Chroniclers of Mob activity know that members of La Cosa Nostra historically need legitimate people to assist in its underworld operations. The Mafia has always sought legitimacy through its connections. It needs lawyers and businessmen to open doors and facilitate business for its members.
It needs friends in high places.
One thing Cerrella said about Albert Miniaci in the phone conversation with Rabito stands out. He said, according to MIU transcripts, that Albert Miniaci "knows us."
It's a statement that seems to imply a history with, or at least a knowledge of, the reputed mobsters. A trail of corporate and court papers shows there is indeed a history of dealings between reputed Mafia members and the Miniaci family -- through Dominick Miniaci -- that goes beyond their foray with the Genovese crime syndicate.
The names that come up are well-known not only in South Florida organized crime history but also across the country. Included in the list are the sons of Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, who, before he was gunned down in the street by John Gotti's soldiers, also went by another name: the Godfather, the top boss of the Gambino crime family.
The history also includes a popular restaurant chain called Bobby Rubino's, which has a mobster-ridden past, according to federal prosecutors.
"This is so unbelievable," said attorney Mastriana, when told of the MIU investigation and the Miniacis' involvement. "I have never seen guys who are so unselfish. And in their business dealings, what I've seen has been nothing but forthright. I hope they can do something to dispel this."
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.