Source Pravda.Ru

Alleged U.S. Mafia enforcer pleads not guilty to racketeering

World

A reputed &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2002/06/26/31223.html' target=_blank>Mafia enforcer who eluded a federal manhunt for eight months before FBI agents swooped down on him in rural Kentucky three weeks ago pleaded not guilty Friday to racketeering and extortion charges.

"Why is all the news media here?" Frank "The German" Schweihs asked as he waited for U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys to call his case.

"I don't know, slow day," defense attorney Dennis Berkson said with a straight face.

Schweihs, 75, the craggy, tough-looking alleged enforcer who according to prosecutors squeezed "street-tax" payments out of strip clubs, leaned on a cane as he stood in court.

He is one of 14 reputed mob figures under indictment in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation of long-unsolved murders.

Schweihs is also one of two defendants who slipped out of sight eight months ago just before federal prosecutors unveiled the indictment, which outlines an alleged 15-year racketeering conspiracy that included at least 19 slayings.

The other fugitive, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, has still not been located.