Former Vice President of Discovery Tours Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Money Laundering
The former Vice President of Discovery Tours Inc., a business located in Mayfield Village, Ohio, that offered educational trips for grade school and high school students, pleaded guilty in federal court today to devising a scheme to take payments for trips and then using the funds for personal expenses.
Joseph A. Cipolletti, 47, of Hudson, Ohio, pleaded guilty to an 18-count indictment that charged him with wire fraud, money laundering, bank fraud and false statement under oath in a bankruptcy proceeding.
According to court documents, Cipolletti was employed as Vice President of Discovery Tours, Inc., a business that offered educational trips for students to destinations such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois, New York City, New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Court documents state that as Vice President, Cipolletti managed the organization’s finances, general ledger entries, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Cipolletti also had signature authority on Discovery Tours’ business bank accounts.
Court documents state that from June 2014 to May 2018, Cipolletti, as Vice President, devised a scheme to defraud parents and other student trip purchasers by diverting payments intended for these trips to his own personal use on items such as home renovations and vehicles.
As a result of Cipolletti’s actions and subsequent attempts to cover up the scheme, in May 2018, Discovery Tours abruptly ended operations and filed for bankruptcy. Student trips to Washington, D.C. were canceled for dozens of schools across Ohio and more than 5,000 families lost the money they had previously paid for trip fees.
In addition, on December 10, 2018, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Cipolletti knowingly made statements under oath in and in relation to his organization’s bankruptcy status. Cipolletti claimed that he did not owe his business any money when, in fact, and as he then knew, he had embezzled more than $600,000 from his place of business and made false entries in the general ledger.
The total amount of loss will be determined by the Court at sentencing.
Cipolletti is scheduled to be sentenced on November 29, 2022.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. McDonough.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio would like to acknowledge and thank the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Summit County, Geauga County, and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Offices for their cooperation with this matter.