Tennis pro formerly from Monroeville scammed lawyers, officials say
Alfredo Sararo III, a former Allegheny County probation officer convicted in a series of Florida real estate scams, seems to have made victims out of almost everyone he ran across -- even two lawyers who tried to help him.
In addition to the 13 affluent Pittsburghers he defrauded of $3.3 million by capitalizing on his friendship with former Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Horgos, he stole from a Florida lawyer his family had befriended and a Texas attorney who had represented him in criminal cases, the government says.
Mr. Sararo, a Naples tennis pro formerly from Monroeville, is set to be sentenced next Thursday in Fort Myers.
The U.S. attorney's office said in a pre-sentence report that it has uncovered additional fraud that he perpetrated against Dallas lawyer Richard Corbitt and Naples lawyer Dominic Lucarelli. Neither could be reached Wednesday.
Mr. Sararo is accused of scamming the two attorneys repeatedly after convincing them of his real estate expertise.
Mr. Sararo's stepmother, Marina, had become friends with Mr. Lucarelli's wife, Stephanie, about six years ago, and that bond created a level of trust between the families. Mr. Lucarelli later represented Mr. Sararo in a 2009 case in which he was accused of posing as a probation officer after a traffic stop in Florida.
Through it all, Mr. Sararo presented himself as a well-off real estate investor with all the trappings of success.
"Sararo pretended that he had millions and he always drove nice cars like a Ferrari," wrote Kathy Haefner, a Pittsburgh IRS agent who investigated the case. "Sararo said he was buying and selling real estate, and, according to Lucarelli, he seemed to be doing well."
Mr. Sararo said he had made a lot of money selling Texas real estate before moving to Florida, although trial testimony later showed he had actually lost a "significant sum" on those investments, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway of Pittsburgh.
In the first scam, according to Agent Haefner and Mr. Conway, Mr. Sararo persuaded Mr. Lucarelli to buy a lot in Port Charlotte for $60,000 that he said was owned by his "uncle," Judge Horgos, who he said wanted to get rid of it at below cost. Mr. Sararo said the lot was on a canal suitable for boating, but it turned out to be a drainage ditch. Mr. Conway said Mr. Sararo took the money and never produced any ownership documents.
Mr. Sararo also enticed Mr. Lucarelli to join him in buying a lot in a Costa Rican complex through Sebastian Paguni, owner of a Naples real estate firm. Mr. Sararo said he had invested with Paguni, but he hadn't, Mr. Conway said.
"Lucarelli lost his entire $120,000," he wrote.
Mr. Sararo also persuaded Mr. Lucarelli to invest $30,000 in a Colorado property that he said could be flipped in three years for $600,000. Mr. Sararo drew him a diagram and showed him some photos but never produced a deed.
"Sararo just stole the $30,000," Mr. Conway wrote, "and eventually stopped taking [Lucarelli's] telephone calls."
Mr. Corbitt, who had represented Mr. Sararo in a case in which he was accused of posing as a sheriff's deputy, was victimized similarly. Mr. Sararo enticed him to invest $44,000 in a parking lot facility.
"Sararo just took the $44,000 and did not invest Corbitt's money," Mr. Conway wrote. "Not satisfied with ripping Corbitt off once, he also scammed him in connection with a real estate transaction."
In that case, Mr. Sararo lied that he had invested $65,000 in a Bonita Springs condo and got his name on the deed. He and Mr. Corbitt then rented the property, but Mr. Sararo kept all the rent money even though Mr. Corbitt was paying the mortgage.
Mr. Sararo even absconded with the furniture, Mr. Conway wrote. Mr. Corbitt estimated he lost $250,000 in the scam.
In her report, Agent Haefner said the Lucarelli family also told her that those who know the Sararo family say Mr. Sararo is confident that he is "going to get off on the current federal charges."
Mr. Sararo remains free on bond pending sentencing.
His lawyer, Robert Rosenblatt, could not be reached Wednesday.
First Published December 27, 2012 12:00 am