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A New Jersey man was sentenced to one to three years in prison in connection with a loan shark scheme operating out of Flushing and other Queens neighborhoods that targeted small businesses operated by Hispanic immigrants.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Grosso in Kew Gardens sentenced Pasquale Fermo, 70, of Red Bank, N.J., to the jail term on Sept. 10.
Fermo had pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption under the states Organized Crime Control Act on April 18.
Known as Mr. Pat to his clients, Fermo ripped off over 50 victims in Flushing, Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights for more than $250,000 while in charge of a group known as Fermo Loan Shark Organization, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Charging rates of up to 260 percent, Fermo targeted immigrants who believed they could not obtain traditional loans from banks for their small businesses, the district attorney said.
Paying up to $250 a week in interest, the clients struggled to make a lump sum payment on the principal of the loan, the DA said.
All of the victims were small business owners and many of them were immigrants who could speak very little English who were forced to make large payments week after week and also endure threats and intimidation, Brown said.
Investigators used a wiretap to track Fermo, the district attorney said. They also obtained a warrant to search his 1996 Buick Century, his home and his safety deposit box, all of which contained loan records, the district attorney said.
Fermo, who signed an agreement under which he forfeited $474,000 to New York state and New Jersey, may also have some $200,000 seized from his bank accounts pending further proceedings, according to the district attorney.
Anna Ponce, 49, of 87-25 57th Rd. in Elmhurst, is accused of collecting payments, keeping records and delivering funds to Fermo, and she was awaiting trial, according to the district attorney.
Three other members of Fermos organization have already pleaded guilty and were sentenced, the district attorney said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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