A man who admitted to stealing people’s identities and cashing fake checks in Maine and New Hampshire was sentenced Tuesday to more than four years in prison for a crime the judge said was “akin to a high-tech mugging.”
Mark Pignatello, 55, of Kent, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in April to one count each of bank fraud, misrepresentation of Social Security numbers and aggravated identity theft.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker sentenced Pignatello to two years and four months on the first two charges, and to an additional two years on the third charge.
The judge also ordered Pignatello to pay $20,893 in restitution to People’s United Bank.
Walker said that he considered Pignatello’s crime similar to a mugging because of the stress that identity theft and the often resulting financial loss cause victims.
None of Pignatello’s victims attended Tuesday’s sentencing in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Pignatello admitted to using the names and Social Security numbers of six people and fake driver’s licenses with their names and his photo to try to cash a dozen checks in two states. Between Oct. 22, 2018, and Oct. 24, 2018, 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 court documents.
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, where he was arrested by local police. He originally was charged in state court but those charges were dismissed early this year when federal charges were filed.
Pignatello, who has a long criminal history that made it difficult for him to obtain work in New York, apologized Tuesday to his victims.
“I’m sorry for my victims,” he told Walker. “In that situation, I was not looking to hurt someone. I was just looking to survive.”
Although Pignatello pleaded guilty, he did not tell investigators how or from whom he obtained Social Security numbers and the other information he used to commit his crimes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne Semivan told Walker.
Pignatello had been held without bail since his arrest last year.
He faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on the bank fraud charge, and up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the Social Security fraud charge. In addition, he faced between two and 15 years, to be served consecutively to other convictions, and a fine of up to $250,000 on the aggravated identity theft count.