The biochar plant consisted of 10 acres of land in Dunlap, Tennessee that was part of a $5.9M land purchase and many more millions were wasted on building a sham of a biomass plant with its sole purpose of continuing to defraud investors.
The Mantria schemers took the land and constructed a plant in a record 45 days with crews working 24 hours per day. They were in a hurry, as money was running out quickly and they decided to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the beginning of August 2009 that would bring all of its current and prospective investors to hear their latest capital-raising pitch (see Mantria capital-raising video). The location of this plant is the most unlikely place for an industrial waste-to-energy facility - the the top of a mountain in a residential neighborhood without proper access for the minimum 50 trucks per day that would need to enter and exit the site.
As Investors arrived at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, they were given a t-shirt that read, "I was burned at the Mantria Place Eternagreen Center." We can be sure that Troy Wragg and Amanda Knorr had a chuckle when they came up with the idea for this t-shirt, as they were giving everyone a hint about their Ponzi scheme. Little did the investors know, they will be officially burned in less than 3.5 months from this date when the SEC uncovered the scheme.
The ceremony was well attended with over 200 people, including the ambassador to Cote D'Ivoire who came in from Washington D.C. to view the technology. To everyone's surprise the technology was not going to be demonstrated, nor would they see the "simulation" that Mantria posted on Youtube used to fool others, as found in the count the lies capital-raising webinar. No biochar was ever produced that was worthy of being sold.
The technology simply did not work and was not even close to producing a product of the quality and scale that Troy Wragg lied about one week later at the Boulder Biochar Conference on August 10, 2009. In this video from the conference, you see Troy Wragg speaking and, of course, lying about the plant in Dunlap, specifically about the state of biochar production. He said the Dunlap plant was producing "4 tons per hour and had yields up to 75%", though the plant was not even operating and had not even done a single production cycle at this time. He goes on to say this plant will be "cash flow positive by year end, based on current orders". The SEC said there were few orders (<$3K) and cash flow positive would not have been possible.
Today, the Dunlap biochar plant has a market appraisal (according to the assessor's site) for the land with the improvements of $457K and the Mantria Receiver has a fire sale price of $346,000 (gotta pay the fees!), which can be found in this listing. The land alone has been appraised for $44,600 and Mantria paid $5.9 million for a large parcel in 2008 that included the 10 acres for the plant. Mantria was selling its own nearby lots at the time for the price of $6,000/acre as seen in this flyer with the contact of T.K Horn, COO of Ironbridge Properties, LLC., and uncle to Troy Wragg (One of many family members working for Mantria).
By the way, these residential lots had lots of problems and were not attractive to development. According to the Mayor of Van Buren County, where three of Mantria's residential projects were located, there are serious water-contamination problems from strip mining, so it would have the burden of bringing in water from elsewhere - a costly endeavor to build a pipeline and pump the water. It was also the site of the former Spencer Artillery Range where artillery shells, land mines and environmental dangers are still present because of a lack of federal funding for a complete cleanup. A White County boy had his left hand blown off in 2001 by a 37mm shell from the old Spencer Artillery Range. He'd found the shell on the range, taken it home and played with it for a year and a half before it went off.
Mantria has been accused of over-appraising real estate, as read in 5280 Magazine: "For about two years, he (Troy Wragg) was in business with BridgePoint Ventures LLC, a Florida-based real estate management firm. Sometime around 2007, however, BridgePoint ended its partnership with Mantria. “We had a pretty unceremonious parting of ways,” says Edward dePasquale, a BridgePoint vice president. The way dePasquale explains it, Wragg’s Mantria was over-appraising real estate, and BridgePoint decided “that we didn’t want to deal with him in any way, shape, or form.”
Update from a Reader: Mantria purchased 4,456 acres from Bowater Paper Co. for $5.906 million on May 30, 2008. Within this large tract Mantria carved out 10.44 acres for the Biochar Plant, plus 3 parcels for lot sales (approx 150 lots in Ecovillage, Rustic Village and Active Adult). Apparently the initial purchase was financed by The Maclellan Foundation of Chattanooga and they held a first lien for all or almost all of that amount. Maclellan was the founder of Provident Insurance, now a part of Cigna.
On January 19, 2010, Maclellan purchased all the acreage excepting the 4 parcels listed above. That acreage is now 4,263. They paid $3,000,000 exactly, basically to themelsves as first lienholder at the Courthouse foreclosure sale. Since Maclellan did not purchase the Plant's 10 acres, they would not be responsible to construction "mechanics" liens.
For Maclellan to fund Mantria makes little sense on a straightforward note and mortgage. They are not a private-equity group to my knowledge. One guess is that Maclellan had plans to benefit from the creation of the "conservation acreage" mentioned in Mantria's marketing, by reaping major tax deferrals or credits under any relevant Tennessee or Federal regulation.
A further guess is that the lot sales revenues (2008, 2009?) in the three Villages were subordinated to Maclellan to recover as preferred lender. Mantria may have had to pay all the sale proceeds to Maclellan. This is quite common in land development projects and Maclellan's attorney would be remiss not to reduce their risk.
Mantria is still owner of record on the plant's 10 acres and the unsold lots, under Receiver Anderson's address.
So, any capital that Mantria put into the land purchase (if any) would be the difference (if any) between $5.9MM and the first lien loan from Maclellan.
Additional Information and Photos
See pictures of the Dunlap property below
View Property on Assessors Web Site
Choose Sequatchie county, type in "Mantria" in the Owner box and click Enter. The last property listed is the plant - Mantria Energy. Click the radio button the left of the name to see the details.
View on Google Earth
The Google Earth latitude-longitude coordinates are:
-35 degrees, 24 minutes, 40 seconds North
-85 degrees, 27 minutes, 05 seconds West.
-Elevation is 2,030 feet.
A special thank you to the person who sent in the below pictures and provided the many details used in this article. This site requires the input of the community to bring the facts forward about the details of the Mantria Ponzi scheme, even if the DOJ, SEC, Receiver and other law enforcement choose to ignore the scheme and its victims.