A Leesburg, Va. attorney was sentenced to two years in prison today after admitting in November to helping organize a wire fraud scheme that illegally paid a former client of his more than $450,000 from a life insurance policy.
U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady sentenced Christopher Agresto to 24 months in prison with three years of supervised release for one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 13 months less than the 37-to-46 month guideline range. Two additional counts, one for wire fraud and the other for money laundering, were dropped following Agresto's guilty plea to the conspiracy charge.
Peter Carr, public information officer for the Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney's office, where the case took place, said in an interview that it is "important to remember that Mr. Agresto did not receive any money from the account," a point of contention for the defense.
Agresto's attorney Greg Hunter said that while he was pleased his client received "a full third less time" than was suggested, he felt the fact that Agresto did not receive payment from the scheme, in addition to the repercussions in his private life, should have led the court to sentence Agresto to probation instead of jail.
"My difference of opinion with the prosecution could not be overstated," Hunter said. "This guy has been completely personally, financially and professionally destroyed by this."
The case stemmed from the 2009 death of Susan Cilenti, whose body was found under suspicious circumstances in the home she shared with her husband James Cilenti. Following an announcement by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office that James Cilenti was a person of interest, military insurance provider USAA refused to pay him $507,048 from his late wife's policy, according to a press release issued by prosecutors in the case.
Cilenti then contacted Agresto to set up a trust to receive the funds that would benefit his adopted daughter. Agresto subsequently wrote more than $450,500 in checks and wire transfers to Cilenti, who later spent the money for his own benefit and not his daughter's.
Agresto and Cilenti were ordered to pay that amount in restitution.
Hunter said that despite the lower-than-suggested sentence, the guidelines were overly punitive from the outset, given that Agresto did not receive any money from the trust. He also expressed his "disappointment" with the rest of the legal community in which Agresto worked, saying that fellow attorneys "abandoned" his client in response to this case.
"I think the world of [Judge] Liam O'Grady," Hunter said. "But I could not disagree with him more here."
By Rob Stigile