Law & Justice

Branchburg-Based Company Owner Allegedly Operated Multimillion Dollar Ponzi Scheme

BRANCHBURG, NJ - The United States Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that the owner of a group of freight payment, logistics and shipping businesses, all headquartered in Branchburg, is facing charges that she operated a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Shirley Sooy, 63, of Arkansas, surrendered herself in Newark to inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a release. She surrendered herself on a criminal complaint charging her with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and transacting in criminal proceeds.

Sooy was scheduled for an initial appearance and bail hearing Wednesday in Newark federal court, the release said.

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The fraud charges, the release said, each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. The counts of transacting in criminal proceeds each carry a maximum potential penality of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to the release, from 2003 through April 2013, Sooy entered contracts with corporate clients through a collection of businesses that operated under the umbrella of "TransVantage Group." The company, the release said, audited freight bills that were generated by common carriers and freight forwarders that had been hired by those corprate clients referred to in the unsealed complaint against Sooy as "victim companies."

From there, the release said, TransVantage was supposed to pay the audited and approved freight bills to the carriers from funds provided by those victim companies, and then the funds were to be held in trust by TransVantage until it was paid to the carriers. In addition to that money, the release said, the victim companies paid TransVantage for its auditing services.

According to the release and complaint, Sooy was allegedly operating TransVantage as a Ponzi scheme, causing more than $42 million in losses to the victim companies. Sooy allegedly comingled the funds from those victim companies into two accounts and then misused them, paying prior unpaid carrier bills of certain companies by using funds from other unrelated companies.

Then, the release said, Sooy and others allegedly funded TransVantage's payroll obligations and those of other subsidiaries.

In addition, the release said, Sooy and others allegedly subsidized millions of dollars in personal expense, such as mortgage payments for personal properties, a 48-foot yacht, a $135,000 Maserati automobile, payments for personal credit card charges and payments for home remodeling.

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