BREAKING NEWS: Louisiana Man Indicted In Alleged $20 Million Ponzi Scheme Targeting Senior Citizens; Prosecutors Allege Witness Tampering, Obstruction

UPDATED 9:44 P.M. ET (U.S.A.) A Louisiana man has been charged in a 64-count indictment with operating a $20 million Ponzi scheme that fleeced retirees, federal prosecutors said today.

So many fraud counts were filed against Matthew B. Pizzolato that he faces more than 1,100 years in prison if convicted of all of them. As many as 160 people were duped, prosecutors said.

Pizzolato, 26, of Tickfaw, was charged with 52 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering, and single counts of securities fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

It was the second time this week prosecutors alleged witness tampering in a major Ponzi scheme case. Jeffrey Lane Mowen was charged in Utah Nov. 18 with attempting to hire a man to kill four witnesses in a  case against him.

In the Pizzolato case, prosecutors said he attempted to silence employees with bribes of  $20,000 and get them to destroy records to cover up the scheme. Meanwhile, prosecutors said Pizzolato obstructed justice by stealing documents that could incriminate him from the home of a client.

pizzolatoartWhen the client called authorities, Pizzolato returned documents that he altered after stealing them,  prosecutors said.

A veteran FBI agent called the crimes beyond the pale.

“It is unconscionable that in this stressful economy senior citizens would be targeted and defrauded of their life savings, said Special Agent in Charge David Welker. “We have an obligation to aggressively investigate crimes against those citizens who are most vulnerable. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who target our most vulnerable citizens.”

Federal agencies are working together to put an end to the Ponzi plague in the United States, said U. S. Attorney Jim Letten of the Eastern District of Lousiana

“Today’s indictment demonstrates our resolve, along with our partners in federal law enforcement, including the FBI, IRS and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to aggressively investigate and pursue those who seek to take advantage and prey upon those among us, including our senior citizens,” Letten said.

The Office of the Louisiana Commissioner of Securities assisted in the probe, Letten said.

Pizzolato had offices in Hammond, Covington, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and also conducted business in Greater New Orleans.

He “lured his potential victims through advertisements in the local daily newspapers in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Hammond by promising rates of returns that were higher than market rates for CDs or U.S. Treasury Bills, prosecutors said.

Among the words Pizzolato used to lure investors into a false sense of security were “guaranteed”, “safe”, “conservative”, “insured”, and “no-risk,” prosecutors said.

Despite his assurances that clients’ money had been placed in U.S. Treasury Bills, CDs and other government-backed securities, Pizzolato “used the investors’ money to purchase luxury items, to make payments totaling millions of dollars to friends and family, to invest in high-risk futures trading and/or commercial real estate, and to provide lulling payments to investors in an effort to conceal the true nature of the Ponzi scheme,” prosecutors said.

Among the luxury items he purchased with investors’ money were a BMW 750LI, a Mercedes Benz S430V, a Range Rover Sport and a Chevrolet Corvette, prosecutors said. He also bought sports tickets, a $35,000 engagement ring, a $500,000 home in Ponchatoula, La., and spent $35,000 on Carnival cruises.

All in all, Pizzolato took about $19.5 million from clients and spent “nearly all” of it, prosecutors said.

Since 2005, prosecutors said, Pizzolato either operated, owned or was affiliated with several companies: Gulf Region Guaranty Inc. (Gulf Region Guaranty); Acadian Guaranty Group LLC; Allegiance Financial LLC; Annuity Presets LLC; Annuity Recovery Services LLC; Anova Marketing Systems LLC; Anytime Fitness of Sulphur LLC; Cornerstone Wealth Management LLC; Global Assured Financial Inc.; Green Pelican Group Inc.; Gulf South Guaranty Inc.; Gulf States Guaranty LLC; GRG Holdings LLC; GRG I LLC; GRG II LLC; Matt P LLC; National Insurance Advisors LLC; Pelican Guaranty Group Inc. (Pelican Guaranty); and Spectrum Lending Group LLC.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud and witness tampering, and up to 10 years for each of the money laundering and obstruction of justice charges. Meanwhile, Pizzolato faces fines of up to $16 million.

Pizzolato was hit with 56 counts that could result in a maximum sentence of 20 years each if convicted of all of them, meaning he potentially faces more than 1,100 years in prison — even more if convicted of the less serious crimes.

Michael J. De Palma, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, said law enforcement is prepared to “follow the money” to reverse-engineer Ponzi schemes.

“Financial Fraud and money laundering are not victimless crimes,” De Palma said. “IRS-Criminal Investigation is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to disrupt those who commit crimes against our local citizens. Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigations are expert financial investigators who ‘follow the money’ trail to identify potential offenders.”

Read the Pizzolato indictment.

See video on WWL-TV:

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8 Responses to “BREAKING NEWS: Louisiana Man Indicted In Alleged $20 Million Ponzi Scheme Targeting Senior Citizens; Prosecutors Allege Witness Tampering, Obstruction”

  1. I knew this guy personally. Along with stealing millions, he screwed all of his employees by making false promises, not paying, incorrectly classifying workers as 1099s, stealing commissions from his insurance sales team (he also ran an insurance company here in Louisiana), taking the money and running from healthclub members ( http://www.wdam.com/Global/story.asp?S=88408850 ) etc. Scorched earth, wherever this guy walks. He and his personal assistant deserve to have the entire legal library thrown at them.

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  3. You are a pathetic piece of crap Heath Huggett!!! Give it up. Yes there guilty. But we are sick of your fat mouth. Shut up cause you are
    to.

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  4. Hey Jeremy/Zack..nice try sticking up for matt

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  5. Buddy you r way off. Its the ones that r close to you that you need to watch. Chow

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