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Fraud case sends man behind bars

The owner of All Star Air Travel told a judge he never intended for the business to become a fraudulent activity.

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


TAMPA -- Charles Yancy told a federal judge at his sentencing Wednesday that he always intended for his fledgling airline to be a legitimate business.

All Star Air Travel, he said, was a longtime dream that didn't go bad until the money got tight.

Yancy admitted stepping over an ethical and legal line when he spent investors' money for his own personal gain.

"I was wrong," the Tarpon Springs man said in a low voice as his family and priest watched from the back of the courtroom.

"I never intended for this to become a fraudulent activity."

Yancy had asked to avoid prison by working daily in a program that counsels inmates. But U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday pointed to the four years Yancy had spent scamming his victims.

"That's rather a long stretch to have (your moral compass) out to sea," Merryday said.

Merryday sentenced Yancy to 15 months in prison and three years' probation.

He faced up to 21 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

Yancy, who pleaded guilty last year to federal wire fraud charges and entered into a plea agreement, also has to pay $297,500 in restitution to his victims.

Yancy, 50, promised "great returns" to his victims, who began investing in the fleet of charter planes in 1996. But court documents show that Yancy funneled the funds into a Florida bank account he had established and converted the cash for his own use.

Prosecutors said wire transfers of $100,000, $97,500 and $100,000 were received from out-of-state investors in February 1996, but most of the money never was invested in the airline company.

Yancy's scheme involved the use of what investigators called "lulling devices" to assure investors that their money had been invested properly. Yancy used faxed correspondence and interstate travel to convince victims that their money had been invested properly, court documents show. All Star Air Travel was dissolved as a corporation in 1997. Yancy said Wednesday that he was blinded by fear when it appeared that he could lose his home and "everything I worked for."

In 1990, he announced the formation of the North American Spring Football League to revive the Tampa Bay Bandits of the defunct United States Football League. The NASFL was dissolved in 1991.

Yancy also was executive vice president and part owner of the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association.

-- Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brink@sptimes.com.

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