Zeuberis collects cash with Palermo
Publication Date: 08/14/91
‘Street tax’ collection impossible, wife testifies.
HAMMOND – A reputed mobster was unable to give the orders from his hospital bed to collect a “street tax” from illegal gambling operations, his wife testified Tuesday.
Stephanie Morgano took the witness stand in defense of her husband, Bernard “Snooky” Morgano, contradicting testimony offered by Anthony Leone, the man who claimed to be Morgano’s right-hand man and who collected the “street tax.”
Morgano is on trial with five other men, who the government alleges conspired to running illegal gambling businesses and extort protection money from other gambling operations, all for the benefit of the Chicago “Outfit” organized crime family.
Stephanie Morgano was one of a handful of witnesses defense lawyers put on the stand for the first time Tuesday. One additional witness is expected today to be called each by the defense and the government. Closing arguments will follow, with the jury likely to begin deliberating later this evening.
Leone testified Monday that after Morgano’s life-threatening heart attack on April 16, 1986, he visited Morgano daily in the hospital to talk about collections. He said Morgano’s wife told him after the heart attack to call another defendant, Nicholas “Jumbo” Guzzino, and ask him to “take over.”
Stephanie Morgano said only family members were allowed to see Morgano, who underwent heart surgery and was unable to talk because his tongue was hanging out of one side of his mouth and a tube was in the other side. Leone, she said, is not related to the Morgano family.
She also denied telling Leone to call Guzzino. She said after her husband was discharged from the hospital, she asked Leone to take him for a ride in the car to help shake the depression and fear that overtook him after the heart attack.
She also helped the defense by offering another explanation about “getting rid of Pete,” saying they had a hunting dog they had to get rid of because the dog couldn’t hunt.
Leone testified that Morgano disliked Pete “Cadillac Pete” Petros and wanted to get rid of him. Co-defendants Petros and Sam “Frog” Glorioso allegedly collected the “street tax” with Leone. Leone was charged with the other defendants, but pleaded guilty and testified against them.
As for the frequent meetings at the Taste of Italy restaurant in Calumet City, where Morgano met with Guzzino and another defendant, Dominick Palermo, the reputed territorial boss for the Outfit, Stephanie Morgano said her husband would cook at the restaurant.
“Nicky (Guzzino) was a good cook,” she said. She said her husband would come home after the lunch time meetings and tell her about what they cooked.
Like Morgano’s wife, defense witnesses who testified Tuesday offered other explanations for some of the actions of the defendants.
Frank Zeuberis, a field representative for International Laborers Local 5 in Chicago Heights, said he rode daily with Palermo between 1987 and 1990 as the two collected union dues from construction workers throughout northern Illinois.
Zeuberis said it was their job to collect money from construction workers who had not joined the union. Most of the payments were cash, and at times they would meet workers in restaurants to collect, he said.
However, under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Thill, Zeuberis said he never went to the Taste of Italy restaurant during the lunch hour with Palermo.
FBI agents who conducted surveillance and placed a hidden microphone in the Calumet City restaurant in 1987 recorded numerous lunch meetings with Palermo, Guzzino, Morgano and other reputed mobsters at the restaurant owned by Guzzino’s brother Dominic.
Guzzino’s job as a field representative for the labor’s pension and insurance fund in Chicago Heights also involved collecting money, testified his former supervisor, Raymond Holheman.
Between August 1978 and December 1987, Guzzino had collected more than $2.2 million from construction employers who had failed to make pension and insurance contributions. None was in cash, Holheman said.