CLEVELAND (WJW) — The man accused of stealing thousands of dollars in field trip money from kids across the state and embezzling $1.5 million from his family’s company is facing five years in prison.

Federal Judge Pamela Barker on Thursday, April 20, sentenced 48-year-old Joseph Cipolletti to 60 months in prison.

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Cipolletti was vice president of now-bankrupt Discovery Tours in Mayfield Village, a company that organized educational trips for students to places like Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough told the judge that Cipolletti embezzled $1.5 million from Discovery Tours between 2014 and 2018, taking from 5,000 families and multiple school districts, and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle.

He pleaded guilty in June 2022 to an 18-count federal indictment charging him with wire fraud, money laundering, bank fraud and making a false statement under oath in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Defense attorney Brian McGraw told the judge that some of the money that Cipolletti is accused of embezzling was actually bonuses, commissions and other compensation from Discovery Tours — and to a certain degree, Cipolletti was guilty of sloppy bookkeeping. Federal prosecutors said forensic accounting conducted by the FBI does not support that claim.

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Before sentencing, Cipolletti made a statement and wept occasionally, as he apologized to his family and to the victims who lost money when Discovery Tours collapsed.

“I want to say I’m sorry to those families who were hurt by my careless actions,” he told the court.

Prosecutors recommended five to seven years in federal prison and full restitution. The judge on Thursday ordered Cipolletti to pay that restitution, but did not specify an amount.