Leader Blues

Monday, December 21, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot man’s ties to Mafia is surprising to neighbor


FBI agents search the home of George Thompson  in May while investigating him for involvement in illegal arms sales, gambling and bribery. 

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

A Cabot man was indicted Thursday in Massachusetts for his alleged involvement in organized crime.

In addition to drug trafficking, George Wiley Thompson, 64, allegedly supplied guns to the Mafia’s Colombo Family, according to the Thursday indictment. He was arrested a month ago on other federal charges that came out of a gambling and public-corruption investigation in North Little Rock.

U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said Friday that this is Arkansas’ first case with ties to one of the big crime families.

One Cabot resident who asked not to be identified said he was very surprised to learn that a man with alleged Mafia connections had been living in the Oak Meadows neighborhood.

Some of the houses in his middle-income neighborhood look a little iffy, so it would be easy to imagine that drug dealers might live in a few of them, he said.

But the house where Thompson lived was unremarkable – not the biggest or smallest in the neighborhood – with a relatively well-tended yard. Although he never saw Thompson during evening walks with his wife, the man said he saw Thompson’s cats.

“This totally exceeds anything I might have expected about my neighbors,” he said.

“I guess I’m just shocked,” Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said about the alleged Mafia connection.

“I don’t know how long he’d lived here. But apparently all his business was out of town. I guess he came here so he could fly under the radar.”

Williams said that for the most part all he knew about Thompson was that his house looked a little strange. It was a new house in an older subdivision that was built so close to the street that he had no room for a front porch. Also, at one time he had large dish-shaped antennas on the roof like ones once used to receive satellite signals for television. After the news broke about his alleged bookmaking operation, some wondered if the antennas might have been related to gambling in some way, the mayor said.

But as for Thompson, the mayor reiterated, “I guess he came here to fly under the radar because that’s sure what he did.”

The latest indictment alleges that Thompson was a member of the Deleo Crew, named for alleged Colombo Family street boss Ralph Francis Deleo, 64, of Somerville, Mass.
Deleo was added earlier this month to the federal indictment in Arkansas against Thompson for possessing with intent to distribute more than 500 grams (more than one pound) of cocaine, conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and using a telephone to facilitate a felony drug transaction.

The Deleo Crew allegedly engaged in the importation, trafficking and distribution of narcotics and controlled substances including cocaine and marijuana, extortion, loan sharking, and interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering, mainly in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Rhode Island, New York and Florida.

Thompson fled to Thailand after federal law enforcement officers searched his home in Cabot on May 12. Officers found 147 firearms, five silencers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition. The Thursday indictment alleges that Deleo made it possible for Thompson to remain out of the country by arranging the shipment of his prescription medicines.

Also named in the indictment were Edmond Kulesza, 56, of Somerville, Mass., and Franklin M. Goldman, 66, of Randolf, Mass.

The indictment alleges that Goldman’s job in the organization included setting up illegal narcotics deals as well as engaging in extortion and extortionate collection of debt while Kulesza served as an enforcer or “muscle” for the illegal enterprise.
Thompson and Deleo have both pleaded not-guilty to the charges in Arkansas and their trial is set to start Jan. 4.

Two former North Little Rock aldermen, Cary Gaines, 63, and Samuel Gaylon Baggett, 58, have also pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes involving Thompson. Their trial is set for Jan. 26.

Gaines allegedly attempted to fix bids on city projects to pay gambling debts owed to Thompson. Baggett, a gun dealer, is charged with illegally selling weapons to Thompson, who is already a convicted felon.

Cherith Beck, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arkansas’ Eastern District, said Friday that investigators began to suspect that Thompson had Mafia connections early in the investigation and contacted investigators in Massachusetts.
Gaines and Baggett were not included in the investigation into organized crime and they are not incarcerated while they wait for trial, she said.

The unnamed contractor who allegedly would have received the city contracts has not been arrested. Beck said the investigation is ongoing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Hoey, who is prosecuting the cases against Thompson, Deleo, Gaines and Baggett in Arkansas, was in Boston Thursday for the news conference, called to announce the charges against the alleged mobsters. She praised all those involved in the investigations that led to the arrests.