A Chino Hills man who defrauded dozens of people out of more than $3 million as part of a scheme that largely targeted low-income Hispanic investors was sentenced Tuesday to more than six years in federal prison.
Robert Louis Cirillo, 61, was ordered by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to serve 6 1/2 years behind bars and to pay approximately $3.9 million in restitution.
Cirillo, a former licenses stockbroker, earlier this year accepted a plea deal requiring he admit to federal counts of securities fraud, filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to court filings, Cirillo “orchestrated and ran” an investment fraud scheme in which he persuaded more than 100 people to invest in bogus construction loans backed by “lies and fake documents.” He also defrauded an 82-year-old victim out of approximately $400,000 as part of what prosecutors described as a “Grandparent scam” and failed to pay more than $675,000 in taxes on the income from his schemes.
Rather than use the investment money as promised on short-term construction loans, prosecutors say Cirillo spent it on himself, including on credit card payments, a Las Vegas trip and a Jeep and Alfa Romeo luxury car.
When the investors pushed him for their money, Cirillo at times provided them with checks he knew would bounce or would threaten them, prosecutors said.
“Defendant’s behavior was despicable, particularly because he was … exploiting members of the Hispanic community, most of whom were of modest means, and some of whom lost their life savings to (the) defendant,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing brief. “It’s heartbreaking to read the victims’ messages to (the) defendant, where they were desperate and would beg defendant for any of their money back.”
Cirillo’s defense attorney, in his own sentencing brief filed with the court, noted that Cirillo admitted guilt early in the criminal proceedings, has health issues and is a “key figure financially and emotionally” for his family. Several of Cirillo’s family members wrote letters to the court, describing him as a devoted and loving family man.