Cataldo's court-appointed attorney has said that, despite how it looks on paper, his client's assets are not as substantial as the state claims.
What's more, disclosing details contained in Cataldo's application could provide financial information that prosecutors could use in building their case against him.
"They know he doesn't have enough money," said John McMahon, who is representing Cataldo.
The Attorney General's Office has been thwarted in its effort to determine whether Cataldo lied or withheld information about his financial status when he applied for the public defender.
The trial court judge and an appellate court panel both have denied the state's request to subpoena the application, contending that its contents may be protected under attorney-client privilege. The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider the issue.
No date has been set for a hearing on the matter. The racketeering case is expected to go to trial next year.
Cataldo, of Florham Park, Morris County, has been described by law enforcement authorities as a high-ranking associate of the Lucchese crime family and a "central figure" in the organization's numbers operation in North Jersey.
Authorities say he reports directly to Ralph V. Perna, a reputed capo and head of the family's New Jersey faction.
Cataldo, nicknamed Tic, has built a career in the gambling business, the state alleges.
Since the mid-1960s, one state law enforcement report notes, Cataldo "has been arrested and/or convicted within every decade for gambling and related offenses."
An investigative affidavit submitted with the state's motion challenging Cataldo's claim of poverty paints a picture of the reputed wiseguy with considerable financial holdings.
A search of public records indicated Cataldo and his wife, Lorraine, own three properties in Morris County with a combined equity of more than $1.4 million, according to the affidavit.
Records show they make $3,300 in monthly mortgage payments on the home they live in on Edgewood Drive in Florham Park. The house has an assessed value of $659,600.
They also make monthly payments of between $3,200 and $4,700 on a property in Readington Township valued at $1.2 million, according to the affidavit submitted by Detective Noelle Holl of the Attorney General's Office's Division of Criminal Justice.
The third house, also in Florham Park, is mortgage-free. It is assessed at $484,300.
The state has alleged that, even with the mortgages, the Cataldos have more than $1.4 million in equity.
Last year, Cataldo leased a 2010 Honda Accord on which he apparently is also making monthly payments, Holl noted.
The investigative affidavit pointed out that despite his apparent lifestyle, Cataldo reported total taxable income of only $1,564 for a three-year period beginning in 2007. The numbers, state authorities say, don't add up.
"Cataldo possesses assets and income/reserves conflicting with an assertion of indigence," Eliades wrote in a motion filed in July.
Cataldo's ability to pay his mortgages demonstrates "an irrefutable stream of available income or a stockpile of accumulated liquid assets," he wrote.
Eliades, chief of the Attorney General's Office's Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, declined to comment beyond the court filings.
McMahon, Cataldo's public defender, has successfully opposed the state's attempt to subpoena his client's application, citing attorney-client privilege.
The state could simply ask the trial court to reexamine Cataldo's application, McMahon said. The fact is, Cataldo cannot afford to hire a lawyer, he said.
One property the state referred to is "in a trust, and he has no control over it," McMahon said this month. Another, he said, was used as collateral for Cataldo's $100,000 bail in the racketeering case.
With the racketeering case built largely around financial allegations, McMahon argued that the subpoena was an attempt by the Attorney General's Office to gather information that supported the indictment.
Other defendants in the racketeering case include two New York mob figures who allegedly head the crime family, and high-ranking members of the organization's New Jersey operation, Perna and Nicodemo S. Scarfo, son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss "Little Nicky" Scarfo.
Most have hired their own attorneys. Private attorney fees in racketeering cases can range from $100,000 to more than $1 million, according to legal sources, depending on how complicated the case is, and the trial's length.
Scarfo, 46, now faces charges in two separate cases.
He was indicted this month on federal racketeering charges linked to the alleged looting of a Texas mortgage-lending company. He and several associates are accused of stealing more than $12 million.
In that case, Scarfo has been assigned a court-appointed attorney. At a preliminary hearing, he told a federal judge he had no assets and $125 in his checking account.
Coincidentally, his attorney in the Morris County racketeering case, Donald Manno, is a defendant in the federal fraud case.
Scarfo is being held without bail on the federal charges.
Mobsters without legitimate sources of income often are represented by court-appointed lawyers.
In a pending federal racketeering case against reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, at least four major codefendants, including Ligambi's nephew George Borgesi, have lawyers who are being paid with taxpayer money.
But none of those defendants has the kind of documented real estate holdings the state contends are in Cataldo's name.
Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.