Palm Harbor Man Pleads Guilty To Defrauding More Than 1,000 Companies Promising Contracting Preferences With FEMA
Tampa, Florida – Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow announces that Michael Pirolo (48, Palm Harbor) has pleaded guilty to wire fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, Pirolo served as the president of Government Contract Registry, Inc. (“GCR”), doing business as FEMA Contract Registration. He employed telemarketers who, during communications with victim-companies, falsely and fraudulently claimed that, for a fee, GCR would “register” the companies with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to enable them to receive preference in obtaining contracts from FEMA. The GCR telemarketers’ communications were based on instructions and scripts that they had received from Pirolo. In particular, the GCR telemarketers falsely and fraudulently stated that for a one-time fee of $500, the customer would be registered with FEMA, and that this registration would place the customer company on a list of preferred vendors. When the need for a vendor arose, the GCR telemarketer falsely stated that FEMA would bypass the contract acquisition process, contact the registered victim-company, and then offer a no-bid contract. At times, Pirolo also instructed GCR telemarketers to go back to victim-companies that had already paid the $500 one-time fee and seek renewal and payment of another fraudulent $500 fee.
To further the scheme, the GCR telemarketers provided victim-companies with an online GCR form that requested the same information as a form on FEMA’s website. FEMA does not charge a fee to companies to complete its form, which assists the agency with market research and does not “register” companies. Completing this form is not part of the United States government’s contract acquisition process. Once GCR telemarketers received the victim-companies’ information, GCR completed and submitted the online FEMA form that then enabled emails to then be sent from FEMA to the victim-companies, giving the appearance that the companies had been “registered.” The FEMA emails gave GCR the appearance of legitimacy.
Approximately 1,200 victim-companies were misled by this scheme, paying GCR at least $604,500.
This case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General and the General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Adam M. Saltzman.