Con man who impersonated lawyer facing sentencing – four years later

An east Bronx con man convicted fours years ago of bilking victims out of $1.3 million will finally be sentenced next month.

Mario Tolisano initially avoided sentencing by agreeing to repay three victims he and a partner fleeced in a fraudulent land deal. But after failing to meet a court mandated deadline to repay them, he was recently re-arrested and jailed, pending his scheduled sentencing on Monday, May 5.

Officials said Tolisano, whose last known address was in Pelham Gardens, impersonated a lawyer in a deal to sell a city owned property.

Phony lawyer

He pled guilty to grand larceny in January, 2010, and was ordered to pay restitution, which he failed to do, said a spokesman for District Attorney Robert Johnson.

“The alternate sentence is one to three years,” said Johnson spokesman Steven Reed.

Tolisano’s accomplice, Celestino Orta, also pled guilty in January 2010 to helping Tolisano defraud the three victims. Orta was sentenced to one to three years in prison in Feb. 2010.

Tolisano and Orta allegedly collected $710,000 from two victims in May 2008 for the sale of property, and again collected $502,000 from the same victims in July 2008 to purchase additional properties in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

A third victim was offered the vacant lot at 539 Union Avenue by the defendants, and provided a down payment of $70,000 in May 2008, according to court records.

Scam unravels

The scam began to unravel when the victims filed complaints against Tolisano and Orta after the two scammers ignored repeated attempts to schedule closings on the properties.

The defendants, in fact, never had ownership of the properties or authorization to sell them.

Before being taken into custody, records show Tolisano resided at 1669 Astor Avenue, while Orta’s address was listed at 588 Timpson Street.

At the time that the story broke in August 2009, Allan Merovitch, an attorney for victim Jacob Selenchnik, said his client “effectively entered into a series of contracts with Mr. Tolisano’s client Mr. Orta.

“He was supposed to be purchasing property from the City of New York, which would then be sold to my client. When the contracts were signed, large deposits were given to Mr. Tolisano in the capacity of what we thought of as an attorney, but as it turns out Mr. Tolisano was not an attorney and I was told he had distributed the funds amongst himself and Mr. Orta.”

“Simply put,” he added, “they stole the money.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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