A former New England Sports Network executive was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday on charges stemming from an alleged scheme he organized to fraudulently obtain more than half a million dollars from the network.
Ariel Legassa, 49, of Burlington, Connecticut, was charged Friday with seven counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal money transactions.
The Connecticut man, who was arrested and charged on Feb. 2, served as the network’s vice president of digital media from September 2019 to January 2022.
Last month, Legassa was charged with scheming NESN for more than half a million dollars in a lawsuit filed by the network in federal court in Boston.
Legassa is accused of setting up a bogus contracting firm which he authorized to receive fraudulent payments totaling $575,000 from NESN, according to a court affidavit.
The fictitious company, Alley CT, was set up to look like a legitimate contractor the company had a contract with, Alley NY, a digital services company that provides website design and development, officials said.
From December 2020 to approximately January 2022, Legassa created and approved several bogus Alley CT invoices, while also approving legitimate Alley NY invoices, according to the affidavit.
Funds approved for Alley CT were then deposited into a bank account in Alley CT’s name, which also appeared to be under its control, according to court documents.
According to the NESN lawsuit filed January 7, between March 3, 2021 and January 3, 2022, Legassa approved bills from Alley CT totaling $672,500, of which the network paid $575,000.
On April 8, 2021, Legassa emailed an employee asking him to create two separate accounts for “Alley” in NESN’s internal accounting program — one for Alley CT and one for Alley NY, according to court documents.
Legassa told the employee that Alley NY had “two entities working together but incorporated separately,” according to the affidavit. “They plan to merge the two entities at the end of the year, and they asked me to create a separate account and send me [sic] payment separately until then.
NESN’s complaint shows that the network learned that Alley CT was owned and controlled by Legassa on January 4, 2022.
“In a January 6, 222 phone call with Mary Breitter, vice president of finance, NESN comptroller and NESN attorney, Legassa admitted that statements he made to NESN’s accounts payable department in his e 8 April 2021 email were not true,” reads the complaint. “In particular, Legassa admitted that Alley CT was created by him, had no connection to Alley NY, and Alley NY not only intended to merge with Alley CT, Alley NY had no idea of the existence of Alley CT.”
Officials said Legassa used the money to transfer more than $170,000 to various bank accounts in his name, pay off a $49,777 car loan from Wells Fargo Bank and make numerous credit card payments.
Legassa is due to appear in a preliminary hearing on February 24.
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