Judge cuts recommended sentence for builder in Greylock fraud

U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni on Monday sentenced Michael DiCenzo, a former Greylock Federal Credit Union loan executive, to probation in a fraud case, citing the defendant's failing health. 

SPRINGFIELD — A Pittsfield man’s plea for clemency was accepted Monday in a bank fraud case dating to the start of the Obama presidency.

Michael DiCenzo, a former top loan officer with Greylock Federal Credit Union, was sentenced to probation — and spared what could have been a prison sentence of 30 months for admitted wrongdoing that cost the bank and its insurer about $4 million.

Citing multiple health problems, DiCenzo and his attorney asked for probation in a case that has lingered in the court system for more than six years. They questioned DiCenzo’s ability to receive adequate medical care in prison and warned that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, he could die there.

“That might be a very short death sentence for him,” said DiCenzo’s court-appointed attorney, Thomas J. O’Connor Jr. “He would be serving the sentence in a wheelchair in need of constant nursing care.”

U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni accepted the recommendation, which was not opposed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Breslow, who prosecuted the case.

The sentencing was held by videoconference, with DiCenzo speaking from his current home, a long-term care facility in Pittsfield. His brother, Anthony, and daughter, Sara Stewart, watched through the Zoom proceeding.

“This is obviously a very low sentence,” Mastroianni said. “But, it takes into account the circumstances Mr. DiCenzo is in. ... His medical condition is very serious. ... The world’s a different place now because of the pandemic.”

After imposing sentence, Mastroianni thanked the prosecution for doing all it could to make whole the victims in the fraud — the bank and its insurers, mainly. But, he and Breslow noted that because of the financial circumstances of DiCenzo and an earlier defendant, Pittsfield builder Jeffrey Pierce, significant restitution is unlikely.

Pierce served about nine months of a 20-month prison sentence before being granted compassionate release last spring due to health concerns in the federal prison system amid the pandemic. The men admit they defrauded the bank through improper loans. DiCenzo pocketed kickbacks of $135,000 over the period of lending, which took place more than 10 years ago.

Mastroianni had pressed for months for an accounting of where all the money went. On Monday, he conceded that those answers might never be found and noted again that of the two defendants, he long had felt that DiCenzo was the most culpable.

“I wasn’t especially sympathetic,” the judge said. “I still think that about his culpability.”

DiCenzo’s attorneys claimed that some of his personal financial records were destroyed in a basement flood.

“I would like to feel that justice was served,” Mastroianni said. “I’m not feeling it in this case.”

From his seat before a computer in his nursing home, DiCenzo leaned forward when the judge offered him a chance to address the court. His health problems include kidney failure that renders him dependent on dialysis three times a week. He suffered a stroke in March and, because of diabetes, is at risk of losing eyesight and limbs, according to a doctor’s report provided to the court.

“I just want to reiterate how sorry I am to Greylock Federal Credit Union,” he said. “They put me in a position of trust and I violated that trust. I am extremely sorry.”

He added, “I have no friends, and I’m just sorry for what I did.”

“He’s lost so many aspects of his health,” O’Connor said of his client. “And his good standing in the community. ... He’s tried to atone for these poor decisions that he made.”

No fine was imposed on DiCenzo, though he is being ordered to provide restitution of about $4 million. Authorities admit there is little chance that the bank and its insurer will be compensated, given DiCenzo’s current financial plight. His attorney noted that he had lost his home and job, as well as his marriage, in the years after the fraud.

DiCenzo has claimed that much of the money he received in the form of kickbacks from Pierce was used to cope with the fallout from a child’s addiction, though some proceeds had been used to pay for another offspring’s wedding expenses.

“There is no chance that full restitution is going to be made,” Mastroianni said.

Still, the court action holds DiCenzo accountable for restitution of $919,783 to Greylock and $2,901,833 to its insurer. DiCenzo also owes $63,617 to the IRS.

Breslow, the prosecutor, spoke to the fact that punishments are designed, in part, to prevent others from committing similar crimes. That reasoning lay behind the government’s request for a prison sentence for DiCenzo. But, he said he doubted that anyone willingly would trade places with DiCenzo, given the personal setbacks he has weathered since his crimes at Greylock.

“I think that he merits a much less severe sentence at this time,” Breslow said.

Though the government wanted to send DiCenzo to prison for 30 months, the prosecutor said that in both cases related to Greylock, the defendants ended up admitting their guilt.

“I think you’ve done justice here,” Breslow told Mastroianni.

Mastroianni imposed a sentence of “time served,” even though DiCenzo never had surrendered himself to custody, and three years of probation. The defense and prosecution pointed to the decade in which DiCenzo assisted an investigation into the fraud and stood ready to testify, if needed, against Pierce, his former loan customer.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.