For Immediate Release: February 2, 2024
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
– J. Stephen Ferketic, Director
Office of Securities Fraud
and Financial Crimes Prosecutions
– Pablo Quiñones, Legal Chief
TRENTON — Today Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced the sentencings of five defendants from Somerset, Middlesex, and Union counties who orchestrated a $1.3 million online fraud scheme, tricking businesses across the U.S. and abroad into paying for aviation equipment that was never delivered.
The charges against Antonio P. Signo (a.k.a. “Tony Demetro”), 37, of Somerset, New Jersey; Sonny Signo, 56, of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Eddie S. Signo, 30, of Iselin, New Jersey; Champagne Thompson, 30, also of Iselin; and Cindy K. Drake, 37, of Somerset, New Jersey, resulted from an investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice.
The investigation found that fraudulent websites advertising aircraft equipment and parts were used to lure businesses into wiring money to accounts controlled by the defendants. In entering his guilty plea in May 2023, Antonio Signo admitted he led the scheme, and enlisted assistance from family members and other co-conspirators. Signo acknowledged he created the websites to deceive companies into believing he was a legitimate supplier of aircraft equipment and replacement parts, communicated with representatives of the victim companies, and directed them to wire funds into one of more than 50 bank accounts. Sonny and Eddie Signo and Champagne Thompson admitted to using bank accounts to receive stolen funds and to withdrawing the stolen funds from the accounts. Drake admitted to knowingly receiving thousands of dollars from the scheme. Between February 2017 and March 2022, more than 200 businesses were victimized, including operators of corporate and charter jet services in the United States, France, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
Antonio Signo was sentenced on July 21, 2023 to eight years in state prison, and ordered to pay $449,852 in restitution. Champagne Thompson and Cindy Drake were also sentenced on that date. Thompson was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. Drake was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution. On January 12, 2024, the remaining two defendants were sentenced. Sonny Signo was sentenced to three years in state prison. Eddie Signo was sentenced to three years in state prison, plus $20,000 in restitution.
“These defendants placed bogus ads online to give the misleading appearance that they were operating a legitimate business, and to bait victims into paying for equipment they would never receive,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The investigation and prosecution of financial crimes of this kind are crucial to protecting businesses and the livelihoods of those they employ.”
“As the victims became suspicious and tried to get their money back, the conspirators withdrew their funds and closed bank accounts, in an attempt to cut and run with their ill-gotten gains,” said Pablo Quiñones, Legal Chief of the Office of Securities Fraud and Financial Crimes Prosecutions. “But those attempts to evade law enforcement failed and did not prevent these perpetrators from facing justice.”
The prosecution was handled by Deputy Attorney General Conner Ouellette under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Adam Heck and Legal Chief Quiñones. The investigation was conducted by detectives and investigators at the Division of Criminal Justice with the assistance of federal agents from the Newark Field Office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
Antonio Signo: Alfonse A. De Meo, Esq.
Sonny Signo: H. Todd Hess, Esq.
Eddie Signo: William Fetky, Esq.
Champagne Thompson: Gregory Abramson, Esq.
Cindy Drake: Daniel Frascella, Esq.