Accused fraudster Justin Costello has a history of posing as a billionaire and threatening police, police say.
Yearbook photo of Justin Costello
“It’s easy to be someone you’re not, but it’s hard to be yourself,” Wisconsin teenager Justin Costello wrote under his senior photo in the 1999 Oconomowoc High School yearbook.
Twenty-three years later, an FBI SWAT team arrested Costello, who was hiding from police outside of San Diego, in part because he was posing as someone he wasn’t; A billionaire with a Harvard MBA who was wounded twice by Iraqi special forces. veteran.
None of those claims were true, authorities said.
Now it was the 42-year-old charged Sept. 28 with criminal wire and securities fraud allegedly for fraud $35 million from thousands of investors and others whose trust he gained because they believed he was a war hero who became a wealthy and successful cannabis billionaire, federal prosecutors said.
Although he did none of those things, prosecutors say he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for failing to surrender to authorities.
Prosecutors say Costello got around the city with fake IDs, cash and gold bars after the Justice Department released a 25-count indictment detailing multiple schemes involving penny stocks, cannabis companies and a banking firm. :
When he was arrested in California, FBI agents said Costello had taken on yet another new identity. “Christian Bolter” according to his driving licence. He also had $60,000 in U.S. currency, $10,000 in Mexican pesos and six gold bars valued at $12,000, court records show.
Cash and gold bars, as detailed in a lawsuit filed by former fugitive Justin Costello in U.S. District Court in San Diego.
Source: US District Court
Federal judge in San Diego held him without bail on October 25, saying that he “poses an economic threat to the community.”
Prosecutors argued that Costello, who has ties to California, Las Vegas and Washington, “was a serious flight risk.”
Another San Diego judge then ordered Costello back to Washington state to stand trial in the DOJ’s criminal case in U.S. District Court, court documents show.
It’s the same court where Costello and another man, David Ferraro, were slapped with a civil suit in October by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused Costello of the conduct outlined in the criminal complaint.
The SEC agreed last week to settle the civil charges against FerraroA 44-year-old resident of Radford, Virginia, who was accused of using his Twitter account to assist Costello in several penny stock-loading and dumping schemes.
A judge signed a contract with Ferraro on Monday. who agreed to several conditions while neither admitting nor denying the charges. A judge has yet to impose monetary penalties on Ferraro, who has not been charged in the criminal case.
Costello’s latest arrest isn’t the first time he’s had run-ins with the law or posed as a billionaire, court and police records show.
Three years before his most recent arrest, he brazenly claimed to be a billionaire in a failed attempt to evade arrest in a separate incident in Washington state, according to a police report obtained by CNBC.
Police in Snoqualmie, Washington, arrested Costello on Sept. 15, 2019, after receiving a report that he was causing a drunken disturbance at the luxury Salish Lodge & Spa, according to police and court records.
Officers arrived at the Salish Lodge around 10:30 p.m. after an employee at the location reported that an “intoxicated male in front of the business was being disruptive and verbally abusive to employees” and “threatening the valet driver.” .
Employees told police that Costello yelled profanities on the phone, threatened his girlfriend’s sister, then grabbed the valet driver looking at Costello before threatening to send “his boys” after the employee, the report found.
One employee said he believed Costello was a billionaire from Bellevue, a city just outside Seattle, and that Costello had the means to send people after him, police wrote.
Costello became agitated when police arrived at the scene, the report said, and claimed to be “a really rich man … I’m a billionaire.”
“You’re messing with the wrong friend,” he told one of the officers, according to the report.
One officer said Costello approached him “with clenched fists” and in an aggressive manner that suggested he was “going to harm me or another member of the group behind me,” according to the police report.
The officer said he threatened to use his Taser three times on Costello, who allegedly ignored his commands to stop, until he was about 10 feet to 12 feet away before falling to the ground.
The arresting officer later said that Costello appeared to be “passionate,” although police were unable to detect any alcohol. Even after he was handcuffed, Costello continued to yell profanities and threats at police, the report said.
“I’m going to civilly smack you in the f—in a–,” Costello allegedly told one of the officers. “This will cost you, brother, a lot of money.”
“Brother, take these handcuffs off so I can kick you…” he allegedly told a second police officer, according to the report. “I’m getting ready for you, mom…”
Costello was booked into the King County Jail for intimidating a public servant. Prosecutors eventually charged him with obstruction in Issaquah Municipal Court on a disorderly conduct charge and two counts of harassment.
FBI poster for Justin Costello
Costello entered a so-called Alford plea to the disorderly conduct in July 2020, prosecuting attorney Lynn Moberly told CNBC.
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them if they go to trial. The judge then finds the defendant guilty.
Moberly said Costello was also able to dismiss two counts of harassment after the victims in the case agreed to settle for $3,000 each. Although he opposed the deal, it is legal under Washington criminal law and a judge signed off on it, Moberly said.
Even after being charged in court, Costello continued his streak as a cannabis billionaire.
Moberly said his attorney told him at the time that Costello could “afford to pay those witnesses.” Costello’s attorney allegedly said his client was a “Harvard-area student” who was “involved in the marijuana business,” Moberly recalled.
Costello’s sentence was postponed, according to the prosecutor. He was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service, abstain from alcohol and drugs for a year and have no contact with witnesses or the lodge, according to the plea.
The case was dismissed a year later, in July 2021, Moberly said.
Shira Stefanik, Costello’s attorney in that case, did not return messages seeking comment.
Attorney Steven Lobin, who is representing Costello in another separate civil lawsuit filed by one of three cannabis companies in California that claims it was defrauded by Costello, said his client also told him he spent time in Iraq. and took some classes at Harvard.
“If he says it, I assume it’s true,” he said in one of the interviews.
As for his claims to be a billionaire and a war hero, Lobin said those allegations are based on hearsay.
“I know him to be a very warm, friendly and personable guy,” Lobin said.
When asked about Costello’s arrest in 2019, Lobin said: “I spent a lot of time with him” and never knew him to be “drunk or disorderly.”“
In the civil case in which Lobbin is representing him, Costello filed an affidavit in September saying at least $2.9 million of the company’s funds were held in a Tacoma, Wash., credit union account under Costello’s company name.
That account actually had a balance of $15.35 as of Sept. 9, according to the federal criminal indictment against Costello.
“Like anything in life, there are two sides to a story,” Lobin said. “I don’t know anything about what the government is talking about.”
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