Mafia-Connected Ponzi Schemer Michael J. Muzio Sentenced to 13.5 Years

Michael J. Muzio, one of four co-conspirators in a Ponzi scheme that targeted South Florida Haitian-Americans, has been sentenced to 163 months in federal prison.

In April, New Times told you about the $14.3 million scheme, which offered to double investors' cash in 90 days. Two of Muzio's cronies have already been sentenced to five years in prison. The 46-year-old Tampa resident's sentence is likely longer because this isn't his first rodeo. Muzio has a bizarre history that includes nearly being whacked by Italian mobsters.

The registered owner of 24 businesses in Florida, ranging from record companies to medical services firms to a "pizza music café," Muzio was arrested seven times between 1988 and 1990 for passing worthless checks in Tampa. In 1995, two Mafia-connected hit men were arrested for allegedly planning to off him in a contract killing. According to the St. Petersburg Times, associates of his medical services business, including a doctor, planned the hit because he owed them $900,000.

And in 2006, he was convicted of grand larceny in New York and was sentenced to five years' probation -- which is about the time he returned to South Florida to man the "pump" of half of the Delray-based pump-and-dump Ponzi scheme called Homepals, Inc., which raided the savings of roughly 600 gullible Haitians. He was indicted in October 2009 and faced a maximum of 190 years in prison.

The scam's alleged ringleader, Ronnie E. Bass, will face jury trial July 19.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts