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Wannabe lawyer charged with being a poser -- again

By Bobby Kerlik
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Thursday, September 8, 2005

An Oakmont man was arrested Wednesday for a familiar ploy: posing as a lawyer.

J. Todd Moses, a detective in the Allegheny County District Attorney's office, recognized Charles Arrotti in a Rankin district judge's courtroom March 16, nearly 20 years after having investigating him for fraudulently posing as a lawyer, according to an affidavit filed by the District Attorney's office.

The affidavit states that Arrotti had argued 14 cases before local judges, claimed he worked on the Robert Blake murder trial and passed himself off as his boss, Oakmont lawyer Gusty Sunseri.

Arrotti, 56, of Oakmont, was charged with 14 counts of unauthorized practice of law, theft by deception and theft of services.

He had pleaded guilty in 1993 for impersonating a lawyer in the late 1980s and served five months in jail.

Sunseri had hired Arrotti as an associate attorney for his law firm in late 2003. At the time, Arrotti showed a diploma from Southern New England School of Law and told Sunseri he was in the process of passing the bar exam, the affidavit states.

"I never thought I could be conned," Sunseri said. "I guess anyone can."

Things fell apart for Arrotti after posing as Sunseri and handing out his business cards at District Judge Ross Cioppa's Rankin office, according to the affidavit. A month later, Sunseri fired him.

"I found out after the fact that he was posing as me," Sunseri said.

Arrotti also told Sunseri he taught legal ethics classes at Duquesne University. However, when Sunseri contacted Duquesne, no one had ever heard of Arrotti, the affidavit states.

Arrotti argued plaintiff/landlord cases, drunken-driving cases, harassment cases and divorce hearings, according to the affidavit.

In one divorce case, Arrotti substantially lowered fees charged and instead bartered an agreement with the client to do more than $3,000 worth of repairs to his house without telling Sunseri, the affidavit states.

"He actually did graduate from law school. He just wasn't licensed," Sunseri said. "He knows the law. He was very persuasive."