Attorney Convicted for Role in Securities Fraud Conspiracy Involving ConnectAJet.com
DALLAS—Following a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, a federal jury has found the former CEO of Connect-a-Jet, Martin Cantu, guilty on both counts of an indictment charging felony offenses stemming from his role in a conspiracy to deceive potential investors about the business of Connect-a-Jet, announced John Parker, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, the jury found Cantu, 58, of Round Rock, Texas, guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. The maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, and 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the securities fraud count. Restitution may be ordered. Sentencing is set for September 9, 2015, before Judge Kinkeade.
Cantu’s co-defendant, stock promoter Jason Wynn, 32, of Lantana, Texas, pleaded guilty on April 30, 2015, to the conspiracy offense. He has not yet been sentenced.
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.
The government presented evidence at trial that 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 fifteen 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.
The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established 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 is 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, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys P. J. Meitl and J. Nicholas Bunch prosecuted.