Alleged Wise Guy’s Estate Sues New Jersey

     NEWARK (CN) – An alleged Mafioso was murdered outside his diner after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office blew his cover as a confidential informant, according to two lawsuits in New Jersey.
     The Estate of Frank Lagano on Wednesday sued New Jersey, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and its then-chief of detectives Michael Mordaga, in Federal Court.
     The estate’s lawsuit closely parallels a September 2010 complaint in Bergen County Court from a state investigator who claimed he was fired in retaliation for investigating corruption in “the Prosecutor’s Office of a New Jersey County.”
     That lawsuit is summarized at the end of this article.
     The estate’s 10-page complaint does not contain any reference to organized crime. Nut numerous newspapers reports linked Lagano to the Lucchese family after Lagano was shot in the head outside a diner he co-owned, on April 12, 2007. He was 71.
     The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office executed an arrest and search warrant at Lagano’s home on or about Dec. 1, 2004, and they “seized at least $50,000 cash from decedent’s home and other items from decedent’s safe deposit box,” according to the complaint.
     However, the estate says: “Contrary to standard police practice and the terms of the search warrant, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office personnel who conducted the search, including the John Doe defendants, did not list the seized items mentioned in paragraph 15 in their inventory of the seizures.
     “Instead, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office personnel who conducted the search, including the John Doe defendants, converted the seized items mentioned in paragraph 15 to their own benefit or to the benefit of their confederates or supervisors.”
     The estate claims that before his arrest, Lagano “had multiple business ventures with Mordaga … vacationed, visited with and socialized with Mordaga,” and “lent money to Mordaga.”
     After he was arrested, Lagano “was taken to see defendant Michael Mordaga,” the county prosecutor’s chief of detectives, according to the complaint.
     “At that time, Mordaga handed decedent an attorney’s card, and told decedent to provide that attorney with $25,000 and then 90 percent of decedent’s problems would go away,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Decedent’s relationship with Mordaga soon soured.
     “Subsequently, this late James Sweeney, perhaps together with others unknown at this time to the Estate, used his or their state authority to induce Frank P. Lagano to enter into a relationship as a confidential informant for the State of New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice.”
     The estate says that it’s well understood that doing so put Lagano in danger, and that “courts and law enforcement agencies routinely take extraordinary steps to assure that the identities of informants are not disclosed except on a need-to-know basis.”
     The complaint states: “Mordaga thereafter appeared at a dinner meeting decedent was having with a mutual acquaintance.
     “At this meeting, Mordaga advised decedent that half his money would be returned and guaranteed that decedent would serve no prison time if decedent hired the attorney Mordaga recommended.
     “Decedent rejected the offer.
     “Mordaga then told decedent not to count on Sweeney helping, because Sweeney is going to jail.
     “Thus, Mordaga already knew that decedent had become Sweeney’s confidential informant.
     “Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office personnel thereafter disclosed to alleged members of traditional Organized Crime families arrested in raids on December 1, 2004 that decedent had been an informant.
     “On April 12, 2007, in the middle of the afternoon, in front of the diner he co-owned in East Brunswick, New Jersey, decedent, then 71 years old, was fatally shot in the head.”
     The estate claims Lagano had been earning $300,000 a year “from his ownership interest in the diner.”
     The estate adds: “By failing to protect from disclosure Frank P. Lagano’s status as a confidential informant, one or more defendants in the captioned litigation used his or their official authority to create an opportunity that otherwise would not have existed for a third-party’s crime of murder to occur.”
     The estate seeks compensatory and punitive damages for violations of civil and constitutional rights.
     It is represented by William Buckman of Mooretown, N.J.
     Sweeney, a state investigator, sued New Jersey on Sept. 2, 2010, in Bergen County Court. He claimed he was fired in retaliation for investigating corruption in “the Prosecutor’s Office of a New Jersey County.”
     Sweeney’s state RICO complaint claims that on Dec. 1, 2004, “members of the County Prosecutor’s Office executed search and arrest warrants for an individual identified herein only as ‘FL,’ a man believed by law enforcement agencies to be a member of the Luchese Organized Crime Family.
     “Upon information and belief, prior to December 1, 2004, FL enjoyed a personal and business relationship with at least one (1) [then] prominent employees of that Prosecutor’s Office identified herein only as ‘MM.'” (Parentheses and brackets in complaint.)
     Sweeney’s complaint in many way tracks the allegations made in the lawsuit from Lagano’s estate, including the seizure of the $50,000 without a receipt, and the murder of “FL.”
     Sweeney claimed “FL” was arrested in a roundup of about 40 people believed to be involved in a “multimillion-dollar Genovese crime family gambling ring.”
     Mordaga retired as chief of detectives in mid-2007, according to the Bergen County Record newspaper.
     Sweeney died in July 2011.

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