A federal jury on Thursday convicted Rep. Mario Biaggi and four others of racketeering in the Wedtech corruption scandal.
The verdict against the 10-term Democrat from the Bronx came on the fifth day of deliberations.The congressman and six others at the four-month trial were accused of turning Wed-tech into a racketeering enterprise that dispensed millions of dollars in bribes to win no-bid government contracts set aside for minority-owned businesses.
The jury rejected arguments that Wedtech did not need Biaggi, a Democrat, because the company had friends in the Reagan White House, including Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
The 70-year-old Biaggi was convicted of all but one of 16 counts, including conspiracy, extortion, tax evasion and receiving bribes. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the racketeering counts, the most serious charges.
He removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes and shook his head, then stared ahead, his hands fold-ed atop his cane, as the verdict was read.
The former hero cop was sentenced in an unrelated case in November to 21/2 years in jail for accepting an illegal gratuity and is free on appeal.
The jury on Thursday also convicted former Bronx Borough President Stanley Simon, Wedtech Corp. founder John Mariotta, former Small Business Administration official Peter Neglia and Biaggi's former law partner, Bernard Ehrlich, all of racketeering.
In addition, the jury announced that Richard Biaggi, the congressman's eldest son, was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy. But a prosecutor informed the judge that the jury had found that the younger Biaggi had committed only a single racketeering act, and at least two are needed to sustain a racketeering conviction.
The prosecution and the defense then began to discuss how to resolve the matter.
Acquitted of racketeering was Ronald Betso, a former city policeman and friend of Neglia's.
More than 130 witnesses were called, including four former Wedtech executives who testified for the government in exchange for leniency. The four admitted bribing public officials, defrauding the government and stealing from the company - in concert with Mariotta.
At the heart of the Wedtech case was how Wel-bilt Electronic Die Corp., a tiny Bronx machine shop started by Mariotta, grew into Wedtech Corp., a multimillion-dollar defense contractor with friends in high places.