Pair guilty in scam

Pros­e­cu­tion said the men had de­frauded at least four peo­ple of $345,000

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

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.

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