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Illicit Ring 'Mushrooms', Lands Union Twp. Man in Jail

Gino Silva stole expensive gourmet mushrooms from Newark distributor and used them to grow his own competing funghi business.

Gino Silva will spend more than two years in prison and repay more than $71,000 in for his role as a dealer in, not drugs, but stolen gourmet mushrooms.

The 44-year-old Union Township man pleaded guilty in April of last year to stealing thousands of dollars worth of mushrooms from D'Artagnan, a gourmet mushroom distributor in Newark, which he used to supply his own side mushroom business called Mediterra.

He was sentenced on Monday in the case by U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case, said Silva's scam with the fraudulent funghi began in Dec. 2007 when he and another D'Artagnan employee, Steven Perei, 45, of Jersey City, started their own gourmet mushroom business that secretly competed with their employer.

The two men stole mushrooms and other products from D'Artagnan, used the company's refrigerators to house inventory for Mediterra, the competing business, and told D'Artagnan's inventory control employees to inflate purchase orders and skip reporting product deliveries to cover their tracks.

Authorities said the crime occurred while Silva was awaiting sentence for an unrelated $1.2 million embezzlement scheme.

In that case, Silva was vice president in charge of operations at Philips Accessories and Computer Peripherals, Inc. Silva and others billed the company for services from a temporary staffing agency for fake employees and routed the fraudulent paychecks to bank accounts they controlled. The crime lasted from 2000 to 2005 and cost Philips approximately $1.2 million.

Silva pleaded guilty in the Philips case in Dec. 2008 and was sentenced in June 2009 to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay more than $800,000 in restitution. Besides the prison term imposed today on the mushroom case, Judge Cavanaugh sentenced Silva to a year of supervised release and ordered him to pay $71,179 in restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott B. McBride, of the criminal division in Newark, represented the U.S. Attorney's office and Jay V. Surgent of Lyndhurst represented Silva.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman credited FBI special agents and the IRS for conducting the investigation that led to the conviction in this case.

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