Purported Environmental Product Inventor And Developer Sentenced To 48 Months In Prison For $5 Million Fraud Scheme
Theodore Sweeten, the president of Symtech International, Inc. (“Symtech”), was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to 48 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. As part of the sentence, Sweeten was ordered to forfeit more than $600,000 to the government and pay $5,001,949 in restitution to the defrauded investor. Sweeten was remanded into federal custody. In June 2013, Sweeten pleaded guilty to a charge of wire fraud for defrauding an individual investor of $5 million through, among other things, false representations about his investment and environmental expertise.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
“Theodore Sweeten conned an unsuspecting investor of $5 million by claiming to have expertise in environmental and financial products, when in reality, his only expertise was in fraud. Sweeten told the victim his money would be safe until their investment goals were accomplished. Instead, he and his cohorts simply stole the money and gave the victim phony documents and a trail of lies, each one more fanciful than the last. Those who seek to prey on the investing public through lies and deceit are on notice that they will be held accountable for their crimes,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch thanked the FBI, the agency responsible for leading the government’s investigation.
Sweeten, who claimed he developed and patented the “Clean Air Valve” among other environmental products, defrauded an investor of $5 million by lying to him about his expertise in their joint venture agreement. Sweeten, and two others, induced the victim to make the investment in order to “lease” a credit line of $100 million, which in turn would enable them to generate millions of dollars in profit through special investment programs.1 In furtherance of that scheme, Sweeten and his co-conspirators falsely represented that the victim’s funds would be held in an attorney escrow account pending confirmation of the posting of $100 million in the leased-funds account. In fact, they simply distributed the victim’s $5 million among themselves and falsely represented that a $100 million account had been created at HSBC by sending the victim fabricated bank documents on HSBC letterhead.
When the victim discovered that the bank documents on HSBC letterhead were phony, he requested a refund of the $5 million that he had deposited into the attorney escrow account. In response, Sweeten and his co-conspirators told the victim that the money had been disbursed to the investors who created the $100 million account. Sweeten then claimed innocence and placed the blame for the victim’s lost funds on his co-conspirators. In particular, Sweeten concealed from the victim the fact that he had requested and received more than $600,000 of the escrowed funds more than four months prior to the issuance of the fabricated HSBC documents. When the victim eventually confronted Sweeten about the money that Sweeten had withdrawn from the attorney’s escrow account, Sweeten lied to the victim yet again and told him that he had invested the withdrawn funds on the victim’s behalf into other highly profitable projects, including a gold mine project. Sweeten continued with these lies to the victim, in emails and telephone conversations, for more than three years after stealing the victim’s money.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Winston M. Paes and Marcia M. Henry.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
Residence: Ashland, Oregon
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 12-CR-471
1 The charges against the co-defendants are merely allegations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.