A New York couple’s $500,000 investment in a Stonefield villas resort turned into an ugly tale of financial fraud and legal malpractice.
Read more here: https://t.co/uNfvL5L7n0 — The Wall St. Journal (@WSJ) December 14, 2019 The $500 million investment in Stonefield, an Italian villa park, in the Bronx was one of the largest in the United States when it went belly up last week.
Stonefield’s owner, Italian businessman Silvio Gazzola, was accused of stealing $20 million from the firm.
But the investigation, which has focused on whether Gazzella is guilty of any wrongdoing, is far from over.
The story of Stonefield goes back to a year ago when the couple bought the Stonefield resort, a 1,800-acre (400-hectare) estate in the East Bronx, for $500.
The couple invested the money, which they said was for a restaurant, at a time when the company was losing money.
Gazzello told The Wall, “It was a very good investment, a very safe investment, but it’s been turned upside down.”
It’s not clear why Stonefield went into receivership, and Stonefield has not responded to requests for comment from the Wall Street Review.
But a spokesperson for the New York attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Wall that “the matter is pending and that there is no indication of criminal wrongdoing at this time.”
The spokesperson added that the office was “committed to the protection of the public from fraudulent or abusive behavior.”
The New York Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The Stonefield company, Stonefield International LLC, has a corporate parent company, New York State Venture Partners, which owns several other New York-based companies, including the Stonefields New York, New Jersey, New London, New Orleans, and New York City hotels, as well as Stonefields restaurants.
A spokesperson for Stonefield said the company has “zero knowledge” of any financial problems, and that the company “is committed to providing a safe, secure and professional environment for its customers and partners.”
In the statement, the spokesperson said that Gazzarella is cooperating with the investigation.
“We’re working with the authorities to help resolve this case and to identify all those who might have been involved in the scheme,” the spokesperson added.
The family-owned company has been accused of taking money from clients in China, Italy, and Spain, and using the funds to invest in real estate in New York and Florida.
Gazzarella’s family has denied any wrongdoing and said it “had nothing to do with Stonefield.”
The Stonefields’ statement to the Wall did not offer further details about the alleged scam, which it did not deny.
Stonefields spokeswoman Sarah Goss told The New York Times last month that the family had invested the $500m in “a number of locations and a number of people” and had been “completely shocked” by the news.
“It’s hard to believe it happened,” Goss said.