Thursday, June 19, 2003

Witness testifies to Traficant 'bribe'

By Kristen Gelineau
The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - A businessman charged with bribing former U.S. Rep. James Traficant tried to give the congressman a brown paper bag filled with money, an associate testified Wednesday.

Richard Detore, 43, is the last of four businessmen to go to trial on charges that resulted from an FBI investigation of Traficant. Detore pleaded innocent to charges of funneling bribes to Traficant from his company.

Detore, of Manassas, Va., was the chief operating officer of U.S. Aerospace Group, a now-defunct company that was marketing a laser-guidance system.

Federal prosecutors say Detore and Albert Lange Jr. concealed gifts, cash and boat repairs given to Traficant in the late 1990s in exchange for the congressman's assistance in having the Federal Aviation Administration certify the system.

Lange, chief engineer at U.S. Aerospace Group, testified in the trial's second day Wednesday that he was in a car with Detore and Traficant when he saw Detore offer the bag of money to the congressman. Lange said he could not count the money but believed the bag contained about $5,000.

"I can't do it this way," Lange testified Traficant said.

Detore answered, "Not a problem. I'll take care of it," Lange said.

Lange later met Traficant for dinner, and the congressman wanted to know where "the 5,000 pieces of paper were" that Detore had promised, Lange said. Lange joined Detore and Traficant for monthly dinners in Washington, D.C., to discuss their deals with him, Lange said.

Lange testified under a grant of immunity at Traficant's racketeering trial last year. Traficant, a Youngstown Democrat, is serving eight years in prison for bribery and racketeering. He was expelled from Congress last July.

Detore's attorney, Elizabeth Kelley, questioned Lange about his credibility because of his immunity deal and failure to stop being involved in deals with Traficant. She said Detore has no prior criminal record and has maintained his innocence.

Lange said the money in the bag came from Youngstown businessman J.J. Cafaro, part owner of the aerospace company whose sentence was reduced last November because he helped the government prosecute Traficant. He was sentenced to 15 months probation for giving Traficant cash and gifts in exchange for political assistance.

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