An Ambler man was sentenced last week to 40 months in prison for conspiring to defraud FirstPlus Financial Group Inc., a Texas-based financial services company, which had been targeted for extortionate takeover and looting by a group led by Lucchese organized crime family member Nicodemo S. Scarfo, according to an announcement by New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Howard Drossner, 53, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kugler imposed the sentence Sept. 19 in Camden federal court.
According to court documents and evidence introduced at a related trial:
Scarfo, a made member of the Lucchese La Cosa Nostra organized crime family, Salvatore Pellulo and others devised a scheme in April 2007 to take over FirstPlus. Scarfo and Pelullo used threats of economic harm to intimidate and remove the prior management and board of directors, replacing them with individuals beholden to Scarfo and Pelullo.
Drossner, a certified public accountant, joined the conspiracy in February 2008 when he helped Scarfo and Scarfo’s then-fiancée secure a $500,000 mortgage to purchase a house for $715,000 in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. At Pelullo’s direction, Drossner created false tax returns to help Scarfo’s fiancée qualify for a mortgage. Scarfo used money looted from FirstPlus for the $215,000 down payment on the house. The false tax returns, which exaggerated Scarfo’s fiancée’s income so she could qualify for the mortgage without naming Scarfo, were used to secure the mortgage.
After the First Plus scheme was shut down by federal law enforcement in May 2008, Scarfo was unable to pay the mortgage and the house ultimately went into foreclosure. It was sold by the bank in 2010.
In addition to the prison term, Kugler sentenced Drossner to three years of supervised release and fined him $125,000. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Drossner was required to notify the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy of his guilty plea and consent to the voluntary suspension of his CPA license.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven D’Aguanno and Howard Wiener of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Camden Office and trial attorney Adam L. Small of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in Washington prosecuted the case against Drossner and several others.