This fishy scheme has landed a seafood scammer a 10-year term upriver.
A one-time aspiring chef-turned fraudster has been sentenced to a decade behind bars for using stolen bank information from Rhode Island restaurants to buy $830,000 worth of lobster, shrimp and steaks which he then resold, sometimes to the businesses he had just ripped off, federal prosecutors said.
Paul Diogenes, 50, had spent most of his life around restaurants and once worked as a cook, but 20 years ago began a spate of frauds involving phony checks and selling stolen goods, federal prosecutors said.
His scams became so outrageous that he was once featured in Boston Magazine for finagling his way into the general manager job of a posh Boston eatery where he was later charged with fraud.
In late 2020, prosecutors say Dioegenes turned to identity theft for his most ambitious scam yet, setting up a phony catering business using a former co-worker’s stolen identity.
“This was a sophisticated fraudulent scheme that could only have been effectuated by an intelligent and cunning defendant who has a long and troubling history of committing fraud,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
A message left with Dioegenes’ attorney wasn’t immediately returned.
Prosecutors say Diogenes not only set up the phony business, LePage Catering, he wormed his way into a partnership with an East Providence fish wholesaler. It was through this relationship that Diogenes was able to steal the bank details of multiple area restaurants from the checks they used to buy food.
Over a nine-month period, prosecutors say Diogenes, who was going by the name Paul Dejullio, made orders for lobster, shrimp, scallops, sea bass, wild boar and rib eye steaks, using the restaurants’ account info.
In all, prosecutors say Dioegenes stole $830,000 worth of food, which he then resold through the food wholesaler he was involved with, sometimes right back to the restaurants whose accounts he had used.
When the FBI caught wind and tried to arrest him, prosecutors say Dioegenes used his car to ram several investigators’ vehicles and a delivery van in the parking lot of the food wholesaler where he was working, and managed to escape.
U.S. Marshals caught up with Diogenes at a Massachusetts motel nine days later, with over $150,000 in cash on him.
He pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and assaulting a federal officer.
In court filings, Diogenes’ lawyer said his client had long struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental health issues.
In arguing for a long sentence, prosecutors said Diogenes had a long history of fraud, writing phony checks and of resisting arrest. They said he is a “compulsive liar” who “has always struggled to tell the truth.”