Convicted USF medical services accountant claims nearly half of stolen $12.8 million went to ‘webcam’ girlfriend

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In his request for relief from sentence, Ralph Puglisi admits to illegally billing $12.8 million for various expenses, but also claims that others benefited from the stolen fortune that did not undetected for years.

Puglisi served as chief accounting officer 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 request less than the maximum sentence of 20 years.

In August 2021, Puglisi pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud as part of a plea deal with the government.

A USF spokesperson said new controls were now in place to guard against the type of crime committed by Puglisi.

According to the petition, Puglisi “used the cards for furnishings, travel and gifts” because he believed he needed to provide a “luxurious lifestyle” for his ex-wife and her family.

The attorney for Puglisi’s ex-wife, David Knox, denied Puglisi’s claims.

The filing also says his marriage lacked “romance”, prompting him to turn to a “webcam performer” with 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 they were in a real relationship.”

Puglisi was a big spender on the website, ultimately paying the woman around $6 million, according to the motion. The motion says Puglisi admits she sent him back about $200,000.

The motion also states that nearly $11.5 million of the missing money was sent to MyGirlFund and that the total represented “80% of all MGF profits for the period.”

Website Advocate Scott Rost in a civil lawsuit brought by USF to recover part of the lossesdenied Puglisi’s claim.

“Although we don’t generally comment on ongoing litigation,” Rost said in an email. “This allegation by Mr. Puglisi is false and not based on any objective data.”

Despite a request for incarceration and a stint in house arrest, Judge William F. Jung sentenced the former accounting director to 10 years in federal prison and 3 years of supervised release.

Records show Puglisi paid more than $1.2 million in restitution and also divested his stake in a $400,000 property in the Virgin Islands.

Payment of the remaining restitution would take more than a thousand years if only the minimum amount of the court-ordered scale were applied to the total.

The court clerk’s minutes indicate that while in custody, Puglisi will have to pay at least $25 per quarter if he has a job in non-prison industries with UNICOR and half of his monthly earnings if he has a UNICOR job.

When he’s out, Puglisi will have to pay at least $100 a month.

Puglisi’s attorney, Anthony Rickman, did not respond to recent requests for comment. Rickman said Puglisi was cooperating with investigators and the sentencing motion says he “was the only one who accepted responsibility and returned the money.”

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