Alleged Mafia Chief, Six Others Plead Guilty Before Trial
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The reputed leader of the Mafia in Southern California and six associates have pleaded guilty to extortion or racketeering charges, but they denied being members of an organized crime syndicate.
The plea bargains were accepted Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Ferdinand Fernandez on what was to have been the first day of the men’s trial.
Prosecutors said the guilty pleas meant the government avoided a $1 million trial that could have lasted four months.
The plea bargains were approved by Justice Department officials in Washington after U.S. Attorney Robert Bonner refused to accept the length of the negotiated prison terms.
When the federal indictment was announced last May, Bonner said, ″The main body of La Cosa Nostra in Los Angeles has been severely gutted.″
Chief defendant Peter John Milano, 62, of Westlake Village, whom officials allege controls organized crime on the West Coast, never admitted he was a Mafia member. Neither did any of the other defendants.
Milano, who owns Rome Vending Co., pleaded guilty to involvement in a criminal enterprise and committing two racketeering acts. But his attorney, Donald Marks, said that could mean any criminal group, not just the Mafia.
Milano faces up to a six-year prison sentence when he and the others are sentenced May 16.
Milano’s brother, Carmen, 58, of Tarzana; brothers Charles Caci, 51, and Vincent Caci, 62, both of Palm Springs; Rocco Zangari, 54, of Palm Springs; Stephen Cino, 51, of Las Vegas; and Albert Nunez, 57, of Camarillo, all pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy.
Nunez also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine, and Cino also pleaded guilty to making false statements.
In return, prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges against the defendants and not institute any civil proceedings that could result in lawsuits or property forfeitures.
Nunez faces a 10-year term, Cino an 18-month sentence, Vincent Caci and Charles Caci face one year, and Carmen Milano faces six months. Under the agreement, Zangari could receive probation.
The trial of three more defendants was postponed until April 5 to give their attorneys time to reorganize. The trial of an 11th defendant was postponed indefinitely because he is ill.
The indictment involved violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. The Los Angeles case was one of several RICO indictments nationwide that stemmed from a 1982 crackdown on organized crime.
The prosecution was based on hours of secretly recorded tapes made in San Fernando Valley restaurants and parking lots in which the defendants allegedly discussed cocaine deals and plans to shake down gamblers or bookies.
The indictment followed an undercover FBI investigation during which Milano allegedly ordered the killing of two suspected informants, according to the indictment. The murders never occurred because of tips from informants, officials said.