New pleadings expected in 'sniper van' case

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - New court documents are expected to be filed next week in the case involving a stripped-out van found in old Metairie that one former FBI agent said appeared to be rigged for killing.

An FBI agent who was involved in the Worldwide Gaming case against Joseph Gagliano - one of the men found in the van - said he was surprised to learn of Gagliano's re-arrest.

It is a case that's been shrouded in secrecy.

Three months after Gagliano and Dominick Gullo were arrested in the van, both men remain locked up. But next week, new pleadings are expected to be filed.

"I'm surprised," said Rick Richard, who now serves as Mandeville's police chief. "I have no idea what this is about. Obviously there's more to the story than people riding around in a van like that."

Richard was an FBI agent who helped build a federal RICO case against Gagliano and 16 others in 1992. It was called Operation Hard Crust, and it involved known mafia operatives from New Orleans and New York who were tying to monopolize Louisiana's video gaming industry.

"They were gonna skim profits off bar operators and try and muscle their way in," said Richard.

Gagliano and his father, Frank, featured prominently in that case. Both were among 11 men who pleaded guilty in the scheme. They were recorded meeting secretly at Gagliano's French Quarter restaurant, arranging payoffs in a plan that attempted to hide mob involvement.

"We had enough through wiretaps to put together a pretty good case," said Richard.

Gagliano served three-and-a-half years in prison. But he was re-arrested two months ago, after a Jefferson Parish deputy discovered he and Gullo in the stripped-out van equipped with two kitchen chairs, peephole windows, a semi-automatic rifle and a silencer inside. Though Gagliano now faces a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and a silencer. Gullo was charged with possession of an unregistered silencer.

Richard said he never suspected Gagliano was violent.

"Every once in a while they would say they would break somebody's leg, but it was all false bravado," Richard said.

Richard said Gagliano struck him as more of a mafia "wanna-be" who used an alias to try and extort money in the Worldwide Gaming case.

"Everyone knew Joe Gagliano, and if he came in and said, 'I'm Joe Gagliano,' they would call State Police, so he came by the name Joe Stein," said Richard.

Now Richard said he will watch closely as federal investigators try and unravel what the van was for.

"I'm curious to find out what that's all about," he said.

Gagliano and Gullo have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. They remain locked up with no bond set.

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