A man whose Elkhart business was raided by federal agents Friday was imprisoned for bank and wire fraud during the 1990s.
James P. LeDonne, 59, of Granger, was sentenced in 1993 to more than five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to orchestrating fraudulent check and check kiting schemes in Elkhart.
LeDonne is listed as chief financial officer of Paragon Technology LLC, the business raided Friday, in a lawsuit pending in Elkhart Superior Court 1. In the suit, Bildco LLC alleges that LeDonne, Paragon Technology Group, and LG Engineering & Design Inc., which LeDonne incorporated, violated terms of their lease in their former location at 2110 Aeroplex Drive in Elkhart by, among other things, failing to pay rent and damaging the building. LeDonne has until Thursday, May 15, to reply to the complaint in court.
The Bildco suit lists a Carrigan Court address in Granger for LeDonne. A reporter’s call to a phone number publicly listed for LeDonne at that address could not be completed as dialed, according to a recording.
FBI and U.S. Postal Inspector Police removed about 100 boxes of documents Friday from the business at the northwest corner of Dexter Drive and C.R. 6, north of the Elkhart Municipal Airport. Dave Crawford, the FBI’s spokesman for northern Indiana, confirmed the business is being investigated but declined to elaborate.
LG Engineering & Design claimed to build vehicles and mobile labs for fiber-optic splicing. Fiber-optic businesses throughout the United States and Canada have posted complaints about LeDonne on industry-related web forums line-man.com and cabl.com. They say LeDonne took their down payments for vehicles, often as much as 50 percent of the vehicles’ total cost, without ever delivering the vehicles or refunding their down payments.
“That’s awesome,” Jim Drew, owner of DCL Telecommunications in Alberta, Canada, said when hearing about the FBI raid.
DCL Telecommunications is contracted by clients such as cable companies to lay new fiber-optic lines. In the spring of 2012, Drew said he wired LG Engineering $35,000, which was a 50-percent down payment, for a splicing unit that LG Engineering said it would deliver in three months. The three months came and went with no sign of the vehicle, Drew said.
“I started getting an uneasy feeling when he couldn’t even produce progress pictures,” Drew said.
Drew said he then traced the vehicle identification number of the vehicle LG said it was building, and it came back to a new Ford truck that was still sitting unsold on a dealer’s lot.
Drew noted that LeDonne, while pitching the sale of the unit, spoke with a high level of expertise.
Russell Skinner, owner of Spectrum Advantage LLC in Huxley, Iowa, has a similar story. He said he sent LeDonne $12,000 as a 50-percent down payment on a mobile splicing lab.
“I didn’t think that was out of line because it was a custom-fabricated unit,” Skinner said. “It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t ever going to see the unit or my money back.”
Skinner said when he first started dealing with LeDonne in 2011, he was operating as a company called L6 Systems LLC. But Skinner was told that L6’s “sister company,” L & H Engineering and Design, handled the type of unit he wanted, so he began dealing with that entity. He said he later learned that L6 was seeking bankruptcy protection from creditors at that time.
He later discovered LeDonne’s 1993 bank and wire fraud conviction with a web search.
“I felt like I’d been duped,” Skinner said. “It’s not even about getting my money back. The money’s gone and I don’t expect to see it again. I want to make sure he pays his dues.”
At the request of Indiana State Police Det. Joseph White, Skinner on Friday posted a message on the line-man.com forum seeking similar stories from anyone who has dealt with LeDonne or any of the four company names he has used: LG Engineering & Design, L&H Engineering, L6 Systems LLC and most recently, Paragon Technology LLC.
L6 filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2010, while LG Engineering & Design filed in December 2013, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.
“If you have suffered a monetary loss or believe you may be a victim of a crime, can you call me at your convenience?” Det. White says in the post, then gives the phone number, 219-263-9572.
White confirmed with The Elkhart Truth that he asked Skinner to post the message. White declined to comment further, referring a reporter to the FBI’s Crawford.
LeDonne has not been charged with a crime connected to Friday’s FBI raid.