A Fort Lauderdale parks and recreation employee has been caught committing a $119,000 fraud with a city-issued expense card.
Coral Springs resident Phillip Peterson, 42, will find out March 1 how long he will be a federal prison resident after pleading guilty to six counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. That same day, Fort Lauderdale’s Gino Ferraro, 49, will find out his punishment for being the other half of that conspiracy.
Court documents with Peterson’s plea detail the misuse of the purchase card given to him as an employee of the Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department. What they don’t say is if Peterson knew the department received over $10,000 per year from the federal government.
Peterson’s scam worked in two parts. In 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, Peterson used his purchase card to buy a total of $95,609 in goods that he pawned. He pocketed the pawn money.
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Part II ran from December 2015 through July 2017. Peterson used his card to pay Ferraro’s Pro-Motion Sports Marketing/Surfside Volleyball, $24,337 in 25 payments between $940 and $1,000 from December 2015 to July 2017.
While the payments were purportedly for sand and volleyball court maintenance, Ferraro admitted for the payments under $1,000, he didn’t always do the work. His main work was boomeranging money back to Peterson.
Every time Peterson put a charge to Pro Motion Sports Marketing on his city of Fort Lauderdale card, Ferraro wrote a check to Peterson for about half the amount. Auditors found 25 checks to Peterson from Pro Motion Sports Marketing/Surfside Volleyball signed by Ferraro, usually dated the same day as Peterson’s charges to Pro Motion.