Cash buys trouble for businessman

September 02, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Union Bridge pizza shop owner Angelo Monteleone didn't believe in keeping his money in banks.

Now he probably wishes he had.

An unwitting participant in a burglary scheme cooked up by his wife and her former lover Mr. Monteleone came home from Christmas shopping last year to discover his bedroom ransacked and nearly $45,000 in cash missing from a safe in a closet.

He and his wife, Kristina Ann Monteleone, reported the theft from their apartment adjacent to their Original Pizza restaurant to state police.

They told investigators they had no idea who could have stolen the money.

That was on Dec. 16.

By Jan. 3, police knew who did it. They filed theft charges against Mrs. Monteleone, 25, and Matthew L. Conaway, 22. Records in that case, in Carroll County Circuit Court, say the two had had a months-long affair.

"Mrs. Monteleone admitted her involvement with [Mr. Conaway], including her relationship, telephoning him prior to leaving her residence on the day of the crime and leaving the safe unlocked," said a state police investigation report.

Prosecutors later dropped theft charges against the two.

But the case of the pizza shop break-in is far from over.

Mr. Monteleone had more than $90,000 in $20, $50 and $100 bills in the closet safe, an amount that piqued the curiosity of the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

So the FBI raided the pizza shop and took financial records and other items.

The cash also did not go unnoticed by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, who filed a civil forfeiture suit Monday, also in Carroll County Circuit Court, to keep the $32,089 in cash that was taken from Mr. Conaway's truck. The money was what was left of the $40,000 or so that Mr. Conaway told police he stole from the safe.

The federal authorities became interested after looking at Mr. Monteleone's tax returns, which indicated that his reported income would make a cache of $90,000 in small bills highly unlikely, the task force said in its forfeiture request.

Mr. Monteleone told police "he kept cash in his house because he didn't believe in banks," those papers say.

A transcript of Mr. Conaway's confession says that Mr. Conaway told police that Mrs. Monteleone would sometimes give him up to $1,000 to buy cocaine.

That statement led police to have a drug-sniffing dog smell the piles of stolen cash. The dog "alerted" on a drug smell several times, the court records say.

The state police report says the Maryland Attorney General's Office, asked for advice about the money, said there was insufficient evidence to prove that the money confiscated from Mr. Conaway was drug money. But the task force continued its investigation and kept the cash.

"Mrs. Monteleone admitted her involvement with drugs," state police investigators reported. "She agreed to assist the task force."

Federal prosecutors in Baltimore could not be reached yesterday for comment on the scope of their investigation.

"There is no evidence I've seen to connect Mr. Monteleone and his business to drugs," said his attorney, Ransom J. Davis. "The task force's own report said the money could not be seized as drug money. I'd say the task force is getting a little heavy-handed."

No drugs have been found in the pizza shop in either task force and FBI searches.

The task force isn't the only party after the money. Mr. Conaway sought yesterday to have the money returned to him.

"The record is clear in this case that a romantic relationship existed between Mr. Conaway and Mrs. Monteleone, and due to that fact, Mrs. Monteleone invited Mr. Conaway to this money," Mr. Conaway said in a motion to claim the money that was taken from Mr. Monteleone.

"Mrs. Monteleone's actions evidence a conscious, willful act of gifting this property and cash to Mr. Conaway," that motion said.

Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. recently denied Mr. Conaway's motion.

"The short answer to that is that he is ludicrous," said Mr. Davis of Mr. Conaway's claim.

A court date on the task force's request to keep the money has not been set.

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