Shawn Fordham, Mayor Street's onetime top aide and gaming adviser, testified yesterday before a grand jury in Harrisburg investigating whether slot machine licensee and Scranton mogul Louis DeNaples has ties to organized crime.
"I don't know DeNaples, only from reading the newspaper," said Fordham, 40, after his 25-minute appearance.
DeNaples owns 90 businesses worth $2 billion.
Fordham, one of five witnesses to testify, has links to two earlier grand jury witnesses: Imam Shamsud-din Ali, now serving a seven-year sentence in a city corruption scandal, and labor leader Sam Staten.
As a political adviser to the mayor, Fordham knew Ali and Staten, both longtime Street supporters.
In 2001, Fordham, a Street relative by marriage, was supposed to help Ali obtain city contracts, according to evidence in Ali's 2005 racketeering trial.
In the same year, the FBI monitored Ali and Staten meeting with Scranton-area crime boss William "Big Billy" D'Elia and others at a South Philadelphia restaurant to discuss forming a demolition company to obtain public contracts.
Ali and Staten later became partners in running Clear Alley, a city-certified minority company, incorporated in 2002. Ali later traveled to Scranton in an unsuccessful effort to obtain business deals, including erecting cell phone towers, according to trial testimony. But Clear Alley never obtained any public contracts in Philadelphia, or in Lackawanna County.
The only documented help Fordham gave Ali was when he and another mayoral aide "insisted" that the imam receive a $60,000 commission for getting a known real estate tax delinquent to pay his taxes, according to evidence in Ali's trial.
Another Philadelphia-area grand jury witness, Barry Shapiro, president of BudTel Inc., a telecommunications company, said after his testimony that "I installed a pay phone on [DeNaples] property. They wanted to know about that."
Shapiro's attorney, Wanda Aiken, said the grand jury was looking at the relationship between DeNaples and D'Elia. Shapiro, an acquaintance of D'Elia, said, "He's a nice guy. I didn't even know" he was indicted.
D'Elia, now in federal custody, was charged in two indictments last year - one for money laundering, another for conspiring to murder two witnesses in the money-laundering case. D'Elia has also testified before the DeNaples grand jury.
Three other witnesses, a couple in their early 60s, and a white-haired, heavyset man also testified before the grand jury yesterday.
Fordham and DeNaples spokesman Kevin Feeley did not return calls from the Daily News last night.
In a related development, the state Gaming Control Board yesterday identified three nominees for the five-member independent audit committee to oversee the DeNaples casino, scheduled to open on Oct. 15. They are:
* Robert D. Peloquin, 78, of Fairfield, Pa. A Justice Department prosecutor the 1950s and 1960s who became boss of the Organized Crime Strike Force; president from 1970-1990 of Intertel Inc., an international intelligence firm that hired former U.S. and some foreign agency spies; and executive vice president of Resorts International from 1985-1990.
* Bradford S. Smith, 56, of Cinnaminson, N.J. Former mayor of Cinnaminson 1979-1982; former New Jersey state senator 1992-1994; chair and CEO of the N.J. Casino Control Commission 1994-1998; gaming consultant.
* Barbara A. Lang, CPA. Senior accountant at Bally's Park Place in Atlantic City 1981-1987; audit committee member for Great Bay Holdings, owner of Sands Casino, 1998-2001; licensed New Jersey key casino executive. *