Inspector got money, jurors told

Witness testifies city liquor official stuffed cash into his pockets

Immunity for testimony

Employee, ex-delegate being tried on charges of bribery, conspiracy

January 08, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

The former chief inspector of the Baltimore City Liquor Board was getting cash payments for servicing video poker machines owned by William J. Madonna, a former state delegate and Waverly bar owner, a jury was told yesterday.

Donald Harlow, a former city liquor inspector, testified in city Circuit Court that he witnessed Anthony J. Cianferano stuffing cash in his pockets -- money that was paid to Cianferano in return for the work he did for Madonna.

Harlow, who was hired by Madonna after serving a six-year jail term for assault with intent to murder, was one of two key witnesses to testify in the bribery and conspiracy trial of Madonna and Cianferano. He acknowledged he has been granted immunity in return for his testimony and that the state had paid his rent for three months.

Madonna and Cianferano have been charged with bribery and conspiracy in an alleged decadelong scheme to thwart enforcement of the state's liquor laws.

Harlow, whose testimony will continue today, said Cianferano and Donald Cassell, a co-defendant and former liquor inspector who is being tried separately, were working for Madonna at the same time they were working for the liquor board. Like Cianferano and Cassell, Harlow became a liquor board employee with Madonna's help.

Asked by Assistant State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough how he knew the two were paid by Madonna, Harlow said, "I seen them put the money in their pockets."

As he spoke, Harlow made a stuffing motion toward the pocket of his dark blue plaid flannel shirt.

Earlier in the day, Angela Winder, former owner of The Place, a West Franklin Street bar, said Cianferano brought Madonna to her business in late 1993 or early 1994 to work out arrangements for a loan and for the placement of video poker machines and other vending devices in her bar.

She said she, her brother, Madonna and Cianferano sat together at the end of the bar. Madonna and her brother, who is deceased, worked out the details, while Cianferano looked on but did not participate in the discussion, Winder told the jury and Judge Mabel Houze Hubbard.

She said that under the arrangement the receipts from the vending machine were split 50-50, minus the amounts paid out to winners.

Winder and Harlow testified that payoffs were made routinely to players on Madonna's video poker machines. Payoffs are illegal under state law.

Asked if her barroom was ever cited by liquor inspectors for violating gambling laws, Winder said, "No."

Winder said the receipts from Madonna's machines were picked up by liquor inspectors who worked under Cianferano, Harlow and Cassell. Cassell, charged in the same bribery and conspiracy indictment, also became the owner of a Hampden bar he rented from Madonna.

She said Harlow stopped servicing the machines in her bar after she complained to Madonna that he was stealing some of the receipts.

Asked how she knew Harlow had been stealing, Winder said she saw dollar bills sticking out of his shirt pocket after he cleaned the money out of the machines.

Harlow, who described himself as an unemployed electrician and carpenter, said he first went to work for Madonna as the doorman at Billy's Bar on Greenmount Avenue. While there, Harlow said, he frequently observed Cianferano and Cassell returning to the bar with the money collected from video poker machines Madonna had placed at a half-dozen bars across the city.

In other testimony yesterday, the prosecution presented witnesses to establish the close personal and financial links between Madonna and Cianferano. A city police officer testified that Cianferano was listed in department records as one of the emergency contact people for Madonna's bar on Greenmount Avenue.

John Draa, an accountant on the staff of the state prosecutor's office, testified that Madonna and Cianferano had a joint bank account, and Cianferano had a joint account with Americo Madonna, a relative of William Madonna.

Draa said a review of bank accounts controlled by Madonna showed that over a three-month period checks totaling $86,250 had been made out to Cianferano, who cashed them. Three of the checks, which totaled $20,600, bounced and were charged against Cianferano's bank account.

Under extensive questioning from Gary Bernstein, Madonna's lawyer, Draa acknowledged that he didn't know what Cianferano did with the $65,650 he netted from the transactions. Lawyers for Madonna and Cianferano contend the cash generated by the checks were used to pay the expenses of Madonna's businesses.

Earlier in the day, Dennis Funk, a former official in the state comptroller's office, said he got an unusual call from Cianferano in the spring of 1996 asking if the comptroller's office would consider not filing a formal complaint against Madonna's bar for operating without a license and improperly purchasing liquor.

"It made me nervous; I never had a call like that before," said Funk, adding that he wrote his boss a memorandum recounting the conversation.

Funk, who said he left the comptroller's job because of a heart condition, said he learned the complaint had been filed by another staffer.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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