NEWARK, N.J. — The son of Philadelphia's former mob boss pleaded guilty to bookmaking charges Thursday in a landmark case in which FBI agents tapped into his computer with a surveillance system that has national security uses.
Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., 36, relented after losing court battles to suppress the gambling records that the FBI secretly obtained from his computer through the "key-logger" system.
The case attracted attention from privacy advocates, who said the system could be used to spy on computer users.
Scarfo faces about three years in prison at his sentencing June 10.
As part of the deal, the government dropped a loan-sharking charge, letting Scarfo plead to running a sports book operation.
Agents broke into Scarfo's office in Belleville and installed the system on his computer. The system unlocked encrypted files and let FBI agents record keystrokes, yielding a record of the entire gambling and loan-sharking operation.
Scarfo maintained the government needed to disclose all of the details of the system to determine whether the bugging was illegal. He got some relief in the fall, when authorities were forced by a federal judge to release an unclassified summary of the key-logger system.
The judge did not require full disclosure, after authorities claimed it would hurt criminal and national security operations.
The final blow for Scarfo came Dec. 26. U.S. District Judge Nicholas H. Politan ruled that agents needed only the search warrant they had.
Scarfo's father, the former Philadelphia-Atlantic City mob boss known as "Little Nicky," is in prison.