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Guilty Pleas Announced in $1.3 Million Aviation Internet Fraud: Five NJ Residents Convicted

Defendants tricked over 200 businesses worldwide in a widespread scheme selling non-existent aviation equipment, ending in heavy charges and potential prison time.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today unveiled guilty pleas in a sprawling internet fraud scheme that saw over 200 businesses, both nationally and internationally, defrauded out of $1.3 million. The scheme was orchestrated by Antonio P. Signo of Somerset, New Jersey, who, along with four accomplices, sold non-existent aviation equipment online. Signo faces up to eight years in state prison following his guilty plea in a prior hearing.

The scheme spanned over five years and leveraged fake websites, offering specialized aviation equipment for sale to unsuspecting businesses. The victims, which included corporate and charter jet services operators from the U.S., France, Israel, and the U.K., were deceived into wiring money to bank accounts controlled by the fraudsters. The convicts were apprehended in March 2022 after a diligent investigation conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Newark Field Office.

Attorney General Platkin lauded the efforts of the DCJ and HSI, stating, "The guilty pleas we secured make it clear that those who violate the law may try to use the anonymity of the internet to fool their victims, but they cannot hide from justice." Pablo Quiñones, Chief of the Office of Securities Fraud and Financial Crimes Prosecutions, echoed this sentiment, highlighting their commitment to identifying and holding accountable the perpetrators of such fraudulent schemes.

Additional guilty pleas came from Sonny Signo and Eddie S. Signo of New Jersey, who both face a potential three-year prison sentence, and Champagne Thompson and Cindy K. Drake of New Jersey, who are recommended for probation by the state. All defendants are due to be sentenced next year, with the final decision resting solely on the presiding judge. As part of the plea agreements, all defendants will be ordered to pay restitution, the amount of which will be determined by the Court.

Antonio Signo confessed to masterminding the operation that ran from February 2017 to March 2022. Signo created fraudulent websites impersonating legitimate suppliers of aircraft equipment, deceived representatives of victim companies, and directed them to wire funds into bank accounts controlled by the fraudsters. Victims discovered their payments could not be reversed when it was found that the receiving accounts had been drained and frequently closed.

During the hearings, Sonny Signo, Eddie Signo, and Thompson each admitted to using bank accounts to receive and withdraw stolen funds, while Drake confessed to knowingly receiving thousands of dollars from the operation.

Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller is prosecuting the case, with investigations conducted by DCJ detectives and federal agents from the Newark Field Office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

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