THE NICK OF TIME: Scarfo Jr. indicted - again

Posted: November 02, 2011

LIKE THE Marlboro Man, the chain-smoking cowboy who died of lung cancer, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. is becoming an unintentional poster child. In Scarfo's case, for the perils of organized crime.

Who can look at this sorry son-of-a-mobster and seriously consider getting involved in the Italian-American underworld?

Yesterday, Scarfo, 46, was hauled into a Camden courtroom in handcuffs and cheap sweatpants to answer for his latest venture - a massive alleged corporate scam that fleeced investors in a publicly traded Texas mortgage firm. He said that he's broke and can't afford an attorney to represent him in the newly unsealed indictment.

Scarfo was supposed to be one of the smarter, more resilient, gangsters. But he always seems to get busted.

In 1989, he survived a Halloween-night assassination attempt when a masked man pulled a gun out of a trick-or-treat bag and shot the cocky 24-year-old several times while he was dining at Dante & Luigi's, in South Philly.

A few years later, Scarfo, son of former Philly Mafia boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, was doing jail time in New Jersey on racketeering charges involving illegal video-poker machines. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge after trying to stab the manager of an Atlantic City club appropriately named Déjà Vu.

Scarfo was convicted of federal gambling charges in 2002 and did another 33 months behind bars. He was indicted again last year for his alleged role in an international sports-betting operation.

And, oh, yeah, Scarfo's 82-year-old father is locked up in an Atlanta prison on racketeering charges and probably isn't getting out alive - unless he lives to be 103.

You'd think that at some point mobsters like Scarfo might go out and get a real job.

Nah. Some wiseguys never wise up.

The younger Scarfo has been charged yet again, in what federal authorities are calling a mob-connected corporate "looting" that allegedly netted him and a dozen associates - including an accountant and a team of lawyers - $12 million between 2007 and 2008.

"The group gave new meaning to the term 'corporate takeover,' " New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said yesterday in announcing the unsealing of the 107-page indictment.

Scarfo, of Galloway Township, Atlantic County, and reputed mob associate Salvatore Pelullo spearheaded a brazen scheme to defraud shareholders of Texas-based FirstPlus Financial Group, authorities said. The 25-count indictment, which includes transcripts of intercepted phone calls and text messages, shows that some factions of La Cosa Nostra are gravitating toward white-collar crime and away from their traditional rackets, said Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark, N.J., field office.

"The criminal activity is evolving," Ward said. "It's going from the back alleys to the boardroom."

Scarfo and Pelullo, who has prior convictions for bank fraud and wire fraud, took control of the cash-rich FirstPlus and used the money to buy houses, a jet, jewelry - including an engagement ring for Scarfo's wife - and a $200,000 Bentley for Pelullo, Fishman said.

"Together, Scarfo and Pelullo bought an $850,000 yacht that they named, ironically, Priceless," Fishman said.

Scarfo Sr. and Vittorio Amuso, the jailed boss of the Lucchese crime family, are named as unindicted co-conspirators.

"You can't protect people from the vicissitudes of the market," Fishman said of investors. "What you can do is protect them from people like this, who are parasites bleeding money out of the corporation."

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