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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Stephen Corso will live the rest of his life with a target on his back

17:11 |

Accountant Stephen Corso was in deep trouble. His clients, including longtime friends, told federal authorities in Connecticut in 2002 that he had stolen more than $5 million.Then the Ridgefield man who loved to gamble took the biggest risk of his life: He decided to become an FBI informant in Las Vegas, known as an open city because the Mafia felt it could operate freely.Corso’s fateful decision came as federal agents in New York were struggling to build a case against two former police detectives long suspected of collaborating with the mob. Investigators were dealing with uncooperative witnesses and a statute of limitations.After a secret meeting with an FBI agent at a hotel, Corso was fitted with a wire and went to work taping conversations of suspected mobsters from around the country. He would spend years recording conversations on more than 900 tapes as he lived a transient life sleeping on the couches of friends, including what authorities called some unsavory characters.“We came across anything and everything,” said FBI agent Kevin Sheehan.
Soon Corso was introduced to Louis Eppolito, one of the detectives suspected of carrying out mob hits.“It was divine intervention,” Robert Henoch, a former New York prosecutor who handled the case, said at Corso’s sentencing Tuesday when he received a year in prison. Or maybe it was dumb luck, he added.Either way, Corso began to fill in the holes in the case. The former detective bragged about dunking someone’s head in acid and threatened to decapitate another person, Henoch said.At one point, Corso was threatened with execution if he turned out to be an informant, authorities said. He had no backup as he secretly recorded the conversations.
“I don’t think he would have lived too long in Las Vegas or anywhere,” Sheehan said.
Corso offered the detectives drug money to finance a film project at a 2004 meeting in Las Vegas. Eppolito, a decorated former detective and son of a mobster, was living in Las Vegas and trying to peddle screenplays and was unconcerned about the source of the cash.Eppolito and the other detective, Stephen Caracappa, were accused of participating in eight mob-related killings between 1986 and 1990 while working for the Luchese crime family in one of the worst cases of police corruption in New York history.A New York jury found the detectives guilty in 2006, but a judge dismissed their racketeering case after determining the statute of limitations had passed on the slayings. A federal appeals court later reinstated the verdict after prosecutors argued that the murders were part of a conspiracy that lasted through a drug deal in 2005 with Corso.“There never would have been justice without Mr. Corso’s cooperation,” Henoch said.Corso’s intelligence led to other prosecutions and saved investigators millions of dollars, authorities said.Authorities said they offered to put Corso in a witness protection program, but he declined because he would not be able to see his wife and three children.Corso, who faced the possibility of more than seven years in prison but won the reduced sentence for his extraordinary cooperation, is scheduled to surrender May 6.Susan Patrick, whose family lost more than $800,000 to Corso, said he was a family friend before the thefts. Corso has been ordered to pay restitution to the Patricks and other victims.
“This started a six-year nightmare,” she said at his sentencing. “We will never be whole for our losses. I don’t believe Mr. Corso is at all sorry.”Corso, who apologized to the victims and his family, said at the time that he ripped off millions from his clients to finance a life of “girlfriends, jewelry and going out.” Prosecutors say he also had significant gambling losses while living a second life in Las Vegas.Corso told the judge his parents were first-generation Italian immigrants who struggled so that he could have a better life. His family, who helped pay for his education at New York University, hated the mob, he said.“And I threw it all away,” Corso said. “I simply lost the way I was raised, how I was raised, but I know for the last six years I functioned and there was never a moment, never a second, that I ever considered doing anything wrong.”Authorities say Corso remains in danger because of his cooperation with them.“Mr. Corso will live the rest of his life with a target on his back,” said his attorney, J. Bruce Maffeo.

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