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October 13, 2010

Accused Ponzi schemer may cop plea

By Robert Kessler

Alleged con man Nicholas Cosmo, who supposedly orchestrated a $413 million Ponzi scheme on Long Island, is working out a plea deal to avoid a lengthy trial, according to court records and his attorney.

Cosmo, 38, of Lake Grove, was accused in April 2009 in a 32-count federal indictment of swindling over 6,000 people, including many blue-collar workers. He allegedly promised the victims high rates of return through deals with his two Hauppauge-based companies, Agape World and Agape Merchant Advance. The scheme ran from October 2003 to January 2009, said federal prosecutors.

Cosmo was scheduled to go to trial in January in federal court in Central Islip. But an order filed by U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley said Cosmo and the government are "engaging in continued plea negotiations, which is likely to result in the disposition of the case without trial."

The ruling was issued at the joint request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetri Jones and Cosmo's defense attorney, Richard Levitt of Manhattan.

Levitt said yesterday if negotiations are finalized, Cosmo would plead at the next scheduled hearing, set for Oct. 29.

Jones would not comment yesterday, nor did Robert Nardoza, spokesman for Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

Theoretically, if Cosmo had gone to trial and been convicted of all of the charges against him - 22 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud - he would have faced several hundred years in prison. But such a sentence would have been unlikely.

Dom DiColandrea, a Lindenhurst real estate broker who invested $230,000 with Cosmo, said that he hoped that as part of Cosmo's plea, Cosmo would provide information leading to lost money being recovered.

The federal bankruptcy trustee in the case and federal prosecutors have traced only a fraction of monies allegedly involved in the scam, about $20 million.

The trustee, Kenneth Silverman, of Jericho, said yesterday that given the financial status of many of the victims, the case was the "worst situation I have seen in my career in terms of economic devastation."

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