Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reputed Gambino Vinne Artuso Goes to Trial

A federal prosecutor and veteran of organized crime investigations opened his bulging binder and began questioning Thursday as the trial of an alleged Gambino crime family member, Vincent "Vinnie" Artuso, and four others got under way.

Artuso - a South Palm Beach resident identified by prosecutors as an affiliate of the late mob boss John Gotti - looked on, seated closest to the witness box, the other defendants and their attorneys seated the length of the defense table.

Artuso, 64, and the four men - described in a federal indictment as nonmember associates of the Gambino family - all face a gauntlet of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering charges. Federal prosecutors have alleged the men conspired in the sale and leasing of four office buildings to conceal money and defraud people. Artuso is depicted in the indictment as the leader of the South Florida crew of the Gambino family who directed the enterprise.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Shockley questioned at length William Larry Horton, a former defendant in the case who has since pleaded guilty, according to a court record.

Under friendly questioning, Horton testified about how, as a vice president with security firm ADT in Boca Raton, he had access to buildings to broker the deals. Horton testified he violated his company's policies with defendant Gregory Orr, never bidding out the lease and sale of the ADT-owned buildings, just artificially setting low prices with Orr.

"Your game was the only game in town. Is that right?" Shockley asked.

"Yes. That's right," Horton said.

On trial with Artuso and Orr are Artuso's son, John Vincent; Robert M. Gannon; and Philip E. Forgione. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Another veteran mob prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Brian McCormick, also is prosecuting the case in front of U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks.

Artuso is represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Peter Birch. Birch told jurors in his opening statement that Artuso had nothing to do with the purchase of properties and nothing to do with organized crime. He said the government is attempting to connect Artuso to organized crime using a 20-year-old photo of him and Gotti and relying on the testimony of Lewis Kasman of Boca Raton, the self-proclaimed adopted son of Gotti.

Thanks to Susan Spencer-Wendel

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