Every month, George Nemeth gets a check in the mail from the Florida Department of Corrections. Sometimes it's for $8, sometimes $9.12. Once, the amount spiked to $10.18.
At this rate, it will be 167 years before Nemeth recovers the $20,000 he lost in Michael Dippolito's investment scam. "He got the money and run," says Nemeth, who lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.
About eight years ago, Nemeth got a call from a man in South Florida who was selling foreign currency options. The business opportunity sounded tempting and
"glamorous," Nemeth says. By investing in the Japanese yen, the euro,
or the British pound, Nemeth could make loads of dough, quickly. If he invested $20,000, he could earn a profit of $7,000 or $8,000 in a few months, Nemeth remembers the salesman told him.
Already, Nemeth could picture the boat he would buy with the profits. "I almost sent more [money]," he says.
But soon, Nemeth realized he had been scammed. His phone calls to Dippolito's company, M.A.D. Financial, were never returned. And of course, the profits never materialized.
Nemeth called the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission* and discovered that officials there were already aware of Dippolito's activities. In 2002, the commission filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Dippolito was running a scam, pocketing more than $125,000 that customers had sent to him and spending it on hotels, cars, and phone sex.
Dippolito eventually pleaded guilty to organized fraud and unlicensed telemarketing. He served two years in jail and in a Florida state prison and is on probation until 2032. He's required to make monthly restitution payments to a dozen victims of the scam, for a total of $155,000. In the federal civil case, he was ordered to pay $229,000 in penalties.
Recently, Dippolito has been making national headlines because his wife, Dalia, was arrested for allegedly trying to have him killed. Dippolito told Boynton Beach police that Dalia also stole $191,000 that he intended to use to pay restitution to his victims.
It's unclear how Dippolito's current plight will affect the tiny payments that Nemeth and other fraud victims receive from Florida every month. But Nemeth isn't particularly sympathetic.
"What comes around goes around," Nemeth says.
* For more information on foreign currency trading scams and how to spot them, check out this tip sheet from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.