Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Witness in Venezia Trial Tells of Bids to Thwart Agent Washington Park Mayor Testifies in Illegal Gambling Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Witness in Venezia Trial Tells of Bids to Thwart Agent Washington Park Mayor Testifies in Illegal Gambling Case

Article excerpt

Thomas Venezia and Amiel Cueto used a surprise court hearing in St. Clair County to try to stop a state liquor agent who they feared was investigating Venezia's gambling business, a witness testified in federal court Wednesday.

Mayor Sylvester Jackson of Washington Park testified as a prosecution witness that he had taken bribes up to $2,000 a week to protect Venezia's gambling business and was involved in the effort to "set up" liquor agent Bonds Robinson in 1992.

Jackson said he had been unaware that Robinson was working undercover with the FBI in an investigation that led to gambling and racketeering indictments against Venezia, 52, of Belleville, Jackson, 45, and several others.

Cueto is a politically influential Metro East lawyer who formerly represented Venezia and is his partner in one business venture. Cueto has not been charged in the case.

Jackson has pleaded guilty, and Venezia and three others are in the second month of their trial in federal court in East St. Louis on charges of running a multimillion-dollar illegal gambling operation.

Jackson told the jury that Robinson led a raid in April 1992 at the VFW Post near Scott Air Force Base, one of the most profitable locations offering gambling with video machines from Venezia's B&H Vending-Ace Music Co.

Jackson said Venezia agreed to meet with Robinson on Aug. 17, 1992, in hopes of keeping Robinson away from the gambling.

"Tom wanted to bribe Bonds," Jackson said.

A tape that Robinson secretly made of the meeting with Venezia and Jackson was played Tuesday and showed them talking repeatedly about cooperating. The conversation ended with Venezia saying he would think about the situation.

A week later, on Aug. 25, Robinson taped a conversation with Jackson in which Robinson asked why he had not heard from Venezia. In that tape played Wednesday, Jackson said Venezia was talking to Cueto about getting a better-paying job for Robinson with the state because they wanted to do everything "straight up and legit. …

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