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United States v. Calabro

decided: September 21, 1972.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JOSEPH CALABRO ET AL., APPELLANTS



Moore, Smith and Timbers, Circuit Judges.

Author: Smith

J. JOSEPH SMITH, Circuit Judge.

The testimony at this lengthy, multidefendant trial revealed the existence of a large, well-organized, long-term scheme to "pass dirty paper," that is, to forge and cash stolen obligations of various sorts in and around the New York area. Each of the eight appellants was convicted on one or more counts of forging and uttering United States Series E Savings Bonds and United States postal money orders, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 495 or of conspiring to commit those offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, after a trial by jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Jacob Mishler, Chief Judge.)*fn1 Seven of the appellants were sentenced to terms of imprisonment, ranging in length from a year and a day to ten years; one was placed on probation.*fn2 Two co-defendants, Charles Graham and Richard Marabetti, pleaded guilty and testified for the government at trial. A ninth co-defendant found guilty, Joseph Chilli, did not appeal. Certain of the defendants claim that the evidence was insufficient to convict them, and all claim that numerous errors, some of constitutional magnitude, occurred during the course of the trial. We find that none of the claims warrants reversal and affirm the judgment below.

I. THE FACTS

The testimony, primarily by Graham and Marabetti, longtime accomplices of the defendants, and by Martha Lane, Faye Rushford, Marie Matthews, and Carol Rabinow, women who played a more fleeting role in the organization, revealed that Leonard Conforti (sometimes referred to herein as "Leonard") and Steven Insalaco (a co-defendant who pleaded guilty during trial and whose case was then severed) were managers of a large "business" which forged and uttered stolen obligations; this indictment covers transactions in postal money orders and valid executed and blank unexecuted Series E Savings Bonds. The organization was multi-leveled; at the top were Leonard and Insalaco, who directed the operation and took a percentage of all proceeds from the cashing of the bonds and money orders. Most of the paper was purchased outright or on consignment from Joseph Calabro, though some drifted in from other sources. Calabro was referred to by Leonard and Insalaco as "the boss," who got "a cut of all the action." The middle level in the organization was comprised of "managers," who recruited the men or women who did the actual passing, supervised their activity, and were responsible for their profits. Marabetti was active at this level, operating mainly in New Jersey; Graham, Richard Pasqua and John Roche worked in New York. John Conforti had a position somewhere between this level and the higher one; though he entered the conspiracy later than the others, he was being primed for a leadership role in the enterprise.

The "movers" or "workers," who did the actual cashing of the bonds, were generally young women, although men, such as Marc Moskowitz, were also employed. Faye Rushford, Martha Lane, Marie Matthews, and Carol Rabinow, four such "movers" who testified at trial, were sometimes paid a percentage of the amounts they cashed (10-15%) and sometimes received a stated amount for a day of cashing activity. The managers then took their share of the proceeds (from 10 to 35% depending on the person involved and the circumstances of the transaction) and passed the remainder on to Leonard and Insalaco. When the bonds were received on consignment, the supplier would be paid a percentage of the cash realized; Calabro took 17% on those obligations he supplied. To facilitate the passing of the obligations, Leonard and Insalaco purchased and supplied the managers with bogus identification papers, such as driver's licenses, draft cards, and Social Security cards; the major source of such papers was Tortorello, though Picciano also supplied some bogus identification.

The conspiracy was alleged to have run from July 1, 1966 to the filing of the indictment on March 11, 1970. Most of the incidents testified to occurred during 1967 and 1968; there was, however, proof of three episodes of cashing Savings Bonds during the summer of 1966. Michael Conforti, another brother of Leonard and John, Steven Insalaco, and Carol Rabinow were involved in those incidents. The bonds were cashed in banks in New York City; Rabinow, who did the actual cashing, received 10% of the proceeds and passed the rest to Conforti or Insalaco. Rabinow was arrested in late summer of 1966 and her involvement with the group ended at that point.

The next major series of transactions testified to occurred a year later, in the fall of 1967. In October of that year, Leonard Conforti learned of the possibility of purchasing stolen postal money orders; he and Insalaco approached Marabetti with an offer to work together cashing the orders. Leonard bought the obligations, which had been stolen from a Groveville, New Jersey post office, and the stamping machine necessary to validate them, and the three commenced forging and cashing them. Martha Lane, the woman who worked for Marabetti and actually cashed the forged orders, testified that the cashing forays began at the Black Eagle Social Club, on 31st Street in Brooklyn, the central location for the group's activities at this time. She would depart from there, generally with Marabetti, and often with Pasqua or Roche too, and drive to a series of retail stores, at each of which she would buy $20-$30 of merchandise and pay with a forged $100 money order. She was given false identification by Leonard Conforti before she left the club and returned it to him after each trip. On returning to the Black Eagle, she gave the proceeds of the cashing to Leonard, Insalaco or Marabetti; when the merchandise purchased was liquor, it was generally used in the club. The money order activities were brought to an abrupt halt when Lane was arrested in Bergenfield, New Jersey on December 10, 1967.

Lane was immediately released on bail and testified that she was present at a conversation the day after her arrest in which Leonard and Insalaco discussed with Marabetti the possibility of venturing into United States Series E Savings Bonds instead of continuing with money orders. Marabetti and a partner of his, John Collerone, worked with Leonard, Insalaco and Pasqua during most of 1968, cashing such bonds at banks. Martha Lane, who cashed several thousand dollars worth of these bonds with Marabetti through May of 1968, testified to numerous cashing expeditions onto Long Island and in the areas surrounding New York City. During this period, she saw Calabro, described to her by Roche as "an associate of Leo and Steve's," at the Black Eagle on one occasion.

At the same time, Graham, who had been recruited in January of 1968, was building an organization of his own which also moved forged bonds dispensed by Leonard. The bonds cashed during this period were valid executed bonds stolen from the true owners and purchased from Calabro, and the "movers" forged the endorsements of the true owners when they cashed the bonds. Graham continued to work with Leonard and Insalaco during the summer of 1968, and at that time, John Conforti was first linked with the cashing activities. In the early fall, John allowed Leonard and others to use his house for typing blank bonds and apparently did some typing himself. Faye Rushford, a waitress who had come to New York in early fall on Leonard's invitation to work in Nero's Nook, a bar he operated which many of the appellants frequented, testified that John told her, a week after her arrival at the start of October, that "We steal for a living. We get bonds."

During October Leonard reportedly told Graham to teach John the business, and John recruited Rushford to work with Graham and himself. In October, Rushford cashed bonds with Graham several times, and in December, John and Graham completed the cashing of a large number of blank bonds stolen from a post office in California. Graham testified that the identification used to facilitate the cashing of several series of the bonds moved in late 1968 and listed in the indictment was supplied by Tortorello. In January of 1969, John and Graham took several trips -- to Pennsylvania to collect money from Moskowitz, who had been cashing bonds there, and to Boston to investigate the possibility of establishing operations there. During that same month, Leonard told Graham to make John his partner; they were to split the profits equally.

The last set of ventures probed at trial occurred during the fall of 1969. Marie Matthews met Pasqua and Leonard at this time and worked with them on several occasions cashing bonds in banks on the west side of Manhattan; she testified that she earned about $3,000, which was 15% of the total proceeds of the work, in her 20 to 30 trips with Leonard and Pasqua. Matthews was arrested on December 4, 1969.

Finally, Marabetti testified that when he was released from jail in January of 1970, having completed a term on a related charge, he met with Leonard who told him that if he wanted to do any more work in the "bond ...


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