Liquor aide's records subpoenaed Prosecutor probing claims of corruptions

February 08, 1997|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

The state prosecutor has subpoenaed the personal financial records of a top enforcement official in the Baltimore liquor board as part of a wide-ranging investigation of allegations of corruption at the agency.

Chief inspector Anthony J. Cianferano said that his records were subpoenaed recently. He referred all questions to his attorney, Robert Steinberg, who could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls.

Sources have told The Sun that State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli is probing charges that some former city liquor inspectors, while on the board's payroll, routinely serviced video poker machines belonging to William J. Madonna Jr., a politically connected former bar owner who was recently a candidate for the top administrative job at the board.

Montanarelli would not comment. But records and interviews with sources familiar with the investigation show that part of the investigation is focused on the close relationship between Madonna and Cianferano, who makes $30,632 a year.

Liquor board records say that an informant's tip named the chief inspector as a secret partner of Madonna in Billy's Bar, a Greenmount Avenue bar that closed last year. That tip apparently piqued the curiosity of investigators in Cianferano, according to the records.

Madonna is a longtime friend of the Cianferano family and once had agreed to rent a bar to two of Cianferano's brothers, according to liquor board records. Madonna said the deal fell through. Madonna's uncle, records show, helped finance the brothers' liquor venture at another location.

Oversees enforcement

Cianferano's relationship with Madonna is important because as the head of the liquor board's staff of 18 inspectors and 11 part-time investigators, he oversees enforcement of state liquor laws and regulations in bars, including those once owned or rented by Madonna.

Cianferano's inspectors also regulate the use of video poker machines in bars and other licensed establishments. While it is legal to have the machines, it is illegal for bar owners to make payoffs to players.

Madonna says that neither he nor Cianferano has done anything wrong. He said board employees have not serviced his poker machines and Cianferano has never had any interest in his bars or other businesses.

Madonna, who lost his chance to become executive secretary of the liquor license board on a Jan. 21 vote of the city's state Senate delegation, once owned a bar and real estate investments as well as a video poker machine business. He was also the landlord of two other bars. But now, Madonna says, he has "lost everything."

The mortgages have been foreclosed on his bar and the two bars he rented, and he recently lost one of the last two locations for his video poker machines.

"That's why I need a job," he said

Madonna asserted in an interview that the investigation of Cianferano was the direct result of a campaign to block Madonna from getting the job of executive secretary. Madonna, a former state delegate, said that he had met with Montanarelli to lodge his own complaints and charges against current board officials.

Business relationship

The informant's allegation that Cianferano and Madonna have a business relationship is contained in a May 20, 1996, memo that board deputy executive secretary Jane Schroeder wrote to then-executive secretary Aaron Stansbury.

It states that an official of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms originally received a tip that Billy's Bar, at 3126 Greenmount Ave., was purchasing liquor from a retailer, a violation of board rules.

"The informant also indicated that a liquor board inspector named Tony had an ownership interest in the bar. I identified Tony as Tony Cianferano," Schroeder states in the memo.

A BATF official confirmed that the tip had been passed along to the city liquor board because the matter was not within that agency's jurisdiction.

Schroeder applied for the top job, but city senators recommended a former colleague, Nathan Irby. The board of liquor license commissioners has yet to act on that recommendation but did grant Schroeder a 24.3 percent pay raise. Schroeder declined to comment on the memo and investigation.

That memo and others at the liquor board show that questions have been raised by Cianferano's colleagues about actions he has taken in connection with Madonna's bars.

In the May 20 memo Schroeder states that Cianferano had taken five new licenses from the office, including one for Madonna's bar on Greenmount. "I asked Tony please do not hold on to the licenses since we couldn't then account for them," the memo states.


The board later determined that Madonna had not paid for the new license by the renewal deadline. He was eventually charged with violating board regulations because of it and was issued a five day suspension.

In another instance cited in board memos, Cianferano called a state official to question whether and why Madonna was being investigated by the state comptroller's office for purchasing liquor from a retailer.

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