Man Charged in Ponzi Scheme Claimed Funds Were for Shinnecock Tobacco Shop

Robert Rocco, of Dix Hills, is being charged with wire and mail fraud in federal court on Tuesday.

A Dix Hills man is being arraigned in federal court Tuesday morning, on wire and mail fraud charges in connection to a Ponzi scheme totaling more than $5 million after he told investors they would be financing wholesale cigarette purchases on behalf of a Shinnecock Nation tobacco shop.

A 14-count indictment against Robert Rocco, 48, was unsealed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip.

Rocco was the president of the Dix Hills Soccer Club when he solicited club members and volunteers, as well as his friends and neighbors, to invest in businesses he created, claiming they would earn high rates of return on investments, according to a statement from United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch.

The amounts invested ranged from between $25,000 and $1.2 million, the indictment shows.

"Rocco allegedly told investors that they would receive returns of up to 18 percent of their principal investment annually through the companies’ investments in ventures that purportedly included providing loans to finance wholesale cigarette purchases on behalf of the Shinnecock Nation tobacco shop and a credit card processing venture," according to the statement.

One of his businesses, Limestone Capital Services, located in Melville, purported not only to provide financing to the Shinnecock Native American Reservation, but also claimed to provide credit card services for retail end users to purchase cigarettes from the Shinnecocks.

Rocco allegedly received approximately $5 million in investments between 2006 and 2013 that were not invested as he had promised. He is accused of misappropriating the money and then soliciting more from new investors in order to pay initial investors reported profits. Investigators claim he sent fake account statements to investors.

In February 2009, Rocco told Limestone investors that $4 to $5 million in cigarette inventory the company had financed the purchase of had been stolen by a rival tribe and that the cigarettes were not insured, the indictment said. Investigators said no police report was filed about the alleged theft.

According to the indictment, Rocco controlled the soccer club's bank accounts. Between January and March 2010, he reportedly deposited $66,915 in checks from the club into Limestone's account to later distribute to investors. Prosecutors said the club was left with no funds, though Rocco sought and received donations that allowed the club to continue.

The Dix Hills Soccer Club, on Mott Place, was formed in 1978 to provide soccer programs to Dix Hills children, and has more than 1,000 participants.

Rocco, who was arrested early Tuesday, was to be arraigned before the Honorable Leonard D. Wexler.


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