Couple Told to Pay Up in 'Mafia' Case

For a decade, Michael Leotis paid hundreds of thousands of dollars toward gambling debts while under threats from mobsters in New York. Now, after the FBI got involved, it may be Leotis' turn to collect. Pasco Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray Jr. has ordered a New York couple identified in court papers as associates of the Columbo crime family to repay Leotis more than $280,000. The order came after the defendants in a lawsuit, Orlando and Barbara Sergi, ignored court rulings and failed to defend themselves. That may have been because Orlando Sergi was serving a federal prison term after a wide-ranging FBI investigation that included Leotis' illegal gambling debts, his attorney said this week. "It is real scary," said attorney Steve Bartlett of Holiday. "They were threatening to kill my guy's whole family." Unfortunately for Leotis, it's unclear whether or how he can ever collect on the court judgment. "I've got to document the judgment in New York and do the traditional things to try and get the money," Bartlett said. That includes hiring a private investigator to look for assets that can be seized by a court in New York. It may be too late for that, because federal agents have already confiscated any profit the Sergis made from their betting and loan sharking, Bartlett said. According to the lawsuit, Leotis' troubles started in the summer of 1992, when he met Orlando Sergi while they were both employed by the New York Department of Sanitation on Staten Island. Once Leotis began losing sports bets, his debts grew faster than he could pay the "usurious vigorish" charged by Orlando and Barbara Sergi, the lawsuit states. The debts came due every Wednesday, and the only way Leotis could repay the money was to bet more while borrowing money from loan sharks, Bartlett said. "Defendants Orlando Sergi and Barbara Sergi used the threat of violence on the plaintiff to steer him to a loan shark to pay off the gambling debts incurred with the defendants," the lawsuit states. After Leotis moved to Florida in 1998, the Sergis continued to threaten him and his family through letters and telephone calls, according to the lawsuit. The harassment did not end until March 2001, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI got involved, Bartlett said. On April 14, 2004, the Sergis pleaded guilty to "extortionate collections of unlawful debts" in federal court in New York, the lawsuit states. Bartlett said some of his colleagues have questioned his sanity. "Are you crazy suing the Mafia?" he quotes them as saying. "You are gonna get whacked."

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 28, 2016