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In Racketeering Case Judge Seibel Says Madonia Filings By US Should Be Unsealed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
The Source - XXL - The Root - etc

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 13 – When lawyer John C. Meringolo, representing racketeering defendant Christopher Londonio, told a White Plains jury back on October 7, "That's reasonable doubt!" Judge Cathy Seibel cut in, "And that's too loud."
  And now in June 2020, months into the Coronavirus lockdown, Judge Seibel has urged that some filings be unsealed: "ORDER as to Christopher Londonio, Terrance Caldwell, Matthew Madonna, Steven Crea, Sr.: The public filing of the Government's sentencing memorandum has been delayed by a dispute over a sentence in that submission which quotes a portion of a motion earlier filed by Defendant Madonna that was redacted from the public filing. Redaction was justified at that time to avoid possibly inflaming the potential jury pool, but is no longer warranted. So the Government may go ahead and publicly file its submission. It seems to me that the two letters the Government sent on the issue -- one dated 6/2/20 and the other (with an attached letter from Madonna's counsel) dated 6/11/20 -- should also be docketed, and will make clear that the redacted sentence reflects what Madonna was concerned the Government would argue, not an admission on his part. If any party objects to the docketing of the letters, they shall submit a letter explaining why by 6/15/20. If no objection is received, the Government shall file the letters on 6/16/20. (Signed by Judge Cathy Seibel on 06/12/2020)."

In May Judge Seibel issued an interim ruling on the application for compassionate release by co-defendant John Castelucci: "In my experience, the fastest way for defense counsel to get the defendant's BOP medical record is to ask the AUSA. The Government shall obtain Defendant's BOP medical record and convey it defense counsel no later than 5/26/20 (although it may advise the Court if that is not possible). Defense counsel may supplement Defendant's submission no later than 5/27/20. The Government shall respond by 5/29/20."

   On May 30, Judge Seibel denied the motion for release but urged or recommended a short furlough: "ORDER denying 1032 LETTER MOTION for compassionate release sentence reduction as to John Castelucci (8); Defendant has moved for a sentence reduction under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A), which allows the Court, after considering the factors set forth in 18 USC 3553(a), to reduce a sentence if extraordinary and compelling reasons justify such action and it is consistent with the relevant policy statements of the Sentencing Commission. Policy Statement 1B1.13 imposes similar requirements, along with the provision that the Defendant not be a danger to the safety of any other person or the community. Application Note 1 to Policy Statement 1B1.13 describes four potential extraordinary and compelling reasons: 1) the defendant has a terminal medical condition or because of a serious health condition or impairment is substantially diminished in his ability to provide self-care; 2) the defendant is at least 65 years old, has served 10 years or 75% of his sentence, and is experiencing serious deterioration in health as a result of aging; 3) family circumstances; and 4) an extraordinary and compelling reason other than or in combination with one of the above. Defendant suggests that he meets the fourth category listed above (extraordinary and compelling reason other than or in combination with one listed) because he has medical conditions that put him at increased risk should he be stricken with COVID-19. The Government does not dispute that Defendant suffers from diabetes and other conditions that put him at increased risk, and that Defendant's medical condition amounts to an extraordinary and compelling reason for release. I note, however, that while there are apparently 22 COVID-19 cases among inmates at FCI Fort Dix (and none among staff), those cases are all in the camp, whereas Defendant is in the adjoining prison. Nevertheless I assume that Defendant has shown extraordinary and compelling reason for release. But I must still must balance it against the factors set forth in 18 USC 3553(a). See USA v. Daugerdas, 2020 WL 2097653 (S.D.N.Y. 5/1/20). Those factors weigh heavily against release. Defendant has served 9 months of a 37-month sentence. He would ordinarily not be eligible for halfway house or home confinement until March 2022. He is apparently in the RDAP program and may, if he completes it, receive a 12-month sentence reduction. His release date to halfway house or home confinement would then presumably be somewhere around March 2021. Defendant's counsel (who is to be commended for not overstating his case) suggests that the Court may have taken the possibility of an RDAP reduction into account at the time of sentencing. I did not -- because Defendant's Presentence Report ("PSR") gave no hint that Defendant had a substance abuse problem, and because he had tested negative while on pretrial release. Frankly, I cannot imagine why Defendant was admitted to RDAP if the PSR's description of his substance use -- which is based on information from him and to which he lodged no objection -- is accurate. If it is accurate, Defendant's admission to RDAP suggests that someone at the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") was fooled or compromised or monumentally careless, and that that RDAP bed should have gone to someone with a genuine substance abuse problem. If what is said in the PSR is false, and Defendant has a genuine substance abuse problem, it seems like a bad idea to spring him from RDAP when he is mid-way through the program. The 3553(a) factors militate strongly against release in any event. Defendant is a longtime mobster who rose to the position of captain, a leadership role, in a murderous organization. He capitalized on and enriched himself through the violence and fear inflicted by that organization, and his position allows him to direct the activities of others. Evidence at his co-defendants' trial showed that he assigned others to administer a "hospital beating" to someone who had crossed the underboss. Prior significant sentences have done nothing to deter him. The instant case is his eighth conviction, his fifth felony, his third federal conviction, and his second under the racketeering statute. It would seriously undermine several of the 3553(a) factors to release Defendant to home now. Doing so would not give sufficient weight to either the seriousness of the offense or Defendant's lengthy criminal history; it would undermine respect for the law; it would not amount to just punishment; it would introduce unwarranted sentencing disparities; and it would not sufficiently address the need to protect the public from further crimes of Defendant. As i noted at sentencing, there is no reason to believe Defendant will not commit further crimes. He has a record of repeated serious violations of law, and given this track record, there is little reason for confidence that he would now eschew his sworn loyalty to the Lucchese Family of La Cosa Nostra if the remainder of his prison term were eliminated. Because of their ability to direct violence by others, organized crime leaders do not "age out." To the contrary, there is every reason to believe that Defendant will, if his sentence is reduced, do as he has done in the past and pick up where he left off as a captain in the Lucchese Family. He thus presents a danger to the community. The Court believes, however, that Defendant's health could be safeguarded without undermining the 3553(a) factors or the safety of the community by a brief temporary furlough under 18 USC 3622. The Court recommends that BOP give consideration to temporary release for Defendant, under proper conditions, after which he would complete his sentence -- if doing so would not disrupt a genuine need for substance abuse treatment. (If Defendant really does not belong in RDAP, no harm would be done by his leaving in the middle.) While Defendant's record suggests a risk of danger to the community if his sentence were reduced to time served, the Court believes that that risk would be mitigated if the release were brief and temporary. A short furlough until the corona virus is under better control, rather than a sentence reduction, strikes the Court as the most fair and sensible balance of both the public interest and the risk to Defendant. The Government is directed to send a copy of this text order to the Warden and the legal department at FCI Fort Dix.. (Signed by Judge Cathy Seibel on 05/30/2020) (Seibel, Cathy) (Entered: 05/30/2020)."

  Back in October Londonio and co-defendants Steven Crea Sr., Terrence Caldwell and Matthew Madonna were being tried in the Westchester County branch of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, though Manhattan SDNY prosecutor Alexandra N. Rothman is on the papers and Meringolo, based on Greenwich Street, was covered by Inner City Press in the 500 Pearl Street trial of John "Porky" Zancocchio and Joe Cammarano.

  In a filing once the trial began, these two New Yorkers faced off, with Rothman filings this: "The Government respectfully submits this letter to permit undercover FBI Special Agent UCE-6398 to testify as “UCE-6398” at trial and not under his true name or the undercover alias used in this investigation, and further to preclude the defense from cross-examining UCE-6398 on either identity. The Government makes this request to protect UCE-6398’s identity, safety, and viability as an undercover asset for the FBI moving forward. The Government has conferred with defense counsel and understands that counsel for Mr. Londonio opposes this request. The Government has not heard any objections from the remaining defendants. Background Either late Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, the Government intends to call FBI Special Agent UCE-6398 to introduce GX 702A and 702A-T, the August 18, 2014 recording between Joseph Datello, CW-2, and UCE-6398 and its corresponding transcript. Later in the trial, the Government intends to offer through CW-2 an additional recording from January 30, 2015 in which UCE-6398 also participated. UCE-6398 was involved in the FBI’s investigation into La Cosa Nostra (“LCN”) from 2014 until 2016. In this role, UCE-6398 acted as a businessperson who was funding narcotics transactions involving Datello, CW-2, and Carlos Gomez, and providing CW-2, Datello and others with untaxed cigarettes. In the recordings and corresponding transcripts the Government intends to offer at trial, UCE-6398 is identified by his undercover number or as “Pete” -- the first name he gave the LCN members and associates with whom he did business. The Government does not intend to offer UCE-6398’s real name or full undercover identity, as neither is relevant to the guilt or innocence of the defendants or the undercover’s credibility." We'll have more on this.

  On October 7 after the "too loud" opening arguments, the government put on the mother and daughter who found the dead body of Michael Meldish in his car in The Bronx. He was described as "still warm," discovered after a stop at a Seven Eleven for a presumably cold Big Gulp.

 The docket, with originally 19 co-defendants, is a line up of SDNY criminal defense lawyers, from Daniel Hernandez / Tekashi 6ix9ine's Lance Lazzaro for John Castelucci through 6ix9ine's testimony target Anthony Ellison's Deveraux Cannick for Brian Vaughan, and The Bronx' own Murray Richman for Joseph DiNapoli.

  Judge Seibel had other bon mots, for example musing to the jury that lawyers say "may I publish" when they only mean, Can I show the jury. There was pointing at FBI Special Agent Theodore Otto in the courtroom, but the government has asked Judge Seibel to preclude Londonio from calling him as a witness. Inner City Press will continue to cover this case. It is US v. Londonio, et al, 17-cr-89 (CS).

From May, in Manhattan: two and a half months after Joe Cammarano and John "Porky" Zancocchio were acquitted on racketeering charges, their co defendant Eugene Castelle on May 31 was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and running a gambling business but acquitted of attempted extortion. Castelle faces sentencing on September 20.

  The three counts were read to the jury on May 30 by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. 

Before the charge the government's summation said that Castelle had been paid as a carpenter although he didn't show up for work, so that his powers with the Luchese family, with their headquarters in a social club in the Bronx showing venue, could be used.

 The jury, in their side room of Hellerstein's 14D, as of 11 am on May 31 had at least one question: they wanted the Pennesi testimony read back. Here's what the US Attorney's office announced after the jury verdict: "Between 2012 and January 2018, CASTELLE acted as a soldier in the Luchese Family of La Cosa Nostra, often referred to as the Mafia.  CASTELLE used his position in the Luchese Family to receive thousands of dollars, over multiple years, from a large-scale illegal sports betting business operating through off-shore websites in Costa Rica.  CASTELLE protected the business from other members of the Mafia, used threats of violence to collect debts owed to the business, and extorted the bookmaker for annual payments of “tribute.”  CASTELLE also committed other racketeering acts, such as holding a “no show” job as a carpenter at a construction project where he was paid a carpenter’s wages for many months without ever settting [sic] foot on the jobsite."

  The count Castelle was found not guilty on, Attempted Extortion," was set forth by the government on May 1 as: In or about 2015, Eugene Castelle, a/k/a "Boobsie, unlawfully and knowingly... used threats of force and economic harm to collect and attempt to collect payment from an individual in return for protection for physical and economic harm from members of La Cosa Nostra, a nationwide criminal organization." Not guilty. More on Patreon, here.

  In the days before the trial on May 20 Castelle's lawyer wrote to Judge Hellerstein to allow cross examination of "CW-2," saying that "in 1989, CW-2 shot and killed a young man who made the mistake of dating CW-2's girlfriend... The government now concedes that the deceases romantic rival not only did not pull a gun, but he did not even have a gun." The docket is full of redacted documents; some are simply sealed in full (as took place on May 31 in the UN bribery case that, also, should be considered racketeering - at and even by the UN). For background, see Jerry Capeci's Post and GanglandNews piece, here.

  Midday on May 31 before the jury returned with its two out of three verdict it was otherwise quiet on the 14th floor of 500 Pearl Street.

  Likewise the charging conference was a strangely intimate proceeding in a large courtroom; some glanced over at Inner City Press like, What are you doing here? But as Judge Edgardo Ramos said openly in the recent college basketball case, charging conferences are open to the Press and public. And Inner City Press covered the Cammarano trial delay, and his one closely through exhibits.

  Castelle's lawyer Gerald J. McMahon objected to the use of the word racketeering in the charge; Judge Hellerstein said the word is used in the statute. McMahon repeated cited Judge Sands' treatise on sentencing, on topics ranging from prior perjury like Mr. Romano to which way inferences should be drawn. Judge Hellerstein said, "I don't charge there, I think it's confusing."

  Judge Hellerstein grew philosophical, recounting that after 38 years in private practice he has put in 20 more years as a judge. We've covered him recently presiding over a multi lawyer pre-trial conference, swatting down objections and speaking with candor - as on the afternoon of March 5 ended with a government witness authenticating audio tapes he recorded in his pizzeria which, it seemed, one of the defendants was trying to take from him. He said he preferred Vinnie TV over Joe C. and Porky - who smiled and waved when his name was mentioned - but that he tried to get along with them, including by going to Porky's restaurant Bella Donna. He said that all the made guys were there on Fridays.

  Like a happy hour, commented Judge Alvin Hellerstein, to some laughter including among the jury. (Later Judge Hellerstein would stay to hear and grant a motion to dismissed a sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation claim against SUNY. Such is the schedule of a Federal judge.) The trial was wrapping up - and ultimately resulted in acquittal: on March 13 the jury acquitted the two of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion charges. Gina Castellano, the lead prosecutor, had said they "worked together and with other members of the mob to commit crime after crime — extortion, loan-sharking, drug dealing, assault and fraud. These two men led a sophisticated criminal organization that took whatever they wanted from whoever they wanted through intimidation,” she said. But unlike with the Millbrook Houses in The Bronx, for example, this prosecution didn't work. We'll have more on this. March 5 had ended with Stephen Sabella being questioned about racist Facebook posts and a scar his step-brother left on his head. Stephen Sabella testified that the defendant John Zancocchio gave him a black eye and a broken tooth and stole his busienss from him, some $2 million in all.

"I can't stand him," Stephen Sabella said. But he went beyond that, and posted on Zancocchio's daughter's Facebook wall insults against her bi-racial daughter. He called Zancocchio himself a "stuttering MF-er;" Zancocchio's lawyer referred to "my client's disability." He cross examined: you know her from Bella Mama Rose, right? She's a good person, right? Judge Alvin Hellerstein sustained an objected by Stephen Sabella managed to work into his response, yes she is a nice person. He said he wasn't sure how Facebook worked, how many people saw his posts.

A liquor salesman posted a photo with Zancocchio calling him a classy guy; Stephen Sabella replied online that he was surprised, unless the salesman meant a thief and robber. When Stephen Sabella was beaten up a second time outside his home he decided to cooperate with the government. But, he admitted, he continued with a gambling book and some drug sales, "just marijuana," he said. Asked if his father was arrested in Florida for cocaine he followed Judge Hellerstein's sustaining the government's objection and did not answer.

Still one wondered how this might hurt his credibility with the jury, one of whose members told Judge Hellerstein that Stephen Sabella's name was mis-spelled in the transcripts that were passed out to the jurors. Stephen Sabella explaining his own calls was one thing - but another government witness was asked to authenticate a series of calls about "meet you in twenty minutes," "I can't hear you I'll call you right back" and the like. At one point classical hold music came one and Judge Hellerstein quipped, Is Mozart a part of this case? Cammarano's laughed followed suit, saying "I object." Perhaps the music was Vivaldi.

Judge Hellerstein's is a classy court room, where he has waxed poetic of defendants like Norman Seabrook and Murray Huberfelt, why do good people do bad things. The phrase has yet to be heard in this trial. Earlier on March 4, the government put on the stand an expert on La Cosa Nostra, to whom the defendants objected without avail. He described a system in which proposed new "made men" must be circulated to all of the five families to see if there is any objection, akin to the silence procedure in the UN Security Council with its five permanent members. Because of the high level of incarceration, a previous rule of new members only being allowed in to replace deceased one has been waived - each year, each family can bring in an additional two members. Similarly, the requirement that made men be 100% Italian has been changed such that only the father must be Italian. He said surveillance of wakes is "of incredible value to law enforcement.. The understanding is visual, a hierarchy, you put the dots together." And slowly, perhaps too slowly, in this SDNY courtroom, the dots are being put together. Back on February 28, beyond testimony by the Business Integrity Commission now looking in sham unions, the head of security for the Peninsula Hotel certified the one-night stay of Zancocchio for a mere $295, saying the normal rate was $795. Zancocchio's lawyer on cross established that the three other couples staying at 700 Fifth Avenue in the Peninsula that night each paid with their own credit card, including yesterday's carting witness William Cioffi. Then a retired NYPD detective Kevin Hui, now with FSA Capital, came on to describe his surveillance of a one story building next to a car wash on March 22, 2015. Thus are cases built - or not. On February 27 Cioffi  described in great detail how demolition debris was dumped on a construction site on Staten Island. There was a price war on such dumping, and a company called Silver Star stopped paying. And so the witness or rather his wife signed checks to the site's owner; the witness signed a non prosecution agreement and now testified again Cammarano today in a sweater and Zancocchio whose last name he said he never knew. TD Bank handled the funds; the Peninsula Hotel was a place to stay overnight in Manhattan. The trial is motoring along, the prosecution said. Even ending the week on Thursday at 4 pm, the government's evidence will conclude next Wednesday. But what might the defense have up its (sweater) sleeve? Earlier on February 27 Judge Alvin Hellerstein disallowed several of the questions of Zancocchio's lawyer John Meringolo. Judge Hellerstein has told the jury to be sure not to read anything written about the case or broadcast, presumably including Periscope live-streams. Two audio captures of initial government witness Lovaglio were disallowed, one with U.F. a/k/a Unidentified Female a/k/a "my ex-fiance" as the prosecution said Lovaglia called her. There will be ten to twenty more minutes of cross, ten minutes of re-direct. Judge Hellerstein has requested a glossary of names, or a chart with photographs like "before the age of automation." But the prosecution and defense couldn't agree to what should go in the chart. The chart or easel or something like it will be part of summations. For now the trial continues: watch this site.  When Lovaglio described his current eight year New York State jail sentence he recounted being insulted by the step son of the owner of a sushi restaurant owner on Staten Island. "I assaulted him with a glass," Lovaglio deadpanned. The man's eye no longer works, and he would not accept money to make the criminal complaint go away. Now Lovaglio is suing his NYPD handler for telling him not to take a lesser plea, for assuring him he wouldn't do a day in jail. He is in a "private detention facility." Judge Hellerstein wanted to know what they meant. It's a private prison.

  Later in the morning, after several audio tapes Lovaglio recorded while wearing a wire for the government were played, he was asked to confirm that the Bonanno crime family used hand signals to refers to some people: an ear tug, the chin, and for the named defendant Joe Cammarano, a hand sweeping over the top of the head. Why, Judge Hellerstein asked.

  "Because he has nice hair," Lovaglio shrugged. Cammarano and some sitting behind him laughed, seemingly with pride. Listening to Lovaglio try to get associates to talk for his audio recorder, one wondered if the jury will wonder if he isn't playing them, too. But if he lies he loses the prospect of the Fed's helping him on the racketeering he's pled to, with the 5K letter.  Watch this site.  On February 26 when Lovaglio described a loan of $200,000 at four percent a week and mentioned a "Johnny Sideburns" whose photograph was put on-screen for the jury, Judge Hellerstein had two questions. "Where are the sideburns?" he asked. There were none in the photo.   

"We just give nicknames," Lovaglio said. When Hellerstein said that a weekly interest rate of four points was 100% a year, Lovaglio deadpanned, I think it's more, Judge. And so it is: not unlike the payday loans that the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is settling on without restitution...


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