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Little Italy bocce figure headed to prison for fraud and tax evasion

April 3, 2013
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Salvatore Petti, at 76 years old, is at an advanced age to start life as a federal inmate – a factor that his attorney, Caroline Ciraolo, emphasized in arguing that he should be sentenced to probation, home confinement, and community service for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty: wire fraud and tax evasion in connection with his long-term embezzlement of funds from the Employees Activities Assocation (EAA) of the Social Security Administration (SSA) (“Ball Busted,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 12, 2012).

U.S. District judge J. Frederick Motz, though, went with prison time.

Today, Motz ordered Petti to 15 months incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, Petti must forfeit to the government about $83,000 in assets (the contents of bank accounts, plus the sale of his Baltimore Ravens personal seat license and three Marriott timeshares) and pay more than $570,000 in restitution, about $300,000 to EAA and the rest to the IRS for unpaid taxes from 1998 through 2009, according to a press release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to his plea agreement, the investigation that resulted in Petti’s conviction started in 2009, when U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) requested that the SSA’s Office of Inspector General audit EAA, a nonprofit founded in the 1960s to underwrite athletic activities for SSA employees, but which has since expanded to provide daycare, fitness programs, and insurance. Petti had been EAA’s treasurer for decades, retaining the position after he retired in 1995 from SSA, where he’d been a computer-systems manager.

The investigators quickly turned up irregularities in Petti’s tax returns, and subsequently evidence emerged that, as EAA’s treasurer, he’d been lining his own pocket with large sums of EAA’s proceeds. The charging document in the case against him stated that he used the diverted funds to “to support his lifestyle, which included spending approximately $430,000 at the Borgata Hotel, Casino, & Spa and $43,000 at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino” in Atlantic City between about March 2005 and August 2010.
Petti is known in Baltimore for his involvement in Little Italy’s bocce courts, where he, Giovanna Blatterman, and other members ran a bocce committee that organized league games – an effort that became highly contentious when a dispute erupted between them and a member of a rival bocce league, Thomas Macchia (“Bocce Brawl,” Feature June 22, 2011). The resulting lawsuit in Howard County ended last year with a $2,750 judgment against Macchia. Earlier, Petti and Macchia had sued each other over alleged mishandling of bocce fees collected by Petti’s committee, but the case was later dismissed.

Ciraolo declined to comment on Petti’s sentence, but, in a press-release statement, the special agent in charge of Washington, D.C., field office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Thomas J. Kelly, said it demonstrated that “there are serious consequences for this type of criminal conduct,” and that law enforcers will bring “individuals to justice who choose to engage in any financial scheme to defraud the American public.”

(Photo credit: Noah Scialom)

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