An Irvine man was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison Friday for a nanotechnology investment fraud scheme.
Michael James Sweaney, 58, was sentenced to 78 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton, who also ordered the defendant to pay $9.7 million in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Sweaney, the founder and owner and chief financial officer of Nanotech Engineering Inc., pleaded guilty in April of last year to a single count of mail fraud.
His company had offices in Irvine and Loveland, Colo. His company’s sales representatives would cold call potential investors with claims of developing a solar panel device with nanotechnology that didn’t actually exist, prosecutors said. The sales representatives also fraudulently told investors that a Michael Hatton, was chief financial officer, because Sweaney had previously been convicted in Nevada on securities fraud, prosecutors said. The name was actually an alias.
Sweaney told one potential investor, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, that his sales representatives did not earn commissions and that his company’s manufacturing equipment was worth $100 million, prosecutors said.
He also directed his nephew, who was running the company’s Colorado offices, to create a prop that looked like nanopanels and made a video with an actor to demonstrate the fake product was more effective than a regular solar panel, prosecutors said.
Sweaney used the investors’ money to buy luxuries for himself, including a yacht, two Maserati cars, a gold Cartier watch and cosmetic surgery, prosecutors said. He has agreed to forfeit much of that property and $1.5-million cash that were previously seized.
The defendant’s nephew, David Wayne Sweaney, 42, of Fort Collins, Colo., pleaded guilty in September 2020 and is scheduled to be sentenced March 11.
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