Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
Richard Castellano in his black Cadillac
The Legal Woes Of
By Ted Waddell
NARROWSBURG August 11, 2000 Richard Richie Castellano recently gained fame on the silver screen with a role in the feature film Analyze This, appearing with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal.
But lately, the raspy voiced actor from the hard-scrabble streets of Brooklyn who spent five years in the slammer for holding up a shoe store (he first told locals it was an armored car heist) is spending more time before area judges than making movies.
After moving from NYC to Cochecton, last year he helped his wife Jocelyne Castellano establish the first Narrowsburg International Indepen-dent Film Festival (NIIFF). Later that year, Castellano founded an acting studio to help fulfill the dreams of those who yearned for a career in the movie business.
The Castellanos came to town with ambitious plans. While they were filming Four Deadly Reasons a film produced by Jocelyne Castellano, founder of Atlantia Films, and starring Richard Castellano they set up the NIIFF.
In recent weeks, Castellano has seen his legal woes continue, as he (and NIIFF and Jocelyne Castellano) have been taken to small claims court by people alleging they never got paid for working in the film festival. People seeking redress for some bounced checks have also brought legal action against the Castellanos and/or NIIFF.
At the close of last Augusts first successful event, and in the wake of a scaled-back second annual local independent film festival, there are a lot of folks who feel theyve been stiffed by NIIFF.
During June-July, the Gang of Fourteen a group of 14 former NIIFF employees or those who provided services to the fledging film festival signed complaints at the Town of Tusten Court. The series of small claims seek payment of $11,215 for alleged breach of contract and non-payment of wages and other matters.
The Gang of Fourteen includes George W. Gatter of NYC ($775 in wages, $2,200 for fradulent use of employees credit card and slander), Amy Bostwick of NYC ($1,460), Ni Ni Than of NYC ($925), John Keating of Narrowsburg ($910), Luis Colon of Jackson Heights, NYC ($900), Matt Nelson of Barryville ($750), Mark Sherman of Forest Hills, NY ($750), Michael Steed of Brooklyn ($700), Anguibe Guindo of NYC ($600), Tamar Gadish of NYC ($400), Gregory Boulokos of Barryville ($350), Tommy Popps of NYC ($300), Dianna Solomon of NYC ($100) and Adam Naumovitz of Barryville ($95).
According to public documents filed at the Town of Tusten Court, the claims were filed against Richard Castellano also known as (aka) Richard Castaldo-Castellano aka Richard J. Castellano, doing business as (dba) Atlantia Films and Jocelyne Castellano aka Jocelyne Castaldo-Castellano aka Maria Jocelyne Castellano aka Marie-Helene Rousseau aka Marie Rousseau, dba Atlantia Films (and/or) the Narrowsburg International Indepen-dent Film Festival.
On July 21, Janet Syre of Lackawaxen, Pa. filed a small claims in the Tusten Court, alleging the above parties owed her $2,614.60 for providing food and gratuities during the first annual NIIFF. In August 1999, Jim and Janet Syre owned and operated the Chatterbox Cafe on Main Street in Narrowsburg, a few doors down from NIIFF headquarters.
Four days later on July 25, the Castellanos former attorney, Deb Ireland, contacted the local court. On July 27, she filed a small claims in the amount of $1,462.50 for professioinal legal services provided to the Castellanos from June 13-19, 2000. She originally billed them for $1,522.50 (8.7 hrs. @ $175 per hr.). According to public court records, she was paid $60 on June 16.
Since August, the Gang of Fourteen has added three new members to its roster. On August 2, Robert and Valerie Villani of Middletown filed a claim againt the Castellanos (et al) for not paying a $2,000 promissory note. On the 7th, former NIIFF employee Shannon Holland of Monticello filed a complaint for $2,140.50 (wages), and one day later, Sally Yorek of Paupack, Pa. filed a claim for $2,285.
In another action before the Tusten Court, former NIIFF publicist Meme Black of Kenoza Lake said the Castellanos owed her for services rendered before she left the festival. According to Town of Tusten Justice Ralph Huebner, the court recently received a phone call from Jocelyne Castellano stating she will be paying Black $666.23.
In actions involving Richard Castellano before the Town of Cochecton Court, the actor was granted an order of protection against his former bodyguard and acting class student Armondo Mondo Bilancione of Middletown. On April 24, Castellano contacted Town Justice Robert Meyer regarding alleged harrassment by Bilancione. The order of protection was issued the next day.
On June 19, Robert and Beatrice Nelson filed a complaint in the Town of Cochecton court seeking $2,100 from Richard Castellano. Their son, Matthew, was reportedly a student in his acting class.
As of Thursday afternoon, small claims totalling $24,483.83 have been filed in the Town of Tusten Court and/or the Town of Cochecton Court against the Castellanos (et al).
Castellano was arrested several weeks ago and released on bail after a $1,500 check written to Budget Rent-a-Car in Monticello bounced.
He said he was wrongfully arrested and detained in the Monticello lock-up, claiming that since Robert Green Motors arranged for the rental while his car was in the shop, they should be the ones arraigned, not me.
Castellano was arrested in July for allegedly writing a $5,000 bad check to John Borg of Narrowsburg, an elderly local egg farmer who is reportedly an investor in the Atlantia Films production of Four Deadly Reasons.
According to reports published in the local weekly newspaper, Castellano claimed to have paid Borg $11,000 of the $61,000 he said he owes him, but the $5,000 check (written on May 26) bounced when Borg failed to hold it until I got a residual check from Warner Brothers. After his arrest, Castellano posted $5,000 bail.
Under NYS Penal Law, passing a bad check is defined as a Class B Misdemeanor. A conviction carries a fine not to exceed $500, up to three months in the county jail and/or up to three months probation.
On August 2, Castellano was arrested by NYSP Trooper Ben Johnson for allegedly assaulting Robert Schaeffer, a resident of an upstairs apartment overlooking Main Street in Narrowsburg. Castellano said Schaeffer struck his wife with a crowbar and then reached into a paper bag, at which point I defended myself and my wife.
As of press time, Schaeffer could not be reached for comment. The third-degree assault charge is defined under NYS Penal Law as a Class A Misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $1,000, up to one year in jail and/or a probationary period not to exceed three years.
Since Oct. 1999, NYSP troopers assigned to the Narrowsburg barracks have gotten to know Castellano on a first-name basis. They have logged at least nine calls related to the actor, ranging from checks on his welfare, dogs, disputes with business associates, hunters on his property, allegations by the actor of aggravated harassment and arresting him.
According to Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen F. Lungen, the New York State Police and the District Attorneys office are conducting an ongoing investigation into Castellanos financial dealings.
Were very concerned, and were definitely looking into this, he said.
Lungen noted that investigators are sensitive to the fact that without proof of fraud (or the intent to defraud), criminal charges arent warranted if people lose money by investing in legitimate enterprises.
Were looking at all aspects of the investigation very carefully, said Lungen.
What Castellano Has to Say
I do the right thing most of my life, and I get criticized for the smallest mistake I make, and I dont think its fair, said Richard Castellano in a recent conversation at NIIFF headquarters at th close of the film festival.
I owe my grandmother $60, and she didnt go to the cops on me, he added. The people I owe money to, its all about business and production. The people who invested in my movie are very happy.
I will do what any legitimate man does: pay back. When the money comes [in], they get paid.
According to Castellano, there was no malice involved in his recent difficulties before the local courts.
[Its] not like were trying to take peoples money and run away, he said. If anything, I think they owe me money for all that I put in this town.
Everybodys talking about the falling star. How about Richard Castellano buying an old lady a cup of coffee from his heart?
Several recent calls to NIIFF headquarters were not returned.
What Happens Next
Richard Castellano is scheduled to appear this Friday at 11 a.m. before Town of Tusten Justice Huebner to answer two criminal charges: the bounced check he allegedly issued to Borg, and the alleged assault against Schaeffer. Castellano is scheduled to be represented by his attorney, Steve Vegliante.
According to Justice Huebner, Meme Black is also slated to appear at the same time in order to collect money owed her for services rendered during the first annual film fest.