Sixto had just landed a coveted $102,000-per-year job in the Bush White House when federal authorities arrested him in November 2008. He was investigated and charged after the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington, D.C., discovered financial irregularities in one of its Cuba programs.
The center had been sending shortwave radios to Cuba as part of a U.S. government-financed project to boost access to information on the island. Sixto bought bulk shipments of the Chinese radios through companies he created. Then he resold the equipment to the center for a higher price and pocketed the difference - $576,900.
His arrest fueled calls for greater accountability in U.S. Agency for International Development democracy programs in Cuba.
Sixto, a Cuban-American who dreamed of becoming a lawyer and politician, apologized and admitted he had made a terrible mistake.
He could have gotten up to 10 years in jail and a fine of more than $1 million. Several prominent Cuban exiles came forward and asked leniency. They included Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a prolific author and former director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlos Alberto Montaner, a fierce critic of the Castro regime.
Sixto is not "an evil person or a habitual offender" and is "deserving a second chance in life," Montaner said in a Jan. 21, 2009, letter to the court.
Prosecutors warned that Sixto, then 29, would have kept stealing if he had not been caught. They said in a court document:
Mr. Sixto not only stole more than half a million dollars from a not-for-profit organization, but after being selected for a highly sought after position in the office of the President of the United States he continued to engage in his fraudulent conduct. Mr. Sixto’s sentence should take into account the nature and impact of his conduct and also the brazen way in which he continued his scheme, undeterred by the impact it would cause others and the office of the President of the United States.Sixto, whose grandfather was the mayor of Holguin before the Cuban Revolution, asked the judge to give him probation instead of jail time. He wrote:
This case is more than an employee simply stealing from his employer. It is about a man who over the course of years engaged in an intricate scheme to defraud an organization chartered to help people who were of his own heritage.
The defendant did not abandon his scheme until he was discovered. He only agreed to repay the funds he embezzled when he was threatened with criminal prosecution.
...I beg for a minimum period of incarceration...He also admitted he was "stupid and selfish."
Many people have asked me why I committed the offense. My answer unfortunately is based on greed and selfishness.Prosecutors said Sixto stole $541,075.19. Sixto put the figure at $576,900.
As a family man I should have thought of the consequence of my actions and should never have put my family in danger. I understand this. I understand that I was stupid and selfish.
Sixto sold his belongings and borrowed from his father to repay $644,884, which includes the amount he stole plus interest.
Prosecutors said Sixto used the stolen money to live a better life. He bought a $40,000 truck, a $10,200 piano and $5,000 in artwork. He spent $16,000 for travel and lodging, and some $50,000 for groceries and restaurant bills. He bought a $60,000 property in New York.
Sixto also gave $142,000 to family members, who didn't know about the scheme, according to court records. And he paid school tuition for his son and medical bills for his wife.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Sixto's sentence is expected to end on July 16. Records show that Sixto, now 32, is finishing the jail term in Miami.
The Community Corrections Office in Miami is handling his case. Community Corrections' inmates often finish their sentences at halfway houses or, in some instances, are given supervised home detention.
For more about the case, including court documents, see March 2009 post All because of those #!%#& Chinese radios.