Federal judge rejects deal, sentences Wallingford accountant to nearly six years in prison

Federal judge rejects deal, sentences Wallingford accountant to nearly six years in prison


FILE PHOTO: FBI investigators carry documents out of an office building at 15 S. Elm St. , Wallingford, on June 30, 2015. . Joseph Castellano, who had an office in the building, pleaded guilty on Sept. 16, 2016 to mail fraud and money laundering. l Leigh Tauss/Record-Journal

HARTFORD — A federal judge rejected a plea deal Wednesday and sentenced a Wallingford accountant who defrauded 10 people of almost $1.5 million to nearly six years in prison.

Joseph Castellano, 59, of Wallingford, was sentenced to 68 months in prison during an appearance Wednesday in Hartford federal court. He will serve three years supervised release and was also ordered to pay restitution. The judge said a plea deal reached by the defense and prosecutors wasn’t sufficient.

Before the sentencing, the U.S. attorney’s office asked for a prison term at or near the top of the 46- to 57-month sentencing guideline and wanted Castellano to pay full restitution, citing the seriousness of the case, impact on victims and the duration of the scheme.

Castellano’s attorney, William Dow, requested a three-year sentence.

“Joe is prepared for whatever sentence the court intends to impose,” Dow said in a sentencing memo. “He asks for a sentence that will adequately punish but not destroy.”

Five victims of the investment scheme attended the sentencing. They tearfully described how their retirement plans were impacted and savings accounts were depleted. Some victims spoke of their previous friendship with Castellano and trust in him as an accountant.

Dow argued that Castellano’s scheme was not premeditated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGarry said Castellano stole money from hardworking people.

“He lied to people, he took their money, then spent their money as if it was his own for years,” McGarry said.

Dow and representatives from the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment after the sentencing. It was not immediately clear if Castellano will appeal. He declined to speak when given the opportunity during the hearing.

Castellano pleaded guilty in September to mail fraud and money laundering. He was arrested on April 6, 2016, and charged with operating a scheme that defrauded 10 people of $1.45 million. He also reportedly violated conditions of his release when he attempted to contact and pay victims and witnesses after his arrest in April 2016, according to court documents.

Castellano operated several entities out of offices in Wallingford. Through Castellano & Co. LLC, he worked as a certified public accountant and prepared federal and state tax returns for individuals and businesses. Castellano also offered financial services and investment opportunities to clients, authorities said.

Beginning in July 2007, Castellano told investors he had clients who needed capital for business or real estate projects, but were unable to receive capital from financial institutions. Castellano told investors he would provide them with an annual return rate between 6 percent and 8 percent by loaning their money to other clients, according to the authorities.

Instead, Castellano used the funds for his own benefit. Through the scheme, 10 investors were defrauded of about $1.45 million.

blipiner@record-journal.com 203-317-2444 Twitter: @BryanLipiner

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