Two Elk

The site of the now-defunct Two Elk Energy Park is pictured March 26, 2013, near Wright. The plant was proposed in 1996. It’s developer, Michael Ruffatto, faces sentencing Jan. 31 after admitting to fraud.

File, Star-Tribune

A federal judge has granted Michael J. Ruffatto, the infamous developer of a failed energy park, yet another continuance before the sentencing hearing that could send him to prison for up to three years.

This marks the fifth time the 71-year-old lawyer has been granted more time. Ruffatto’s lawyers argued in court documents that they were getting closer to a financial settlement that they think could weigh on the sentencing decision.

Ruffatto pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the federal government out of millions by fabricating invoices for work that never happened on the Two Elk property in Campbell County.

Over a 20-year period, the developer sold the myth of Two Elk, despite slowly losing interested investors, university partnerships and Wyoming support. Millions of federal dollars and state tax exemptions later, the park was nothing more than a couple concrete pads among the sage brush.

The money meant for research instead served Ruffatto’s lavish lifestyle, expensive jewelry, clothes and travel.

In an emotional, hand-written letter, Ruffatto’s wife pleaded for pity for her husband. Ruffatto’s lawyers have argued the man’s age and his intent to repay the money he took should keep him out of prison.

The sentencing is now scheduled for Jan. 31.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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