A former Connecticut resident is facing federal charges for allegedly defrauding U.S. military veterans out of $175,000 they invested in a restaurant and blast-resistant window glass company he claimed to be starting up in Iraq but never did, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Joseph T. Morris, 51, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is accused of telling investors in October 2011 that he had plans to open up a pizza restaurant at the U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq and was starting up a business selling special heat- and blast-resistant glass for hotels, homes and government buildings across Iraq, the release says. The purported business was based in Wilton.
According to the July 1 indictment, Morris ““made numerous fraudulent representations to his co-founders regarding the restaurant and the window film business, knowing that the representations would be communicated to potential investors to induce them to invest in the company.”
The release says Morris used fake emails and photos to convince investors he had signed a lease for the pizza place and had obtained an “exclusive arrangement” with a specialty window film manufacturer.
As a result, about a dozen investors, including U.S. military veterans, put $175,000 into the company, money Morris used for his own personal purposes, according to the release.
A company co-founder discovered the scam in late April or early May 2012 and Morris’ “businesses” collapsed, the release says.
Morris was charged with five counts of wire fraud and could face a total of 100 years in prison if convicted. The indictment was unsealed yesterday during Morris’ arraignment, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.