Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pal's Testimony Boosts Bergrin's Defense

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pal's Testimony Boosts Bergrin's Defense

Article excerpt

Aiming to bolster his stance that he suspected a reputed hit man was a fraud, attorney Paul W. Bergrin called a Belleville woman to testify Thursday as he defended himself at his murder and racketeering trial in Newark.

Ana Destefano told jurors that in July 2008, Bergrin, who had befriended her, asked her to research Oscar Cordova, then a member of the Latin Kings gang in Chicago, and its leader, "Lord Gino."

Destefano did a "Google search" and made inquiries through her son's girlfriend, whose family had a member in the New Jersey chapter of the Latin Kings, she said.

She said she reported back to Bergrin that Lord Gino had renounced his gang affiliation in 2006 and that Cordova, contrary to his boasts to Bergrin, was not the son of the gang leader.

Instructed by the court not to reveal what Bergrin had said to her at the time, Destefano added that she cautioned her close friend to be careful because Cordova might be an informant.

Bergrin, of Nutley and a former federal and Essex County assistant prosecutor, is defending himself against charges that he used his law firm as a racketeering enterprise to engage in crimes ranging from cocaine trafficking and prostitution to witness tampering and the murder of an FBI informant. In one case, he is accused of recruiting Cordova to kill witnesses against a client charged with drug trafficking.

If convicted of murder, he faces life in prison.

Cordova, a paid informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, secretly recorded Bergrin for several months in 2008, culminating in a conversation in which Bergrin allegedly told him to make the murder of a witness look like a home-invasion robbery. Bergrin claimed in his opening statement that, having learned Cordova was a fraud, he was leading him on.

Cordova testified earlier in the trial about the murder plot and plans to launch a global cocaine distribution network. He was later recalled and forced to admit he lied on the stand about calling in a threat against his life, because he didn't want to testify at the trial.

Under cross-examination, Destefano became agitated, non- responsive and sparred with the prosecutor. U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh repeatedly instructed her to answer questions. …

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