Edward Bevilacqua, JD
(born September 10, 1957 in Oakland, CA) is an entrepreneur who co-founded several businesses, the father of six, an author and a white collar ex-felon.
He is now the managing director of the Snap Institute in Las Vegas, publisher of a national monthly magazine, and Director of Education at a 27 year old nonprofit vocational school licensed in California (1989) and Nevada (2014) whose mission is to help the people who need it the most (motivated ex-felons, homeless veterans and others) to become financially secure through stable and meaningful clerical, administrative, customer service and sales employment (and thus, in the case of ex-felons, breaking the chains of recidivism).
Bevilacqua graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree in 1979 along with Janet Napolitano (former governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security; now President of the University of California system) and John Cunningham (Chairman of Blucora). He earned a law degree from Western State University (renamed to Thomas Jefferson School of Law) in San Diego in 1994.
Bevilacqua’s father also graduated from Santa Clara University (1949) (with Janet Napolitano’s father –who he also went to highschool with in Oakland, CA), where he was a member its Board of Regents (1960-1966 and 1970-1976), a member of the California Real Estate Commission under Governor Pat Brown and president of family-owned First State Bank of Northern California.
After graduation, Bevilacqua’s career started as the general manager of a 100+ room hotel/restaurant on the beach in Santa Monica. In June 1980, he began a land journey (i.e. driving) to the tip of South America. The political climate following the revolution in Nicaragua and brutal repression in El Salvador caused the venture to settle in Costa Rica and included two days lost on foot in the Costa Rican jungle in the Oso Peninsula (which ended when he reached the Pacific Ocean). Six months later Bevilacqua returned to the US where he was hired by a venture capital company near Silicon Valley that led to founding start-ups with Santa Clara classmates John Cunningham and William Barkett.
Early business career
Unitel Corporation was founded by Barkett, Bevilacqua and Cunningham in 1982. It was Bevilacqua’s first experience as the CEO of a publicly traded company (1984); he was one of the youngest presidents of a NASDAQ listed company. At this time Bevilacqua formed a close relationship with and was mentored by mathematician, Merrill Flood, PhD. With approximately 5,000 video games pool table, pinball machines, jukeboxes and cigarette machines, Unitel was one of the largest street vending companies in the U.S. In 1985, with operations in five states, Unitel became one of the country’s largest private payphone operators as a result of the breakup of AT&T.
While attending law school at night, Bevilacqua became friends with Randy Grossman, an agent of baseball great Steve Garvey. As a result of Grossman’s involvement, Bevilacqua and Garvey created, “Steve Garvey’s Greatest Hits”, a company that leased the then new, compact disc jukeboxes to taverns throughout Southern California. That business was acquired by publicly traded Sport Active Television in 1994.
In 1997 Bevilacqua joined PlayNet/Aristo to launch its interactive jukebox business. Here he began working with Nolan Bushnell and IBM Global Services. Bevilacqua parlayed his PlayNet/IBM experience to found Fun eBusiness which, carrying -on where PlayNet left-off, developed an Internet enabled coin-op video game console. In 1999 Bevilacqua sold the game station rights to Amex listed NTN/Buzztime and, for a short time, became its manager of coin-op products where former Disney “golden boy” Stan Kinsey was CEO.
In 2001 Bevilacqua founded Bikini Vending with the goal of it becoming the first transcontinental operator of Internet enabled coin-op games and jukeboxes. The company’s 20+ employees included 8 Navy SEALs led by Mark Divine, founder of navyseals.com and included Scott Helvenston, the Navy SEAL contractor killed in Iraq and whose body, mutilated by a mob, was hung from a bridge in early 2004 and broadcast on television.
In late 2001, Bikini Vending became a provider of installation and repair services for Network Services Depot, a company that sold Internet kiosk Business Opportunities to individuals throughout the U.S. In early 2004, a Network Services Depot sales agent was caught in a CBS Los Angeles sting operation in which he made fraudulent statements about Network Services Depot’s business. After seeing the sting operation on TV in February 2004, and in order to avoid prosecution, Network Services Depot contacted the FBI, and shortly thereafter its owner was granted immunity from federal criminal prosecution by claiming that Bevilacqua was the mastermind behind Network Services Depot’s 10+ years of biz-op activities.
In March 2004, Bikini Vending’s office was raided by the FBI. Computers and files were seized and over $1,500,000 was seized from Bikini Vending’s bank accounts. However, within 90 days the FBI determined that no crime had been committed. Bevilacqua was never arrested or interviewed. The Securities and Exchange commission declined to review the case. Eventually, the Federal Trade Commission performed a thorough investigation of Bikini Vending and Network Services Depot which, in April 2005, resulted in the Commission’s unanimous decision to not prosecute Bikini Vending or Bevilacqua, (see page 2, line 23 et seq) and voted unanimously to prosecute the owner of Network Services Depot which resulted in the the Federal Court issuing a Summary Judgment against Castro (see page 8, line 24) in the amount of $18,827,528).
Despite the US Attorney’s finding no crime, and the Security and Exchange commission declining the case, and the California Attorney General’s office declining the case, and the California Department of Corporations declining the case, an assistant district attorney in San Diego County decided that it would be his last case before retirement. In September 2006 the owner of Network Services Depot and Bevilacqua were indicted on securities fraud charges. The owner of Network Services plead guilty, begged the court for mercy and was sentenced to three years in prison. Bevilacqua refused to plead guilty. In June 2008, while successfully defending his case, new charges were filed against Bevilacqua resulting in his arrest and $1.5 million bail.
After eight months in jail trying to bring the case to trial, Bevilacqua was informed by his attorney, that the assistant district attorney informed the judge that a trial would take ten weeks and cost the taxpayers over $1,000,000; to which the judge replied that, though Bevilacqua was entitled to a trial, if he took ten weeks of the court’s time and cost the taxpayers over $1,000,000, if found guilty he (the judge) would be inclined to sentence Bevilacqua to 20 years, but if he plead guilty without a trial, he’d accept six years. Bevilacqua later said, “When learning the judge’s intentions before there’s been a trial, one doesn’t think of the merits of the case, one thinks about his attorney’s ability to persuade the jury of the truth. Unfortunately, I had a public defender…”
Bevilacqua refused to plead guilty until the Court accepted his filing a West plea and a 7 year term. By then Bevilacqua had served the equivalent of one year in prison. Upon arrival at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, Bevilacqua sought to reduce his time served by requesting a transfer to a labor camp (aka “fire camp”). Bevilacqua was sent to the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown where, at the age of 52 he became a certified wildfire firefighter. Shortly thereafter he was sent to Oak Glen Conservation Camp (which housed seven fire crews and a total of 150 inmates) to serve his time. He was assigned to the kitchen, where he became the equivalent of lead cook and kitchen manager.
In June of 2010, after being told by a correction officer, that the camp is, “not big enough for both of us”, Bevilacqua was transferred to Bautista Correction Camp on a Sunday afternoon. The next day however, Bevilacqua was transferred to Chino State Prison where he spent over two weeks in solitary confinement awaiting a hearing related to his transfer out of Oak Glen. After the trial, he returned to Oak Glen.
In November 2010, Bevilacqua was transferred to Prado Conservation Camp to serve the last six months of his sentence, which was further shortened by six weeks because he enrolled in community college courses.
Bevilacqua was released in March, 2011 on Non-Revocable Parole and released from parole one year later.
Current business career
While at Oak Glen, Bevilacqua was visited by US Army Lt. Colonel Brenden Scherr. During visitation Colonel Scherr observed how damaging prison was to the families of inmates. He said to Bevilacqua, “ We’ve got to do something about this, prison tears families apart and spawns another generation of felons…” As a result of that visit Bevilacqua worked with other inmates to create a school curriculum designed to help motivated ex-felons break the chains of recidivism.
With only the USA is home to only 5% of the world’s population, it is home to 25% of the world’s prison population (about 10% of all prison inmates in the world are housed in California prisons). Bevilacqua’s prior education and upbringing provided him a rare insight to how the prison system in the US harms society through its cost, structures supporting recidivism, and by perpetuation of behavior that causes incarceration to become intergenerational.
Immediately upon Bevilacqua’s release, Scherr and others started Gladius Business School. In May 2011, Gladius contracted with Larson Training Centers, a 22 year old vocational school to offer a Sales and Communication course designed for ex-felons.
In March 2012, upon the death of Larson’s owner, Gladius bought the school. Though the name was retained, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit school was founded; it offers 15 vocational programs divided into two general categories: medical administration, accounting and customer services classes and general business administration, accounting, customer service and sales classes. Bevilacqua is prohibited from being an owner, officer or director of the school, but serves as its interim Director of Education. Larson is now a certified testing center for QuickBooks and Microsoft Office products.
Larson’s primary student base is comprised of motivated adults (30 – 65). Most students are sent to the school through Department of Labor vocational rehab, Veterans Administration vocational rehab, Workforce Investment Act, and other Federal, State and local grant programs. Gladius’ goal is to open campuses in the top 20 US markets by 2016.
Bevilacqua is also the Vice President and member of the board of directors of 55 year old historic 750 member Italian American Social Club in Las Vegas; he is also chair of its membership committee.
Bevilacqua is also the publisher of Ciao Tutti (the largest circulation monthly national Italian American magazine in the USA.
The Snap Institute
Bevilacqua is a partner in Nolan Bushnell’s latest venture: Snap Institute. Snap is a business that helps people learn the eight vital entrepreneurial skills. Snap is designed to be a new way of learning: fast, fun, on-point and no debt. “The best way to become an entrepreneur is to act like an entrepreneur”.
Snap offers one online program and four on-premise programs –including a 9-month “deep dive” which is designed specifically for people leaving high school who can’t, won’t or shouldn’t go to college and who don’t have marketable employment skills (i.e. most 18 year olds). The deep dive is an immersive 2,700 hour program (20 hours per week in class, working in teams of four to create solutions to problems posed by Nolan; 20 hours per week outside of class; and 30 hours of paid employment at a “best practices company”) that includes living in dorm-like conditions. Upon completion, students will be better able to start their own business, be more successful in college or be better trained employees.
Bevilacqua expects that Snap, like Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, will quickly expand throughout the USA and the world and become a viable option to those not returning to high school, and people wanting to start their own business.
 5 daughters and 1 son