U.S. Reveals 'Rare View' of Reputed Mafia Chief

Times Staff Writer

Federal prosecutors Tuesday released transcripts of a secretly recorded conversation between reputed Cosa Nostra chief Peter John Milano and one of his chief lieutenants in which Milano complained about the dangers involved in an upcoming financial transaction.

"It is so dangerous," Milano told Luigi Gelfuso Jr. in a conversation recorded Aug. 5, 1985, at Milano's Westlake Village vending sales company.

"I know what you're saying," Gelfuso replied. "Pete, you know I love you, and I hate to see you with all the . . . pressure with all these guys."

The transcript was presented to a federal magistrate in Los Angeles on Tuesday in support of the government's request to deny bail for Milano, 52, one of 15 alleged underworld figures indicted on racketeering charges Friday in what federal officials predicted would be a "decapitating blow" to organized crime in Southern California.

The transcript presents a rare view of La Cosa Nostra's cocaine trafficking operation and provides an indication that key members of the organization feared detection by law enforcement, prosecutors said. But Milano's attorney contended that it provides no evidence that a drug transaction was involved.

Prosecutors also revealed Tuesday that Angelo Lonardo, former underboss of the Cleveland family of La Cosa Nostra, will testify that Milano informed him in 1981 that he had issued a "contract" to murder Los Angeles "family" member Louis Tom Dragna, because Dragna had given a statement to the FBI.

"I can name three people right off the top of my head who are at risk--the three government informants named in the indictment" should Milano be released on bail, Justice Department attorney Richard Small argued Tuesday.

U.S. Magistrate Volney Brown denied bail for Milano, concurring that there is a risk that the man identified in the indictment as the boss of La Cosa Nostra's Los Angeles family could present a danger to the community if released.

'Probable Cause'

"I don't like locking people up in cages, but this indictment is probable cause to believe that Mr. Milano may be guilty of some very substantial charges . . . ," Brown said.

Milano's attorney, Donald Marks, called the government's charges "absolutely, utterly false" and said he will ask a federal judge to review the bail ruling.

"I believe that detention is being sought here because of who my client is supposed to be, because of the politics involved," Marks said. "I believe this decision was made in Washington. . . ."

In the case of the transcript filed with the court, Marks said it is clear that there is "money being divvied-up," but no evidence it is drug money.

In the transcript, recorded at Milano's Rome Vending Co., Gelfuso says: " . . . Now, in another week, we will pick up another six or seven thousand. That's the only thing we are going to make any money out of. I hate to say that to you, it's not the safest thing in the world, but. . . ."

"The whole conversation is relating to them actually dividing up the money from previous narcotics transactions," Small said. "You can assume that basically what they're saying is, if they get caught, they're in trouble."

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