Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jun 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Michael Barbaro


The only sign that the blue Colonial-style house on Durham Road in Guilford
was not the all-American household is the bullet-proof safe buried
underneath the garage floor.

That's where federal authorities suspect the owners, James and Mary Monaco,
now in jail, kept their cash and valuables.

But it became a selling point Saturday when the house, on 465 Durham Road,
and another at 22 Indian Woods Road in North Branford, were opened to the
public by the U.S. Department of the Treasury between 10 a.m.

and 2 p.m. in preparation for an auction Wednesday.

Many of the potential buyers who surveyed the houses had never heard of
James "Jimmy" Monaco, the convicted drug trafficker whose money paid for the

Monaco, 50, is serving a 55-year sentence in Illinois on federal drug
charges from Florida. He is said to have recruited family members who lived
in the two homes, including his parents, a brother and a sister, in a plan
to conceal more than $2 million in profits from his drug importing racket.

James Monaco, 79, his 72 year-old wife, Mary, and their son, David, 38, were
sentenced about a year ago to prison terms ranging from five to 6 1/2 years
for conspiring in a money laundering scheme that concealed the origins of
cash, property and vehicles. A sister, Linda DeMaio, 46, and her husband,
Michael, 44, were convicted for their parts in the operation.

And that's where the houses come in.

After the arrests, the federal authorities seized the two properties which
they said were purchases with proceeds from drug deals and, as part of a
confidential civil court settlement with the family, put them up for

Bidders put down a $10,000 deposit on the properties.

Saturday's open houses offered a rare glimpse into the Monaco family's most
private possessions and a chance to bid on what visitors hoped would be a
bargain home.

"We're here to buy," said Barbara Lampron, who came to Guilford with her
husband from New Jersey to look at the 1,820-square-foot Durham Road home.

"I'd buy this for the lot alone. It's well used land and it's got a fence
for my dogs."

The house, set back almost 200 hundred feet from the road, has a sunken
front lawn shielded by high brush, a central air conditioning system, a den
with a vaulted ceiling and newly refinished hard wood floors.

Linda Bernardo, a representative from Whitney Management, which is marketing
the two homes, handed out brochures to visitors and explained the history to
anyone who asked.

"It's a shame that the family lost it in the manner they did but it's a
beautiful home and the bidding will start high," Bernardo said.

In North Branford, more than two dozen potential bidders looked at David
Monaco's 1,964-square-foot ranch. Lissett Perez, who came to the house with
her husband Fernando in search of a first home, said the house's history was

"You get a funny feeling when you think of where the owners are, but its not
a problem for me," she said.

Her husband agreed.

"It's a good opportunity to take something negative and make it positive,"
he said.

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