N.J. man charged with fraud in alleged pizza-parlor scam

Posted: July 14, 2012

A Laurel Springs man who allegedly took $1.2 million from an investor and promised to open a pizza parlor in South Jersey was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court on 35 charges of defrauding the victim, laundering the money, and failing to report it to the IRS, mail fraud, and witness tampering.

Giovanni Arena, 56, is accused of using the money to buy a Maserati coupe and a Chevrolet coupe, gamble at Atlantic City casinos, and pay his expenses instead of buying a building for the pizza parlor.

He was charged in an indictment unsealed Thursday after his arrest by special federal agents, according to an announcement by Paul J. Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.

Arena was arraigned in Camden before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio and then released after posting $100,000 bail.

The indictment said Arena, who has operated pizza parlors in the past, persuaded the investor to give him cash and checks from 2004 through 2008. Some checks were sent through the mail.

He also is charged with failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars of income to the IRS from 2006 through 2008.

After his home was searched by federal agents, he allegedly told the victim to lie to authorities. He warned the victim: "You better not put me in trouble, because if you put me in trouble I'll put you in trouble," the indictment says.

If convicted, Arena could face more than 20 years in prison and more than $1.1 million in fines.

Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com or @JanHefler on Twitter. Read her blog at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz .

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