Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Judge Losing Patience As Defense Challenges Mob References

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering criminal trials for

Salvatore Pelulluo and Nicky Scarfo Jr. used their mob connections to intimidate and silence officials at FirstPlus Financial Group while setting up and carrying out the multi-million dollar looting of the Texas-based company, federal prosecutors contend.

And for that reason, they argue, evidence demonstrating ties to La Cosa Nostra were legitimately presented to the jury during the FirstPlus fraud trail and should not be grounds for dismissing the convictions that were delivered back in July.

Scarfo and Pelullo "allowed various FPFG officials to learn of (their) affiliation with organized crime," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D'Aguanno wrote in a 103-page response to a defense motion asking that the convictions be dismissed and a new trial ordered.

"That knowledge caused those officials to refrain from challenging Pelullo's and Scarfo's control of the company" and allowed Pelullo and Scarfo to carry out the "takeover and looting" of the Texas-based mortgage company, the prosecutor wrote.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler has scheduled a hearing for Friday on the defense motion and government's response. Scarfo, Pelullo and brothers John and William Maxwell, who were also convicted, are scheduled to be sentenced in January.

All four defendants have joined in motions seeking to have their convictions overturned and a new trial ordered. The principal defense argument is that neither the evidence nor the testimony supported the government's contention that the looting of FirstPlus was an organized crime scheme. Introducing the spectre of the mob, the defense argued, created undue prejudice and denied the defendants a fair trial.

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