Scarfo, 3 others convicted in long-running Mob trial

In this May 18, 2010 photo, alleged mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo appears in a courtroom in Morris County, N.J. Scarfo, the son of former Philadelphia Mafia leader Nicodemo D. Scarfo, was convicted Thursday, July 3, 2014, on multiple counts of federal fraud charges, including racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Andy Ritchie)
In this May 18, 2010 photo, alleged mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo appears in a courtroom in Morris County, N.J. Scarfo, the son of former Philadelphia Mafia leader Nicodemo D. Scarfo, was convicted Thursday, July 3, 2014, on multiple counts of federal fraud charges, including racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Andy Ritchie)
Posted: July 05, 2014

Six months after they walked into the courthouse on a below-freezing January day, 12 jurors convicted reputed mobster Nicodemo Scarfo, associate Salvatore Pelullo, and two Texas mortgage company employees in a multimillion-dollar corporate scheme that will send the men to prison for decades.

The trial involved thousands of exhibits, hundreds of FBI wiretapped conversations, and testimony over the course of months.

The prosecution's aim was to prove that the men, along with three attorneys, looted First Plus Financial and defrauded shareholders of $12 million to benefit themselves and the Lucchese crime family.

After about two weeks of deliberation, the jury mostly agreed and convicted Scarfo, 49; Pelullo, 47; and brothers William and John Maxwell of all the counts against them, including racketeering conspiracy and related offenses, such as securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

Codefendants Gary McCarthy, David Adler and Donald Manno, all attorneys, were acquitted of all charges in an emotional end to the trial.

As the foreman read the verdicts Thursday morning in a packed U.S. district courtroom in Camden, family members of the convicted buried their heads in their hands. For the not-guilty verdicts, there were fist pumps, hand squeezes, and sighs of relief.

Judge Robert Kugler immediately dismissed the three who were acquitted, and they left the courtroom followed by their families in celebration, with tears, hugs, and smiles.

Manno, 68, a Cherry Hill lawyer, represented himself during the trial and called it "the hardest case of my life."

Manno said that in a sense, he knew his client intimately, but hearing prosecutors describe him in derogatory terms got to him. "There were a lot of frustrating moments," said Manno, a longtime attorney for Scarfo. "There's no question about it."

Manno's wife, Rita, smiled and embraced her daughter after the last not-guilty verdict for Manno, and whispered, "It's all over."

Howard Klein, who represented McCarthy, said his client had undergone a "six-year ordeal and now for the first time in six years, he's a free man."

Barry Gross, a former federal prosecutor who represented Adler, said, "The jurors clearly took their responsibilities very seriously and justice was finally achieved for Mr. Adler."

The mood was much more somber in the courtroom, where Kugler remanded into custody John Maxwell, former CEO of First Plus, and William Maxwell, an attorney with the company. Neither man has prior convictions, but both now face up to 20 years in prison for the 20 counts on which they were convicted.

Pelullo and Scarfo, who have been in prison since November 2011, when their bail was revoked, face 30 years to life, given their prior convictions.

"The biggest crime he ever committed was becoming friends with Scarfo," Pelullo's sister Mary Louise Jalilvand of Elkins Park said outside the courthouse. "It was guilt by association."

Pelullo's former wife, Lana Pelullo, called her ex-husband a brilliant businessman and said the government "wasted millions of taxpayer dollars to bolster their own name."

Pelullo's son Antonio, 18, one of five children, said his father might be a tough talker - as evidenced in wiretap conversations played during court - but he was not a criminal. The young man said that in the Philadelphia area, his name is associated with the trial and now, the mob.

"I'm looking at colleges out of state," he said.

Mike Riley, who represented Scarfo, had argued that the government used Scarfo's name - made notorious by his father, jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo - to boost a weak white-collar crime case. He described Scarfo's story as "a human tragedy."

Scarfo has two brothers - one changed his name, and the second attempted suicide and remained in a vegetative state for years until he died this spring, Riley said.

"When it's investigated and packaged like a mob case, no matter what jurors say about being capable of setting concerns of the Mafia off to one side, it's very difficult for them to do that, and I don't know they were able to do that," said Riley, who said he would appeal the conviction.

During the trial, the government argued that Scarfo and Pelullo extorted the FirstPlus board to get control of the company and then, through a series of phony filings and frauds, siphoned out millions between June 2007 and May 2008.

The defense said the company went under due to the poor economy. They say bank and wire fraud would exist only if the company was in fact illegally taken over.

"The jury found this to be what it was: an organized crime-controlled enterprise led by Scarfo and Pelullo . . . to earn money for a criminal enterprise - the Lucchese crime family," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen D'Aguanno, the lead prosecutor.

D'Aguanno said the government would work to pay back the shareholders.

"They are real victims who suffered real losses, and hopefully the government will be able to recoup some of the money that they lost," he said.

The jury ordered the clients to forfeit to the government a vessel, a Mitsubishi model aircraft, an Audi vehicle, and other items they determined were acquired through the scheme.

The jury of six men and six women was taken to an undisclosed location after the trial and was not available to comment.

Sentencing dates for the Maxwells, Scarfo, and Pelullo are set for the second to last week in October.


jterruso@phillynews.com

856-779-3876 @juliaterruso

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