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Report Depicts Organized Crime’s Role in Pornography

July 10, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Joseph Palladino, an adult bookstore operator, was desperately looking for help because a competitor had gotten the blessing of Mafia bosses from New York to set up another porn shop nearby.

Palladino got help in the form of a meeting in Boston with Gennaro J. Angiulo, the Mafia underboss of organized crime in New England, says the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography.

According to an account of the incident supplied in a letter from the FBI to the pornography commission in March, Palladino could not understand why organized crime interests in New York had authorized Carlo Mastrototaro, a business partner of Palladino, to compete with Palladino in Worcester, Mass.

Though angry with Palladino for already having discussed his problem with another organized crime figure, Angiulo said he would talk to Genovese family captain Sam Cufari in an attempt to straighten things out.

Angiulo has been convicted of racketeering and recently began serving a 45- year prison term.

The Palladino-Angiulo meeting in 1981 illustrates what the pornography commission concludes are increasingly close ties between the $8 billion-a-year porn industry and traditional Mafia families across the United States.

″There ... seems (to be) strong evidence that significant portions of the pornographic magazine industry are either directly operated or closely controlled by La Cosa Nostra members or very close associates,″ the commission says.

The commission’s conclusions are hardly surprising, given the results of law enforcement investigations over the past decade tying in a number of organized crime figures with the production and distribution of pornography.

Thomas Bohling of the Chicago Police Department told the commission that law enforcement officials believe that ″the pornography industry is controlled by organized crime families. If they do not own the business outright, they most certainly extract street tax from independent smut peddlers.″

The pornography commission’s 2,000-page report issued Wednesday points to Reuben Sturman of Cleveland, ″widely believed to be the largest distributor of pornography in the world,″ as an example of the link between the Mafia and the porn industry.

Mafia-figure-turned-informant Aladena Fratianno told the commission that if Sturman ″has a problem he goes to″ Robert DiBernardo. DiBernardo was identified in a federal grand jury indictment last month in New York as a captain in the Gambino Mafia family. Palladino, the adult bookstore operator worried about having a competitor, called DiBernardo his ″compare″ and had gone to him for help before seeing Angiulo, according to the FBI.

Sturman and DiBernardo were ″partners, plus ... if Debe (DiBernardo) wanted (Sturman) to do something, he (Sturman) would do it,″ said Fratianno.

DiBernardo was described to Fratianno as the ″main man in the country″ in the pornography business in the mid-1970s, when Fratianno was seeking ways to expand his own West Coast porn business. When Fratianno eventually met DiBernardo, DeBernardo told him that if Fratianno ″had wanted to get in the business he should have done it four or five years ago. Now it was all locked up,″ Fratianno told the pornography commission.

DiBernardo vanished June 5 and is believed by law enforcement investigators to have been slain. He was last seen driving away from his business office in lower Manhattan, from which he controlled a pornographic film distributorship and other operations. The Gambino family boss, Paul Castellano, to whom DiBernardo was closely allied, according to the commission report, was shot to death last December and a war for control of the family has ensued.

Sturman controls General Video of America, one of the largest distributors of sexually explicit videotape cassettes in the country, according to information supplied to the commission. Other information included in the report says that Los Angeles police found 580 of the 765 adult video arcade machines in the city to be owned by companies controlled by Sturman.

″Law enforcement authorities believe that the Sturman empire has financial control of nearly 200 businesses in 19 states, one Canadian province and six foreign countries,″ including Great Britain, Panama, Liberia, the Netherlands and Lichtenstein, says the commission report.

Swiss bank accounts have been established for several Sturman business associates and some of his foreign corporations, according to a report financed by the Justice Department.

Sturman has been under indictment since 1985 on charges of conspiring to evade millions of dollars in taxes by laundering $7 million through foreign bank accounts.

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