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Ex-car dealer plans guilty plea

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 6:18 p.m.

Former Murrysville car dealer Joseph Colaizzi intends to plead guilty to federal mail fraud charges next month, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Colaizzi, 46, who lives in Murrysville, faced nearly 700 counts in the Westmoreland County courts stemming from alleged dealings at his dealership, Cars 'N More, along Route 22.

The case was offered to U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan for prosecution on federal charges and her office agreed to take it over.

The 688 state charges were dismissed by Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway on May 2 after Colaizzi was indicted by a federal grand jury in April on four counts of mail fraud.

"That many charges is going to entail a fairly lengthy trial in Common Pleas Court," Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said. "I think we understood the federal government had more resources to try a case of this nature."

Murrysville and state police arrested Colaizzi on July 1, 2004, on charges ranging from theft to tampering with public records. The charges, 292 of which were felony counts, resulted from about 90 vehicles that were traded in at the dealership. They then were resold without the previous loans on them being paid and were carrying fraudulent titles, police said.

Customers who traded their vehicles in at Cars 'N More often had the outstanding debt on their trade-ins folded into a loan for the car that was just purchased.

The new loans were financed through the dealership, but customers who thought their original loans were paid off by the dealership began getting late notices on those loans and discovered that the debts were not paid.

Some customers, who purchased or leased vehicles through Colaizzi's dealership, later learned that titles issued to them were falsified and that the previous owner or lending institution still held the real title.

The federal charges pertain to 42 vehicles that were sold or leased through Colaizzi's dealership.

Initially, Colaizzi pleaded not guilty to the federal charges on June 3.

He subsequently waived his right to a speedy trial, according to documents filed in federal court, which also set 2 p.m. Oct. 11 as the time and date for Colaizzi to enter a change of plea.

Irving Green, Colaizzi's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Margaret Philbin, a spokeswoman for Buchanan, said Buchanan would not comment on the case until it is completed, following U.S. Justice Department policy.

Colaizzi could face up to a $1 million fine and/or up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Peck was confident that the federal prosecution would satisfy the people who were victims of the alleged scheme.

"We would think that this would benefit victims and not lessen their chances for restitution or lessen his chances for being incarcerated," he said. "They would have the right to full restitution as they would in state court.

"Typically, the U.S. Attorney's Office is not going to spend time prosecuting cases that don't have merit."

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