Real-estate agent who lost license now faces charges in murder plot

Toronto man sanctioned in tribunal ruling in November for ‘various nefarious schemes’
From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Published on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 12:00AM EST
Last updated on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 4:37AM EST
A 58-year-old Toronto man, charged in a plot to have three people murdered, was stripped of his real-estate licence for taking part in “identity theft, value fraud, property flips, unprofessional conduct and various nefarious schemes,” a provincial tribunal ruled last November.
Pietro Castelluzzo, arrested Thursday by Toronto police, was also the subject of two unfavourable court rulings in the late 1990s. One was a civil case involving “dishonest conduct” in flipping properties and misrepresenting income, and the other a bankruptcy case, in which a judge said Mr. Castelluzzo “took control and advantage” of an elderly man who leant him his life’s savings to fund a failed restaurant venture.
Police have said little about the circumstances around the current criminal case against Mr. Castelluzzo, who appeared briefly in a Toronto court yesterday and was ordered held until Tuesday for a bail hearing. Court heard he is charged with four counts of counselling two men, James Kelly and Pedro Diaz, to commit murder. The killings were not carried out.
Constable Tony Vella, a police spokesman, said there were three alleged targets of the plot: a personal friend and two business associates of Mr. Castelluzzo. His arrest followed an investigation by the Organized Crime Enforcement Unit, which began early this month.
There was no answer yesterday at the front door of the modest, semi-detached home listed on court documents as Mr. Castelluzzo’s current address. Property records for the brown-brick, 1970s-vintage house on Dolores Road, in the Jane-Finch area, do not bear his name and neither of the two cars in the driveway were registered to him.
A woman who used to be married to a cousin of Mr. Castelluzzo said yesterday that he is married and has two grown sons.
Sherri Haigh, spokeswoman for the Real Estate Council of Ontario, which regulates land transactions and enforces real-estate law, said Mr. Castelluzzo received his licence in 1983.
In 1996, a civil court judge ruled on a suit brought against Mr. Castelluzzo and his wife, Maria Stella Castelluzzo, also a real-estate agent, by the brokerage through which the couple had worked between 1986 and 1992. The brokerage claimed the couple owed it money, and the Castelluzzos counter-claimed for unpaid real-estate commissions.
The case ended in a judgment for neither party, because the judge found both sides were engaged in illegal dealings in which the couple’s income was misrepresented for tax reasons, and to share in secret profits from “flipping” properties.
“The finding of illegality tainted the claims of both parties,” Justice J. Sutherland of Ontario Court, General Division wrote. “The clear conflicts of interest and breach of fiduciary obligations amounted to objective dishonesty and the perpetrators could not waive the illegalities by tacit mutual agreement.”
In 1999, a different judge ruled on an application from the Castelluzzos, who had gone bankrupt, to have their bankruptcy discharged. One of their creditors, an octogenarian named Isadore Gold, objected to the discharge, claiming he had been bilked of $260,000 the couple used to bankroll a failed restaurant, court records show.
“The Castelluzzos befriended the creditor, a vulnerable elderly person, to take advantage of him,” Superior Court Justice J. Cumming wrote. “While fraud was not proven, the conduct of the Castelluzzos was sufficiently reprehensible and remorseless to justify a conditional order” discharging the bankruptcy but requiring a substantial repayment.
“I find on the evidence that Mr. Castelluzzo is a self-righteous, domineering and manipulative individual who took control and advantage of Mr. Gold,” the judge wrote.
Court records further show that Mr. Castelluzzo successfully sued two brothers, Nicola and Salvatore Rizzuto, in 1991 in connection with a physical altercation at the real-estate brokerage where Mr. Castelluzzo worked.
Court heard the Rizzutos went to the offices of HomeLife Romano Real Estate and “backed him up against a wall and began to punch him in the face and head” for what they felt was his harassment of Nicola Rizzuto’s wife, Nina. The judge awarded Mr. Castelluzzo $8,750.

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