Three Men Convicted In Federal Extortion-Conspiracy Trial
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A record company executive, a reputed mob figure and a third man were convicted Wednesday on federal conspiracy charges in a case authorities called an example of organized crime influence in the recording industry.
Morris Levy, president of Roulette Records, and two associates - Howard Fisher and Dominick Canterino - were convicted of two counts each of conspiring to commit extortion.
They were charged with an attempted shakedown of John LaMonte of Darby, Pa., who ran a record wholesale company, in a 1985 dispute over $1.25 million in records and tapes from MCA Records Inc. of Los Angeles. MCA has not been charged in the case.
After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated about 4 1/2 hours over two days before convicting Levy, 60, of New York City; Fisher, 60, the comptroller of Roulette Records; and Canterino, 57, whom law enforcement officials described as a member of the Genovese organized crime family.
Attorneys for the defendants said they would appeal the verdicts.
Federal Judge Stanley S. Brotman, whose district includes Darby, scheduled sentencing for July 8. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Repetto said the government won its case on the merits of hours of taped conversations obtained by government wiretaps at Levy’s office and other locations.
″We didn’t offer a whole lot beyond the tapes,″ Repetto said.
After opening statements in the case, Repetto told Brotman the government would prove that the case involved reputed mob ties.
″The organized crime element is there,″ Repetto said.
FBI documents filed in the case said government agencies believed Levy, a self-made millionaire, has been involved with organized crime for 20 years.
But Brotman ordered prosecutors not to discuss organized crime connections during the course of the trial.
Repetto, in a meeting with reporters following the verdict, declined to comment on whether the jury drew conclusions that organized crime played a role in the case.
″Mr. Canterino did not drop in from Mars,″ said Repetto, who asked the judge to raise bail on Canterino and Levy from $500,000 to $5 million cash.
″It’s been reported that Mr. Levy wishes to go to Australia,″ Repetto told the judge while describing Canterino as a high-ranking member of the conspiracy.
The judge ordered bail for Canterino and Levy to be raised to $1 million that will be secured by a $15 million farm belonging to Levy.
Defense attorneys assured the judge the men would turn in their passports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark and would not apply for new passports.
″He isn’t going anywhere,″ Levy’s attorney, Martin London, told the judge.
During the trial, the defense attacked record wholesaler LaMonte’s credibility, calling the man an ex-con with a history of criminal activity.
LaMonte, who served 18 months in prison for a 1977 conviction for bootlegging records, agreed to wear a wiretap while meeting with the three men over an 18-month period. He did not testify in this case, however.
″LaMonte and his business were the victims of this extortion,″ Repetto said.
Defense attorneys also alleged through the trial that one of LaMonte’s three partners in record wholesale firm was Gaetano Vastola, a reputed member of a New Jersey organized crime family.
Vastola and three co-defendants go on trial this fall before Brotman on federal rackeetering charges related to the Levy case, Repetto said.