A former Long Island congressman who believes American POWs from Vietnam are still being held in Eastern Europe apparently was the victim of a scam by two men pretending to assist in his investigation, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn.
A federal prisoner named "Frank" who is jailed in Elkton, Ohio, and a Brooklyn man named Charles Giuga were paid more than $18,000 by the victim, identified as a "John," who used a Garden City post office, according to an affidavit filed by Scott Curtis, an FBI agent assigned to the Colombo crime family squad.
John LeBoutillier, 56, of Old Westbury, a Republican who served one term in Congress from 1980 to 1982 and who has long pursued theories that missing POWs were spirited out of Southeast Asia to Russia and its satellites, confirmed yesterday that he had been in touch with the FBI about the case. "The FBI has told me about this, and I'm trying to find out what it means," he said.
Prosecutors wouldn't confirm LeBoutillier was the victim. But in a 2004 Village Voice story, LeBoutillier said he was working with imprisoned Colombo family captain Frank Sparaco, 54, who he believed had made prison contacts with Russians that could help with his probe. Sparaco is now being held in Elkton, and is scheduled for release in 2014 - the same year as the "Frank" in the complaint.
LeBoutillier said he learned of the FBI's charges only yesterday and still wasn't completely sure it had been a scam. The former congressman, who has made a reputation as a conservative writer and commentator since leaving office, said he still believes passionately that American prisoners are being held somewhere in the former Soviet bloc.
"I don't know all the facts, but I have been trying to make contact with people in Eastern Europe," LeBoutillier said. "I believe there are at least 100 people captured in Vietnam and Laos who are still being held, and I'm trying to find a way to get them out."
The federal complaint said "Frank" - who hasn't been charged - used Giuga to pick up money and to retype letters that made the victim think he was communicating with a Russian mobster, Vyacheslav Ivankov, who purportedly had contacts in Belarus and was willing to help.
Giuga, 37, was released on $300,000 bond. His lawyer, Mathew Mari, said he was a florist and an innocent dupe.