Wednesday, May 7, 2008

'Cheese Man' faces Big Dig bribery charges

Carmen "Cheese Man" DiNunzio, 50, was arrested last week in connection with a corruption probe into Boston's Big Dig highway construction project, according to stories by Shelley Murphy of the Boston Globe, Edmund H. Mahoney of the Hartford CT Courant and Jessica Heslam of the Boston Herald.

DiNunzio, Anthony J. D'Amore, 55, of Revere, and Andrew Marino, 42, of Chelmsford, appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston after being charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in a federally funded program. DiNunzio pleaded not guilty. Arraignment of D'Amore and Marino was postponed until May 21. DiNunzio is being held at Devens federal prison hospital because he reportedly suffers from a large number of health problems, including diabetes, sleep apnea and a heart condition.

An FBI statement indicates that DiNunzio met Oct. 9, 2006, with someone he believed to be a corrupt Massachusetts Highway Department employee but who was actually an undercover FBI agent. DiNunzio allegedly gave the agent $10,000 down payment toward a more sizeable bribe in order to secure a $6 million contract to provide fill for the Big Dig project.

During a taped discussion with DiNunzio, who owns the Fresh Cheese Shop on the North End's Endicott Street, the agent reportedly feigned concern that Marino would back out of the arrangements.

DiNunzio: "Listen to me. Right here you got the guarantee from here."
Agent: "I don't know you."
DiNunzio: "Look it, I don't even come out, I come out cause of this guy. I'm the Cheeseman."
Agent: "You're the Cheeseman?"
DiNunzio: "You ask anybody about me. We straighten out a lot of beefs, a lot of things."

DiNunzio already faces extortion and gambling charges in connection with a 2006 indictment. Authorities believe he has held a leadership position - possibly as high as underboss - in the Boston portion of the New England Crime Family. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on those charges. He has maintained his innocence.

Related stories from 2006:

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Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related Google+ community and Yahoo discussion group. Author of Wrongly Executed? Coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime. Writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.