Investors lose out in energy firm scam

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:00 04/12/2012

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A Shannon man says he was ripped off by a convicted fraudster with a good story, who convinced more than 200 people - including 33 from Manawatu and Horowhenua - to invest in a failed alternative energy business.

And the latest liquidation report for the business, released yesterday, says the owner has fled the country and no money has been found for creditors.

The Shannon man - who asked not to be named - said he paid $3000 for shares in Ira NRG, run by Simon Romana.

The company was founded as an alternative energy business, based on the idea sewage could be turned into electricity through a process called gasification.

He said he and "five or six" other investors went to a meeting in Palmerston North led by a representative of the company, who convinced some of them to put money into the business.

"The idea sounded like a brilliant one."

But suspicions arose when he did not receive paperwork verifying his shares.

"Every time I would ring up, I was told I couldn't get them.

"A woman would just say everything was going all right."

He said he put in only a small amount of money compared with other investors.

"He would have got over a million dollars or more from it.

"He ripped me off."

He is one of 246 listed shareholders, some of whom are based as far afield as Canada, Australia and the United States.

Mr Romana founded Ira NRG in March 2010, but the business was banned in December that year by the Securities Commission after it was discovered it had asked for investment money without a prospectus.

It was placed into liquidation in February last year.

The latest liquidation report was released more than six months late - and said it was "unlikely" any money would be recovered.

In his first liquidation report, Clive Johnson said Mr Romana had used sales people paid on commission to sell shares to investors.

The company had only made money from the investment capital and had no income streams, the report said.

It also said Mr Romana had left the country.

In 2006, an article in The Listener said Mr Romana had also tried to establish an alternative energy business in North America under the name First NRG.

Despite support from people - including former Washington DC mayor Marion Barry - the project never got off the ground.

Mr Romana's criminal record dates back to the early 1970s.

He has been convicted on charges of assault and fraud.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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