Felon Must Pay Restitution to Each Victim
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John James Succi appealed pro se from the order dismissing his “Motion to Vacate Restitution/Sentencing.” In Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania v. John James Succi, No. 229 EDA 2022, No. J-S22022-22, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (February 28, 2023) the Superior Court gave consideration to the pro se motions of the convicted felon.
In a prior appeal, a panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court summarized the facts leading to the underlying convictions as follows:
Succi was a residential and commercial contractor. Beginning in 2005 and continuing through 2013, Succi entered into thirteen contracts to build, remodel, or construct additions on certain properties located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and Margate, New Jersey. In each instance, Succi either failed to finish the work, failed to obtain necessary permits, failed to perform under the contract, claimed he was insured when he was not, or provided fraudulent receipts. It was also typical for Succi to quote a price for a particular project and then increase the costs. If the homeowner challenged Succi’s work practices, he threatened them with legal proceedings that would financially cripple the homeowners. In at least two instances, Succi placed mechanic’s liens on homeowners’ properties. [Commonwealth v. Succi, 480 EDA 2015 (unpub. memo. at 1-2) (Pa. Super. Jan. 5, 2017).]
Succi was charged with multiple counts of home improvement fraud, theft by deception, and deceptive business practices, and one count of insurance fraud. Succi was convicted of 12 counts each of deceptive business practices and theft by deception, two counts of home improvement fraud, and one count of insurance fraud.
The sentencing hearing proceeded with victim impact testimony presented by the Commonwealth, and character evidence presented by Succi. The trial court sentenced Succi to an aggregate term of 15 to 30 years’ imprisonment, imposing consecutive sentences with respect to each victim. After announcing the sentence for each criminal conviction, the court imposed restitution, as requested by the Commonwealth.
Succi filed a direct appeal and argued:
- several convictions were barred by the statute of limitations;
- jurisdiction and venue in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas was improper; and
- the “life sentence” imposed by the trial court was unconstitutional and illegal.
The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of sentence, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur review.
THE PRO SE MOTION
The trial court entered an order denying Succi relief. The court explained that it considered Succi’s motion to be a second, untimely PCRA petition, and it had no jurisdiction to address Succi’s claim.
Whether a PCRA petition or not restitution is governed by state statute that mandates that a trial court “shall order full restitution [r]egardless of the current financial resources of the defendant, so as to provide the victim with the fullest compensation for the loss.” The statute further requires that the court “specify the amount and method of restitution” at the time of sentencing.
The crux of Succi’s claim is that the trial court did not impose restitution at the time of his sentencing as required by statute. After announcing the prison terms imposed for the crimes against each victim, the trial court admitted the Commonwealth’s sentencing exhibits, which detailed the restitution requested for each victim. The court noted that if it believed Succi could repay the victims, it “would have entered a different sentence [,]” presumably with a shorter prison term. Therefore, Succi’s claim that the court did not impose restitution at the time of his sentencing hearing was simply incorrect.
Moreover, the May 20, 2015, order – which Succi claims the court, belatedly and without conducting a hearing, added restitution to his sentence – makes no mention of any restitution amounts which had been set at sentencing.
The trial court’s order was affirmed.
Victims of crime must make certain that the state prosecutor, after convicting the criminal, like Succi, must demand restitution. The victims did so in this case and the prosecutor effectively obtained, at sentencing, an order of restitution. Succi, sentenced to many years in prison may never be able to pay the ordered restitution unless there are assets that could be taken to pay the restitution. Regardless, convicted felons have nothing but time so he wasted the appellate courts time by bringing this pro se motion which failed. He will remain in the Gray Bar Hotel for the next 15 to 30 years.
(c) 2023 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.
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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and email@example.com
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