Former employee charged with running big-money scam on Ross pizza shop accounts

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A former manager of a Ross pizza shop accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his employer was arraigned Friday on felony theft charges, the Allegheny County district attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said Franco Asturi, 42, of Reserve used a credit card machine owned by Mamma Lucia Pizza to process the fraudulent refunds, then transferred more than $60,000 from the pizza shop bank account into his own personal accounts.

Mr. Asturi is in the Allegheny County Jail on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and access device fraud. He could not be reached for comment.

The business' bank records showed that about $126,000 in fraudulent refunds were processed starting in May 2010, most credited to the same credit card linked to an account in Mr. Asturi's name, a detective with the DA's office wrote in a criminal complaint.

The pizza shop owner, Paul Mancino, discovered something was wrong when he returned from a trip to Italy in July to learn his account had been frozen because of excessive refunds, that several of his utilities were in danger of being turned off and that his payroll account had been depleted, Detective Jackelyn Weibel wrote.

Mr. Mancino confronted Mr. Asturi, who apologized and said he was in "serious financial trouble" and had to file for bankruptcy, according to the complaint.

Reached by phone at the pizza shop Friday, Mr. Mancino declined to discuss the case but said Mr. Asturi had worked in various roles there for 20 years.

"He was like my best friend," Mr. Mancino said. "He was like my son. I loved him like my son."

The detective wrote in the complaint that she reviewed financial records for Mamma Lucia and those for Mr. Asturi's company, Ches-A-Rena. She found $16,000 worth of refunds from the Mamma Lucia account were deposited into the Ches-A-Rena account, and more than $46,000 was deposited into his personal bank account.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29.

First Published January 17, 2014 9:39 AM

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