By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO June 1, 2001 Richard Castellano was sentenced on Wednesday to a year in the county lockup for scamming local people out of several thousand dollars after taking the money to get them cards in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
Castellano never delivered the SAG cards. And Sullivan County DA Steve Lungen started getting calls from people who wanted their money back.
A couple of years ago, Richard and Jocelyne Castellano arrived in Narrowsburg with announced plans of putting the small community on the map as the heart of a local film industry.
A series of civil actions and criminal lawsuits followed in the wake of the first Narrowsburg International Independent Film Festival (NIIFF), Castellanos main street acting studio and his SAG card scam.
At first, Narrowsburg was agog with all the Hollywood-style glitz and glamour at their doorstep. Castellano went around town handing out autographed publicity shots, and main street witnessed a happening as a yet-to-be-released film, Four Deadly Reasons, was being shot in town.
Then the glitter of the silver screen faded as people started complaining about not getting paid for services rendered or SAG cards that never materialized.
In February, Castellano pleaded guilty to four charges of attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree before Sullivan County Court Judge Frank J. LaBuda. The actor, who gained a few brief moments of screen time playing a bit role opposite Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This, was originally indicted by a grand jury on four felony counts of grand larceny and a count of scheme to defraud.
Castellano was led into court on Wednesday wearing an orange jailhouse jumpsuit and slippers. The shackled ex-con-turned-actor listened attentively as Judge LaBuda sentenced him to a year in the Sullivan County Jail. LaBuda told Castellano that unless the DAs office receives by June 22 the remaining $4,500 he ordered the actor to repay to the victims of his SAG card scam Castellano is facing up to three more years in the county jail.
According to Lungen, his office received $5,000 in money orders on the day of sentencing from Castellanos NYC-based attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz. Lungen said the postal and Western Union money orders were mostly in $300 increments, with money orders of $180 and $20 making up the difference.
To date, the DAs office has received $8,050 of the approximately $12,000 Castellano was ordered to repay.
The court is concerned with making the victims whole in a reasonable and timely fashion, Judge LaBuda told Castellano at his sentencing, noting the actor was still in violation of promises he made to the court to repay victims of his SAG card scam.
Judge LaBuda said he gave Castellano more time to raise the remaining money to aid the victims in their search for justice.
Im glad its almost over, said Castellanos attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz. I think Richies made a good faith effort to pay the money back.
Schwartz said hes known Castellano for ten years and has represented him on other legal matters.
Its been an interesting ten years, he said.
His friends, family and loved ones are trying to help him out in his time of need, he added of the efforts to raise the court-ordered restitution money.
John Borg, the elderly veteran who says the Castellanos cheated him out of more than $150,000 in loans he made for their never-released indie film Four Deadly Reasons, showed up in court with his trademark folder containing what he alleges are copies of checks made out to Richard Castellano (who has gone by the name Castaldo in the past).
On the outside of the folder, Borg had printed Con Man! Castellano or Castaldo!! Wheres My Money? Hang Em High.
After the NYS Court Officers got a glimpse of Borgs statements, they warned him that the judge probably wouldnt take too kindly to seeing these sentiments in his courtroom and convinced Borg to leave the message-emblazoned folder at the front security desk.
Castellano was remanded to the Sullivan County Jail without bail. His next scheduled court appearance before Judge LaBuda is 10 a.m. on June 22.
Neither Richard nor Jocelyne Castellano were available for comment.