NY Businessman Pleads Guilty in Ponzi Scheme Targeting Catholics
June 8, 2009 - 2:22 PMA western NY businessman is facing up to a 25-year prison sentence and a $50 million fine after admitting he orchestrated a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme that targeted Catholics.
As about 150 of his victims looked on, 82-year-old Richard Piccoli pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.
Piccoli admitted promising guaranteed returns on real estate investments he knew didn't exist. Early investors were paid with money collected from later victims. Prosecutors say Piccoli targeted clergy, cemetery funds and other church entities by advertising in Catholic publications.
He was released until sentencing Oct. 21 and didn't speak on his way out of court Monday.
When they arrested him in January, authorities said Piccoli stole at least $17 million.
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