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March 22nd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
Paige Lopez, one of the Tax Doctor’s first victims, has stepped forward to tell his story. Mark Colasuonno who did business here in Monrovia as the Tax Doctor, preparing tax returns and suggesting investments for his clients, was held to answer in Superior Court for his actions regarding Lopez and his brother Frank.
Colasuonno was charged with Grand Theft by embezzlement with an enhancement of the charges as more than $100,000 was alleged to have been stolen. Colasuonno has been arraigned and after a preliminary hearing, a Superior Court Judge found that there was sufficient evidence to face trial. As a condition of his release without bail, Colasuonno was ordered not to prepare taxes or create another LLC.
Ernie Algorrie, the attorney who represents Paige Lopez, and his client spoke of the case earlier this week. “We believe in the presumption of innocence until an individual until proven guilty,” Algorrie said. “But we also believe in civil redress for wrongs.”
Lopez said that Colasuonno, as the Tax Doctor, started preparing his tax returns in the late 1990s. After several years of working with Colasuonno, Lopez said that in approximately 2003 he mentioned to Colasuonno that he might be coming into an inheritance from his uncle.
Later Lopez and his brother Frank realized that they would receive a total of $350,000 from the estate of his uncle. Lopez said that he explained to Colasuonno that he needed to invest his portion of the funds in something which he could easily liquidate as he planned to refinance his home soon at a lower interest rate and to purchase a new home.
“I should have realized that something was wrong when Mark started called me every few days before the check arrived asking about it,” Lopez said. “But I trusted him and didn’t think suspect anything.
According to Lopez, Colasuonno said he would put the funds in an annuity and gave him paperwork to sign to that end. He also told Lopez that his paperwork would come from the company in “a week or two.” No such paperwork arrived.
Lopez said that in March 2008 he went to Colasuonno to prepare his taxes one last time and demanded to know what had happened with his “annuity.” Instead he was given a notebook with Mark Colasuonno’s name referring to an investment in Dynasty Plaza. There was no annuity and no way to obtain the funds he needed to refinance his home.
“He never told me at that time that he had sold the business to someone else,” Lopez said. “That should have told me something.”
“When I demanded the return of my money, I told him I was going to go to the police,” he said. “I did not go at that time, and Mark starting calling me trying to get me not to go to the police. On the Sunday after our meeting, he even offered by $40,000 a month not to go to the police. I went to the police on March 3, 2008.”
“Basically Mark Colasuonno converted Paige’s funds for his own use,” Algorrie said. “He abused his power and the trust Paige put in him.”
“Before all this I even referred other members of my family to him,” Lopez said. “I trusted him.”
Algorrie said that he saw several conflicts of interest as well in the matter as the money that was invested in Dynasty Plaza was done so through Michael Colasuonno, Mark – the Tax Doctor’s, brother.
Lopez wondered why the bank which cashed the check he had signed did so without question. “My bank told me that it was standard baking practice to call to verify a check of that amount being presented by someone other than the payee.
As a result of losing the money, Lopez said that he had lost his home in Corona and was now living in Riverside. “It breaks my heart that I have to explain to my 7 year old daughter all of this, that she has to move, that she can’t go to own school anymore,” Lopez said.
“My wife has been very supportive,” he added. He has had to take his child out of the private Christian school to a public school in Riverside. In addition, his credit has been totally ruined. Because he is on disability he cannot work. “I am on several medications for anxiety, anger and stress” he said.
In addition, Lopez said that his aunt has had her health affected by the whole situation. “My brother had also been in bad health and the stress of this has exacerbated his problems.
Lopez and his attorney agreed to discuss his situation in an effort to encourage other victims to step forward.
By Susan Motander