The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced an enforcement action previously filed under seal in federal court in Las Vegas. The SEC has obtained an emergency order to halt an investment scheme that has defrauded at least 98 people nationwide out of at least $1.4 million since 2009.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Nevada resident John P. Rohner and his companies Inteligentry, Ltd., PlasmERG, Inc. and PTP Licensing, Ltd., have been operating a fraudulent investment scheme. Rohner and his companies solicited investors for the scheme by claiming that they have developed, tested and patented an operational “plasma engine” fueled by abundant and inexpensive noble gases (such as helium), which they claim will replace the internal combustion engine. Rohner and his companies claim that the engine is non-polluting and has unlimited uses to generate electricity in homes, businesses, boats, and aircraft. For example, Rohner told at least one investor that one of his plasma engines has been running a generator on a dairy farm for 18 months and he claimed on company websites that the pollution-free engine “can run for over 3 months on a $12 gas fill”. As alleged in the complaint, Rohner originally offered securities in Iowa-based PlasmERG, Inc. from 2009 to early 2011, and from May 2011 to the present Rohner has offered securities in Nevada-based Inteligentry, Ltd., using PlasmERG and PTP Licensing as related business entities.
Rohner and his companies lured investors into purchasing stock by claiming that the companies would be worth billions of dollars when the plasma engine is publicly revealed, repeatedly promising to publicly show his operational engine at stockholder meetings and trade shows. However, the claims were and are entirely fictitious. Rohner and his companies have never run an engine fueled by noble gases, nor have they obtained patents relating to the engine or the plasma technology.
Rohner and his companies also made false and misleading statements to investors that Rohner has advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and that they have trademarks relating to the purported engine and its plasma process. As alleged in the complaint, these representations are false. Rohner has never attended or obtained degrees from MIT or Harvard, and has never been assigned a trademark related to the engine or its purported technology.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Rohner, Inteligentry, PlasmERG, and PTP Licensing used investor funds to pay Rohner’s personal expenditures as well as business expenses. The complaint alleges that a significant portion of the funds raised from investors was used for personal expenses, including among other things the purchase of a home in Iowa for Rohner and his wife, the purchase of vehicles for Rohner’s family members and Inteligentry employees, the purchase of home goods, and the payment of personal expenses including automobile repair services and insurance, medical services, and meals at restaurants.
None of the defendants charged in the SEC’s enforcement action has ever registered with the SEC to sell securities.