Prosecutor names Lauretti as “the number one public official”

NEW HAVEN – A federal prosecutor lifted the veil on “Public Agent # 1” on Monday morning when he told the jury that Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti was awarded $ 20,000 in lumber and construction work on his home in 2002 to James Botti, a Shelton developer on bribery lawsuit.

While Lauretti has not been charged with any felony and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, US Assistant Prosecutor Richard Schechter wasted no time in implicating the mayor while exposing his case against Botti, who is accused of conspiracy. with a view to defrauding Shelton, bribing Lauretti and postal fraud by depriving Shelton residents of an honest government.

During his 10th term as mayor, Lauretti presided over the economic recovery of Shelton, a town hit hard over 30 years ago by a devastating arson attack at the Sponge Rubber Co. factory. Lauretti did could not be reached for comment on the allegations on Monday.

William F. Dow III, Botti’s attorney, responded to the prosecution’s charges, suggesting that the 16 jurors look around the courtroom. After an eight-year investigation and despite the prosecution’s allegations that Lauretti accepted bribes, Dow claimed: “All you’ve got is James Botti sitting alone in the courtroom. . “

When Schechter and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale began calling witnesses, the jury quickly got a taste of what the prosecution claims to be the way business is conducted in one of the most prosperous cities in the country. Connecticut.

“James Botti bought public officials as often as he bought automobiles,” said Schechter. “A bought public agent, like a car, can take you anywhere you want. Like a nice car, Mark Lauretti doesn’t come cheap.”

Ralph Matto, a 78-year-old builder, testified that he had caught a glimpse of it. During his testimony, Matto said he made free plans for two renovations to Lauretti’s house on David Drive.

“I like doing it,” said Matto, who isn’t an architect by training but has done it for “40 to 50 people”.

In Lauretti’s case, Matto said he made plans to convert a garage into a family room with a bedroom without an elevator. Soon after, he again drew up plans for the mayor to build a garage with a master bedroom above it, he said.

While visiting the construction site one day, Matto said Botti called him.

“He said he had a pile of wood left over from other work and was donating the material,” Matto told the jury and US District Senior Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. The witness also said Botti’s construction crew was working on Lauretti’s house.

“I think it’s crazy to do something like that,” Matto said. “I suggested that if you’re going to do this, give the person the money it will cost… and let them pay you to make it look good.”

Matto admitted that he was concerned Botti was in trouble.

“I don’t see what it could look like, it was higher and higher,” he said.

Still, Matto told the court that the free architectural drawings he gave Lauretti didn’t do him much good when he was trying to develop a property off Rocky Rest Road. When Matto came into conflict with the Planning and Zoning Commission, he turned to Lauretti for help.

The mayor, he said, hasn’t done much for him.

“It’s not that he couldn’t do it,” Matto said. “I don’t think he tried.

Still, Matto claimed Lauretti asked him for help raising the roof line of his house. “I made a sketch for him,” he says. “He never asked me to draw plans.

But it didn’t end with plans or Lauretti.

Thomas D’Addario, of the D’Addario car dealership in Shelton, explained a series of three-day vehicle trades and purchases that would have allowed Botti to sell his 2006 dump truck to Elliot Wilson, the manager of the city ​​building, for $ 4,000. below market value. Wilson pleaded guilty in February to lying to a grand jury in the case.

They learned from Barry Mucci, another Shelton developer, how Alvaro DaSilva, then chairman of the Inland Wetlands Commission, was the silent partner in what turned out to be an unsuccessful plan to transform an animal hospital on Todd Road. into a residential development.

“Al DaSilva is a co-conspirator in this matter,” Dow told Mucci, who immediately raised objections from the prosecution.

DaSilva is expected to testify later.

Coming back to Botti, Mucci – who did excavation work for Botti – said he “was often fuming and raving … One of his famous phrases was: ‘The mayor owes me’. He said it several times. “

In his opening remarks, Schechter told the court: “James Botti and Mark Lauretti fell out” after the scandal that enveloped the government of the day. John G. Rowland went public on December 13, 2003.

Within weeks, he told the jury that Lauretti had paid the bills, but Botti redirected the money to the mayor in several ways, including hosting a $ 9,000 Christmas party at a restaurant the mayor owned in the city. ‘era.

In his opening remarks, Dow conceded: “There is no doubt that James Botti has done a favor for his childhood friend, Mark Lauretti.”

In 2002, Dow admitted that Botti had helped “organize work for Mark Lauretti’s house.”

At the same time, the attorney said Lauretti had done nothing for Crown Point and Kings Point, the two Bridgeport Avenue commercial properties that Botti was developing during this period.

“There is no doubt that the mayor fought for his friend in 2006 for the development of 828 Bridgeport Ave. because it was good for the community,” said Dow, referring to another of Botti.

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