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2 More Witnesses Refuse to Testify at Minkow Trial

November 19, 1988|United Press International

LOS ANGELES — A reputed Mafia member and an ex-prosecutor refused to testify Friday in the securities fraud trial of former carpet cleaning entrepreneur Barry Minkow, claiming that their statements might incriminate them.

Robert Victor, a reputed member of the Colombo organized crime family, and Edward Consiglio, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, both invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in separate hearings outside the presence of the jury.

Minkow, 22, contends that Victor and others used threats and violence to force him into a complex fraud to drive up the price of the stock in ZZZZ Best, the company he founded in his parents' Reseda garage at 16. He sought their testimony to bolster that claim.

Convicted stock manipulator Maurice Rind, who Minkow claims engineered the stock fraud, refused to testify Thursday. Both Rind and Victor said they wanted to remain silent because they are still under investigation by state and federal agencies.

Consiglio refused to answer questions about his relationship with Rind. Consiglio, 48, quit the district attorney's office in March in the wake of allegations that he tipped Rind and Richard Schulman, another ZZZZ Best associate, that they were being watched by police. Rind and Schulman have not been charged in the case.

Victor, 52, of Northridge, a convicted felon who legally changed his name from Robert Viggiano, invoked the Fifth Amendment 58 times in refusing to answer questions from Minkow's lawyer, David Kenner, about his relationship with Minkow and his financial ties to ZZZZ Best before it folded in July 1987.

After U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian excused him from testifying, Victor told reporters that the allegations about his organized crime ties are "a crock" and that he never mistreated Minkow.

"It's all nonsense, utter nonsense," he said. "I was his father. My wife was his mother. He's fighting for his life, and he'll tell any lie he can. . . . All I did was treat him very nice."

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