The charitable agency responsible for the Villa Italia retirement home says it is taking steps to restore trust with residents and the Hamilton public after an identity-theft scheme robbed at least $1.2 million of the home over the past seven years.
In a letter to Villa Italia residents on Thursday, Sons of Italy Charitable Corp president Robert Scalzin said the organization was shocked by the embezzlement plan and added that the group would “do whatever it takes to reaffirm faith and set things right.” can, aim to do.”
Calling the house “a jewel in our community”, Skaljin said the home is continuing to recover stolen money and that security measures have been put in place “to prevent such an incident from happening again.”
“You can and should expect more from us,” the letter said. “We will learn from this and emerge as a stronger and better institution and community, continuing the vital mission of Villa Italia.”
Every two weeks since at least 2015, thousands of dollars from Villa Italia accounts were funneled into a secret TD bank account in the name of the house’s former executive director, Pat Mostacchi.
A Spectator investigation found that three “ghost employees” were added to the household’s payroll using the real names, addresses and social insurance numbers of three Ontario women.
The real women, two of them retired nurses, never worked for Villa Italia. Two nurses, who live in Brampton and Grimsby, say they don’t know Mostachey and have never worked at home. The Spectator was not able to locate the third woman, who was listed on the payroll of Villa Italia as living in Ancaster.
These ghost employees received steady pay increases over time – from $73,000 annually starting in 2015 to more than $105,000 in 2019. He received regular overtime pay, vacation and state pay as well as retroactive pay.
Paychecks were automatically deposited into a Hamilton TD bank account, where thousands of dollars were transferred each week to one of eight credit cards. Large amount of cash withdrawals also took place at the branch, at ATMs and through e-transfer.
The Spectator also learned that Mostacchi had complete control over the home’s payroll system, including pay stubs, which he delivered to his office in a sealed envelope. Stubs of wages were distributed to the employees only after sorting behind closed doors.
Mostacchi was fired on 4 January after the Sons of Italy board raised several unresolved operational issues with him, including Villa Italia’s rising vacancy rate.
Logs from Villa Italia’s payroll system obtained by The Spectator show that about 30 minutes after Mostacci was fired, the administrator account “PMOSTACCI@SOIHCC” logged in remotely and began making dozens of changes to ghost employee accounts .
The logs show that PMOSTACCI@SOIHCC changed the ghost’s record saying they had given up. The date of his exit was from 24 hours to January 3, 2022.
If the payroll change was an attempt to hide fake employee records, it was too late to prevent the next round of paychecks from being processed.
On January 7, 2022, pay stubs arrived at Villa Italia and the newly appointed interim executive director gave them a staff to distribute. It was then that the ghosts were discovered when their pay stub was unclaimed.
“Given his long stint at Villa Italia and wanted to provide Mr Mostacchi with an opportunity to explain himself, what he had found and a request for clarification,” Scalzin’s letter said. “After receiving no concrete response to the request, the court proceedings were initiated on March 14, 2022.”
Three days later, an Ontario Superior Court judge ordered the seizure of all of Mostachi’s properties, including his Hamilton home, pending the resolution of the trial. Mostacchi fell seriously ill shortly thereafter and died on April 2, 2022, at the age of 53.
Scaljin would not comment on the payroll plan or Mostachi when contacted by The Spectator, citing ongoing legal action. Thursday’s letter is the first time he has spoken in detail about the matter publicly.
The letter confirms that at least $1.2 million was embezzled from Villa Italia’s payroll and that the Sons of Italy are exploring the feasibility of civil action against Mostacchi’s assets to cover their losses.
Although Mostacchi is dead, his wealth remains frozen. In an email to The Spectator, attorney for his wife Gloria Mostacchi confirmed that his assets were also frozen. The lawyer also said that while Gloria Mostacchi is aware of the charges leveled against her late husband, she has no knowledge of what she may have done at Villa Italia, and that her husband handled all of the family’s finances.
Most of the files relating to the Sons of Italy’s trial against Mostacchi remain sealed by order of the judge. The organization requested the seal in March, saying it was necessary to block public access to the material until a judge issued an order prohibiting Mostasi or others from disposing of cash or property obtained from stolen money. Will give
In his letter, Scalazin did not specify what changes the Sons of Italy would make with the Villa Italia payroll to prevent future tinkering.
He said the board would reach out to residents, their families and community partners to talk about next steps.