N.J. man charged in $3.5 million fraud, impersonating Mets partner

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 09, 2015 11:27 AM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of a New Jersey equipment leasing company was arrested on Wednesday and accused of impersonating the New York Mets chief operating officer and co-owner as part of a $3.5 million fraud.

Michael Conway, 39, was charged in a criminal complaint in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud a hedge fund investor and financing company.

As part of the scheme, prosecutors said, Conway forged the signature of Jeffrey Wilpon, the Mets' partner and chief operating officer, to get a bank loan.

Conway, a resident of Verona, New Jersey, was arrested Wednesday morning and released on a $1 million bond following a court hearing. His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, meanwhile, executed a search warrant at the Fairfield, New Jersey offices of Conway's company, Choice Office Solutions LLC.

According to the complaint, beginning in March 2014, Conway, as president of Choice Office, forged contracts with various companies that might lease office equipment, and used the fraudulent agreements to obtain financing from private investors.

Conway convinced a hedge fund executive to become his partner and provide funds to buy the office equipment that would be leased, prosecutors said.

In all, Conway obtained $3.1 million from the investor after presenting mostly phony agreements with 58 companies, including law firms, universities and hospitals, prosecutors said.

Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said, "the only one making money on these phony lease agreements was the defendant himself."

Among the fraudulent agreements was one with the Mets, with the investor providing $500,000 to buy office equipment, the complaint said.

Conway then used that agreement, along with a letter carrying a forged signature of Wilpon to obtain a $313,000 loan from DLL Group, a subsidiary of Rabobank [RABO.UL], the complaint said.

Neither the Mets nor DLL responded to requests for comment.

The case is U.S. v. Conway, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-mj-817.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and David Gregorio)