Category Archives: 2000

Camden Parking Authority Probed

Courier-Post Staff

The city’s Parking Authority received a subpoena from the state Division of Criminal Justice Wednesday, less than a week after two agency employees filed a civil lawsuit that alleged financial mismanagement and bid rigging.

A division spokeswoman refused to comment on the nature of the subpoena, saying only that the authority is being investigated.

The authority’s executive director, Anthony Scarduzio, said he had heard about the subpoena from his receptionist, but had not seen it.

Scarduzio is off from work this week because his niece and his great-nephew died in an arson fire in Gloucester Township Sunday.

“We’ll give them whatever they want,” Scarduzio said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We’re anxious to cooperate.”

Carmen Otero, chairwoman of the Parking Authority Commission, said she was unaware a subpoena had been issued.

The authority’s lawyer, Carlos Morcate, did not return phone messages.

The Parking Authority is an independent city agency that oversees and operates two garages, 10 lots and 800 meters.

The five-member commission is appointed by the mayor and city council.

On Friday, authority employees Thomas Del Rosario and Joseph Bowen filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Camden claiming they suffered retaliation for blowing the whistle on what they say is illegal activity within the agency.

Bowen, a property manager, was fired in August. Del Rosario, a systems specialist, was suspended without pay pending a hearing.

The far-reaching lawsuit includes accusations that Scarduzio tipped off a favored vendor about another vendor’ s low bid in exchange for box seats to sporting events.

It also alleges Scarduzio looked the other way when Bowen complained about another employee skimming money off parking meter collections.

Scarduzio has described the suit as insider bickering and said Bowen is in fact the one who tried to steer business to his personal associates.

The Parking Authority had seemed to be back on track after spending years under the state’s watch because of corruption and mismanagement.

In 1993, it went $1 million into debt, which forced the state to take it over in September 1994. The state handed over control to the city in 1997.


In Camden, Another Mayor Is Indicted on Corruption Charges

CAMDEN, N.J., March 30— The ills of this desperate city deepened today with the indictment of its mayor, Milton Milan, on 19 charges of corruption, ranging from laundering drug money and taking bribes from organized crime leaders to stealing his own computer, collecting the insurance and then selling it to a naive office volunteer for three times its worth.

Mr. Milan, who was elected in 1997, is the third Camden mayor to be indicted in the last 20 years. He was ensnared in a rolling investigation into drug dealing and official corruption that federal officials have conducted for more than a year. As one defendant after another pointed the finger at Mr. Milan, the expectation grew that he would one day follow them into the dock.

This morning, trailing a parade of Cabinet members, other city officials and friends, the mayor walked the two blocks from City Hall to the new federal courthouse on Cooper Street to surrender to a United States marshal. He was handcuffed, and entered a plea of not guilty. After he was released on $150,000 bail, Mr. Milan was jaunty at a news conference on the courthouse steps in which he said the charges against him were unfounded and insisted that he would not step down.

”I’m a fighter; I’ve always been a fighter,” said Mr. Milan, 37, who was wearing a Camden Library team jacket. ”And just because you get hit once and fall down doesn’t mean I’m not going to get up and keep fighting.”

Later, Robert J. Cleary, the United States attorney for New Jersey, was just as combative. ”The mayor designed his pay-for-play system for his own selfish benefit, and the rest of the public be damned,” Mr. Cleary read from a statement that touched on elements of the indictment. ”He put the office of mayor in this city up for sale, and anything you wanted, you could buy from him. You want a contract? Buy him a car. You want to get paid faster? Install windows in his house. You want a job? Bribe the mayor.”

The maximum penalties for all 19 counts add up to 119 years in prison, said Renee M. Bumb, the assistant United States attorney and a lead prosecutor in the investigation of Mr. Milan. If convicted, the mayor could also face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

In all, 16 local men have been convicted or pleaded guilty to narcotics distribution in the federal investigation. In addition, the city’s former municipal prosecutor, Joseph S. Caruso, has admitted to conspiring with Mr. Milan to solicit a $5,000 campaign contribution from the public defender, an action that forms one of the counts in today’s indictment. And Mr. Milan’s business partner in the Atlas Construction Company, Gholam Joseph Darakshan, was indicted two weeks on charges that he laundered drug money with the mayor.

The mayor has his supporters on the City Council, but this afternoon several Council members said they would try to seek enough votes to force Mr. Milan to step down. Legally, he can remain in office unless he is convicted.

Mr. Milan’s indictment is one more blow to Camden, the poorest city in New Jersey. With most of its jobs and money having fled to suburbs like Cherry Hill in the last 40 years, the city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy last summer and required a state financial rescue, along with spending controls. Many city police functions have been taken over by state troopers, and Camden’s failing schools were recently investigated by state officials, who urged financial and educational reforms.

Mr. Milan’s predecessor, Arnold B. Webster, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges in 1998 and was sentenced last August to six months’ house arrest and three years’ probation. An earlier mayor, Angelo J. Errichetti, was convicted of federal corruption charges and went to prison in 1981.

Mr. Milan, the city’s first Hispanic mayor, rose from poverty in Camden to start his own construction company. He ran as an outsider for City Council and, after being embraced by the Camden County Democratic Party, was elected mayor.

His indictment was handed up by a grand jury on Wednesday, and an arrest warrant was issued this morning. The crimes he is accused of committing either before or after he became mayor fall into six broad categories: fraud, accepting bribes, attempted extortion, wire and mail fraud, illegal currency transactions and money laundering. And perhaps the most serious of the charges — one that Mr. Cleary hammered at a news conference — was the accusation that the mayor was involved in taking bribes from associates of the Philadelphia organized crime boss Ralph Natale.

Although today’s indictment was voluminous, it did not mention any of the accusations of drug dealing by the mayor that several of the convicted dealers had made from the stand. And although Mr. Milan is accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash and services, the federal document paints a picture of a corrupt mayor with small-bore ambitions to skim a dollar here and a dollar there — a trip to Florida with his girlfriend, some free carpet for his home — rather than a man bent on a grand criminal scheme.

The indictment charges that Mr. Milan began accepting bribes from an unnamed associate of Mr. Natale as early as March 1996. In exchange, it alleges, Mr. Milan helped crime figures win city contracts that directly benefited Mr. Natale.

In all, Mr. Milan took more than $30,000 from the Philadelphia mobster’s organization by trying to funnel city business to Cosa Nostra operatives, the indictment alleges. Mr. Natale is in prison on a narcotics conspiracy conviction, and newspaper reports have said he is cooperating with federal agents in their Camden investigation.

For example, the indictment alleges that on Oct. 30, 1997, the mayor met in his office with a Natale associate, called an unindicted co-conspirator by federal officials, to discuss the associate’s desire to win a contract to be a collector of fines and other charges by the Camden Municipal Court. When the city’s chief judge later objected to the contract, the mayor wrote a letter asking him to reconsider, and a week later the Natale associate, called Individual No. 2 in the indictment, paid $1,433 for the mayor’s Florida vacation, the indictment alleges.

The indictment also says that the mayor accepted two vehicles from a towing operator with a contract with the city, and that a second contractor seeking city work performed a garage demolition worth $4,000 and installed $700 worth of carpet in the mayor’s home.

A third contractor is said to have installed 25 new windows in the mayor’s North Camden home for the cost of materials only, in exchange for getting speedier payment from the Camden Housing Services Department. In another count, a city heating and air-conditioning contractor is said to have installed a $3,346 central air-conditioning system in the mayor’s home.

The money-laundering charge accuses Mr. Milan of borrowing $65,000 in drug money and then, with his partner Mr. Darakshan, parceling the money out to numerous friends to evade the $10,000 federal threshold for reporting cash deposits. The friends then wrote checks in the amount given them to Atlas Contracting, and the money was used as a surety deposit on a home-building project, the indictment says.

The mayor collected $4,743 in insurance for a staged theft at the Atlas Construction office in 1997, the indictment charges. He then sold one of the ”stolen” computers, worth $500, to a mayoral intern for $1,500, the United States attorney said.

”These crimes, described in painstaking detail, show a mayor more interested in serving himself than serving the people of Camden,” Mr. Cleary said in a statement, adding later, ”We believe this indictment is an important step forward for Camden.”

Photo: Mayor Milton Milan of Camden, N.J., on his motorcycle, said the charges against him were unfounded. (Associated Press)

Former New Jersey mob boss takes witness stand against Camden mayor

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2000


CAMDEN, N.J. {AP} Mob boss Ralph Natale used code names when he talked on the telephone. Whenever he discussed Mafia business at his apartment, he would crank up the TV or the radio. At his “office” a restaurant at a racetrack he would whisper or take associates for a walk down the hall. “And I was right, because I’m sitting here,” he said earlier this month, eliciting chuckles from a standing-room-only crowd in the federal courtroom where he testified for the government in the corruption trial of Camden Mayor Milton Milan.

The former boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob has become the highest-ranking American Mafia figure ever to turn government witness.

Natale began cooperating with prosecutors in 1999 after being charged with running a methamphetamine ring. Apparently, Natale wasn’t paranoid enough: His telephone had been tapped, his kitchen, TV room and balcony were bugged, and, worst of all, a top associate had worn a wire and recorded hundreds of conversations with Natale and other mob figures.

Milan’s trial is the first in which Natale testified. He is expected to take the stand in a series of trials that could put organized crime figures from Philadelphia to Boston behind bars.

During four days on the stand, Natale, 65, pleasantly explained the workings of the underworld to jurors and a gallery that included mob wives and girlfriends, FBI agents, and attorneys of former associates.

Natale was a mix of braggadocio and charm full of hubris one moment, contrition the next as he detailed his efforts to tuck the mayor of New Jersey’s poorest city into his pocket.

A fit-looking figure with a shaved head, a gray goatee and crisp, tailored suits, Natale sometimes bragged about his prestige and position, and told of how his underlings needed his approval before acting.

In a 1996 conversation recorded by the FBI at his apartment in Pennsauken, a city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Natale talked about beating up some guy “cause he answered me in a tone that he wasn’t supposed to be doing.”

Natale told of how friends and associates would keep their distance from him to avoid overhearing any conversations. “When I always talk to anyone, being the boss of the Mafia, they would never stand too close to me,” he said. “They would always stand 5 or 6 feet away.”

Natale detailed for jurors how, through an intermediary, he gave $30,000 to $50,000 to Milan to steer city contracts to mob-backed businesses. The bagman, Daniel Daidone, allegedly gave the money to Milan in $100 bills in white envelopes.

“I wouldn’t insult the man by giving him 20s,” Natale said.

Natale said he wanted Milan to be beholden to him. “I wanted him to feel he had to rely on me and nobody else,” Natale said. “If he had a headache, I would send him an aspirin.”

Under cross-examination by one of Milan’s lawyers, Natale admitted involvement in nearly a dozen murders committed as retaliation, during battles for control or simply to save face.

“Failure to pay homage to you was a death sentence, correct?” asked Carlos A. Martir Jr.

“Correct,” Natale answered.

The defense failed to rattle him. When pressed to remember a date, he said with a shrug and a grin, “If I thought I was going to be up here, I would have marked it down.”

Milan, 38, is accused of taking payoffs from mob figures and others seeking contracts or favorable treatment, and laundering drug mon Prosecutors are still presenting their case.

The mayor has denied the allegations and has said all along that the government “made a deal with the devil.” After Natale took the stand, Milan said: “The devil himself came up to testify.”

Natale pleaded guilty in May to murder, attempted murder, extortion, gambling and drug trafficking. Prosecutors have said he would be spared the death penalty. He could get up to life in prison instead.

He is expected to testify next year against his reputed handpicked successor as mob boss, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, whose lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., was unimpressed with Natale as a witness.

Jacobs gave the government credit for “cleaning up” Natale, but called his testimony “fiction.”

“It’s theater,” he said. “The government has dressed him up, taught him to enunciate, glossed over his criminal background and his propensity for violence. None of that means he’s telling the truth.”

Natale said it was the looks on his family members’ faces when he went to court on the methamphetmaine charges a few years ago that made him decide to give up his life of crime.

“I found out, truly, what I did to them, and right then and there, I did enough for La Cosa Nostra,” he said. “No more. I said, ‘If there’s any life left for me, I’ll give it to that family. No more La Cosa Nostra.”‘

Original Source:

“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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