Reputed mob associate Nicodemo S. Scarfo, of Galloway Township, is too dangerous for bail, a judge ruled Monday — against protests by the defense that he is a victim of his name.
Scarfo, 46 — son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo — is accused of leading a scheme to take over Texas-based FirstPlus Financial Group, from which he and a dozen others allegedly conspired to steal at least $12 million through means that included selling nearly worthless companies they owned and charging consulting fees.
Eleven co-defendants have been freed on bail. But Scarfo and close friend Salvatore Pelullo, 44, of Philadelphia, have been denied release pending trial, which has been set for Jan. 9. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler backed an earlier ruling that the younger Scarfo — known as Scarfo Jr. — is a danger to society.
“The government is continuing to visit the sins of the father upon the son,” defense attorney Mike Riley argued in a motion to try to free his client while awaiting trial. “Mr. Scarfo has a recognizable name that should be judged on his own rather than being linked to the alleged activities of his incarcerated father.”
But the alleged scheme benefited from his father’s ruthless reputation, the government argued — as did Scarfo Jr., who made $33,000 monthly in “consultant” fees.
“The reason he was able to do virtually no work and get 33 grand per month is because of his name,” Justice Department lawyer Lisa Page said.
But the name also has made it dangerous for him in jail, authorities said.
Scarfo Jr. is in protective custody in a Philadelphia detention center because it also houses five members of a La Cosa Nostra group that tried to kill him. However, the defendant asked to be put in the general population, where his lawyer would have easier access to him.
“I don’t share the same concerns about my safety that the government shares,” he told the judge. “I just don’t feel like my life’s in danger.”
At the previous hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D’Aguanno pointed out that Scarfo Jr. “has been under the supervision of the criminal justice system almost 24 years continuously,” including either being indicted, charged, on trial or serving a sentence. He was on supervision when he allegedly committed the new crimes.
The case involves many of the defendants named in a Texas bankruptcy suit filed in June, four months before the arrests. That suit claims Scarfo and Pelullo heard of the company’s problems and saw it as “an ideal target for the Pelullo group to implement a scheme to siphon millions of dollars from the (company),” writes plaintiff Matthew Orwig, Chapter 11 trustee for FirstPlus.
Orwig requests restitution as well as other payment from eight groups he says breached their fiduciary duties and conspired in “siphoning off” the company’s assets, then hid their financial misdeeds with “misleading public filings.” Seven other co-defendants in the criminal case are named in the suit. An eighth defendant, John Parisi, is also named in the bankruptcy filing, as registered agent for Learned Associates of North America, which the criminal indictment paints as a shill company for Scarfo.
On Nov. 30, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, D’Aguanno and Page filed a motion to intervene in the Texas case, staying those proceedings to allow for the criminal trial to go first.
“We routinely intervene in parallel civil cases when we have a criminal case involving the same parties,” said Matthew Reilly, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The motion is pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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