Founder of Bogus Green Energy Firm Convicted of Running a $54 Million Ponzi Scheme
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Wayde McKelvy, of Colorado, was convicted by a jury of the following crimes: Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud (one count); Wire Fraud (seven counts); Conspiracy to Engage in Securities Fraud (one count); and Securities Fraud (one count). The trial was held before United States District Judge Joel H. Slomsky.
The government established at trial that McKelvy and his co-conspirators ran an elaborate Ponzi scheme operating as Mantria Corporation, which received more than $54 million in fraudulently obtained new investor funds. The co-conspirators promised investors huge returns, as high as 484%, for securities investments in supposedly profitable business ventures in real estate and green energy. In reality, Mantria was a classic Ponzi scheme in which new investor money was used to pay “returns” to early investors, and the business generated meager revenues and no actual profits.
To induce investors to invest money, McKelvy and his co-conspirators repeatedly made fraudulent representations and material omissions about the economic state of Mantria. McKelvy also promoted himself as a financial wizard through aggressive marketing tactics, even though he had little financial acumen and was an unlicensed securities salesman. 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. During those seminars and other programs, McKelvy lied to prospective investors to dupe them into investing in Mantria.
Mantria, based in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, sent McKelvy “commissions” via wire transfer to an entity he controlled called “Retirement TRACS, LLC.” Mantria also used wire transfers to pay for other portions of the Ponzi scheme, including payments for both the real estate and green energy projects. When the SEC shut down Mantria in November 2009, the pyramid scheme collapsed and was exposed.
“McKelvy repeatedly lied about Mantria’s bright future in the green energy business, often delivering his sales pitch before a live audience full of prospective investors in order to dupe as many people as he could into investing in the company. McKelvy and his co-conspirators talked a big game, promising investment returns as high as 484 percent – but it was all a ruse,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Instead of high returns, the over 300 victims of this fraud unwittingly invested in uninhabitable land and a bogus trash-to-green energy business idea based on bogus scientific methodology. We are pleased that the jury held McKelvy accountable for his part in this massive fraud.”
“Wayde McKelvy actively marketed himself as some kind of financial genius, when in fact he was nothing but a fraud,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He and his buddies lured investors in by promising sky-high returns on their money, taking full advantage of people’s trust and their hopes for the future. Ponzi schemes can do real damage to victims’ lives, and the FBI is determined to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Livermore and Sarah Wolfe. Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Denver Regional Office, assisted with the investigation.