A man said by authorities to be a Red Bank resident was indicted today for swindling $161,000 from an investor in an iced tea company that turned out to be bogus, according to an announcement by the New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram.
Indicted by a Mercer County Grand Jury was 56-year-old Steven Conni, no street address given. He was changed with second-degree theft by deception. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000.
From a press release issued by Milgram’s office:
The indictment alleges that between November 2003 and December 2004, Conni solicited
investments totaling about $161,000 from a New Jersey resident by promising him ownership
shares in a company called Long Island Iced Tea Inc. and distribution rights for its iced tea
beverage for the entire state of New Jersey.
Conni allegedly told the investor that as a “master
distributor,” he would receive promotional materials, sales support, a 10 percent cut of revenue
from distributors signed up in each county in New Jersey, and $1 on every case of product sold
by those distributors. The victim never received any of the promised benefits. He has demanded
a refund, but has not received any payments from Conni.
An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice revealed that the company is a sham and
Conni used the investor’s funds for personal expenses. Conni allegedly wrote checks to cash
totaling $76,400 against a Long Island Iced Tea bank account where the investor’s funds were
deposited. A bank card for the account was used to withdraw more than $83,000, including
more than $40,000 in withdrawals in Atlantic City.
And this isn’t the first time this victim has gotten taken in a cold beverage scam, the state says.
The same victim previously had invested $25,000 with Conni for distribution rights in
Monmouth County for a beverage called Loco Joe. Conni was working at the time for an entity
called Charity Beverage, which was run by an individual named William Richards. The victim
later learned that the offer was fraudulent, but not until he had invested in Long Island Iced Tea
Inc. In the Charity Beverage case, Richards was prosecuted by the Bergen County Prosecutors
Office and pleaded guilty to theft by deception. Richards received a five year sentence of
probation and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,395,895.
Here’s the indictment: Download conni_1.pdf. The case has been transferred to Monmouth County Superior Court.