A North Carolina man who was hired online to collect money scammed from victims in Hancock County has been sentenced to time served behind bars.

Nicholas Ciardullo, 23, also has been ordered to repay $58,500 to the people whose money he took. He never met his employers, he said.

The people targeted in the scheme thought they were sending money to relatives who had been arrested after car accidents, according to court documents filed in Ellsworth. The scammers called them on the phone saying a relative needed bail money. After the victims said they had the money, Ciardullo was sent to collect the funds.

He was apprehended after one victim realized he’d been scammed and was able to give police identifying information.

The Stonington victim met Ciardullo at the end of his driveway on Sept. 27, 2022, and gave him $9,500 in cash, thinking the money was going to bail his daughter out of jail in Florida. Ciardullo then wired the money to the people who hired him. He kept a small percentage of the money as his payment, though court documents didn’t specify how much.

But before he left with the man’s money, the Stonington man noted an identification number on the side of a UHaul truck that Ciardullo was driving. After he later talked to his daughter and realized he had been scammed, he gave the number to the police.

Investigators then contacted the truck rental company, which told them the truck had been rented to Ciardullo.

Ciardullo’s defense attorney, Jacob Ferm of Ellsworth, said that when police learned who he was, his client was still in Maine and in contact with other victims. Another person contacted by Ciardullo knew it was a scam and contacted police. When he showed up in early October at the person’s house, police arrested him.

Ciardullo got involved in the scheme because his only other options for making money were minimum-wage jobs, Ferm said. His client knew what he was doing wasn’t legal, but he wasn’t the main driver behind the scam, either.

“He was in a difficult situation and did not make the right choices,” Ferm said. “He was set up by somebody.”

Ciardullo offered an apology to the people whose money he took when he appeared in court.

“I just want to say I am sorry to all the victims,” he said to Justice Robert Murrary. “I’d like to try to pay back what I can.”

He also offered to write letters of apology to the victims, but Murray said that would be up to Ciardullo.

Murray sentenced Ciardullo to 364 days in jail but, with Ciardullo already having spent 213 days behind bars, Murray suspended the remaining 151 days. He also ordered Ciardullo to serve one year of probation, meaning the North Carolina man could go back to jail for the remaining 5 months of his sentence if he gets in trouble with the law again.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....