STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The head of a South Beach-based technology company is on the hook for more than $133,000 and could spend up to 33 months behind bars after admitting he bilked a federal program serving disadvantaged kids in Brooklyn Catholic schools.
John Comito, 69, pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud during a remote conference in Brooklyn federal court.
The defendant admitted to ripping off the E-rate program.
Comito, the chief executive officer of AutoExec Computer Systems Inc., said he submitted an invoice in October 2015, in which he falsely claimed his company had provided certain Internet services and equipment to schools under the program.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors said the company illegally obtained $433,000.
Comito personally profited to the tune of $133,240, said prosecutors.
Under the plea agreement, the defendant agreed to forfeit his illegal gains.
“I wish to express to the court how sorry I am for my conduct,” Comito said.
Comito was busted last December.
In announcing his arrest, authorities accused the defendant of two counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud with respect to the E-rate program.
The program distributes money to schools and libraries serving impoverished kids to buy telecommunications services, Internet access and related equipment, said authorities.
The E-rate program defrays approved costs by up to 90 percent, said authorities.
To qualify, educational institutions must certify that they are purchasing equipment and services from a private vendor.
Between 2013 and 2017, AutoExec contracted with 26 elementary, middle and high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn to provide telecommunication services and equipment, officials said.
At least eight schools received no equipment or services, said authorities.
The other 18 schools received partial, substandard or non-approved equipment and services, officials said.
Comito told the judge he had “neglected to supply schools with some of the equipment they were supposed to get.”
Public records indicate AutoExec is located on Sand Lane.
Those records also show addresses for Comito in the Mid-Island.
Prosecutors and defense lawyer Michael F. Bachner told the court Comito could receive a prison sentence of between 27 and 33 months, according to their calculations of federal sentencing guidelines.
The guidelines, however, are advisory, and the sentencing judge isn’t bound by them.
Comito agreed not to appeal the sentence if his prison sentence doesn’t exceed 37 months.
Besides forfeiting his gains of $133,240, the defendant could be fined up to $866,000 – or twice the victims’ loss amount.
Comito could also be sentenced to up to three years of supervised release.
The court set a Dec. 15 conference date to determine the status of the federal Probation Department’s pre-sentencing report.
Comito must pay his forfeiture at least 30 days before sentencing.
“With today’s guilty plea, Comito will now be held to account for defrauding the E-rate federal program and schools in order to enrich himself at the expense of the deserving children the program was designed to serve,” said Seth D. DuCharme, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.
Bachner, the defense lawyer, declined comment when reached by email after the proceeding.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip Pilmar and Francisco J. Navarro are prosecuting the case.