CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, NY – U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Joseph Bella, 49, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, being an addict in possession of a firearm and wire fraud case before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys David J. Rudroff and Nicholas T. Cooper, who are handling the case, said on April 23, 2020, investigators executed a search warrant at Bella’s residence and recovered paraphernalia from drug use and amounts of cocaine, MDMA and marijuana. Investigators also recovered a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition. At that time, Bella was an illegal user of controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine.
Additionally, Bella defrauded a Salt Lake City, Utah, company (victim) that developed and manufactured COVID-19 test kits, by falsely stating that his company, Medcor Staffing, Inc., was laboratory certified for perform high complexity molecular tests, that Medcor was an “end user” of the tests and that Medcor would not attempt to resell them. As a result, the victim sold Bella 5,000 COVID-19 tests that he could not safely and accurately process, could not provide end-user support and, in fact, intended resell at a substantial markup.
In March 2020, Bella announced on his personal Facebook account that he was selling “FDA-approved COVID-19 test kits”. In April 2020, Bella communicated with an undercover federal agent via phone, text, and email, falsely telling the agent he had 50,000 COVID-19 tests to sell; that COVID-19 tests were stored in a warehouse in San Diego, California at -20 degrees Celsius; that Medcor was an “exclusive licensed reseller” of the tests; and that Medcor employed doctors and scientists to answer customer questions. Bella attempted to sell the tests to the agent for $30 per test, or more, after fraudulently obtaining the tests for only $8 each.
Bella also fraudulently obtained a loan from the Small Business Association under the Economic Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), which is designed to provide low-interest loans to eligible small businesses to help them meet their financial obligations and operating expenses in the event of a disaster. . At Bella’s direction, a subordinate submitted a falsified loan application under the EIDL program for another Bella-owned business called BuyMyCard, a gift card buyer and reseller. The request grossly inflated BuyMyCard’s annual revenue, grossly understated BuyMyCard’s annual expenses, and falsely stated that Bella had no formal criminal charges at the time of the request. As a result of the falsified application, the SBA approved and funded a $149,900 loan to BuyMyCard under the EIDL program.
The plea is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew Scarpino; Customs and Border Protection, led by Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy; US Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, led by Brian Manaher; US Border Patrol, under Patrol Officer in Charge Jeffrey T. Wilson; the United States Postal Inspection Service, under Chief Inspector Ketty Larco-Ward of the Boston Division; the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under Special Agent in Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; and the Buffalo Police Department, under Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 7, 2022, before Judge Arcara.
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