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SEC Says Ponzi Scam Targeted Old Folks

DENVER (CN) - Four people and their two companies targeted old folks in a $30 million Ponzi scheme that claimed to be building environmentally friendly housing, the SEC says. It claims Wayde and Donna McKelvey, former spouses, bilked people through their Mantria Corp. and Speed of Wealth LLC.

The McKelveys claimed that Mantria was building a "carbon negative" community in rural Tennessee, with a "biochar" produce made from organic waste, the SEC says. They were helped by two other hucksters, Troy Wragg and Amanda Knorr of Philadelphia, who were executives in Mantria, according to the complaint.

The four defendants ran "Webinars" and in-person "seminars" in which they persuaded the old-timers "to liquidate their traditional investments such as retirement plans and home equity to instead invest in Mantria," the SEC said in a statement announcing its lawsuit.

The defendants promised returns of 17 percent to "hundreds of percent" but their companied never really made money; it was a class Ponzi scheme, with money from new suckers paying off the old, the SEC says.

"Mantria and Speed of Wealth also did not tell investors that they kept a significant amount of their funds to generously pay commissions of 12.5 percent to the McKelveys," the SEC said. It seeks disgorgement, penalties and an injunction.

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