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Owner of Sussex County airport admits embezzling FAA

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Steve Klaver/The Star-LedgerPaul Styger, owner of a Sussex Airport, in a 2002 photo.

NEWARK — The owner of a small airport in Sussex County pleaded guilty in federal court today to embezzling more than $375,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Paul G. Styger, 87, who has owned Sussex Airport since 1953, told U.S. District Judge Jose Linares that he pocketed money intended for upgrading the runway, airfield and other facilities.

Under the terms of his guilty plea, Styger faces up to two years in prison based on federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Moscato. Beginning in 2004, Styger applied for six FAA grants and received about $3.1 million. He used some of that money to pay for improvements at the Wantage airport, then began embezzling in 2007, authorities said. Last year, a construction firm sued Styger in state Superior Court, claiming it was never paid for $539,000 worth of work on the runway. Linares set Styger’s bail at $100,000. The judge scheduled sentencing for Sept. 3. “Mr. Styger has accepted responsibility today for his conduct and he looks forward to putting this behind him,” said his lawyer, Anna G. Cominsky.

His airport hosted the annual Sussex Air Show until 2004. At the time, Styger said the 32-year tradition attracted about 25,000 people and was dubbed “the Biggest Little Air Show in the East.”

by Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger

Tuesday May 26, 2009, 2:24 PM

Owner to sell airport to repay embezzled $375K

From The Star Ledger, Sun 05/31, Sect One, Pg 27

BY JOE MOSZCZYNSKI STAR-LEDGER STAFF

The owner of a small airport in Sussex County, who pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $375,000 from the Federal Aviation Adminis­tration, plans to sell the 100-acre airport to make full restitution for the money he stole, his attorney said. Paul Styger, 87, who has owned Sussex Airport since 1953, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to stealing $378,000 between October 2007 and January 2008 that was in­tended to be used to upgrade the runway, airfield and other facilities James Doherty, Wantage Town­ship’s administrator, said he ex­pects a government entity – either state, county or municipal – will eventually buy the airport, which Styger has been unsuccessfully try­ing to sell for several years. “The annual profit margin for a private airport is marginal at best … no private investor could possi­bly recover their initial investment in this airport for several decades, never mind even think about turn­ing a profit,” Doherty said in a statement. Doherty said Wantage officials aren’t even certain that the town­ship could turn a profit if it owned the property. In January, the town­ship launched a $150,000 state­funded study to examine that very issue. The study is expected to be completed later this year. He added that state and federal funding would be available to the township if it decided to buy the airport, located on Route 639 in Wantage. Beginning in 2004, Styger ap­plied for six FAA grants and re­ceived about $3.1 million. He used some of that money to pay for im­provements at the airport, then began embezzling in 2007, authorit­ies said. Styger subsequently sent the money to phony overseas con men and lost the money in a wire fraud scam, his attorney Henry Klingeman said. “Mr. Styger himself is a victim. He sent the money to con men in Jamaica in response to a telephone lottery scheme targeting the eld­erly,” Klingeman said. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said yesterday he could not comment further on the alleged scam. A second man, Makund “Mike” Patel, an authorized agent of West­ern Union Financial Services that provides money transfer services for a fee, was arrested Wednesday by federal agents for failing to no­tify authorities about suspicious wire transfers made at the deli. Patel, the 49-year-old owner of the Catch 23 Deli on Route 23 in Sussex Borough, was charged with two counts of making false state­ments and was released on $100,000 bail. The investigation into Styger’s financial activities began last year when a construction company filed a civil lawsuit against the airport, claiming it was owed $539,00 for a runway upgrade.

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Amanda Michelle (Younkin) Franklin 3/14/1986 – 5/27/2011 Click for information on Amanda