Fort Smith woman charged in alleged Ponzi scheme


LITTLE ROCK — A Fort Smith woman surrendered Wednesday to federal authorities in Newark, N.J., to face charges of operating a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey said.

Shirley Sooy, 63, is charged in a criminal complaint with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and transacting in criminal proceeds, according to a news release from Paul Fishman, U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Fishman said the complaint alleges that between 2003 and April 2013, Sooy entered into contracts with corporate clients — referred to in the complaint as “victim companies” — through a collection of businesses operating under the umbrella of “TransVantage Group.”

The contracts called for TransVantage to audit freight bills generated by common carriers and fright forwarders hired by the victim companies and to pay the carriers with funds provided by the victim companies. The victim companies also made separate payments to TransVantage for its purported auditing services.

The complaint alleges that Sooy operated TransVantage as a Ponzi scheme, pooling the funds received from the victim companies and using it to pay the unpaid carrier bills of various individual victim companies and for the expenses of TransVantage’s companies instead of distributing the money to the carriers who were supposed to receive it.

The government also alleges that the victim companies unknowingly subsidized millions of dollars in personal expenses, including mortgage payments for personal properties owned by Sooy and others in New Jersey and Florida; a 48-foot yacht purchased by Sooy with others; a $135,000 Maserati automobile purchased by an alleged conspirator; payments for personal credit card charges incurred by Sooy and her family members; and payments for remodeling Sooy’s home.

If convicted, Sooy could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to $250,000, or twice the money gained or lost from the offenses, on the wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud counts. She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense, if convicted of transacting in criminal proceeds.