Marie Castaldo, the disgraced founder of the Queens International Film Festival who pleaded guilty to fraud in Queens and multiple counts of animal cruelty in Ulster County, N.Y., was recently deported, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said this week.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Stacey Lavender of advertising company Ballyhoo Central on Long Island, one of the companies Castaldo defrauded, “because I knew what was going on with the case.”
Castaldo had been charged in August with failing to pay more than $14,000 to multiple vendors for the 2007 and 2008 film festivals. These companies included Ballyhoo Central, Brooklyn’s Rooftop Films, Manhattan video equipment provider Big Apple Rentals and Connecticut projectionist James Hill.
Castaldo, who founded the QIFF festival and ran it from 2003-2009, is a French national. It was not known when she left the country or where she was sent. A spokesman for ICE would only say “she was deported from the United States.”
At the time, the Queens Criminal Court arraigned her on charges of scheming to defraud, grand larceny, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and harassment, charges which had the potential to send her away for seven years.
The Queens DA’s office said Castaldo pleaded guilty to the fraud count in September and was eventually sentenced to a conditional discharge, which meant she was able to avoid jail time but had to abide by certain conditions. These required that she pay back the companies and stay out of trouble for a year, the DA’s office said.
Lavender said she and the other three companies named in the criminal complaint received their money back. She said there may have been others whom Castaldo defrauded, but they were told by the DA that those were civil matters.
The Ulster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also arrested Castaldo in late July for keeping 48 dogs locked in cages at an empty storefront of a former feed store in Phoenicia, N.Y.
When found, the dogs were covered in urine and feces, did not have access to food or water and were in poor medical condition, the society said. The Ulster County SPCA seized the dogs and, after getting the necessary medical care, they were put up for adoption.
In September, she pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty and spent 42 days in Riker’s Island.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2010 Community News Group
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