Reputed mobster Scarfo denied bail in fraud case

November 4, 2011 - 4:45 PM

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Reputed mobster Nicodemo Scarfo will stay in jail as he awaits trial on a financial fraud case, a federal magistrate judge ruled Friday.

The son of former Philadelphia-area mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo was arrested Tuesday on allegations that he helped lead a scheme to take over then pillage a Texas mortgage company of $12 million. A federal court judge denied him bail on Friday, ruling he is a danger to the community.

Thirteen people, including five lawyers and an accountant, have been charged in the scheme in all.

Apart from Scarfo, all eight who have appeared in court in New Jersey — including Scarfo's wife — have been freed on bail.

Authorities say they used intimidation in 2007 to take over Irving, Texas-based mortgage company FirstPlus Financial Group, had the company buy two shell businesses and took out the proceeds. They also say Scarfo, who lives in Galloway, N.J., and the other main defendant, Salvatore Pelullo, of Philadelphia, arranged consulting jobs to make even more money. Federal prosecutors say they planned to make money a third way in the alleged scam: pumping up the stock of FirstPlus and selling the company.

U.S. District Magistrate Ann Marie Donio also ruled Friday that Scarfo, who was known by a number of nicknames including "Junior," can have a court-appointed lawyer.

Earlier this week, the younger Scarfo asked for a court-appointed lawyer. A public defender temporarily assigned to him told a judge Scarfo reported that he had only $125 in a checking account and no other assets.

Apart from the takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group, Scarfo is facing charges that he violated terms of his supervised release from a previous sentence for running an illegal gambling operation.

Three other defendants also pleaded not guilty on Friday, including Scarfo's wife and cousin.

One complication came when the cousin, 50-year-old John Parisi of Atlantic City, asked to be allowed to have contact with Scarfo's wife, Lisa Murray-Scarfo. Parisi's public defender, Lisa Evans Lewis, explained that Parisi babysits her children and spends holidays with the family.

Permission was denied, though the issue could be revisited.

The judge also told Parisi that he's not allowed to make phone calls to his aunt — Scarfo's mother — who lives with Scarfo and his wife. For now, the judge ruled, she will have to call him.

Parisi and Murray-Scarfo were also granted court-appointed lawyers, though the government questioned how Murray-Scarfo is managing to pay a $1,500-a-month mortgage with no reported income.

A trial is scheduled for Jan. 9, though it's expected to be pushed back.