Witness: Gym buy was legit

By From page A1 | October 26, 2012

Gennaro “Gino” Dimatteo appeared in court for a conditional examination on Oct. 19 to explain where the man accused of bribing a South Lake Tahoe city councilwoman obtained funds to purchase a gym.

After an initial objection from prosecutor James Clinchard over not having read all the discovery pertaining to the testimony was noted by Judge Douglas C. Phimister, who said that “As far as I am concerned, this is a deposition,” defense attorney Robert Woelfel called his witness.

William Wilkins, 69, was called to the stand. He explained that he was suffering from a multitude of conditions, including mesothelioma lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, skin cancer and a heart condition. He required an apparatus to assist him in breathing and said without his new electric chair it would take him an hour to walk the 10 or 15 feet from the witness stand to he defendant’s table. Twenty feet, he said, was like walking a mile and a half. This, Woelfel explained, was why he was testifying now instead of at a later date.

A Navy veteran of Vietnam, Wilkins explained that he and Dimatteo met when the younger man began working as a cook and driver while providing security at Wilkins’ Nevada brothel about a decade ago. “He’s the most trustworthy person other than my two other friends,” Wilkins said.

Hiring a replacement when Dimatteo left led to dire circumstances, Wilkins said. The new hire “was a problem. He ran my limo off a 35-foot embankment” to do Wilkins harm, he said. It led to a 27-day-long coma, during which many valuables were stolen. “They stole everything,” Wilkins said.

Dimatteo “heard I was ill, not in very good shape. He started looking after me.” Dimatteo found Wilkins sleeping on the couch of a mutual acquaintance’s  house, and the medical marijuana dispensary manager and future gym owner moved his old employer into his house.

“He could be trusted to make decisions, unlike a lot of people,” Wilkins said. “He’s the son I never had…If I had wanted a son, he would be just like Gino was.” He said the younger man “understands boundaries and people. Property.”

Wilkins made Dimatteo the sole beneficiary of his estate and developed a living trust with the initial beneficiary as Dimatteo. Woelfel presented a copy of the trust to Wilkins, who affirmed that was indeed the trust. Clinchard objected to the showing of the trust on relevancy and hearsay, but Woelfel replied that the District Attorney’s Office was alleging that Dimatteo made his money through “fraud or felonious activity. Dimatteo earned well over $100,000 from the trust, it explains a large amount of income.” The objection was overruled.

The primary source of the money for the trust, Wilkins said, was from mesothelioma settlements. He had made more than $210,000 from settlements, with more money coming in, with all the money handled by Bank of America. Upon being shown a copy of one of the settlement checks, Clinchard again argued on the relevancy and hearsay of the evidence. Phimister allowed the check as an argument that Wilkins did indeed receive the money.

The two men also dabbled in antique cars, which gives Wilkins “a reason to get up in the mornings. They’re always a good investment…Gino handles that.” As a hobby and way of making money, the two restore and sell the cars. “Write it off as something to do,” he said.

When asked what his preferred method of keeping money is, Wilkins replied that he uses gold or cash. “Cash is OK to do business, buy things, make a profit with. As for having faith in it, I don’t.”

At the same Nevada branch of Bank of America that handles Wilkins’ money, a safety deposit box holds gold coins Dimatteo bought with Wilkins’ money. Dimatteo has access to them, as Wilkins is homebound, but the older man trusts his would-be son implicitly, making whatever he owns available to the younger man, who does the same. As for why he allows Dimatteo to handle his money, “He has a future. I don’t.”

In 2011, Wilkins loaned Dimatteo about $100,000 and in June of 2012, the two discussed purchasing a fitness club as an investment. After Dimatteo told Wilkins he wanted to “do something different” than their normal investments, the older man gave the go-ahead to sell some gold coins and buy the gym. Dimatteo, after all, had been a fitness instructor and Wilkins had seen how he ran businesses, so Wilkins had no problem with the idea. “If he wanted, he could take it all,” he said of his coins and money. “What am I going to do with it? …I only told him, ‘Take what you need, do what you got to do.’”

Four blocks away from the bank was a coin dealer. Dimatteo walked out with a receipt for $77,000 from the sale of the coins.

Clinchard again objected, as Wilkins had never seen the inside of the safety deposit box and Phimister sustained. But, he allowed the testimony for limited purposes of having seen the receipt.

The final part of the testimony surrounded Wilkins’ firearms, as Dimatteo has also been charged with illegal possession of ammunition. A gun collector since he was a boy, Wilkins had a shooting range behind his brothel. Dimatteo did not carry a firearm, nor was he ever seen using one or handling ammunition, even at the range, Wilkins testified.

Wilkins and his wife have five children, and he did not want them to get ahold of the guns, of which he had too many to fit the boxes, which increase the value of the investments, into his small gun safe. Wilkins spoke with Dimatteo’s wife, Irene, who agreed to store the empty boxes with ammunition in their home. Her husband was unaware of this. After being shown photos of himself holding the aluminum boxes with ammo, Wilkins affirmed that was indeed him and those were his gun boxes.

As the hearing had now gone past 4 p.m., Phimister declared that the issue would be concluded in two weeks’ time. Wilkins’ testimony was continued to Nov. 2 at 2 p.m.

Cole Mayer

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