Former Elkins Park businessman Salvatore Pelullo pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he helped mastermind the multimillion-dollar looting of a Texas-based mortgage lending company.
Pelullo, 44, who entered the plea during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Camden, has been ordered held without bail.
Pelullo and mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo, 46, son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, have been accused of stealing more than $12 million from the FirstPlus Financial Group through scams, fraudulent business deals, and bogus consulting contracts.
Scarfo, like Pelullo, has been denied bail.
Eleven other defendants in the case, including five lawyers, an accountant, and Scarfo's wife have been released on bail.
All 13 defendants have pleaded not guilty.
U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler held a status conference with the attorneys and defendants Friday but said it was too early to set a trial date in a case that includes more than 7,000 secretly recorded conversations and text messages, and more than one million pages of documents.
Kugler estimated that the trial could take six months.
Three other defendants also entered not-guilty pleas Friday in brief arraignment hearings before Kugler: John Maxwell, former chief executive and member of the board of directors of FirstPlus; his brother, William, a lawyer; and William Handley, a former member of the board of directors.
The Maxwell brothers, both from Texas, are charged with helping Scarfo and Pelullo take control of the board of directors of the company in 2007. The board then approved a series of business deals, according to the indictment, that allowed the firm to be financially pillaged.
Handley, of Miami, faces similar charges.
Scarfo's secret control of the company ended in May 2008, authorities say, after a series of FBI raids disclosed the nature of a federal investigation. FirstPlus filed for bankruptcy reorganization in June 2009.