Darren Bottinelli, who made a name for himself with a Portland barbecue cart and a felony theft conviction, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison on Dec. 14.
He earlier pleaded guilty to the theft of an estimated $3 million in health care trust funds from his now-defunct Portland company, Axis Benefit Administrators, Inc. WW first reported that connection Tuesday.
Since his arrest earlier this year, Bottinelli made his living from a Northwest Portland food cart called Botto Barbecue. His cooking earned raves from WW in a review earlier this year that singled out Botto's ribs.
"They're the finest I've had in this city, with a thick, smoky black bark that slides off the bone like a banana peel, bones that'll bite in two, and a beautifully limber texture," our reviewer wrote.
Now Bottinelli will have nearly four years to hone his recipes at the federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Ore. The Oregonian first reported his sentence Wednesday.
"I am a broken man," said a tearful Bottinelli, 45, in court on Wednesday. He told a decidedly unsympathetic U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones that he had sold his home and many of his possessions to begin payment of $3 million in restitution.
Bottinelli's company served as a custodian for healthcare savings accounts for individuals and companies, including vulnerable populations such as veterans, adults with physical and developmental disabilities, and companies that provide skilled nursing and home care.
But federal investigators determined that rather than safeguarding the money of his more than 3,000 clients, Bottinelli used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a million-dollar West Hills home, memberships to three private clubs and a taste for luxury hotels, fine dining and fancy wine.
Here's a selection of his indulgences from the sentencing memo the U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams filed:
“In 2010, defendant Bottinelli frequently dined at Portland’s best restaurants, including a $572 meal at Paley’s Place on November 19, 2010. In October, he spent $906 for two nights at the St. Regis, a luxury historic hotel in the heart of San Francisco. While in San Francisco, defendant Bottinelli dined at Michelin starred restaurant Jardinière, and used victim money to pay the $1,100 check. These were not business trips or business meals. By 2010, defendant Bottinelli rarely appeared at the Axis office or engaged in sales or outreach.
In 2011, defendant Bottinelli charged more to the AmEx in these five areas than in any other year. In February, defendant Bottinelli spent $1,302.71 for three nights at the W hotel in Los Angles. From the W, defendant Bottinelli traveled to the luxury hotel Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, spending $2,697.81 on a two-night stay. In March, defendant Bottinelli traveled to Napa in pursuit of his other passion, fine wine. In Napa, he spent $1,474.76 at the luxury resort Auberge du Soleil and $1,162.18 at the world renown restaurant French Laundry. Soon after his Napa trip, defendant Bottinelli made a single wine purchase totaling $1,927.92. In Portland on November 21, 2011, defendant Bottinelli paid a single bill at Le Pigeon totaling $1,774.00. Finally, in December 2011, defendant Bottinelli traveled to Palm Springs and to Hollywood. In Hollywood, defendant Bottinelli spent $3,857.71 for a stay at the exclusive luxury property Chateau Marmont.
In 2012, defendant Bottinelli traveled to Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Hollywood, Napa, and Hawaii. In June, defendant Bottinelli returned to Chateau Marmont, where his bill exceeded $3,000. Ten days later in Napa, defendant Bottinelli spent $1,154.38 at the luxury Hotel Yountville. On the island of Hawaii in November, defendant Bottinelli spent over $2,000 for a stay at the 5-star Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Between trips, defendant Bottinelli continued to pay big tabs at local restaurants. He spent $407 on July 6th and $889 on November 12th for meals at Paley’s Place. Other highly expensive local meals include a meal at Noisette ($482 on March 6th) and one at Simpatica ($958.31 on September 29th).
In February 2013, defendant Bottinelli returned to Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, where he spent $2,340 for a two-night stay. Defendant Bottinelli traveled to San Francisco in November 2013, where he golfed at Pebble Beach, stayed at luxury hotel, and dined at the Harris Restaurant. The golf, hotel and restaurant charges for that two-day trip total approximately $2,000. At the luxury Manhattan hotel London NYC in May 2013, defendant Bottinelli spent $1,771 on a three-night stay.”
Bottinelli also spent $54,000 at the exclusive Waverly Country Club between 2010 and 2015. His former employees told investigators he rarely came to work after 2009.
"Greed, entitlement, and a total lack of concern for others fueled this crime," the U.S. Attorney wrote in a pre-sentencing memo. "Sadly, the cost of defendant Bottinelli's tab at one high-end restaurant could have saved the most vulnerable of his victims from financial devastation, medical crisis or emotional trauma."
Bottinelli abruptly closed the company in March of 2014, causing more than 3,000 clients to lose coverage, and leaving many with existing charges for health care that they were now unable to pay because their savings had been spent.
Shortly after closing the company and leaving those clients in the lurch, Bottinelli flew to Palm Springs on their dime.
Bottinelli, who tested positive for cocaine while under pre-trial supervision, said he felt "deep sorrow and regret" for victims, and pledged he would work to repay clients, in part from earnings from his food truck, if kept out of jail.
Jones, who reproached Bottinelli for "spending $3 million dollars on his own ego," was unmoved by the defense's claims of that Bottinelli was a changed man.
"You don't steal $3 million dollars and not go to prison," Jones said.