Broker who targeted Latinos in $3.2-million investment scheme is sentenced to prison

Federal court judge David O. Carter visits the Orange County Social Services command.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A former stockbroker from Chino Hills was sentenced Tuesday to 6½ years in prison after pleading guilty to running a $3.2-million securities fraud scheme that targeted low-income Latinos, according to federal prosecutors.

Robert Louis Cirillo, 61, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to pay more than $3.9 million in restitution, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Cirillo’s investment fraud led to a loss of more than $3.2 million, while a separate scheme targeting a senior citizen resulted in a loss of $400,000. Cirillo was also accused of underpaying his income taxes by $675,898.

Cirillo pleaded guilty in June to securities fraud, filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prosecutors said. Cirillo was accused of deceiving more than 100 people from 2014 to 2021 by telling them he would invest their funds in short-term construction loans that would yield returns of 15% to 30% for up to three months.

Cirillo showed his investors fake bank statements but in actuality, never invested their money and used it on personal expenses, such as a trip to Las Vegas, credit card payments and two cars, according to prosecutors.

Cirillo targeted Latino victims of “limited means,” including one person who invested her life savings of $20,000 in the scam, prosecutors said. Cirillo said in his plea agreement that he threatened victims when they realized that they were being defrauded.

Cirillo also participated in a separate “grandparent scam” in the spring of 2021, in which he falsely told an 82-year-old that his grandson had been arrested for drug possession, according to prosecutors. Cirillo’s co-conspirators told the grandparent to send $400,000 for “bail,” which actually went to Cirillo’s bank account.

In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Cirillo allegedly filed false income tax returns and didn’t report more than $3 million in income, prosecutors said. On his 2017 federal tax return, Cirillo reported only $30,985 in income, failing to include the more than $1.9 million he got from his securities fraud scheme, according to prosecutors.

"[Cirillo’s] behavior was despicable, particularly because he was engaging in an affinity crime by exploiting members of the Latino community, most of whom were of modest means, and some of whom lost their life savings,” prosecutors said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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