Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00
Last Thursday, Jan. 13, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that a Suffolk man has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $100,000 given to him $50 at a time by thousands of victims who thought they were buying a raffle ticket to win the man’s million-dollar waterfront home in Massapequa. Rice said the man used the raffle money to pay for luxury vacations and payments on his Mercedes Benz.
Scott Cicerone of North Babylon was arrested on Jan. 13 by DA Investigators and charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and 21 misdemeanor counts of Petit Larceny. He faces up to four years in prison and was scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 13 in First District Court, Hempstead.
Rice said that in 2004, Cicerone and a business partner purchased a home on Lincoln Place in Massapequa for $566,500 and that they decided to make extensive renovations and ultimately refinanced the house, taking out a loan of $1 million with the intent of reselling the property after completing the renovations. They put the house up for sale with an asking price of $1.6 million but were unable to find a purchaser for the home and defaulted on the loan. The lender began foreclosure proceedings in June 2008.
Rice said the property remained the subject of foreclosure proceedings throughout 2009 when Cicerone and his partner decided to auction off the home and a Mercedes Benz in August 2009, offering 30,000 tickets at $50 apiece. Ticket buyers received a portrait of the house and a raffle ticket for the house and car. The raffle immediately received media attention and both homeowners conducted multiple TV and radio interviews during which they promoted the house raffle. The drawing was scheduled for December 15, 2009.
According to Rice, Cicerone advertised that the winner would receive the property lien free, never mentioning the $1 million lien on the house from the previously defaulted loan. He did qualify the raffle, however, claiming if they did not sell 30,000 tickets, the ticket buyers’ money would be 95 percent refunded, Rice added.
The response was initially heavy, with approximately 2,000 tickets purchased. As the raffle date approached, Rice said, ticket buyers were told that there had been 16,400 tickets sold and that the raffle date had been pushed to March 20, 2010. The new raffle date came and went, however, and Cicerone stopped returning emails to questioning ticket buyers, eventually canceling the raffle entirely in April 2010 after claiming he only sold 16,000 tickets. Cicerone promised to refund the ticket buyers’ money the DA stated.
Beginning in April 2010, the DA’s Office began to receive complaints from ticket buyers and between April 2010 and present, the office has recorded more than 105 complaints regarding the raffle house. Rice said an investigation revealed that Cicerone had taken in more than $100,000,000 in cash, checks, and online payments (PayPal) through the raffle and deposited it into a private bank account. Cicerone used the cash to pay for airline tickets and hotel stays in Las Vegas, Miami, Atlantic City, CA, and Oregon, as well as car rentals and payments on the Mercedes Benz, the DA stated.
None of the cash was used to make mortgage payments on the Lincoln Place property, and only a very small number of ticket buyers received refunds and on April 26, 2010, the balance in the account was less than $3,000, Rice said..
“These victims thought they were buying a raffle ticket for the American Dream, but only ended up funding this defendant’s jet-setting lifestyle,” Rice said. “That Mr. Cicerone actually went on television to solicit victims for his scam makes this case all the more distasteful.”
Government & Consumer Frauds Bureau Chief Robert Emmons is prosecuting the case for the DA’s Office. Cicerone is represented by Scott Limmer.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.