A former lobbyist from Greer pleaded guilty Thursday to making a false statement to U.S. Postal Service inspectors, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Christopher Petrella, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer of the Western District of North Carolina in connection with an ongoing federal investigation and proceedings concerning a five-year, multimillion-dollar high-yield investment fraud scheme.
Petrella was indicted in October 2018 for one count of obstruction of justice, but the plea agreement will see that charge dropped.
In the agreement, Petrella admitted to misleading federal officers about his involvement in an investment scheme related to Niyato Industries Inc, according to the DOJ’s statement.
“He knowingly and willfully made the false claim that he had filed a ‘quarterly report’ with U.S. Congress pursuant to certain requirements applicable to federal lobbyists, such as himself,” the statement said. “The ‘quarterly report’ purportedly disclosed to authorities that certain individuals had made false and misleading statements about Niyato’s business and operations on Niyato’s Twitter and Facebook pages.”
Ten people had been previously indicted by a Charlotte grand jury for their alleged roles in the scheme involving Niyato. The charges in that case allege that the defendants raised money from investors by representing that Niyato manufactured electric and compressed natural gas automobiles when, in truth, the company had no facilities, no operations and no capability to manufacture anything, according to the statement.
Petrella’s sentencing has not been scheduled.