ONLY ON CVP: Convicted con man and former magician Frank Corpi of Glen Rock was out of prison barely seven months when he was picked up last week on charges of making an unsuspecting woman’s $11,000 disappear. It was far from the first time.
Having played Gino the Magical Clown and a variety of cartoon characters in his early 20s, Corpi began his adult criminal career by swindling local financers who paid for his costumes and props. The Elmwood Park native then took to grifting, pulling a series of confidence games, bank frauds and other deceptions in the late 1980s and early 1990s across a swath of nine states.
Using street smarts, a good line of sugar and a magic trick or two, he swindled hotels, airlines and other businesses out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, they said.
One cross-country scheme involved Corpi getting early hotel wake-up calls so that he could roam the hallways, jot down guest credit-card numbers from express check-out slips and use them to cover his stays, authorities said.
It wasn’t long before the Bergen Catholic and Seton Hall University academic standout was wanted by the FBI.
In 1994, Corpi surrendered to Monmouth County investigators so that he could see his widowed mother in Elmwood Park without fearing that authorities would come busting in ( Above, inset: NJDOC ).
After serving his time, he was soon back in the grift – mostly by writing bad checks to banks and individual victims.
Since then, Corpi has had nearly as many aliases as addresses — Tony Bengivenga, Frank Cora, Jack Gordon, Donnie Parsons and Steve Zabriskie, among them.
It was no surprise to former classmates at Bergen Catholic.
“He was a con artist back [then],” one said. “He would be a pretend bookie taking money from his fellow students and dumb teachers, then never pay up.”
Corpi was sentenced to maximum five-year state prison terms — with no mandatory minimums – in July 2010 for a host of convictions for kiting checks in Bergen and Morris counties.
Authorities said he and an accomplice pulled the scam by overpaying applicants to bogus Craigslist classifieds with phony state checks and then demanding they wire back what they characterized as “overpayments.” The operation was run from “D & M Enterprises” at his Jerome Avenue home in Glen Rock.
After serving two years, Corpi was released last August, records show.
Given his rap sheet, he would seem to have spent considerable time behind bars. But Corpi has had a way with judges, as well as the state Parole Board.
At one point, Corpi faced nearly three dozen years in prison. But he negotiated a plea deal with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office nearly 20 years ago that eventually had him out in 16 months.
He’d done it before: While working as an assistant manager at a CVS in New Milford, Corpi was charged with pinching $5,000. Instead of up to 20 years in prison, he wheedled a probation deal from the prosecutor’s office on the unbroken promise that he’d attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
More charges and plea bargains followed. In the end, Corpi has spent less than five years in prison and a little over a year in jail.
Now 48, Corpi is accused of taking $11,000 from a woman he met at a Fairfield hotel by convincing her that he was a financial analyst with a can’t-miss investment at F.C. Enterprises – another short-lived company that he created from his house.
The victim never saw her money again, say police who obtained an arrest warrant for Corpi after interviewing her.
Corpi posted $10,000 bail following last week’s arrest and remains free pending an April 3 Superior Court hearing in Newark.
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