On the FBI surveillance tape played in court, the jury heard the gurgling sounds of men standing at urinals.
In the men's room of the Chop House Restaurant in Gibbsboro, N.J., a tipsy mobster named Anthony Staino was overhead warning a sleazy financial planner named "Dino" what would happen if he didn't repay a $25,000 mob loan with the astronomically high interest rate of 144 percent.
"If you fuck with me, you know what's gonna happen, right?" Staino was overheard telling Dino amid the sounds of flushing urinals. "Don't fuck with me."
Dino's real name was David Sebastiani; he's a certified public accountant and an undercover FBI agent. And while he was standing at the urinal in 2004, Dino was wearing a wire that not only recorded the watery sounds of the men's room, but also a successful FBI sting operation.
On the first surveillance tape played in court, Dino was telling Staino he needed a bodyguard for the money laundering operation he ran out of Elite Business Services on Fellowship Road in Mount Laurel, N.J. Dino was interested in hiring Vincent Filipelli, a former bodybuilder who used to be the bodyguard of jailed mob boss John Stanfa.
On tape, Staino is heard using corporate takeover language to tell Dino about the South Philly mob
war of the 1990s. Staino described the mob faction led by Skinny Joey Merlino as IBM, and he labeled the Stanfa faction as GE.
"I'm IBM, and IBM took over GE," Staino told Dino. "Two different companies. Here's our company; there's the bad company. The bad company gets taken over. I'm with the good company. I'm on the board of directors ... I'm like the CFO."
Sticking with his corporate takeover metaphor, Staino told Dino Filipelli was available for hire. "He was with GE," Staino said of Filipelli, but now, "he's with me."
On the witness stand, FBI Agent Sebastiani testified he was pleased to hear Staino's reaction, because he thought Filipelli would make an ideal bodyguard for reasons of "sheer intimidation." Even though Dino never got around to actually hiring Filipelli.
"Let's go to dinner in Delaware," was mob lingo for I need to see my loan shark, Sebastiani told the jury.
So after Sebastiani proposed going out to dinner in Delaware, on Aug. 4, 2004, he met Staino and another mobster, Robert Ranieri, at the Chop House in Gibbsboro. They had drinks and appetizers at the bar.
Then, everybody went to the mens' room. It was small, about 12 by 10 feet, Sebastiani testified; two urinals and one toilet. Sebastiani and Staino hit the urinals while Ranieri leaned his back against the door, so nobody else could come in.
Sebastiani told Staino he didn't want to fuck with him, he wanted to make money for him. That didn't impress the mobster.
"I don't give a fuck about money," Staino replied on the tape. He sounded sloshed, especially when he told Dino, "I love you, but I want to put it on the table." When asked by a prosecutor what that meant, Sebastiani testified, "I had to pay the money back or he'd hurt me."
On the tape played in court, Ranieri was overhead telling Dino, "Do me a favor, don't fuck with him," meaning Staino, whom Ranieri referred to as "Unc."
"I don't know you very well," Staino told Dino on the tape. "I met you in an odd situation."
"I mean no disrespect, Dean, I swear to God, if you fuck me," Staino warned, there would be retaliation. Because if Dino defaulted on the loan, "I gotta pay the consequences," Staino said on the tape.
On the witness stand, Sebastiani explained the terms of the $25,000 loan from Staino. On Sept. 1, he had to pay back $3,000 interest. On Oct. 1, he had to pay back another $3,000 in interest. And on Nov. 1, he had to pay back the entire principal of $25,000.
Sebastiani said Ranieri delivered the money during a rendezvous at the parking lot of the Chop House.
On another tape played for the jury, Ranieri is heard telling Dino, "Anthony is a fucking baby doll, you know what I mean?" Ranieri described Staino as a "great guy," but he warned, "he'll turn into fucking the devil just like that" if you screw with him.
In the parking lot, Ranieri handed Sebastiani a Post Carb Well cereal box.
"It's all in that fucking box," Ranieri said on another government surveillance tape.
Inside, Sebastiani testified he found $25,000 in cash wrapped in plastic.
On another tape, Ranieri was overheard lecturing Dino not to talk to Staino on the phone about the $25,000 loan.
"You don't say shit like that," Ranieri said.
"I didn't know," Dino said. "I fucked that up."
When Dino brought up the loan on the phone to Staino, the mobster hung up.
Sebastiani testified how he made one interest payments of $3,000 on Aug. 30, 2004. And then he decided to repay the loan early.
On Sept. 9, 2004, Ranieri stopped by Dino's Mount Laurel office wired with cameras and microphones. Sebastiani testified he repaid the loan just as Staino had directed him.
He handed Ranieri two bundles of cash, each amounting to $10,000. And then he wrote out a check to Staino for $5,000, from his bogus company. He also promised to issue the mobster a 1099.
Staino, 56, described by prosecutors as mob boss Joe Ligambi's "right-hand man," is currently in jail doing 97 months after he was convicted on racketeering and extortion charges at the last mob trial.
During a break, "Uncle Joe" joked with the FBI agent about that sting operation.
"Did you ever give the $25,000 back?" Ligambi asked. "Anthony said you kept it."
"It paid for a few college tuitions," the FBI agent replied with a smile.