Appeals Court Upholds Convictions, Sentences in Organized Crime Case

A Hudson County man was sentenced today.

A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions and sentences of a member and an associate of the Lucchese organized crime family and two Texas brothers on racketeering conspiracy and related offenses, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Nicodemo S. Scarfo, 57, of Galloway, New Jersey, a member of the Lucchese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), and Salvatore Pelullo, 55, of Philadelphia, an associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families, were convicted on July 3, 2014, of all the counts against them. Two other defendants, William Maxwell, 63, of Houston, Texas, and his brother, John Maxwell, 70, of Irving, Texas, were also convicted.

In a consolidated appeal, the defendants challenged almost every aspect of their prosecutions, including the investigation, the charges and evidence against them, the pretrial process, the government’s compliance with its disclosure obligations, the trial, the forfeiture proceedings, and their sentences.

In a precedential, 169-page opinion issued July 15, 2022, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed all the convictions and sentences, except for the forfeiture portion of John Maxwell’s sentence, for which it remanded the matter to the District Court to determine what share of the forfeiture he should pay.

The four defendants were convicted for their respective roles in the takeover and subsequent looting of FirstPlus Financial Group, a publicly held mortgage company based in Dallas, Texas. The defendants used extortionate threats to take control of the company, causing a loss of more than $14 million and leaving more than 1,000 shareholders with investments that had been rendered worthless. Scarfo and Pelullo were each sentenced to 30 years in prison; William Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison; and John Maxwell was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The appellate court decision, written by Circuit Judge Kent A. Jordan and joined by Circuit Judges Thomas L. Ambro and Stephanos Bibas, affirmed the jury’s guilty verdicts on all of the underlying crimes, including participating in a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization conspiracy, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and firearms offenses. It also affirmed the prison sentences.

The government was represented on appeal by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Gross and Sabrina Comizzoli of the Appeals Division and Bruce P. Keller, Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney.

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Defense counsel:Scarfo: Michael Riley Esq., Marlton, New JerseyPelullo: Troy A. Archie Esq., Cinnaminson, New JerseyWilliam Maxwell: Michael N. Huff Esq., PhiladelphiaJohn Maxwell: Mark W. Catanzaro Esq., Mount Holly, New Jersey

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