A Marlboro resident who co-founded a now-disbanded charter airline concern awaits a January sentencing date for his role in a scam that cost banks and financial institutions millions of dollars.

Comstock/Townsquare Digital
Comstock/Townsquare Digital

In a Newark federal courtroom, Robert Keilman, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and to commit bank fraud, according to the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Keilman co-founded the South Carolina-based Southern Sky Air & Tours, which conducted business as Myrtle Beach Direct Air & Tours and was familiarly known as Direct Air, authorities said. He served as the firm's chief financial officer from January 2010 through September 2011. The service connected to Newark and other cities.

Federal regulations require charter operators to protect passengers by posting securities or by keeping payments for future flights in a depository or escrow account.

Direct Air established an escrow account in a bank in Wayne, agreeing to terms that money in the account would not be released to the company until flights were completed, and requests and flight documentation were submitted, authorities said.

According to information from Fishman's office, Kielman admitted conspiring with two other executives to submit release requests for passenger payments termed "membership fees" before flights were completed, then submitting requests for the same funds afterward.

Kielman said that they also inflated passenger revenue figures in their release requests, prompting the bank to release millions of dollars for fictitious riders, and that they falsified financial statements to creditors in order to hide shortages in the company's bank account, authorities said.

The conspiracy count carries a possible five-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.