Washington, D.C., September 4, 2015 – Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have charged three people in a $54.5 million criminal Ponzi scheme revolving around turning municipal waste into fertilizer through a bogus process called “biochar” and creating a “carbon-negative” community in Tennessee, through a Pennsylvania company called Mantria Corp.
According to an FBI press release, the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2009 “initiated civil securities fraud proceedings against Mantria in Colorado” and shut the company down. The criminal indictment in Philadelphia, Mantria’s former headquarters, charges Mantria’s two founders, Troy Wragg, 34, and Amanda Knorr, 32, and their fundraiser, Wayde McKelvy, 52, of Colorado, with “conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, and seven counts of wire fraud.”
Wragg and Knorr, according to the FBI, “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 business actually generated meager revenues and no profits.” The government alleges that the three raised $54.5 million from 300 investors.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said, “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. 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.”
According to the FBI, 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 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 promise investment returns as high as 484%.”
A 2011 article in 5280, a Denver magazine, called Mantria “The biggest green scam in America.” The magazine article reported that “McKelvy and his Philly-based Mantria partner, CEO Troy Wragg, were telling investors that the company was engaged in promising meetings with the president of Ivory Coast; that Mantria was hobnobbing with the Clinton Global Initiative; and that the company was ‘this close’ to selling $240 million worth of its ‘systems.’”