City man bought a house from a fake owner for 65 thousand dollars

NEWTON – An abandoned house on the shores of Lake Zoar piqued Eugene Tortorici’s interest.

The self-described entrepreneur wanted to buy property along the lake, a reservoir on the Housatonic River that snakes through four towns in lower Connecticut.

Tortorici saw the waterfront property just down Bankside Trail as an investment in the up-and-coming neighborhood.

The Little White House appears to have been abandoned – one of two abandoned properties that Tortorici, a Southbury resident, managed to find near the lake. Better yet, a neighbor suggested that the owner might be willing to sell.

But tracking down his wife, a Massachusetts man in his 60s, proved a challenge. Pulling records from the city led him to a dead phone number and PO box address.

“Being persistent in all the businesses I’ve had, I’m not going to stop there,” the 32-year-old said in a recent phone interview.

Although police records do not indicate the exact details of the owner’s search, Tortorisi, undeterred, conducted a name search of the realtor. It came back with three names – one of which was the contact information that led to the dead number. But when Tortorici called the second address on the list, someone picked up.

“It says yes, you found me. I’m the owner and I want to sell it,” Tortorisi said. “That was the scammer.”

It was a moment when an ordinary real estate deal turned strange. Because the voice Tortorici heard on the phone wasn’t the real owner, but someone who said the police had agreed to sell the house to Tortorici, pretending to be the owner.

Ultimately, the man Tortorisi spoke with on the phone that day was identified by investigators as Edwin Robert Lewis III of Wellington. Newtown police last month charged him with second-degree money laundering, first-degree identity theft, first-degree fraud, criminal impersonation and second-degree forgery.

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