Feature

The Biggest Green Scam in America

Denver’s Wayde McKelvy raised tens of millions of dollars for a new, clean-energy company that the SEC says was nothing more than an old-school Ponzi scheme.

July 2011

On November 16, 2009, the news broke of the SEC’s filing against McKelvy and company. The news release said representations by McKelvy and Wragg were “laced with bogus claims.” At that point, as McKelvy himself has said, “I sat down and started reinventing myself at that moment.” Wayde McKelvy soon re-emerged as Clint Brashman, now apparently up to some of the same old business—and with a pornographic twist.

In the wake of the SEC’s filing, numerous websites popped up exhorting Americans to rid themselves of traditional investments, and were registered to a man named Clint Brashman. A search for that name brings up multiple videos offering marketing advice. One was posted on June 5, 2010, by “thebrashman,” and opens with a guy speaking directly into a camera. He’s thinner now and has grown a goatee, but there’s no mistaking it: It’s McKelvy.

“The Brashman” hasn’t restricted his pursuits to marketing and financial sites: He’s tied to a porn site as well. The Brashman’s email is listed as the administrative contact for a pornographic blog, where on the first page viewers see another familiar face, this one framed with platinum-blond hair dropping past fake breasts. It’s Angela. On the website she reveals she is a transsexual. She writes on her blog that her boyfriend “lost all his money” at the beginning of 2010 and “drinks too much.” Nonetheless, he’s done a lot for her, and she loves him still. They’ve been together in Miami for two years.

Initially, McKelvy told me he has nothing to do with that blog or an accompanying site that recruits other transsexual folks to produce pornography. He denied this even though the recruiting site is registered to his old business, Retirement TRACS Seminars. Confronted with these connections, McKelvy then said he’s made no money from his pursuits as Clint Brashman. “Why should I legally make any—that’s going to come out wrong—why should I make any income? What good does it do for me to make any money? The [SEC] is just going to take it.”

Speaking in the slight drawl that fed his image of a good-hearted Coloradan, McKelvy said that he may have done some things wrong. As far as Mantria, he admitted to the definition of a Ponzi scheme while bafflingly denying it was a Ponzi scheme: “I don’t care what the lawyers at SEC tell you; when you invest in mortgage-backed securities, they take money and go loan it to John Doe to buy a house. Doe makes payments and it flows back to me.… What I’m trying to say is that new money is always replacing old money in any investment.”

He rambled during the conversation, one minute saying those who lost money are the true victims; a minute later he lamented his crumbling reputation and compared those upset about losing their savings to homeowners complaining about their subprime mortgages. They could have asked questions, he said, done their own due diligence. “Not to sound like an asshole, I think it’s time Americans start taking some responsibility. I get that from my ex-wife now. Everything bad in her life is my fault.”

A few days after our phone conversation last February, McKelvy signed an agreement with the SEC in which he neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations. However, according to the Order of Permanent Injunction, McKelvy “will be precluded from arguing that he did not violate the federal securities laws as alleged,” and furthermore, will not “take any action or to make or permit to be made any public statement denying, directly or indirectly, any allegation in the Complaint or creating the impression that the Complaint is without factual basis.”

According to the SEC resolution, fines still could, and likely would, be levied against him on behalf of Mantria’s investors. And this SEC settlement agreement does not preclude the possibility of related civil actions, or, say, criminal charges that might come from the FBI. (Wragg, Knorr, and McKelvy’s ex-wife, Donna, signed similar orders.)

To date, no criminal charges have been filed against anyone involved with Mantria, but a couple of investors have been contacted by the FBI. Agents want to know what claims investors heard, what they were promised, and how much they lost. It’s unclear whether agents know about a guy named Clint Brashman.

“All of us have our own life lies that we tell ourselves,” Mantria investor Dr. Mary Phillips said about McKelvy. “Who we are, what we stand for. For Wayde, he wanted to be the ringmaster. He wanted to sway public opinion. Maybe he was lying to himself about what he was doing.”

This is James Carlson’s first piece for 5280. He is a Denver-based freelance writer. Email him at [email protected].

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