Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Officials Deny Misconduct in Sex-Trafficking Inquiry

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have sharply criticized a defense lawyer’s claim that the government engaged in misconduct by allowing a cooperating witness in a Mafia case to run a sex- trafficking ring that involved a 15-year-old girl.
The government said it ended the operation as soon as it discovered that the under-age girl was involved. The witness, who was participating in an investigation of the Gambino crime family, learned of the prostitution ring in June 2009 and reported it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, prosecutors said. The witness was then authorized to participate in the trafficking activity for investigative purposes.
But it was not until three months later, in August, that the witness and F.B.I. discovered the ring involved a 15-year-old, and the operation was halted, the United States attorney in Manhattan said in court papers filed on Wednesday. The office was responding to a motion by the defense lawyer, Gerald J. McMahon, who had asked a judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, to dismiss an indictment on the ground of “outrageous government misconduct.”
In April, prosecutors filed a broad indictment against 14 Gambino defendants, which included accusations that some had run a trafficking ring involving women under the age of 20. One prosecutor said the ring was perhaps “a new low for the Gambino family.”
Mr. McMahon claimed in court papers that the witness, Jude Buoneto, who assisted in the trafficking, was a convicted sex abuser who in the 1990s raped one girl and sexually abused another, and who also once ran a brothel with his mother in Brooklyn.
While Mr. Buoneto was involved in the trafficking ring, he acted as a pimp for the 15-year-old girl, Mr. McMahon claimed.
But a prosecutor, Elie Honig, wrote that Mr. McMahon’s motion was “completely meritless” and asked that it be denied. He said the description of Mr. Buoneto’s background was “wildly inaccurate” and that the accusations of rape and operating a brothel were “completely false.”
The “only grain of truth,” he said, was that Mr. Buoneto pleaded guilty in 1998 at age 19 to misdemeanor offenses related to sexual abuse of a child under 17, as the government had disclosed. But, Mr. Honig said, the girl later admitted she had “fabricated the charges against Buoneto” to get back at him for beating up her brother.
Mr. Buoneto cooperated with the F.B.I. from about October 2008 though September 2009, and consistent with standard procedure, the bureau authorized him to participate in certain crimes as part of the investigation, Mr. Honig wrote.
Around June 2009, various defendants began planning and running the sex-trafficking operation, which Mr. Buoneto reported to the F.B.I., Mr. Honig said. The bureau authorized his role.
“There is nothing unusual or improper about the F.B.I. authorizing a cooperating witness to participate in criminal conduct for investigative purposes,” Mr. Honig noted.
The operation quickly ended after the witness and the bureau learned of the girl’s age, he added. Last week, an F.B.I. spokesman in New York said, “This office would not — and did not — approve of any criminal activity involving a minor, much less the sexual exploitation of a minor.”
Mr. McMahon declined to comment on Wednesday.



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