Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 10, 1990 · Page 5
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 5

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Wednesday, October 10, 1990
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Wednesday, October 10, 1990 CITYAREA Bertone mystery pervades testimony in Money, drugs called motives in disappearance June 17, 1985 By Mike Bucsko Post-Gazette Staff Writer In more than five weeks of testimony in the federal racketeering trial of nine men, one incident has been woven into the fabric of testimony of nearly a dozen witnesses the 1985 disappearance of McKees-port racketeer Joseph Bertone. The testimony has supplied pieces to the puzzle of Bertone's disappearance, which has taken on a life of its own. Bertone was 49 when he disappeared in June 1985 and accounts of his disappearance have focused on his links to organized crime. Like other mysteries, the Bertone case generates its share of myths. At various times, Bertone has been rumored to be living in South America, buried in Level Green, Westmoreland County, and sunning himself on the beaches of south Florida. Most people have at least a passing familiarity with the Bertone mystery, some because they remember Joey's, the restaurant in Mc-Keesport that bore his name. The restaurant was firebombed in 1978, rebuilt and then destroyed in a 1982 blast. Trial testimony has shed light on the extent of Bertone's involvement in drug deals and details of his disappearance, such as the approximate time and exact location he was last seen. Two theories of his disappearance, each concluding that he was murdered, have been formulated during the U.S. District Court trial. Prosecution witnesses have attributed Bertone's disappearance to a conspiracy that involved defendants Charles J. Porter, 56, of Penn Hills; Geno Chiarelli, 48, of Ches-wick; and George "Sonny" Jordan Sr., the late owner of a Duquesne trucking company. Jordan was awaiting trial on federal charges when he died in April 1988 in a truck accident. The charges against Jordan involved the sale of $1 million in antique guns that were stolen from a Greensburg bank. Chiarelli is a co-defendant in the case. In April 1990, Chiarelli was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge that he supplied a gun used to kill Bertone. Police have declined to comment on whether the circumstances of Jordan's fatal accident in Bingham-ton, N.Y., were suspicious. Defense attorneys have tried to shift the blame for Bertone's disappearance toward Joseph F. Rosa, 31, formerly of Penn Hills, one of the government's star witnesses. The defense, particularly Porter's attorney, Melvin Schwartz, is expected to zero in on the Rosa theory after the prosecution completes its case this week. The motive in both scenarios involved drugs and money. Testimony from witnesses, including Rosa; Bertone's wife, Louise; Bertone's daughter, Michele Bruno; and others has shown: Bertone, who had lost his Mc-Keesport restaurant in an explosion three years earlier, was in deep financial trouble and got involved in drug deals with Rosa to raise some quick cash in the months before his disappearance. Bertone was involved in two drug deals in the weeks before he disappeared, one of which allegedly involved a $100,000 rip-off of George Jordan Jr. in which sugar was substi &JIf is WHS.. 'MSBSf, f JL- w j J f t 1 1 I II I I Mil After October 31, it will cost the Steinway factory considerably more to handcraft a piano to the uncompromising standard that is Steinway. But until that time, current prices are still in effect on our entire inventory of elegant Steinway grands and verticals. So come in today and select your Steinway in classic ebony or beautiful natural wood. There will nan STEINWAY & lJj tuted for cocaine, according to Rosa's testimony. The defense is expected to present testimony that the second drug deal was a scheme to cheat Rosa of at least $20,000 in cash. Bertone's imminent departure was apparently no secret in some circles. Two people, including one who indicated Porter was aware of Bertone's pending disappearance, told Marvin "Babe" Droznek the week Bertone was last seen that he would disappear within days. Most of the information disclosed by witnesses during the trial is not new to investigators, said Lt. John Brennan, commander of the county police's homicide division. Nevertheless, investigators on the Bertone case will re-examine all the evidence after the racketeering trial is over to see if there is anything they missed, Brennan said. The biggest obstacle to solving the Bertone case has been the absence of a body. Prosecutors have successfully secured convictions here without a body, but the Bertone case is complicated by the absence of physical evidence. For example, investigators obtained "nothing of any help" from Bertone's 1985 Cadillac when it was discovered in the parking lot of a Harmar motel 10 days after he disappeared, police said at the time. Neither theory put forth in the federal trial contests the fact that Bertone was last seen between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on June 17, 1985, at the Jordan Truck Service garage on Duquesne Boulevard in Duquesne. But there are differences of opinion about what happened before and after that time. George Jordan Jr., 35, described as "idiotic" the theory advanced by the prosecution and supported by Rosa's testimony. "There is no basis to this and there is no fact," Jordan said. "Joe Bertone was a friend of mine and I miss him dearly. I looked up to him as a second father. There was no way that my father or I would have hurt him in any way." Bertone met Rosa in the summer of 1984 through a mutual acquaintance, Anthony Marguriet. Margur-iet, 43, of East McKeesport, earlier had been introduced to Bertone by the Jordans. Marguriet testified he introduced Bertone to Rosa because Marguriet knew Rosa was a drug dealer. Bertone and Rosa, whose father and grandfather were reputed members of Pittsburgh's organized crime family, hit it off. Bertone had connections to Porter and others Rosa sought to legitimize himself in the eyes of the crime family's hierarchy, according to testimony. It was Bertone who persuaded Rosa in early 1985 to give Porter $30,000 from the sale of jewelry from Rosa's defunct jewelry store. Rosa testified the deal provided his membership fee into the organized crime family. Rosa testified he was congratulated after turning over the money to Porter by Michael Geno-vese, 70, of West Deer, whom the Pennsylvania Crime Commission has identified as the head of Pittsburgh's organized crime family. Schwartz, during his cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, has raised questions about whether the jewelry store deal ever occurred. Rosa testified he and Bertone initially were obtaining cocaine through Louis Raucci Sr., 59, of Verona, another defendant in the racketeering trial. They switched to working with Porter after Bertone told Rosa they were paying Raucci too much $5,000 - for every 2.2 pounds of cocaine they bought. Porter only required a $2,000 payment. That led to several cocaine deals in Florida in the first six months of 1985. Another defendant, Ramon Sosa, of Miami, was the supplier to be a better time to invest in a Steinway. trombino piano gallerie i 944 Penn Avenue 765 - SONS AUTHORIZED DEALER. f '' I 1978 photo Joseph Bertone "Joe Bertone was a friend of mine and I miss him dearly. I looked up to him as a second father. There was no way that my father or I would have hurt him in any way. " George Jordan Jr. Bertone and Rosa in those deals that were initially arranged by Porter, according to Rosa. On a trip in April 1985, Bertone and Chiarelli argued with each other, Rosa testified. Rosa and Anthony Durish, of McMurray, another defendant, were also on the trip. The dispute between Chiarelli and Bertone got worse when a payment to Sosa was $6,000 short. Both men blamed each other for the shortage and Porter was called in to settle the problem. He ordered Rosa and Bertone to make up the difference to Sosa. It was after that trip to Florida that Chiarelli began being friendly with the Jordans, Rosa testified. Shortly after the Easter trip, Bertone and William Kostrick, 44, formerly of McKeesport, plotted to steal $100,000 from George Jordan Jr., money that the Jordans had provided for the deal, Rosa testified. Bertone and Kostrick substituted sugar for cocaine and sold it to Jordan, then they stole the sugar back so Jordan would think he was robbed by someone else. When Jordan came to Bertone to complain about being short of money, Bertone loaned the $100,000 stolen in the drug deal back to him at an exorbitant interest rate, Rosa said. "There's no basis to any of that story," George Jordan said of Rosa's account of the scheme. The Jordans and Bertone had been involved in several business deals. Bertone's 1985 Cadillac was registered in George Jordan Jr.'s name, but Jordan said Bertone made the payments. Jordan said he got stuck with the cost of the car after Bertone disappeared. Sonny Jordan was a co-owner of Bertone's restaurant on Eden Park Boulevard in McKeesport. Michele Bertone Bruno, 33, Bertone's daughter, testified that her father had told her in May 1985 that he got into a fight with Chiarelli when he found out Chiarelli had disclosed Bertone's involvement to the Jordans. "He said he had beat this guy up because Geno had either recorded my father through a speaker phone or phone conversation and Geno had in turn taken that information to 0600 Sonny and Sonny had found out my father had ripped him off," Bruno testified. Droznek, 43, formerly of Monroe-ville, testified he sold an Uzi machine gun to Marguriet during this time. Marguriet testified he gave the gun to Sonny Jordan. Between May and June, Rosa and Bertone took two trips to Florida, including a trip a few days before Bertone disappeared. On a Memorial Day trip, Bertone told his daughter, who was living in West Palm Beach at the time, that the purpose of the trip was for Bertone's last drug deal. Droznek testified that on the weekend before Bertone disappeared, he was told by two men that Bertone's days were numbered. One of the men, Ronald "Fat Sam" Plisco, told Droznek that he had just come from Porter's home before he informed Droznek that Bertone would "disappear" in a few days. On June 17, Bertone left his McKeesport home about 9:30 p.m., his wife testified. "I remember telling him to bring me Pepsi and milk," Bertone's wife, Louise, recalled. Bertone called his wife about 10 p.m. from his car phone and said he would be at the Jordan's trucking garage in case he got a telephone call. A few minutes later, Rosa called Louise Bertone and she told him he could contact her husband at the Jordans. Rosa said he called Bertone on his car phone and Bertone told Rosa to meet him at the garage "quickly" and to bring $1,000, Rosa testified. During testimony, Rosa and his cousin, Anthony Bacco, both gave the same version of what happened next. Rosa and Bacco drove to the Jordan garage and saw Bertone's car pulling out. A "man with glasses" was driving and they were sure it wasn't Bertone. They pursued the car, but lost it after a short chase. Upon returning to the garage, Rosa asked Sonny Jordan how long Bertone had been . there. Jordan denied that Bertone had been there at all, Rosa testified. Bacco and Rosa agreed to not disclose their visit to the Jordan garage if they were questioned by police later. Bacco admitted he lied to police about the incident during a 1988 interview. "Joey Rosa thought it would be better if we minimized our involvement," Bacco explained during testimony. But Louise Bertone and Michele Bruno both testified that Sonny Jordan admitted to them that Bertone was at the garage that night. The women said they were told by Jordan that Bertone drove away after he received a call on his car phone. George Jordan Jr. said he was at the garage when Bertone drove away. His father later told him that Rosa showed up about a half hour later and asked about Bertone, Jordan said. The next morning, Rosa called Louise Bertone and asked if she had seen her husband. When Mrs. Bertone said no, Rosa said, "Something must have happened." Louise Bertone did not file a missing person report immediately because she didn't want to involve police, she testified. "I figured my husband went out of town and if I would have called police he would have been very angry." Mrs. Bertone testified she was "never allowed to ask questions" about her husband's business. She knew her husband used other people's names for his business inter HloE Equity Line INTRODUCTORY q 7 APR FIXED RATE THRU K.?.T: PARKVALE PR'ME (CURRENT APPLICABLE cnNuiTvniiR TAV pvKOfl REGARDING racketeering trial ests, such as the Jordans. "Joe could never have anything in his name." A couple weeks after Bertone disappeared, his wife and son, Salva-dore, were summoned to Porter's home. At the meeting was Rosa and Porter. Porter, who knew Bertone and his wife for several years, gave Louise Bertone $20,000. "I just remember Mr. Porter telling me that he didn't want to get involved, that he shouldn't get involved and the only reason he was getting involved was because Joe was his friend," Louise Bertone testified. The $20,000 was part of Bertone's half of the $100,000 Jordan rip-off, Rosa testified. Porter decided to give the money to Bertone's wife because he "didn't want her pointing the finger" at himself and Rosa, Rosa testified. During the next year, Rosa told Droznek he knew where Bertone's body was buried, Droznek testified. At one point when Rosa and Droznek were seated alone, Rosa told him, "You're sitting next to the guy who took care of Bertone." In questioning government witnesses, defense attorneys have asserted that Rosa also told two men, Robert Liscio, of Penn Hills, and John Vento Jr., of Monroeville, that he had shot Bertone twice in the head with a 9mm revolver. Neither Liscio, a defendant in the racketeering case who pleaded guilty the day trial started, or Vento could be reached for comment. Federal agents confiscated a 9mm revolver with a silencer from Rosa shortly after his March 1988 arrest on drug charges. Droznek testified he originally believed Rosa when he told him about Bertone, but that he has since changed his mind. He gave no expla Sunday, October 14th 12NOON-6PM Sec Knglish artist Angela Gale demonstrate the technique used in painting these fine c il-Icctihlcs from the Studios of John I line. Ms dale will sign and personali.e anv David Winter (Cottage purchase made during her visit. Refreshments Served Register To Win 1 st Prize - $ 1 00 Gift Certificate 2nd Prize -550 Gift Certificate 3rd Prize - $25 Gift Certificate Family Research CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND DRUG ABUSE RESEARCH CEDAR ind the NO CLOSING COSTS oN0 ANNUAL FEES MAY BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE APPLY BY CALLING (412) 373 - OR STOP BY PARKVALE SAVINGS SAVINGS YBANKpas JUNE 1 1991 THEN CONVERTING TO VARIABLE RATE Of 1 5 APR IS " 5V WITH A 21 APR LlFtTlME CAP HMJED TO NEW vni PFOqiNAt Tt SITUATION nation why. C Rosa testified that in early 1987, Chiarelli had discussed killing Kos- trick with him. Chiarelli, according to Rosa, said he could supply a "machine gun and a van" for the murder like he did "for Mr. Bertone." Kostrick was not killed and is in prison. George Jordan called the implication of Chiarelli and Porter in Bertone's disappearance a "complete lie." Jordan, who said he knew both men through business dealings with his father, also questioned the gov ernment's allegations that Chiarelli and Porter are involved in organized crime. "I've met Chucky Porter and I've met Geno Chiarelli," Jordan said. "If they're the mafia, then I'm a candi-' date for vice-president. Geno, as far: as I'm concerned, is a nice guy and Chucky Porter is, too." In defense of himself in the theory of prosecution witnesses that Jordan and his father were somehow in-: volved, Jordan points to the fact that neither he nor his father were ever charged with anything or called to: testify before a grand jury. ): "My theory right now on Joe Bertone is that Joe Rosa had him killed or killed him himself," Jordan said. More than 100 people have been questioned in the years since Bertone's disappearance and the police have their own theory about what happened. Whether the police theory coincides with the theories that have been made public in the racketeering trial will remain, like Bertone's disappearance, a mystery until the case is solved, said Lt. Brennan of the county's homicide section. "Everybody's entitled to their theory," he said. "Anything's possible and I try to keep an open mind." CHRISTMAS 1990 Mister l-e..iwig's hniponum Project Earn $300 CEDAR needs 1,000 families for its research program. To quality, families must include a father either with or without a drug abuse problem have a son who is 10, 11, or 12 years old meet other criteria Call 622-6174. All calls are confidential. is i consortium of St.Fnncts Medial Center University oi Pittsburgh. Special 4838 ANY OF 23 LOCATIONS CUSTOMERS ONLY

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