A Suffolk County Grand Jury has brought new charges against a West Roxbury husband and wife team accused of funding their own lavish lifestyle with money invested into their company.
Steven and Lori Palladino are charged with one count of larceny over $250 for allegedly taking money from additional, previously-uncharged victims and one count of uttering for allegedly forging an investor’s name on a check that allowed them to move victims' money into a personal bank account, according to a statement from Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley’s office Thursday.
The new indictments also charge both Steven and Lori Palladino, and their company Viking Financial Group, with two counts of tampering with evidence for allegedly doing away with a computer in their Centre Street offices and for allegedly removing a device storing video images from their home surveillance system, according to the statement.
The couple were originally indicted March 13 on charges of four counts of larceny over $250, three counts of making false entries in corporate books, one count of uttering, and three counts of usury, commonly referred to as loan sharking.
The larceny and uttering charges reflect evidence developed in the ongoing investigation by Boston Police detectives and Suffolk fraud prosecutors. The evidence tampering charges reflect the findings of multiple search warrants executed after extensive interviews with individuals who had invested their money with the Palladinos, according to the statement.
Lori Palladino, 52, and Viking will be arraigned in Superior Court April 3. Steven Palladino, 55, will be arraigned on the new charges May 15.
According to prosecutors, the Palladinos operated a Ponzi scheme through their company, Viking Financial Group, Inc., which Lori Palladino and the couple’s 28-year-old son incorporated in 2007. The three family members are the company’s sole employees. This company is based in West Roxbury above iScream Works, which the Palladinos also own.
West Roxbury Patch previously covered two issues involving Steven Palladino. In 2010, Patch visited his office with At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo. Palladino complained to Arroyo about a controversial immigration law in Arizona brought, and frustrations about Centre Street parking. In November of 2010, Steven Palladino and his son Greg appeared at the West Roxbury Neighborhood Council wanting to erect a building at 38 Spring St.
Viking allegedly borrowed money from investors, who were told by Steven Palladino the funds would be used to provide loans at a higher interest rate. But according to prosecutors, very little of the money was used to make loans, and it instead funded a lavish lifestyle for the Palladinos. Money borrowed from new investors was then used to repay earlier investors and to make monthly interest payments to all of the investors, thus the Ponzi scheme.
Transactions allegedly show investors’ money was often transferred from Viking’s account into personal accounts held by the Paladinos and used to cover personal expenses including a vacation in the Bahamas, rent for Steven Palladino’s mistress, and hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to casinos to cover apparent gambling losses, prosecutors said.
Also, Steven Palladino allegedly used investors’ funds when he paid $350,000 to satisfy a condition of his probation on a 2007 Superior Court conviction for defrauding an elderly relative.
Prosecutors said fake loans were entered in Viking’s corporate books to make them appear balanced. Some of the named borrowers for some of the fake loans did, in fact, receive real loans as well, and were on the books for real loans and fake loans. So a person might have been on the Viking books for a $10,000 loan he actually received and for a $100,000 loan he never received, according to a press release.
The indictment also alleges three of the real loans Viking extended in 2007 and 2008 charged interest rates well beyond the 20 percent maximum allowed by state law. Of those loans, prosecutors said two charged interest exceeding 60 percent and a third charged more than 200 percent interest.