In February of 2000, a lady from Palm Beach came to the studios of NewsChannel Seven with a complaint against David Martinelli. When we realized the seriousness of her charges, we sent her to the Bay County Sheriff's Office. Two months later, investigators raided Martinelli's offices.
What they found was something much larger than originally anticipated.
"We seized files and computers. After doing that, we soon learned we had a problem that encompassed the entire United States as far as victims were concerned," said Investigator Steve Harbuck of the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
Federal authorities were called in to help. What a joint investigation turned up was this: David Martinelli was using Mailboxes Etc. and PostNet in Panama City Beach as fronts for three of his businesses. Global Business Services, Worldwide Business Services and International Business Services.
Investigators say Martinelli would approach business owners trying to help them sell their business. After taking a fee up front, Martinelli would do little to deliver on his promises. This happened more than 1500 times from 1995 until 2000.
Now, after three weeks of trial in federal court, Martinelli has been found guilty, much to the satisfaction of investigators.
"A lot of hard work went into this, not only us, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the Postal Inspectors. The U.S. Attorney's Office was great. I'm very pleased and proud of the work they've put into this as well.”
Martinelli's facing up to 20 years in federal prison on his conviction. He's also facing fines in addition to forfeiting more than four million dollars. Two of Martinelli's, accomplices, his wife Virginia and former business partner Carl Carr, both pleaded guilty in the case. All three will be sentenced in the coming months.
Martinelli's a familiar face to law enforcement. In August of 2000, just four months after the initial raid on his businesses, Martinelli was arrested for trying to hire a hit man to beat up two attorneys from Dallas. The two attorneys were part of a bankruptcy hearing at which Martinelli was supposed to testify.
The "hit man" turned out to be an undercover Bay County Sheriff's Deputy. Martinelli later pleaded guilty to two charges of solicitation to commit aggravated battery and was sentenced to five years probation.