The widow of wiseguy William (Wild Bill) Cutolo did Tuesday what prosecutors wanted her to do - she placed Colombo crime boss Alphonse Persico at the center of the crime.
Then things started unraveling for Marguerite (Peggy) Cutolo when defense lawyers suggested her husband was still alive and that she had stashed away up to $2.7 million in loanshark profits.
"I'm not lying," a visibly upset Cutolo said in Federal Court in Central Islip, L.I. "I've been distressed and depressed for eight years because I don't know where my husband was. My husband would have never run away."
She left witness protection to testify against (Allie Boy) Persico and former underboss John (Jackie) DeRoss, who are charged with her husband's murder - and whose first trial ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors say the gangsters orchestrated the murder because they believed Wild Bill was trying to take over the Colombo family.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Peggy Cutolo insisted her husband kept nothing from her. On the day he vanished, she said, "I knew he was meeting Allie Boy."
She said Cutolo's meeting with Persico in Bay Ridge on May 26, 1999, was unusual because on Wednesdays he usually visited his union office in Manhattan, got his weekly haircut at Bruno's in Bensonhurst, and dined with his crew at the Friendly Bocce Club in Brooklyn.
Cutolo was DeRoss' best man at his wedding. After he disappeared, DeRoss was more concerned about finding the piles of cash Cutolo stashed in their Staten Island mansion than finding her husband, the widow testified.
Peggy Cutolo admitted she hid $1.65 million in an air conditioning vent and moved it when the AC went on the fritz and the repairman - DeRoss' nephew - came to fix it. She said she took the money with her when she went into witness protection in February 2001. "My husband told me, 'If anything happened to me, you give them nothing,'" she testified.
When DeRoss' lawyer, Robert LaRusso, produced ledgers indicating Cutolo had $2.7 million at the time of his disappearance, the flustered widow explained her husband kept two sets of books - one for Colombo money, one for his money. "I just know what I counted," she said.
Asked what happened to the cash, Peggy Cutolo said, "The government let me have the money. I had to take care of the kids."
Thanks to John Marzulli and Corky Siemaszko
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