Attorney and Stock Promoter Sentenced for Roles in Securities Fraud Conspiracy Involving ConnectAJet.com
DALLAS—Attorney Martin Cantu, who was the CEO of Connect-a-Jet, and his co-defendant, stock promoter Jason Wynn, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade on felony convictions stemming from their roles in a conspiracy to deceive potential investors about the business of Connect-a-Jet, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Cantu, 59, of San Antonio, Texas, was sentenced to 35 months in federal prison and was ordered to surrender his law license. Wynn, 33, of Lantana, Texas, was sentenced to serve a five-year term of probation. Judge Kinkeade ordered them to pay $423,938.66 in restitution. In addition, both defendants are subject to large SEC restitution orders; Wynn’s is nearly $11 million and Cantu’s is approximately $800,000.
Cantu was convicted at trial in May 2015 on both counts of an indictment charging one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. Cantu, pleaded guilty in April 2015 to the conspiracy offense Connect-a-Jet (CAJT) was a company that purportedly would provide the first online, real-time booking system for private jet charters. Essentially, it would serve the same function as other well-known online booking systems but would focus on high-end chartered aircraft. Wynn, who worked as a penny-stock promoter, used-car salesman and consultant, founded the company and began its development. By the time Cantu became involved with the business, Wynn and Cantu had abandoned plans to turn the company into a legitimate business and instead focused on pumping and dumping the stock of Connect-a-Jet. Connect-a-Jet was traded on an exchange known as the Pink Sheets and had tens of thousands of public investors. Cantu, who is a licensed attorney with the state of Texas, owned the majority of shares of CAJT.
From approximately May to October 2007, Cantu and Wynn conspired with each other, and others, to commit securities fraud by deceiving potential investors regarding CAJT. As part of their scheme, Wynn and Cantu caused public statements and advertisements, including ads in USA Today and commercials on CNBC, to be issued that included numerous false and misleading statements about the progress and status of the company’s real-time booking system; CAJT’s relationships with reputable companies; and CAJT’s customer base. The false and misleading statements led investors to believe CAJT’s online booking system was complete, when, in fact, it never was developed past the initial concept and design stage. The false and misleading statements also led investors to believe that the company had achieved operational success it had not achieved. These false and misleading statements increased demand for CAJT shares, which allowed Wynn, Cantu and others to sell their CAJT shares at artificially-inflated prices. As part of the conspiracy, Cantu engaged in a cover-up of his crimes including providing false testimony to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The indictment also named co-conspirator Ryan Reynolds, a former stockbroker, who pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, based on his involvement in the CAJT conspiracy.
Over the course of 15 days in the fall of 2007, Cantu realized $552,341 in profits from the sale of 250,000 CAJT shares he controlled, which represented 83% of his total number of shares. Cantu sold these shares through an account in the name of his father. From August 2007 through January 2008, entities controlled by Wynn sold 4.2 million CAJT shares in the public market, resulting in profits of $2.585 million.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys P. J. Meitl and J. Nicholas Bunch prosecuted.