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            SANTA ANA, California 

A former licensed stockbroker pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal criminal charges for running a securities fraud scheme, officials stated.

        Robert Louis Cirillo targeted low-income Hispanic victims to obtain more than $3.2 million via false promises of high returns from construction loans, cheating on his taxes, and – in a separate scheme – conspiring to defraud an elderly man out of nearly $400,000 through a “relative-in-distress” scheme.

         Cirillo, 61, of Chino Hills, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud, one count of filing a false tax return, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

            According to his plea agreement, 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, officials stated that Cirillo showed actual and prospective victim-investors fabricated bank statements that purported to show the investments’ growth.

            In reality, 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 admitted to targeting 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, according to officials.

           In the spring of 2021, Cirillo was part of a scheme that deceived a senior citizen into believing that his grandson had been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics, which was false.

Cirillo’s co-conspirators convinced the victim to send a total of nearly $400,000 for his grandson’s “bail.” Cirillo used some of that victim’s money for his own personal benefit.

            Finally, Cirillo admitted to filing false income tax returns for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 by failing to report a total of more than $3 million in income, according to officials.

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 $399,550; and the total tax loss incurred was $675,898.

            U.S. District Judge David O. Carter scheduled a Sept. 6 sentencing hearing. Cirillo faces up to  43 years in federal prison.

            The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.

            Officials stated that Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.