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Convicted Racketeer Dead At 56

February 22, 1987 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Reputed underworld figure Jack N. Catain Jr., convicted in November on federal racketeering charges, died Saturday. He was 56.

A nursing supervisor at Encino Hospital said Catain died in the cardiac intensive care unit.

Catain was freed on bail after he was convicted Nov. 7 on charges of conspiring to sell part of a $3.5 million cache of counterfeit $100 bills.

Sentencing had been scheduled last Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge William P. Gray delayed sentencing for six months after learning that Catain was hospitalized.

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He faced up to 15 years in prison and $225,000 in fines.

Although federal officials alleged Catain was involved in a variety of illegal activities, including ticket scalping, money laundering and extortion, he had never been convicted of any crime until last year.

Catain was admitted to the hospital for heart surgery, said his attorney, James A. Twitty, who had argued unsuccessfully in November that Catain was too ill to stand trial. Catain had a long history of medical problems. He had survived two heart attacks, had artificial hips, and was diagnosed as having terminal heart disease.

During the last 10 years, Catain was the focus of several local and federal investigations. Federal officials linked Catain, the son of a Chicago produce market worker, to Mafia families in Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and New York.

Catain denied any involvement in organized crime and described himself as a victim of government efforts to justify their investigations of his activities.

Catain moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the 1950s and founded an aluminum company. That firm was acquired by Rusco Industries, a Westwood-based conglomerate with annual revenues of $100 million. Catain eventually became president of Rusco, but was also involved in businesses ranging from cosmetics and construction to car sales.

Catain was indicted in 1982, but after a series of postponements, Gray dismissed charges against him last April, saying he did not want Catain dying from the stress of a trial.

The dismissal was appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which returned the case to Gray for reconsideration.

In the meantime, Catain was indicted on the counterfeiting charges.

Edwin J. Gale, a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime Task Force in Los Angeles, had insisted that Catain was feigning illness and was fit to stand trial.