John Parisi, 52, Atlantic City, New Jersey, admitted he conspired to defraud FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. (FPFG), a Texas-based financial services company allegedly targeted for extortionate takeover and looting by a group led by alleged Lucchese organized crime family member Nicodemo S. Scarfo.
The defendant pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Parisi and 12 others—including his cousin, Nicodemo S. Scarfo, an alleged member of the Lucchese La Cosa Nostra (LCN) crime family, and Salvatore Pelullo, an alleged associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families—were variously charged in a November 2011 indictment with a racketeering conspiracy, including acts of securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, extortion, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. The indictment charged that FPFG was targeted for extortionate takeover and looting by a group of the conspirators. A substantial part of the enterprise’s activities occurred in New Jersey, including communications and the transfer of money into and out of the state. John Parisi admitted that he joined the conspiracy in April 2007.
Parisi managed a family trust and a limited liability company on behalf of Scarfo as part of the scheme to defraud FPFG. Parisi said Scarfo, his cousin, directed Parisi in the use of various bank accounts through which Scarfo received hundreds of thousands of dollars between July 2007 and April 2008 as part of the scheme. As alleged in the indictment, the money involved proceeds of the fraud that Scarfo allegedly received as part of a fraudulent “consulting” agreement between his shell company, Learned Associates, and one controlled by Pelullo. The money also involved proceeds received from the fraudulent sale of Scarfo and Pelullo’s worthless companies to FPFG in 2007. The receipt of the fraudulent proceeds often occurred in the form of wire transfers from accounts in Pennsylvania to accounts in New Jersey.
Parisi also said that beginning in February 2008 he assisted Scarfo and his then-fiancée, Lisa Marie Scarfo, obtain a mortgage for a $715,000 house in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, that the Scarfos intended to purchase. Lisa Marie Scarfo pleaded guilty on September 17, 2013, to a conspiracy to make a false mortgage loan application in connection with the purchase of the Egg Harbor Township house.
Scarfo, Pelullo, and six other defendants charged in November 2011—including attorneys William Maxwell, Cory Leshner, David Adler, Gary McCarthy, and Donald Manno, as well as John Maxwell—are scheduled for trial beginning October 28, 2013. Todd Stark, also charged in the indictment, previously pleaded guilty to providing ammunition to Scarfo and Pelullo, convicted felons.
The conspiracy count to which Parisi pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for January 17, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the guilty plea.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Garcia, New York Region; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Thomas J. Cannon in Newark. He also thanked the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko in Philadelphia for its vital assistance and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its role.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven D’Aguanno and Howard Wiener of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit and Criminal Division in Camden and Trial Attorney Adam Small of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.