NEW YORK — Berkshire entrepreneur Patrick Muraca has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and lying to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Muraca, founder of several local biotech firms, entered not guilty pleas Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in New York's Southern District. Messages left Friday with Muraca's attorney, Bennett M. Epstein, were not returned.
The charges were initiated in July by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The grand jury indictment was returned in November.
According to court documents obtained by The Eagle, Muraca allegedly defrauded people investing in two biotech companies he had founded, then used investor money for personal expenses.
Investigators tracked Muraca's expenses as they related to business accounts tied to MetaboRX, founded in March 2016, and NanoMolecularDX, founded in May that same year. Bank accounts for both businesses were opened, and Muraca was an authorized signatory on both.
Muraca allegedly solicited more than $1 million from investors into those companies and, according to investigators, spent large portions of that money on expenses unrelated to the running of those businesses, including over $200 to an Albany cigar store, over $300 to a tattoo and piercing shop in Northampton, $438 on concert tickets, as well as expenses related to the running of his fiancee's restaurant business.
He allegedly bilked investors of $335,000 to $370,000.
The indictment also alleges that on Nov. 17, Muraca lied to investigators when he said he never considered buying the restaurant property.
According to prosecutors, Muraca offered to buy that property in February 2017 for about $220,000.
In January 2007, Muraca founded Nuclea Biotechnologies, a firm designed to develop and commercialize unique Food and Drug Administration-approved diagnostic tests for prostate and breast cancer, diabetes and other metabolic syndromes.
Muraca held various positions in that company, including president, until he left in Decembers 2015. Nuclea filed for bankruptcy in August 2016.
According to court files, on Aug. 1, Muraca tried to pay NanoMolecularDX employees with checks drawn off the company account after its assets had been frozen by the court the previous day.
According to court filings, Muraca put up the titles of two Corvettes he owns as collateral for his $100,000 personal recognizance bond. Muraca surrendered his passport and must restrict his travel to New York and Massachusetts, but he was allowed to visit his mother in Maine.
A status conference in the case has been scheduled for March 9.
Reach Bob Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.