By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO April 17, 2001 Richard Richie Castellano was supposed to show up in court on Friday the 13th.
The raspy voiced actor was scheduled to be sentenced to a year in jail for scamming some local folks out of about $12,000 after promising to get them cards in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
Instead, the actor, who gained a few minutes of screentime alongside Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This, upstaged the court with a surprise no-show appearance.
Castellanos move ticked off the local DA and several victims of his SAG scam who were in court to see him sentenced.
On October 4, the actor was indicted on four counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud. He was charged with taking more than $12,000 from four people with promises to get them SAG cards, thus opening the doors to lucrative roles in the film industry.
Castellano didnt deliver and later admitted he spent the money.
On February 7, he pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny, a misdemeanor. Castellano agreed to pay back the money and was looking at a year in the county lockup. If the actor didnt come up with the money, hed face another year in jail.
On Friday, Castellanos Manhattan-based attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz, visibly frustrated Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda when a message arrived in the courtroom, advising the judge that the lawyer was running 15 minutes late. Schwartz appeared in court, minus his client, about 45 minutes later.
Schwartz told the skeptical court that Castellano recently started to manifest systems of Parkinsons disease, has high blood pressure, circulation problems and bipolar disorder.
He told Judge LaBuda and Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen that his client was admitted to a rehab center two days before he was to appear for sentencing.
Schwartz claimed Castellano is now in a drug rehab program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Hes addicted to three kinds of painkillers, said Schwartz. Hes popping 20 pills a day . . . hes basically a mess . . . hes in real bad shape.
According to Schwartz, the pressure of Castellanos current situation has made things worse for his client, exacerbating certain injuries that he has from a long time ago when he was a professional boxer.
He took a lot of shots to the head, said Schwartz after the court proceedings.
Lungen was incredulous at Castellanos no-show. In a conference before the bench, the local DA laid it on the line for Castellanos attorney, as he told Schwartz his client has no credibility with this office . . . hes a con artist.
As proof of Castellanos being admitted to a medical facility, Schwartz handed the court a letter apparently written on hospital letterhead, signed by a physician. According to Schwartz, he was given the letter by Castellanos wife, Jocelyn Rousseau. She was not in court.
According to Lungen, his office will verify Castellanos whereabouts. If hes not in a hospital for legitimate reasons, a bench warrant will be issued. If Castellano gets out of rehab, he will be sentenced within 24 hours. Formal sentencing was postponed until May 11.
Schwartz said Castellano has paid $4,000 of the more than $12,000 he owes in restitution to his victims, with another $4,000 on the way.
Lungen strongly disputed those numbers, saying his office has received a total of $1,000 (a couple of $500 money orders) from the actor.
Richard Castellano (aka Castaldo) briefly gained local exposure while making a yet-to-be-released independent film called Four Deadly Reasons, operating an acting studio, and being involved with the Narrowsburg Independent International Film Festival (NIIFF).
The founders of the film festival (Castellano and his wife, Jocelyne) have been sued in numerous courts.
Richard Castellano has no credibility with this office, based upon all the scams he pulled as a con artist, said Lungen. Hes a known con artist . . . he has a history of it.
Several of Castellanos victims sat in the courtroom, waiting quietly for Castellano to face his judgment day.
Matt Nelson enrolled in Castellanos now-defunct acting studio, hoping to further his ambitions for a career in the film industry. He borrowed $2,100 from his parents, Bob and Beatrice Nelson of Barryville, which he gave Castellano for a SAG card.
Nelsons parents were on hand to watch Castellano get sentenced, but they will apparently have to wait a while.
Hes trying to scam the legal system here in the county [the] same way he scammed everyone else for those SAG cards, said Bob Nelson. There was no reason for him not to be here.
Beatrice Nelsons reaction to Castellanos no-show court appearance?
I dont believe any of it, she said. This man has no sympathy for us he could care less.
Matt really got screwed, she added.
Two years ago, Armondo Mondo Bilancione, a beefy ex-cop, was Castellanos bodyguard and acting school student. Since then, the actor and his former bodyguard have been exchanging charges in various local justice courts.
On Friday, Bilancione was in the courtroom awaiting Castellanos sentencing. After Judge LaBuda adjourned the session, Bilancione walked over to Castellanos attorney, put his arm around Schwartzs shoulders, pulled him close and said, Tell your client hes nothing but a piece of s--t.
This case is not forgotten its coming back, said Lungen during a brief meeting with the local press after court. Were coming back to court.
Because hes a con artist, and because he scammed these people, if he tells us something and its not verified, its not believed, Lungen said.