U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island

MARCH 29, 2011

Italian Nationals Plead Guilty in International Money Laundering Scheme

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two Italian nationals pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence on Monday to using fraudulent passports with assumed identities to open bank accounts, and then withdrew funds obtained fraudulently and wired them to various foreign countries, announced U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Thomas M. Powers, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service; and Warwick, R.I., Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney.

Guido Rotondo, 50, and Angelo Papocchia, 44, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to charges of possession of false passports and money laundering.

According to information presented to the court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard B. Myrus and in court documents, Rotondo and Papocchia were money couriers in an Internet scheme to defraud individuals seeking to purchase automobiles online. After the defendants opened several bank accounts using false passports with assumed identities, other participants in the scheme then placed online advertisements offering various automobiles for sale at attractive prices.

Interested buyers were directed to wire funds to these accounts and were told that the funds would be held until the buyers took delivery of their vehicles. After the funds were received in the accounts, the defendants quickly withdrew the fraudulently-acquired money and wired the funds to various individuals in Europe, keeping a portion for themselves. No automobiles were ever delivered to the victims.

At the time of the defendants’ arrest in October 2010, investigators seized several fraudulent passports, bank slips, Western Union money transfer receipts and slips of paper containing the names of customers, makes of cars such as an Audi A8 and Jaguar XK and the purported sale prices.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on July 28, 2011, and face maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine for money laundering; and up to 10 years in federal prison followed by up to three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for possession of false passports.

This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov.

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