An Antis Township man accused of fleecing a woman out of tens of thousands of dollars will face trial.
Frederick A. "Freddie" DelGrosso Jr., 46, of Bellwood appeared Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson wearing an orange prison jumpsuit for his preliminary hearing on four felony theft-related charges filed by state police last month.
DelGrosso is accused of bilking the woman, a former employee with whom he then had an intimate relationship, out of $91,000 between late 2011 and early 2013. The woman testified DelGrosso threatened to tell her children that she had loaned him money to get her to give him even more money, money she suspects went to gambling.
"I didn't see I had a choice," the woman told Jackson.
She told the court DelGrosso first said he needed money to start a side business and would make her a silent partner. As time went on, DelGrosso would tell her he needed money, including a $40,000 loan the woman co-signed with DelGrosso and secured with her own $40,000 in savings, to keep his business, The Pizza Factory in Lakemont, afloat. The business failed in early 2013.
When she secured the $40,000 loan, DelGrosso was supposed to write her a check for $12,000 - for money she had loaned him earlier - but instead he told her he would keep it for something they could do together, such as take a trip or a cruise.
Instead he bought a Corvette, she testified.
Another time she gave him her credit card because he said he wanted to buy tickets to see Barry Manilow in Pittsburgh, but they never went. Instead, she found $1,200 had been charged to his business and another $97 charged at Sheetz.
Then there was $8,000 she gave him so he could book them a vacation, but that never happened either, she said. There were day trips and short getaways, she said, and always places where DelGrosso could gamble, such as casinos in New York.
When DelGrosso's wife threw him out of the house and took his vehicle, which was in the wife's name, DelGrosso asked the alleged victim to get him a vehicle loan, promising to pay the insurance premiums and loan payments. She testified DelGrosso told her without a vehicle, his side business of selling hoagies as fundraisers would fail, and he would be forced to tell her children about their arrangement.
She said she balked at the idea at first, but DelGrosso convinced her despite her growing suspicions about him.
"I don't know," the woman said. "He's pretty good. He convinced me."
She told the court DelGrosso made only one insurance payment and only one payment on the vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban.
She got DelGrosso to put in writing that he would pay her back $26 a day and make the payments for the vehicle, but she said she has never seen anything from him in the way of payment. She eventually took the vehicle from DelGrosso and sold it back to the dealership, at a $5,000 loss, she said.
The loan manager who set up the $40,000 loan said she tried to talk the woman out of it and said, "It made me sick."
The loan manager testified the woman told her that DelGrosso had been through a tough time, and she wanted to help him, a reference to DelGrosso's previous run-ins with the law in which he pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $175,000 from two area car dealerships in 2003 and 2006.
The bank manager said DelGrosso wanted the loan in only the woman's name because he said he didn't want her children to find out about it.
DelGrosso maintains the case is a civil matter and doesn't dispute the fact he owes the woman money, an argument that was reiterated Thursday by DelGrosso's attorney, Public Defender Russell Montgomery. Although his attempts to pay back the woman were "pathetic," it doesn't make what DelGrosso did a crime, Montgomery said.
"They have to prove it's a scheme," Montgomery told Jackson, adding that DelGrosso even had his contract with the woman notarized. "If this was theft by deception, why would you go in to a notary and admit you owe all this money? They have to prove it's a scheme."
Prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Illissa Zimmerman countered that DelGrosso's actions were nothing but "a con," one where he targeted a lonely woman with a nice inheritance. Zimmerman pointed out DelGrosso certainly used her credit card without her permission and that while he touted she was a partner in his business, he took her investments and spent the money on himself.
"That's the theft," Zimmerman said.
DelGrosso, who had been free on an unsecured $20,000 bond since his arraignment July 23, was jailed this week for a parole violation and on a Blair County Court bench warrant for costs and fines issued by Judge Timothy M. Sullivan.
He is next due to appear in Blair County Court on Sept. 12 for a formal arraignment on the charges.