After Roettger sentenced Cerrella, the mobster was rumored to have put out a $300,000 contract on the judge's life. Roettger said he was informed by the FBI that Cerrella allegedly put out a hit on him. The judge was never hurt, but the taxpayers got touched for an estimated $4 million, the tab for three years of around-the-clock protection for him.
"It was constant, nonstop," Roettger now says of the security he received. "But I don't think about [Cerrella] very much any more."
The seriousness with which the federal government took the rumored murder conspiracy was proof that when Cerrella talked, people listened, even federal judges.
The MIU was listening on May 20 of last year.
Agents armed with the court's approval for a wiretap listened to Cerrella, the reputed mobster, talk on the phone to Dominick Miniaci, the respected man of the community.
The agents were investigating a recent Genovese crime-family push into Broward County, a racketeering enterprise they say included a slew of serious crimes ranging from bookmaking to battery. MIU Director Kenneth Staab says the massive investigation, which has enlisted some 60 police officers and is still going on after three years, proved that the Genovese family has become the dominant Mafia family in Fort Lauderdale and shows "the scope and influence locally of the Genovese crime family and their associates, as well as their association with other racketeers and criminals."
Leading the Genovese charge in South Florida, Staab says, was Cerrella and fellow Genovese soldier Vinnie Romano, a convicted felon who happens to live in Tamarac.
Cerrella, Romano, and their many associates were earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in their bookmaking enterprise, investigators say. They were also suspected to have secretly had their hands in several nightclubs, in illegal gambling machines, in extortion of various kinds, and in at least one beating.
Dominick Miniaci, for his part, was handling licensing matters for a nightclub called Fever at 1421 Oakland Park Blvd., which used to be Studio 51. Investigators were convinced that the club was secretly being run by the mobsters Cerrella and Romano.
"How are you buddy?" Cerrella asked Miniaci.
"I'm OK," Miniaci answered.
Cerrella then told Miniaci about a phone call his daughter, Felicia Cerrella Schefer, had received. Schefer, who was officially listed as an owner of Fever, had been called by a state alcoholic-beverage agent who asked if her father was running the club.
Neither Dominick Miniaci nor John Cerrella knew they were on tape when Miniaci told Cerrella: "You don't want to say nothing, OK? Nothing at all."
"I won't speak to nobody, but I want to speak to that lawyer," Cerrella replied. "Because he's a fucking wuss anyway."
"Yeah," said Miniaci.
The lawyer to whom Cerrella was referring was never identified on the tape. Miniaci ended his conversation by calling the mobster "my friend."
That conversation is now part of the criminal case against Cerrella, Romano, Schefer, and two other partners in Fever who are accused of filing false reports with the state to hide Cerrella's and Romano's interests in the club. Dominick Miniaci hasn't been charged but is still a subject of the ongoing investigation, according to Cindy Imperato, a prosecutor assigned to the case.
One issue that prosecutors have investigated regarding the taped phone conversation: Was Dominick Miniaci simply telling a client to use his constitutional right to remain silent, or was he contributing to a criminal conspiracy to hide Cerrella's alleged ownership of Fever?
Imperato said the answer to that question hasn't yet been determined.
Miniaci's involvement with Cerrella didn't end with the phone calls. Miniaci Enterprises -- the officers of which include Dominick Miniaci, Albert Miniaci, and their mother Rose Miniaci -- loaned $20,000 to Cerrella's daughter to help buy the club, according to MIU reports.
Miniaci Enterprises also loaned John Cerrella $25,000 personally, according to court documents. Exactly what the $25,000 was for hasn't been determined by investigators. Dominick Miniaci's law firm had promissory notes drawn up for the loans, which would be paid back at 12 percent interest.
The charge against the Fever owners -- which is part of a 49-count racketeering indictment filed by the MIU after their Genovese crime-family investigation -- is that they filed false documents to hide the ownership of Cerrella and Romano.