was arrested in Texas for grand theft, on Saturday he was notified by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that he’s the subject of a fraud investigation and on Aug. 11 he’s scheduled to face an Adams County judge on separate fraud charges.

Rivera’s arrest, for grand theft above $20,000, came from a warrant that originated in West Palm Beach, Fla.

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One of Rivera’s attorney’s, Richard Cutler, said the charges were baseless.

Cutler said he was not aware of the specifics of the case but did say the charges were “in relation to a previous company (Rivera) was an officer of in Palm Beach.”

Cutler said Rivera was in and out of jail in a matter of hours.

Neither Cutler nor the district attorney in the county where Rivera was arrested could say who filed the original complaint against Rivera.

The district attorney’s office in West Palm Beach, where the warrant originated, could not be reached on Thursday.

Compounding matters, Rivera is due in an Adams County courtroom on Aug. 11 to face a fraud suit filed by the founder of Noront Recycling.

Noront’s founder, Mark Trevisiol, reportedly fronted money for a Port Gibson-based facility that Rivera allegedly reported would turn shredded tires and other feedstock into commercially viable biofuel.

Trevisiol’s attorney Rick Bass said his client never received the benefit of his investment.

“We’re eager for our day in court,” Bass said.

Rivera’s attorney representing him in the fraud suit, Claude Pintard of Natchez, could not be reached for comment.

The trial for the Trevisiol suit was scheduled for May but was postponed for a previously scheduled business trip Rivera had in Guatemala.

The crux of the Trevisiol’s suit, and the investigation by the SEC, center around Rivera’s actions as CEO of U.S. Sustainable Energy.

In 2006 Rivera leased a warehouse near the Adams County Port where he allegedly planed to make 1.5 million gallons of biofuel a day.

However the facility at Port Gibson no longer exists and the facility at the Adams County Port has been abandoned.

Both Trevisiol and the SEC allege Rivera failed to follow though on his promises and made fraudulent claims about his biofuel development.

A warehouse manager at the Adams County site said Rivera’s operation was made to leave the warehouse approximately two months ago for failure to pay rent.

Remnants of Rivera’s operation can still be seen at the warehouse because they were left behind when the building was vacated.

As far as Rivera’s involvement with the SEC, it’s still in the early stages.

The commission’s regional director Katherine Addleman said Rivera was officially served with notice of the complaint on July 26.

The SEC’s complaint says Rivera caused USSEC to issue misleading information about the company’s ability to convert soybeans into biofuel.

No court date has been set in that case Addleman said.