Tickfaw Man Indicted for Operating a $20 Million Investment Ponzi Scheme
NEW ORLEANS, LA-MATTHEW B. PIZZOLATO, 26, of Tickfaw, Louisiana, was charged today by a federal grand jury sitting in New Orleans in a 64-count indictment for operating an investment "Ponzi" Scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
(Media-Newswire.com) - NEW ORLEANS, LA—MATTHEW B. PIZZOLATO, 26, of Tickfaw, Louisiana, was charged today by a federal grand jury sitting in New Orleans in a 64-count indictment for operating an investment “Ponzi” Scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
Specifically, PIZZOLATO was charged with 52 counts of mail fraud ( counts 1-52 ), two counts of wire fraud ( counts 53, 54 ), seven counts of money laundering ( counts 55-61 ), one count of securities fraud ( count 62 ), one count of witness tampering ( count 63 ), and one count of obstruction of justice ( count 64 ) in violation of federal law.
According to today’s indictment, since 2005, MATTHEW B. PIZZOLATO, was affiliated with and/or operated and/or owned Gulf Region Guaranty, Inc. ( Gulf Region Guaranty ) and its affiliated companies Acadian Guaranty Group, LLC; Allegiance Financial, LLC; Annuity Presets, LLC; Annuity Recovery Services, LLC; Anova Marketing Systems, LLC; Anova Marketing Systems, LLC; Anytime Fitness of Sulphur, LLC; Cornerstone Wealth Management, LLC; Global Assured Financial, Inc.; Green Pelican Group, Inc.; Gulf South Guaranty, Inc.; Gulf States Guaranty, LLC; GRG Holdings, LLC; GRG I, LLC; GRG II, LLC; Matt P, LLC; National Insurance Advisors, LLC; Pelican Guaranty Group, Inc. ( Pelican Guaranty ); and Spectrum Lending Group, LLC. PIZZOLATO maintained offices in Hammond, Covington, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and also conducted business in the New Orleans metropolitan area.
According to the allegations, during this time period, PIZZOLATO operated an investment “Ponzi” scheme targeting older investors, specifically retirees. PIZZOLATO lured his potential victims through advertisements in the local daily newspapers in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Hammond by promising rates of returns that were higher than market rates for CDs or U.S. Treasury Bills. PIZZOLATO advertised and described his investments as “guaranteed,” “safe,” “conservative,” “insured,” and “no-risk.” The indictment charges that PIZZOLATO enticed his unsuspecting victims into investing with one of his companies and, in many cases, PIZZOLATO would assure investors that they were invested in U.S. Treasury Bills, CDs, or another government-backed security. However, according to the indictment, PIZZOLATO used the investors’ money to purchase luxury items, to make payments totaling millions of dollars to friends and family, to invest in high-risk futures trading and/or commercial real estate, and to provide lulling payments to investors in an effort to conceal the true nature of the Ponzi scheme.
PIZZOLATO is charged with having purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of luxury cars using investor money including a BMW 750LI, a Mercedes Benz S430V, a Range Rover Sport, and a Chevrolet Corvette. Additionally, the indictment charges that PIZZOLATO used investor money to build a new half-million dollar home in Ponchatoula, Louisiana and to purchase a $35,000.00 engagement ring.
According to the indictment, during the time period of 2005 through the date of the indictment, PIZZOLATO, obtained approximately $19,500,000.00 from approximately 160 investors and spent nearly all of the money.
Today’s indictment charges that PIZZOLATO falsified documents in order to transfer investor funds from legitimate investments that PIZZOLATO would then deposit into his personal bank accounts. Additionally, the indictment alleges that PIZZOLATO committed the crime of Witness Tampering when he offered his former employees a $20,000.00 bribe to destroy records in an effort to conceal his Ponzi scheme. In addition, the indictment charges PIZZOLATO with Obstruction of Justice for stealing records from the residence of an investor and altering those records in an effort to conceal the true nature of the scheme.
If convicted, PIZZOLATO faces up to twenty ( 20 ) years imprisonment for each count of mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, and witness tampering; and up to ten ( 10 ) years imprisonment for each of the money laundering and obstruction of justice charges. PIZZOLATO also faces fines of up to $16 million and five ( 5 ) years of supervised release after he is released from prison.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker stated: “It is unconscionable that in this stressful economy senior citizens would be targeted and defrauded of their life savings. We have an obligation to aggressively investigate crimes against those citizens who are most vulnerable. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who target our most vulnerable citizens.”
Michael J. De Palma, Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation added: "Financial Fraud and money laundering are not victimless crimes. IRS-Criminal Investigation is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to disrupt those who commit crimes against our local citizens. Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigations are expert financial investigators who ‘follow the money’ trail to identify potential offenders. It is our mission to work with the United States Attorney's Office to ensure the integrity of our community's financial systems."
Speaking to today’s developments, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated: “Today’s indictment demonstrates our resolve, along with our partners in federal law enforcement, including the FBI, IRS, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to aggressively investigate and pursue those who seek to take advantage and prey upon those among us including our senior citizens. I would also like to thank the Office of the Louisiana Commissioner of Securities for their assistance in this investigation.”
U.S. Attorney Letten reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, State of Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, and U. S. Postal Inspection Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian M. Klebba and Matthew Chester of the U.S. Attorney’s Financial Crimes Unit.
This story was released on 2009-11-23. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.