Mob Bell

How Tele-Savvy Wiseguys Bought a Midwest Phone Company

One way those funds were routed into the legitimate phone company, the affidavit stated, was via yet another Martino-affiliated firm, a Kansas City-based billing company called USP&C, which collected credit card and phone charges on those who viewed the Internet sites or called the numbers. In 2001, California regulators fined that company a whopping $1.75 million for bilking customers. According to the affidavit, Matzdorff was "a high-ranking executive officer of USP&C."

Dial M for Mob: Wiseguys allegedly bought control of Cass County Telephone, headquartered in rural Peculiar, Missouri.
(Photo: J. P. Ferguson)
Further down the money trail, the feds stated in affidavits, the boys from New York made an even larger investment. In 2000, investigators asserted, the same group of players formed a separate company to buy into a joint enterprise called Spectra Communications Group to purchase 116,000 additional local phone lines from GTE. In that venture, the alleged wiseguys had two partners. One was a small Georgia-based, minority-owned firm called Spectronics Corporation, which later dissolved after top officials were charged in a municipal scandal in Atlanta. The other was a prominent, publicly traded telecommunications company called CenturyTel, which provides phone service throughout areas in the South, Midwest, and Western United States.

Like Cass County Telephone, Spectra is entitled to subsidies as well, and records show it receives about $15 million annually from the Universal Service Fund.

Phone company headquarters (top) on Downtown Street.
photo: J. P. Ferguson
Phone company headquarters (top) on Downtown Street.

Matzdorff played a leading role in that deal as well, serving as regional vice president of CenturyTel. He has not been charged in the Brooklyn case and did not return calls last week. His attorney told the Kansas City Star, which reported Matzdorff's alleged involvement in the schemes on February 14, that his client knew nothing about the organized crime ties of his associates.

A spokesman for CenturyTel said that while Matzdorff is an employee of the firm, his relationship with Cass County Telephone is separate and apart. Don Neely, the spokesman, said he couldn't say whether Martino and LoCascio's company still had an investment in Spectra. "It's kind of convoluted at this point," he said. "As regional vice president, Ken would be the one to address those questions."

But Matzdorff isn't talking. At Pat's Family Restaurant on South Main Street in Peculiar, where he is a lunchtime regular, a manager who gave her name as Sharon said she hadn't seen any suspicious characters around town and doubted the mob tale was true. "Oh yeah, we saw it," she said, referring to the Star story. "But all the phone company workers come in here to eat, so we don't want to talk about it."

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