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John James Succi appealed pro se from the decision denying his “motion to vacate restitution/sentence.” IN Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John James SucciNo. 229 EDA 2022, No. J-S22022-22, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (February 28, 2023) Superior Court considered pro se motions from the convicted felon.
In an earlier appeal, a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel summarized the facts that led 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 construct, remodel, or construct additions to certain properties located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and Margate, New Jersey. In each case, Succi failed to complete the work, failed to obtain necessary permits, failed to perform the contract, claimed to be insured when he was not, or submitted fraudulent receipts. It was also typical for Succi to set a price for a particular project and then increase the costs. If the homeowner questioned Succi’s work methods, he threatened them with legal action that would cripple the homeowners financially. In at least two cases, 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 continued 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 in prison, imposing consecutive sentences for each victim. After announcing the sentence for each felony conviction, the court imposed restitution, as requested by the Commonwealth.
Succi appealed directly, claiming:
- 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 court was unconstitutional and illegal.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocator review.
PRO SE EXERCISE
The district court issued an order denying relief to Succi. The court explained that it considered Succi’s motion to be a second, early PCRA petition and that it had no jurisdiction to entertain Succi’s claim.
Whether a PCRA petition or not restitution is governed by state statute which provides that a trial court “shall order full restitution ․ [r]regardless of the defendant’s current financial resources, to provide the victim with the greatest possible compensation for the loss.” The statute further requires the court to “specify the amount and method of restitution” at the time of sentencing.
The crux of Succi’s contention is that the trial court did not order restitution at the time of his sentencing as required by law. After announcing the terms of imprisonment imposed for the crimes against each victim, the trial court admitted the Commonwealth’s sentencing exhibits, which specified the restitution sought for each victim. The court noted that if it believed Succi could repay the victims, it would have entered a different sentence [,]” probably with a shorter prison term. Therefore, Succi’s contention that the court did not order restitution at the time of his sentencing hearing was simply incorrect.
Additionally, the May 20, 2015 order—which Succi claims the court, belatedly and without a hearing, restored to his sentence—does not mention any restitution amounts that had been set at sentencing.
The district court’s decision was upheld.
Victims of crime must ensure that state prosecutors, after convicting the criminal, like Succi, must demand restitution. The victims did so in this case and the prosecutor effectively received, at sentencing, a restitution order. Succi, sentenced to many years in prison, may never be able to pay the ordered restitution unless there are assets that can be taken to pay the restitution. Regardless, convicted felons have nothing but time, so he wasted the appellate courts’ time by filing this pro se motion that failed. He will remain at 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 serving as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims management, 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 attorney and more than 54 years in the insurance industry. He can be reached at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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