NJ Fraud Ring Sentenced for $1.3 Million Aviation Equipment Scam
Five Individuals Involved in Nationwide Online Fraud Scheme Face Justice
In a significant legal outcome, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin has announced the sentencing of five individuals implicated in a comprehensive online fraud scheme. This operation deceitfully advertised aviation equipment and parts, scamming over 200 businesses out of $1.3 million. The perpetrators, hailing from Somerset, Middlesex, and Union counties, manipulated businesses across the United States and overseas, including in France, Israel, and the United Kingdom, by offering non-existent aviation products for sale.
Antonio P. Signo, identified as the ringleader, alongside Sonny Signo, Eddie S. Signo, Champagne Thompson, and Cindy K. Drake, faced charges resulting from an exhaustive investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice. The scheme involved the creation of fraudulent websites used to attract businesses into transferring money to accounts under the defendants' control. Antonio Signo, under the alias “Tony Demetro,” admitted to orchestrating this elaborate scam, leveraging family and acquaintances to execute the fraud successfully.
The court handed down varied sentences to the defendants on two separate occasions. Antonio Signo received an eight-year prison sentence on July 21, 2023, and was ordered to pay $449,852 in restitution for his central role in the operation. Co-conspirators Thompson and Drake were sentenced to two years of probation each, with restitution payments set at $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. On January 12, 2024, Sonny and Eddie Signo received three-year prison sentences, with Eddie also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.
Attorney General Platkin emphasized the importance of prosecuting financial crimes to protect businesses and the livelihoods of those they employ. He highlighted the deceptive tactics used by the defendants to simulate a legitimate operation, drawing attention to the sophistication of the fraud and the determination of law enforcement to bring the culprits to justice.
Legal Chief Pablo Quiñones of the Office of Securities Fraud and Financial Crimes Prosecutions pointed out the defendants' attempts to evade law enforcement by withdrawing funds and closing bank accounts as soon as suspicion arose. However, their efforts to escape justice were thwarted by the diligent work of the Division of Criminal Justice and the assistance of federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
This case underscores the critical need for vigilance and robust legal mechanisms to combat online fraud, ensuring the security of businesses and maintaining trust in digital commerce.