Did Spinnato 'dream' up another of his con games?

This Just In. . .

March 28, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

Salvatore Spinnato keeps popping up -- if not physically, at least in story or court docket. The longtime con man, now

TC fugitive from justice in a kidnapping/torture case in Baltimore County, immersed himself in a handful of diverse business ventures over the past five years; some cost people money (and resulted in civil judgments against Spinnato), some never got off the ground.

But one of the strangest stories I've heard about the admitted con artist did not seem to have a money motive -- at least on its surface. This particular story came across the breakfast table yesterday morning at the Beltway Restaurant in Arbutus, where former Baltimore City Councilman Joe DiBlasi told how Sal Spinnato persuaded him to visit a religious site in the former Yugoslavia.

In February 1996, Spinnato -- whom DiBlasi knew as Sal Oliverio, an acquaintance of some businessmen in the Arbutus area -- announced excitedly that he had had a dream. In it, Spinnato was instructed to tell DiBlasi, a devout Catholic, to travel to Medjugorje, the mountain village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six children had reported seeing the Virgin Mary in 1981. Since then, millions of people have made the pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

One of them, one week last summer, was Joe DiBlasi.

Though DiBlasi can cite numerous personal reasons for making the trip, and name others who influenced his decision, it was Sal Spinnato who really pushed him to go.

One wonders why. What was in it for Sal?

DiBlasi emphasizes that he did not know of Spinnato's criminal record. He knew only "good Sal," a man who seemed to be religious and genuinely moved by the spiritual stories coming out of Medjugorje. That Spinnato might have been up to something sinister doesn't seem to matter to DiBlasi. The trip to Medjugorje, he says, changed his life.

Still, I pressed DiBlasi to consider an ulterior motive in Spinnato's push of the Medjugorje trip. Turns out there might have been one.

It seems that after Spinnato's "dream," he told DiBlasi he needed special printing equipment to produce images of the Virgin Mary. "He said he needed $14,000," DiBlasi recalled. "He said that, in the dream, I was to go to Medjugorje and that I had to distribute 500 pictures of the Blessed Mother."

Wisely, DiBlasi refrained from investing. He hasn't seen Sal Spinnato since October.

Next: Sal Spinnato's ex-wife tells of marriage and deceit.

Correction

In Wednesday's column about the Georgia couple held up at gunpoint in Federal Hill, I mistakenly reported that they were scheduled to settle on the purchase of a $339,000 downtown house the day after the armed robbery. In fact, they were scheduled to submit a contract for the house; they canceled their plans to do so after the holdup. I regret the error.

There's been a lot of reaction to Wednesday's column. Some of it will appear in this space next week.

Old temple, new sparkle

You should see the new face on the old temple at the crest of Eutaw Place. Since 1960, when the Oheb Shalom congregation moved out and relocated to Upper Park Heights, the 104-year-old temple has been a Masonic lodge (to be specific, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland). The magnificent white stone walls have undergone an extensive cleaning, with each block repointed with new mortar. It's as though the whole building has been dipped in a giant glass of Efferdent. It actually gleams in the sun again. High-fives to all involved in that effort.

Fishing and philosophizing

If you're a good ol' boy, you don't need me to tell you that tomorrow is the opening day of the Maryland Freshwater Velveeta Ball Season (also known as the put-and-take trout season, in which Velveeta balls are favored -- by some, certainly not all -- as the bait of choice.) If you aren't a good ol' boy, then you need me to remind you to get a Maryland freshwater fishing license and one of those little fishing guides that tell you which streams and ponds are open to trout fishing and which ones are not. (And, please, if you want to take fish home to the Saturday night skillet, fish one of the stocked streams and stay away from the wild trout areas.)

Anyway, as we go into another season of bait-dunkin' for rainbows, I'd like to once again pass along a little inspiration and enlightenment to my fellow anglers. Here's something given me by Richard Swaim, professor of government and public policy at the University of Baltimore, who got it from one of his students, Judson Schall Garrett, who borrowed it from English philosopher John Locke:

"Thus he who has raised himself above the alms-basket, and, not content to live lazily on scraps of begged opinions, sets not to miss his own thoughts on work to find and follow truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the hunter's satisfaction; every moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with some delight, and he will have reason to think his time not ill-spent, even when he cannot much boast of a great acquisition."

Or, as my fishing pal Bush Hog James used to say: "Fishin' ain't catchin'."

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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