Edgeworth businessman sentenced to prison in complex fraud scheme
February 12, 2016 12:12 AM
Joseph Nocito Jr. and his wife, Alexis Wukich, at their wedding at the Olde Stonewall Golf Club in 2014.
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A federal judge on Thursday made it clear that rich businessman Joseph Nocito Jr.’s complex bank fraud scheme with a Florida homebuilder was more than a “mistake,” as his wife asserted in court.
Joseph Nocito Jr.
U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab recounted at length how Nocito, owner of a McCandless mortgage broker company and the Olde Stonewall Golf Club outside Ellwood City, took numerous carefully crafted steps in ripping off a bank of $1.8 million and collecting a secret kickback of $458,000, which he hid from the IRS.
“This crime took time to plan,” the judge said after reading a numbing litany of Nocito’s lies. “This was not a ‘mistake.’ ”
He sent Nocito, 44, of Edgeworth, to federal prison for 16 months, followed by two years of probation. He also ordered him to pay $1.8 million in restitution and the taxes he owes.
Nocito’s lawyer, friends and family were hoping for probation, saying he was no longer the man he was in 2007 when he pulled the scheme involving a high-end home in Longboat Key, Fla., with his pal Mark Sosso, owner of Sosso homes of Sarasota.
His wife, Alexis, said he had since become involved in charitable work in Kenya and was starting a new life with her and their infant.
Nocito apologized for his actions, saying they were “criminal and selfish.”
The U.S. attorney’s office asked for prison, saying white-collar criminals who cook up complicated plots to steal should be locked up as a deterrent to others, especially in cases such as this one in which the fraud was difficult to detect and hard to investigate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton said Nocito, who brings in about $500,000 a year working at his wealthy father’s real estate companies as well as the golf resort and Gateway Hospice, is not deserving of probation.
“His conduct was driven by greed,” she said. “These crimes were calculated.”
Nocito, whose father is also under investigation in a separate case involving his Bell Acres mansion, pleaded guilty in March to bank fraud conspiracy and filing a false tax return for 2007.
The case involves a $2.4 million loan he took out on a house owned by Sosso, who has also pleaded guilty.
Sosso Homes bought a partially built house on Longboat Key in 2005, finished it with a $1.6 million loan from Liberty Savings Bank, and advertised it for sale through a realty firm run by his brother, Scott.
The house didn’t sell, however, and by 2007, Mark Sosso couldn’t make the mortgage payments. So he asked Nocito for help.
Nocito and the others then submitted false documents to Washington Mutual to get a new loan. The money from Washington Mutual was used to pay off the $1.6 million that Mark Sosso owed to Liberty and to pay a $458,000 kickback to Nocito, which he did not declare on his tax return.
Nocito, whose lavish 2014 wedding at the Olde Stonewall Golf Club was the subject of a story in the Post-Gazette’s SEEN section, is the son of Joseph Nocito Sr., who is having his own problems with the U.S. attorney’s office and could also be headed to federal prison.
Joseph Nocito Sr.’s secretary in November pleaded guilty to conspiring with him and others to shield $27 million from the IRS by using Mr. Nocito’s companies to pay for his personal expenses, including the building of his 18-bedroom mansion, believed to be worth about $20 million.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1504.