Pair guilty in scam
Prosecution said the men had defrauded at least four people of $345,000
Two Delaware County men have been convicted of defrauding investors in a business that was supposed to put advertisements for everything from storage units to pop star Taylor Swift on plastic straws that would then be given free to local restaurants, according to court documents and those involved.
Jonathan Snyder of Newtown Square was found guilty last month on four counts of wire fraud in connection with the businesses that he and partner Trevor Summers, formerly of Aston, ran in 2010. The jury trial, in federal court before U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez, ended Sept. 22 after three days of testimony and jury deliberations. He was acquitted on two other counts.
Summers, who now lives in Florida where he reportedly operates a pool cleaning business, pleaded guilty to charges in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Sept. 16. The two men are now awaiting sentencing, with Summers scheduled for Dec. 19 and Snyder scheduled for Dec. 21.
The prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linwood C. Wright Jr., sought to prove that Snyder — who along with Summers owned two companies, Straw Ads and Resound — had falsely promoted himself as holding a U.S. patent on a process to print ink-safe advertising on drinking straws, and as having a $1 million investment in machinery that could produce the ad-laden straws.
In reality, officials contend, neither man had either. They nevertheless sought investment money from several individuals, including restaurant owners in West Chester and Glen Mills, promising millions in sales across the United States, according to those involved.
The prosecution said the men had defrauded at least four people of $345,000, in part by showing them straws printed with ads for the Public Storage franchise and Swift. Testimony showed that neither were legitimate.
“It ended up being a lie,” said Chrissy Flynn, one of the investors in the Resound firm and co-owner of the Classic Diners in West Chester and Malvern, who testified at Snyder’s trial. “There was no Taylor Swift deal. There was no patent. There was no machinery. It catapulted into a huge lie.”
The federal indictment accused Snyder and Summers of fraudulently soliciting funds in 2010 and 2011. Four specific instances were cited in the case, including interstate wire transfers of $110,000 from an individual identified as J.C., $50,000 from an individual identified as B.M., $15,000 from an individual identified as P.D., an $10,000 from an individual identified as S.O.
Flynn said she and her partner, Tom Farrell, had invested $10,000. She said she doubts that she will ever
be fully reimbursed for the money. “The FBI told me that we should expect pennies,” she said in an interview Monday.
Flynn said she had known Summers from Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills, when he was seen as a nerdy genius. In April 2010, she was told about the straw advertising plan by a fellow restaurant owner, Joseph Skelly, who owns Meghan’s Restaurant on Route 202 in Concord. She thought the idea was “cool,” and was impressed by the program the men laid out. “I started helping them,” she said.
They said they already had the patent for the process that would put foodsafe advertising on the straws, which would be produced at a factory in Pennsylvania with machinery they had purchased from a company in China that was already manufacturing the straws overseas.
Salesmen would sell advertising on the straws from companies such as Mercedes Benz and Rolodex, and then distribute the straws to restaurants for free, Flynn said she was told. And the pair’s companies did employ salesmen in an “impressive” office setting on Baltimore Pike outside
of Media, which she visited.
In August 2010, “we invested, along with a lot of other people,” she said.
But as time went on, the sale of ads never came through, she said. Staff left the companies, and an outside chief executive officer was brought in to “clean up the mess.” He, too, soon left.
When Flynn and other began asking questions, they were told that there was “nothing scandalous,” going on, and that “the books are open for everyone,” she said. “They kept giving us the run around,” Flynn said.
Finally, she said that Summers moved with his wife to Las Vegas. Snyder, who would contend that he too had been duped by Summers into believing the stories about the patents and the manufacturing contracts, stayed local. The pair were charged in 2015.
Snyder was represented at trial by federal Senior Staff Defender Mary T. Wilson. Summers was represented by Philadelphia attorney Hope Lefeber. Neither could be reached for comment.