An Erie County grand jury today indicted a man authorities described as a violence-prone, gun-toting thug responsible for the 1974 execution-style revenge murder of reputed Buffalo mobster and drug dealer Albert J. Billiteri Jr.
Based on information recently supplied by two mob informants, Faust Novino, 38, of Tonawanda, was arrested and held without bail, following his arraignment before Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski. He was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder.
Novino, a construction worker, was denounced in court by Deputy District Attorney John J. DeFranks as "particularly violent individual who carries firearms and uses them."
Robert M. Murphy, Novino's attorney, complained to the judge that Novino, implicated but never arrested for a 1976 mob shooting, has been accused of the Billiteri slaying by "hoodlums" who have given prosecutors unsubstantiated "hearsay" evidence.
DeFranks conceded that much of the case against Novino is based on testimony obtained in the past two weeks from informants, but he insisted prosecutors have a solid case.
The body of Billiteri, shot six times in the head, chest and shoulders, was found in an isolated section of Aero Drive in Cheektowaga near the Greater Buffalo International Airport on Sept. 14, 1974, several hours after his death.
Erie County District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon refused to discuss the case, but law enforcement sources said a task force of investigators from the district attorney's office, state police, and the Amherst and Cheektowaga police departments still are trying to identify an alleged Novino accomplice.
Billiteri was the son of a convicted mob loan shark.
Law enforcement sources said authorities believe Billiteri was slain in revenge for robbing the mother of a mob associate.
Sources said organized crime figures put a contract out for Novino, but it was dropped after a 1976 attempt on Novino's life in a Connecticut Street building ended with Novino allegedly shooting mob lieutenant John Sacco.
Sacco, now 62 and a government informant, only recently told authorities that Novino shot him. But, Sacco's earlier refusal to identify his assailant let the state's five-year statute of limitations on non-murder crimes expire, and Novino cannot be charged in that 1976 shooting.
Sacco wasn't an informant in the Billiteri case, sources said.
William Koopman, 32, who recently joined the federal witness protection program, and an Italian-American mob informant helped authorities build the murder case against Novino, sources said.