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Home News City News Irvine Man Faces Charges for $9.4 Million Investment Fraud Investigation

Irvine Man Faces Charges for $9.4 Million Investment Fraud Investigation

Criminal charges were filed on Oct. 27 against an Irvine man whose company garnered over $9.4 million in investment funds while claiming to have groundbreaking solar panel technology.

Michael James Sweaney, founder and owner of Nanotech Engineering, Inc., agreed to plead guilty for one count of mail fraud. An ongoing investigation by federal law enforcement found that Sweaney’s company claimed to have created revolutionary, low-cost solar panels, called Nanopanels, that are three times as effective as traditional photovoltaic cells. Sweaney had appointed himself as chief financial officer of the company under the alias “Michael Hatton.”

While Sweaney admitted in his plea that Nanopanel technology does not exist, Nanotech Engineering allegedly defrauded around 100 investors in several U.S. states, beginning in 2017 and spanning a period of three years.

Sweaney also enlisted his nephew, David Wayne Sweaney, who claimed to be the chief executive officer of Nanotech Engineering at a second location in Colorado. Sweaney allegedly instructed his nephew to falsify advertisements and purchase used solar panel manufacturing equipment as a decoy. The pair also hired a sales team who used “bogus claims” to cold-call potential investors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While previously claiming to use $9.4 million in investment funds to mitigate Nanopanel manufacturing costs, Sweaney admitted in his plea deal that these funds were instead used to purchase luxury vehicles, jewelry, cosmetic surgery and a yacht, which he has agreed to forfeit along with an additional $1.5 million.

Sweaney is set to face a maximum federal sentence of 20 years.

Ariana Keshishian is a City News Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. She can be reached at ankeshis@uci.edu.