Plea dates set for Lethbridge Ponzi scheme trial
15 months after the Alberta Securities Commission sanctioned Front Row Tickets, the RCMP is ready to press criminal charges
by Geoffrey Morgan
More than a year after the Alberta Securities Commission sanctioned and penalized the executives behind Lethbridge-based Front Row Tickets for illegally trading securities, the accused are preparing pleas for their criminal trial.
Anthony Pittarelli, 42, Marisa Campanelli-Pittarelli, 63, and Claudia Pittarelli, 36, were all scheduled to be in court February 1, 2012 over charges they had allegedly “operated a Ponzi scheme which defrauded [an] investor of over $560,000.” After the court appearance in Lethbridge, their plea dates have been set for March 1.
The RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team have charged all three with theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000, possession of the proceeds of crime and money laundering. Police allege Front Row Tickets was an illegitimate ticket resale business and that the Pittarellis, who operated Front Row Tickets, “used investors’ money for personal enrichment.”
The RCMP laid the charges on June 30, 2011 after a lengthy, two-and-a-half-year investigation. But even before that, the ASC had banned Anthony Pittarelli from acting as a director or officer of a securities-issuer, or trading and purchasing securities in Alberta, for eight years. The ASC penalized him for $90,000 at the time.
In fact, the alleged offences date all the way back to 2005. The ASC merits decision findings say that Pittarelli and colleagues at Front Row Tickets raised money from investors until 2007. According to the decision, “Pittarelli did admit earning approximately $400,000 from 2005 to 2007 from his involvement with Front Row, including soliciting and facilitating loans from investors.”
The case highlights the long and arduous process involved in pressing criminal charges for securities-related offences. The criminal trial proceeding this month marks seven years since Pittarelli began fundraising for Front Row Tickets, and police allege that Pittarelli and his co-accused operated other ventures which “defrauded hundreds of investors in Western Canada and the United States.”