Scam Suspects Paid Cash For Real Estate, Trial Told

Posted: March 30, 2000

While an airport parking scam was stealing millions of dollars in the early 1990s, a South Philadelphia real estate broker accepted $147,550 in cash from the airport parking manager to help him buy 10 investment properties in Southwest Philadelphia, according to testimony yesterday in federal court.

"I may have had my suspicions," said the broker, Ludwig S. Capozzi III. "But it wasn't my job to ask where the money was coming from."

Capozzi, 48, whose late father and grandfather were prominent real estate figures in South Philadelphia, appeared at the conspiracy and tax evasion trial of Anthony J. Gricco, the former airport parking manager, and William T. McCardell, Gricco's brother-in-law and second-in-command.

They are accused of running a counterfeit parking ticket ring that skimmed $3.4 million from airport parking operations from early 1990 through September 1994.

Referring to records assembled by federal prosecutors, Capozzi testified that from 1992 to 1994, he arranged real estate purchases for both Gricco and Gricco's sister, Donna, who is McCardell's wife, as well as David A. Million, who has already pleaded guilty to a leading role in the parking scam.

In all the real estate transactions - 10 properties purchased by Gricco, two by the McCardells and three by Million - the buyers made their down payments in cash, Capozzi said.

And the real estate broker went to unusual lengths to avoid filling out the government reports that are frequently required when large amounts of cash figure in business transactions.

Capozzi described several situations where Gricco gave him a series of cash payments totaling $10,000 or more, to buy duplexes and other rental properties in Southwest Philadelphia, not far from the airport.

Normally, when cash totaling $10,000 or more is deposited directly into a bank account, federal law would require the bank to file a report with the Internal Revenue Service, providing information on who's making the deposit and where the money is coming from.

But Capozzi avoided those requirements by using Gricco's cash to purchase smaller money orders - for instance, five money orders for $2,000 each, purchased the same day in February 1992 at three different branches of the same bank, Oregon Savings. Then Capozzi deposited the money orders into his own escrow account, used later to complete the real estate purchases.

Capozzi testified that he executed these maneuvers on his own, not on instructions from Gricco. "I wanted to avoid any questions being asked, period," Capozzi told prosecutor Louis D. Lappen.

All that Gricco had told him, Capozzi testified, was to "keep a low profile. . .I didn't want to ask any questions, upset the applecart."

"Because he was a good customer?" Lappen asked.

"Exactly," the broker said.

The feds identified $31,000 in cash payments from Donna Gricco McCardell to Capozzi, to buy two properties. McCardell's lawyer, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, protested that his client had nothing to do with the transactions, but Lappen pointed out that the properties were jointly owned by both McCardell and his wife.

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