KANSAS CITY — Angelo A. Lonardo, the highest-ranking Mafia leader ever to turn government witness, told a hushed courtroom Friday how top organized crime figures conspired with Teamster Union officials in the mid-1970s to share illegally skimmed money from Las Vegas casinos.
Lonardo, 74, who signed an agreement to cooperate with the FBI last August, said that Teamster leaders who personally profited from untaxed gambling proceeds included Roy L. Williams, former union president, and the late William Presser, longtime Ohio union official and father of Jackie Presser, current Teamster president. Each man got cash payments of $1,500 a month, Lonardo said.
Became Silent Partners
Lonardo appeared as the star prosecution witness in a two-month-old trial of eight alleged Mafia officials who are accused of skimming $2 million from the Stardust and Fremont casinos, in which they allegedly became silent business partners after arranging loans worth $62.7 million from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. The loans were used to purchase the casinos, both of which have since changed ownership.
During three hours of testimony, Lonardo received cold stares from the defendants sitting in the well of the courtroom, and from his brother, Frank Lonardo, sitting among the spectators. Prosecutors called it a silent attempt to rattle the witness.
Wearing tinted glasses and sporting a deep tan unusual for a man who has been imprisoned or in the custody of the FBI for two years, Lonardo said that he was first brought into discussions about the Teamsters in 1976 at the home of James Licavoli, the reputed head of the Cleveland mob.
Promoted to Underboss
Lonardo told the jury that at that time he had just been promoted to Cleveland "underboss," the No. 2 mob position in the city.
The Times disclosed in late September that Lonardo had told the FBI in a series of interviews that Mafia families in Chicago, Cleveland and New York played central roles in the selection of Jackie Presser and his immediate predecessor, Williams, as Teamster presidents.
Lonardo said Friday that in 1979 he met in Chicago with three of the trial's defendants--Milton Rockman, 73, of Cleveland, and Joseph Aiuppa, 77, and Jackie Cerone, 71, both of Chicago.
"Nick Civella (the late Kansas City mob leader) was interested in getting Roy Williams as Teamster president and Jackie Presser would become a trustee of the Central States Pension Fund," he testified.
"Rockman and I told them we could have a lot of favors from the Central States Pension Fund through Roy Williams and Presser."
Cut in Sentence Sought
Lonardo is hoping through his cooperation to get a reduction in a life sentence he received in 1983 after his conviction on drug and conspiracy charges, government sources said.
The owner of the Stardust and Fremont casinos at the time of the alleged massive skimming, San Diego businessman Allen Glick, has testified that he became the "victim" and unwitting partner of underworld figures after purchasing the casinos with Teamster pension fund money.
Glick said that the Mafia threatened his life as well as the lives of his children if he failed to install an associate of the mob as his chief operating officer.
Lonardo testified that Rockman and another defendant, Frank Balistrieri, 67, of Milwaukee played key roles in the skimming operation.
Picked Up Packages
He said that he accompanied Rockman, his brother-in-law, to Chicago on three occasions to pick up packages of skim money as the Cleveland mob's $40,000-monthly share. The packages were given to Rockman in a restaurant parking lot by a mob courier, Anthony Chiavoli, Lonardo said.
Lonardo testified that Williams and the senior Presser received monthly payments in the late 1970s because they had used their influence to obtain Teamster pension fund loans for the Stardust and Fremont casinos.