Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gambino associate gets 20 years in prison for Florida timeshare fraud

They were two Broward County men who met in federal prison, became buddies and later started a get-rich-quick business in Fort Lauderdale that made about $5.5 million.
But theirs is no tale of redemption — the business was a telemarketing fraud scheme that has now sent both of them right back to federal prison.
Pasquale "Posh" Pappalardo, 61, of Coral Springs, and Joseph Crapella, who was known as "Joey Cigars," 47, of Fort Lauderdale, fleeced customers who were tricked into believing they were reselling their ownership of timeshare properties. Both men claimed they had ties to organized crime, court records show.
Their friendship ended right around the time they were caught: Crapella quickly decided he was going to cooperate with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office and testify against Pappalardo and other co-defendants, knowing it was his best chance of getting a lighter punishment.
Pappalardo rejected plea offers that included a promise from prosecutors that they'd recommend seven or eight years in prison. He went to trial and, in November, the jury that heard testimony from Crapella and dozens of other witnesses found him guilty of conspiring to commit money laundering, mail and wire fraud.
Shortly after, Crapella was sentenced to four years and three months in prison and ordered to pay almost $950,000 in restitution for his role in the Fort Lauderdale-based Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group case.
On Wednesday, it was Pappalardo's turn.
More than 20 people — including his wife Linda, former pro boxer Marc Randazzo, and a homeless man who had been treated kindly by Pappalardo — came to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to show support.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a sentence of between 19 1/2 to more than 24 years in prison.
Defense attorney Neil Taylor told U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas that Pappalardo should go back to prison for his crimes – but that he did not deserve a punishment that was several times harsher than the one doled out to Crapella.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Kaplan compared that suggestion to a gambler who goes to Las Vegas, bets $1 million on red, loses and then asks for his money back.
Pappalardo was a longtime associate of the Gambino organized crime family and served more than six years in federal prison in the mid-1990s on drug, firearms and counterfeit money charges, authorities said.
Some of the more colorful incidents from Pappalardo's criminal history that Kaplan recounted include the time that Pappalardo got into a dispute with a gas station employee over the price of gas and threw a crowbar at the victim. The victim locked himself inside the gas station.
"[Pappalardo] then took out a gun, pointed it at the victim, and fled," Kaplan said.
Witnesses told prosecutors that Pappalardo bragged that he threw a man through a plate-glass window because he thought he was flirting with Pappalardo's girlfriend, Kaplan said.
In other incidents over the years, Pappalardo and some associates were caught on video — wearing paper bags over their heads with cutout eyeholes — attempting a home invasion robbery, the prosecution said.
Pappalardo "was feared in the in the telemarketing room," Kaplan said. He had various ways of intimidating workers, including locking the salesroom doors and pounding a hammer. One worker was surrounded by men and was only released because Pappalardo thought he might be an FBI informant, authorities said.
Even during his trial, Pappalardo was caught heckling some witnesses in court and telling others they were lying, Kaplan said.
Pappalardo's supporters painted a different picture of him as they begged the judge for mercy.
Randazzo, the former boxer who was known as "Shaker" and who now runs Randazzo's Little Italy restaurant in Coral Gables, told the judge that Pappalardo was his "surrogate father" and best friend.
Randazzo said he spent time tracking down the homeless man, whom he did not name but who waved to the judge and smiled as Randazzo detailed some of Pappalardo's good deeds.
Randazzo told the judge that a long prison sentence would destroy Pappalardo and his family.
"I'd rather see him get the electric chair," Randazzo told the judge.
Pappalardo's wife, Linda, told the judge that her husband is remorseful: "He has been humbled by this."
She said Pappalardo, a grandfather who has heart disease and skin cancer, told her he wouldn't let her stay married to him because his absence would leave her lonely. She reminded him their wedding vows were "until death do us part," she told the judge, not "until prison do us part."
Pappalardo apologized in court and said he'd never have believed that he'd go back to prison in his 60s.
Dimitrouleas told him that his crimes fleeced innocent victims, at least one of whom was in his 90s. Though Pappalardo may now regret his decision to go to trial, the judge told him that Crapella got his lighter prison sentence as a reward for his cooperation and testimony and that Pappalardo had put himself in a very different situation.
Dimitrouleas sentenced Pappalardo to 20 years in federal prison and ordered him to pay $1.06 million in restitution and forfeit another $3.5 million.
Though Florida was once the center of the nation's timeshare resale fraud epidemic, the Timeshare Mega Media case stood out because such a large number of people were arrested — 41 in all.
Authorities said the company preyed on timeshare owners who were desperate to unload costly vacation rentals. Telemarketers told customers they had found buyers for their timeshares, pressuring them to send several thousand dollars at a time to secure deals that never existed.



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