Thursday, November 03, 2011

Todd Stark, Reputed Mob Associate of Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Pleads Guilty

A former bartender and reputed mob associate pleaded not guilty Wednesday to supplying boxes of bullets to mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo, a convicted felon barred by law from possessing guns or ammunition.

Todd Stark, 43, of Ocean City, N.J., entered the plea during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Camden.

Stark is among 12 defendants indicted with Scarfo, 46, in a multimillion-dollar financial-fraud case. He is the only one not charged with involvement in what prosecutors allege was the systematic looting of the FirstPlus Financial Group, a Texas company that authorities allege Scarfo secretly took control of in 2007.

Stark, Scarfo, and five other defendants were charged with conspiracy to provide firearms or ammunition to a convicted felon.

Scarfo, who has been held without bail pending a detention hearing and arraignment Friday, also is charged with illegal possession of a weapon.

Most of the defendants have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.

Others, including Scarfo, have not yet entered pleas.

The weapons charges, while not directly connected to the financial fraud, underscore allegations that the looting of FirstPlus was based, in part, on Scarfo's organized-crime connections.

Authorities allege that Scarfo, of Galloway Township, N.J., and defendant Salvatore Pelullo, 44, of Elkins Park, used threats of violence and their ties to the mob to intimidate officials with the firm and eventually take control of the company.

The 25-count indictment charges that proceeds from the scam, estimated at more than $12 million, were "distributed to members and associates of LCN (La Cosa Nostra)."

Pelullo, described by associates as a "wannabe wiseguy," is identified in court documents as an associate of the Philadelphia crime family formerly headed by Scarfo's father, "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and the Lucchese crime family in New York.

The indictment alleges that Scarfo and Pelullo kept a "cache of weapons."

They included two rifles, a shotgun, two pistols, a revolver, and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition found on a yacht owned by Scarfo and Pelullo during an FBI raid in May 2008.

The yacht, christened "Priceless," was purchased for $850,000 by the pair with funds taken from FirstPlus, authorities said. Docked in Miami, it was used by the men and their associates to cruise the Bahamas.

It was seized by authorities during the investigation.

Authorities found a .38-caliber pistol in Pelullo's business office in Philadelphia; a .32-caliber pistol in his home; and a 9mm pistol, a .357 revolver, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition in Scarfo's home, according to Tuesday's indictment.

Stark is charged with purchasing two boxes of 9mm bullets from an Atlantic County gun shop in December 2007 and passing them to Scarfo.

John Maxwell, the former CEO of FirstPlus and a defendant in the pending case, is charged with buying a .357 revolver from a pawn shop in Dallas in September 2007 and driving "for approximately 48 hours from Texas to Atlantic City . . . where he delivered the revolver" to Scarfo.

At a news conference Tuesday, FBI Agent Michael B. Ward said the case was an example of the evolution of organized crime from "the back alleys to the board room."

No matter the locale, Ward said, the mob continues to use "physical threats and intimidation to gain leverage."

Thanks to George Anastasia

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