January 11, 2000|
Witness: IOU from Milan seized from Rivera's office
FRANK KUMMERand CLINT RILEY
Mayor Milton Milan's name surfaced again Monday at the federal trial of the city's biggest alleged druglord, Jose "JR" Rivera.
FBI agent William T. Grace testified in U.S. District Court that a slip of paper containing a $5,000 IOU from Milan to Rivera was among the items agents seized from Rivera's East Camden business office on Feb. 25, 1998 - the same day Rivera was arrested.
On the IOU was written "MTM Contracting," followed by Milan's name. The number "$5,000" had been crossed out and "$2,500" written below. The IOU, dated Oct. 14, 1992, was initialed "MM."
Milan has acknowledged knowing Rivera and even performing contracting work for him in 1994 through another company, Atlas Contracting Co. However, Milan has repeatedly denied any close relationship with Rivera or being aware of allegations that he was a drug trafficker.
Federal prosecutors did not elaborate on the IOU, pointing out to jurors that it was among dozens of items seized, including guns and a total of $233,600 in cash. Nor did they note that the Milton Milan mentioned in the trial is mayor. Milan first ran for Camden City Council in 1991 and lost, then was elected to council in 1995 and as mayor in 1997.
Last Thursday, a government witness who is a convicted drug dealer, Camildo "Tony" Cruz, testified that Milan had bought kilograms (2.2 pounds) of cocaine at least two times from shipments Cruz coordinated from New York to Camden in the early 1990s.
Milan denied buying cocaine and has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Milan's attorney, Carlos A. Martir Jr., said Monday he could not comment on MTM Contracting or Milan's relationship to the company.
"The document (IOU) speaks for itself," Martir said.
Martir also represents Luis "Tun Tun" Figueroa, on trial with Rivera as alleged leaders of a drug syndicate the government calls "The Organization."
So far, three days into what is expected to be a lengthy trial, no witness has mentioned Figueroa's name. However, two of the first three witnesses have mentioned Milan's name in connection with the case.
Rivera, charged with conspiring to distribute hundreds of pounds of cocaine and laundering drug profits, owns JR's Custom Auto Parts and the adjacent Jay's Gym on Carman Street in East Camden.
His attorney, Marc Neff, began making his case Monday that Rivera is a successful entrepreneur involved in legitimate businesses, not the druglord the government alleges.
Neff attacked Cruz's credibility, sparking testy exchanges between the two.
Cruz acknowledged breaking into Rivera's Pennsauken home in the late 1980s and stealing $100,000 in cash. As part of Neff's strategy, he left open the question of why Rivera - an allegedly violent drug kingpin - would never seek to attack or kill Cruz.
Grace, the FBI agent, testified Monday that a small arsenal was confiscated from Rivera's office at the auto parts store. Among the four guns seized was a banned IntraTec-9 assault pistol.
The IntraTec-9 was sold to Rivera by former Camden Police Detective Pierre Robinson, who resigned from the department in November 1998. He pleaded guilty last year to selling the gun and ammunition to Rivera for $800. Robinson was Milan's bodyguard from July 1997 until March 1998, days after the FBI seized the gun.
In addition to the guns, agents found a New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association card in a file cabinet. The card had been approved by Robinson, Grace testified.