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No Laughing Matter: Podcaster Admits to $1.3 Million Fraud Scheme Involving Fictitious 'Seinfeld' Business

Cryptocurrency Personality Admits to Defrauding Investors of $1.3M
Source: Mega

Podcast host T.J. Stone has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison.

May 29 2024, Published 10:03 a.m. ET

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Podcast host and cryptocurrency personality T.J. Stone pleaded guilty to wire fraud after bilking investors out of more than $1.3 million using a business named after a famously fictitious business featured on the TV series "Seinfeld."

T.J. Stone, whose real name is Thomas John Sfraga, co-founded the Brooklyn Podcasting Studio and hosted several podcasts focused on comedy, technology and cryptocurrency, including "CryptoMondays NYC."

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According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, from 2019 to at least 2022, Sfraga presented himself as a serial entrepreneur with experience in real estate development, media relations, podcasting and cryptocurrencies, and claimed to be the owner of businesses including Vandelay Contracting Corp. and Build Strong Homes LLC.

The name Vandelay might have been a tip-off to fans of "Seinfeld." In the Season Three episode, “The Boyfriend, Part 1,” the character George Costanza lies to the unemployment office, claiming to have interviewed for a job as a latex salesman at the fictitious company Vandelay Industries, and directs his friend Jerry Seinfeld to pretend to be a Vandelay Industries employee when answering his home phone.

Sfraga defrauded more than a dozen victims by convincing them to loan him money for, or to invest in, various fraudulent real estate and cryptocurrency investments. The fraudulent investments included purchasing, renovating and “flipping” homes.

In one case, Sfraga convinced a victim to lend him $100,000 in cash for a non-existent construction project. In another case, Sfraga convinced a victim to invest in a fictitious cryptocurrency “virtual wallet.”

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Sfraga promised the victims investment returns as high as 60% in three months. Instead, Sfraga used the funds for his own benefit, to pay expenses and to pay earlier victims and business associates.

“For years, Sfraga brazenly lied to friends, neighbors and investors to swindle over $1.3 million of their hard-earned life savings,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “This Office will continue to hold fraudsters accountable and achieve justice for victims throughout the Eastern District of New York and across the United States.”

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Sfraga, 55, faces up to 20 years in prison and restitution of $1.33 million.

TMX contributed to this report.

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