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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Three defendants connected to the Lucchese family die before trial

An organized crime case has outlasted three of its defendants.

Three years ago, 34 people were indicted for allegedly participating in an international, $2.2 billion gambling and money laundering ring that authorities said was operated by the Lucchese crime family back in 2007.

But during a status conference in the case today — the first in nearly two years — attorneys reported that two of the defendants, Alfonso "Tic" Cataldo and Michael Cetta, have died since the last conference was held nearly two years ago.

Although his name didn’t come up in court, the state Attorney General’s Office reported that a third defendant — Sam Juliano — has also died since the last conference.

Cataldo had been the main cause of the delay. The case in Superior Court in Morristown was put on hold while the Attorney General successfully pursued litigation to deny him a public defender on grounds that he had falsely claimed to be indigent.

The litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in May sent the case back to the Morristown court, where Judge Stuart Minkowitz "terminated" Cataldo’s public defender representation, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn told the court today.

It was Romanyshyn’s first appearance as the lead prosecutor in the case; he formerly assisted Mark Eliades, who has left the Attorney General’s Office.

It was also the first time for Judge Robert Gilson, who noted that at the last "substantive" status conference, on Dec. 12, 2011, Judge Thomas Manahan presided. Manahan is now hearing civil cases in Morristown.

Cataldo, 71, of Florham Park, died Aug. 21, according to an obituary in The Star-Ledger. Cetta, 46, of Wyckoff, died in June, said his attorney, Marco Laracca. Both were reported to have died of natural causes.

Juliano, 67, of Glen Ridge, died in March 2012 and an obituary reporting he died at home was also published in The Star-Ledger.

After having his public defender disqualified, Cataldo was not represented by an attorney. But a relative, Thomas Cataldo, who was in court to represent another defendant, Ralph Perna, 67, of East Hanover, spoke briefly on Cataldo’s behalf.

Thomas Cataldo asked for the charges to be dismissed against the deceased man, and for his posted bail to be returned to his survivors. Judge Gilson agreed, and Romanyshyn offered "my condolences to your family."

Laracca also asked for the indictment to be dismissed against Cetta, and asked for the return of his seized property. Gilson dismissed the indictment but did not order the property returned, after Romanyshyn objected.

Cetta’s wife, Vita, 44, remains a defendant in the case.

Four of the original 34 defendants have pleaded guilty in the case.

At today’s status conference, Gilson set a new schedule for filing motions.

Gilson ordered the defense attorneys to file their motions to dismiss and their "discovery" motions, or motions seeking evidence from the prosecution, by Oct. 25. The next status conference in the case was scheduled for Dec. 11.

With law enforcement officials saying they intercepted more than 30,000 messages in the case, the defense is working to discredit and ultimately throw out that evidence.

The defendants are filing a motion that would require the Attorney General’s Office to let them see an electronic "bugging" device law enforcement used to intercept conversations in motor vehicles. Romanyshyn said he is opposing turning over that device, saying that information is "protected" as a government "privilege."



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