Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Mafia Cops' lawyers demanding witness information

Lawyers for the "Mafia Cops" are pressing federal prosecutors to disclose whether a key government witness was a secret informant at a time when he allegedly helped engineer some mob murders.

Edward Hayes, who is representing ex-NYPD detective Stephen Caracappa, said in a letter to prosecutors that he has learned that the informant was providing information to the government much earlier than the defense has been led to believe

Caracappa, 63, and Louis Eppolito, 56, have been indicted on charges they worked as moles for the mob while they were detectives in the 1980s and '90s, and played roles in several hits. Court records and law enforcement sources have indicated that convicted drug trafficker Burton Kaplan is the main source of information used to get the two former cops indicted.

Citing his own sources and a recent Vanity Fair article, Hayes said in his Sept. 1 letter to prosecutors that Kaplan was providing information to the government well before the 2005 indictment against his client. If true, said Hayes, Kaplan might have himself exploited his relationship with investigators to glean information useful for the mob hits.

"Obviously, if he had a relationship with some law enforcement agency and failed to disclose it: 1. that relationship could be a source of information used to kill these individuals, and 2: failure to disclose it could show that he felt guilty or desired concealment of the relationship," Hayes said in his letter to Brooklyn Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Henoch.

Kaplan, whose daughter is a city criminal court judge, was convicted in 1998 on charges he trafficked in several tons of marijuana. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He apparently began cooperating against the former detectives in 2004. Kaplan reportedly was the intermediary between former acting Lucchese crime boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and Caracappa and Eppolito. Government records also revealed that Kaplan had ties to high-ranking members of the Bonanno crime family. He apparently began cooperating in early 2004.

According to an article in Vanity Fair last month that cited two retired police detectives and an FBI agent, all unidentified, Kaplan never disclosed his status as a confidential informant in the 1980s. The magazine stated that the FBI agent later changed his story, claiming to have never used Kaplan as an informant.

Hayes asked Henoch to provide him with information about "the circumstances in which Mr. Kaplan first began providing information of any sort to any government representatives, particularly federal agents." Hayes also wants to know if Kaplan was an informant when he was arrested in the 1990s.

Henoch couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Thanks to Anthony M. Destefano

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