Attorney General Arrests Five for Conspiracy to Rig Criminal Trial
Five people, including one Wakefield resident, are accused of conspiring to get two defendants acquitted in a case of insurance fraud that involved those five and one other person.
A Wakefield resident was arrested and arraigned along with four others on Thursday on charges of obstructing justice and throwing a criminal trial.
The Attorney General's office says charges of witness corruption, perjury, persuading another person to commit perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy were sought after each individual testified in a criminal trial for insurance fraud, but contradicted their earlier statements to investigators and their own guilty pleas.
The AG's office says Deanna Pistone, 29, of Wakefield, Peabody residents David Forlizzi, 52, and Janet Vaccari, 51, William Penta, 49, of Salem, and Laura Battista, 63, of Revere, all conspired together to obtain the acquittal of two defendants in the March 2012 trial, which was held at Suffolk Superior Court.
Forlizzi and another man, Fred Battista, both ran Collision Headquarters, Inc. in Winthrop, Fred Battista is Laura Battista's stepson and Pistone is Vaccari's daughter. Investigators said Forlizzi and Fred Battista schemed together to stage three car accidents and scam two separate insurance companies with the willing help of the other four individuals in the case.
“The truthful testimony of witnesses under oath is critical for a successful trial and any attempt to suborn perjury and obstruct justice will be prosecuted,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley in a statement Thursday.
The group of five was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court and charged as follows:
- Forlizzi was charged with corruption of a witness, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $25,000 bail.
- Vaccari was charged with corruption of a witness, perjury, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. She pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $1,500 bail.
- Pistone was charged with corruption of a witness and conspiracy. She pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on personal recognizance.
- Laura Battista was charged with perjury, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. She pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $1,500 bail.
- Penta was charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $2,500 bail.
They are all due back in Boston on Aug. 29 for a pretrial conference. Judge Thomas Horgan presided over the arraignments.
The AG's office said all five were originally indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury in 2008, along with Fred Battista, for insurance fraud, larceny, conspiracy and other offenses.
Before being indicted, Vaccari, Pistone and Penta each gave recorded statements to investigators, indicating Forlizzi and Fred Battista had arranged the scam, says the AG's office. Vaccari, Pistone, Penta, and Laura Battista then all pleaded guilty to conspiring with the two men to carry out the fraud. But this past March, while testifying at Forlizzi's and Fred Battista's trial, they all changed their story.
The AG's office said the testimony directly contradicted their recorded statements and their prior guilty pleas. The foursome instead said under oath that Forlizzi and Fred Battista had nothing to do with the fraud and were not even aware of it. The AG's office also said Pistone was nowhere to be found despite extensive search efforts by authorities.
The trial judge at the time let the jury go home and suggested investigators examine whether a fraud had been committed upon the court. The AG's office subsequently conducted an investigation, which led to the recent charges.
Investigators say Forlizzi allegedly paid thousands of dollars to Vaccari leading up to and during the trial and Vaccari then sent that money out-of-state in an effort to keep Pistone hidden and keep her from testifying. Forlizzi and Vaccari allegedly tried to disguise the flow of money so it wouldn't be traced back to Forlizzi.
Authorities said the pair conspired through numerous text messages and phones calls before the trial.
Vaccari, Penta and Laura Battista then lied during their trial testimony, the AG's office says.
The investigation is still open.