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Two Harbors Man at Center of Alleged $46M Renewable Energy Swindle

Plus charges filed against alleged Nudieland killer, Icehouse faces eviction, and students arrested for peaceful protesting in today's Flyover news roundup.

Instagram: @therealpaulyc819|

Ohhh, those kinds of stats.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

The North Shore Swindler?

To look at Paul Croft's Instagram, you wouldn't expect the man behind @therealpaulyc hails from Two Harbors, Minnesota. In his posts, holy-rolling Croft rocks gold chains, flashy pocket squares, and loud suits while rattling off personal finance guru advice with the gusto of someone who just might set off your bullshit detector.

Turns out, according to this feature story in Forbes, Croft allegedly isn't, in fact, on the level. Beginning in 2022, Croft and his partner J.D. Frost began hyping the hell out of Rhino Onward International, a renewable energy firm that claimed to have “proprietary process and technology" that would lead to the construction of a $530 million green hydrogen plant in Arizona.

ROI (get it?) reportedly raised $31 million from 200+ investors, though the partnership pair only put $200,000 of that back into their business. In total, Croft and Frost raised about $46 million "from a series of phony renewables investment schemes, which the pair used to live extravagantly, pay employees at their tax advisory business, pay down short-term loans and even lend money to embattled professional hockey player Robin Lehner," Forbes reports.

“It became clear they were just using the money to pay for their extravagant lifestyle and pay off debts... I don’t know if there was ever a true business plan," says Sarah Bivans, an ex-business partner who invested around $50,000 of her own money into ROI. With their company apparently dissolved, Croft and Frost now face a fraud lawsuit that was filed last month in Illinois.

Shoutout to John Ramos of The Duluth Monitor for first reporting on the fraud lawsuits against Croft and for, unlike Forbes, correctly ID'ing his hometown as Two Harbors not Duluth. As you may recall, the 3,600-resident North Shore city was recently rocked by another scandal, one involving crypto-bro mayor Chris Swanson hyping an underwater hotel; that saga turned extremely dark before culminating with his ouster in 2022. If not hotels, what's in the water up there?

Arrest Made in Nudieland Shooting

Answers over the death of August Golden have been in frustratingly short supply since he was killed last August in a mass shooting at Nudieland, a south Minneapolis punk house/DIY venue. On Tuesday, a suspect emerged: 18-year-old Hinkley native Dominic James Burris, who's facing seven felony charges including aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder. Gunfire erupted at Nudieland during an LGBTQ+ friendly concert that drew 30-50 attendees from the local punk scene, and charges state that two "hostile" individuals made "insensitive comments after learning the witnesses were lesbians" before the shooting began.

"Witnesses identified the shooters as two males who were not part of the community, but who had come to the concert and interacted with multiple people in the minutes before the shooting," according to charges. Golden, 35, was pronounced dead at scene (click here to learn more about his "punk as fuck" life), while six others were treated for injuries. Burris is being held at the juvenile detention center, though "the state is proceeding to certify Burris as an adult," Fox 9 reports; he's due back in court May 1. Another teen suspect, who is currently not in custody yet faces similar charges, was linked to the shooting via DNA evidence found on a cigarette, per court docs.

Icehouse Facing Eviction Over Unpaid Rent

The future doesn't appear bright for Icehouse, the Minneapolis bar/restaurant/concert venue that has been open on Eat Street since 2012. Its landlord, Chicago-based Northpond Partners, says the lawsuit it filed Monday in Hennepin County District Court "speaks for itself," the Star Tribune reports: Icehouse's owner, Brian Liebeck, allegedly owes $85,000+ in unpaid rent. Icehouse rents out around 5,000 square feet of the Icehouse Plaza development that Northpond purchased jointly with Minneapolis-based Paster Properties for $7.7 million in 2017; the two 100-plus-year-old Nicollet Avenue buildings making up the 38,000-square-foot development are currently for sale for $9.4 million, the Strib reports. As for Icehouse? "The eviction lawsuit... comes after significant post-COVID shutdown concessions," according to Northpond, which also purchased Seven Points (FKA Calhoun Square) for $34.5 million in 2019.

U of M Students Stage Peaceful Pro-Palestine Protest, Promptly Get Arrested

The reactionary rage directed toward U.S. students protesting a horrific foreign war that's being bankrolled by U.S. taxpayers is positively frothing, and today nine protesters—seven University of Minnesota students, one faculty member, one non-U-affiliated individual—were arrested for trespassing on Northrop Mall with tents, the Minnesota Daily reports. Standing in solidarity with student protesters at Columbia University in New York City, members of the U's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society laid out demands that echo the BDS movement early this morning from the mall, only to be arrested by UMPD hours later.

"We support the rights of all members of our university community to speak and demonstrate peacefully," reads a straight-faced U of M statement that went on to say this particular peaceful demonstration violated state law and university policy—what do you want them to do, exactly? SDS staged a much larger follow-up rally this afternoon outside of Coffman Memorial Union, and by 4 p.m. was celebrating the release of the arrestees:

Soapbox time! At best, the online vitriol being spewed at these engaged, nonviolent, antiwar protesters summons a sit down/shut up mindset that flies in the face of, well, free expression in a supposedly free country. At worst, it channels motherfuckers like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who's referenced in the video below, seemingly licking their sadistic chops for another Kent State. Is it "cringe" or, to deploy an older phrase, "hack" to give the last word to a late-night TV host? Maybe, but John Oliver gets it anyway:

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