Feds: Green Energy Ponzi Scheme Duped Consumers Out Of $54.5M

When someone makes a promise that seems too good to be true: like saying you’ll be “stinkin’, filthy rich” if you invest in their green energy technology, it’s a good idea to look into that proposition with a little more scrutiny. That kind of attractive, yet ultimately worthless deal cost consumers nearly $54.5 million, federal prosecutors say.

The Department of Justice announced today that federal prosecutors filed fraud and conspiracy charges against the three co-founders of Pennsylvania-based Mantria Corporation for their part in bilking millions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers.

Under the scheme, from 2005 to 2009 the group encouraged retirees to drain their retirement accounts and mutual funds accounts to funnel money into empty projects with promises of yields as high as 484%.

The company advertised their projects in ads on television, radio and the Internet, including two in Tennessee: one a 4,500-home development and the other a $3.2 million plant that would produce charcoal substitutes.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that court filings quote one of the operators as saying the company was “on the cusp of a revolutionary technology that’s going to change the world. You guys can benefit from it by putting money in and getting stinkin’ wealthy.”

“Unfortunately for the investors, it was all a hoax,” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement Thursday. “These defendants preyed on the emotions of their victims and sold them a scam.”

In fact, investigators found that the Tennessee real estate development consisted of little more than some roads, a model home and a gate.

Likewise, the charcoal substitute plant never generated sales.

“Even while claiming their company made millions, they knew that Mantria had virtually no earnings, no profits and was merely using new investor money to repay earlier investors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Livermore wrote in charging documents.

This isn’t the first time the group has been in trouble for their untruthful business practices. Back in 2012, two of the defendants were ordered to pay $37 million each after losing a Securities and Exchange Commission civil suit.

[via The Philadelphia Inquirer]

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