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
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.