An Irvine man was charged Tuesday with using his company to run a suspected scheme that took in millions of dollars worth of investment money based on the allegedly false promise of enhancing solar panels with nanotechnology.
Nanotech Engineering founder and owner Michael James Sweaney, 56, has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud in connection with a suspected investment scheme that prosecutors allege brought in more than $9.5 million, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.
Prosecutors allege that Sweaney used “high-pressure sales tactics” to push “bogus claims” that his company had created technology that allowed them to generate electricity three times more efficiently than traditional solar panels. Referring to the purported technological breakthrough as a “Nanopanel,” the company contended that their solar panels were one-third the cost of similar devices and would soon dominate the market, prosecutors allege.
But, as part of his plea deal, Sweaney now admits that the “Nanopanel” technology does not actually exist, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Over a three year period ending in 2019, Sweaney and his sales team lied to investors, according to prosecutors, with Sweaney himself using an alias to hide the fact that he had previously been convicted of securities fraud.
Sweaney’s nephew – David Wayne Sweaney, 41, of Fort Collins, Colorado – served as the company’s chief executive officer, and has already pleaded guilty to mail fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of the alleged scheme, prosecutors say Sweaney had his nephew create prop versions of the “Nanopanels” for a video that made it look like they outperformed traditional solar panels and create the impression they were being manufactured.
According to his plea deal, Sweaney also used investor funds to fund a lavish lifestyle, including purchasing a 46-foot yacht, luxury automobiles and jewelry and paying for cosmetic surgery. Approximately $1.5 million in funds – as well as the yacht, cars and jewelry – was seized during the federal investigation, and will be forfeited by Sweaney as part of his plea deal, according to prosecutors.
Source: Orange County Register