September 09, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) A con man forged the signature of New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon as part of a scheme that managed to cheat an investor out of more than $3 million - even though he incorrectly spelled Wilpon's first name, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Paperwork from Michael Conway had Wilpon's first name as ''Jeffery'' on forged Mets letterhead that purported to authorize a $1 million contract for leased office equipment, prosecutors said.

Conway, 39, of Verona, New Jersey, was released on $1 million bond after appearing in federal court in Brooklyn on wire fraud and identity theft charges. There was no immediate response to a telephone message seeking comment from his attorney.

According to a criminal complaint, Conway convinced a hedge fund manager - identified only as John Doe 1 - to invest in an office equipment leasing business called Choice Office Solutions. The hedge fund manager agreed to finance the purchase of office equipment once Conway secured lucrative leases, prosecutors said.

Starting in June 2014 through March, the hedge fund manager paid Conway $3.1 million after Conway produced paperwork showing he had leases with ''58 companies, including law firms, universities, hospitals and hotels,'' the complaint said. However, several of the leases ''were fraudulent and based off forgeries.''

Prosecutors said Conway got sloppy with the Mets paperwork, misspelling the signatures of Wilpon and another executive and getting titles wrong. Still, based ''on the information set forth in the forged Mets lease, John Doe 1 wired approximately $500,000 from his office in New York to Conway's bank in New Jersey,'' the complaint said.

Another fake contract between Montclair University and Conway's company was signed using the name of an acquaintance of Conway, the complaint said. The acquaintance told investigators he never signed a contract, according to the complaint.

If convicted, Conway faces a minimum of two years behind bars.

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