Indictment Charges Three People with Running $54 Million “Green Energy” Ponzi Scheme
An indictment was unsealed today charging three people in an investment scheme, involving a Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania-based company, that defrauded more than 300 investors from around the country. Troy Wragg, 34, a former resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Amanda Knorr, 32, of Hellertown, Pennsylvania, and Wayde McKelvy, 52, of Colorado, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and seven counts of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.
As the founders of the Mantria Corporation, Wragg and Knorr allegedly promised investors huge returns for investments in supposedly profitable business ventures in real estate and “green energy.” According to the indictment, Mantria was a Ponzi scheme in which new investor money was used to pay “earnings” to prior investors since the businesses actually generated meager revenues and no profits. To induce investors to invest funds, it is alleged that Wragg and Knorr repeatedly made false representations and material omissions about the economic state of their businesses.
Between 2005 and 2009, Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy, through Mantria, intended to raise over $100 million from investors through Private Placement Memorandums (PPMs). In actuality, they raised $54.5 million. Wragg and Knorr were allegedly able to raise such a large sum of money through the efforts of McKelvy. McKelvy operated what he called “Speed of Wealth” clubs which advertised on television, radio and the internet, held seminars for prospective investors and promised to make them rich. According to the indictment, McKelvy taught investors to liquidate all their assets such as mutual funds and 401k plans, to take out as many loans out as possible, such as home mortgages and credit card debt and invest all those funds in Mantria. During those seminars and other programs, Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy allegedly lied to prospective investors to dupe them into investing in Mantria and promised investment returns as high as 484 percent.
It is further alleged that Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy spent a considerable amount of the investor money on projects to give investors the impression that they were operating wildly profitable businesses. Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy allegedly used the remainder of the funds raised for their own personal enrichment. Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy allegedly continued to defraud investors until November 2009 when the SEC initiated civil securities fraud proceedings against Mantria in Colorado, shut down the company, and obtained an injunction to prevent them from raising any new funds. A receiver was appointed by the court to liquidate what few assets Mantria owned.
In order to lure prospective investors, it is alleged that Wragg, Knorr and McKelvy lied and omitted material facts to mislead investors as to the true financial status of Mantria, including grossly overstating the financial success of Mantria and promising excessive returns.
“The scheme alleged in this indictment offered investors the best of both worlds – investing in sustainable and clean energy products while also making a profit,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “Unfortunately for the investors, it was all a hoax and they lost precious savings. These defendants preyed on the emotions of their victims and sold them a scam. This office will continue to make every effort to deter criminals from engaging in these incredibly damaging financial crimes.”
“As alleged, these defendants lied about their intentions regarding investors’ money, pocketing a substantial portion for personal use,” said Special Agent in Charge Sweeney Jr. “So long as there are people with money to invest, there will likely be investment swindlers eager to take their money under false pretenses. The FBI will continue to work with its law enforcement and private sector partners to investigate those whose greed-based schemes rob individuals of their hard-earned money.”
If convicted of all charges, the defendants each face possible prison terms, fines, up to five years of supervised release and a $1,000 special assessment.
The criminal case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Livermore. The SEC in Colorado investigated and litigated the civil securities fraud charges which formed the basis of the criminal prosecution.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.