Interesting story on donor scam

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Interesting story on donor scam

Postby Demosthenes » Thu Mar 22, 2007 6:34 pm

Pizarro: Mystery donor who promised millions disappears
By Sal Pizarro
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:03/20/2007 01:37:50 AM PDT

It was too good to be true.

There was heavy buzz a couple of weeks ago about a series of major donations headed to San Jose arts groups from an anonymous donor.

The money was big - $5.8 million - and the list of beneficiaries was long, ranging from Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley to San Jose State University's marching band.

But the donations didn't materialize, and the donor - who said his name was Emilio Maschino - apparently skipped town just ahead of the cops. He left behind thousands of dollars in hotel bills and the dashed hopes of San Jose's cash-strapped arts community.

The tale, which investigators are still working to unravel, begins with Ed Mosher, who has run a men's clothing shop in downtown San Jose since 1955. Claiming to have come into a large inheritance, Maschino asked Mosher earlier this year to draw up a list of groups among which he could spread $5.8 million.

San Jose police detectives on the case couldn't be reached Monday, but Mosher gave them a four-page summary of his dealings with Maschino, which he also provided to the Mercury News. It tells of a charming man who wined and dined on other people's dime while stringing them along with planned real estate deals and philanthropy.

He gave Mosher a detailed history of his life, though Mosher doesn't know if any of it was true - or even what the man's real name is.

Maschino walked into Mosher's store at the Fairmont hotel in late January. A fresh-faced affable type, he was living at the Fairmont while shopping for a house in Monte Sereno, Maschino said. He said his real estate agent had referred him to Mosher as someone good with clothes and tight with San Jose's arts community.

He claimed to have gone to Harvard University when he was 13 and to have practiced heart surgery in Atlanta. Stanford Medical Center had been courting him, he told Mosher, and during his trips he fell in love with the South Bay.

Maschino also said that on his 39th birthday last fall, his late father's attorney had told him he had inherited Google and Yahoo stock that had been held in trust for him. The stock, the man told Mosher, was worth almost $99 million.

And he wanted to spend it in San Jose. He planned to buy a couple of downtown buildings and open a jazz club and restaurant. His East Coast advisers had told him it would be a tax advantage if he donated about $7 million to charities by March 30. Mosher said the man wanted to anonymously give the money to downtown non-profits, figuring it would help with his future projects.

Mosher proposed a list of eight groups downtown and six others connected to San Jose State University, Mosher's alma mater.

"I'm not really naive," Mosher said. "What really got it going for me was that he told me he had lived in the Fairmont. And I saw the bills had been paid."

Who paid the bills

What Mosher didn't know until later was that the bills - about $3,000 - had been paid by the real estate agent, Michael LoMonaco. LoMonaco picked up the tab after Maschino told him his wallet had been stolen and his credit cards canceled.

Maschino fed Mosher the same line Feb. 2, saying he was unhappy at the Fairmont and was moving out. He said the Monte Sereno house was still under construction, so he'd spend the weekend at the nearby Hotel Montgomery.

Maschino told Mosher about the stolen wallet and asked if he could vouch for him with the Montgomery. Mosher checked him in with his own credit card. Two weeks later, Mosher returned from a buying trip to discover the hotel had charged $7,938 to his card.

Maschino apologized, saying his new credit card had been mailed to Atlanta, and he promised to pay Mosher back.

In the meantime, Mosher took Maschino to a performance by Opera San Jose - which, incidentally, is getting a real $2 million gift from another anonymous donor - and to other events where he mingled with Silicon Valley movers and shakers. He dined at the new Morton's steakhouse, ordering filet mignon and lobster. Of course, he told Mosher, he would pay him back once he got his credit cards.

Suspicions arise

In late February, Mosher got a call from Kevin Swanson, a fraternity brother who worked for an investment company and had heard about a gift Delta Upsilon was set to receive for its new chapter house at San Jose State. When Mosher revealed who was giving the money, Swanson said someone by that name had come to him looking for investment help.

The Social Security number the man put on a customer form was for someone named Lawrence Maschino. A search found only two men with that name - and both were dead.

Then Mosher got a call from LoMonaco, who said he had paid the bill at the Fairmont.

LoMonaco says Maschino had been referred to him by a friend. "He seemed credible." Still, the broker got suspicious after Maschino told him he had given $1 million to a San Jose non-profit group; the group told LoMonaco they'd never heard of the guy.

Something else had raised LoMonaco's suspicions. "I know a lot about a man from the shoes he wears and the watch he wears," he said. Maschino, he recalled, "had a cheap watch and a pair of black, rubber-soled boots.'

Calling the cops

Still, Mosher held out hope that the donations would come through.

On March 1, his attorney told him Maschino had brought him a receipt showing he had made an $11,000 payment by check on Mosher's credit card. Twelve days later, Mosher's credit card company told him the check had bounced.

Mosher went to the police.

He told the cops Maschino had set up a meeting last Thursday with a hotel desk clerk who had been working for him as a driver and personal assistant. Police staked out the meeting place, but Maschino didn't show. Mosher said police believe he took a Delta Airlines flight to Savannah, Ga., and are trying to track him from there.

Since then, the Hotel Montgomery has reversed the charges to Mosher and filed a complaint with the police.

"While this is a hit to the bottom line, it's nothing compared to the disappointment for the arts community," said Greg Mauldin, general manager of the hotel, which is a regular sponsor of the arts.

Mosher, meanwhile, has been calling the groups that had been awaiting donations and giving them the bad news.

"Needless to say, we are disappointed," American Musical Theatre chief executive Michael Miller said in an e-mail. "We are sorry that Ed had to go through this when his intentions were so honorable."

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Postby Demosthenes » Fri Mar 23, 2007 12:41 pm

Father: Son's theft charges familiar
By Dan Reed
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:03/22/2007 01:47:29 AM PDT

The father of the man who posed as a rich, generous patron of the arts and, in the meantime, allegedly bilked thousands of dollars from two businessmen and an Iraq war veteran in Silicon Valley had this to say about his son:

Sounds just like him.

"That's the Larry I'm familiar with. That's his gig," said Lawrence Maschino, father of Larry Emilio Maschino, who caused a happy stir in the Silicon Valley arts community when he promised much-needed donations totaling $5.8 million. "He'd probably be a good salesman - if he was honest."

The donations never materialized. And then Maschino vanished, after allegedly leaving the Purple Heart-decorated vet in debt to the tune of $14,000 and running up $11,000 in lodging and other debts on the credit cards of two businessmen.

San Jose police, who said earlier this week Maschino's arrest was imminent, continue to search for him on suspicion of grand theft - a crime of which he's been convicted in Santa Clara County twice before. Those were two of four convictions in this state, most on fraud charges from the late 1990s.

He was last paroled in November.

And Maschino, according to interviews and public records, also has convictions in South Carolina and Florida.

In San Jose, the businessmen had kindly vouched for Maschino with their credit cards, after the supposedly wealthy man told them his wallet had been stolen and his cards therefore canceled.

But why worry? It was only thousands of dollars. And Maschino, after all, had been earnestly scouting locations for high-end downtown San Jose development deals that he planned to finance with the nearly $99 million his "late" father supposedly left him in trust until his recent, 39th birthday.

This all came as a great surprise to his father, who is very much alive and living in Florida.

"If I had ninety-nine dollars," his father said Wednesday, "I wouldn't be apt to give it to him."

The younger Maschino - one of four children - was always "trying to be a CEO of a company and playing the big shot," his father said. "And writing bad checks or causing some grief that way."

In Florida, his father said, he posed as the owner of a McDonald's, wrote a bad check for a brand-new Jaguar and drove it off the lot. Then he took it to Miami, where he planned to enroll in pilot school. Maschino the younger had told some in Silicon Valley that he was a pilot and would be buying two planes.

The elder Maschino has had little contact with his son over the years. But around Christmas Maschino called and said he was living in San Francisco and then he asked his father to clear up some DMV problems in Florida so he could get a California license and work as a chauffeur.

His father did it, but he has otherwise not tended the father-son bond: "He's been getting into trouble all his adult life, and I've never been able to trust a word that comes out of his mouth."

He concluded: "It's not anything less than I would expect from him," he said of the Silicon Valley allegations. "So you didn't surprise me."

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