TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In his request for a lighter sentence, Ralph Puglisi admits illegally charging $12.8 million dollars for a variety of expenses but also claims others benefited from the stolen fortune that went undetected for years.
Puglisi was Accounting Manager for the University of South Florida Medical Services Association for about a decade, but in 2014 he began using corporate credit cards “to make unauthorized charges,” according to his motion for less than the maximum 20-year sentence.
In August 2021, Puglisi pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud as part of a plea agreement with the government.
A USF spokesperson has said new controls are now in place to guard against the type of crime Puglisi committed.
According to the motion, Puglisi “used the cards for home furnishings, trips and gifts” because he believed he had to provide a “luxurious lifestyle” for his now ex-wife and her family.
Puglisi’s ex-wife’s attorney David Knox has denied Puglisi’s claims.
The filing also states, his marriage lacked “romance,” prompting him to turn to a “webcam performer” with an adult website MyGirlFund for “sexual gratification and companionship.”
The motion claims his virtual girlfriend “manipulated Puglisi” and said, “she was in love with him, leading him to believe that they were in an actual relationship.”
Puglisi was a big spender on the website, eventually paying the woman about $6 million, according to the motion. The motion states Puglisi concedes she sent him back about $200,000.
The motion also states almost $11.5 million of the missing money was sent to MyGirlFund and that the total made up “80% of all MGF profits for the time period.”
Scott Rost, the attorney for the website in a civil lawsuit filed by USF to recoup some of the losses, denied Puglisi’s claim.
“While we typically do not comment on pending litigation,” Rost said in an email. “This allegation by Mr. Puglisi is false and based on no objective data.”
Despite a request for incarceration and a stint of home confinement, Judge William F. Jung sentenced the former accounting manager to 10 years in federal prison and 3 years of supervised release.
Records show Puglisi has paid more than $1.2 million in restitution and also turned over his interest in a $400,000 property in the Virgin Islands.
Paying the remaining restitution would take more than a thousand years if only the minimum amount in the court-ordered schedule is applied to the total.
Court clerk minutes indicate while in custody, Puglisi will be required to pay at least $25 quarterly if he has a non-prison industries job with UNICOR and half of his monthly earnings if he has a UNICOR job.
When he is out, Puglisi will be required to pay at least $100 a month.
Puglisi’s attorney Anthony Rickman has not responded to recent requests for comment. Rickman has said Puglisi is cooperating with investigators and the sentencing motion states he “is the only one who has accepted responsibility and paid any money back.”