White-collar mob case nears closing arguments

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The financial fraud trial involving the son of an imprisoned Philadelphia organized crime boss is nearing closing arguments after nearly four months.
Alleged Lucchese crime family member Nicodemo S. Scarfo and several co-defendants are accused of using threats to take over the board of FirstPlus Financial Group, an Irving, Texas-based publicly traded mortgage company. Prosecutors allege they then had the company buy shell companies they owned so they could take out the assets.
The trial in federal court in Camden has been underway since early January. Jurors were expected to hear instructions from the judge on Tuesday, and the panel could hear closing arguments from attorneys as early as Wednesday.
Prosecutors contend Scarfo and the others fleeced FirstPlus of about $12 million in less than a year, by hiring shell companies owned by Scarfo and co-defendant Salvatore Pelullo and by buying other shell companies they formed. The money was used for items including a plane, a $217,000 Bentley, $30,000 in jewelry and an 83-foot, $850,000 yacht they named "Priceless."
Defense attorneys have claimed the companies were legitimate and that the takeover of FirstPlus was part of a business strategy to revive a dormant company.
Other defendants include two executives at FirstPlus, along with lawyers and accountants. Several people have pleaded guilty. The charges include racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, false statements on a loan application and obstruction. Maximum penalties range from five years in prison to decades.
Scarfo's father, Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, led the Philadelphia Mafia during a bloody 1980s mob war. His reign ended in 1988 when he was convicted of racketeering and sent to prison for decades. In 1989, the younger Scarfo was the victim of what authorities have described as an attempted mob hit in a South Philadelphia Italian restaurant. He was shot a half-dozen times.