Graduates of Temple University are due to be sentenced for their role perpetuating a Ponzi Scheme and investment fraud. Their business, Mantria, had raised $54 million in investments on the promise to turn garbage into green energy – a promise they had no way of performing.
The case presents an excellent opportunity to discuss both of these white collar crimes. Here, we'll look at investment fraud. In our next blog post, we'll look at Ponzi Schemes.
Investment Fraud Charges Against Mantria and Its Founders
Two young Temple graduates, both in their 20s, formed a company called Mantria to create what they called “biochar” – charcoal that sucked carbon from the atmosphere and replenished nutrients in the soil. According to them, biochar could be made using household garbage and used tires, and could then be spread over fields to pull carbon from the air and return it to the soil.
The company founders pitched this idea to investors, and their idea quickly gained lots of traction. John Elway mentioned Mantria at investment seminars, and the founders were even honored by Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009.
In the end, Mantria raised $54 million in investments.
There was a problem, though: The technology to produce biochar did not exist. Some of the money Mantria raised went towards building the machines that would convert waste into biochar, but the company never came close to producing any of it.
Investment Fraud and Securities Fraud
Investment fraud, also known as securities fraud, is any deceptive trade practice that is meant to induce someone else to invest money in a project. The idea behind the law is to incentivize investing money by giving investors an expectation to the truth about the investment opportunity. If the company or its spokespeople violate that expectation and either hide important information, make misleading statements, or outright lie about the quality of the investment, it can lead to criminal charges of investment fraud.
Penalties for Investment Fraud
The penalties that can be on the table for a conviction of investment fraud are severe – some of the most severe of all non-violent crimes in Pennsylvania.
In most cases, a conviction for investment fraud is a second-degree felony that carries fines of up to $1 million and ten years in jail. While these penalties are steep, the bulk of the sanctions come in the form of restitution payments to the victims. In the case of the Mantria founders, this can be up to the $54 million in investments that the company obtained.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who protects people against all sorts of criminal charges, including charges of white collar crimes. These offenses, while non-violent, can lead to severe penalties that can impact the rest of your future. Invoking your rights and defending against the charge is crucial.
Call attorney Lento at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online if you have been accused of a white collar crime or think you are under investigation.
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