The multifaceted FBI investigation that led to Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan's indictment in the Bronx also turned up allegations of bribery and corruption involving a member of Congress, a Federal Parole Commission member, the son of a federal judge and others, according to records made public today.
The voluminous documents were disclosed by Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola's office as part of the elaborate and perhaps crucial pretrial maneuvering in the case.
Defense lawyers have contended that the six-year-old electronic surveillance underpinning the Donovan indictment was illegally authorized and kept going for six months by a series of "blatantly lawless" tactics on the part of the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Chief Bronx prosecutor Stephen Bookin, who obtained the surveillance tapes last year in connection with a long-unsolved homicide, replied today that the FBI inquiry was thoroughly justified. He made public hundreds of previously secret affidavits and summaries of overheard conversations.
In addition to evidence of an alleged minority-business fraud involving Donovan's New Jersey construction company, Bookin said that the FBI had picked up conversations and other information concerning almost 30 crimes, including:
* "Bribery of a federal parole official to secure the release of Louis Cirillo Sr.," a convicted drug trafficker. (Cirillo allegedly put up money that enabled one of Donovan's co-defendants, William Masselli, to enter the trucking and excavation business.)
* "Bribery to obtain approval of government agencies for various projects," including the use of dump sites.
* "Murders of various individuals," including Mafia chieftain Carmine Galante, and on another occasion, an unnamed government witness.
* "Bribery of a federal judge's son regarding attempts to procure a liquor license."
Bookin mentioned no individual names in his motion, but they were contained in the hundreds of pages that he submitted as exhibits in Bronx Supreme Court.
On April 14, 1979, for instance, the FBI picked up a conversation at Masselli's Bronx warehouse between Masselli and a colleague named Joseph Ippolito about how Ippolito "had obtained the contract for dumping on Riker's Island" several years earlier.
According to the FBI summary, Ippolito was told by "a third party" to contact Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-N.Y.). Ippolito said he met with Biaggi and then later received a telephone call from "this third party" who "stated that Biaggi wanted $5,000" in order to secure the contract for Ippolito. Ippolito related to Masselli that he wrote a check to Biaggi and on the face of the check he wrote "annual retainer" and that he gave this check to Biaggi on the steps of an unidentified "Administration Building."
Biaggi denied any such transaction. In a statement today, he said, "I have never heard of Joseph Ippolito and never received a check. The statements on the tape are untrue. Anyone can use my name and make all sorts of claims for whatever their reason. I cannot prevent that."
It was not clear if Biaggi, a New York lawyer who has said his firm did some legal work for the New York Department of Corrections, was a member of Congress at the time.
The investigation was code-named "Operation Tumcon" after its initial target, a fugitive narcotics trafficker named Angelo Tuminaro, "the head of the original French Connection." Through information supplied by a $500-a-week FBI informer named Michael Orlando, the inquiry led to Masselli, who was allegedly going to help Tuminaro set up a new heroin network. The FBI bugged and wiretapped Masselli's warehouse from Jan. 4 to July 7, 1979.
Donovan was never overheard on the tapes but he was mentioned several times in connection with conversations concerning Masselli's work as a subcontractor for Donovan's firm, the Schiavone Construction Co., on several New York City subway projects.
The FBI records indicate that the federal official allegedly involved in an unsuccessful plan to get Cirillo out of prison was former U.S. Parole Commission member Benjamin Malcolm. He could not be reached for comment, but Parole Commission Chairman Benjamin F. Baer said through a spokesman this afternoon that Malcolm voluntarily disclosed to him that he had been the subject of an investigation that was concluded in 1981 without any indictment being brought.
In fact, the inquiry, which cost the FBI close to $1 million just for surveillance of Masselli's warehouse, was shut down without any corruption charges being brought against anyone except a Long Island Rail Road official named Anthony Bacco who admitted taking a $6,500 payoff from Masselli for a dump site. Masselli and informant Orlando, who began turning up on the tapes as a criminal participant, were indicted for truck hijacking and drug trafficking schemes in May of 1981 and sentenced to prison later that year. The FBI then put all the tapes back under seal.
According to Bookin, a special federal grand jury heard "Tumcon" evidence from February to December of 1980, "but took no action" before suspending work in December. Bookin noted in the next sentence that Donovan was nominated as secretary of labor in December 1980.
Asked for comment, defense lawyer Theodore Geiser scoffed and said "that [December 1980] was probably the month Halley's Comet passed Venus, too."