Providence Journal

 

OPERATION PLUNDER DOME

 

FBI suspends agent with ties to witness

 

W. ZACHARY MALINOWSKI & MIKE STANTON

06-19-2001

 

 

An FBI agent has been suspended amid allegations that he had an extramarital affair and accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Gail-Ann Calenda, the ex-wife of a mob associate and a witness in Operation Plunder Dome.

 

Among the gifts, a friend of the agent told The Providence Journal last night, was a bath house at the private Bonnet Shores Beach Club in Narragansett.

 

Special Agent David S. DiLustro was placed on administrative leave last week, pending an internal investigation into his relationship with Gail-Ann Calenda.

 

The FBI confirmed the suspension - with pay following inquiries from reporters.

 

Calenda, who now goes by the name of Gail Goss, bribed city officials to win substantial property-tax reductions in 1998 on property that she owned with her then-husband, Paul Calenda.

 

The bribe, which came shortly before Paul Calenda reported to prison for possession of an Uzi submachine gun, led to the convictions of two tax officials and a lawyer who delivered the money to them on Gail Calenda's behalf. But Gail Calenda, who cooperated with the FBI's Plunder Dome investigation of City Hall corruption, was never charged.

 

It is unclear what impact, if any, the DiLustro allegations could have on Operation Plunder Dome or the pending corruption indictments against Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., two of his close associates and three others.

 

DiLustro is not one of the FBI agents mentioned in court records as having played a role in the Calenda tax-breaks case. He apparently met Gail Calenda in the mid- 1990s, when he was investigating organized-crime activities.

 

Now, DiLustro finds himself under investigation at the same time he is going through a rocky divorce from his wife of 12 years, Janice DiLustro.

 

According to court papers in the DiLustros' divorce, DiLustro also has been dating Rebecca Coia, a legal secretary at Coia & Lepore who is also going through a divorce from Raymond C. Coia, a lawyer at the firm.

 

In an interview last night, Rebecca Coia blamed the allegations leading to DiLustro's suspension on Gail Calenda's bitterness at his ending their affair.

 

"It's a personal thing that she's trying to make professional, and it's really, really sad, because he's been an FBI agent for 23 years, and a very good one," said Coia.

 

Coia said that DiLustro began an affair with Calenda around 1995 that continued intermittently for about four years.

 

"He tried to break it off with her .. She didn't want to hear it," said Coia. "It was a fatal attraction gone sour."

 

When DiLustro met Gail Calenda, the FBI was involved in a major probe into an extortion and loansharking operation involving mobsters Gerard T. Ouimette and Bobby DeLuca.

 

Calenda's husband, Paul Calenda, a millionaire businessman and mob associate, was targeted by the mobsters. Ouimette and DeLuca were charged with trying to extort from Calenda $125,000 and a restaurant he owned in Warren.

 

With the help of the Calendas and Paula Coppola, the widow of slain mobster Ronnie Coppola, Ouimette and DeLuca were convicted and sent to prison.

 

The Coppolas and Calendas lived next door to each other in townhouses on Cannon Street in Cranston. Gail-Ann Calenda and Paula Coppola were close friends who had vacationed together in Aruba.

 

Rebecca Coia said that DiLustro's affair with Gail Calenda came at a low point in his life, after he had lost his mother to cancer and was nearly killed in a bank-robbery shootout.

 

"He bottomed out, and she really pursued him," said Coia. "He didn't have the strength [to resist her]. She gave him a wild life, a good life. She was buying him things."

 

Later, said Coia, when DiLustro tried to end the affair, Calenda kept pursuing him.

 

"When he tried to break it off, she would buy him something and buy him something a little bit bigger and nicer," said Coia.

 

Then, a few years ago, Coia said, Calenda bought DiLustro a bath house at Bonnet Shores, where the Calendas owned several cabanas, which are more expensive than the bath houses. In the DiLustros' divorce records, the bath house is valued at $3,000.

 

"She bought him something to keep him close to her, to keep an eye on him," said Coia.

 

Coia declined to say what else Calenda gave DiLustro.

 

John D. Lynch, Janice DiLustro's divorce lawyer, said last night that he hired a private detective who tailed DiLustro late last year and early this year. The detective, said Lynch, turned up evidence of an "extramarital affair" between David DiLustro and Gail Calenda.

 

In 1998, Paul Calenda pleaded guilty to possession of an Uzi machine gun and was sent to federal prison. A few months later, Gail Calenda obtained a divorce in the Dominican Republic and began using her former name, Gail Goss.

 

In June 1999, she surfaced in Operation Plunder Dome. The Sunday Journal reported that the Calendas had the value of three of their properties lowered from $840,600 to $579,500, a reduction of $261,100. The changes saved the Calendas $16,626 in 1998 property taxes.

 

The Calendas were proprietors of a South Providence jewelry company, New England Industries, and own several properties in the city. They are also longtime supporters of Cianci, who appointed Gail Calenda in 1990 to the Providence Housing Board of Review, which hears appeals from property owners on housing-code violations.

 

Over the years, Gail Calenda, easily recognizable with her bleached blond hair and a perpetual tan, has been a regular at political fundraisers. She also is known for driving Mercedes-Benz and BMW luxury cars.

 

In December 1999, Gail Calenda emerged again in Operation Plunder Dome. This time, she was accused of delivering a $5,000 bribe to a lawyer who brought it to tax officials in City Hall.

 

The lawyer, John A. Scungio, was charged and later pleaded guilty to the crime. Calenda, who cooperated against Scungio, was not charged. The payment was to secure the $261,100 in tax reductions on the three Calenda-owned properties.

 

Following Scungio's guilty plea, two tax officials who received bribe money in the deal, Joseph A. Pannone and David C. Ead, also pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

 

DiLustro, 46, born in Johnston, was transferred from the FBI's New York office to Rhode Island several years ago. Here, he spent most of his time investigating bank robberies with the state and local police.

 

In recent months, he had moved to a unit in the FBI's white collar crime unit.

 

DiLustro, who has a law degree, also worked on a major organized crime case in recent years that resulted in federal guilty pleas from mobsters Anthony M. "The Saint" St. Laurent and Eddie Lato.

 

In 1994, DiLustro was among a group of FBI agents, state police and local police who opened fire on a gang of bank robbers in North Providence. One of the robbers suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach. None of the officers was injured.


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