Pennsylvania Man Admits Conspiring with Alleged Members of Organized Crime Family and Others in Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 30, 2013|
CAMDEN, NJ—A West Reading, Pennsylvania man 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, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Cory Leshner, 30, 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:
Leshner and 12 others—including 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. Cory Leshner admitted that he joined the conspiracy in April 2007.
Leshner admitted that he assisted Scarfo and Pelullo in managing family trusts and limited liability companies on behalf of Scarfo and Pelullo as part of the scheme to defraud FPFG. Leshner said that Pelullo directed Leshner in the use of various bank accounts through which Pelullo received hundreds of thousands of dollars between July 2007 and April 2008 as part of the scheme. The money included the proceeds of the fraud that Pelullo allegedly received as part of a fraudulent “consulting” agreement between his shell company, Seven Hills Management, and co-defendant William Maxwell, a Texas attorney who served as “special counsel” to FPFG as part of the scheme. 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.
Leshner also said that he was a law school student during the scheme. Leshner graduated from law school in 2010 and became an attorney in Pennsylvania in 2011. As part of his plea agreement, Leshner agreed to notify the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of his guilty plea and to accept any disciplinary action brought by disciplinary officials as a result of the guilty plea and sentence. Leshner also agreed to not seek the reinstatement of his license to practice law while serving any sentence of imprisonment imposed in the case.
Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Pelullo, and five other defendants charged in November 2011—including attorneys William Maxwell, 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 Cory Leshner 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 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.
With respect to the defendants awaiting trial, the charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.