Indicted White Plains dentist has Gotti lawyer

UPDATE: BAKER HAS PLEADED GUILTY TO GRAND LARCENY AND INSURANCE FRAUD. CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY.

White Plains dentist indicted for fraud will be represented at trial by one of the lawyers who successfully defended alleged Gambino Crime Family leader John Gotti Jr.

Attorney Charles Carnesi, who won acquittals at Gotti’s third and fourth federal trials, was hired by Dr. Joanne Baker to fight insurance fraud charges against her. Jury selection in Baker’s trial started this morning in Westchester County Court.

Baker, a 51-year-old Scarsdale resident, is accused of bilking Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. out of $15,000 from her office at 1 Bryant Crescent and then trying to cover it up. She is alleged to have billed MetLife for dental work that she never performed. Prosecutors say she created phony patient medical records and sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006.

About 18 patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, the MetLife Auto and Home Fraud Unit and the District Attorney’s Office investigated the claims, and Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008.

She has pleaded not guilty to the entite 13-count indictment charging her with grand larceny, insurance fraud, scheme to defraud and falsifying business records, all felonies. She is free on $10,000 bail.

Carnesi and Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald are expected to give opening statments at the dentist’s felony trial on Thursday, May 20 in front of Judge Barbara Zambelli.

Photo: Joanne Baker

Liza with a “z” stuns one Tony viewer

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

So there’s Jack Garcia sitting at home watching the Tony Awards when Liza Minnelli’s win for special theatrical event is announced. She hops up onstage to accept the award accompanied by her choreographer and – this is where Garcia about falls off the couch – her manager Gary Labriola.

See, Garcia is former FBI Agent Joaquin Garcia better known as Jack “Fat Jack” Falcone, the erstwhile jewel thief who ran with Greg DePalma’s Gambino crew in Westchester a few years back. Garcia’s undercover work helped bring down the entire hierarchy of the Gambino Crime Family. He became DePalma’s right hand man, so valuable to the aging Mafioso that DePalma wanted to put him up for official membership in the crime family.

Part of the case included allegations that DePalma shook down Labriola, trying to get him to pay $12,000 for a lavish Las Vegas trip for the wives of reputed mob bosses. When Labriola balked, DePalma  was caught on an FBI bug denouncing Minnelli’s diminutive longtime handler, “He’s not a munchkin, he’s a worm.”

But when it came time to testify, Labriola was gone. DePalma’s lawyers wanted him to call him to the stand to say DePalma didn’t force him to pay for the trip, that he did it of his own volition. But federal prosecutors left open the possibility of a perjury charge if Labriola said that.  Labriola was out of the country when DePalma went to trial three years ago in federal court in Manhattan. His lawyer, Paul Bergman, said at the time he was not authorized to accept a subpoena for him.

“I wonder if he accepted the invitation to the Tonys for him,” Garcia cracked a a few minutes ago. “This weasel is willing to run out of the country then. But he’s standing there on stage for the whole world to see. Unbelievable.”

Labriola, it turns out, provided one of the hairier encounters Garcia had during his time undercover. While posing as a Florida jewel thief, he actually grew up in the Bronx and went to school at Mount Saint Michael on the Bronx – Mount Vernon border. So, too, and at the same time, it turns out, did Labriola.

But when they met while Garcia was undercover, Labriola didn’t recognize him.

Garcia, meanwhile, is working on a followup to his book about his time undercover with DePalma’s crew, “Making Jack Falcone.” This book will focus on his undercover work in police corruption cases.

In the interim, the 300-pound Garcia, whose book detailed as much of the culinary delights as criminal endeavors of the mob, is trying to take better care of his health.

“I’m looking for the doctor who is going to tell me fat is in,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.”

Barb from the bench

Judge Stephen C. Robinson has earned a reputation during his five and a half years on the bench at the Brieant Courthouse for a wit that is as sharp as it is quick.

Lawyers appearing before the judge have come to expect the judge’s quips — though to be fair Robinson is at least as likely to jab himself as anyone else. Usually, his able courtroom deputy Brandon Skolnik is his foil.

Today, though, it was defense lawyer Seth Ginsberg who was the target. Ginsberg, along with his co-counsel Charles Carnesi, has confounded federal prosecutors repeatedly in their efforts to nail alleged Gambino Crime Family scion John Gotti Jr. by battling them to a standoff at several trials. He was in White Plains today representing Renata Kuehl, a Patterson woman convicted of bank fraud who stood for sentencing.

Robinson greeted the prosecution team by name and turned to do the same with the defense table. After saying hello to Mr. Ginsberg and Mr. Carnesi, he said good morning to Ms. Ginsberg, mistakenly identifying the defendant before correcting himself.

“That’s my wife,” Ginsberg said, joking about the Mrs. Ginsberg reference.

Without missing a beat, the judge replied:

“She may need to be committed, not sentenced.”