City of Fort Lauderdale Department of Parks and Recreation Employee Pleads Guilty
Two individuals, including a City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department employee, pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Rick Maglione, Chief, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FLPD) made the announcement.
Phillip Richard Peterson, 42, of Coral Springs, Florida, pled guilty to six counts of an indictment, charging him with theft from a program receiving federal funds and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 666, 1343 and 1349 (18-CR-60278). Each theft count of conviction covers a single year, beginning in 2013 and running through 2017. Peterson faces a maximum statutory sentence of ten years in prison, for each theft count. In addition, he faces a fine of up to $250,000.
Co-defendant Gino Joseph Ferraro, age 49, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Both defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison and a potential fine of up to $250,000, for the conspiracy conviction.
According to the court docket, including an agreed upon factual proffer, Peterson had been issued a credit card by the City of Fort Lauderdale in connection with his employment to allow him to make job related purchases, on behalf of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Peterson purchased items using his City of Fort Lauderdale credit card, and then sold the items to a local pawn store. Each year, between 2013 and 2017, Peterson sold more than $5,000 worth of merchandise in this manner.
The court docket also indicates that Peterson and Ferraro unjustly enriched themselves by charging the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department for volleyball court repairs and other items that were not completed or provided. Ferraro admitted that Peterson had paid him using his City issued credit card, and he would give Peterson approximately half of the amount that had been charged.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Bloom on March 1, 2019.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and FLPD in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.