Husband, wife face $18 million bond each for allegedly stealing money from his employer
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The grand total is staggering -- more than $9 million gone from a local company, and police are trying to find the former employee accused of ripping them off.
Perhaps just as shocking as the large amount of money missing is how prosecutors say much of it was spent on comic books and collectibles.
Anthony Chiofalo used to work at Tadano America, a company with offices in Houston and manufactures and sells hydraulic cranes worldwide, until he was fired for allegedly stealing millions. Now he's on the run and prosecutors want him caught.
Since January 2009, Chiofalo worked as the head of legal affairs at Tadano America. It was his job to contract with outside firms for legal services. But according to court documents, he allegedly set up a bogus law firm, "Maio and Cardenas.
Tadano America says he made a series of checks payable from TAC to that fictitious law firm for an amount of $9,329,546.81 in total, and that the money was deposited into an Amegy Bank account owned by Chiofalo.
Investigators say he was paid for work that never was done.
"It is a lot of money, and it's gone," Harris County prosecutor Wendy Baker said.
Investigators say Chiofalo transferred money from that bank account to an auction house in which he purchased nearly $2 million worth of paintings, sculptures, sports memorabilia, comic books, photographs and other artwork.
Just last Thursday, law enforcement served a search warrant at his Spring-area home. Inside, they discovered several financial documents with the name of the fictitious law firm, as well as forged invoices.
They also seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in collectibles, which investigators believe were purchased with the stolen funds.
"Comic books worth $400,000, $900,000. A couple of them worth $10,000, $30,000," Baker said.
Investigators also found a lot of sports memorabilia. One of the items, prosecutors say, was a robe worn by Muhammad Ali.
Chiofalo and his wife, 50-year-old Susan Chiofalo, were also renovating a nearby house together, working on it for months, while renting the Spring residence, according to investigators.
Now, Anthony and Susan Chiofalo have been charged with aggregate theft. Susan Chiofalo was arrested has been arrested but Anthony hasn't. She told authorities she hadn't seen her husband in a month.
On Monday, a police officer was on duty outside their home should he return. Prosecutors think he fled to New York or Connecticut, where he has family.
Meanwhile, Anthony Chiofalo's attorney, Paul Doyle, says she told him that Chiofalo plans to surrender himself soon.
"Well his bond is set at $18 million, which is gonna be impossible to post. so once he turns himself in, then we're gonna have to deal with the case in court," Doyle said.
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