The Justice Department is negotiating with the attorney for one “ghost employee” involved in the labor fraud investigation of Teamsters Union President Jackie Presser in an effort to avoid disclosing details of Presser’s relationship with the FBI, The Times learned Thursday.
The talks could result in a recommendation that the defendant, Jack Nardi, serve no prison term for his role in the Cleveland payroll-padding scheme and a related extortion conviction, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Uncle Seeks Presser Data
The department previously had asked that charges be dropped against another alleged ghost worker, Presser’s uncle, Allen Friedman, after he requested a new trial and sought extensive information on Presser’s service as an FBI informant. A ruling in that case is expected next week.
But Nardi’s case is unusual because, unlike Friedman, who was convicted on embezzlement charges after a full trial, Nardi pleaded guilty after striking a deal with the government to testify against Presser. The deal provided also that he would not be charged with other, unspecified crimes.
The Justice Department dropped plans in July to seek prosecution of Presser after learning that FBI agents had condoned Presser’s participation in the ghost employee scheme as a means of enhancing his abilities to provide them with information on organized crime.
Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. John C. Keeney said that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time” on the discussions. But other department officials all but ruled out the government’s simply asking that all charges be dropped against a defendant who had pleaded guilty.
Nardi’s lawyer, Barry Halpern of Miami, indicated that his client might agree not to seek material on the Presser-FBI relationship if the government asked that he not be sentenced to prison. The sentencing of Nardi, which was delayed in 1983 until after his anticipated testimony, is scheduled for Oct. 9 by U.S. District Judge John M. Manos in Cleveland.
If an “amicable solution” is not worked out, Halpern said in an interview, Justice Department officials “are aware of my intention” to seek Presser materials and anything involving Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and former Atty. Gen. William French Smith in the investigation. He added that he would also ask for materials on any White House involvement in the politically charged case.
Halpern defined an amicable solution as “something my client would agree to.” Nardi, 43, the son of John Nardi, a murdered Cleveland Teamster and reputed organized crime figure, pleaded guilty to receiving $109,800 illegally from Teamster Local 507 from 1972 to 1978 without having performed any work. Presser is the local’s secretary-treasurer.
Nardi has also admitted soliciting a $20,000 bribe from an aide to Presser for changing his damaging testimony or becoming unavailable as a witness.
Halpern said that he could “not even imagine” the government’s seeking to have Nardi sentenced on the ghost employee admission. But he said he would seek the materials on Presser’s FBI ties on the extortion count as well, on the grounds that the man from whom Nardi solicited the bribe was working as an agent for Presser and that Presser was an agent of the government.
In a related development, the newly impaneled federal grand jury that is looking into the government’s handling of the Presser case heard testimony Thursday from Steven P. Olah, head of the Cleveland-based federal strike force that recommended Presser’s indictment.