Courts

'Lubbock’s Anna Delvey' Pleads Guilty Over Elaborate Scams to Get Flights, Limos and Yacht Ride

J. Nicholas Bryant is facing up to 20 years in federal prison.
J. Nicholas Bryant is facing up to 20 years in federal prison. Jericho / Wikimedia
Chartered flights, limousine rides, swanky hotel rooms and jaunts on yachts – J. Nicholas Bryant was, at least for a while, living the high life. That is, until authorities caught on to his scheme.

On Wednesday, Bryant pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a federal court in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge D. Gordon Bryant Jr. Now, the 26-year-old Lubbock resident could wind up in prison for up to two decades.

In 2020 and 2021, Bryant admitted in court, he fleeced at least 50 people in an elaborate scheme that involved booking “luxury goods and services” and then exploiting online payment platforms to not pay for them, the U.S. Department of Justice in North Texas said in a release.

Using online payment platforms including QuickBooks and Veem, Bryant was able to schedule payments to the businesses and vendors whose services he booked. But before the payments went through, he’d cancel them and receive the services before the transaction cancellations took effect.

Once the companies caught on, Bryant would then ghost them, according to court records.

“Like many of his peers, Nicholas Bryant apparently coveted the life of the rich and famous,” U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham said in the news release.

“Unlike his peers, he wasn’t about to let a lack of funds get in the way of his fantasy,” Meacham added. “Without the interference of our law enforcement partners, this defendant would be well on his way to becoming Lubbock’s Anna Delvey or Frank Abagnale.”

Delvey, also known as Anna Sorokin, is a Russian-born scam artist who posed as a wealthy heiress to access the New York City social scene between 2013 and 2017. The subject of a popular Netflix series, she spent two years in prison after being convicted of grand larceny, larceny in the second degree and theft of services.

"Without the interference of our law enforcement partners, this defendant would be well on his way to becoming Lubbock’s Anna Delvey or Frank Abagnale." – U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham

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Abagnale, an infamous con artist, was the inspiration for and subject of the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, in which he was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio.

For his part, Bryant racked up bills for steak dinners topped off with Champagne and a half-day cruise on a private, 90-foot yacht, as well as more than a dozen trips on chartered flights and five luxury vehicles worth more than a half a million dollars.

Altogether, according to court records, he attempted to get at least 17 chartered flights without paying for them. In many cases, he had the flights stocked with vodka and brought along friends, none of whom are named in court filings.

He also used the online payment services to generate payments for materials and building costs on a home with a workshop and a pool that cost nearly a million dollars. By the time the payments failed to go through, the builder had put in a significant amount of time and labor into the home.

As part of the scam, Bryant posed as a member of a rich oil family and claimed to be employed by a number of “fictitious companies,” the DOJ explained. In one case, he created a website for a nonexistent company to add an “air of legitimacy,” according to court records.

He even managed to convince an oil company to front him $150,000 in funds to bankroll a nonexistent oil well.

In another instance, he drummed up a fictional secretary to supposedly process payments of some $38,000 in exchange for private flights from Lubbock to Houston, and Houston to Miami, including in-flight booze and limos to and from the airports.
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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