New York crypto personality used ‘Seinfeld’ joke in fraud: feds

Politics

Jason Alexander as George Costanza.  

Maria McCarty | NBCU Photo Bank | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Yada, yada, yada, this cryptocurrency crook isn’t laughing now.

A New York man swindled more than $1.3 million from friends, neighbors and investors by among other things getting them to invest in bogus real estate projects involving a company named after a joke in the classic TV comedy “Seinfeld,” and a fictitious cryptocurrency, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Thomas John Sfraga, 55, from 2019 through 2022 “held himself out as the owner and principal of multiple businesses, including Vandelay Contracting Corp. and Build Strong Homes LLC,” the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

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“In the television show ‘Seinfeld,’ the character George [Costanza] falsely claimed to have interviewed for a job with the fictional company Vandelay Industries,” the office noted. In the episode, the invariably hapless Costanza claims he was seeking a position as a latex salesman.

Sfraga, who assumed the crypto personality of “T.J. Stone,” pitched himself as a serial entrepreneur with experience in real estate development, media relations, podcasting and cryptocurrencies, prosecutors said, including acting as the host or emcee of cryptocurrency events in New York.

Prosecutors said Sfraga promised victims investment returns as high as 60% in three months, but in reality used the money for his own benefit “to pay expenses, and to pay earlier victims and business associates.”

Sfraga, who lives in Brooklyn, pleaded guilty Thursday in Brooklyn federal court to wire fraud, prosecutors said.

He faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay restitution of more than $1.3 million.

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