SANTA ANA, California – A former licensed stockbroker was sentenced today to 78 months in federal prison for committing several felonies, including running a securities fraud scheme in which he targeted low-income Hispanic victims to obtain more than $3.2 million via false promises of high returns from construction loans.
Robert Louis Cirillo, 61, of Chino Hills, was sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter, who also ordered him to pay $3,948,835 in restitution.
Cirillo pleaded guilty on June 28 to one count of securities fraud, one count of filing a false tax return, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
From 2014 to 2021, Cirillo deceived more than 100 victims by lying to them that he would be investing their funds in short-term construction loans that would pay large return rates that ranged from 15% to 30% for a period of up to 90 days. As part of the scheme, Cirillo showed actual and prospective victim-investors fabricated bank statements that purported to show the investments’ growth.
In fact, Cirillo never invested the victims’ money and instead used it for his own personal expenses, including credit card payments, a trip to Las Vegas, and two automobiles – a Jeep and an Alfa Romeo.
Cirillo targeted members of the Hispanic community, many of whom were of limited means, for his fraudulent scheme. One victim invested her life savings of $20,000 in Cirillo’s scheme.
Cirillo admitted in his plea agreement to threatening his victims once they began to realize that he had defrauded them. For example, in July 2019, Cirillo said that if one of the victims tried to sue him, that victim could go “for the [expletive] hole in the [expletive] desert. Tell him to test me,” according to court documents.
In a separate scheme that occurred in the spring of 2021, Cirillo participated in a “grandparent scam” in which a senior citizen was tricked into believing that his grandson had been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics, which was false. Cirillo’s co-conspirators convinced the 82-year-old victim to send $400,000 for his grandson’s “bail” to a bank account that Cirillo had opened and controlled. Cirillo used some of that victim’s money for his own personal benefit.
Cirillo also filed false income tax returns for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 by failing to report a total of more than $3 million in income. For example, on his 2017 federal income tax return, Cirillo reported a total income of $30,985, which failed to include more than $1.9 million in income he received from his investment fraud scheme.
Cirillo’s investment fraud resulted in a total loss of $3,237,262; his conspiracy to defraud the senior citizen resulted a total loss of $400,000; and the total tax loss incurred was $675,898.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued, “[Cirillo’s] behavior was despicable, particularly because he was engaging in an affinity crime by exploiting members of the Hispanic community, most of whom were of modest means, and some of whom lost their life savings to [him].”
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.