The attorney who was defending the owner of pet store against accusations of consumer fraud pleaded guilty himself Tuesday of committing $2.6 million in fraudulent mortgage loan applications.
Mark J. Bellotti, the attorney who defended Fancy Pups owner Rocco Garruto in Woodbridge Municipal Court earlier this month, admitted his complicity in conspiracy and theft charges just days later in Freehold Superior Court on Feb. 21.
Bellotti, along with co-conspirator Jonathan P. Domash, a mortgage broker, admitted to filing false paperwork to fraudulently obtain mortgages on 7 homes that all went into foreclosure, according to a press release from the NJ Attorney General's Office.
A 55-year-old Marlboro attorney, Bellotti pleaded guilty to second degree charges and faces five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
On Feb. 9, Bellotti represented Garruto in Woodbridge Municipal Court, where Garruto in a case brought by the Middlesex County Dept. of Consumer Affairs. Customers who purchased pets from Garruto complained that the puppies were sick with parvovirus, a highly contagious and usually fatal disease, or that the pets were sick with a variety of other ailments not disclosed to them.
Garruto also admitted in court that he wasn't an American citizen, a statement that shocked Bellotti and everyone else in court, according to Doreen Longo, whose puppy died of parvo less than two weeks after she brought it home.
Longo is suing Garruto and Fancy Pups in a separate civil action. She said that Garruto had been refusing service of a summons, so while she and her attorney, Edward Harrington Heyburn, waited in a court antechamber, Heyburn served Garruto with the summons while Longo took a cellphone video of it as proof of service.
Garruto said he only found about Bellotti's legal woes on Friday. "He ends up having a problem. I got a phone call Friday. I didn't know him in 2007," during the time when the fraudulent paperwork was done, Garruto said.
The relationship between Garruto and Bellotti started, appropriately enough, over canines. "I sold him and his wife two puppies," the Fancy Pups owner said.
Now that Bellotti is unavailable, Garruto is looking for other legal representation. "[Bellotti] told me he's going to be in jail for 90 days," Garruto said. "I guess I have to find another attorney."