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Submitted by United States Attorney's Office Western District of New York
U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced Joseph Bella, 50, of Buffalo, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, being a drug user in possession of a firearm, and wire fraud, was sentenced to serve 42 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
Assistant U.S. attorneys David J. Rudroff and Nicholas T. Cooper, who handled the case, stated that, on April 23, 2020, investigators executed a search warrant at Bella’s residence and recovered drug paraphernalia and quantities of cocaine, MDMA, and marijuana. Investigators also recovered a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition. At that time, Bella was an unlawful user of controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine.
In addition, Bella defrauded a Salt Lake City, Utah, corporation (Victim) that developed and manufactured COVID-19 test kits, by falsely representing that his company, Medcor Staffing Inc., was laboratory-certified to perform high-complexity molecular testing; 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 for, and, in fact, intended to resell at a substantial mark-up.
In March 2020, Bella advertised 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 by telephone, text message and email, falsely telling the agent that he had 50,000 COVID-19 tests for sale; that the COVID-19 tests were being stored in a warehouse in San Diego at minus-20 degrees Celsius; that Medcor was an “exclusive licensed reseller” of the tests; and that Medcor employed doctors and scientists to answer customers' questions. Bella attempted to sell the tests to the agent for $30 per test, or more, after fraudulently obtaining the tests for only $8 apiece.
Bella also fraudulently obtained a loan from the Small Business Association under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which is designed to provide low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses to help them meet financial obligations and operating expenses in the event of a disaster. At Bella’s direction, a subordinate submitted a falsified application for a loan under the EIDL Program for another business Bella owns called BuyMyCard, a purchaser and reseller of gift cards. The application grossly inflated BuyMyCard’s annual revenue, grossly underreported BuyMyCard’s annual expenses, and falsely stated that Bella was not subject to formal criminal charges at the time of the application. As a result of the falsified application, the SBA approved and funded a $149,900 loan to BuyMyCard under the EIDL Program.
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Scarpino; Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, under the direction of Brian Manaher; U.S. Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent in Charge Jeffrey T. Wilson; the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Ketty Larco-Ward of the Boston Division; the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John B. DeVito, New York Field Division; and Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.