Charleston Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Charitable Non-Profit
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Benjamin Cisco, 30, of Charleston, pleaded guilty today to two counts of wire fraud. Cisco admitted to defrauding a charitable non-profit organization of $871,288.34 intended for suffering West Virginians.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from about March 19, 2020, through about September 28, 2022, Cisco devised and executed his scheme to defraud the charitable non-profit organization while employed as its finance and operations manager in Belle and Charleston. Through his position, Cisco had control over the victim charity’s finances and access to its debit cards, and regularly worked with its accountant. Cisco’s duties included preparing the victim charity’s biweekly payroll, depositing payments into its bank accounts and providing its Board of Directors with updates regarding its finances.
Cisco admitted that his fraud scheme followed a two-step process. First, Cisco electronically transferred money from the victim charity’s debit cards to its account with the Flipcause crowd-funding platform, which recorded those transfers as donations. Second, Cisco electronically transferred money from the victim charity’s Flipcause account to his personal bank account, which he had falsely labeled as belonging to the victim charity.
Cisco admitted that these fraudulent transactions included electronic transfers from the victim charity’s Flipcause account to his personal bank account of $4,724 on January 28, 2022, and $2,874 on May 6, 2022. Both transfers traveled in interstate commerce between Charleston, West Virginia, and California. Cisco further admitted to executing the fraudulent two-step process more than 100 times.
Cisco’s fraudulent scheme specifically caused at least $518,101.70 of loss to the victim charity. Cisco also admitted to defrauding the victim charity of an additional $285,626.64 in travel reimbursements he was not authorized to receive and $67,560 by purchasing gift cards with victim charity funds without authorization. The total loss is $871,288.34.
Cisco is scheduled to be sentenced on September 13, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine. He also owes $871,288.34 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Chief United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorneys Holly Wilson and Erik S. Goes are prosecuting the case. Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen Robeson contributed to the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-25.
Updated May 23, 2023