‘Revolutionary’ solar panel company frozen by SEC in emergency action

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The revolutionary “Nanopanel” sounds like a world-changing invention to warm Greta Thunberg’s heart. Nanotech Engineering of Irvine, Calif. says its “last generation solar panel” is “a lightweight, stronger than steel yet flexible Solar Panel that is more than three times more efficient than traditional solar.” It is “by far the most efficient Solar Panel ever created,” is only about the size of a “FedEx Envelope,” and can generate electricity even in the kind of dark and cloudy weather you see in Scandinavia.

There’s just one problem, authorities say.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says Nanotech Engineering and the “Nanopanel” are “fraudulent” hooks in a multimillion-dollar boiler-room operation running across the country “from Alaska to Florida.” Instead of developing new generation solar panels, Nanotech executives Michael Sweaney, David Sweaney and Jeffery Gange have allegedly been spending investors’ money on yachts, fancy clothes, tens of thousands of dollars of cosmetic surgery, dermatology, and spa treatments, and even thousands of dollars on “vaping products” and tobacco, the SEC said.

About $2.4 million of the $9.4 million raised from investors has been misappropriated, the Commission says.

The SEC has taken emergency action to shut down the operation’s fundraising activities and freeze the assets raised.

In total the SEC says the scam operated for more than three years, allegedly raising $9.4 million from more than 100 investors in 25 different states. “From August 14, 2017 to the present, Nanotech has had no discernable [sic] source of income or revenue,” the SEC says.

Michael and David Sweaney and Jeffery Gange could not be reached for comment.

The company’s website was still in operation as of Wednesday afternoon. It purports to show the company’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., staff posing for a photo, and the site of the forthcoming “state of the art manufacturing facility” that Nanotech says it is building in Loveland, Colorado. The website includes links to videos about the products, and even testimonials from third parties.

MarketWatch called the company’s phone number 10 times and tried every extension listed in the company directory. None answered during regular working hours. None returned calls.

It is unclear what, if anything, exists. It could not be immediately ascertained whether there was any such Nanopanel, or who the people are in the photo on the company website. Securities and Exchange Commission spokeswoman Judith Burns declined to comment.

Nanotech’s chief financial officer, “Michael Hatton,” is allegedly the alias of convicted felon Michael James Sweaney, says the SEC. In 1998 he pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in Nevada and was sentenced to a 12-to-32-month suspended prison sentence, suspended in favor of two years of probation. He also had to pay restitution to 10 investors. He also has multiple civil judgments against him, including one for $46,000 in state taxes that remain unpaid from 2008, the SEC said.

According to the SEC, Sweaney allegedly pocketed more than $550,000 of Nanotech investors’ money, spending $208,000 on a 46-foot yacht named the Bella Vita and $39,549 on cosmetic work and dermatology.

His nephew David Sweaney, the Nanotech CEO, allegedly pocketed another $240,625, spending more than $37,000 on dental work, nearly $10,000 on cosmetic work and dermatology, and nearly $19,000 on luxury fashions including Gucci and Louis Vuitton, the SEC says.

Chief operating officer Jeffery Gange allegedly spent more than $100,000 of investors’ money on two Maserati sports cars, the SEC adds.

The SEC says the company spent another $169,000 on nonbusiness items including more than $57,000 in yacht-related costs, $35,000 in cosmetic work, dermatology and spa treatments, and $7,200 on vaping products.

Meanwhile the SEC is hunting $1.5 million that it was says was allegedly transferred from Nanotech to third party entities that may have been controlled by the executives. A business allegedly controlled by Gange spent $112,000 on golf equipment.

The SEC says that it is not yet aware of attorneys of record for any of the three defendants.