Both Vastola, 60, and Saka, 65, will remain free on bail pending their appeals.
"It's been a hard-fought case, and we will . . . continue to fight," Michael Rosen, Vastola's defense attorney, said during yesterday's hearing.
Vastola was described by federal prosecutor Bruce Repetto as an organized- crime figure and the leader of a criminal enterprise that engaged in loan- sharking, extortion, fraud and drug dealing. Law enforcement authorities have identified Vastola as a soldier in the DeCavalcante crime family of central New Jersey.
"The evidence in this case shows that these guys would get involved in absolutely anything to make money," Repetto said at one point. On another occasion, he charged that Vastola had shared in the profits of narcotics deals arranged by other members of his organization but conceded that the government did not have enough evidence to prosecute Vastola on a drug charge.
The narcotics allegation drew an angry response from the usually soft- spoken Vastola, who jumped up from his seat at the defense table and called Repetto "a liar."
Vastola later apologized to Brotman for his outburst. Through his attorney, he denied being involved in drugs and said he was not a member of organized crime.
Vastola was convicted after a four-month jury trial of racketeering and conspiracy in connection with the extortion of former Darby, Pa., record wholesaler John LaMonte.
The charges centered on a $1.25 million business deal in which LaMonte contracted to buy an estimated four million discount record albums and tapes
from MCA Records, Inc., of Los Angeles.
Federal authorities charge that members of at least three organized-crime
families managed to manipulate the transaction in an attempt to defraud LaMonte. When LaMonte balked, the government contended, he was beaten, and Vastola and his associates attempted to take over his business.
A jury convicted Vastola of five of 14 counts pending against him. Judge Brotman overturned one of three racketeering convictions yesterday on technical grounds.
Saka, who was described as Vastola's chief business associate, was convicted of 22 of 25 counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, loan- sharking, and insurance and bankruptcy fraud.
Vastola and Saka originally were named with 19 other co-defendants in a sweeping racketeering indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Newark three years ago. Brotman, citing the logistical and managerial problems with running a so-called "mega-trial," severed the indictment into seven cases.
Eighteen of the defendants in the case have been convicted or pleaded guilty to related charges. One defendant was acquitted on Brotman's order. And the charges against two others were dismissed.
In a statistical report released yesterday, Brotman noted that the disposition of the cases against the 21 defendants involved a total of 54 trial days and 15 nontrial days. Attorneys predicted before the cases had been severed that a trial of all 21 defendants would take from six months to a year.