The founders of Par Funding, the Philadelphia-based mostly cash-progress enterprise at the heart of an alleged $500 million economic fraud, have put in many years in and out of courtrooms fighting to keep on to property the federal government claims they need to have to give up to repay the investors they bilked.
Very last week, federal authorities say, just one member of the company built a much less innovative effort and hard work to have an affect on the result.
Prosecutors on Monday billed James LaForte — brother of Par Funding founder and CEO Joseph LaForte — with a broad daylight attack on an lawyer who has been functioning to establish LaForte family property for probable seizure to satisfy a $191 million court judgment entered towards them previous 12 months.
Investigators said he sneaked up driving the attorney — Gaetan Alfano, a lover at the Centre Metropolis company of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti LLP — as he still left his offices at 18th and Market Streets on Feb. 28 and then struck him in the back again of the head with a metal object.
The assault still left Alfano with accidents that necessary 7 staples to his skull and an MRI scan, according to charging paperwork submitted Monday.
LaForte, 46, now stands billed with counts of retaliating versus a witness and obstruction of a court continuing — felonies punishable by up to 25 several years in prison.
FBI brokers arrested him Monday outside his brother’s Haverford dwelling. He mentioned small throughout a temporary first physical appearance in federal courtroom, and his legal professional, Thomas S. Mirigliano, did not return phone calls for comment.
Prosecutors have signaled they hope to maintain LaForte detained till his trial as a broader prison probe of Par Funding carries on to unfold and could direct to additional prices.
So far, that investigation has manufactured two responsible pleas — one from Par Funding’s running associates, Perry Abbonizio, and one more from Renato “Gino” Gioe, an enforcer for the firm.
And in court docket filings final month, authorities stated Joseph LaForte his wife, Lisa McElhone and the company’s main financial officer, Joseph Cole Barletta, experienced conspired to bilk buyers in the company, though no charges have been filed against them for that criminal offense.
(They billed Joseph LaForte in 2020 with unrelated gun offenses, which he has vowed to battle at demo.)
For James LaForte’s part, prosecutors painted him in courtroom filings Monday as no stranger prisons — or strategically deployed violence.
Functioning as a supervisor at Par, they say, he threatened tiny organization owners with actual physical violence on more than one celebration for failing to repay revenue the business experienced innovative them.
The LaFortes’ organization built its revenue by boosting billions from traders and then loaning it out — often at high curiosity rates — to income-strapped lesser companies not able to safe financial loans from standard banking companies.
As element of his role, prosecutors explained, James LaForte supervised and encouraged Gioe — a system builder and reputed mob associate of New York’s Gambino crime family members — who admitted in court very last calendar year that he’d utilized mob-type extortion tactics, which includes threatening to “stick a fork” in the head of 1 borrower and vowing to slash off the fingers of a different, in an energy to recoup money owed owed to Par.
And before he turned involved in his brother’s business, LaForte had put in yrs in and out of jail himself for other fraud and extortion techniques.
In 2006, both equally he and Joseph LaForte were being convicted of a larceny and income laundering plan in New York in which they defrauded additional than 30 homeowners out of $14 million by falsely holding by themselves out to be lawyers representing banking institutions in serious estate transactions.
4 years later James LaForte was sentenced to a few many years in jail for conspiring to commit arson as component of an exertion to collect another personal debt.
He served yet another stint guiding bars in 2012 — this time 17 months — immediately after a conviction in New York for operating an illegal gambling organization.
Irrespective of that considerable file — and at least in portion owing to his affiliation with his brother’s company — authorities say LaForte experienced managed to correctly bounce again.
He “lived a lifestyle of luxurious, residing in high priced significant-rise apartments in Manhattan, driving superior-close cars, and obtaining large amount of revenue at his disposal,” wrote FBI Particular Agent John F. Murray in an affidavit submitted in federal court docket Monday.
Investigators say his most recent crime — the assault on Alfano past week — stemmed from his efforts to assist his brother hold onto his very own substantial wealth.
In 2020, the U.S. Securities and Trade Commission sued Par Funding, Joseph LaForte, McElhone and many others, accusing them of selling unregistered securities and alleging they’d defrauded business buyers out of much more than a 50 percent-billion bucks by taking part in down the superior default amount between Par’s borrowers.
Previous year, a federal decide in Miami entered a $191 million judgment against Joseph LaForte and McElhone and has tasked a court-appointed receiver — Florida-dependent legal professional Ryan K. Stumphauzer — with identifying organization and personalized property that could be bought off to aid fulfill that personal debt and repay bilked buyers.
Alfano has represented Stumphauzer because the receivership commenced in 2020 and has been deeply associated in attempts to investigate the LaFortes’ holdings.
Last calendar year, he and other lawyers for the receiver requested the Miami court to hold Joseph LaForte and McElhone in contempt for investing hundreds of thousands in what they believed to be Par Funding proceeds on lawyers to defend them in courtroom — income the receiver reported should really have been spent on repaying the company’s victims.
As aspect of that court dispute, James LaForte, who was not a get together to the primary SEC accommodate, submitted an affidavit indicating he had secured the money his brother was using to pay for his authorized protection by borrowing from pals and using funds from a individual bar business enterprise he owns.
“I did all of this mainly because I appreciate my brother and sister-in-regulation and required to enable them,” LaForte wrote at the time.
At the time, the choose declined to act on the receiver’s request. But the receiver’s attempts to recoup cash from Joseph LaForte have ongoing — most lately with a remote courtroom listening to final 7 days in which legal professionals discussed the sale of his Haverford household, which was shown to help satisfy his money owed to the court docket.
It was after that hearing, when Alfano was leaving his office environment, when he was suddenly attacked.
FBI agents say they afterwards recovered surveillance video from nearby corporations exhibiting James LaForte — dressed in a dim hoodie and donning a black knit cap, surgical mask, and gloves — managing up driving the lawyer and then fleeing the scene.
He dumped his black jacket in a trash can and then hopped in a taxi to an tackle just south of 23rd and Walnut Streets, according to the charging files.
Alfano declined to remark on the incident when attained on Monday. Attorneys common with the situation stated he is predicted to return to function soon.
LaForte stays in custody pending a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday.