A California CPA who allegedly defrauded a New Jersey religious facility out of more than $4 million faced his initial court appearance Monday.
Donald Gridiron, 50, was charged with one count of wire fraud after being arrested last week in California by FBI agents. He had been released on bail after appearing in court there.
According to prosecutors, an unidentified religious facility in New Jersey hired Gridiron partly on the basis of his connections with individuals in the religious community along with his standing there. The worship center agreed to pay Gridiron a monthly salary and reimburse him for reasonable expenses related to his work.
However, Gridiron allegedly used his job to embezzle money and had the worship center’s bank accounts transfer more than $2.75 million to accounts he controlled and more than $1.5 million to an account associated with a foundation in which Gridiron was involved. He then allegedly used funds from the accounts for his own use, including payments on a mortgage for his residence, payments to a luxury car dealership, and withdrawals in furtherance of his gambling. Gridiron could not be reached for comment.
The charge of wire fraud carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gross profits to Gridiron or twice the gross loss suffered to the victims of his offense.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of special agent in charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; law enforcement officers of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of acting special agent in charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to Gridiron’s arrest; as well as the FBI. The government is represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
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