By PAUL GONZALEZ
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Disgraced construction company owner Mark Melchiori was sentenced to more than nine years in prison on Thursday for scamming former clients, friends and employees out of millions of dollars. He left many victims in financial ruin.
A group of Mr. Melchiori’s victims crowded Superior Court Judge James Herman’s courtroom in Santa Barbara County Superior Court hoping to finally confront him face-to-face.
“It’s about time,” whispered a member of the audience as Mr. Melchiori took a seat next to his defense attorney Doug Hayes.
But after years of hearings, confrontation may have left the audience disappointed.
During his arraignment, Mr. Melchiori stared blankly at Judge Herman with his back to the audience. He didn’t make a statement, offer an apology or even acknowledge those who made victim impact statements to Judge Herman.
In 2016, Mr. Melchiori was charged with 47 felony counts, including 15 charges of diversion of construction funds, unemployment insurance fraud and wage fraud.
He faced a max sentence of 47 years in prison if convicted.
Judge Herman scheduled Mr. Melchiori for trial in October 2019, but he pleaded guilty to one count of felony diversion of construction funds, one count of felony prevailing wage fraud, and one count of felony unlawful money transmission instead.
Judge Herman sentenced him to the maximum nine years and four months in prison at the recommendation of the Santa Barbara County Probation Department. Deputy District Attorney Casey Nelson said Mr. Melchiori will probably serve half that time.
In 2012, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department received a fraud complaint against Mr. Melchiori’s defunct company, Melchiori Construction, from film producer Robert Zemeckis.
Mr. Zemeckis claimed he paid Melchiori Construction several hundred thousand dollars to remodel his home, but Mr. Melchiori used the money to live an extravagant lifestyle.
The District Attorney’s Office found Mr. Melchiori used Mr. Zemeckis’ money to finance his own lavish lifestyle and to fund other projects, according to the news release.
Investigators also found Mr. Melchiori was underpaying his workers on public works projects to maintain his lifestyle and that he had been funneling money through various companies to cover up his crimes.
In 2012, Mr. Melchiori and Melchiori Construction filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy when Rabobank filed a $1.3 million lawsuit against his ex-wife, Heather Melchiori, to collect on a loan from January 2010.
Santa Barbara Bank and Trust then filed a $9 million lawsuit against the Melchioris in October 2012, attempting to seize property to recover losses from a series of loans to the company, including a $6.5 million credit line.
Mr. Melchiori also was sued by his stepmother, Linda Melchiori, who attempted to collect on a $100,000 loan she made to his company.
Creditors allege the Melchioris filed for divorce to avoid paying their debts by transferring property to Heather Melchiori.
Bankruptcy filings from Nov. 26, 2012, state that Mr. Melchiori listed nearly $9.6 million in assets but $13.8 million in liabilities.