Texas authorities are trying to track down comic books worth hundreds of thousands of dollars purchased by an attorney accused of embezzling more than $9 million from his employer.
Anthony Chiofalo, 51, appeared Monday in a Houston courtroom after spending seven months fleeing felony theft charges with at least $150,000 in cash he'd allegedly siphoned from Tadano America. An attorney who had been disbarred in New York, Chiofalo was hired by the company in 2009 as head of legal affairs; within a year, prosecutors say he began setting up dummy law firms that charged his employer for litigation work -- to the tune of $9.3 million.
The Houston Chronicle reports Chiofalo is said to have spent a significant chunk of that money of comic books and sports memorabilia: When his home and storage units were raided, authorities found a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a first-edition Playboy, and a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000.
"He had sports memorabilia and very expensive comic books, that are like bearer bonds because they're hard to trace," said Bryan Vaclavik, a financial fraud consultant, told the newspaper. "I think he was buying comic books as an investment and we are trying to locate each and every one of those comic books."
Chiofalo's other collectibles include a boxing robe worn by Muhammad Ali, a signed first edition of The Godfather and a baseball helmet signed by Pete Rose.
Of course, he isn't the first criminal defendant in recent memory with a taste for comics: You may recall that in March the U.S. Marshals Service auctioned the collection of Aaron Castro, dubbed "the nerdiest meth king ever," for $125,050.