A New York man arrested in October in an alleged fraudulent check cashing scheme is facing more serious federal charges.
Mark Pignatello, 54, of Yonkers was charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court with one count each of bank fraud, Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Pignatello allegedly used the names and Social Security numbers of six people and false identification with their names and his photo to try to cash a dozen checks in two states. Between Oct. 22 and 24, he attempted to cash checks for between nearly $2,000 and $3,000 at People’s United Bank branches in six Maine cities and four New Hampshire communities, according to the complaint.
Information about how many fraudulent checks Pignatello was able to cash successfully is not included in the complaint. After he visited branches in the Granite State, the bank sent out a fraud alert. He successfully cashed a check in Orono before being turned away in Bangor and Newport.
Pignatello made his first appearance Thursday in federal court. He was not asked to enter pleas to the charges because he has not yet been indicted by a federal grand jury.
He was arrested in October by Newport police and charged in state court with one count each forgery, theft by deception and misuse of identification.
His attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, said the charges in state court had been dismissed.
“In light of federal interest, Mr. Pignatello is pleased that the state charges are dismissed and that he can proceed forward toward a case resolution in federal court,” he said late Thursday in an email.
Pignatello has been held at the Penobscot County Jail on those charges unable to post $20,000 cash bail since his arrest.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison on Thursday ordered that Pignatello be held without bail temporarily on the federal charges. A hearing is set for Jan. 17 to determine if there are conditions under which Pignatello could be granted release on bail.
Pignatello faces more prison time if convicted in federal court than on the state charges. He faces up to 30 years in prison on the most serious federal charge of bank fraud. Pignatello faces up to five years in prison on the Class C fraud and forgery charges.