A federal grand jury here indicted 14 persons yesterday and accused them on participating in a series of cocaine transactions, many of which allegedly occured at Sylvester's restaurant at 1129 21st St. NW.
The grand jurors, asked that Sylvester's which bills itself as the city's only "Polish Pub," be shut down. They indicted they believed it was the center of cocaine activity that federal investigators believe is widespread in downtown restaurants and bars.
The owner of Sylvester's, Joseph S. Swiderski, of 2710 Stewart Dr., Chevy Chase - who is also known as Joe Winters - was charged under racketeering statues and accused of being a part of a complex conspiracy to distribute cocaine to middle-level drug dealers and others who frequented his restaurants.
The indictment charging Swiderski was one of three separate indictments returned by the grand jury yesterday that allege distribution of cocaine in the downtown area around 20th and M Streets NW.
Named in one of the other indictments were Thomas James (Tommy) Jacomo, the assistant manager of the expensive Palm restaurant, and Alfred Louis (Freddie) Latorella, a waiter there, Jacomo, 32, of 1815 M. St. NW, and Latorella, 39, of Dorset, Vt., were charged with a single count of selling about one ounce of cocaine to an undercover agent at The Palm for about $1,500, investigators said.
The third indictment charged a conspiracy to attempt to smuggle large quantities of cocaine from Bogota, Colombia, to Washington, D.C., by persons in the Washington and New York area. The attempt ended on March 9 with the arrest of numerous individuals as they allegedly picked up a package they thought contained about three pounds of cocaine, investigators said.
The attempt by the government to seize Sylvester's because of the alleged drug traffic there is the first time that federal officials have attempted to close down an establishment because of narcotics activity, according to Justice Department officials.
The attempt is being made under racketeering statues that allow the government to shut an establishment when illegal activity enhances the financial stability of an otherwise legitimate concern. Federal investigators said the level and pattern of drug activity at Sylvesters was such that it fell on that racketeering category.
Racketeering statues have been used in the past to shut down businesses that served as fronts for such activities as loan-sharking and gambling, investigators said.
Under the government theory of the case, the restaurant could be shut down upon the conviction of its owner, Swiderski, on the racketeering charges. In the meantime, the restaurant is continuing to operate.
Swiderski said in a telephone interview last night that the charges against him and his restaurant are "untrue. None of that and they (the federal investigators) know it."
He said he is being harassed because of some persons who frequent his establishment, and that he and his club are "guilty by association.They shouldn't label you just because people come into your establishment.
"I'm just a bar owner. It's the consequences you have to suffer for being in the business. It's a shame," Swiderski said.
The indictments yesterday were the result of a five-month Drug Enforcement Administration undercover probe of allegedly widespread cocaine trafficking in certain restaurants and bars in downtown Washington. During the investigation, DEA agents and the U.S. Attorney's office here said they discovered that several alleged oldline racketeers here had begun purchasing wholesale amounts of cocaine for apparent redistribution.
Cocaine - which can be sold at wholesale level for from $1,000 to $2,000 per ounce, depending on quality and other factors - is highly popular among young professionals who are in the income bracket to afford it. The drug is crushed into powder and snorted, usually through rolledup currency, and produces an almost immediate feeling of euphoria.
Although many people consider cocaine to be a psychologically addictive drug, others claim it is nonaddictive. The drug is still illegal to purchase and possess, however, under present narcotics laws.
The indictment involving Sylvester's alleges that Swiderski met with cocaine dealers at his restaurant and introduced them to other dealers during transactions there. Among those participating in some of the alleged meetins were undercover DEA agents and informants, according to the charges.
Specifically charged in the Sylvester's indictment are three purchases of cocaine by various persons. Those purchases were in quantities of one ounce, two ounces, and another undetermined quantity that the investigators claim was about one ounce.
Persons familiar with the case have said in the past that the third-flior of Sylvester's was used as a "clearing-house" for the drug purchases, and said in the past that the third-floor of also were able to buy the narcotic there.
Also charged in the Sylvester's case were George T. Kenney, 27, of 9819 Perrott Ct., Fairfax City, and William C. St. John, 28, of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., both of whom allegedly referred cocaine dealers to Sylvester's for transactions; Donald R. Donato, 31, of Southhamption, N.Y., and Howard J. Kolbenheyer, 30, of Southhamption, N.Y., both whom allegedly brought cocaine into Sylvester's for sale; and David A. (Shags) McGowan, 42, of 5225 Pooks Hill Rd., Bethesda, who allegedly purchased about one ounce of cocaine at Sylvester's.
The indictment involving the alleged attempt to import drugs from Columbia also involved six persons.
According to the detailed indictment in that case, a New York man, Eugene C. (Gino) Cintron, decided to import cocaine from Colombia and went to other New York residents who he believed to have connections to cocaine traffic in Colobia.
Cintron contacted those two men, and then contacted a man in the Washington, D.C., area to serve as the financier for the project, the indictment continued.
During the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] conspiracy a DEA agent posing as an importer-exporter of leather goods from South America offered to use his plane to bring the drugs into the U.S., investigators said. At one point, the DEA agent even showed the others in the conspiracy the plane he would use to fly the drugs into Miami, without telling them that he was showing them a U.S. government plane, the investigators added.
Cintron, who has not been charged in the case, participated in several meetings concerning the alleged smuggling ring, including at least two meetings at Sylvester's - although the restaurant is not named in any other part of the alleged smuggling case.
Charged in the smuggling indictment were Michael Morales Johnson Sr., also known as Mr. J., of New York City; his son, Michael Morales Johnson Jr., also of New York City; Paul Ackerman, of New York City; Larry Hirsch, Bayside, N.Y.; Kathelen Ann Hardy, of Miami, Fla.; and Richard A. McCaleb, 7301 Jefferson Davis Dr., Arlington.
McCaleb, who is alleged to be the financial backer of the alleged cocaine smuggling attempt, also was charged with attempting to influence a witness who was called to testify against him during the current investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry M. Leibowitz said the investigation into cocaine traffic in the downtown area is continuing.