No. 3207 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Delaware County at No. 1289 of 1981.
John T. Salvucci, Media, for appellant.
Dennis C. McAndrews, Assistant District Attorney, Media, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cavanaugh, Montemuro and Hester, JJ.
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 184]
In this case, the appellant, Rosario Taraschi, was tried without a jury before Kelly, J. He was convicted of corrupt organizations, conspiracy to commit corrupt organizations, obstructing the administration of the law, conspiracy to commit bribery and to obstruct the administration of the law.*fn1 His motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment were denied and he was sentenced to six months to twenty-three months imprisonment for corrupt organizations, the other offenses were deemed to have merged for purposes of sentencing. The appellant has appealed to this Court from the judgment of sentence.
The appellant raises several issues on appeal and the first is that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 185]
convictions. We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict winner, and accept as true all evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom, upon which, if believed, the fact finder could properly have based its verdict. Commonwealth v. Helm, 485 Pa. 315, 402 A.2d 500 (1979). Applying this test, the following facts were established at trial. The appellant and one Frank Carmolingo leased a property in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, and in 1978 operated a business known as the Deli Social Club. A large number of automobiles were parked at the club in the early hours of the morning and sometimes they remained there until 6:00 a.m. Since the property was zoned commercial the presence of cars in the early morning hours attracted the attention of the police. Appellant sought to operate the premises as a social club and petitioned for a variance to the zoning ordinance. A hearing was held in June, 1978, and testimony established that the conduct of the club constituted a nuisance with excessive noise and parking problems. Frank Carmolingo testified for the petitioners and stated that the appellant was his partner. The appellant, Rosario Taraschi, did not testify although he was present at the hearing together with his brother, Pietro Taraschi, and Salvatore Soli. A special exception was granted by the zoning board. However, the club was not permitted to operate between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Nevertheless, the club continued to operate in violation of the restrictions and as a result several citations were issued by the police.
Officer Mathis of the Clifton Heights Police met Carmolingo at a bar on July 27, 1978 and Carmolingo asked why the police were having problems with the "boys on the corner" and stated that he wanted to get together with Mathis and Berry, another local police officer. Carmolingo also stated that there was enough in it for everybody and "everybody liked to live good."
The local police then contacted the FBI and were instructed by them to set a further meeting with Carmolingo. Officers Berry and Mathis arranged a meeting for August
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 1862]
, 1978 between themselves, Carmolingo and appellant. However, the appellant did not attend the meeting but Salvatore Soli and Camolingo attended as well as Officers Berry and Mathis. They discussed the problems of parking, noise and rowdiness at the club. Carmolingo asked how they could "settle" the problem. Berry asked what he meant by "settle." At this point Carmolingo and Soli offered Mathis and Berry two hundred dollars per month and Soli gave two one hundred bills to Mathis.
The testimony also established that in 1978 one Christopher Bartzoka had been hired by the appellant as a card dealer for the Deli Social Club. Bartzoka took five percent of each pot and paid the money over to Soli, Carmolingo or the appellant.
On August 30, 1978, when Soli gave Mathis and Berry their monthly payment of two hundred dollars the police officers told Soli that they felt they should be getting more money. Soli said that he would discuss the matter with the appellant. On October 20, 1978, Mathis and Berry again met with Soli who gave them the monthly two hundred dollars. They asked Soli what the appellant had said about more money and he said the appellant knew nothing about it, and that only he and Carmolingo were involved. Nevertheless, on November 3, 1978, when the next payment was made, Soli, Carmolingo and the appellant all arrived in the same car. The appellant stayed in the car some fifteen to twenty feet away but had a clear view of the pay-off which took place between Soli and Carmolingo who made payment to Mathis.
The next meeting between Soli and the police officers occurred on January 9, 1979, and Soli advised them that new owners were going to take over and that they would be responsible for payments in the future. Soli promised Mathis and Berry that the new owners would give them more money. He also discussed with the police a rumor that Mathis and Berry might be working for the FBI and that appellant had some question as to the trustworthiness of Mathis and Berry. Soli told the officers that he assured
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 187]
the appellant that the local police and the FBI would not be working together.
In February, 1979, Richard Stratton became interested in taking over the club and discussed this with appellant and his brother Pietro. Ultimately, Stratton agreed with the appellant to buy the club on a trial basis and the appellant advised Stratton that he would have to pay "the cops $200.00 a month for the zoning violation." If the operation proved reasonably profitable Stratton was to complete purchase of the club. After taking over the club on a trial basis Stratton continued to pay the $200.00 per month on an irregular basis and Mathis went to the appellant and his brother to complain. On April 4, 1979 Mathis obtained $200.00 from Pietro Taraschi. At that time Stratton was not present but he stated that he later reimbursed Pietro. Stratton missed more pay-off appointments, and in May, 1979, Mathis again went to complain to the Taraschis. Pietro Taraschi advised Mathis that Stratton had "pulled out" and owed them a large sum of money. He also told Mathis that they were looking for someone new to take over.
Subsequently the appellant offered money to Stratton, and asked him not to get anyone in trouble. Stratton said that he wasn't trying to get anyone in trouble and advised the appellant that he didn't want any money. However, appellant sent someone to Stratton with a package and Stratton was told that the package contained $2,000.00. Stratton refused to accept the package.
Appellant contends that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction of the offense of corrupt organizations under the Pennsylvania Corrupt Organizations Act.*fn2 The Act of December 6, 1972, 18 Pa.C.S. § 911(b)(3) provides in pertinent part:
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 188]
(3) It shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's ...