A federal judge's threat to throw the book against a sweet-talking 44-year-old con man with a laundry list of prior convictions has had the desired effect -- at least from the government's point of view. The guy got scared straight, and immediately turned on the mob.
Sources say that within days of learning that Manhattan Judge Colleen McMahon was going to hammer him with a tougher than usual sentence, Daniel White decided to cooperate. This summer he was quickly spirited out of his federal lockup in Brooklyn and relocated to a location where he could be debriefed by mob-busting FBI agents.
As a result of White's new-found patriotism, Angelo S. (Junior) Ruggiero, a second generation Gambino family mobster -- and long time buddy of onetime acting boss John (Junior) Gotti -- was hit last month with witness tampering charges in an indictment linked to the murder and racketeering case that Junior Gotti beat last year. In the companion case, which was transferred from Tampa to Brooklyn, two Queens mob associates, John A. Burke and David D'Arpino, are charged with murdering a drug dealer for the former Junior Don in 1996.
Ruggiero, who is presently serving eight years for murder conspiracy and extortion charges, allegedly conspired with D'Arpino to prevent a cooperating witness from testifying against a third codefendant while the three gangsters were all housed together in the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Prosecutors Jacquelyn Rasulo and Whitman Knapp say Ruggiero, 38, continued his involvement in the conspiracy after he was shipped out to a Georgia federal prison. That's where he was doing time for plotting to kill a baker who was suspected of having an affair with the wife of Vincent Gotti, the youngest brother of the late John Gotti.
Ironically, the codefendant whom Ruggiero and D'Arpino were allegedly trying to help, mob associate James Cadicamo, copped a plea deal to racketeering conspiracy charges. He was sentenced in October to 105 months by Brooklyn Federal Judge Sterling Johnson.
Sources tell Gang Land that White, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud last year, had been a cellmate of Cadicamo's and told authorities in July that he was privy to efforts by Cadicamo and the others to intimidate the unidentified witness. The sources add that White also reported corrupt activities by MDC correction officers who helped the "mob guys" smuggle contraband into the federal lockup.
Regarding White's allegations, this much checks out: The Bureau of Prisons confirms he was housed at the MDC from March of last year -- around the same time that Cadicamo arrived there from Tampa after his case was shifted to Brooklyn -- until last July 23. His "release" came three days after Judge McMahon told him in no uncertain terms that the maximum 71 months that was recommended for him was a far cry from what she was going to give him, "especially as the crime of bank fraud was so serious that it carries a maximum possible sentence of 30 years."
Among other things, wrote McMahon, White had continued his bank fraud schemes -- they reaped less than $200,000 -- even after he was arrested and jailed by manipulating and corrupting "other persons, none of whom had records like the defendant's and two of whom had no record at all, to carry out aspects of the crime."
McMahon wasn't done. She also called White "a habitual liar and thief with 14 convictions for various larcenous-type offenses to his credit covering a total of 16 separate cases." She noted that he also had threatened a former girlfriend who ultimately pleaded guilty and had "proven again and again that (he) is immune to the lessons of punishment."
White's layer, Erika Edwards, declined to confirm or deny whether her client was cooperating, stating only that White's sentencing had been postponed indefinitely.
Meanwhile, as authorities continue to investigate corruption allegations against correction officers, the new charges against Ruggiero have caused a bit of a problem for lawyer James Froccaro, who has represented both Ruggiero and Cadicamo in the past, and currently represents D'Arpino.
In court papers, prosecutors Rasulo and Knapp question whether Froccaro has conflicts of interest that should disqualify him from the case. They note that the lawyer's prior representations of Ruggiero and Cadicamo could hamper his ability to do his best for D'Arpino, since he will be precluded from using any dirt he knows about his former clients to help D'Arpino.
A hearing to resolve that issue is scheduled for next week, when Ruggiero is also due to be arraigned on the witness tampering charges. There is still no trial date set in the two year old case.