Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Mobster And His Money

By George Anastasia

Damion Canalichio onced boasted on a secretly recorded covnersation that he was in the "collection" business for the mob.

Jurors in the racketeering trial of Canalichio, mob boss Joe Ligambi and five others spent part of their deliberations today listening in on how Canalichio allegedly conducted that business.

"I'm gonna go crack his fuckin' head," Canalichio said on one tape recorded conversation from 2002 in which he discussed a deadbeat with a cooperating government witness who was wearing a body-wire.

On another tape, Canalichio's part of a phone conversation with another debtor it picked by the same cooperating witness.

"I gave you fuckin' money and you've been fuckin' me ever since," Canalichio yells into the phone. 'You're a lyin' fuckin' junkie."

The tapes were played as jurors in the case completed their 11th day of deliberations. The conversations, recorded by Michael Orlando, were played early in the 10-week trial and replayed when the jury asked to hear them again this afternoon.

Orlando, who was several thousand dollars in debt to the mob, began cooperating wtih the FBI in 2002, recording dozens of coversations. He also testified for the prosecution, but his appearance on the stand was not consdered a high point in the government's case.

His credibility, motivation for testifying and his apparently lingering drug problems were all highlighted by defense attorneys duirng cross-examination and in closing arguments. One lawyer described him as "whacked out" on the witness stand.

But it may have been Canalichio's words rather than Orlando's demeanor that the jury panel was interested in.

On the "you're a lyin' junkie" tape Canalichio berated a debtor identified only as "Stretch" who apparently owed him $1,900. He repeatedly referred to him as a junkie and heroin user and a deadbeat who had been sporadically offering to pay him $50-a-week.

Canalichio said he wasn't interested in a partial payment, telling Stretch to "go borrow the money" from somebody else and suggesting he take out a mortgage on his home.

"I didn't charge no interest," Canalichio said of the debt. "I ain't no loanshark. I want what I gave you."

While the irony is probably lost on the jury, tapes played during the trial have included two different rants by Canalichio aimed at "junkies." What the jury isn't aware of is that Canalichio has two prior federal convictions for drug dealing.

On other tapes replayed this afternoon, Orlando appears to steer the conersation about the money he owes to organized crime, asking Canalichio if "it's Uncle Joe's money?"

At first Canalichio appears to ignore the question. Later he says, "Yeah," and after a third reference by Orlando, Canalichio says, "Everything goes back to him. I mean, what the fuck."

The tapes also include Orlando pleading with Canalichio to work out a payment plan where he will be able to just pay the "juice" -- interest -- on his loan, about $150-a-week. He also asks Canalichio to intercede and get other mobsters who are harassing him about money to back off.

Canalichio says he will do what he can, telling Orlando, "I just wanna settle it, Mike. That's all."

In another conversation, Canalichio tells Orlando there is only so much he can do because, "This is Stevie's money." That is an apparent reference to mobster Steven Mazzone, who is not charged in the case but whose bookmaking and loansharking operations have been mentioned several times in testimony and on other tapes.

What the tapes played today mean in terms of the ongoing deliberations is the unanswered question.

Canalichio, like all seven defendants, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, an allegation that all seven were involved in criminal gambits that were part of a mob racket enterprise. He also faces two specific charges in the 52-count indictment, one involving the operation of an illegal video poker machine and the other charging him with a role in a sports bookmaking business.

On a tape played during the trial, but not requested today, Canalichio was recorded telling an FBI undercover agent that his role was in the "collection" end of the betting operation. The tapes played today could support that allegation.

Or they could support the defense claim that none of the conversations link Canalichio to a bookmaking operation. In her arguments, Canalichio's court-appointed attorney Margaret Grasso has contended that the evidence shows her client might be a bettor and gambler, but not a bookmaker or collector.

Jury deliberations are to resume tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. amid rumblings of a possible deadlocked or hung jury and speculation that the process might be speeded up if the jury panel was sequestered. To  date the jurors have gone home each afternoon.

A sequestration order from the judge might move the process along, some sources believe.

The jurors appear to be in no rush. Among the questions sent out today was one asking if they could leave early tomorrow in the event of a snow storm. That would seem to indicate that they already believe deliberations will spill over into next week.

George Anastasia can be contacted at

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