Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mobster embarassed after Justice Department releases secret tapes

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Victor Riccitelli, John Gotti, Anthony "the Genius" Megale

An elderly Mafioso who was caught on tape discussing the Gambino crime family hierarchy asked a federal judge to dismiss his racketeering case this week, saying prosecutors unfairly embarrassed him by making his incriminating conversations public. Victor Riccitelli, 72, broke the mob's honor code in October, admitting his Mafia membership and pleading guilty to racketeering rather than have the FBI's tapes played in court.

Prosecutors surprised Riccitelli in December, however, when they included details of his conversations in a memo placed in the public court file. The Associated Press reported on the conversations, which included descriptions of the Mafia induction ceremony and the mob's leadership structure.

"The government's conduct in this regard was for the sole purpose of embarrassing the defendant and obtaining an outlet for the public disclosure of otherwise nonpublic materials," defense attorney Jonathan J. Einhorn wrote this week in a motion to dismiss the case. Einhorn said the disclosure amounted to prosecutorial misconduct. Justice Department spokesman Tom Carson said prosecutors would respond to Riccitelli's motion before he is sentenced Jan. 20.

In their December memo, prosecutors said they released the conversations to prove that Riccitelli had lied when he said his conversations about the Mafia were just things he had read in a book. "That was a weak excuse as a way to put on a show," Einhorn said Friday. "It was just a back-door opportunity for the government to show all the information it had."

Riccitelli is one of more than a dozen men arrested in a landmark Connecticut organized crime case in 2004. Prosecutors said the Gambino family, the crime syndicate once run by John Gotti, ran gambling and extortion rackets throughout Fairfield County.

Riccitelli's conversations pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding the family. He talked openly with a Stamford strip club owner, not knowing the man was working for the FBI. In those conversations, Riccitelli identified Stamford sanitation worker Anthony "The Genius" Megale as the No. 2 man in the organization. Megale also pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

Thanks to Matt Apuzzo

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