BULLETIN: Richard S. Piccoli, 83, Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Ponzi And Affinity-Fraud Scheme
In a case that features some of the same elements of the alleged AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme — a senior citizen as the operator, appeals to religion, the sale of unregistered securities, commingling of funds, seized assets and advertising materials that promised a payout — an 83-year-old New York man today effectively was sentenced to life in prison.
Richard S. Piccoli, the Buffalo-area man who operated the Gen-See Capital Corp. Ponzi scheme that targeted Catholic priests, parishioners and senior citizens,Â received 20 years. He pleaded guilty in June to a single count of mail fraud and a single count of tax fraud. Gen-See pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud.
Many more counts could have been filed.
Piccoli cooperated in the probe when caught, “to give up other assets whose value has not yet been determined, such as life insurance policies, property and stocks,” prosecutors said in June, after Piccoli’s guilty plea.
U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny said he understood the sentence meant Piccoli likely would die in prison.
“It’s time after all these years to pay the price,” the judge said, according to The Buffalo News.
Federal prosecutors and the SEC said the scheme had operated for more than 30 years, draining investors of their life savings, college savings and retirement savings.
“Our seniors and clergy are absolutely pleased with Gen-See’s Re-Investment Program,” Piccoli said, according to marketing materials gathered by investigators as evidence in the case.
Piccoli’s ads said, “[S]erving Seniors and Retirees Since 1975.”
Authorities became wise to Piccoli, and he became the target of a sting operation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the IRS. He was arrested in January. Losses suffered by victims may total $25 million.
Like the ASD case, investigators located resources before the scheme collapsed entirely, seized assets and announced plans to provide a restitution program. Approximately $6 million has been located, and investigators continue to seek other assets that can be pooled to compensate victims.
Investigators said Piccoli simply dumped money into a checking account, issued bogus certificates to investors and paid redemptions with new money that entered the system. Customers thought they were investing in a mortgage company.
â€œ[B]ank records show that Gen-Seeâ€™s only business activity is depositing checks written by new investors or existing investors depositing more funds, and the payment of checks to investors using funds received from other investors,â€ prosecutors said.
Piccoli’s attorneys, citing their client’s age, asked the judge for a downward departure from sentencing guidelines that could have led to a sentence of 24.5 years, saying a six-year sentence was long enough for an old man.
Prosecutors, however, argued for enhanced sentencing because the case included more than 250 victims, at least 100 of whom were put in danger of insolvency.
Read story in The Buffalo News.
Read the SEC complaint.
Piccoli was 82 when arrested in January. Investigators said he advertised in Catholic newspapers