Jury convicts on 27 charges in N.J. pizza shop scam
CAMDEN A Laurel Springs man was convicted Wednesday of defrauding an investor of $1.2 million in a phony pizza shop scam, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Giovanni Arena, 58, was found guilty of 15 counts of mail fraud; eight counts of money laundering; three counts of failure to file income tax returns, and one count of tampering with a witness. After a seven-day trial, the jury deliberated for less than four hours in Camden federal court.
Arena, who had operated pizza restaurants, enticed the investor to send checks and cash through the mail, so Arena could buy a pizza shop in South Jersey. Instead, he used the money to buy luxury cars, including a Maserati Coupe, gambled in Atlantic City, and paid living expenses between 2004 and 2008.
He lost more than $700,000 gambling over four years, authorities said. The jury saw surveillance of Arena at a blackjack table with $81,000 in cash he had brought in a shopping bag. Arena also didn't file income tax returns for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Sentencing is set for March 18. - Darran Simon