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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Before Suspension, Mets’ Rodriguez Moved in With Clubhouse Manager - Colombo Familiy Ties Investigated

The Major League Baseball logo.Image via Wikipedia Shortly after a judge in Queens ordered Francisco Rodriguez to stay away from his girlfriend because he had an altercation with her father at Citi Field in August, Rodriguez moved in with someone many Mets players have grown to trust over the past two and a half decades: the team’s clubhouse manager, Charlie Samuels.
 That information came to light in the course of a criminal investigation into a gambling ring in which the authorities believe Samuels was involved, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The fact that Rodriguez moved in with Samuels underscores the uncomfortable situation that the Mets once again find themselves in after they announced on Thursday that they had suspended Samuels. Over the past decade, the team has had to deal with similar revelations about gambling and organized crime.
In 2006, Major League Baseball investigated a report that a man stood behind home plate at Shea Stadium during batting practice and yelled at catcher Paul Lo Duca about the gambling debts Lo Duca supposedly owed him.
Lo Duca was not disciplined in that matter.
In 2005, a Mets groundskeeper was indicted by the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown on charges he was a bookmaker in a Bonanno crime family gambling ring. He later pleaded guilty to a charge of promoting gambling in the first degree.
And in 2004 it was disclosed that a member of the Bonanno crime family told federal investigators that Mets pitcher John Franco gave free tickets to him and other crime family members in the early 1990s.
The member of the Bonanno crime family, Frank Lino, said that he and other members went to a Mets game against the Montreal Expos during a trip to meet with the Canadian branch of the crime family. He told investigators that he and the others went out with Mets players after the game. It was during the 2005 investigation of the Bonanno gambling ring that Samuels’s name “popped up,” according to one of the people briefed on the matter. That investigation led to 36 people being charged in what prosecutors said was a $360 million operation.
Brown’s office and the police department are also conducting the investigation that led to Samuels’s suspension.
Investigators have “been looking at people there, working in the clubhouse, for a while,” one of the people briefed on the matter said.
“This doesn’t seem to be high-level criminal activity,” the person said, adding, “Obviously, when you have someone in his position involved in gambling, it is a concern.”
Investigators were still seeking to determine whether Samuels was just a gambler or more involved in the ring, the person said.
“The open question,” the person said, “was whether there were players involved,” but no evidence of that had been uncovered.
Samuels was gambling on football and possibly baseball, investigators believe.
“There is some indication he was” betting on baseball, the person said, adding, “Whether he was betting on the Mets is unclear.”
The current investigation, like the 2005 case, is focused on a gambling operation with organized crime ties, and investigators believe the ring that Samuels had contact with is affiliated with the Colombo family, the person said.
“When K-Rod got booted out of his house, he was staying with this guy,” the person said, referring to Rodriguez and Samuels. Samuels declined comment in a text message, and his lawyer Michael Bachner declined comment when reached by telephone.
According to a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation, the Mets alerted the Queens district attorney’s office and the police department about Samuels after the team uncovered evidence that he had been gambling and misappropriated funds, tickets and equipment.
The official said the authorities had not uncovered evidence indicating players were involved in the gambling.
As the clubhouse manager and traveling secretary, Samuels greatly supplemented his income with tips from players.
One former player said that players with large contracts would give Samuels anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 at the end of the season; players with lower salaries would give $4,000 to $6,000.
The Yankees fired their traveling secretary in 2007 after he pleaded guilty to federal charges that he failed to disclose $53,350 in tips from players and coaches over a five-year period.
Along with traveling to Atlantic City to gamble, Samuels also enjoyed friendly betting with friends.
In 2002, Mike Piazza’s father, Vince, promised to give Samuels a Lexus convertible if he lost 100 pounds by a certain date.
Samuels lost the weight, briefly, getting down to 181 pounds, and in May of that year, Vince Piazza gave him the convertible. Within months, Samuels’s weight shot back up.

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