Shark Tank Contestants Who've Been Arrested

On ABC's "Shark Tank," contestants pitch their new business, product, or service to celebrity investors, hoping to make millions. For at least three "Shark Tank" contestants, those dreams of fame and fortune ended in arrest. As the stories of the three arrested illustrate, even when the future is bright, things aren't always what they seem.

Since it premiered in 2009, "Shark Tank" investors like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, and others have heard hundreds of pitches and invested millions of dollars in startups hoping to turn a profit for themselves. All "Shark Tank" contestants arrested received financing offers for businesses they were partners in, ranging from a security device called a "Guard Llama" to a no-hole belt design with a social mission and a special snap-on paint-brush cover that prevents paint brushes from drying out. (Each contestant's legal issues were not related to their "Shark Tank" appearance. Guard Llama later turned down the deal offered on the show.)

Nathaniel Holzapfel was charged with fraud and sex crimes

"Shark Tank" contestant Nathaniel Holzapfel appeared on the show in 2013 in Season 5 to pitch his business Mission Belt, along with his brother Zac and their business partner Jeff Jensen, ABC4 reports. Mission Belt is a one-size-fits-all belt design, with one dollar of every belt sold put toward entrepreneurial micro-loans in developing countries, ABC4 elsewhere writes. "Shark Tank" investor Daymond John liked what he heard and backed the company, per CNBC.

In 2021, Holzapfel was arrested for wire fraud, according to ABC4, after reportedly defrauding a woman of her home. She signed over partial ownership of her house to a company Holzapfel had a stake in. He then sold the property without her consent, promising to invest proceeds in another fraudulent company. Instead, Holzapfel used the money to pay his own debts. 

After that arrest, another financial fraud victim came forward alleging Holzapfel tricked her into writing a $100,000 check, according to KJZZ 14. As of 2022, Holzapfel faced a long list of additional fraud charges, KSL News reported. Holzapfel's legal problems worsened when he was charged with sex crimes in Utah. As of April 2022, he was held in a Utah County Jail and was no longer associated with Mission Belt, the company said in a statement.

John A. DePaola was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine

In Season 5 of "Shark Tank," John A. DePaola, his cousin Salvatore DePaola, and his business partner Anthony Caputo pitched their product, a specially-designed paint brush cover that snaps onto a paintbrush when not in use. Lori Greiner invested $200,000 in the company. As of 2015, the company — "The Paint Brush Cover" — parlayed the investment into $1.5 million in sales, reported that year.

Two years later, John was caught up in a drug sting dubbed "Operation Snowball" in which nine men were arrested. John was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, which could carry a five-year prison sentence if convicted, reported. He could also face a $35,000 fine, per Shore News Network. As of this report, an update on John's case was unavailable.

According to Asbury Park Press, at the time of John's arrest, his attorney Herbert Ellis said, "I haven't consulted with him yet but we had spoken briefly and I can tell you very confidently the allegations are without merit. We feel very strongly that he will be found not guilty because he is not guilty, and he is innocent until proven guilty." Ellis also characterized John as an honorable and hardworking family man.

Joseph Parisi was charged with controlled substance trafficking

Joseph "Joe" Parisi was arrested and charged with controlled substance trafficking and possession of ecstasy and marijuana, among other charges, according to People. Parisi reportedly had $80,000 worth of controlled substance in his possession. In 2017, Parisi appeared on "Shark Tank" with his business partner Nick Nevarez to pitch their personal security system called Guard Llama, offering a one-button connection to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

Parisi and Nevarez received a $100,000 loan from "Shark Tank" investor Barbara Corcoran, according to the Chicago Tribune. According to The Wrap, Parisi and Nevarez rejected their "Shark Tank" deal, with their company's website calling it "one-sided." In 2021, Parisi faced additional drug-related charges and turned himself in to the authorities, according to Chicago Inno. At that time, Parisi was held on $80,000 bail. As of 2021, the Better Business Bureau said Guard Llama appeared to be out of business, Chicago Inno reported.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).