Camden County, N.J., Man Sentenced To 70 Months In Prison For $1.2 Million Phony Pizza Shop Investment Scam, Other Offenses
CAMDEN, N.J. - A Laurel Springs, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for defrauding an investor out of approximately $1.2 million he claimed would be invested in a pizza shop, 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, 58, was previously convicted by a federal jury of 15 counts of mail fraud, eight counts of money laundering, three counts of failure to file income tax returns and one count of tampering with a witness. Arena was convicted in November of 2013 following a seven-day trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle, who imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:
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.
The jury reviewed casino records that showed the defendant spent many hours at the gaming tables, losing more than $700,000 in four years of Atlantic City gambling. During the trial, the jury watched surveillance video of the defendant buying in at a black jack table using $81,000 in cash he brought to the table in a shopping bag.
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 executed 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.”
In addition to the prison term, Judge Simandle sentenced Arena to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $1,219,200 in restitution to the victim. The judge also ordered Arena to forfeit assets, including the Maserati and the Camaro.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen in Newark, and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge David W. Bosch in Philadelphia, with the investigation.
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: Brian S. O’Malley Esq., Haddon Heights, New Jersey