Market Chain Owner Accused of Drug Dealing, Ordering "Pizza Connection" HitJOHN M. DOYLE , Associated Press
Feb. 19, 1987 6:58 AM ET
NEW YORK (AP) _ A supermarket executive accused of masterminding the attempted killing of a defendant in the ''Pizza Connection'' drug trial also has been charged with large-scale heroin trafficking.
Pasquale Conte Sr., 61, of Roslyn, was charged in federal court Wednesday with ordering last week's wounding of Pietro Alfano, an Oregon, Ill., pizzeria owner.
Alfano, one of 19 defendants in a federal drug smuggling-money laundering trial here, was shot three times last Wednesday in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. A bystander also was wounded.
The 16-month-old trial was dubbed the Pizza Connection after prosecutors charged the defendants used pizzerias as fronts for selling more than $1 billion in heroin imported into the United States over nearly a decade.
Conte was arrested Tuesday night at Kennedy International Airport after purchasing a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico, said Thomas Sheer, head of the FBI's New York office.
Conte, who is president of Conte supermarkets and a member of the board of the Key Foods supermarket cooperative, had no prior convictions.
Following his arraignment in Manhattan on Wednesday, Conte was taken to Brooklyn to face federal drug conspiracy charges alleging he had links to a key defendant in the Pizza Connection case.
In a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Mafia informer Tommaso Buscetta described Conte as a captain, or ''capo,'' in the Gambino crime family. Buscetta, an admitted former member of the Sicilian Mafia, testified at the Pizza Connection trial.
A 1983 Senate Judiciary Committee report on organized crime also listed Conte as a capo in the Gambino family, reputedly headed by John Gotti.
The complaint accused Conte of regularly importing large quantities of heroin within the past five years.
The complaint, quoting an unidentified confidential informer, said, ''Conte does not have physical contact over the heroin but directs the importation and distribution business through other members of Sicilian organized crime.''
Conte also allegedly received $5,000 for every kilogram of Sicilian heroin imported into the New York metropolitan area, according to the source quoted in the complaint.
At the time of his arrest, Conte was carrying about $7,000 in cash and a passport with a visa for Argentina, Sheer told reporters.
Also arrested in the Alfano shooting Tuesday was Mario Degrezia, 36, of New York, Sheer said. Degrezia was accused of helping plan the attack, recruiting the gunmen and arranging their payoff, said the FBI official.
Degrezia was also charged with heroin trafficking.
A third suspect believed to be Conte's lieutenant or subordinate was being sought, Sheer said.
Three other men accused of actually carrying out the attack were arrested late last week.
Conte ''is specifically charged with ordering the hit,'' U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani said. He would not comment or speculate on the reason for the shooting.