Parkland man pleads guilty in $21 million gaming app investment scheme – InsuranceNewsNet


Five of six South Florida residents who were indicted on charges that they defrauded investors out of millions by claiming the money would develop a mobile gaming application have now pleaded guilty.

On Wednesday, Paul Geraci45, of Parkland, became the fifth accused in the investment scheme to plead guilty. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and now faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years.

The scheme centered around a company called Social Voucher, formed in 2013 by co-defendants Gerald Parker73, of Juno Beachand Michael Assenza44, of Boca Raton, to develop a gaming and online shopping app, court records say. Social Voucher was supposed to earn money from users who bought products while using the app, court records say.

Parker, as the CEO of Social Voucher, hired Geraci in 2013 as a salesperson to solicit investments. Geraci owned and operated Pinnacle Atlantic, a call center used to fraudulently sell stock in Social Voucher, court records say.

Parker also hired co-defendants Ted Romeo; Cindy Vandivier64, of West Palm Beachand her husband Paul Vandivier, 61, to solicit investments through telemarketing, records say. They claimed to investors that the app would be worth more $1 billion and was in its final part of testing, court records say.

From June 2013 to November 2018Geraci and his co-defendants raised about $21 million from investors, but the gaming app never made any revenue or profit, court records say.

Of the investor money Geraci raised through his call center, Parker paid him a 50 percent kickback, court records say. Geraci then paid Romeo portions of the kickbacks and commissions from Parker.

Geraci admitted to paying Romeo in cash to sell Social Voucher stock, despite knowing Romeo had a civil judgment against him that alleged he fraudulently solicited investors before, according to prosecutors.

Romeo, Parker, Assenza and the Vandiviers all had fraud actions against them before and had been ordered to pay victims of their past schemes, court records say.

The Social Voucher stock was not registered with federal or state regulators, a fact Geraci also admitted to knowing. Cease-and-desist orders in four states, including Floridabarred the sale of Social Voucher stock, but despite the orders, the defendants continued to sell to investors, court records say.

Prosecutors said Geraci was recorded pitching Social Voucher stock to an undercover FBI agent who pretended to be a potential investor. In the recording, Geraci said the investment would be “all for programming and software and so and so.”

The FBI agent gave $50,000 in undercover money, prosecutors said, and half went to Geraci. He was also recorded paying cash kickbacks at a Starbucks in Boca Raton to a man he knew had a federal fraud indictment Detroit.

The FBI searched Social Vouchers South Florida office in June of 2018 and investors sued the company, prosecutors said.

Assenza pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 52 months in prison last week. Romeo, who worked for Geraci, will be sentenced later this month, prosecutors said.

Paul and Cindy Vandivier will be sentenced on October 7. Parker’s trial is set for September 27.

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