By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Both Albert and Dominick Miniaci, who were contacted repeatedly by New Times to answer questions about the investigation, refused to comment. Instead their attorney, Ira Marcus, warned of a lawsuit.
When asked if he felt that the Miniacis had made a mistake by doing business with a reputed mobster like Cerrella, Marcus answered: "I'm sure they regret that some reporter is doing an unflattering article on them."
When asked why the Miniacis wouldn't comment, he said that any "good lawyer" would tell them not to talk about the case as Dominick Miniaci is allegedly still under investigation. "The Miniacis are a legitimate family, and they only deal with legitimate family enterprises and that's what their comment would be," he said.
Marcus questioned the veracity of the MIU findings and pointed out that Cerrella was never charged with putting out a contract on Roettger's life. As for the millions of dollars spent protecting the judge, Marcus commented that the government is famous for wasting money.
"I think that police can be the most unreliable sources," Marcus said, "because they can say anything they want. None of these police officers have been cross-examined."
Marcus also implied that Cerrella was being treated unfairly.
"If a man is convicted of a crime ten to fifteen years ago," Marcus said, "then why can't he be involved with a legitimate businessman?"
Vinnie Romano, Cerrella's partner who allegedly helped him in everything from bookmaking to running the club Fever, is a sitter.
He'd sit in his favorite Pompano Beach restaurant, Due Amici, and eat pasta and have drinks. He'd sit and people would come and meet him and they'd kiss his cheek. Sometimes investigators watched as visitors came to him and handed him envelopes and bags. He didn't know that the MIU had secretly installed video cameras in the restaurant.
One of the reasons Romano sits so much is that he suffers from poor circulation in his legs, and sometimes he has a hard time getting out of bed. In one transcribed phone conversation with Cerrella, Romano worried that the pain in his leg might be the "the beginning of the end." His brother, Peter Romano, died last year. He sometimes spoke on the phone of friends dying or going to prison. La Cosa Nostra has aged. In one conversation with Sam Salerno, a 77-year-old Broward County friend, they talked about how bad things were getting. Salerno lamented: "You ain't gonna hear no good news no more. Everybody's old." Salerno, according to court documents, is a former Genovese capo.
Dominick Miniaci, incidentally, has handled business deals for Sam Salerno and was named as a codefendant with the alleged capo in a couple of lawsuits involving unpaid debts. Marcus, once served as the registered agent for a company called Broward Business Brokers that listed Salerno as an officer.
"I know the gentleman," Marcus said of Salerno. "Has he broken the law? Has he ever done anything other than jaywalk?"
Investigators say Salerno has dealt with mobsters in both New York and Florida, but has indeed never been charged with any crime and has never met with notoriety -- unlike his associate, Romano.
Romano, despite his poor health and advancing age, was still wielding power in Broward County. MIU detectives overheard him saying things like: "When a guy does that, he goes to the morgue or at least gets a beating." Underlings, like Tommy DeMarco of Miami Beach, would come to him, according to the MIU, with cash gained from the bookmaking ring. Romano, who stands about six and a half feet tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds, once told him: "You got a bad attitude, Tommy. You got a bad fucking attitude. You better change it. You missed a week."
Romano and partner Cerrella were themselves answering to reputed Genovese capo Alphonse Malangone, according to the MIU. Malangone was convicted last year of extortion in a huge New York case involving private garbage companies. With Malangone in trouble, a reputed soldier named Alan Longo took over as their acting capo, according to the New York County District Attorney's Office. Longo made many trips down to Boca Raton to meet with Cerrella and Romano, according to MIU surveillance reports.
But the power Romano now has pales in comparison to what he once had in New York City. DeMarco isn't the first man to feel the intimidating powers of Romano. Many a fishmonger and truck driver has too, according to federal prosecutors. Especially when Romano was serving as the Genovese family's chief enforcer in the Fulton Fish Market, which does hundreds of millions of dollars of business in a year.
His brothers, Carmine and the late Peter Romano, ran the market for the Mob from the early '70s to the early '80s, controlling the delivery of fish and orchestrating all kinds of kickbacks and shakedowns, prosecutors alleged. Their reign ended with fish market-related racketeering convictions. Vinnie Romano was convicted in the same investigation, for filing false information on a loan application. He served six months behind bars. His brothers were sent away for 12 years. When Vinnie Romano got out of jail, he took up where his brothers left off at the fish market, according to prosecutors.