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.

Investment Company Executives Indicted for $1.5 Billion Ponzi Scheme

The president and chief executive officer and two former Asia-based executives of a Las Vegas investment company were indicted today for their roles in an alleged $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Laura A. Bucheit of the FBI’s Las Vegas Division made the announcement.

“The defendants allegedly preyed on thousands of unsuspecting Japanese victims to enrich themselves by operating a billion-plus dollar Ponzi scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “This prosecution shows that the Criminal Division will pursue not only those who victimize American citizens, but also those who use the U.S. as a home base to defraud victims abroad.”

“Investment fraud and other financial fraud cases are a high priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden.  “These defendants are accused of using a Nevada corporation to conduct their $1.5 billion fraud scheme and falsely telling thousands of overseas victims that their investments would be safely held and managed by an independent, third-party escrow agent in Nevada.  Fraudulent ruses and schemes perpetrated by Nevadans using Nevada corporations and entities will continue to be addressed by this office.”

“These indictments are a reminder of the FBI’s determination to identify, investigate and bring to justice those who are committing financial crimes against innocent consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit.  “We are appreciative of the continued support we receive from our international, federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”

Edwin Fujinaga, 68, of Las Vegas; Junzo Suzuki, 66, of Tokyo; and Paul Suzuki, 36, of Tokyo, were charged in an indictment with eight counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.  Fujinaga also is charged with three counts of money laundering.  The indictment seeks from all three defendants forfeiture of the proceeds from the alleged crimes.

Fujinaga was the president and CEO of Las Vegas-based MRI International Inc. (MRI).  Junzo Suzuki previously was MRI’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, and Paul Suzuki previously was the company’s general manager for Japan operations.  MRI purportedly specialized in “factoring,” whereby the company purchased accounts receivable from medical providers at a discount, and then attempted to recover the entire amount, or at least more than the discounted amount, from the debtor.

According to allegations in the indictment, from at least 2009 to 2013, Fujinaga and the Suzukis fraudulently solicited investments from thousands of Japanese residents, and MRI currently owes investors over $1.5 billion.  Specifically, the indictment alleges that Fujinaga and the Suzukis promised investors a series of interest payments that would accrue over the life of the investment and that would be paid out along with the face value of the investment at the conclusion of the investments’ duration.  The defendants allegedly solicited investments by, among other things, promising investors that their investments would be used only for the purchase of medical accounts receivable (MARS) and by representing that investors funds would be managed and safeguarded by an independent third-party escrow company.

The indictment further alleges that MRI operated as a Ponzi scheme, wherein the defendants used new investors’ money to pay prior investors’ maturing investments.  According to the indictment, the defendants also allegedly used investors’ funds for purposes other than the purchase of MARS, including paying themselves sales commissions, subsidizing gambling habits, funding personal travel by private jet, and other personal expenses.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations.  A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Las Vegas Division.  Significant assistance was provided by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Japanese authorities.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Albert B. Stieglitz Jr. and Trial Attorney Melissa Aoyagi of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre of the District of Nevada.

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