Mentor man indicted, arrested for defrauding investors

CLEVELAND -- A 17-count indictment was filed charging a Mentor man who owned and operated several granite businesses with defrauding investors out of more than $1 million, according to Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service's Cincinnati Field Office.

Carmen Occhipinti, 66, of Mentor, was arrested Wednesday. He was indicted on a total of 17 counts -- four counts of wire fraud, seven counts of bank fraud, one count of witness tampering, three counts of tax evasion and two counts of money laundering.

Occhipinti maintained offices in Mentor and Woodmere.

He operated several companies, including Marble Tiles of Italy, Marble and Tile Company of Italy, Brunello Marble & Granite, Carrara Bricks & Blocks Company, Granite and Tile Imports, Bella Cucina Granite and Portofino Marble Tile, according to the indictment.

From 2006 through April 2014, Occhipinti defrauded investors by inducing them to invest in his granite businesses through false and fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions of material facts about the nature and dispositions of the investments.

Occhipinti misled investors to believe that their funds would be used to purchase materials for jobs, when, in fact, he used the investments to enrich himself, to pay off certain earlier investors at his discretion and to pay his personal expenses such as those incurred and Peak and Peak Resort, Mountaineer Casino and Lee Jewelers, according to the indictment.

During the course of the scheme, Occhipinti misused investor money, while continuing to solicit new investors and to lead the investors to believe a return on their investments was forthcoming. Although some investors received a fractional return of their investments, the defrauded investors incurred a combined out-of-pocket loss of more than $1 million, according to the indictment.

"This defendant purported to sell granite, but he really built a financial house of cards by stealing more than $1 million from others," Dettelbach said. "His victims were real people, some of whom were forced into bankruptcy. We're committed to pursue justice on their behalf."

"The IRS enforces the nation's tax laws, but also takes particular interest in cases where someone, for their own personal benefit, has taken what belonged to others," Enstrom said. "Individuals who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to deceive friends, church parishioners, business associates and defraud the IRS run the very high risk of prosecution."

Because of Occhipinti's fraudulent scheme, several investors were required to declare bankruptcy, according to the indictment.

Occhipinti used religious organizations, business relationships, social organizations and other means to establish trust and find prospective investors. He claimed his companies imported materials from Italy, Brazil and Canada when in truth his companies did not import materials, according to the indictment.


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