Robert Scinto’s life sounds like the source material for a great American novel.
Born 63 years ago to a working class family on Bridgeport’s west end, Scinto’s early life was marked by a misunderstood learning disability that left him unable to read — and subjected him to the constant ridicule of classmates, thanks to a speech problem.
His verbal SAT score was barely above the minimum grade possible — he only got a handle on reading while attending Sacred Heart University.
Yet Scinto’s business acumen propelled him to become an extremely wealthy developer — and his commitment to Shelton made him a pillar of the community.
But he lied to a FBI agent about giving gifts to Shelton officials and employees — and now he’s a convicted felon.
For that, Scinto could be sentenced April 6 to as much as two years in federal prison.
However, in a court document submitted March 28, his lawyer argues that Scitno should receive two years probation, home confinement and a “targeted” community service project.
The 44-page court document — a sentencing memorandum to be considered by Judge Charles S. Haight — was prepared by Scinto’s lawyer, James Cowdery.
The memo lists intimate details of Scinto’s life — and makes the case that his crime should serve as a lesson to others.
Lifetime Of Helping Others
The document lists a mountain of good things Scinto has done for people.
Scinto’s sentencing memo is posted below. Article continues after the document.
Many of the people who benefited from Scinto’s generosity wrote letters of support for the court to consider.
The sentencing memo dedicates 12 pages to Scinto’s good deeds, including:
- Paying for rehabilitation services for a young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury. The man’s insurance had refused to pick up the costs.
- Paying for scholarships or tuition that allowed students to attend college
- Providing countless dollars to support education for inner-city kids
- Raising millions of dollars for Sacred Heart University
- Giving thousands of dollars to Catholic charities, even paying for the replacement of a roof at a Stratford church
At the same time, Scinto has accepted responsibility for what he did wrong, according to his attorney’s memo.
Scinto pleaded guilty Oct. 21 to one count of lying to a FBI agent. He lied about gifts he gave to Shelton employees and officials between 1999 and 2008.
Those gifts, some of which federal prosecutors said were made to Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, included:
- A week in Scinto’s Aspen, Colorado vacation home in 2003.
- A cash payment to building inspector Elliot Wilson as certificate of occupancies were granted for Scinto development projects
- Christmas gifts, in cash, to various Shelton city employees
Federal agents investigating corruption in Shelton interviewed Scinto in July 2008.
“Mr. Scinto knew he had lied in response to some of the agents’ questions and failed to tell the truth in others, and he knew it was wrong to lie to those agents.” Scinto’s lawyer wrote.
Scinto’s plea agreement is posted below. Article continues after the document.
The developer lied because he was worried that the admission would make him and Shelton officials look bad.
Scinto’s lawyer acknowledges that his client’s worry came true — Scinto and Shelton have looked very bad from allegations made in three federal cases the investigation has spawned.
In arguing for no jail time, Scinto’s lawyer points out that the gifts to Shelton officials were not done in exchange for something, such as gaining approval for a project.
Scinto is a guy who’s generous — a guy who gives.
While nice, it’s unethical, his lawyer acknowledges.
“The fact remains, however, that giving gifts to Shelton officials, even with no intent to influence them and no expectation of anything in return, is not a good practice,” Cowdery writes.
“It blurs lines that should not be blurred, creates an appearance of impropriety and undermines confidence in local government.”
Code Of Ethics?
The blurry lines between developers and Shelton officials have been pointed out by judges who presided over the corruption cases of developer James Botti and Wilson, the building inspector still employed by Shelton even though he’s scheduled to go to jail.
The city’s code of ethics is still limp and under review, despite countless corruption headlines and a FBI probe that has dragged on for years.
So, instead of jail, Cowdery writes that Scinto wants to pay for a program that would train ethically-challenged municipalities and the developers doing business with those towns.
In addition, as part of his community service, Scinto has offered to speak to civic groups, community organizations and those in the construction field about why giving gifts to public employees is inappropriate.
Being a felon has already taken a personal toll on Scinto, his lawyer writes.
Once a role model, Scinto will now always carry the label of convicted felon.
“Now, whenever he addresses an elementary school to discuss the challenges of having learning disabilities, he will stand before them as a convicted felon,” Cowdery writes.
“While they may or may not know it, he will, and it will hurt every time.”