A West Roxbury woman accused of participating in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme along with her husband pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 15 charges, including allegations the couple misused a $100,000 investment to buy property for themselves.
Lori Palladino, 52, was released on personal recognizance and $1 million surety following her arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court before Trial Magistrate Gary D. Wilson. Palladino left the courthouse accompanied by her attorney, Philip A. Tracy Jr., without speaking to reporters.
“She was the bookkeeper. And if she wasn’t the wife of the principal, I don’t know if she would have been included in this indictment,’’ Tracy told reporters. “But nevertheless, she is the bookkeeper and that’s it. She did not conduct the business that is in question.”
Lori Palladino and her husband, Steven, are accused of running a Ponzi scheme through their company, Viking Financial Group Inc., targeting their friends and business associates. They claimed to be a private lending company that borrowed from investors and loaned that money out at a higher interest rate.
But Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office alleged that the money was instead used by the Palladinos to pay interest to existing investors and fund vacations, car purchases, gambling trips, their children’s education, and rent and gifts for Steven Palladino’s mistress.
“If you think of Steven as the person who was the public face of the company, Lori handled the back office,’’ prosecutor Benjamin Goldberger said in court. “She signs the overwhelming majority of the checks written on the Viking account.”
Goldberger referred to an e-mail from Steven Palladino to an accountant sent Feb. 1, 2012, on which Lori Palladino was copied. The e-mail lists five fraudulent loans worth just under $2.5 million and fake income worth around $560,000, and concludes: “P.S. - don’t forget you need to tell Lori how she is supposed to book these!”
Among other allegations, the couple is accused of misdirecting a $100,000 investment to purchase 29 Kittredge St., a two-family house in Boston.
Lori Palladino is listed in filings as the president, treasurer, secretary, and a director of Viking Financial. The other director listed is the Palladinos’ son, who has not been charged.
Her husband is free on $250,000 cash bail after he pleaded not guilty to 11 charges relating to the alleged scheme. Steven Palladino, 55, who has more than a dozen theft-related convictions on his record, was charged with four counts of larceny over $250, three counts of falsifying corporate books, one count of uttering, and three counts of loansharking.
He also faces four new charges, including withholding evidence, returned by a grand jury on March 28, and will be arraigned on the charges later.
Goldberger said that the grand jury investigation is ongoing, and additional indictments are anticipated.