A longtime letter carrier for the Postal Service, who the feds say has cousins with ties to the Philadelphia mob, copped a plea in federal court yesterday to conspiracy and loan- sharking.

Thomas J. Demilio III, 48, of Greycourt Road near Kingsfield in the far Northeast, admitted that he had conspired and attempted to collect loans by extortionate means, had financed extortionate loans and had conspired to make extortionate loans.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III set sentencing for Aug. 27. Demilio, who is under house arrest, remains free on $250,000 bail.

He could face 24 months to 30 months under advisory-sentencing guidelines. He is not cooperating with the government.

When investigators searched Demilio's home, they seized what appeared to be loan-sharking records, court papers said.

Defense attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. said Demilio, a letter carrier for 28 years, had been in the loan-sharking business for only a couple of years.

"He saw an opportunity to make some extra money to help his family," Perri said.

Prosecutors said in a court filing that Demilio had admitted to an FBI undercover agent - whom Demilio believed to be a drug dealer who was delinquent on his loans - that he had been a loan shark for 20 years.

The feds said Demilio and co-defendant John Catalano, who owns a construction business and has pleaded not guilty in the case, offered $115,000 in 2006 to co-defendant Melvin Michael Selkow, a reputed loan shark.

Demilio and Catalano allegedly provided the money to Selkow at annual interest rates ranging from 52 percent to 104 percent, and Selkow offered the money to other borrowers at an annual interest rate of 156 percent, court papers said.

When Selkow's loans went bad, he couldn't collect and stopped paying back Demilio and Catalano. The pair demanded that Selkow pay them $150,000 and later, $182,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney David E. Fritchey said in court yesterday.

Demilio and Catalano subsequently threatened members of Selkow's family, and Selkow, who is 74 and in ill health, became scared, Fritchey said, recounting the basis for Demilio's plea.

Selkow went to the FBI, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit loan-sharking and permitted the FBI to set up video and audio-recording equipment in his home, Fritchey said.

According to court filings, Demilio threatened to get his cousins involved at one point in collecting the money Selkow owed. The threats were captured on audio and video.

Prosecutors said the cousins were known to Selkow and the FBI as Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra family associates.

Perri said he wasn't aware of any mob connections Demilio's cousins had.

At another point, according to court papers, while attempting to collect from Selkow, Catalano asked Demilio if he knew where Selkow's son, Markie, and his brother, Harvey, lived.

"I know Markie's address and I know Harvey's address, Mike. I did a lot of f------ work these last couple weeks. A lot of work. You got people, Mike," Demilio said. *