Mitchell Berman of Boca Raton, Robert Gallo and Coconut Creek, and Steven Axelrod of Wellington were all arrested Friday after they were accused of misrepresenting business opportunities to customers for over a decade, news sources report. Berman, 54, Gallo, 52, and Axelrod, 69, were all booked into jail on charges of mail fraud conspiracy, federal mail fraud, and criminal contempt of court. Berman faces an additional charge of criminal contempt of court. It is unclear whether the defendants qualified for bail bond. The press did not specify a lawyer for any of them.
According to reports, from 2000 to October 2011, Berman and Gallo ran a string of coffee companies one after the other out of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties: Royal Gourmet Coffee, Selective Services Business, Cambridge Coffee, South Beach Coffee, and Best Gourmet Coffee. The three defendants reportedly worked as salespersons, offering potential customers the opportunity to buy coffee display racks.
Reports say customers were asked to put forward a minimum of $10,000 for the business opportunities. The defendants allegedly told customers they could possibly make “substantial profits” and were offered assistance in selecting the best locations to make the most out of their investment. However, “Purchasers made little to no money on their investments, were unable to find profitable locations or accounts, and were not provided the support promised by defendants,” reports say.
When customers invariably began to complain, the defendants allegedly closed down one coffee rack business and immediately opened another under a new name. The defendants allegedly tried to hide their involvement in the companies by using pseudonyms. Berman sometimes went by the alias Brian Griffin; Gallo used several aliases, including Vincent Pastone and Bobby Marion; Axelrod sometimes used the alias Michael Hutton, reports say.
While elaborate fraud schemes are one way to swindle money from victims, some people take a more direct approach. Doeminique Sylvester, Jason Tortora and Christopher Miser, all of Brookridge, were arrested this past week after they were accused of scheming to rob Sylvester’s father, Rene Jimenez, at gunpoint, reports say. Sylvester, 28, her boyfriend Miser, 26, and their friend Tortora 37, were booked into police custody on charges of conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Tortora faces an additional charge of armed robbery, while Miser faces additional charges of armed robbery and aggravated battery. Sylvester’s bond was set at $50,000; Tortora’s at $100,000; and Miser’s at $110,000. It is unclear whether they hired legal aid.
According to reports, the defendants decided to rob Sylvester’s father, Jimenez, in order to get money to buy drugs. The group planned the robbery on Saturday night, going over details of Jimenez’s Sunday morning routine. Sunday morning, Miser and Tortora drove to Jimenez’s home and waited outside, sources say. When Jimenez walked out of his home to go to church, Miser, whose face was hidden by a black bandanna, allegedly approached him from behind. Miser allegedly hit Jimenez several times with a BB gun, but Jimenez was able to pull the bandana off Miser’s face and identify him. All three defendants were later arrested.