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FBI Links Public Official To $1 Million Extortion

October 29, 1986 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A city councilman described by the FBI as having ″larceny in his heart″ was indicted Tuesday along with reputed mobster on charges of trying to extort $1 million from a waterfront developer.

In a second indictment, Councilman Leland Beloff also was accused of election fraud, including voting more than once, during the November 1984 election, and with extorting use of a luxury apartment in exchange for his influence.

The indictment said the 44-year-old flamboyant councilman, a former boxer and state legislator whose late father was a judge, threatened to delay passage of vital zoning legislation needed for projects worth more than $1 billion by developer Willard Rouse in Beloff’s south Philadelphia district.

U.S. Attorney Edward Dennis Jr. and Wayne Davis, in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office, said twin investigations by the organized crime and public corruption squads dealt blows to corrupt public officials and to organized crime trying to subvert legitimate business.

Davis said there was another, more important, message.

″That message is that any public official who has larceny in his heart and acts either alone or in concert with criminal conspirators had better reconsider his actions because the FBI will be on the case,″ Davis said.

Also charged in the extortion case was reputed mobster Nicholas ″Nicky Crow″ Caramandi, 51, and Beloff’s legislative aide, Robert Rego, 42.

Caramandi, arrested Monday night while the indictment remained secret, was ordered held without bail Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Richard Powers III, who said Caramandi ″was a threat to the security and safety of witnesses in the case.″

In addition to threatening to stymie Rouse’s Penn Landing projects, Dennis said Beloff threatened Harry Devoe, a real estate developer, forcing him to provide free a $945-a-month apartment for two years for a female friend.

″In addition to exploiting the fear that the necessary legislation wouldn’t be introduced if the defendants’ demands were not met, the defendants are charged with utilizing Caramandi to create the impression that he was a member of an organized crime family who was in a position to disrupt both Rouse and Devoe’s construction projects,″ Dennis said.

Rouse immediately tipped off the FBI when the demand was made last June and an undercover investigation was launched that resulted in more than 150 electronic tapes, authorities said.

Some of the transcripts introduced at Caramandi’s bail hearing told of mob murders, beatings, threats, loan sharking and drug dealing.

Rouse, through an undercover agent, paid a $10,000 installment on a bribe, but Beloff held up passage of the enabling zoning legislation when a second $90,000 installment was not paid, Dennis said.

In the election fraud, Beloff, a two-year councilman and a ward leader, was indicted with his wife, Diane, 28, and two members of the Democratic city committee on charges of conspiracy, voting more than once and giving false information on voter registrations to elderly people living in a nursing home.

Beloff, whose office said he was unavailable for comment, is expected to surrender Wednesday for a bail hearing with his wife, Rego, committeewoman Margaret Coyle, 55, and committeeman Charles Pollan, 40, also an election judge now employed by the Council.

Beloff was convicted in 1974 of interferring with a poll watcher and was fined $500. He obtained a gubernatorial pardon two years later to run for the state Legislature.

If convicted in both cases, Beloff faces a maximum sentence of 130 years in prison and a $440,000 fine.

Beloff and the other two men orginally were arrested in the extortion last June, but the charges were dropped to give a grand jury additional time to complete its investigation.