Transferable Skills

Close-up Of A Businessperson's Hand Giving Cheque To Colleague At Workplace

A failed lawyer, CIA operative, and movie executive from Florida, Don Cisternino is now a failed fraudster. There must be transferable skills between these careers? However, failing at fraud leads to  charges and court appearances. On January 13, 2023, Cisternino was sentenced to eight years and six months in federal prison for wire fraud and identity theft from a scam in which he submitted applications for pandemic aid programs.

In 2019, Cisternino’s Paycheck Protection Program loan application falsely claimed that his business, MagnifiCo, had 441 employees and monthly payroll expenses of more than $2.8 million. In truth, MagnifiCo had no employees other than Cisternino himself. In support of his PPP loan application, Cisternino submitted false W-2s for MagnifiCo’s purported employees, with stolen identities and Social Security numbers. This led the government to approve him for an emergency loan of $7.2 million during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to receiving the loan Cisternino had been living in a modest apartment in Tampa. He had stopped paying rent and faced eviction, maybe because this fraudster had other big plans. Upon receiving the funds, Cisternino purchased a $3.5 million seven bedroom mansion, complete with a full movie theater, five-stable horse barn, tennis court, swimming pool and an  English-style pub. He also purchased a $251,000 Mercedes-Maybach S650X, spent $90,000 on a Lincoln Navigator and paid off a $48,000 loan for a Maserati.

Investigators were tipped off that Cisternino had misspent the money. When he was alerted to the probe, like all good fraudsters he fled. First to Switzerland, then to  various other European states for three months before being arrested in Croatia. He resisted extradition to the US, begging the Irish government to grant him asylum, who said “Hmmm, no thank you!”

As part of his plea agreement, Cisternino agreed to forfeit the $7.2 million in proceeds that he had obtained through the wire fraud, as well as assets traceable to the fraud, including the 12,579 sq. ft. residence and approximately $1.1 million in funds held in various bank accounts.

Shout out to the Internal Revenue Service for leading this investigation and the government of Croatia who brought this fraud back.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on article “A Florida man who tried to claim asylum in Ireland has been jailed for stealing €6.6 million ($7.2 million) in Covid funds” published by Sunday World on January 14, 2023

A Florida man who tried to claim asylum in Ireland has been jailed for stealing €6.6 million ($7.2 million) in Covid funds.

Former CIA operative, Don Victor Cisternino, a movie mogul with an Irish passport, previously sought political asylum in Ireland as he faced extradition to the United States from Croatia to face the charges. He was handed down an eight and a half year prison term for wire fraud and identity theft.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.