Despite Former Owner’s Tax Crime Guilty Plea, Wilton’s Pinocchio Pizza is Doing Just Fine
Yesterday, the U.S. Attorney’s office for CT announced they had secured a guilty plea from the “owner” of Pinocchio Pizza–but neglected to say he was the former owner. No worries, Pinocchio Pizza’s current owners say they’re doing just fine, and here to stay.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for CT sent GOOD Morning Wilton a press release (see below) late Thursday afternoon stating that the “owner of CT and NY pizza restaurants” – including Wilton’s Pinocchio Pizza – had pled guilty to federal tax crimes. What they neglected to include was the fact that Bruno DiFabio, the man they had charged, was actually the former owner of Pinocchio’s, and that he no longer owned the restaurants they listed him as owning.
The restaurant’s current owners are Armen Berisha and Faruk “Frank” Sadrija, two long-time employees who purchased the Wilton and New Canaan locations of Pinocchio Pizza from DiFabio in 2015, shortly after he is said to have run into problems with the IRS.
“We know all about his problems. After we bought it from him, the IRS came in and checked it all out, so we’re good. We’re not going anywhere,” Berisha told GMW on Thursday evening.
DiFabio no longer has anything to do with Pinocchio Pizza, nor does his former partner Steven Cioffi, who was arrested last month for filing a false tax return. Berisha and Sadrija are on-site owner-operators of the business who are frequently behind the counter making pizza–and say they plan on doing so for a long time to come. It’s mouthwatering news that will surely put Wilton pizza fans at ease.
According to the press release, DiFabio, 49, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to a federal tax offense Thursday before U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden in Bridgeport.
John H. Durham, US Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kristina O’Connell, the special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in New England, announced the news Thursday afternoon, Oct. 25.
According to court documents and statements made in court, DeFabio has had various ownership interests in several pizza restaurants in CT and NY, including Pinocchio Pizza LLC, doing business as Pinocchio Pizza in New Canaan; Top Oven Restaurant Corp., doing business as Pinocchio Pizza in Wilton; DiFabio Brothers Pizza Corp., doing business as Amore Pizza in Scarsdale, NY; Odell Pizza, Inc., doing business as Amore Cecina and Bar in Stamford; Nepperhan Restaurants Group, Inc., doing business as ReNapoli Pizza, in Old Greenwich; and Homefield Restaurant Corp., doing business as Pinocchio Pizza in Pound Ridge, NY.
The release states that, “DiFabio and others in the businesses engaged in a practice whereby cash was removed from the cash register and not deposited into the restaurant’s operating bank account. The businesses’ outside bookkeeper and accountant used the bank records to determine business gross receipts. When cash was removed from the register and not deposited into the business bank account, the cash would not be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. DiFabio also knew that certain employees had their wages paid in cash, and that a certain number of the employees were paid either a portion or the entirety of their wages ‘off the books.’ By paying various expenses in cash and ‘off the books,’ DiFabio, his business partner and others facilitated the manipulation of net income reported to the IRS and the underpayment of withholding taxes to the IRS.”
As a result of the scheme, the loss to the IRS in income taxes and employment taxes for the 2013 through 2015 tax years was $816,954.
DiFabio pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to file false income tax returns and payroll tax returns. When he is sentenced, he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, a fine of up to approximately $1.6 million, and full restitution to the IRS.
DiFabio was released on a $100,000 bond pending sentencing, which is not yet scheduled.
On Sept. 24, 2018, DiFabio’s business partner in some of his restaurants, Steven Cioffi, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return. He awaits sentencing.
This investigation is being conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser.