Trial begins for reputed mobsters charged in $12 million bank fraud

Jan. 9, 2014 at 5:42 PM

CAMDEN, N.J., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A massive racketeering scheme allegedly operated by reputed mobsters cost taxpayers millions of dollars, a New Jersey prosecutor says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Weiner made the claim to a Camden jury during the first day of trial of Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. and five others, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday.

Scarfo, 45, the son of imprisoned Philadelphia crime boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and associate Salvatore Pelullo have been charged with stealing $12 million from a Texas-based financial company, FirstPlus Financial. Four lawyers who worked with the men and the company's chief executive are also charged.

Weiner told the 19-member jury that beginning in 2007 the men got millions from FirstPlus Financial in less than a year through fraudulent transactions, shell companies and a series of bank accounts. Scarfo used the money to pay organized crime debts, the prosecutor said, while the others purchased luxury cars, mansions and a yacht.

Michael Riley, Scarfo's attorney, said in his opening statement that not only were the transactions legal, but they had no connection to organized crime.

Referring to evidence the jury was expected to hear, Riley said, "This is not an organized crime case, and to suggest it is unfair. It's a distraction and it's offered to cloud your view."

Only Scarfo and Pelullo are in custody. If convicted, they face 30 years to life in prison.

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