SIR JOHN’S PUB
Sir John’s Pub in Jersey City represents another example of an organized crime associate having a hidden interest in a licensed establishment. John Ciani, the licensee for Sir John’s, until recently was a front for Genovese/Gigante crime family associate Anthony “Tony the Guinea” Rotolo of Bayonne. Rotolo is disqualified from holding the license himself because of a criminal record and ties to organized crime, which were summarized in State Police Superintendent Dintino’s prepared statement to the Commission at the public hearing:
Anthony Rotolo of Bayonne, New Jersey, is a Genovese/Gigante associate. Rotolo has been convicted on charges of extortion, fraudulent activities, assault and public disorder offenses.
Rotolo was a close associate of the late John DiGilio, after whose death Rotolo aligned himself with Genovese consigliere Louis “Bobby” Manna of Jersey City, who is presently incarcerated on federal racketeering charges.
During the Commission’s investigation, Rotolo and his wife Jane were observed by its agents on numerous occasions in 1988 and 1989 acting in a supervisory capacity at Sir John’s Pub. Rotolo’s wife was the tavern’s manager of record that time.
Despite observations by its agents, witnesses who appeared before the Commission repeatedly denied that Rotolo ran the business. A number of them admitted during interviews that Rotolo was in fact running the bar but gave different stories during testimony in private hearings before the Commission.
Waitress Donna Isabella admitted in an interview with Special Agent Grant Cuzzupe that she had been paid under the table by “Jane or Tony,” and that Tony was the boss. But when subpoenaed to testify, Isabella denied that Rotolo was her boss or that he paid her.
Joseph Fucci, a local building contractor, similarly contradicted himself. In an interview with Agent Cuzzupe, Fucci stated that Rotolo arranged for Fucci and his son to perform renovations at Sir John’s Pub. Fucci said Rotolo gave him a $1,500 deposit and orally agreed that Rotolo would be responsible for another $13,500 within a year. Fucci told Agent Cuzzupe that no payment schedule was set up because he and Rotolo are friends. Fucci said that Rotolo still owes $8,000 and pays “a few hundred dollars” whenever he sees Fucci. Again, however, Fucci’s story changed significantly and became confused when asked specific questions in his private testimony before then-Commissioner W. Hunt Dumont:
Q. When you told Special Agent Cuzzupe that Tony Rotolo gave you a sum of money to start this work, that wasn’t true?
A. I did a mistake. It wasn’t true because I didn’t know was — you know — what really I received the money that time.
Q. When you told Special Agent Cuzzupe that Tony Rotolo gave you some money —
A. No — Tony.
Q. — after that first time that wasn’t true either?
A. No, No.
COMMISSIONER DUMONT: Are you saying now that Mr. [John] Ciani gave you the money? THE WITNESS: No, now. All the time Ciani gave me the money.
COMMISSIONER DUMONT: I’m just interested in what you’re saying now. Ciani gave you the money? THE WITNESS: Ciani gave me the money.
Mauro “Moe” Abbato, the owner of Complete Vending, which supplied cigarettes to Sir John’s, told Agent Cuzzupe during an interview that he has known and been a supplier for Rotolo since he started his business in 1981. He initially loaned Rotolo $5,000 that would be repaid through machine proceeds, and he supplied Agent Cuzzupe with collection slips as evidence of this loan. During his private testimony, however, Abbato contradicted what hehad said in the interview:
Q. When you were interviewed by Agent Cuzzupe, you told him that it was Tony Rotolo who asked for the $5,000 loan and not Ciani?
A. When I — when — when Mr. Grant [Cuzzupe] called me up and told me that he wanted to meet with me, I asked him if there was anything that he might want to know from me, should I take any information with me and he said no, so I went cold.
To the best of my recollection, what he asked me I answered, you know. I —
Q. And when you told him it was Tony who wanted the $5,000 loan, was that the truth?
A. I might have thought it was, but I even thought that I gave Tony the money, but I didn’t give it to Tony….
Another associate of Rotolo, William Guarini, a local plumbing and heating contractor, performed renovations at Sir John’s. Work orders for Guarini’s services at Sir John’s have “Tony” written on one such document and Rotolo’s phone number on another. But in his testimony Guarini denied that Rotolo hired him and insisted instead that it was Ciani. Guarini could not explain why Rotolo’s name and phone number appeared on the invoices. Guarini also attempted to minimize his knowledge of Rotolo’s involvement at Sir John’s Pub in general and, specifically, in regard to the plumbing work at the establishment.
Q. The first time when you did the work, at the time of the renovations of Sir John’s Pub, who hired you to do the work?
A. Well, I was called down to look at it and I gave the price— well, Tony was down there when I went down there.
Q. Who told you to go down?
A. Ciani — I went over all the bathrooms with John Ciani and everything else.
Q. Who called you to go down there?
A . Ciani the first time.
And when you went there, you saw Tony?
I can’t recall. I think he was there. I’m pretty sure he was there. I can’t recall that, but I think he was there.
Who told you what kind of work had to be done?
What? Ciani, John Ciani.
Was Tony Rotolo involved in those conversations at all?
I don’t recall that part of it.
Is it possible he was?
Possible he was.
In fact, wasn’t it Tony who went over the work with you more than John Ciani did?
I can’t recall that part. Might have, yes, might have, but I can’t recall it. You know, it’s a year and a half ago and I can’t recall that part of it.
Interestingly, Guarini had previously completed work at the My Way Lounge and the Body Shop, establishments in which Rotolo also held undisclosed interests.
The use of John Ciani as a front was not Rotolo’s first attempt to conceal his ownership interest in Sir John’s. Rotolo and his first partner, Michael Della Rosa, purchased the property and Della Rosa formed the Midel Corporation, which then applied for the liquor license in 1987. Jersey City ABC authorities, however, determined that Della Rosa was fronting for Rotolo who, as the landlord, would have derived benefit from the bar through a lease. The Midel application for licensure was denied by Jersey City. (Della Rosa has since been convicted on gambling charges.)
In private session before the Commission, Della Rosa invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege in response to all questions regarding his association with Rotolo and Sir John’s.
Shortly after Della Rosa’s license application was denied, John Ciani purchased the property and license. The license transfer to Ciani was approved in January, 1988, and six months later, Rotolo acquired a 50% interest in the real estate. A local newspaper article published shortly after Ciani obtained the bar and license identified Rotolo as the new owner of Sir John’s.
When John Ciani appeared in a private hearing before the Commission, he too invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege. He did the same at the public hearing, resulting in Counsel Saros’ challenging his suitability to hold a liquor license.
Anthony Rotolo also invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege in both private and public hearings.
Rotolo was surveilled by Commission agents on numerous occasions acting in a supervisory capacity. On at least four occasions in October, 1988, Rotolo was observed performing managerial functions such as unloading equipment, working in the kitchen, moving liquor, acting like a host with patrons, discussing renovations of the facility, using keys to open doors and assisting in deliveries. After the agents began issuing subpoenas for records and individuals to testify, however, Rotolo was not seen on the premises again. In fact, Rotolo had to be located elsewhere in order to serve him with a subpoena.
Surveillances in January, 1992, did not find Rotolo at Sir John’s; John Ciani was present, however. In conversation with Commission agents acting in an undercover capacity, Ciani indicated that he was now the sole owner, having recently bought out his partners. Real estate records corroborate that Rotolo divested himself of his interest in the property in August, 1990.
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From a NJ SCI report.