A New Jersey woman has been indicted on charges that her freight and shipping business was a giant Ponzi scheme that may have defrauded victims out of more than $42 million. Shirley Sooy, 63, was charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and two counts of trafficking in criminal proceeds. If convicted of the charges, Sooy could potentially face decades in prison as well as criminal fines.
According to authorities, Sooy operated several entities under the umbrella of the TransVantage Group ("TVG") consisting of freight payment, logistics, and shipping businesses. Beginning in 2003, Sooy and an unnamed co-conspirator operated the companies, entering into contracts with four clients (referred to as "Victim Companies" by the Department of Justice) pursuant to which TVG audited and approved freight bills generated by those clients' carriers. TVG was then supposed to use funds provided by those Victim Companies to make payments to the respective carriers. In total, TVG processed billions of dollars in payments from the Victim Companies to the carriers.
However, rather than keep the funds from each client in separate trust accounts, TVG commingled the funds in two freight payment accounts held at Bank of America and TD Bank, respectively. TVG then used those funds to, among other things, pay older, unpaid carrier bills of certain Victim Companies. In addition, millions of dollars in trust funds were misappropriated for company obligations and for a variety of personal expenses, including mortgage payments for several houses, the purchase of a 48-foot yacht, a $135,000 Maserati, and the remodeling of Sooy's house. According to authorities, this continued for ten years.
In early 2013, one of the Victim Companies was contacted by a carrier over a late payment for which funds had already been advanced to TVG. The company immediately contacted TVG, whose employees were instructed by Sooy to blame the issue on a bank "float" issue and assure the company that the issue was a misunderstanding. The company dispatched an auditor to review TVG's books, which revealed that approximately $15 million advanced by the company to TVG was unaccounted for. Sooy allegedly made a variety of incriminating statements to that auditor, including that a multi-million dollar cash hole had existed at TVG for years, and that some of Victim Companies' money had been invested and lost in the stock market.
Authorities estimate that the Victim Companies suffered total losses of more than $42 million as a result of the scheme. Sooy posted a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, and was also required to turn in her passport.
The criminal complaint is below: