U.S. seeks maximum jail time in Sararo fraud

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The government says Alfredo Sararo is a crook and a liar who deserves maximum prison time when he is sentenced today in a Florida courtroom for defrauding affluent Pittsburghers out of millions in fraudulent Gulf Coast real estate deals.

"The defendant, to put it bluntly, is a con man with no verified employment who is determined to live a lifestyle far beyond his means," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway said in court papers filed in objection to Mr. Sararo's request for leniency.

"Even now the defendant is living in a beautiful home in an exclusive gated community with no apparent means of paying for the home and meeting his other obligations. His only true skill seems to be his ability to get influential and smart people to believe whatever misrepresentation he happens to be telling at the moment, and he found his mark in Robert Horgos."

Mr. Horgos, a retired Allegheny County Common Pleas judge who once considered Mr. Sararo akin to a "baby brother," testified against him under a grant of immunity this summer in Naples, Fla.

A jury convicted Mr. Sararo of tax and wire fraud.

Prosecutors said Mr. Sararo, a former Allegheny County probation officer and a former tennis teacher in Naples, duped Mr. Horgos into enticing his rich friends, including Senior Judge Gerard Bigley and a host of local doctors and lawyers, into investing in bogus real estate deals that cost them some $3.3 million.

Mr. Sararo is facing up to 27 years in federal prison. He and his lawyer, Robert Rosenblatt, are arguing for a lesser sentence because they say Mr. Sararo has shown remorse. They also argue that Mr. Horgos should have been prosecuted but instead has gone unpunished because he cut a deal.

Mr. Horgos signed a grant of immunity in August 2011, although government documents indicate he had offered to plead guilty to tax fraud in 2008. Mr. Conway indicated at that time that he would recommend to the U.S. attorney that the plea be rejected because it involved only tax charges and not other fraud counts.

It's not clear when prosecutors decided to offer him immunity or why. Mr. Conway said he could not comment, and the U.S. attorney's office does not comment on plea negotiations. Lou Tarasi, one of Mr. Horgos's lawyers, said he was not involved in any plea offers but said Mr. Horgos received a tax refund because he had overpaid his taxes as result of Mr. Sararo's fraudulent conduct.

Before trial, Mr. Conway had also sent a letter to Mr. Rosenblatt that outlined Mr. Horgos' "credibility issues," saying the judge had lied to his own family and other investors.

At one point, when he couldn't come up with money from a particular sale, the judge said the transaction was delayed "by the Patriot Act," and when his cousin's husband confronted him about whether Mr. Sararo was involved in a sale, he lied and said he was not, according to the letter.

One victim, Jim Selelyo, had lent Mr. Horgos $1 million for real estate purchases but said he "couldn't get a straight answer" out of Mr. Horgos when he confronted him about the deals and demanded his money back.

In court papers and at trial, the government portrayed Mr. Sararo as the driving force behind the fraud who served as Mr. Horgos' "eyes and ears" in Florida while using the judge as a conduit to a Pittsburgh cash pipeline.

Mr. Conway said Mr. Sararo has shown no remorse, has paid no restitution to any of his victims, has repeatedly lied to federal agents and continues to try to smear Mr. Horgos.

He said a desire for high living was the motive all along.

Mr. Sararo, he said, "wanted to stay at the Ritz Carlton rather than the Motel 6. He wanted to drive a Maserati rather than a Honda Accord. ... And the list goes on and on."


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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