News Department

Two Somerset County residents among 5 sentenced for fraudulently advertising aviation equipment for sale online and scamming businesses out of $1.3M

NEW JERSEY —  Five people 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 have been sentenced, according to Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.

The charges against Antonio P. Signo (a.k.a. “Tony Demetro”), 37, of Somerset; Sonny Signo, 56, of Elizabeth; Eddie S. Signo, 30, of Iselin; Champagne Thompson, 30, also of Iselin; and Cindy K. Drake, 37, of Somerset 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 Feb. 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.

On July 21, 2023, Antonio Signo was sentenced to eight years in state prison, and ordered to pay $449,852 in restitution. Champagne Thompson was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution and Cindy Drake was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.

On Jan. 12, 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,” Platkin said. “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.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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