TAMPA -- A 65-year-old man surrendered Wednesday after he was indicted on charges of attempting to run a pyramid investment scheme, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa.
Gaeton Della Penna falsely promised investors an annual 5 percent return on investments and a refund of the original investment after 18 months. He received over $3.8 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission release.
He used less than half of investment money for trading, losing some of it, and used the rest to repay previous investors and for his personal expenses, including the mortgage on his 10,000-square-foot waterfront home and giving money to his girlfriend, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.
Della Penna told investors to write checks and wire money to him through Gaeton Capital Advisors and directed that false statements and quarterly interest checks be sent through the mail, prosecutors said. He met many of the investors through his church, according to the SEC.
Della Penna faces eight counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of mail fraud. If convicted of all the charges, he could be sentenced to up to 180 years in prison.
The government is seeking a forfeiture money judgement of at least $3 million.
Della Penna will appear in court for the first time at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Tampa.