Rochester man pleads guilty to racketeering, in case that led to death of Medina man

Posted 5 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Press Release, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul’s Office

BUFFALO – U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Rico J. Vendetti, 44, of Rochester pleaded guilty to Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Conspiracy, before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Similar to the storyline of a well known Charles Dickens novel, this defendant operated a sophisticated theft ring which utilized a gang of thieves to steal from numerous stores in Western New York,” Hochul said. “Unlike the fictional version, however, Vendetti relied upon adults to commit innumerable instances of shoplifting, and then turned to the internet to dispose of the merchandise. The defendant’s operation also led to the death of an elderly man who owned a comic book collection targeted for theft by Vendetti. As this prosecution demonstrates, the Office will use the full extent of federal law to bring all organized crime rings to justice.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony M. Bruce and Scott S. Allen, who are handling the case, stated that beginning in 2004 or 2005, the defendant began dealing with a number of shoplifters or “boosters” who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise from stores such as Walmart, Sears, Home Depot, JoAnn Fabrics, Tops and Wegmans.

The merchandise was sold to Vendetti for 25¢ on the dollar. The defendant then sold the merchandise on eBay for about half of its retail value, primarily to out-of-state customers.

Prior to July 5, 2010, the defendant learned of 78-year-old Homer Marciniak’s comic book collection, with an estimated value of $30,000, and began to plan and carry out a home invasion robbery. On July 5, 2010, Albert Parsons, Donald Griffin, and a third individual entered Marciniak’s Medina home.

During the robbery, Marciniak’s valuable collection of collectible comic books was stolen and Marciniak was beaten. Several hours after being treated for bruises and lacerations suffered during the robbery and released from the hospital, Marciniak was readmitted to the hospital where he died of a heart attack.

Charges are pending against defendants Parsons, Griffin and Arlene Combs. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Terry Stewart was convicted of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy in connection with the case and is awaiting sentencing. Brandon Meade was convicted of conspiring to transport and transfer stolen property with an aggregate value of $5,000 in interstate commerce and is also awaiting sentencing.

The plea is the result of an investigation on the part of Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Troopers from the Troop A Major Crimes Unit of the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Batavia, under the direction of Captain George Brown, Detectives from the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office under the direction of Sheriff Scott Hess, Detectives from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office under the direction of Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn, Officers from the Medina Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jose Avila and Officers from the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli.

U.S. Attorney Hochul also praised the work of Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone who brought this case to the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 6, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.