Nicholas Cosmo may be one step closer to returning to jail to await trial on charges of running a phony investment scheme that bilked investors of more than $400 million.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley found Thursday night that Cosmo had violated several conditions of his bail, which allow him to live under home detention at his parents' home in Wantagh. Hurley put off deciding until Friday whether to return Cosmo to jail or to modify his bail conditions and allow him to remain under house arrest.
"He should be prepared for the possibility that he'll be remanded tomorrow," Hurley told Cosmo's attorney, Stacey Richman of the Bronx.
After two days of testimony and argument, Hurley found that Cosmo, of Lake Grove, violated three conditions of bail: He used a computer, asked his girlfriend to access the Internet on his behalf and lied to his federal Pretrial Services officer about what he was doing on the computer.
"It was a blatant violation of the court's order," Hurley said.
Richman characterized the violations as "technical" and said Cosmo stopped using his parents' computer after she told him to stop. She noted that the point of his actions was to prepare for his defense by going through documents and e-mails from Agape World, Cosmo's now-defunct Hauppauge firm that federal officials say has devoured the savings of numerous Long Islanders.
"It was a violation of the letter of the conditions, but not the spirit," Richman said after Hurley ruled, saying there's no reason to put Cosmo in jail again. "He's not a danger to the community."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Grace Cucchissi emphatically disagreed, noting the wreckage he's made of people's lives. "He's an economic danger to society," she said.
One of his former investors, who would not identify herself, agreed. She said the company documents that Cosmo reviewed had Social Security numbers on them, allowing him to commit identity theft or further steal from victims.
Cosmo was arrested in January and charged with running a Ponzi scheme through Agape World. He stayed in jail until a bail agreement was reached in July.
Earlier Thursday, Hurley heard testimony about another possible violation of bail conditions. Cucchissi said taped phone conversations from when Cosmo was jailed showed he was trying to sell an expensive watch, in violation of court orders not to transfer any of his assets.
Hurley, noting that this happened before Cosmo posted bail, wondered whether it was relevant. "I'm not sure if he can be deemed in violation of the terms of his release before his release," he said.
Cucchissi played the tapes of more than a dozen often vulgar phone conversations from April to June between Cosmo and either his girlfriend, Shamika Luciano, or his sister, Fran Kegel.
On the tapes, Cosmo is heard saying the watch could fetch as much as $12,500 and pushes Luciano and Kegel to sell it. Ultimately, it didn't have the value Cosmo believed. Kegel told him it sold for less than $3,000.
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