A Pennsylvania man today 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.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey made the announcement.
Cory Leshner, 30, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in a federal court in Camden, N.J., to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces a maximum of five years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 17, 2014.
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 that included 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 as part of the scheme to defraud FPFG. 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 involved proceeds of the fraud that Pelullo allegedly received as part of a fraudulent “consulting” agreement between his shell company, Seven Hills Management, and codefendant 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.
According to his court statements, Leshner was a law student during the scheme. Leshner graduated from law school in 2009 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.
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 Oct. 28, 2013. Todd Stark, also charged in the indictment, previously pleaded guilty to providing ammunition to Scarfo and Pelullo, convicted felons.
This case was investigated by the FBI; the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with the assistance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Adam Small of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and 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.
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.