A man authorities describe as a New Jersey leader of an organized crime family has been charged with setting up a "bogus" company in Chatsworth to defraud other firms out of more than $1 million worth of videotape and equipment, most of which was distributed to Los Angeles-area pornography producers.
Martin Taccetta, 38, of Florham Park, N.J., who federal and New Jersey authorities say is a prominent member of the Lucchese crime family, faces conspiracy and grand theft charges along with three alleged business associates. All four men are expected to be arrested today, district attorney's officials said.
The criminal complaint, filed late Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, emerged from a three-year investigation into organized crime influence in the $1-billion local pornography industry, officials said. An undercover Los Angeles police officer at one point got a job at the company under investigation, Ollinor Video Products Inc.
Also charged were Barry Gottheimer of Newark, N.J., and Chull Wook Kim and Walter Vigil, identified only as San Fernando Valley residents.
Taccetta, according to testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1983 and court documents, is a member of the Lucchese organization in New Jersey. In recent months, he has become the highest-ranking member of that organization not in jail, organized crime experts said.
"There has been a lot of turmoil with convictions and people leaving the state," said Justin Dintino, chief of organized crime and intelligence with the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation. "Martin is the on-site leader now, the top guy."
The criminal complaint and a search warrant application portray Taccetta as the mastermind of a scheme centered on the formation of Ollinor Video Products Inc. in 1987. Kim was the company's president, Vigil was a salesman and Gottheimer allegedly helped establish lines of credit for Ollinor, according to court records.
Allegedly Bought on Credit
The company, located in a Chatsworth warehouse and office complex, allegedly ordered bulk videotape, cassette shells and tape-winding machines from various companies on credit. The materials were then sold, but Ollinor defaulted on payments to its suppliers before it went out of business last year, court records allege.
"Their intent was to 'bust out' this business," states an affidavit, filed by three investigators last year in Superior Court to obtain the search warrant. "The purpose of a 'bust out' is to defraud creditors and to convert the assets of the bogus entity for the personal gain of the suspects."
Five of Ollinor's suppliers lost $1,264,000, according to the court records. The largest loss was $868,500 by Kolon Scen'a Inc., a Korean-based manufacturer of videotape.
Taccetta, Vigil and Gottheimer face five counts of grand theft and one count of conspiracy. Kim faces one count of grand theft and one of conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison.
The four men could not be reached for comment.
The search warrant application says the investigation began in April, 1986, with the formation of the task force made up of investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the district attorney's office and the state Department of Justice.
Investigators said the undercover officer got a job as a van delivery driver for Ollinor and later handled chores inside the business, enabling him to gather evidence leading to the charges.
According to the Los Angeles court records, at least a dozen video businesses, primarily pornography producers, received the videotape and equipment distributed by Ollinor. Payments from those companies allegedly went to Taccetta or to businesses that he or the other defendants controlled.
One company that received tape from Ollinor was Video Cassette Recordings Inc. (VCR), a Northridge-based producer and distributor of pornography videos. Ted Snyder, 47, co-founder of VCR, was found shot nine times on a Chatsworth street on Aug. 1. No arrests have been made in the slaying.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Pamela D. Ferrero said at the time of Snyder's death that VCR owed Ollinor $106,000 for tape, but that VCR filed for bankruptcy before paying the debt.
Organized crime investigators said Taccetta started visiting Los Angeles in 1983 to enter the lucrative pornography business and had an interest in a series of video businesses before Ollinor.
The task force eventually documented 19 trips he made to Los Angeles in 1986 and 1987, reporting that he stayed in a Sherman Oaks condominium.
Many of the reported trips took place during breaks in a trial in U.S. District Court in Newark where Taccetta was charged with racketeering. At the end of that 22-month trial--the longest federal mob trial in history--Taccetta and 19 defendants were acquitted.
At the time, according to Dintino and Assistant U.S. Atty. Grady O'Malley of the Organized Crime Strike Force in Newark, the New Jersey wing of the Lucchese family--which is based in New York--was headed by Taccetta's older brother, Michael. But Michael Taccetta was sentenced this year to five years in prison for income tax violations.
"Now that Michael is gone, the baton falls to Martin," O'Malley said. "He is the No. 1 man in New Jersey."