In Colorado, a green fleecing worth millions

Read the full story in High Country News.

At a 2009 conference in Centennial, Colorado, Wayde McKelvy, a former offensive lineman at the University of Northern Colorado stood in front of a room full of potential investors for a green startup called Mantria.

Mantria was building the country’s first “carbon-negative” housing development in rural Tennessee, powered entirely by renewable energy, investors heard. What’s more, it was developing a substance that turned garbage into usable materials and produced something called biochar, a carbon-negative fertilizer made from charcoal.

The company was “on the cusp of revolutionary technology that’s going to change the world,” McKelvy promised, “and you guys can benefit from it by putting money in and getting stinkin’ wealthy.”

McKelvy was the pitchman for a green utopic offered by Mantria’s two founders, Troy Wragg and Amanda Knorr. And if Mantria’s promise sounded too good to be true, that’s because it was: a few months after the conference in Centennial, the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down the company, alleging Mantria had bilked investors out of tens of million of dollars in a widespread ponzi scheme. Now, after years of legal delays, federal prosecutors have indicted McKelvy, Wragg, and Knorr with wire and securities fraud and conspiracy.

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