Red Sox sports channel digital VP accused of embezzling $500,000 from network

Call it the curse of the scam.

A top sports channel executive owned by the Boston Red Sox has been accused of embezzling more than $500,000 by setting up a shell company with the same name as a real seller to direct payments into his own pockets.

Ariel Legassa, 49, of Burlington, Connecticut, had served as vice president of digital media for NESN from 2019 until last month when company officials discovered the missing money, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Legassa did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Launched in 1984, NESN is majority owned by the parent company of the Red Sox, with the remainder controlled by the company that owns the Boston Celtics and Bruins. It broadcasts the matches of the three teams.

A spokeswoman for NESN said the court documents speak for themselves and declined to comment further.

About a year after Legassa began working for NESN, prosecutors said he allegedly began directing payments to a Stamford, Connecticut-based company called Alley CT for web design and maintenance services. which he claimed the company was providing to the network.

In fact, NESN had a contract for similar services with a New York-based company called Alley NY, according to court documents. Legassa, who led a team of dozens of employees and oversaw all of the network’s digital contracts, claimed the two companies were the same, prosecutors said.

Both companies were listed as Alley Interactive, LLC in their registration documents.

Legassa even went so far as to ask the network’s accounting department to create a different vendor ID for the shell company, saying it was a separately incorporated entity from the New York one, but that it was was actually the same company, the court documents alleged.

Over the next two years, prosecutors said Legassa submitted bills for $672,500 for work allegedly done by Alley CT, whose network paid $575,000. During the same period, the company paid Alley NY $400,000 for the same work.

Prosecutors say Legassa then transferred much of the money to his own bank accounts, using some to pay off a $50,000 car loan and other credit card debt.

According to a separate civil suit filed by NESN against Legassa, Alley CT never provided services for the network.

Eventually, NESN finance department employees detected the discrepancy, and a review of incorporation documents showed Legassa was listed as the owner of Alley CT.

When confronted, Legassa attempted to claim that Alley Interactive LLC was a “common name” according to NESN’s civil suit. But pressed by the network’s chief financial officer, he admitted he set up the Connecticut company and had no connection to the New York one, prosecutors said. He was fired on January 6, and NESN filed a civil suit against him the following day.

In late January, Legassa was charged with mail fraud in Boston federal court and was arrested in Connecticut on Wednesday.

If convicted, Legassa faces up to 20 years in prison.

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