An Irvine executive previously convicted of securities fraud agreed to plead guilty to making false claims about solar panels his company was selling, enabling him to raise more than $9.5 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Michael James Sweaney, 56, the founder and owner of Nanotech Engineering Inc., was caught making bogus claims to a potential investor, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, according to Thom Mrozek, the public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The company hired sales representatives to cold call potential investors with pitches that included false claims the company developed a device that would cost one-third less than other solar panels to make, Mrozek said.
However, the so-called “nanopanel” was never produced, Mrozek said.
The alleged scheme was carried out from 2016 through 2019, Mrozek said. Sweaney, who was previously convicted of securities fraud, was also the company’s chief financial officer but not listed as such to hide that fact from investors, Mrozek said.
Sweaney spent the investor money on a 46-foot yacht, two Maserati GranTurismo cars, a gold Cartier watch and cosmetic surgery for himself, Mrozek said.
As part of his plea deal to one count of mail fraud he agreed to give up the yacht, cars and watch and about $1.5 million in cash and anything else of value, Mrozek said.
Sweaney’s nephew, David Wayne Sweaney, 41, of Fort Collins, Colorado, pleaded guilty in September to mail fraud and was scheduled to be sentenced April 2.
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