Prison Garb Can't Shield Discovery for Mobster
(CN) - An incarcerated mob soldier who says his attorney stole millions from him cannot use his imprisonment as an excuse to avoid discovery.
Salvatore Puccio has about a year left from the 96-month sentence that a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Fla., handed down in 2006 after Puccio pleaded guilty to securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit arson.
Officers arrested the now 42-year-old Puccio as part of a mob sweep in Broward County that also took down Gerard Chilli, a "capo" for the Bonnano crime family. Police confiscated numerous high-powered rifles at Puccio's house, along with 18 computers allegedly purchased with illegally obtained financing.
Puccio had been a branch manager at LH Ross, the now-defunct brokerage shut down on charges that it defrauded investors of at least $11 million through sales of unregistered stock, and schemed to illegally manipulate the market in the stock of Trident Systems International. The firm's manager, Franklyn Michelin pleaded guilty and agreed to a permanent ban from the securities industry.
From prison last year, Puccio sued attorney Thomas Sclafani who had represented him on the criminal charges. The federal complaint accused Sclafani of stealing assets entrusted to him before Puccio went to prison, including $382,000 in cash and 5 million shares of Renegade Energy Corporation worth $2.5 million.
Sclafani allegedly paid himself $25,000 per month out of Puccio's account until the funds were depleted.
Sclafani moved to compel discovery, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer granted the request last week to prevent Pucci from using his incarceration "as a shield to avoid responding to proper requests for production."
Seltzer said that he "appreciates the difficultly that plaintiff may have in obtaining responsive documents while he is incarcerated. Nonetheless, plaintiff brought this law suit (while incarcerated) and has made serious allegations that impugn defendant's personal and professional reputation. Defendant is entitled to the requested discovery to assist in his defense." (Parentheses in original.)
If plaintiff has friends or family who may be able to retrieve responsive documents for him, he is obliged to ask for their help to comply with the order, the court said.
In his civil action, Puccio is represented by Natalie Knight-Tai of Coral Springs.