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New Jersey Parole Board Chief Resigns

The chairman of the New Jersey state Parole Board submitted his resignation July 28, 2000, as authorities neared the end of a two-year investigation into his alleged links with organized crime. A law enforcement source close to the investigation told The Record, the newspaper of Bergen County, that authorities will seek to indict Andrew Consovoy for official misconduct, a criminal statute that defines a violator as someone who uses his position to benefit himself financially.

The investigation centers around an alleged parole-for-pay scheme by which numerous reputed mobsters gained early release. Among those allegedly paroled under the scheme were Michael Perna, the one-time "caretaker" of the Lucchese crew in New Jersey; Samuel Corsaro, identified as a mobster in the Gambino family; and Anthony Vincent Ravo, a reputed mob associate of the Genovese family.

The anonymous source said that Consovoy also did "a favor" for an imprisoned capo in the Gambino family, Robert "Cabert" Bisiccai, although Bisiccai was not paroled. The source did not specify what favors Consovoy performed for Bisiccai, nor how Consovoy allegedly benefited financially from the early parole scheme.

Although Consovoy is the main target of the criminal probe, authorities are also looking into the role of a low-level Department of Corrections employee, Joseph "Gus" Ferrera, whom they allege acted as a "conduit" passing the names of incarcerated mobsters to Consovoy, according to law enforcement and Parole Board sources.

Consovoy has previously acknowledged that he and Ferrera are close friends, and that Ferrera is a cousin of Michael and Martin Teccetta, two of the top reputed mobsters in the Lucchese crime family in New Jersey.

"Does he know people who are in [the mob]? Sure he does. But a guy's your friend, a guy's your friend," Consovoy said of his association with Ferrera. "If he's involved with organized crime it's a surprise to me. If he knows people in it, it wouldn't surprise me. I make no bones about my friendship with Joe."

Joe "Gus" Ferrera must have a lot of friends in New Jersey state government. While working as a county jail guard in the late 1970s, Ferrera illegally helped Robert Spagnola, a prisoner in the Essex County Jail, come and go to meet women on the outside, and to grab pizza and fast food.

Spagnola began his criminal career as a Newark police officer and county sheriff's officer where he was caught shaking down drug dealers. He went on to run the Lucchese crime family's sports gambling operations in New Jersey.

Ferrera was convicted of official misconduct for facilitating Spagnola's illicit forays out of the county jail. He was sentenced to three years for the crime, at least two in prison without parole. Yet he was paroled after only seven months, according to prison records.

While still on parole Ferrera was hired by the state to be an "ombudsman" for the Department of Corrections. DOC officials declined to comment about the circumstances of Ferrera's 1984 hiring.

If mobsters find it easy to make parole in New Jersey, such is not the case for thousands of "unconnected" convicts. Under state law, New Jersey prisoners are guaranteed a parole hearing after serving one-third of their sentence. In May 2000, the Parole Board reported to the governor that there was a backlog of 105 prisoners awaiting this type of hearing.

In response to a class action suit, though, the state Attorney General's office found at least 2,200 and possibly as many as 2,800 cases backlogged. More than 2,000 prisoners had not had parole hearings even though they were past their eligible release dates. The Attorney General's findings raised "credibility questions" about Consovoy's earlier report to the governor.

In her statement announcing the resignation, Governor Whitman made no reference to the criminal investigation aimed at Consovoy, whom she elevated from Parole Board member to chairman in 1998. In fact, she praised his "long and distinguished career" in public service.

"Andy Consovoy has served the people of New Jersey well," Whitman said. "From his early days as a probation officer... to his service on the state Parole Board, Andy Consovoy has been a dedicated public servant."

Though he resigned at the end of July, Consovoy remains on the state payroll, receiving sick-time pay until October 1, when he officially retires.

In the closing weeks of the investigation, when it became increasingly clear that Consovoy would resign from his $92,000 job, many of his co-workers began volunteering evidence that strengthened the state's case, said a law enforcement source. With Consovoy still at the helm, subordinates were hesitant to cooperate.

While his pal Andy Consovoy resigned, the apparently untouchable 72-year-old Joseph "Gus" Ferrera remained employed by the Department of Corrections, drawing a $73,000 paycheck for duties which include "helping inmates prepare for parole."

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