Sooy begins serving sentence on fraud conviction

July 18, 2017 | By Dennis W. McCaslin | insidefortsmith.com

An Arkansas woman who owned a group of freight payment, logistics, and shipping businesses based in Branchburg has been sentenced to 50 months in prison for wire fraud and money laundering.

Shirley Sooy, 66, of Fort Smith, was sentenced Tuesday in Newark federal court, according to acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick.

In addition to the 50 months in prison U.S. District Court Judge William Walls also sentenced Sooy to two years of supervised release. She also was ordered to pay $1,185,404 in restitution.

In March 2016, Sooy pleaded guilty before Walls to one count of wire fraud and one count of transacting in criminal proceeds.

According to court documents and statement, between 2010 and April 2013, Sooy, through a collection of businesses operating under the umbrella of the "TransVantage Group," entered contracts with corporate clients - referred to in a criminal complaint as the "victim companies."

TransVantage audited freight bills generated by common carriers and freight forwarders hired by the victim companies. TransVantage was obligated to pay the audited and approved freight bills to the carriers from funds provided by those companies, and the funds were supposed to be held in trust by TransVantage until paid over to the carriers. The victim companies also paid TransVantage for its purported auditing services, payments separate and apart from the carrier payment funds.

According to Fitzpatrick, Sooy operated TransVantage as a Ponzi scheme, which resulted in substantial losses, estimated at about $42 million, to the victim companies. Sooy and others comingled the funds from the victim companies - funds that were to have been paid to carriers - and then misused those funds in various ways, such as paying unauthorized operating expenses and personal expenses.

The funds were used for mortgage payments for personal properties owned by Sooy and others in Bloomsbury, Phillipsburg and Waretown, as well as Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; in addition to a 48-foot yacht purchased by Sooy with others; a $135,000 Maserati purchased by a conspirator; payments for personal credit card charges incurred by Sooy and her family members; and payments for remodeling Sooy's home, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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