Blackmailer enters into bankruptcy after accomplice sues
A former retail worker who tried and failed to blackmail the Romeo family has been forced into bankruptcy by the man he roped in to the scheme with promises of repaying a $320,000 debt.
Christopher Garuccio was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for attempting to scam more than a million dollars from the prominent family, which owns a chain of Romeo's Foodland supermarkets and food halls across Adelaide and Sydney.
However, his woes have only intensified after Adrian Malusa, who was owed a substantial sum by Garuccio and became involved after being convinced he would receive some of the money back, successfully sued him in the Federal Court.
Orders made before a registrar of the court last month show that Garuccio's estate has been declared bankrupt and a trustee will step in to manage the assets.
Malusa, who was given a suspended jail sentence for his limited role in the scam, and his wife were the applicants in the case and were awarded almost $5000 from the estate to cover their legal costs.
A bankruptcy order can only be made if a court is satisfied that one party owes another more than $20,000.
Garuccio, 35, sent a letter to Joseph, Paul and Anthony Romeo in November 2017 outlining false accusations against the trio and demanding a million dollars.
The details of the letter have been suppressed by the court but have been widely denied by the brothers and labelled as a fabrication by the District Court.
Garuccio had previously worked for the brothers and harboured a grudge against them.
Malusa worked for one of Romeo's suppliers and had lent Garuccio $320,000 to start his own business.
The venture failed and Garuccio moved to Sydney to work for the Romeos.
He was fired from the role and decided to "kill two birds with one stone" by blackmailing the brothers and roping Malusa in with promises of $250,000 to go towards his debt.
During sentencing for Malusa, District Court Judge Paul Muscat said he had been "foolish in the extreme" for going along with Garuccio's plan, and his offending was out of character.
Judge Muscat said Malusa had sent men to recover a bag of money from a suburban oval only for police to swoop, arresting them all.
Malusa was also arrested and initially charged with blackmail.
Garrucio's lawyer portrayed Malusa as the ringleader behind the scam who was pulling the strings.
Just before a trial on blackmail charges was to begin, Malusa entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge of attempted theft.
Judge Muscat said it was "important to remember" that it was Garuccio who carried out the extortion, not Malusa.
The blackmail attempt had a devastating effect on the Romeo brothers who had dedicated their lives to building their business only to have their trust in some of their workers shattered.
The three brothers did not attend the sentencing of Malusa but expressed their dismay through victim impact statements which were read to the court.
Originally published as Romeo brothers blackmailer sued by his accomplice