The Chicago Syndicate: Wiretap at Ballfield Leads to Conviction of Reputed Mobsters

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wiretap at Ballfield Leads to Conviction of Reputed Mobsters

You can now rule out the baseball field at Glen Cove High School as a place where it is safe for organized-crime figures to plot their racketeering activities.

Two reputed members of the Colombo organized-family were convicted Thursday of racketeering and extortion after a trial in which testimony centered around FBI wiretap's made with bugs planted at the school's ballfield, according to officials.

The two reputed crime figures -- Frank Leto, 76, of Glen Cove, and Louis Fenza, 56, of Jericho -- had been accused of shaking down the management of the then-Huntington Townhouse for between $200- to $400-a-week between 1997 and 1999. Leto was identified during the trial as a longtime soldier in the Colombo family and Fenza an associate.

According to testimony at the trial in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, FBI agents had been surveilling Leto, but he apparently thought he could avoid their overhearing his discussions by meeting with associates at the ballfield around midnight, sometimes when it was pitch black. But agents planted bugs around the field, picking up Leto discussing various schemes, said sources familiar with the case.

When Leto and Fenza were arrested in August 2003, federal prosecutor James Mikiewicz said, "This is a classic textbook case of organized crime extorting honest businessmen."

The Huntington Townhouse, once one of Long Island's major catering halls, was sold to the Lowe's home-improvement chain in June.

The jury returned a verdict after two days of deliberation following a trial that began in mid-February. The trial was halted for several days after Leto appeared to have fallen asleep, but was eventually hospitalized with some type of breakdown. Fenza's lawyer, Louis Fasulo of Manhattan, said of the verdict, "It's a shock," and that his client planned an appeal. Fasulo said that his client and Leto were involved with a limousine service that was used by the catering hall and the money owed was a legitimate debt.

Eastern District Assistant U.S. attorneys Allan Bode and Nicole Boeckmann declined to comment. Leto's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Leto and Fenza face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced by U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt.

Thanks to Robert E. Kessler

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