Poughkeepsie fence installer involved in Florida Ponzi scheme

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The owner of a Poughkeepsie fencing company who recently filed for bankruptcy apparently had a side gig lining up investors for a fraud in Florida.

Burton W. Wiand, a court-appointed receiver for Oasis International Group, a Longboat Key, Florida company that raised $84 million from nearly a thousand investors in a Ponzi scheme, sued Rocco Garbellano III on August 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Poughkeepsie. He’s asking the court to stop Garbellano from enforcing a $350,000 judgment in the Oasis case.

“Garbellano participated in and contributed to an elaborate scheme to coax, cajole and coerce investors into Oasis International Group Limited,” Wiand alleges, “in order to defraud and mislead such investors while the operators of the Ponzi scheme – and those who facilitated the scheme, as Garbellano – lined their pockets.

Garbellano’s bankruptcy attorney, Anne J. Penachio, did not respond to an email request for her client’s side of the story.

Garbellano owns Rocky’s Fence Co., “the only local business you can trust for all of your fencing needs,” according to its website.

Last May, he filed for personal bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13, the so-called salaried plan that allows debtors to pay off all or part of their debts in installments over a few years.

He declared $170,701 in assets and $538,067 in liabilities. The main asset is a half interest in his house. The primary liability is a “potential” $268,000 claim in the Oasis case that is characterized as contested.

He attributed his financial situation to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on business and a court ruling against him in an Oasis civil case in Tampa. He told a lawyer who interviewed him in the 2020 Florida case that he had ‘little to no money in the bank and was living paycheck to paycheck’ , according to the attorney’s affidavit.

Oasis was apparently set up to trade in the forex market, according to US Department of Justice press releases, and investors were told they would receive at least a 12% return per year.

But the company made few transactions and instead used investor funds to pay for the lavish lifestyles of major operators. Money from new investors was also used to pay previous investors, in classic Ponzi style, to cover up the fraud and keep the scheme going.

One of Oasis’ directors was Michael J. DaCorta, whom Garbellano had known for 30 years, according to Wiand’s bankruptcy complaint. Garbellano knew how the Oasis program worked, Wiand argues, because he had invested in previous programs with DaCorta, worked as a salesman for him, and lost money with him on a previous venture.

“Garbellano’s sole purpose was to attract new investors and funds to Oasis,” the complaint states.

He refused to invest his own money in Oasis. DaCorta offered him a sales position that paid commissions, so he could recover past losses. DeCorta also gave Garbellano the key to a New York home he abandoned when he moved to Florida.

“These details provided by Garbellano paint a picture of two people who have an enduring and well-established relationship,” Wiand’s complaint states. “Garbellano was aware of DaCorta’s past failures and still chose to recruit, refer and enlist victim-investors in the Ponzi scheme and accept $268,6793 to do so.”

Last May, a federal jury in Tampa found DaCorta guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false tax return. He is to be sentenced this fall.

Meanwhile, Wiand had been authorized in the civil case against Oasis to recover funds for defrauded investors.

In 2020, a Tampa judge entered a $349,921 default judgment against Garbellano that includes commissions plus interest from 2012 to 2019. He challenged the judgment, but before a hearing was held on May 11 , he filed for bankruptcy protection, automatically freezing the Tampa case.

Wiand argues that Garbellano’s Oasis commissions were the result of false pretenses, misrepresentations, or actual fraud, and therefore cannot be released in bankruptcy.

Garbellano earned $41,112 last year, $41,005 in 2020 and $64,211 in 2019, according to a bankruptcy timeline. The petition does not show if any of the reported income was from Oasis. According to the Oasis case in Tampa, he was paid $37,573 in 2019, the program’s final year.

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