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Select Comfort founder faces federal charges in energy investment fraud

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A Twin Cities entrepreneur, company founder and top executive has been arrested and is facing a new round of federal charges in connection with an investment fraud case.

The Star Tribune reports that Bob Walker, 70, the founder of Select Comfort who went on to become CEO of Bixby Energy, has been accused by the FBI of witness tampering. The charges stem from Walker's role raising funds for Bixby, a clean coal company. In a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court, Walker is accused of continuing to raise money although fraud charges were pending against him. He is also accused of tampering with a witness by sending false information by e-mail. Both acts violated conditions of his release pending a trial scheduled for January, the complaint said.

Walker’s attorney told the paper that he will contest every allegation in the complaint. “It’s a great example of abuse of power by the government and intimidation,” Peter Wold said.

In a 2007 profile in Twin Cities Business, Walker explained that he founded Brooklyn Park-based Bixby in 2001 after he began seeking an energy efficient way to heat the 12,000-square-foot home that he and his wife, JoAnn, built in Ramsey. Previously, Walker, 70, invented the Sleep Number bed and founded Select Comfort before selling in 1991.

The Business Journal reports that Walker, 70 was indicted for misleading Bixby investors to raise $43 million. Monday's complaint alleges that Walker used at least three “unwitting” shareholders to continue to run the company and its board of directors even though he was forced out in 2011 and had been charged with defrauding shareholders. Prosecutors added three tax evasion charges earlier this year.

The Business Journal also reported that earlier this month Gary Bollyard, who pleaded guilty to defrauding Bixby investors, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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