U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Eastern District of Louisiana

Tickfaw Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison for Operating a $20 Million Investment Ponzi Scheme

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MATTHEW B. PIZZOLATO, age 26, of Tickfaw, Louisiana, was sentenced today by U. S. District Judge Lance M. Africk to thirty (30) years (360 months) in prison, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten. In addition, the defendant was ordered to serve three (3) years of supervised release during which time the defendant will be under federal supervision and risk additional imprisonment should he violate any terms of the release.

In sentencing the defendant, Judge Africk admonished PIZZOLATO stating that the defendant “stole from hard working Americans” and “swindled the salt of the earth.” Judge Africk further told the defendant that “because of you, many must find ways to pay for their daily bread.”

According to court documents, PIZZOLATO pled guilty on April 1, 2010 to numerous federal charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, securities fraud, and witness tampering involving his operation of an investment Ponzi scheme. During the time period of 2005 through the date of the indictment, PIZZOLATO spent nearly all of the money. Pursuant to his plea agreement, PIZZOLATO will be ordered to make restitution in the amount of over $15 million to the 165 victims he defrauded.

PIZZOLATO admitted that since 2005, he was affiliated with and/or operated and/or owned Gulf Region Guaranty, Inc. and its affiliated companies 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 States Guaranty, LLC; GRG Holdings, LLC; GRG I, LLC; GRG II, LLC; Matt P, LLC; National Insurance Advisors, LLC; Pelican Guaranty Group, Inc.; and Spectrum Lending Group, LLC. PIZZOLATO maintained offices in Hammond, Covington, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and also conducted business in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

During this time period, PIZZOLATO operated an investment Ponzi scheme targeting older investors, specifically retirees. He admitted that 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. These advertisements described PIZZOLATO’S investments as “guaranteed”, “safe”, “conservative”, “insured”, and “no-risk.” In many cases, PIZZOLATO would assure investors that they were invested in U.S. Treasury Bills, CDs, or another government-backed securities.

PIZZOLATO admitted that used the investors’ money to build a new half-million dollar home in Ponchatoula, Louisiana; to purchase luxury items such as a BMW 750LI, a Mercedes Benz S430V, a Range Rover Sport, and a Chevrolet Corvette, and a $35,000.00 engagement ring; to make payments totaling millions of dollars to friends and family; to make 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.

Speaking to today’s sentencing, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:

“Today’s powerful 30-year federal prison sentence handed down by U. S. District Africk against convicted swindler Matthew Pizzolato will hopefully serve as a stark deterrent to those calculating predators who, like Pizzolato, may seek to prey on the trust and innocence of hard working citizens. The human wreckage of broken lives, dreams, and peace of mind - as well as stolen life savings - is shockingly evident in this case and in the tragedies of the victims whom Pizzolato hunted. Our hope is that these decent, trusting victims can begin to find some sense of justice and peace knowing that this criminal will not steal again.

David Welker, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, added:

“Today’s sentencing should send a clear message that FBI New Orleans, along with our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue allegations of financial crimes, especially those that victimize our most vulnerable citizens. Mr. Pizzolato targeted senior citizens for his own gain. Personalizing this -- what if it was your own mother, father or grandparent!? Mr. Pizzolato’s actions were reprehensible and his punishment reflects the seriousness of his crime.”

Michael J. De Palma, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, New Orleans Field Office, added:

"Today's sentencing shows the justice system takes this type of crime very seriously. Mr. Pizzolato will spend a significant portion of his life paying for what he has done to others--robbing them of their life's savings. Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are highly trained investigators who specialize in financial crimes of greed. We are committed in our efforts and will continue to work with our Law Enforcement partners and the United States Attorney's Office to pursue evidence of criminal activity wherever it leads."

U. S. Postal Inspector in Charge Keith E. Milke stated:

"Frauds against the elderly are a priority for the Postal Inspection Service and we will continue to work closely with our partners to aggressively investigate these types of crimes."

This law enforcement action is part of 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 further information, please refer to http://www.stopfraud.gov/.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, State of Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, and United States Postal Inspection Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian M. Klebba, Matthew Chester and André Lagarde of the Financial Crimes Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office.

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