2 accused of plot to kill for hire

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

April 28, 1995, Friday, City Edition

2 accused of plot to kill for hire

BYLINE: PETER WALLSTEN

SECTION: TAMPA BAY AND STATE; Pg. 1B

LENGTH: 613 words

DATELINE: CLEARWATER

 

Federal agents have arrested two New York City men in connection with an  alleged murder-for-hire plot involving business disputes between local doctors  and medical service contractors.

John Cassano, 57, and Michael Zampardi, 39, were arrested Wednesday in  Clearwater and charged with extortion. They were held without bail Thursday in  Hillsborough County Jail.



In an affidavit filed Wednesday in federal court, the FBI said the two New  Yorkers were hired by at least two men – Dr. Joseph Forlizzo of Palm Harbor  and Philip Henry Bova, whose address was not known – to harm two men who owed  $ 900,000. It was not clear to whom the money was owed.

Forlizzo, reached Thursday night, said he hadn’t heard anything about the  scheme.

“I don’t know who the hell would sign an affidavit like that,” he said.  “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The arrests capped a months-long investigation in which the FBI used an  unnamed witness to record conversations and relay information.

FBI Special Agent Brian Kensel said Thursday that the investigation is  continuing but declined to elaborate on the case.

The targets of the scheme, according to the affidavit signed by FBI Agent  Charlotte Braziel, owned two Clearwater medical service companies and were  involved in disputes with Forlizzo and his brother, Dr. Richard Forlizzo.

The document alleges that Joseph Forlizzo and others sought to settle the  disputes by hiring hit men to harm Michael J. Muzio and Earl Ball. Muzio and  Joseph Forlizzo were partners in a medical services company before problems  arose.

“In late 1994, there was a dispute over ownership and funds resulting in  civil suits filed by both parties,” the affidavit states. “Muzio believes  (Joseph) Forlizzo had hired the New York individuals to harm him as a result  of this dispute.”

Others named in the affidavit couldn’t be reached.

The attorney representing Zampardi, one of the men arrested, said he wasn’t  familiar enough with the case to comment. “The feds haven’t told us much,”   said Lewis Garlisi of Tampa.

The 10-page affidavit cites several conversations and meetings dating back  to March 3, when Bova allegedly told the witness he was a “middle man” in  the plan to “whack” Muzio.

As the scheme unfolded, federal investigators learned that the plan was to  “hit” Muzio and empty his bank account, using a fake driver’s license,  according to the affidavit. They also learned that Ball owed Dr. Richard  Forlizzo money. Ball told investigators that he was being intimidated by the  men who were targeting Muzio, the affidavit states.

At one point, Bova is quoted as telling the FBI’s witness that one of the  men involved in the scheme “starts at the knees, and the louder you yell, the  more pain he inflicts.”

Last month, FBI agents watched Bova, Cassano, Zampardi and others step off  a Continental Airlines jet at Tampa International and head to a restaurant in  downtown St. Petersburg, the affidavit states. There they met Joseph Forlizzo,  among others, and headed to Muzio’s Clearwater office for a meeting about the  debt.

Later, the witness was told that the New York men had been fired from the  scheme. Instead, the witness himself would be paid to hit Muzio, the affidavit  says.

But as late as last week, the witness learned that Cassano and Zampardi  would be coming back Tuesday.

FBI agents were ready as the two arrived at the airport. The agents  followed the men and arrested them Wednesday.

A hearing for Cassano and Zampardi is scheduled for this morning in Tampa  federal court.

– Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.