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United States v. Cassino

decided: August 11, 1972.


Moore, Smith, and Timbers, Circuit Judges.

Author: Moore

MOORE, Circuit Judge:

Charles Cassino, Nicholas Rattenni, Eugene Curico, Vincent Malavarco, and Michael Roman appeal from judgments of conviction entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York after trial by jury before Judge Cooper. The five appellants, with seven others, were indicted on April 14, 1971, for conspiracy to violate and substantive violations of the Travel Act.*fn1 Stated simply, the indictment charged the defendants with engaging in a concerted scheme to bribe New York State policemen in order to protect illegal gambling operations in New York from official interference. We affirm the appellants' convictions.


The government's case rested upon the testimony of a senior investigator for the New York State Police, Joseph Colligan, and the agents who conducted surveillance of him and of the defendants. This testimony established the following case for the government.

A. Roman Contacts Colligan

During the afternoon of September 29, 1969, Colligan, who was assigned to the Stony Point State Police Station in Rockland County, New York, received a telephone call from Albert Parietti. Parietti asked Colligan to meet with him later in the afternoon. Colligan agreed and the two met later in the day. Parietti asked Colligan if he would meet with Michael Roman to discuss gambling operations in Rockland County. Colligan replied that he would have to consider the matter. The next day Colligan informed his superior of the conversation with Parietti.

Colligan met with Roman on October 1, 1969. This meeting was under surveillance. During the meeting Roman told Colligan that he was "authorized" to pay Colligan $500 just for sitting down and talking. "He then went on," testified Colligan, "to say that his organization had authorized him to come to see me, to make me a proposition to offer me $500 per month to protect his organization's gambling places in Rockland County."*fn2

The offer was not attractive to Colligan; he asked Roman to arrange a meeting with "his people" to discuss more lucrative offers. Roman agreed and promised Colligan that if he sat down with Roman and the "Number 1" man, he would be made an offer he could not resist.

Apprehensive about Colligan's loyalties, Roman asked him whether he was "wired" (wearing a recording device). Colligan replied no; Roman responded by stating ". . . well, what could I get out of it, six months, and then only if you could prove it."*fn3 Roman also was nervous about a gentleman sitting close by whom he believed to be one of Colligan's "people." Displaying considerable presence of mind, Colligan not only admitted this but also introduced the agent to Roman, telling the agent "Mike" was a friend of his. They then had a few drinks together.

B. Colligan Meets Number 1

On October 8, 1969, Colligan met with Roman and Number 1 in the parking lot of Christy's New Town House in Nyack, New York. Number 1 turned out to be Peter Variano, who was indicted with appellants but entered a plea of guilty prior to trial. Colligan got into Roman's car and the three drove for "a meal and some drinks" to the Las Vegas restaurant in Northvale, New Jersey. After telling Colligan that "this meeting has been a long time in coming,"*fn4 Variano said that he had a "marriage" with several New York State policemen, naming appellants Cassino, Curico, and Malavarco. Cassino was a New York State police lieutenant and member of the New York State Joint Strike Force On Organized Crime, while Curico and Malavarco were senior investigators.

At the Las Vegas, Variano proposed to Colligan that for protection of his gambling operations in Rockland County Variano would pay $1000 per month plus fringe benefits -- clothing, free trips to Las Vegas and Puerto Rico, a car, and free tickets to sports events. Colligan accepted the offer, and immediately thereafter Variano asked whether he could bring another bookmaking operation into Rockland County. Colligan responded favorably, at which point Variano told Roman to make a telephone call. While Roman was on the phone, Variano gave Colligan $1000 in hundred dollar bills. The new bookmaking operation was set up via the telephone call; Variano told Colligan that the two of them would split the proceeds from the operation and that they would probably each make $300 a week from it.

C. The Wednesday Meetings at the Las Vegas

From October 8, 1969, until the end of February, 1970, Variano and Colligan met virtually every week, usually on Wednesday evenings and usually at the Las Vegas. These meetings, occasionally attended by appellant Rattenni, generally included discussions of different aspects of Variano's gambling operations and the roles played by the various members of the state police who were being paid to protect those operations. Variano invariably paid for the food and drinks consumed and periodically gave cash payments of $1000 to Colligan, as well as assorted gifts (e.g., tickets to sporting events, clothes, a vacation to Puerto Rico).

1. The evidence of Rattenni's involvement.

At the weekly meeting of October 22, 1969, Variano told Colligan something of his relationship with Rattenni.

He [Variano] then went on, he said to me [Colligan], "People are always trying to -- people are always trying to relate me as a partner of Nicholas Rattenni's

He stated that this wasn't so, that Nick Rattenni was in the refuse business, and at times he fronted money for him, if he was hit hard on a gambling hit, that he would -- if he needed $20,000, $25,000 on a Monday morning or any day where he is hit hard on his books, that the man would give him the money.*fn5

At the meeting of November 19, 1969, Variano and Colligan were joined by Rattenni. During the evening Variano spoke of bringing a crap game into the county. Rattenni offered the following advice.


A. Mr. Rattenni told Mr. Variano that you have to go slow, you can't go too fast in the business, you take it easy and if you ran the crap game right, ran it two nights a week, that would be worth more than his business phones were at the present time.

At this time Mr. Rattenni said to Mr. Variano that "You don't expose him, don't let him get the house, you let your bookkeeper get the house for you and this way you don't expose him at all," meaning myself. Mr. Variano agreed with Mr. Rattenni that this was --

A. Mr. Variano stated to Mr. Rattenni that this was right, that he would have his bookkeeper get the house, and then Mr. Rattenni asked Mr. Variano what my part would be in the operation. Mr. Variano told Mr. Rattenni that I would ...

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