By George Anastasia
Nobody wants to go to jail, but 30 months is a lot better than 30 years.
That's the bottom line for John Parisi who was sentenced this morning for his role in the FirstPlus financial fraud case.
Parisi is the cousin of Nicodemo S. Scarfo who, along with Salvatore Pelullo, was convicted last year of masterminding the $14 million ripoff of FirstPlus Financial, a Texas-based mortgage company. The government charged that Scarfo, the son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and Pelullo, a mob wannabe, used the specter of organized crime to instill fear into FirstPlus officials and employees while secretly taking control of the company back in 2007.
Each was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Judge Robert Kugler back in July.
Parisi, 54, was one of more than a dozen defendants indicted in the case. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge in September 2013 as part of a plea agreement and was facing a maximum five-year sentence. Other charges against him were dropped. This morning, during a brief hearing in federal court in Camden, Kugler sentenced Parisi to 30 months in jail.
Authorities alleged that Parisi helped set up and control one of several straw companies that Scarfo and Pelullo used to siphon cash out of FirstPlus. The money came through FirstPlus purchases of over valued companies the two had set up or through bogus consulting contracts.
Parisi was tied to Learned Associates, an Atlantic City straw company that was part of the scam. He was described as a player, but not a major participant, in what the government said was an organized crime foray into the banking and mortgage business. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Scarfo and Pelullo had given new meaning to the term "corporate takeover" when he announced indictments in the case back in 2011.
In a news release announcing the sentencing, the U.S. Attorney's Office said today that 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 directed him 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," according to the press release.
In addition to his prison term, Parisi was sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $14 million in restitution, authorities said.
That figure, while an unrealistic number in terms of actual restitution, is indicative of the scope of the fraud.
Parisi, of Atlantic City, is the second person with family ties to Scarfo to take a hit -- however minor -- in the FirstPlus scam. Scarfo's wife, Lisa Murray Scarfo, was sentenced to probation for her role in a mortgage fraud tied to the couple's purchase of a $715,000 Egg Harbor Township home.
This was not the first time Parisi was caught in the line of fire. He was one of two people dining with Nicky Scarfo Jr. on a now infamous Halloween night in 1989 when a hitman opened fire. Scarfo was at a table at Dante & Luigi's Restaurant in South Philadelphia when the attempted hit went down. He was eating a plate of clams and spaghetti when a man wearing a Halloween mask and carrying a trick-or-treat bag walked up to the table, pulled a machine pistol out of the bag and opened fire.
Scarfo was hit six times, but survived the shooting. The attack, however, marked the end of his jailed father's attempt to continue to run the Philadelphia branch of Cosa Nostra by using his son as a proxy.
Parisi was was not hit by any of the gunfire. But more than a decade later, he couldn't dodge a bullet in the FirstPlus case.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.