Sararo fails to get new trial in fraud case
Alfredo Sararo, a former Monroeville man convicted in Florida of ripping off 13 affluent Pittsburgh-area investors in a complex series of real estate frauds, keeps trying and failing to get a new trial.
He lost his latest attempt Tuesday when a federal judge in Fort Myers refused to reconsider his earlier denial of a new trial.
"[Mr. Sararo] simply disagrees with the court's prior opinion," wrote U.S. District Judge John Steele, "but that is no basis for reconsideration."
The judge had already rejected all of Mr. Sararo's various post-trial motions, including requests and amended requests for a mistrial and judgment for acquittal, saying the government clearly proved its case during the four-week trial this summer.
"Having heard the evidence and making independent credibility determinations, the court fully agrees with the guilty verdicts in this case," Judge Steele ruled.
The jury convicted Mr. Sararo, a former Monroeville tennis champ and ex-Allegheny County probation officer who now teaches tennis in Naples, Fla., of tax and wire fraud counts in connection with property transactions on Florida's Gulf Coast in the mid-2000s.
FBI and IRS agents said Mr. Sararo prepared fake deeds, forged signatures and falsified sales agreements and loan documents in fleecing investors. He also embezzled money from the bank account of retired Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Horgos, once his close friend.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway of the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh, where the case began, said Mr. Sararo used his relationship with Mr. Horgos to entice other Pittsburghers who trusted the judge into investing with Mr. Sararo.
Judge Horgos, who testified under a grant of immunity, was among the chief prosecution witnesses.
Mr. Conway said Mr. Sararo used the ill-gotten money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a $1.4 million Naples condo, travel and a Ferrari, Maserati and Jaguar.
Mr. Sararo did not testify in his own defense, citing his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. But in one of his arguments for a new trial, his lawyer, Robert Rosenblatt, argued that Mr. Conway improperly tried to shift the burden of proof to the defense in his closing argument by focusing on the lack of corroboration of testimony presented by the defense.
Mr. Rosenblatt said that amounted to a violation of Mr. Sararo's rights under the Fifth Amendment.
Mr. Conway, however, had commented on the failure of Mr. Rosenblatt, not Mr. Sararo, to counter government evidence.
"A comment by the prosecutor on the failure by defense counsel, as opposed to the defendant, to counter or explain evidence does not violate a defendant's Fifth Amendment right not to testify," the judge said.
Mr. Sararo will be sentenced Nov. 26. He remains free on bond until then.
First Published October 31, 2012 12:00 am