N.J. man who faked New York Mets signatures pleads guilty to fraud

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 18, 2016 6:35 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A New Jersey man who forged signatures of New York Mets baseball officials, including Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wilpon, as part of an illegal office equipment leasing scheme pleaded guilty on Thursday to a federal wire fraud charge.

Michael Conway, 40, of Verona, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge William Kuntz in Brooklyn, New York.

The defendant faces up to 20 years in prison, but could get a 41- to 51-month term under recommended federal guidelines.

Conway also agreed he was liable to pay $3.56 million of restitution to an unnamed hedge fund investor, and $1.2 million to DLL Financial Solutions of Wayne, Pennsylvania.

"He is remorseful, and trying to put this behind him," Conway's lawyer Sean Haran said in a phone interview.

The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Robert Capers in Brooklyn.

Conway had been president of Choice Office Solutions LLC, which bought office equipment such as copiers and scanners, and leased them to businesses such as universities and hospitals, as well as the Mets.

But from March 2014 to August 2015, Conway forged leasing agreements as a means to attract outside financing, much of which he pocketed himself, according to prosecutors.

In one case, prosecutors said Conway sent DLL a forged letter purportedly from Wilpon that authorized team vice president Thomas Festa to enter into up to $1 million of contracts on behalf of the Mets.

Prosecutors said Wilpon's first name was misspelled "Jeffery" in the letter.

They also said that while Conway did do business with the Mets, he forged Festa's signature on one leasing agreement and overstated its size to induce the investor to provide financing. Conway also misidentified Festa's title, prosecutors said.

The case is U.S. v. Conway, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00052.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)