KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first hearing against the troubled Solar Titan company went before a federal judge in Greeneville on Feb. 27.

Earlier this month, the states of Tennessee and Kentucky were granted an order to temporarily freeze the assets of the Knoxville-based company and a receiver was appointed to take over control.

In court, attorneys for the principal operator of Solar Titan USA, Michael Atnip, and his business partner Craig Kelley presented arguments objecting to the temporary takeover of their business and the appointment of a receiving. The state claims these company executives and one other, Sarah Kirkland, used deceptive and unfair business practices in running the company.

In testimony on Monday, the attorney for Atnip claimed he “has not been involved in the day-to-day activities of Solar Titan since the first year of business.” Kelley claimed he “relied on attorneys to review all contracts” signed by thousands of Solar Titan customers.

Kelley claims he “has never been an owner of Solar Titan.”

The attorney for Atnip said his “involvement has been so limited that he was “unaware of the company’s financial difficulties” until late June 2022, when he started “selling off his personal properties, and invested three million dollars into the company to save it.

Attorneys for both Atnip and Kelley argued that freezing Solar Titan’s assets was “government overreach” and asked the court to lift the temporary restraining order.

Customer complaints against Solar Titan started piling up last year, they number into the hundreds. WATE has spoken with several of the company’s customers including the Augustine’s, whose solar system was installed in June 2021. Don Dare visited the couple last week to improvements they have experienced since a Solar Titan technician returned in January.

Penny and Fred Augustine are among many former Solar Titan customers who tell us, they’ve had nothing but trouble ever since their system was installed. The sky was clear on the day we visited yet the meter reading indicated their solar battery was only 33% charged.

“Well, it’s supposed to work but we’ve never seen any savings,” said Fred Augustine.

The trouble with their system started not long after the panels were installed nearly 20 months ago and Solar Titan was slow in repairing issues.

“They never really responded to us. It wasn’t until we made contact with you that they were able to come out,” Fred Augustine told Don Dare.

In court documents filed against Solar Titan USA, the Attorneys General of Tennessee and Kentucky obtained a protective order against the owner of Solar Titan USA. The allegations include unfair and deceptive practices, shoddy workmanship and misleading marketing and sales pitches.

Penny Augustine shared with Dare the promises made to them by a Solar Titan salesman.

“We would probably pay half of what we normally pay,” explained Penny Augustine. She went on to say that they never saw the returns promised.

The Augustines said their salesman convinced them their system would be turnkey without any issues.

“We had to have them out several times to complete the installation. They sent out people who didn’t even know what they were doing,” said Fred Augustine.

“We spent $42,500 on a system that doesn’t work and we want something that works. So what do we do?” said Penny Agustine.

After three hours of arguments wrapped up on Monday, customers were not impressed by Solar Titan’s position made in court.

“We were misled when they came to our house,” said Elizabeth Watson, a Solar Titan customer. “We were told they would buy back our electricity that TVA would buy it back, but apparently they won’t.”

“They installed it in September, it has never been hooked up. I could not get a hold of them or talk to anyone. I just told them to come and get it,” said Charles Watson.

Previous Solar Titan coverage

Attorneys for Solar Titan claimed “faulty equipment” made by an outside manufacturer and installed on homes “put the company in a bind” last year, So, as complaints mounted, Solar Titan focused on repairs and the company’s business suffered. Attorneys said since 90 percent of the solar company’s customers never complained, they asked the judge to lift the restraining order. A decision is expected in a few days.