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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

South Florida Gambino captain appeals real estate fraud sentence

A reputed captain of the Gambino crime family's South Florida operations asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to reverse his nine-year prison sentence on real estate fraud charges.
Vincent Artuso's attorneys asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss the conviction because prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to convict him of fraud and racketeering charges involving a scam that targeted ADT Security Services Inc. They also claim the trial was tainted by a biased juror.
But federal prosecutors countered that there was ample evidence in video recordings, audiotapes and court testimony that proved Artuso was a "made member" who ran a South Florida crew for the notorious crime family. And they said defense attorneys should have raised objections at trial if they were concerned about the juror.
Artuso was convicted of the charges in a 2008 trial after prosecutors built a case contending he was a captain of the Gambino crime family and directed a powerful crew that included his own son.
Prosecutors also asserted that Artuso was linked to the infamous hit that led to John Gotti's rise to power. They cited FBI affidavits and other evidence indicating Artuso was present on Dec. 16, 1985, when former Gambino boss Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of a Manhattan steakhouse — allegedly on Gotti's orders.
Gotti, known as the "Teflon Don" for his ability to avoid criminal convictions, was convicted in 1992 of racketeering and murder and died in prison a decade later.
Artuso was never charged in the Castellano killing, but prosecutors in January 2008 accused him of setting up a sale and leasing scheme involving four office buildings owned by ADT Security Services that defrauded the company of at least $11 million over five years. He and three others were convicted of the charges in October 2008.
At Wednesday's hearing, defense attorneys said prosecutors based much of their case against their client on a 20-year-old videotape that did little to link Artuso to the Gambinos, along with "prejudicial evidence" about the crime family in New York City that wasn't tied to the fraud charges.
"He knew John Gotti. That is not in dispute," said defense attorney Brenda Bryn. "That's not a crime. To know a Gotti or be known by a Gotti is not a crime."
She also urged the three-judge panel, which did not immediately rule, to reverse the conviction because an "unequivocally biased juror" was seated on the panel. She said a judge should have barred the juror from being seated because he indicated he would hold it against a defendant if they refused to testify on the stand. Artuso, she noted, did not testify at trial.
But William Shockley, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the defense team and judge failed to raise more questions about the juror during the trial. And he said there was plenty of other evidence aside from the 20-year-old video linking Artuso to the crime family, including 2006 audio recordings and testimony from other mafia leaders who acknowledged Artuso ran an active crew.
"This isn't simply an old Mafioso who has gone into retirement in Florida," said Shockley.



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