Lawyers Can Keep 100g Mortgages

Posted: April 24, 1993

A federal judge in Philadelphia yesterday ruled that two Center City lawyers don't have to forfeit to the government two mortgages worth about $100,000 that were given to them in 1991 as collateral for a loan.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said attorneys Elias H. Stein and Leon W. Silverman didn't know they were dealing with drug traffickers when they accepted the mortgages as collateral for a $39,000 loan.

Nor were Stein and Silverman "aware the mortgages were the proceeds of

drug trafficking," by now-admitted South Philadelphia drug kingpin-turned- informant Nicholas D'Amato and his brother, Carmen "Butchy" D'Amato.

The judge also found that Stein and Silverman weren't involved in the D'Amatos' "scheme to use the proceeds of the loan for purposes of loan sharking."

In a related action, the judge deferred ruling on whether Gloria D'Amato, a sister of Nicholas and Carmen and a former secretary of State Sen. Vincent Fumo, must forfeit her home on 19th Street near Tree in South Philadelphia.

As in the case of the two lawyers, federal prosecutors contended she knew or should have known the home, and its mortgage - one of the two mortgages owned by the lawyers - were purchased with drug profits.

The other mortgage owned by Stein and Silverman is on a residential property on Hicks Street near Ritner.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank A. Labor is now considering withdrawing the forfeiture action he filed against her.

The D'Amato brothers were prominent Mummers in South Philadelphia, founders of a prize-winning fancy brigade now headquartered in a former paper mill on Wolf Street near Swanson, a building owned, in part, by the two lawyers.

Stein and Silverman testified as character witnesses for Carmen D'Amato in 1989 when the former Democratic Party committeeman and captain of the South Philadelphia Vikings Fancy Brigade was on trial in federal court for drug trafficking and tax evasion.

D'Amato, 40, a talented carpenter and building contractor, was acquitted of

drug trafficking but convicted of tax fraud on drug profits and was sentenced to a four-year prison term following the 1989 trial.

His younger brother Nicholas, who operated video stores and an auto body shop in this area and a food court in Wildwood, N.J., turned informant in 1991.

Nicholas has testified that he, Carmen, and others grossed more than $8 millon on sales of hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine between 1983 and 1990.

Nicholas, who awaits sentencing for drug trafficking, secretly tape recorded his associates, and his testimony has led to numerous convictions of local drug traffickers.

In his ruling yesterday, the judge said the D'Amato tapes of conversations with Stein and Silverman "are not a model of audibility or clarity" and contain "many unintelligible parts."

Stein and Silverman both testified they believed the loan was to be used by the D'Amato brothers to erect a modular home on a lot in New Jersey, and there were statements on the tapes to support the lawyers' testimony, the judge noted.

The judge said Stein and Silverman "were less than meticulous in the handling of the loan transaction," noting that they never inspected the two properties and waited almost a month before recording the mortgages.

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