And the plot thickens: Jim and I have been investigating Mr. Evans for different reasons but have the same end in mind. We’ve had some late night discussions.
Chip Evans &
the Cleantech Con Artist
by Jim Rossi
Although I visit Reno and Tahoe frequently, I have never owned property or lived in Washoe County. The first I heard about the assessor’s race was on October 1, 2018 when a friend forwarded me an op-ed from the incumbent, Mike Clark. Clark alleged that his opponent Hugh Dudley “Chip” Evans had a history of suspicious and potentially fraudulent behavior.[i] My friend and I laughed – and then I called Clark. That’s because we know Chip Evans from his time at Cleantech Open from 2012-14 – where he also had a history of suspicious and potentially fraudulent behavior.
Let me explain – because it has become the subject of my first book, the upcoming Cleantech Con Artist: A True Vegas Caper.[ii]
In 2012-2013, when I first met Chip, I was pursuing a master’s in history and solar energy at UNLV. I worked as a graduate assistant and part-time at NIREC, the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization. Cleantech Open, which promises to “find, fund, and foster” the most promising clean energy technologies, did a presentation at Desert Research Institute.[iii] It sounded like a great potential opportunity for UNLV students. Cleantech Open’s new director for the Vegas Valley was a guy calling himself Xavier Cross. Xavier offered to do guest lectures at UNLV. His supervisors were Chip Evans, Nevada director of Cleantech Open, and Erik Steeb, their Western States director.
As part of my job, I performed due diligence on Xavier Cross. I reviewed his LinkedIn profile and began contacting his former employers and schools. One after another, they never heard of him. I warned Evans and Steeb in writing that “Xavier’s” LinkedIn was coming up phony. “I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Steeb replied.
“This is Las Vegas,” I told Steeb and Evans. “You need to vet people carefully here.”
For the next nine months, I repeatedly warned Evans, Steeb, and others at Cleantech Open, in writing, that “Xavier Cross” was not who he claimed to be. While “Xavier” continued to “mentor” entrepreneurs at Cleantech Open, appear on TV news programs, and even on Chip’s Reno radio show to promote Cleantech Open and his Vegas nonprofits, my friends and I gradually unraveled the mystery.
“Xavier Cross” was an alias, and we found out his real identity, which the FBI soon corroborated. “Xavier” was hiding from at least $2.3 million in civil judgments against him in his real name, for fraud and intellectual property theft. And according to the over 30 people I interviewed on the record, “Xavier” stole millions of dollars more than that, in what the FBI described as “an exceptionally complex” scheme based in Colorado around 2007 involving real estate Ponzi’s, phony trust funds, a phony video game company, and a sophisticated cyber hack. Two of “Xavier’s” close associates, lawyers Anthony L. Ciocchetti and Quyen T. Kiet, would plead guilty to their roles in real estate frauds and go to federal prison – Ciocchetti in 2008, Kiet in 2015. Kiet was working closely with “Xavier” during his time at Cleantech Open.
After I wrote and self-published an article summarizing these findings in late 2013 – weeks after sharing advance copies with law enforcement – I called Chip to make sure he read it. “So what are you going to do?” I asked.
“We’re sticking with Xavier,” Chip replied.
“You mean Alex?” I asked, incredulous, using “Xavier’s” real first name.
Chip repeated that Cleantech Open was sticking with their guy – a guy with a phony name and a long history of fraud.
“Chip Evans is dirty,” I muttered, hanging up the phone.
“Xavier Cross” shut down his nonprofits’ websites soon after I outed him and went into hiding. Weeks later, Cleantech Open’s chairman Marc Gottschalk asked me to brief him. After Gottschalk corroborated my findings, he finally dismissed “Xavier Cross” in early 2014. Chip Evans left later in 2014, and recently deleted his Cleantech Open experience from LinkedIn.
At Cleantech Open, Chip Evans had given “Xavier” an enormous platform to rip off people in my community – for nine months after I first warned him, until Gottschalk finally pulled the plug. Was Chip Evans negligent, or a criminal accomplice?
After coming to Reno to trade notes with Mike Clark and his friends, I am leaning toward criminal accomplice. Chip Evans’ shady real estate transactions look a helluva lot like the ones “Xavier,” Ciocchetti, and Quyen Kiet got busted for. Chip filed a $10.8 million bankruptcy in late 2011: he left the name “Chip” off the documents, stiffed his creditors, then discharged it in July 2013 – four months after I first warned Evans and Steeb about “Xavier.” In 2014, after filing a quitclaim deed, Chip Evans bought a house with money allegedly gifted by his wife’s family. Why did Chip and the rest of Cleantech Open blow off my warnings? Did “Xavier” help Chip get the money? Did Chip know “Xavier” back in Colorado under his real name? If so, Chip knew that “Xavier” was the alias for a professional con artist. That would make Chip Evans his accomplice, aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy under USC Sec. II, Title 18 and potentially under RICO, the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act.
When I read about the recent alleged Facebook hack of Chip’s site by white supremacists, it sounded familiar.[iv] In Ryan Holiday’s classic nonfiction book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, it’s literally the oldest trick in the book![v] Starting on the opening page, Holiday explains how a filmmaker paid him to deface his film’s own billboards around LA with hate speech. Why? To generate publicity and sympathy! This has become a standard tactic and I saw it up close at Berkeley. I have to ask: did Chip’s campaign stage this, especially with how they’ve been promoting it to get TV time in what is usually an extremely low-profile race?