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Press Release

Hudson Valley Tequila Producer Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that JOSEPH CIMINO, the founder of a tequila brand based in the Hudson Valley, pled guilty today to securities and wire fraud charges before U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti.  CIMINO admitted as part of his plea that he fraudulently solicited investments for his company.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated: “As he admitted in court today, Joseph Cimino lied about his tequila business’s finances to lure investors and then diverted investor funds in order to line his own pockets.  Now Cimino awaits sentencing for his fraudulent conduct.”

According to court documents and statements in court, from in or about 2014 to 2018, CIMINO raised approximately $935,000 from at least 25 investors based on fraudulent representations.  To attract investors, CIMINO falsely inflated the amount of capital that he had raised from prior investors, and falsely described as investors several individuals who, in fact, had not contributed any funds.  CIMINO also falsely inflated his company’s sales.  For example, in July 2017, CIMINO claimed in an investor report that year-to-date sales totaled 3,410 cases of tequila, when the actual sales totaled only 350 cases.  Similarly, in October 2017, CIMINO falsely claimed that year-to-date sales totaled 6,035 cases, which was approximately five times the actual total.  CIMINO further claimed in October 2017 that his company would receive reimbursement for 800 cases of tequila supposedly destroyed at a Puerto Rican warehouse as a result of Hurricane Maria.  In reality, no inventory was destroyed in the hurricane, and the company lacked insurance.

CIMINO also misused a substantial portion of investor money that was intended to fund the operations of his tequila business for personal expenses.  For example, from 2014 to 2018, CIMINO transferred approximately $472,000 of investor money to his personal bank account in order to subsidize his food, entertainment, and other living expenses.

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CIMINO, 57, of Warwick, New York, pled guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  

CIMINO is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Briccetti on February 18, 2022, at 2:30 p.m.

Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin A. Gianforti and Daniel Loss are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated November 15, 2021

Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 21-322