PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Michael Salerno, 51, of Mount Laurel, NJ, was arrested and charged by Indictment with twenty-three counts of wire fraud and six counts of mail fraud in connection with multiple, elaborate fraud schemes.
According to the Indictment, between September 2016 and at least November 2018, the defendant operated a series of businesses, including Black Diamond Forex, L.P., BDF Trading, L.P., Advanta Capital Markets, Inc., and Advanta FX, each of which purported to be in the business of trading foreign currencies. Using a variety of misrepresentations and omissions, Salerno induced victims to pay advance fees—up-front payments of typically more than $1,000—in order to be hired by Salerno’s company. He told the victims that, upon being hired, he would make available to them a pool of $10 million which they could trade on the foreign currency market, and take a generous cut of any profits. Each of these representations was completely false.
To make his fraudulent activities appear legitimate, Salerno held himself out as a sophisticated and successful businessman. According to the Indictment, the defendant claimed to have managed a real estate empire, a portion of which he claimed to have recently sold for $10 million to fund the currency-trading venture. He also claimed that he had been a profitable currency trader. None of this was true, either. In fact, he declared bankruptcy twice, most recently in 2015, and had been evicted multiple times from rental homes for failure to pay rent. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to federal tax charges and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. He failed to disclose any of this to the aforementioned victims before taking their money. Instead, Salerno allegedly collected more than $300,000 in advance fees and used the money for his own benefit.
The defendant’s currency-trading scheme came to a halt when this Office opened a criminal investigation and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sought and obtained an injunction against Salerno and his businesses in 2018. However, Salerno allegedly turned immediately to a second scheme. Also according to the Indictment, between May 2018 and least December 2019, Salerno operated a company called AccuOne Financial, Inc. AccuOne purported to be in the business of assisting clients in ridding themselves of unwanted automobile leases. It also purported to offer a different set of clients, whose personal credit precluded them from obtaining an automobile lease, access to automobile leases, low interest vehicle loans, and credit repair services. But Salerno failed to do as promised, instead ripping off both sets of clients. According to the Indictment, the defendant took the unwanted vehicles from the first set of clients, made few – if any – of the required lease payments, and then gave the vehicles to the second set of clients who could not obtain their own leases, in exchange for substantial monthly fees. The predictable result of this house of cards-style scheme was that the clients who wanted to get out of their leases either continued to make monthly lease payments for cars they no longer had, or suffered substantial damage to their credit. And the clients who leased cars from AccuOne often had them repossessed without warning. As for Salerno, he netted several hundred thousand dollars from this scheme alone.
“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,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “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.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 580 years in prison, three years supervised release, a fine of $7,250,000 and full restitution.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher J. Mannion
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.