A former hiring director for Perdue Farms Inc. was given a 10-month sentence yesterday for bilking the poultry company's national headquarters in Salisbury of $177,320 in a mail fraud scheme.
Ralph E. Nuzzo, 44, used his position as Perdue's assistant director of human resources to convince the company that 12 employees had been hired for its foods division through executive search agencies. For their services, such agencies are typically paid a finder's fee based on a percentage of the employee's salary.
Perdue paid the finder's fees, but the money went to Nuzzo, according to a statement of facts filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Nuzzo had opened mail boxes in Delaware under the names of two bogus companies he called Executive Search and Staffing Consultants, Inc. He then falsely claimed to Perdue that those companies were employment agencies representing the newly hired employees.
Acting on the word of Nuzzo, the company, from November 1993 to July 1996, mailed the finder's fees to the Delaware mailboxes, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew C. White.
Nuzzo picked up the checks and deposited them into bank accounts he had opened in the name of the fake companies, court papers said. He spent the money for such things as an addition to his house and high living expenses, prosecutors said.
The scheme was exposed by Nuzzo when he confessed to Perdue officials shortly after he left the company in 1996. White said Nuzzo turned himself in because he had learned that Perdue was auditing employee accounts and feared they would learn what he had done.
Nuzzo apologized to Judge Benson E. Legg yesterday just before being sentenced.
"I'm extremely sorry for my actions," said Nuzzo, who lives in Atlanta and works in real estate. "I apologize greatly to Perdue and to my family."
The judge credited Nuzzo with turning himself in but said he felt jail time was deserved because of the large amount of money taken. Nuzzo, who prosecutors believe spent all of the $177,320, was ordered to make full restitution to Perdue.
Legg ordered Nuzzo to spend five months in a jail that allows him work-release so that he can earn money to pay back Perdue. He also ordered Nuzzo to serve five months of home detention after the jail time.
Pub Date: 6/13/98