A suspended New York lawyer who worked in-house at a Houston company has been charged with “theft – aggregate” after he allegedly set up a fake law firm and caused his company to pay it more than $9.3 million for legal work from May 2011 to May 2012.
A warrant is out for the arrest of Anthony Chiofalo of Spring. His wife, Susan Chiofalo, also was charged with “theft – aggregate.” She was arrested on June 8 and is out on a $100,000 bond, according to online Harris County records.
Paul Doyle, a Houston criminal-defense attorney who represents Anthony Chiofalo, says, “It’s a little early to determine if there’s a viable case.” As of presstime, Doyle did not know when Chiofalo would turn himself in.
Allen Tanner of Houston, who represents Susan Chiofalo, says, “She’s not guilty of anything. That’s all I can really say.”
The probable cause complaints the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed on June 7 against Anthony and Susan Chiofalo allege the New York State Bar suspended Anthony Chiofalo from the practice of law for two years beginning in October 2010.
As alleged, Philip Hilder, a lawyer for Anthony Chiofalo’s former employer, Tadano America Corp. (TAC), provided documents to the DA’s office.
Hilder says no one at TAC knew until his internal investigation that Anthony Chiofalo’s license was suspended. Hilder says TAC asked him to investigate after an “uncharacteristic spike in litigation” and the company became suspicious.
According to complaints filed against the Chiofalos, Anthony Chiofalo started work at TAC on Jan. 20, 2009, as head of legal affairs and human resources, and in that role he was responsible for managing TAC’s litigation.
In April 2011, the complaints allege, Anthony Chiofalo created a “fictitious law firm” called Maio & Cardenas LLC and filed documents with the Texas secretary of state that listed him as the registered agent and managing member.
The complaints allege that from May 6, 2011, through May 11, 2012, Anthony Chiofalo “caused a series of checks made payable to Maio & Cardenas LLC to be issued by TAC” and those “unauthorized checks” totaled $9,329,546.81.
According to the complaints, Anthony Chiofalo used $1,888,777.94 of the money to buy several items from Heritage Auctions from Feb. 7, 2012, to April 5, 2012, including “numerous paintings, sculptures, artwork, photographs, collectables, comic books, memorabilia.” Those purchases were delivered to Anthony Chiofalo at a storage unit facility in Spring on April 27, 2012, the complaints allege. [See the complaints against Anthony Chiofalo and Susan Chiofalo.]
The complaints allege that an assistant DA who conducted a search of the Chiofalo house in Spring on June 7 saw financial documents in the house that “contained the names of Susan Chiofalo, Anthony Chiofalo, and Maio & Cardenas and Maio Cardenas” and “several of the forged invoices from Maio & Cardenas.”
“The company was deeply stunned by this turn of events,” Hilder says.
Hilder, who says he is speaking on behalf of TAC, says Anthony Chiofalo was “fired” from TAC in May.