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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

County Cleared on Mafia Informant’s Murder

(CN) - An alleged leak that led to the murder of a mafia informant cannot sustain claims against a prosecutor's office in Bergen County, N.J., a federal judge ruled.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office executed a search warrant on Frank Lagano's home in 2004 and seized $50,000.

After this seizure, a former employee of the Bergen County Division of Criminal Justice, James Sweeney, persuaded Lagano to become an informant.

Sometime later, the county's chief of detectives, Michael Mordaga, a former friend of Lagano, allegedly told members of certain crime families that Lagano was working for the government.

Lagano, 71, was shot in the head in April 2007 outside of a diner he co-owned in East Brunswick, N.J.

Sweeney summarized the details of the case in a September 2010 retaliation complaint that acccused his boss of violating state anti-racketeering law by squashing an investigation into "wrongdoing and potential corruption of high-ranking members" of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. This action named the allegedly corrupt employee by his initials "MM."

Nearly two years later, Lagano's estate claimed in court that the county's failure to protect its confidential informant led to the murder.

U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg dismissed the claims against the prosecutor's office Friday, finding that the agency is immune from prosecution when acting in its investigative role.

"So long as a county prosecutor's office acts within its classic duties, that office is a state agency," the ruling states. "In the instant case, the BCPO was acting within its classical function of investigating criminal activities and conducting criminal prosecutions with respect to Mr. Lagano. Accordingly, the BCPO is a state agency, and as such, is not a 'person' under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985."

The statute of limitations also bars claims that the 2004 search and seizure were improper, Hochberg added.

Claims against Michael Mordaga and various John Doe defendants remain pending.

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