Nicholas Cosmo went home last night from federal court in Central Islip, something that displeased about 20 people whom the government says he defrauded with a phony investment scheme that cost investors more than $400 million.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley allowed several of Cosmo's former investors at Agape World of Hauppauge to speak before a hearing began on whether Cosmo had violated the terms of his $1.25-million bail. The government claims Cosmo, who is under home detention at his parents' house in Wantagh, has done so by using a computer, asking his girlfriend to access the Internet and by trying to sell an expensive watch.
Cosmo, of Lake Grove, 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.
"I don't know how home detention helps the victims," Dominick DiColandrea said in court. "If it did, I would invite him into my house for Thanksgiving."
As he did last month, Hurley suggested that the explanation Cosmo attorney Stacey Richman offered for accessing e-mails wasn't sufficient. Richman, of the Bronx, said her client asked girlfriend Shamika Luciano to print out 57 pages of e-mails to prepare for his defense.
Hurley noted that the ban on computer use was clear and that Cosmo should have asked Richman to seek permission from him to make an exception.
"No party has the right to unilaterally adjust" the conditions, he said.
In court, Hurley heard a tape - at times garbled and apparently incomplete - of a phone conversation between Cosmo and Donna Mackey, the federal Pretrial Services officer who supervised him. Mackey asked him about a flash drive that was used to transfer computer files concerning the case.
"I use it to play chess a lot," he told Mackey on the tape.
Prosecutor Grace Cucchissi later noted that even playing chess on a computer violated the bail conditions.
Mackey testified that Cosmo never mentioned asking Luciano to download or print e-mails. And even if Cosmo's hands never touched a keyboard in seeking the e-mail, asking Luciano to do it for him was a problem, Mackey said.
"He is trying to circumvent his way into using the Internet," she said. "He is not being truthful."
At the end of the day, Richman asked Hurley to tell Cosmo's former investors to stop making rude or threatening gestures in court toward Cosmo's family.
"I recognize the loss" they've suffered, Richman said, but asked that Cosmo's family members be left alone.
The hearing will resume this afternoon in Central Islip.