TICKFAW MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO OPERATING A $20 MILLION INVESTMENT PONZI SCHEME
MATTHEW B. PIZZOLATO, 26, of Tickfaw, Louisiana, pled guilty in federal court today before U. S. District Judge Lance M. Africk to 27 felonies charges for operating an investment Ponzi Scheme, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.
Specifically, PIZZOLATO pled guilty to Counts 1-21 (mail fraud), 53 (wire fraud), 55-57 (money laundering), 62 (securities fraud), and 63 (witness tampering) of the Indictment charging him with operating an investment Ponzi scheme. As to each mail fraud, wire fraud, and witness tampering charge, PIZZOLATO faces a possible maximum sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three (3) years supervised release; as to the securities fraud charge, PIZZOLATO faces a possible maximum sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment, a $5 million fine and three (3) years supervised release; and as to the money laundering charges, PIZZOLATO faces a possible maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three (3) years supervised release. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 8, 2010 at 2:00 P.M.
According to documents filed in federal court, 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; Anytime Fitness of Sulphur, LLC; Cornerstone Wealth Management, LLC; Global Assured Financial, Inc.; Green Pelican Group, 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.
During this time period, MATTHEW B. 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.” 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 securities. In actuality, PIZZOLATO used the investors’ money to purchase luxury items, to make payments totaling millions of dollars to friends and family, to make 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 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, PIZZOLATO used investor money to build a new half-million dollar home in Ponchatoula, Louisiana and to purchase a $35,000.00 engagement ring.
During the time period of 2005 through the date of the indictment, PIZZOLATO, obtained approximately $19,500,000.00 from approximately 180 investors and spent nearly all of the money. Pursuant to his plea agreement, PIZZOLATO will be ordered to make full restitution to the victims he defrauded.
Speaking to today’s proceedings, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated,
“Today’s plea 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 economic predators who seek to take advantage and prey upon the most vulnerable among us, including our senior citizens who most desperately need our protection. I would also like to thank the Office of the Louisiana Commissioner of Securities for their assistance in this investigation.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker added,
“This guilty plea represents once again, the FBI’s resolve to aggressively investigate financial crimes which victimize our most vulnerable citizens. It is reprehensible that Mr. Pizzalotto would target senior citizens and defraud them of their life’s savings. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to identify and investigate frauds such as this.”
Michael J. DePalma, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS New Orleans Field Office said:
"This investigation shows that the appearance of success can be a mask for a tangled financial web of lies. No matter what we call this type of crime, the bottom line is that Mr. Pizzolato robbed over a hundred investors of more than $19 million dollars and spent just about all of it. Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney's Office to pursue evidence of criminal activity wherever it leads, leaving no financial stone unturned."
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, State of Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, and United States Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian M. Klebba and Matthew Chester of the Financial Crimes Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org