Long Island fraudster Joseph Romano and a jailhouse informer discussed exotic techniques for killing U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco that included having him eaten by a shark, but the FBI never took that one seriously, an agent testified Wednesday.
"He meant a fish," FBI Special Agent Reynaldo Tariche said at Romano's murder-plot trial in federal court in Brooklyn. "I saw no evidence of a shark in this case. I did not think a shark was involved."
The light moment came as Romano lawyer George Goltzer tried to show during cross-examination that prison snitch Gerald Machacek -- who also suggested putting the judge and a federal prosecutor into a cement mixer -- entrapped Romano by egging him on with big talk that was as much fantasy as reality.
Romano, 50, of Levittown, is accused of hatching the plot in revenge for a 15-year sentence in a coin-fraud case. While held at the Nassau County jail, authorities say he had pal Dejvid Mirkovic pay $22,000 to an undercover cop posing as a hit man.
Machacek, a fellow inmate who first alerted authorities to Romano's threats, was wired for a meeting at which they discussed sharks, cement mixers, torture and mutilation. Tariche testified he was told not to "encourage" Romano.
But the defense has called Machacek as a witness to try to show he "induced" Romano to pursue the murder of Bianco and prosecutor Lara Gatz so he could get leniency on gun and robbery charges he was facing. Machacek is expected to testify Thursday.
Prosecutors have introduced videotapes of Mirkovic, who has pleaded guilty, hiring the undercover agent to carry out the killings, and Wednesday they played tapes of Romano exulting when his partner told him he had contracted for the hit -- which they referred to in code as a "Dodge truck."
"This is a go?" Romano says. " . . . I'm so freakin', I'm happy you came. . . . I'm in my cell, I'm . . . dancing around and singing and stuff. . . . I was just . . . laughing . . . thinking about it."