The Prince George's County prosecutor has found insufficient evidence to bring bribery charges against a county liquor board inspector who received $4,000 from the owner of a pizza parlor regulated by the liquor board.
"We found insufficient evidence to conclude that it was a bribe and the investigation is closed," said Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Orenstein, head of the screening and investigative division. Orenstein said it was now up to the three-member county liquor board to determine whether the liquor inspector, Fred J. Nocente, violated state or county conflict of interest laws.
Nocente has been on leave with pay from his $21,000 job since last January when State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall began his probe.
County liquor board Chairman Robert Miller said yesterday that the board will consider Nocente's status once it receives official notification from Marshall that the investigation is over.
Nocente could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Marshall's office also has been conducting an investigation into liquor board member Gerard F. Holcomb, a prominent Republican banker, and his relationship with the same pizza parlor, Little Italy of Marlow Heights.
Holcomb acted as a business adviser for the pizza parlor between 1978 and 1980, helped arrange $577,000 in loans during that time and received regular cash payments from the restaurant. Holcomb has said the payments were for expenses he incurred and that his relationship was proper.
Orenstein would not discuss the status of the Holcomb investigation except to say that it has been discussed with federal authorities. According to law enforcement sources, the FBI examined Holcomb's business relationship with the pizza parlor.
The investigation of Nocente began after The Washington Post disclosed that he had received a $4,000 check from Andrew A. Chiacchieri, a partner in Little Italy.
Chiacchieri confirmed that he wrote the check at Nocente's request at a time when the inspector was helping Little Italy obtain another liquor license for a new location. Chiacchieri said that originally Nocente said he wanted the money to help pay a relative's medical expenses but later said that the $4,000 would serve as a "finder's fee" for helping the pizza parlor owners find another liquor license.
Nocente, one of eight patronage-appointed full-time liquor inspectors in the county, has said he received and cashed the check but said it was repayment for cash he invested in an unsuccessful business deal he had with Chiacchieri. Nocente said it "had nothing to do with the liquor business or Little Italy." He said he would have resigned as a liquor inspector had his business venture with Chicacchieri succeeded. Nocente declined to produce any documentation of the business deal, which Chiacchieri said never occurred.