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Former Wilton Businessman Pleads Guilty In Iraqi Pizza Investment Scheme

U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly
U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly Photo Credit: File

WILTON, Conn. -- A 52-year-old former Connecticut man pleaded guilty to swindling investors, many of them military veterans, out of $175,000 for a pizza business and blast-resistant window glass company he claimed to be starting up in Iraq but never did.

Joseph T. Morris, now of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, said Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Morris and two other individuals formed a company in Wilton in October 2011 to develop business opportunities in Iraq. 

The company’s initial focus was on establishing a pizza restaurant at the U.S. Consulate compound in Erbil, Iraq, and establishing a business to distribute and install specialty window film on vehicles and at hotels, residences, and government buildings, which would protect windows and windshields from blast and breakage.  

Morris was the company’s in-country manager in Iraq.

In pleading guilty, he admitted that he made numerous fraudulent representations to his co-founders regarding the restaurant and the window film business. 

Through the use of fraudulent emails and photographs, Morris falsely represented that a lease had been signed to establish a pizzeria, that renovations were underway, and that progress was being made toward completing renovations and opening the restaurant. 

He also falsely represented that the company had an exclusive arrangement with a manufacturer to distribute and install the window film in all of Iraq. 

Based on these misrepresentations, Morris caused about a dozen investors, most of whom were U.S. military veterans, to invest $175,000 in the company. 

Instead of using the money from investors to pay for legitimate business expenses, Morris diverted large sums of money for his own personal use.

The scheme was revealed in late April to early May 2012 when one of the co-founders discovered the lies.

Morris pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer on Sept. 17.

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