“Keep your mouth shut and remember you have a pretty daughter in Suffern.”
That was a mob threat made to Paul Rigo, an engineer in Newark, NJ, who’d been subpoenaed to testify about a loan he’d made to the then mayor of Newark, Hugh Addonizio. The day Rigo was subpoenaed to appear before the county grand jury, he found another note in his car:
“This could have been a bomb. Keep your mouth shut.”
So Rigo lied to the grand jury. But the panel kept calling him back. Meanwhile, IRS agents started poring over his books.
“I had . . . a three-way squeeze going,” he explained later. “Boiardo’s people on one hand. I had the Essex County grand jury on the other. And I had, now, the federal people in the act. I was getting desperate.”
Rigo caved under the pressure and decided to co-operate with the feds. A meeting was setup with Frederick B. Lacey, the then, newly appointed, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey. But two days later Rigo received an anonymous telephone call:
“Keep the hell away from the federal building!”
This time Rigo fled to Acapulco, Mexico. Another meeting was setup for Rigo to meet with Lacey and Stern, but this time in Washington, DC. Rigo flew to DC and finally met them.
“He told his story,” Stern continues, “these long, involved payoffs over years, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash systematically being paid over to public officials through organized-crime figures. He kept diaries that were coded, in which he made notations of how much he was paying to whom. Agents of the Internal Revenue Service went and got them. It was basically the IRS that was supplying the manpower at this point.”
Lacey and Stern then corroborated Rigo’s account with testimony from other witnesses. One of these witnesses was murdered by the mafia before the trial.
Even Lacey received numerous death threats. An assistant in his office received an anonymous tip that his son would be beaten up. Lacey’s mother’s home had been burglarized. For months Lacey and his family lived under armed guard. Lacey said at the time:
“They have already learned that my office cannot be fixed. It cannot be influenced. And I tell them now, it cannot be intimidated.”
The vigorous work of Frederick B. Lacey and his deputy Herbert J. Stern, lead to the prosecution of most of the executive government of the city of Newark for receiving numerous bribes from organized crime. These included the mayor, the public works director, the corporation counsel and members of city council.
Frederick B. Lacey went on to become a federal judge and died recently on Saturday, Aril 1st, after a brief illness at his home in Naples, Florida. He was 96.
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PS – This article was written with excerpts from the book: Tiger in the Court