A New Jersey pizza supply company that authorities allege is a front for orgainzed crime took over control of a pizza shop in downtown Washington's L'Enfant Plaza earlier this year.
Roma Food Enterprises, Inc., a fast-growing New Jersey-based company that authorities recently charged is tied to organized crime, became the owner of Luciano's pizza restaurant, on the promenade level of L'Enfant Plaza. Roma said it initiated the takeover because the previous owner owed it more than $275,000 for pizza supplies, according to records filed with the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Law enforcement officials maintain that Roma's efforts to gain control of pizza operations is only one example of organized crime's growing efforts to infiltrate the lucrative cheese and pizza business nationally. Such control has long been a goal of the underworld, according to confidential U.S. Justice Department reports obtained by the Washington Post.
Last Friday, for example, Richmond's chief prosecutor asked the court there to form a special grand jury to investigate possible organized crime infiltration of pizza shops in the Richmond metropolitan area. Commonwealth Attorney Aubrey M. Davis Jr.'s request came after a six-month investigation conducted by his office and several other local and federal agencies.
In another local connection, the FBI this month arrested John Stanfa, who worked for several months at another Luciano's pizza shop at Landover Mall, in connection with the slaying of Philadelphia organized crime boss Angelo Bruno, Stanfa, who the FBI suspects helped set up the March 21 murder of Bruno, was arrested Dec. 11 outside a Lanham apartment where he lived under several aliases, the FBI said.
Charged with lying to a federal grand jury probing Bruno's killing, Stanfa was discovered hiding in Maryland during a separate investigation into organized crime activities in the state tghat also touches on the ownership of pizza restaurants, according to law enforcement sources.
Roma executives have emphatically denied that the company has any ties to organized crime. Efforts to reach Roma officials yesterday were unsuccessful. Indenying that his company is tied to oganized crime in a published interview earlier this year, Louis Piancone, Roma's president, was quoted as saying: "They twist it around to make it look dirty. . . The easiest thing is to say it belongs to the Mafia. That is not true. This company is owned only by Lou Piancone."
In March, the Pennsylvania Crime Commission said a two-year investigation revealed that mob-linked manufacturers and distributors of Italian cheese products "now control a substantial part of the sales and deliveries to legitimate pizza shops in addition to those shops already under the ownership and control of crimminal organizations."
In Pennsylvania alone, the commission estimated that underworld controlled pizza shops systematically "skimmed" more than $25 million yearly in unreported income to avoid paying taxes on it.
The commission report specifically said that Roma's "most incriminating tie to organized crime . . . is the fact that Roma Foods utilizes the services" of a well-known member of the New York City Columbo organized crime family.
Roma took over Luciano's restaurant at L'Enfant plaza in May from the previous owner, Luciano Fiumefreddo, 52, according to records Roma filed with the D.C. beverage control office. There is no evidence that Fiumefreddo, who has been involved in several pizza shops in the Washington area, has any ties to organized crime.
Fiumefreddo, through his attorneys, declined to comment yesterday on the takeover.
Fiumefreddo, who opened the shop at L'Enfant Plaza in late 1975, allegedly owed Roma $275,000 for pizza supplies by August 1979, according to a May 15 letter Roma's general council Dominic Profaci filed with the D.C. beverage control board. Fiumefreddo then agreed to make monthly payments to satisfy the debt and another $30,000 paid by Roma in back rent to the L'Enfant Plaza shopping center, according to Profaci's letter. When Fiumefreddo allegedly again failed to make sufficient pryments to Roma, the New Jersey supplier took possession of the restaurant on May 6, according to Profaci.
"A voluntary surrender of the assets and possession of the premises was made by [Fiumefreddo] to avoid legal proceedings," Profaci said.
But Fiumefreddo said Roma took over his shop through "fraudulent misrepresentation, duress and coercion," according to assertions in a law suit he filed in Novermber in D.C. Superior Court. The suit, which is pending, seeks $2 million in damages from Roma and asks the courts to return the shop to Fiumefreddo.
On Nov. 21, the Alcoholics Beverage Control Board approved the transfer to Roma the class "C" liquor license, which gives the holder the right to sell liquor, beer and wine for consumption on the premises, according to the records.
H.A. Abersfeller, the president of L'Enfant Properties, Inc., said yesterday he was unaware of allegations about Roma's possible organized crime ties. "I'd be very surprised if that were the case," Abersfeller said. c
The FBI and the Justice Department have conducted several investigations through the years into organized crime infiltration into the cheese business and pizza shops. Among the organized crime families authorities have found operating in the field are the crime organizations formerly headed up by the late Carlo Gambino, the former boss of bosses of all orgainized crime, and the organization formerly headed up by the underworld leader Joseph Bonnano.
"Mafia monopolizaton of cheese plants is closely tied in with Mafia dominance of the pizza industry . . . " says a confidential Justice Department report. "Although most of the ingredients of pizza -- flour, tomatoes, anchovies, etc. -- are in wide supply, one main ingredient, mozzarella cheese, come from a relatively few factories in dairy centers like Vermont and Wisconsin," the report said. "Control them and nobody is going to make a true pizza without you. So a lot of old-time Mafia families entered the cheese business many years ago."