Scheme to get private jets, limos, booze lands West Texas man in federal custody

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 10:35 PM CDT

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison, fines, and supervised release after he admitted to scheming his way onto private chartered flights, yachts, limousines, expensive vehicles, and more.

J Nicholas Bryant, 26, admitted on November 18, 2021, he devised a scheme to get money and/or property from a charter flight company.

Court documents show Bryant defrauded and attempted to defraud at least 17 charter flight entities by using fraudulent means to convince the entities to fly him and his friends to various destinations in the United States. Nine of these entities fell victim to Bryant’s fraud. In nearly every instance, Bryant demanded limousine transportation at the destinations and required the planes were stocked with vodka.

Bryant admits he sent a text message from Lubbock to a representative of Sales Hangar Flight Ops, LLC, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, indicating a non-existent person, his “secretary,” would pay an invoice totaling $38,000 for charter flights leaving Lubbock to Houston and continuing to Miami.

According to federal court documents, Bryant negotiated the flights he needed for that day. He told the representative of Sales Hangar Flight Ops he wanted a demo flight to make a final determination because he was interested in buying that type of airplane.

The cost for the invoice for the flights leaving Lubbock was $33,000. An extra $5,000 was added to cover alcoholic beverages inflight and limousine transportation with whatever remained to be a “tip.”

The invoice for the return flights mirrored the initiating flight’s invoice for a total of $76,000.

All negotiations were over text messages and telephone calls.

After the two agreed to flight times and limousine transportation, the company representative asked for a credit card to start the payment process for the flight out of Lubbock. The payment was to be received through QuickBooks Payments.

Bryant sent a text message to the representative saying, “Send me that email so I can have my secretary pay ya buddy.” Minutes later, court documents show he sent another text message saying, “She’s paying it now.”

The sales representative asked Bryant to formally confirm payment so he could start organizing the flights. Bryant responded with a text message saying, “Paid.”

The court documents show Bryant knew how to manipulate the QuickBooks Payments platform to trick the charter company into believing he paid the invoice. He asked the charter company to send an invoice to him for the outgoing flights via QuickBooks Payments. He then initiated payments through the platform, which resulted in an automated message to both parties confirming payment and indicating that the transfer of funds would occur thereafter. The company representative received and relied on the message, stamped the first invoice as paid, and scheduled the flights and transportation Bryant requested.

The same transaction happened the next day for the $38,000 for return flights. The charter company received the payment notification and scheduled the return flights.

Bryant told investigators he knew the system would send payment confirmation, and because the payment process took several days, the charter company would not receive notification of canceled payment for either invoice until he was on the return flights or after the flights concluded.

“Bryant knew he did not have money in his bank account to cover even the transportation or gratuity he promised, much less the flights,” federal court documents show.

Three days later, on November 22, 2021, while Bryant was in Miami, the charter flight company received notification from QuickBooks Payments that Bryant’s payment for the first invoice failed. Bryant promised to pay both invoices with bank wire transfers. He sent multiple text messages that day from Miami and then from Houston assuring the company with each text that the invoices would be paid.

The charter company grounded the plane in Dallas on November 23, 2021. Bryant continued sending text messages assuring the company he would make payment. That day he stopped communicating and refused to answer text messages and phone calls from the company.

He never paid the $76,000 he owed the company, federal documents show.

During the November flight to Dallas and then Miami, which Bryant took his friends on, he obtained a half day of sailing in the Port of Miami on a 90-foot yacht for him and his group. He demanded steak dinners, champagne, and vodka during the sail. As with the other schemes, the victim never received payment. Court documents show while he was in Miami, he defrauded a driver by convincing him to pay for expensive hotel rooms.

Bryant also admitted he defrauded at least 50 unsuspecting victims through similar means. He told these victims he was employed by a number of companies, many of which were fictitious and non-existent; others were legitimate but never employed Bryant.

He convinced a charter company he was affiliated with 7Parterners, LLC, a non-existent company, and that his parents were wealthy oil and gas investors. He also assumed the identities of fictitious persons and communicated with the victims under the guise of fictitious persons via telephone numbers and/or email addresses he set up under those names.

Court documents show Bryant obtained at least one domain through GoDaddy to legitimize a fictitious company. In that instance, Bryant admitted he convinced the owner of a company in the oil and gas industry - a man who previously worked with Bryant and trusted him - to front approximately $150,000 to reopen a fictitious oil well.

He admitted to investigators that through his fraudulent schemes he acquired and attempted to acquire expensive vehicles, including a number of vehicles with a combined estimated value of $543,215.12. He successfully acquired five of the vehicles before the victims discovered his fraudulent scheme. He convinced a builder to build a home with a pool and workshop. The builder had invested a substantial amount of work and labor into the project before Bryant’s purported attempts at the payment of $980,000 failed.

Bryant has been in the Lubbock County Detention Center since December 11, 2021, which is 326 days as of this report.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and up to three years of supervised release. His sentencing date has not been set.