South jersey man indicted for alleged $1.2 million
phony pizza shop investment scam, related offenses
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2012
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Laurel Springs, N.J., man charged in a 35-count Indictment was arrested this morning – by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – for allegedly defrauding an investor out of approximately $1.2 million he claimed would be invested in a pizza shop, then laundering that money, failing to report it to the IRS, and threatening the victim to keep quiet about his crimes, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Giovanni Arena, 56, was charged by Indictment on July 10, 2012. The Indictment, unsealed today, charges Arena with 22 counts of mail fraud, nine counts of money laundering, three counts of failure to file income tax returns and one count of witness tampering. Arena is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas.
According to the Indictment:
Arena’s scheme defrauded a single investor of approximately $1.2 million from 2004 through 2008. Arena, who had operated pizza restaurants in the past, enticed the victim to send checks and cash through the U.S. mail to invest in the purchase of a pizza shop in southern New Jersey. Rather than using the money to buy a restaurant, Arena purchased luxury automobiles – including a Maserati Coupe and Chevrolet Camaro – gambled at Atlantic City Casinos, and paid his living expenses.
In addition, Arena willfully did not file his individual tax returns for tax years 2006, 2007 and 2008, failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income to the IRS.
After federal agents served search warrants on Arena’s property during the course of the investigation, Arena instructed the victim investor to lie to federal investigators and made threatening statements, saying, “you better not put me in trouble because if you put me in trouble, I’ll put you in trouble.”
Each mail fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Each money laundering count carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. Each failure to file tax returns count carries a maximum potential of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine or twice the gain resulting from the offense or twice the loss to any victim. The tampering with a witness or victim count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur in Newark, and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Karen V. Higgins, Philadelphia Division, with the investigation leading to the Indictment.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Defense counsel: Assistant Federal Public Defenders Maggie Moy and TomYoung, Esqs., Camden