Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New charges for 'Mafia cops'

The "Mafia Cops" have something else to digest over Thanksgiving: a new version of the federal indictment accusing them of being hitmen for the mob. Brooklyn federal prosecutors Wednesday released a retooled indictment, their fourth version, in the racketeering charges against ex-NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa.

Eppolito and Caracappa already face a total of 10 homicide charges in the racketeering case that started with their arrest in March. The new indictment didn't add any new murder victims but did add two murder-for-hire allegations to cover the killings of Gambino mobster Edward Lino in 1990 and diamond dealer Israel Greenwald in 1986. The new charges also added a 1982 bribery allegation against Eppolito,56.

News of a new indictment angered defense attorney Edward Hayes who is representing Caracappa, 63. Hayes said the defense now has to revise motion papers, which already cost tens of thousands of dollars to prepare, because of the latest grand jury action. He thinks prosecutors are trying to delay the trial, now set for February. "This is their fourth try to make this case," said Hayes. "I think it is fair to ask if there are facts they want to put before the jury or whether they want to postpone it because they don't see a way to try the case." A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorneys Office couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Caracappa and Eppolito are accused in the case of being hitmen for Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the now imprisoned former acting boss of the Lucchese crime family. Some of the murders took place while they were with the NYPD. Both defendants had been kept for a time in solitary confinement after their arrest in their home state of Nevada. But Brooklyn federal judge Jack B. Weinstein released them on house arrest with separate $5 million bail packages. Eppolito is living with relatives on Long Island while Caracappa is staying at his mother's house on Staten Island.

Weinstein has expressed concern that the original federal indictment has a serious statute of limitations problems. Generally, racketeering conspiracies like the kind Eppolito and Caracappa are charged with require some act to have been committed within five years of the time of indictment. The original indictment was filed in early March of this year.

The most recent homicide in the case was in 1991. However, prosecutors also originally said Eppolito and Caracappa took part in money laundering and a narcotics conspiracy in late 2004.

Challenging the indictment, the defense has claimed that the drug charges aren't related to the earlier Mafia-linked racketeering homicides and thus can't save the indictment from dismissal. After Weinstein also stated in court that he thought the case had a problem with the statute of limitations, prosecutors began revising the indictment to include crimes as late as October 2002. Prosecutors also made Eppolito and Caracappa the racketeering enterprise, instead of La Cosa Nostra. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned next Wednesday.

Thanks to Anthony DeStefano

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