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DA: Mortgage broker sentenced in real estate scam in which he tricked mother-in-law

A mortgage broker from Woodbury was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison Wednesday for stealing more than $650,000 in a real estate scam in which he duped his mother-in-law -- an unknowing participant in the fraud, prosecutors said.

John Tuozzo, 48, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud and was sentenced in a Mineola courtroom by Judge Susan T. Kluewer, prosecutors said.

Tuozzo will serve the 1-to-3-year sentence concurrently with Suffolk County and federal sentences "on other mortgage and tax convictions he's now serving in a federal facility in Massachusetts," Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. Specifics on those convictions were not immediately available.

Tuozzo was responsible for "tricking his mother-in-law into signing various real estate documents that allowed him to steal more than $600,000 from several financial institutions," and he left the victim "facing civil lawsuits in addition to foreclosure proceedings on a nearly $1 million home she had no idea she owned," prosecutors said in a news release.

"Mr. Tuozzo targeted his own mother-in-law in a brazen series of scams that relied on his knowledge of real estate and banking practices as a mortgage broker," Rice said in a statement.

Tuozzo's Mineola attorney Joseph Conway could not immediately be reached for comment.

District attorney investigators arrested Tuozzo, a self-employed mortgage broker, in March 2010, Rice said.

In October 2005, Tuozzo "needed to obtain two mortgages totaling $939,000 so that he and his wife could purchase a home on Harvard Avenue in Merrick," prosecutors said in the news release. "Since Tuozzo and his wife had filed for bankruptcy in 2001, they were unable to secure financing on their own."

Tuozzo's mother-in-law co-signed the mortgages, but she "was unaware that in the mortgage application, Tuozzo fraudulently indicated that she had been the chief operating officer of his mortgage company for seven years and earned $25,000 per month," Rice's office said. "She was also unaware that Tuozzo listed her as the sole borrower on the loan, and signed documents unaware that she was now the property's sole owner."

The next year, prosecutors said, "Tuozzo deceived his mother-in-law into signing documents securing an additional $285,000 mortgage loan and opening a line of credit of $185,000."

"Tuozzo would then write checks in his mother-in-law's name to his wife, sign his wife's name to endorse the check, and then write checks in his wife's name to himself," prosecutors said.

And, in October 2007, "Tuozzo was again able to get his mother-in-law to sign documents that she believed were for a new mortgage loan so that Tuozzo could refinance the Merrick property and get a better interest rate," Rice's office said. "In reality, the documents opened a $472,000 credit line."

Most of the money was used to pay off the property's mortgages, but "more than $21,000 went into Tuozzo's personal bank account," prosecutors said. "Tuozzo also rang up an additional $130,000 on the first credit line."

The victim, who is now his ex-mother-in-law as Tuozzo and his wife divorce in 2009, "is no longer responsible for the mortgages and lines of credit because they were fraudulently obtained," Rice's office said.

With William Murphy

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