July 7, 2010
Money in the Bank? No, Sandwich in a Can
By KIRK JOHNSON
DENVER — Is putting a sandwich in a can and calling it a “Candwich” the next can’t-miss billion-dollar idea?
Even if it is, investors in Utah who put $145 million in the hands of a money manager named Travis L. Wright will still have thinner wallets. A lawsuit by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission says that Mr. Wright promised returns of up to 24 percent on real estate investments, but that he put the money instead into Candwich development and other equally untried ideas.
Along with sales of canned sandwiches — Pepperoni Pizza Pocket and French Toast in a can were planned — Mr. Wright’s companies, under the banner of Waterford Funding, also invested in a company selling rose petals printed with greeting card sentiments and another selling watches over the Internet.
Utah has long endured a reputation as a place where many people are naďve or trusting to the point of losing their shirts. And the erosion of retirement savings in the recession has only compounded the problem, said Michael E. Hines, the director of enforcement at the Utah Division of Securities.
“A lot of 401(k)s have become 201(k)s,” Mr. Hines said.
Some scammers do not even need expensive-looking offices as stage sets. About five years ago, for example, a scheme promising a $50 million payout for a $5,000 investment raked in about $144 million nationally. In Utah, the group successfully sought investors by putting fliers on car windshields. Much of the money ended up in Latvia, Mr. Hines said.
Mr. Wright, who is 47 and lives in Draper, Utah, according to the suit, did not return telephone calls. Several listings for Waterford Funding were disconnected or not in service.
Meanwhile, the Candwich concept perseveres. The president of Mark One Foods, Mark Kirkland, who said he patented the idea of putting solid food in a beverage container with the slogan, “Quick & Tasty, Ready to Eat,” said Mr. Wright promised full financial backing for Candwich production that never really materialized even as investors did. He said he believed that canned sandwiches would ultimately sell, and hoped to go into production later this year.
The shelf life of a Candwich is excellent, Mr. Kirkland said.