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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Explosive allegations alleged during deposition in murdered turncoat Lucchese soldier's case

It wasn't a question one would expect from a lawyer representing the county’s top law enforcement agency: “He asked me if my wife had my insurance policy up to date.”
But that’s what attorney Robert Tandy said he was asked at a meeting with then-Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, by counsel John Carbone.
The statement was revealed in a deposition taken three weeks ago in a federal lawsuit filed by the estate of a reputed member of the Lucchese crime family against the Prosecutor's Office and its former chief of detectives.
Tandy, who had represented an organized crime investigator entwined in the case, said he felt the query was a "direct threat." He said Carbone called it a joke.
The deposition is part of a case brought by the family of alleged mobster Frank P. Lagano, which claims former Bergen County Chief of Detectives Michael Mordaga and others in the Prosecutor's Office leaked Lagano’s identity as a state informant and, as a result, caused his execution-style murder.
Lagano had been a source of the late James Sweeney, a state investigator who was represented by Tandy before his death in 2011. Sweeney had alleged corruption in the Prosecutor’s Office, claiming in a lawsuit that he was fired for pursuing serious questions surrounding Lagano’s arrest and murder.
One of Sweeney’s most explosive allegations was that Mordaga and Lagano had a personal and business relationship, a claim the former chief has long denied.
That’s how Tandy landed in a roughly six-hour deposition on May 11, a transcript of which was filed with the court last week. He answered questions about the Sweeney case and related documents. And he revealed that at one point he was contacted by an investigator from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey about his client’s claims.
Under questioning by the estate’s attorney Eric Kleiner, Tandy described a meeting he and his attorney, Douglas Sanchez, had with Molinelli and Carbone at the Prosecutor’s Office.
At that time, Molinelli had filed a contempt complaint against Tandy for allegedly leaking sealed material to a Lagano family attorney. The contempt case — handled by Carbone — was heard and dropped in 2012, in the months after the Lagano estate first filed its suit.
Tandy testified that at the meeting, Molinelli “indicated that he was upset that my clients had alleged or had made allegations that were directed towards his friend, Mike Mordaga.”
Tandy also said there was “a discussion as to the types of claims I take, who I sue, and my general attitude, I believe, as an attorney.” He said there was “some discussion that he felt I took cases that had no merit.”
Tandy said Molinelli was also upset about another claim he had filed against the Prosecutor’s Office and others on behalf of a former Cresskill police chief. Tandy said in the deposition that he did not recall if Mordaga was mentioned in any way in the matter, which was later taken over by another attorney.
“I believe the general discussion had at the meeting was about Mr. Molinelli’s belief that I was working in connection with other attorneys to put together various actions against him and others,” Tandy said, a claim he added “was not true.”
Tandy said the only thing he recalled Carbone saying came near the end of the 30- to 45-minute meeting.
“He asked me if my wife had my insurance policy up to date,” Tandy said.
“I asked him if he was threatening me,” Tandy continued.
He said Carbone replied: “It was a joke, Mr. Tandy.”
Tandy said he believed he was being retaliated against.
“I took Mr. Carbone’s comments as a direct threat, and I believe the only reason they were filing a complaint against me was because of my representation of James Sweeney,” Tandy said, according to the transcript, when asked what he was thinking.
Asked if Molinelli or Carbone said anything about Sweeney, Tandy said: “I believe Mr. Mollinelli's position was that James Sweeney was in some way corrupt or had engaged in inappropriate activities in his capacity as an employee of the Division of Criminal Justice.”
And he said he defended his former client’s credibility: “Yes, I stood behind the allegations in the complaint.”
Molinelli withdrew the bid for contempt charges against Tandy after Bergen County's top judge at the time derided the move as "deeply troubling." Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne, then an assignment judge in Bergen County, also questioned Molinelli's authority to unilaterally seek contempt charges.
Sweeney died before his lawsuit could be resolved, but it now forms the backbone of the Lagano estate's suit. Both cases have their roots in a troubled 2004 organized crime gambling bust in which Lagano and dozens of other alleged mobsters and associates were arrested.
Sweeney emerged in that case when he was overheard on a wiretap talking to a source — who turned out to be a target of the probe — saying another agency had been asking about him. It is unclear what agency he was referring to from available documents. Bergen County’s failure to inform the wiretap judge of the interception caused the case to unravel.
In the upheaval that followed, Sweeney claimed his source introduced him to Lagano, who was gunned down outside a diner he co-owned in East Brunswick in 2007.
Tandy has in recent years represented various Hackensack police officers in suits against Mordaga, who later served as the city’s civilian police director, a job he left last year.
The transcript of Tandy’s deposition turned up in the case file last week. Asked about it, Carbone said: “I can’t comment — there’s a confidentiality order, and everything is sealed.”
Molinelli, who is now in private practice, did not respond to a message left at his office for comment. Neither did the attorney for the Prosecutor’s Office, John Bowens, who filed the transcript on the public docket.
Bowens had earlier written to Magistrate Judge Leda D. Wettre taking issue with Tandy's repeatedly invoking attorney-client privilege at the deposition and the length and type of questioning by Kleiner.
Kleiner, meanwhile, asked the judge for permission to depose Tandy for an additional four hours. Bowens then filed the transcript for the court’s “convenience,” noting their views on the proceeding were markedly different.
Kleiner has since contacted Wettre about the possible need to seal that entry and another filing by Mordaga’s attorney. The judge noted his letter does not specify what information is confidential, but “in an abundance of caution” she has sealed them temporarily. She gave the estate until next Thursday to seek permanent sealing.
The transcript shows Carbone was present at Tandy’s deposition. Kleiner asked that he sign the protective order that is in place on the case, and Sanchez, Tandy’s attorney, called Carbone’s presence a surprise. Sanchez did not return a call to his office; Kleiner declined to comment.
Both Sanchez and Lagano’s son, an attorney also named Frank, inquired about Carbone’s role at the proceeding. Bowens said, “He is not here as counsel; he is here as a representative of my client.”
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, who replaced Molinelli last year, said Carbone “provides general outside counsel services to the Prosecutor’s Office on as-needed basis and pursuant to a contract with the county,” in an email sent by his spokeswoman.
Grewal pointed out that Carbone is presently “counsel of record” for the Prosecutor’s Office in two related matters: the civil forfeiture case involving $264,000 seized from Lagano during his 2004 arrest and the pending appeal of an order by Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark that “substantially granted” a request by the Lagano estate to unseal records in the Jersey Boyz case. He said Carbone attended the deposition “in that capacity and to render assistance to our more recently appointed defense counsel in that matter.”
Lawyers with the state Attorney General’s Office initially represented the Prosecutor’s Office and Mordaga in the Lagano suit. In November, the state hired private firms — at taxpayer expense — to handle the matter going forward: The Decotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole law firm of Teaneck for Mordaga, and Bowens of Schenck, Price, Smith & King for the Prosecutor’s Office.


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