The owner of a group of freight auditing and payment businesses surrendered Wednesday to authorities to face charges she operated them as a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme..
Shirley Sooy, currently of Fort Smith, Ark., turned herself in to inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation in New Jersey on a criminal complaint charging her with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, and transacting in criminal proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
According to the complaint, from 2003 through April 2013, through a collection of businesses operating under the umbrella of the TransVantage Group, Sooy entered into contracts with corporate clients and audited freight bills generated by carriers and freight forwarders hired by the victim companies.
TransVantage was obligated to pay the audited and approved freight bills to the carriers from funds provided by those companies, and the funds were supposed to be held in trust by TransVantage until paid over to the carriers. The victim companies also paid TransVantage for its purported auditing services, payments separate and apart from the carrier payment funds.
Sooy allegedly operated TransVantage as a Ponzi scheme, resulting in more than $42 million in losses to the victim companies. Sooy and others comingled the funds from the victim companies, funds that were to have been paid to carriers, into two accounts and then misused those funds in various ways, according to prosecutors.
The victim companies also subsidized millions of dollars in personal expenses, including mortgage payments for personal properties owned by Sooy and others in Bloomsbury, N.J.; Phillipsburg, N.J.; Waretown, N.J.; and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; a 48-foot yacht purchased by Sooy with others; a $135,000 Maserati automobile purchased by a conspirator; payments for personal credit card charges incurred by Sooy and her family members; and payments for remodeling Sooy’s home, according to prosecutors.
The counts of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud that Sooy is charged each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. The counts of transacting in criminal proceeds that she is charged each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense.