City of Fort Lauderdale Department of Parks and Recreation Employee Sentenced to Fifteen Month in Prison
On March 1, 2019, two individuals, including a City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department employee, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States 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 on December 19, 2018, to five counts of 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. Each theft count covers a single year, beginning in 2013 and running through 2017. Peterson was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently, and three years of supervised release after the termination of his prison term. Peterson was also ordered to pay $119,982.69 in restitution to the City of Fort Lauderdale. Gino Joseph Ferraro, age 49, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also pled guilty on December 19, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced to five years of probation, a $2,000 fine, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service. Ferraro was also ordered to pay $24,337 in restitution to the City of Fort Lauderdale.
According to the court record, including the defendants’ admissions as part of their pleas, 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 admitted he would purchase items using his City of Fort Lauderdale credit card, and then sell 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.
Peterson and Ferraro were both sentenced on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Both 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.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and FLPD in this matter. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.