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September 22, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Poughkeepsie embezzler Mark Cina sentenced to 41 months in prison

A former comptroller of two small Poughkeepsie companies was sentenced on Thursday to 41 months in prison for embezzling more than $2.5 million from the companies – including large sums when the owner was seriously ill and unable to monitor operations – and for evading $836,845 in federal taxes.

Mark Cina’s lawyer, John Ingrassia, asked for a 41-month sentence, arguing that his client was remorseful and understands how he harmed his former employer.

“It has been said that wrongs are always forgivable,” Ingrassia wrote in a sentencing memorandum, “if one has the courage to admit them.”

Federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel to imprison Cina for 41 to 51 months. He stole an astounding sum of money, they argued in a sentencing letter, in “one long criminal scheme, comprised of thousands of daily thefts.”

He stole so often “that it became a lifestyle,” they said.

Cina, 56, of Poughkeepsie, worked for Atlantis Energy Systems and its affiliated Business Systems Technology Corp. from 2008 to 2015. The companies, owned by Frank Pao, manufacture solar energy products and fabricate plastic products.

Cina was hired as a part-time bookkeeper in 2008 and became full-time comptroller in 2010. He had authority to sign checks and use company credit and debit cards.

The thefts began in 2009, according to court documents. He wrote $599,000 in checks to himself and another $282,000 to cash. He withdrew $825,000 in cash. He used credit cards for $457,000 in charges at a mini-mart and $180,000 at a gas station, much of it for lotto scratch-off tickets. He used company funds for charges at pharmacies, medical and dental offices, a rental car company and an inmate phone service, as well as $25,000 for rent when he lived in Pleasant Valley.

He repeatedly asked Pao to transfer more funds for business, claiming they were needed for payrolls. Checks he wrote to “cash” noted that they were for repaying a loan to Pao. There was no such loan.

Pao became seriously ill in 2013, needed more time for treatment and recovery and relinquished more financial control to Cina. The thievery increased significantly during this period, according to assistant prosecutors Benjamin Allee and Kathryn Martin.

In 2015, Pao’s health improved. He played a more active business role, got hold of bank records, discovered discrepancies, fired Cina and reported the thefts to state police.

Cina was arrested in 2017. In April, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion.

Cina originally believed that he was undercompensated for his work and was entitled to take the money, Ingrassia said in the sentencing memo. Now he understands that he was rationalizing his actions to fuel a gambling addiction and greed. He knows that he violated a position of trust and took advantage of a vulnerable employer.

Cina has been hospitalized twice in the past 15 months for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, Ingrassia said, and he is ashamed that his greed and gambling addiction got the better of him.

“Mark does not feel his life is worthwhile and struggles with hopelessness,” Ingrassia wrote. He would not allow family or friends to write character reference letters for the judge “because he feels he is not worthy or deserving.”

The U.S. Probation Office recommended a 41-month prison sentence. Prosecutors asked for up to 10 more months.

Cina stopped stealing only when he was caught, Allee and Martin said in their letter to the court, adding that a six-year pattern of theft cannot be considered a lapse of judgment, “but a long-term, calculated scheme for his own personal gain.”

Pao was trying to invest in alternative energy sources. Cina “ruined that effort,” the prosecutors said, and caused Pao’s companies to become delinquent on taxes and to suffer in dealings with suppliers and grant providers.

Clearly, Cina had a gambling problem, the prosecutors wrote, “but this is hardly any excuse for his brazen years-long theft from a sick man who trusted him.” And once he was caught, they noted, Cina, by his own account, stopped gambling.

The judge should consider that Cina is remorseful, accepts responsibility for his actions and feels terrible shame for his actions, the prosecutors said.

“The worse shame, of course, is that the defendant lacked the moral compass to realize that shame long ago,” they wrote, “before he stole millions from his employer who trusted him, putting the companies where he worked in ruin.”

Judge Seibel also ordered Cina to pay nearly $3.4 million in restitution, including the $2,548,820 stolen from Pao and $836,845 for federal taxes.