Four convicted in mob trial
Early edition: A jury decided that the men were guilty of extortion and racketeering, and had ties to the Gambino organized crime family.
By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published November 29, 2006
TAMPA — After five days of deliberation, jurors in federal court on Wednesday found Ronald “Ronnie One Arm” Trucchio and his three co-defendants guilty on all charges of racketeering and extortion in the name of the Gambino crime family.
Trucchio and one co-defendant, Steven Catalano, face a maximum punishment of life in prison when they are sentenced March 2. Kevin McMahon and Terry Scaglione, the only Tampa defendant, could be sentenced to up to 20 years.
On Tuesday, jurors said they had reached a verdict for three of the defendants but were deadlocked on the fourth.
Court papers showed they were undecided on Trucchio, who is the alleged captain or “capo” of the Tampa crew.
“It’s unfortunate that the jurors who didn’t think my client was guilty did not stand strong because my client was not guilty of these charges,” said Joseph Corozzo, Trucchio’s New York-based attorney.
The trial began with an unusual twist when Trucchio opted to represent himself because his lawyer, Joseph Corozzo Jr., was stuck in another Mafia-related trial in New York City.
“My hand to God, I don’t deserve to be here,” Trucchio told jurors during his opening statement. “This is an abomination.”
For almost a week, Trucchio cross-examined the government’s witnesses. Corozzo took over when he arrived Oct. 30.
Despite the seriousness of the crimes alleged, there were some moments of levity during the month-long trial.
One witness, a valet parking attendant named Ian McGeehan, told jurors he thought it was a joke when he received a threatening phone call from Alite, who wanted information about the lot where he worked.
“It was almost a like a cliche,” McGeehan said.
Corozzo asked him what he meant. “You mean, like the Sopranos? Gangsters from New Jersey?”
“I don’t have cable TV,” he said. “It was more like Goodfellas.”
The courtroom erupted in laughter.
The trial was also unusual in that the defendant accused of being the link between the New York mobsters to crimes in Tampa wasn’t in the courtroom.
Prosecutors say John Alite, 44, was the crew’s street boss who ran its everyday activities from Tampa. However, Alite fled the country before he was charged and is currently in a Brazilian prison fighting extradition.
Alite, a former University of Tampa student, is not being tried in absentia but faces prosecution if he returns to the United States. He has said he is innocent of all charges and is being pressured by the government because of his ties to John Gotti Jr.
The defendants were charged in the indictment with forming a criminal crew that reported to the Gambinos. Prosecutors said crew members engaged in a wide range of criminal conduct from New York to New Jersey to Florida, including murder, drug dealing, robbery and extortion.
Among the specific crimes alleged by the government are the robbery of a Sears department store in Vineland, NJ, the murder of a man inside a Queens, NY, bar and the robbery of a $25,000 Rolex from Tampa car dealer Ernie Haire following a scuffle at Thee Doll House.
Throughout the trial, defense attorneys tried to poke holes in the credibility of the government’s witnesses. Many of them are convicted criminals hoping for reduced sentences in exchange for cooperating with the government. Several also admitted to being heavy drug users.
“I’m disappointed,” said Bjorn Brunvand, McMahon’s lawyer. He said the only evidence linking his client to the Gambinos came from two witnesses who are convicted criminals.
“Both had every reason to lie,” Brunvand said.
Trucchio, Catalano and McMahon were all taken into custody. Scaglione was allowed to remain free on bond.
Throughout the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant maintained Scaglione was not as culpable as the other defendants.
“There was very little testimony concerning physical violence engaged in or triggered by Mr. Scaglione,” Trezevant said. “There was no evidence he traveled to Queens, NY, to participate in violent armed robberies or other acts. His involvement was less.”
Asked if the jury’s verdict purged Tampa of the mob’s influence, Trezevant smiled.
“Nothing’s ever eliminated,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep fighting.”