Fake cancer survivor: Former Darden employee bilks Greenbrier resort

The Greenbrier was bilked by its former fine dining director, who took a job at Darden while the hotel thought he was seeking cancer treatment.

Photo Bobak Ha’Eri The Greenbrier was bilked by its former fine dining director, who took a job at Darden while the hotel thought he was seeking cancer treatment. Photo Bobak Ha’Eri

The Greenbrier in West Virginia may no longer be a five-diamond resort, but in the food and beverage world, to be its director of fine dining is still a pretty sweet gig. Carmelo “Carmine” Carrozza held that position for barely two weeks before he told his boss he had cancer and was seeking medical treatment. While still on the payroll, he took a job at UVA’s Darden School Foundation here in Charlottesville.

Carrozza, 57, pleaded guilty in federal court in West Virginia on May 3 to one count of wire fraud for swindling The Greenbrier of $48,000. The few people locally who talked on the record about him describe him as a congenial guy with a New York accent.

“He was very friendly in a New York way,” says Darden professor Greg Fairchild, who says it’s a style he was familiar with from living there. “I was shocked to hear the story.”

“This was an aberrant period of his life,” says Jack Tinney, Carrozza’s Charleston, West Virginia, attorney. His client has a long history working in the hotel industry, and he got the job at The Greenbrier through an industry contact, says Tinney.

Carrozza started his job at the White Sulphur Springs resort May 28, 2013. By June 13, 2013, he stopped working and said he had cancer, according to court documents. He kept the HR department and the COO at Greenbrier informed about his alleged treatments with calls, texts and e-mails, and started a job with Darden around August 23, 2013.

He continued to collect a paycheck from The Greenbrier until December 2013, direct depositing $48,356, according to the plea agreement. Greenbrier spokesperson Erik Hastings declined to say how the resort learned Carrozza was double-dipping, and owner Jim Justice, who is running for governor in West Virginia, did not return a call from C-VILLE Weekly.

Carrozza was also renting a house in Charlottesville. “I have no knowledge of this,” says Cathy Harding of her tenant’s guilty plea when contacted by a reporter. “He was vetted by the property manager.”

Apparently Carrozza also was vetted by The Greenbrier and by the Darden foundation, where he was in charge of hospitality and conventions, but those entities are remaining mum about his employment and his background.

“Carmine Carrozza is no longer an employee of the Darden School Foundation,” writes Sophie Munz, Darden director of media relations, in an e-mail. “As this is a personnel matter, we have no additional comments.”

The foundation runs the school’s executive education program and operates a 69,000-square-foot conference center, the 177-room Inn at Darden and the Abbott Center Dining Room and is, notes Munz, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Tinney declined a request for comment on behalf of his client, who remains free on bond.

According to a Department of Justice release, Carrozza has agreed to pay restitution. He faces up to 20 years when he is sentenced August 17.

Fairchild has some experience with felons through his work at Darden’s prisoner entrepreneurship program, and says it’s a diverse world with people who can be “smart, funny and cool.” Says Fairchild, Carrozza “is a dude I would have had dinner with.”

 Carozza-Plea Agreement