TENNESSEE. Answering allegations that he led a $30 million scam, Mantria CEO Troy Wragg challenged anyone that didn't believe progress was being made on plans for a green community in rural Tennessee to go see for themselves.
So, we did.
Metro traveled to Sequatchie County, Tenn., Thursday to take in Mantria's "carbon-negative" plans. Indeed, a pyrolytic gasification plant is functioning in the hills of the Cumberland Plateau, but its head engineer says it's in a "testing phase," while townsfolk and officials say Mantria's plans for green communities have fizzled.
"Most of the local people here were skeptical of Mantria and what their intentions were," said Michael Hudson, the county executive of Sequatchie County. "It's disappointing, but...not surprising."
According to the SEC, Mantria told investors it was doing much more than just testing a waste-to-energy product called "biochar." Along with the investment company Speed of Wealth, Mantria got about 300 people - mostly seniors - to turn over $30 million, the SEC said in a civil lawsuit filed Monday.
Wragg, meanwhile, says that he told investors only of the capabilities of his projects and didn't oversell anything.
"Everybody knew that this technology was in a startup phase," he said, adding that Mantria never promised to build what he claims will be the world's first "carbon-negative" housing projects, only develop the land and infrastructure.