A former Monroeville tennis pro was sentenced this morning in a Florida courtroom to nine years in federal prison for fleecing more than a dozen Pittsburghers out of millions in bogus real estate deals on Florida's Gulf Coast.
U.S. District Judge John Steele imposed the term on Alfredo Sararo, 42, of North Naples.
Mr. Sararo was convicted this summer of using his close relationship with retired Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Horgos to entice the judge's friends and relatives into investing some $3.3 million through Mr. Sararo.
Prosecutors said Mr. Sararo, a former Allegheny County probation officer and a former tennis pro who once starred at Gateway High School, pocketed investor money given to him by forging names and transferring deeds to himself.
He was also convicted of embezzling money from Mr. Horgos's bank account.
A key to the case and to the sentencing was the role Mr. Horgos played in Mr. Sararo's schemes.
Although prosecutors said he was a victim of Mr. Sararo, Judge Steele ruled this morning that he would not consider the judge's losses, estimated at over $1 million, for the purposes of sentencing Mr. Sararo.
The judge indicated that it's not clear how much of a victim Mr. Horgos was.
"The testimony at trial showed a complex relationship between Sararo and Robert Horgos," the judge wrote. "The evidence clearly supports the jury's verdicts that Sararo was guilty of the fraud and tax counts. The evidence as to whether Robert Horgos was always a victim, always a co-schemer, or some combination, was more ambiguous."
The judge ruled the total loss amount for the 13 victims, without Mr. Horgos, was about $2.5 million. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the dollar loss in fraud cases helps determine how much prison time a defendant will receive, so Mr. Sararo benefited from the loss reduction.
He had faced a maximum of 27 years in prison.
Mr. Horgos and Mr. Sararo had been under investigation since 2007. Government documents indicate Mr. Horgos offered to plead guilty to tax charges in 2008, when he was still a sitting judge.
Prosecutors rejected the plea offer but in 2011 granted Mr. Horgos immunity in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Sararo at trial this summer.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1510.