One Police Plaza

Welcome Home, Pitch!

April 9, 2007

Bernie Kerik’s former chief of staff, John Picciano, has returned to New York from São Paulo, Brazil, where he was in residence for the past couple of years. His return is as mysterious as was his departure.

Is it related to Kerik’s impending federal indictment, reportedly for income tax evasion; conspiring with former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to wiretap her skirt-chasing husband; and providing false information to the government when nominated as Director of Homeland Security? Make no mistake, readers, it looks bad for Bernie.

Or is Pitch’s return of a more personal nature? Maybe to repay some of the thousands of dollars or he owes or to make amends with his family? As Pitch recently said to a friend, “I am just a simple man with a few harmless vices.”

Pitch, as he is lovingly called, worked for Kerik in the Corrections Department, the NYPD and at Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm of former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Pitch served as the chief operating officer of Giuliani’s security subsidiary. [Another good choice, Rudy.]

In these venues, Pitch acted as Bernie’s cook/ bottle-washer/hustler and schemer. In his autobiography, “The Lost Son,” Kerik describes Pitch as “a fixer — the kind of guy who instinctively knows how to work a system, to get things done.” Bernie meant that as a compliment.

Over at Corrections, Pitch declared personal bankruptcy a number of times. Kerik, too, declared bankruptcy. With Pitch, it was calculated. With Kerik, it seemed like desperation as he could not manage his finances.

Pitch was also involved in a tax scheme involving thousands of city employees, including Kerik’s Corrections Department girlfriend, Jeanette Pineiro. The city concluded the practice was improper. About 150 city employees lost their jobs, but not Pineiro or Pitch, who denied wrongdoing.

Then, there was the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Corrections Department charity of which Kerik was the nominal head. Its treasurer, Fred Patrick, pleaded guilty to using $142,733 of that money to pay for phone sex calls from inmates. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fund remain unaccounted for. Did Kerik or Pitch play a role in the money’s disappearance? So far, at least, only Patrick has been indicted. Both Kerik and Pitch have denied wrongdoing.

Over at the NYPD, Pitch masterminded the controversial purchase of four high-tech doors for $200,000. The doors proved too large for One Police Plaza and supposedly disappeared. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered an investigation because he said there was no paperwork to justify their purchase. The doors were subsequently discovered at Riker’s Island.

“How can the police department say they disappeared when they were found on Riker’s Island?” Kerik said at the time. Said Pitch: “The Police Department made a mistake in sending them Riker’s and then two years later cried they don’t know where they are.”

Pitch and Kerik shared at least one common trait. Both were compulsive philanderers. We all know about the married Kerik’s serial wanderings with Pineiro and his publisher Judith Regan at his Ground Zero apartment love nest. We can only speculate about his relationship with Pirro.

The married Pitch, too, has had his way with women — in particular one Carmen Vives, a Corrections Department secretary. In 1998 she filed a complaint with the NYPD that Pitch had broken into her home in Queens and assaulted her. As she told a Corrections Department official at the time, “Johnny beat me up and put a gun to my head.” She later withdrew the complaint. No charges were ever brought. “Never happened,” Pitch said.

When Kerik flamed out as Homeland Security Director and left Giuliani Partners, Pitch also bailed out. He left his wife and five kids and ran off to Rio and the beaches at Ipanema.

Whether this was due to his harmless vices, as he put it, or to the fact that a Bronx grand jury was investigating the $165,000 in free renovations to Kerik’s Bronx apartment by a New Jersey company with suspected mob ties remains unclear.

But being close to Kerik has become dangerous. In addition to Patrick and Pirro — whose discussions about bugging hubby Al emanated from a wiretap aimed at Kerik — there are the unfortunate DiTommaso brothers, whose New Jersey company, Interstate Industrial, supposedly paid for the $165,000 in renovations to Kerik’s Bronx apartment. Kerik testified to that before a Bronx grand jury, leading to a plea deal with no jail time.

The DiTommasos, meanwhile, apparently thinking they were stand-up guys, testified they hadn’t paid for Bernie’s renovations. Result: they’re now on trial for perjury.

So where does Pitch fit in here? Is he so close to Kerik that he, too, will get burned? Or does he know more about Bernie than Bernie does about him?

On the other hand, maybe, he misses the wife and kids. Maybe he came home to spend Easter with them. If so, welcome home, Pitch.