A trial witness testified Tuesday that he filled empty antifreeze and liquor bottles with gasoline and bought a lighter to arm the man he recruited to set fire to a Great Neck doctor’s office.
Nicholas Baialardo, who became a police informant after his March 2015 arrest, took the stand on the second day of testimony at James Kalamaras’ arson and burglary trial in Nassau County Court. Kalamaras, 42, a felon and tattoo artist from Suffolk County, faces up to life in prison if jurors convict him.
Baialardo named Dr. Anthony Moschetto, 55, of Sands Point as the man who ordered the Feb. 25, 2015, fire at the Northern Boulevard office of Dr. Martin Handler — Moschetto’s former partner.
“I told him I would find somebody to take care of the task and burn the building down for him,” said Baialardo, a Suffolk resident who is a part-time funeral home director and retired New York City transportation worker.
Prosecutors have alleged Kalamaras used a key that Moschetto provided — and Baialardo and accomplice James Chmela passed on — to access Handler’s office and try to burn him out of business.
Moschetto faces a separate trial and has pleaded not guilty to charges that include an alleged murder-for-hire plot prosecutors say also was aimed at Handler, along with arson, drug and weapon offenses.
Baialardo has pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges, and is facing up to about three decades in prison. Baialardo and Chmela have signed cooperation agreements with prosecutors — a move Baialardo called his attempt to get “leniency on my max sentence.”
Prosecutors say Chmela brought the gas, lighter and key to the scene of the fire and acted as Kalamaras’ getaway driver.
Baialardo, Chmela and Kalamaras later met up at a Selden social club where Kalamaras, who smelled of smoke and had suffered a burn, got cleaned up and changed, according to Baialardo. He said he then paid Kalamaras part of the $1,000 he was owed.
Jurors on Tuesday also heard a recording of a phone call between Kalamaras and Baialardo — by then a police informant — in which details of a fire are discussed and Kalamaras volunteers to “do it again in a way that it’s more effective.”
Baialardo testified Moschetto was a longtime friend who had treated him for high blood pressure, and that even before the arson, the two had struck up schemes to sell weapons and oxycodone pills.
“Dr. Moschetto was hurting for money and he said he has an unlimited amount of guns and that if I could move them, we could split the profit,” Baialardo said.
He said Moschetto and Handler had argued over money and their medical partnership had broken up.
Kalamaras’ lawyer Steven Barnwell questioned Baialardo at length Tuesday on claims he made about the arson in a surreptitiously recorded conversation with the undercover officer who later arrested Baialardo.
That included what Barnwell suggested were his claims on that recording that he was present at the time of the fire.
Baialardo said he didn’t recall saying he was at the scene, but that he’d lied at times to try to get “street credibility” with the officer who he thought was a criminal.