The owner of a Bridgeport-based food distribution business pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud related to his defrauding three restaurant groups of more than $3.5 million.
Mark Berlin, who owned and operated the now-closed Fairfield Food Services LLC, was charged with misrepresenting his clients with false claims that he could obtain “future contracts” from wholesalers that would enable his retail clients to “lock in” low prices if they paid him in advance. After obtaining payment from his retail clients, Berlin used the funds to cover his business’ cash flow needs while waiting 30 to 60 days to pay his wholesalers for delivered items.
Berlin began this scheme in April 2012 and ran it through April 2015, when Fairfield Food Services filed for bankruptcy. In the bankruptcy filing, Berlin listed approximately $5.3 million owed to three restaurant groups that paid in advance for products and hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to wholesale suppliers for products for which Fairfield Food Services had already taken delivery.
In his guilty plea, Berlin stated that not all of the approximately $5.3 million owed to his retail victims was obtained by fraud, although federal prosecutors insisted he obtained at least $3.5 million and as much as $5.3 million through deception.
Berlin is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25 and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.