Sunday, December 21, 2014

Owner of failed Oswego County airstrip admits bank fraud conspiracy

Syracuse Suburban Airport, in Hastings, was being rebuilt in 2010 with $3 million in federal money. Two of the owners have pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud. 

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The co-owner of a small, failed airport in Oswego County has admitted he and others used $3 million in federal grants to commit bank fraud.

Kenneth V. Coon Jr., 59 of Cato, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He admitted that he and others defrauded a bank out of more than $200,000 between 2004 and 2009.

In 2004, Coon and his partners in Syracuse Suburban Airport LLC bought a 93-acre reliever airport site in Hastings for $350,0000. The company received $2.9 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration to develop the airstrip, called a reliever airport because it could relieve air traffic at larger airports. The airstrip was never completed.

Coon admitted that in April 2005, he and his co-conspirators obtained a $650,000 line of credit from First Niagara Bank that was only supposed to be used for airport expenses that were reimbursable through the FAA grants.

In December 2005, Coon and the others submitted an invoice to First Niagara to release $125,000 in loan proceeds to buy airport equipment, according to court papers. Instead, they invested the money in a Texas real estate project, court papers said.

In 2006, Coon and others opened an investment brokerage account in the name of Gildner Road Associates, a corporation that they owned, his plea agreement said.

Two months later, they submitted an invoice to First Niagara for the release of $97,604 to buy airport equipment. Instead of using it for that purpose, Coon and others transferred $96,000 from the Syracuse Suburban account to the Gildner Road investment account without telling First Niagara, the plea agreement said.

In June 2006, Coon and his co-conspirators transferred $106,000 from the investment account to the airport checking account. Two days later they transferred $95,700 from the airport checking account to the Upstate New York Bean Company, in Marcellus.

Coon owned the bean company, court papers said.

One of the co-conspirators, David Pizio, 58, of Jamesville pleaded guilty to the same charges in July. He has not yet been sentenced.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ransom Reynolds would not say whether anyone else will likely be charged.

Coon faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when U.S. District Judge David Hurd sentences him April 17.

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