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Salvatore L. Pelullo, Still a Pre-Trial Detainee at FDC Philadelphia

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By William Peacock, Esq. on May 17, 2013 4:01 PM

When I first stumbled upon the case of Mr. Pelullo, the first words that caught my eye were “mafia” and “organized crime.” He had been indicted, along with Nicky Scarfo, Jr. (the son of a convicted crime family boss), in a white-collar mortgage company takeover scheme that had allegedly bilked millions from the public company’s coffers (and by extension, the shareholders).

Plus, he has a blog. Bloggers love blogs.

For someone to be held for years without bail, and for someone with an alleged associate that was reportedly high up in the Philadelphia Lucchese branch of La Cosa Nostra, one would expect to find sleeping fishes and horse heads in the indictment. Even the DOJ's press release screams "mafia movie." After digging deeper, we're a little disappointed.

White Collar Allegations

According to the indictment, Pelullo and Scarfo, Jr. took control of the near-dead First Financial Plus mortgage company in 2007 by threatening the existing management. Shortly thereafter, they allegedly forced First Financial Plus to purchase, in exchange for millions of dollars, companies owned and controlled by the two defendants.

There was no physical harm alleged, no violence, and only a few mentions of two threats (he once threatened litigation) in the indictment. This isn't the stuff of Goodfellas -- it's run-of-the-mill white collar crime.

Pre-trial Detention and Electronic Discovery

Pelullo was arrested, indicted, denied bail in 2011, and has since been held in pre-trial detainment. His supplement to his motion for bail makes a few very interesting points. For one, he has no violent criminal history, no convictions for being part of a criminal enterprise, and no documented connection with organized crime whatsoever.

He is being held, presumably, because of fear of flight. One wonders if there are conditions which might allow his release (such as an ankle bracelet) that would allow him to participate meaningfully in his defense. He does, after all, face a mountain of discovery.

There are 18,000 recorded conversations, according to the brief. His attorney is limited to bringing in a few printed documents each time he visits the detainment center. According to Pelullo, there are 30 terabytes of e-discovery to sort though (a single terabyte can hold 10,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica). He does not have access to a computer while in prison either.

Perhaps there is more to this case than what is reflected in the court records. There are, after all, 18,000 recorded conversations, witnesses, and other evidence that won't be addressed until the time of trial (tentatively set for October 2013). Still, how is one supposed to assist in his defense when he's kept in pretrial detention? (Pelullo notes on his blog that his co-defendants have all been released pending trial.)

In the old times of stick 'em up robberies, the evidence was simple: weapon, witnesses, and the defendant's own statements. In white collar fraud cases, with loads of e-discovery, things are much more complicated. It's hard to believe that someone can have a fair trial when they are denied access to the evidence against them.

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