A Burlington County man allegedly duped people into paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars by jumping from a fraudulent foreign currency trading scheme to a fraudulent car lease scheme, in a “house-of-cards-style” operation, authorities said.
On Friday, authorities arrested Michael Salerno, 51, of Mount Laurel and charged him with 23 counts of wire fraud and six counts of mail fraud in an indictment, Philadelphia U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement. Through multiple fraud schemes, Salerno allegedly stole thousands from people by tricking them into paying him for a foreign currency trading business and then by getting to them to pay for car leases, the statement said.
Between September 2016 and November 2018, Salerno ran multiple businesses that each were supposedly trading foreign currencies, the statement said. By lying to clients, Salerno had victims pay advance fees that were usually more than $1,000 to hire him, he said.
Salerno allegedly told victims that if one of his companies were hired, he would give them access to $10 million to use on the foreign currency market. To instill confidence in him and his businesses, Salerno posed as a “sophisticated and successful” businessman, despite having a history of bankruptcy and federal tax charges, according to the statement.
Through his network of fraudulent foreign currency trading businesses, Salerno embezzled more than $300,000 from victims, the statement said.
In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s office started a criminal investigation into Salerno and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed an injunction against him, the statement said. But Salerno simply moved to the next scheme, the statement said, shifting his efforts to a car lease and loan scheme.
Between May 2018 and December 2019, Salerno ran AccuOne Financial, Inc., a company that claimed to help clients get ride of “unwanted automobile leases,” the statement said. At the same time, the company also claimed to offer automobile leases to people with credit that prevented them from getting a lease.
In order to scam both sets of clients, Salerno would take the cars from the first set of clients, barely making any lease payments, and then gave the cars to the second set of clients, who paid him monthly fees, the statement said.
The clients who wanted to get out of their leases would ultimately end up continuing to make payments, while the other clients would sometimes have cars repossessed, the statement said. In this scheme, Salerno stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims, the statement said.
“When Salerno’s foreign currency trading scheme came crashing down around him, he very quickly moved on to an alternative way of swindling people out of their money with car leases and loans,” Williams said in the statement. “The damage done by such corrupt financial schemes can be catastrophic to innocent people’s credit and financial security. We will continue to hold those who commit crimes like the ones alleged here accountable for their misdeeds.”
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