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Regulation and Compliance > Litigation

Ex-Broker Pleads Guilty to Bilking More Than 100 Investors

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What You Need to Know

  • Robert Louis Cirillo targeted low-income Hispanic investors as part of a fraud scheme, prosecutors said.
  • The ex-broker pleaded guilty to securities fraud, filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
  • He faces up to 43 years in prison if he receives the maximum sentence.

A former broker pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges for running a securities fraud scheme in which he targeted low-income Hispanic investors and defrauded over 100 of them out of more than $3.2 million, according to Tracy Wilkison, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.

Instead of investing his clients’ money, Robert Louis Cirillo, 61, of Chino Hills, used the funds for his own personal expenses, including credit card payments, a trip to Las Vegas, casino expenses and two vehicles: a Jeep and an Alfa Romeo.

As part of a plea agreement, Cirillo pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana to one count of securities fraud, one count of filing a false tax return, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Wilkison said.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter scheduled a Sept. 6 sentencing hearing where Cirillo will face a maximum sentence of 43 years in federal prison, according to Wilkison. Her initial complaint against Cirillo was filed June 6, according to court documents.

Ronald D. Hedding, a lawyer in Encino, California, who represented Cirillo, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday on why his client decided to plead guilty as part of the plea deal.

Cirillo was licensed broker from 1989 to 2002, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. The last of the 10 firms for which he was a broker was First Allied Securities.

According to his plea agreement, from 2014 to 2021, Cirillo deceived over 100 clients by lying to them that he would be investing their funds in short-term construction loans that would pay large return rates ranging from 15-30% for a period of up to 90 days.

As part of his scheme, Cirillo used false promises of high returns from construction loans and showed actual and prospective investors fabricated bank statements that purported to show the investments’ growth.

Cirillo admitted to targeting members of the Hispanic community, many of whom were of limited means. One victim invested her life savings of $20,000 in Cirillo’s scheme, according to Wilkison.

Separately, he conspired to defraud an older investor through a “relative-in-distress” scheme, according to the district attorney.

In the spring of 2021, Cirillo deceived the investor into believing his grandson was arrested for possession of illegal narcotics, which was false, according to Wilkison. Cirillo’s co-conspirators persuaded the victim to send almost $400,000 for his grandson’s “bail.” Cirillo used some of that victim’s money for his own personal benefit.

Cirillo also admitted to filing false income tax returns for the years 2015-2017 by failing to report a total of more than $3 million in income. For example, on his 2017 federal income tax return, Cirillo reported total income of $30,985 and failed to include over $1.9 million in income he received from his investment fraud scheme, Wilkison pointed out.

(Image: Shutterstock)