An Aurora, Colorado man was sentenced Friday to 18 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $37 million restitution by United States District Judge Joel Slomsky for operating a $54 million Ponzi scheme in one of the largest green energy frauds in U.S. history.
Wayde McKelvy, 59, was convicted in October 2018, after a trial of seven counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to engage in securities fraud, acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a press release.
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 group promised investors huge returns, as high as 484 percent, for securities investments in supposedly profitable business ventures in real estate and green energy. In reality, Mantria, based in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, 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, the release said.
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 he 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. When the SEC shut down Mantria in November 2009, the pyramid scheme collapsed and was exposed, the release said.
McKelvy’s co-conspirators, Troy Wragg and Amanda Knorr, who met as Temple University students, were previously sentenced for their involvement in this scheme to 22 years and two and a half years in prison, respectively.
“This case is a classic example of the warning: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Williams said in the release. “McKelvy is nothing more than a twenty-first century snake oil salesman, with all of the trappings to make him appear to be a legitimate businessman. The defendant is clearly a danger to the investing public and deserves to be in prison for a very long time, as the government demonstrated at trial.”
“Wayde McKelvy didn’t care about green energy. The only ‘green’ on his mind was money,” said Michael Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “At his bogus financial seminars, he actively and enthusiastically duped people into investing in Mantria, even urging them to liquidate retirement funds and other assets to do so. When the teetering Ponzi scheme finally collapsed, many victims were left financially devastated.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Livermore and Sarah Wolfe. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was also assisted by the Securities and Exchange Commission.