Two former Oro Valley restaurateurs, accused of masterminding a $23 million scam, have pleaded guilty in federal court.
Mario Easevoli, 33, entered a guilty plea to charges of mail fraud and money laundering in a North Carolina federal court. His sentencing is scheduled for July. Easevoli could face up to 20 years in prison.
Jennifer Easevoli, 29, Mario's wife, also pleaded guilty in the case, and her sentencing is also scheduled for July as well.
"We look forward to sentencing and await the court's decision on how to respond to this fraud," said U.S. Attorney George E. B. Holding from the Eastern District of North Carolina in a news release.
The Easevolis ran the Oro Valley eatery Angelina's in Rancho Vistoso. It is now closed.
Federal authorities accused the pair of operating a sophisticated mail-fraud scam from 2003 to 2005, whereby they unlawfully obtained computer network equipment from California-based Cisco Systems, Inc., and then resold the items.
Documents from the North Carolina Secretary of State's office show the Easevolis set up a company called Synergy Communications Corporation in 2002. The company's certification to conduct business in the state was revoked in April 2008.
The couple stood accused of using Synergy as a front to sell Cisco products to lawful customers. Federal investigators said the Easevolis obtained the parts by exploiting a rapid product-replacement service Cisco operates for its customers.
Because communications networks are often vital to a company's operation, the replacement parts were sent out before defective parts were returned or payments made. The Easevolis were able to obtain legitimate serial numbers for the parts that needed replacing.
A federal indictment issued in September 2009 said parts of lesser value than the replacement parts often were returned. In other instances, nothing was returned.
Court papers did not elaborate on how the Easevolis were able to provide Cisco representatives with legitimate product and serial numbers to acquire the replacement parts.
The federal indictment said the Easevolis managed to continue the fraud by creating more than 50 fictitious company names and 35 invented individual names, which they used to request Cisco products. They then had the parts sent to private mailboxes rented at UPS Stores and residential and commercial addresses in seven states.
Also accused in the multi-million-dollar scam was Synergy employee Jason Allan Conway. He too has agreed to a guilty plea.
Records from the North Carolina Department of Corrections show that Mario served prison time from 1998 to 1999 for credit card fraud and forgery.
After their arrests in September, Mario was extradited from Tucson to North Carolina, where he remained in custody. Jennifer was allowed to remain in Tucson under conditions.
In January, Oro Valley police arrested Jennifer for drunk driving. Because she violated the terms of her release, she was transported to jail in North Carolina.