Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gotti's Girl

Friends of ours: John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Aniello "Neal" Dellacroce, Junior Gotti, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Ernesto Grillo

Sandy Grillo, yesterday on Staten Island, denies being the late John Gotti's paramour.

A woman who was one of the late mob don John Gotti's mistresses - and allegedly the mother of a secret love child - lives on Staten Island with her three daughters. Meet Shannon "Sandy" Grillo, the estranged wife of reputed Gambino associate Ernesto Grillo - and the woman who had an affair with the Dapper Don, according to several sources. She's now the center of speculation that she has a child by the dashing don.

Mrs. Grillo lives modestly with her mother, Rosemary - described as the companion of the late Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce - and three kids. She is separated from her husband, purported mobster Ernesto Grillo. Dellacroce was Gotti's mentor.

The bombshell secret love life of one of America's most notorious gangsters was first revealed in court Friday during the racketeering trial of Gotti's son John "Junior" Gotti.

Mob rat and star prosecution witness Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo claimed the younger Gotti told him "his father had a secret second family and a daughter he had fathered out of wedlock."

As The Post reported yesterday, sources said the older Gotti had two mistresses who both bore him children. Both secret families live on Staten Island. The second mistress had a daughter who is older than the one Gotti is purported to have had with Grillo, according to a knowledgeable source. And it was that second alleged Gotti paramour to whom Mikey Scars was referring at Junior's trial on Friday - an affair Scars knew about both from Junior and from another mobster, according to the source. The second woman's identity has not been disclosed.

As for the Grillo affair, Dellacroce, who was not Sandy Grillo's biological father, strongly disapproved of her relationship with Gotti, the source said. Dellacroce, then the No. 2 Gambino boss and Gotti's mentor, died in 1985.

"John Gotti became much more free-wheeling after Neil [Aniello] passed away in his personal and professional life," the source said. It was after Dellacroce's death that Gotti assassinated Gambino boss Paul Castellano, a move Dellacroce - who didn't like Castellano - would nonetheless have disapproved of, and prevented, if he were alive.

When approached at her home yesterday, the attractive, 50-year-old Grillo was asked: "Are you denying you had a relationship with John Gotti?" "Yes," she said politely, yet firmly.

Later, when one of Grillo's daughters was approached, she acknowledged her mom was Sandy Grillo. Asked if she had seen news accounts of Gotti's secret love life, she said: "No." "I don't know anything about this," she said, adding, "That's not true at all," when asked about an illicit affair and out-of-wedlock child involving her mom and Gotti.

The young woman said she lives with her mom, grandmother Rosemary and two other sisters. There's no hint any of the children in the household were treated as anything other than part of the Grillo household.

It's not the first time Sandy Grillo's name has been bandied about in connection with one of the most well-known members of New York's underworld. The salacious 2004 book "Il Dottore" recounts a mob doctor's first encounter with the Dapper Don Juan and Sandy Grillo: a house call to tend to an ulcer that hampered the couple's lovemaking.

In the book, the dutiful mob doc is summoned to Manhattan's Barbizon Plaza Hotel on June 15, 1984, to examine Gotti, who complained of stomach pain. "Beautiful broad like Sandy here . . . but a goddamned stomach turns itself inside out right when I'm about to make love to her like Rudolph Valentino," Gotti allegedly told the doctor.

A week later, a fellow mob doctor told the author: "An unspoken La Cosa Nostra rule is that a 'made' man, especially a capo like Gotti, is not supposed to violate another man's wife or children.

"In sleeping with Shannon Grillo, Gotti seems to be violating two sacred oaths with the same woman."

Mob Wife on Scar's Betrayal

Toni Marie Ricci knows all about husbands with secret families. Ricci says her ex - mob rat Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, who told a jury last week that Mafia don John Gotti had a secret family and that "Junior" Gotti had a mistress - had secrets about everything. The secrets included his jobs, friends, mistress, out-of-wedlock son - even his phone number.

In an explosive interview in the upcoming issue of New York magazine, Ricci, detailed the turncoat's trail of lies and obsessions - calling him a "sicko" for dragging their college-age son into the middle of the high-profile mob trial, and railing at her ex-husband's secret family. "Michael was my life," Ricci told the magazine. "I did anything and everything possible to make the man happy. I never stopped and said to myself, 'You know, my husband is a gangster.' "Did I think anything? Yeah, I did. But did I talk to him about it? No. I guess I blocked it out."

Ricci, 19 when she married a 29-year-old DiLeonardo in 1985, was easily seduced by the perks of marrying into the mob. There were parties at "Sammy Bull's" house, Junior Gotti's wedding at the Helmsley Palace and an army of hangers-on. The glamour wore off. "I never had proof he was cheating, but I knew," she said.

"The first confrontation occurred in '95, '96. I got a job in a school in Mill Basin as an aide. I wanted to go to work; he never wanted me to. I came home one day and heard him upstairs on the phone in the bedroom, saying, 'I'll pick you up tonight. Just get dressed.' I ran up. 'Who were you talking to?' " He told her it was a male friend.

She said she started to think about leaving. Ricci said she tried without success for 12 years to have a second child, hoping it would patch up the couple's fraying marriage. In vitro failed her, but it worked fine for Scars' mistress, Madelina Fischetti.

"Right after that, he took the girl to get pregnant with the same procedures," she complained. Proof of its success came in December 2002. "We get a Christmas card: 'Congratulations to Michael and Madelina on their new baby boy - more to come.'

"I read this not even realizing what I am reading. Two seconds later it hits me, and I fell on the floor. This is a year after I tried to have another child with him. And I learn that he has a 6-month-old son. "He turned beet red: 'Someone's making up lies.' But I knew it was true as soon as I looked in his face."

She said she made her husband call his mistress at the apartment DiLeonardo rented for her on well-heeled Shore Road in Brooklyn. "He handed me the phone, and I said to her, 'Where do you come off having this child? I'm married to this guy for 17 years.' She didn't answer. I said, 'What's the matter? You're not woman enough to answer?' . . . He took the phone and hung it up. "So I took the phone and hit him over the head with it."

Chicago Mob Time Line: January 1, 1985

Friends of ours: Sal DeLaurentis, Chuckie English, Sam Giancana, Joe Ferriola, Fifi Buccieri, Turk Torello, Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Fat Tony Salerno, Genovese Crime Family, Dominic Palermo, Tony Spilotro, Rocco Infelise, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Michael Carracci, Jackie Cerone
Friends of mine: Hal Smith, Dom Angelini, Chris Petti


IN THE YEAR 1985: Sal DeLaurentis was strongly suspected of playing a role in the torture murder of a bookmaker named Hal Smith. A few months before federal investigators caught Solly D on tape telling Smith that he would be "trunk music" unless he made a $6,000 a month street tax payment to him.

- Chuckie English, Sam Giancana's top aide, died with vast interests in the Phoenix area, real estate and construction.

- Joe Ferriola, AKA Joe Negall, was now the boss over the Chicago mob. He had been with Fifi Buccieri's crew until Buccieri died, and Turk Torello took over. When he died, Ferriola took over and eventually assumed control of all the gambling in Chicago.

It was widely assumed that Tony Accardo was still in charge of the organization, just as Paul Ricca had been in charge when Accardo and Giancana were running things.

- Tony Accardo sold his condo on Harlem avenue and moved into affluent Barrington Hills, to live on the estate with his daughter Marie, Mrs. Ernie Kumerow. Mr. Kumerow is a union official.

- Fortune magazine declares that Tony Accardo is the second ranked boss in the country behind Fat Tony Salerno in New York of the Genovese family.

- According to Dominic Palermo's wife, who was an FBI informant, her husband Dominic got the order to kill the Spilotro brothers at a meeting he attended at the Czech Restaurant in Chicago. Palermo said that Joe Ferriola ordered the hit and Rocco Infelise gave it his okay.

Palermo, who worked for the very mobbed up Chicago Laborers local 5, was left behind in the cornfield by the other killers after they took the Spilotro's out. Palermo walked five miles to a phone both and called his wife, told her what happened and had her pick him up.

From that information, the FBI was able to locate the Spilotro bodies. The corpses were not, as the story so often goes, discovered when a farmer plowed them up. Rather, the Chicago office of the FBI probably spread that story to cover its informants.

- The Chicago mob's new boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo decided to try and skim money out of legalized gambling at the Rincon Indian resort, on a federal reservation in San Diego County, California. It was a last ditch attempt to keep their grip on the Nevada gambling scene but the entire scam was a disaster.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The first time the reservation scam was discussed was in July of 1985, between DiFronzo, Dom Angelini, who, at the time was Chicago's man in Vegas, and underboss, Sam "Wings" Carlisi at a meeting held at Rocky's Restaurant in suburban Melrose Park, Illinois.

The plan was to finance the tribe's venture into gambling, take over the operations, skim money from the casinos as well as use it to launder money from narcotics sales. Dom Angelini placed Chris Petti, the outfit's man in San Diego, in charge of the takeover. Petti was ordered to deal directly with Angelini's brother-in-law, Michael Caracci, a soldier in the DiFronzo crew.

To work the scam, Caracci called Petti at the same San Diego pay phone they had been using for years, which, unknown to them the FBI had tapped years before. They decided that although the Rincon deal looked good, Chicago didn't want to sink any money into it.

But that they would, however, get involved if an outside source wanted to put up the financing to take over the Indian gambling resort. Petti made contact with Peter Carmassi, whom he had been told was a money launderer for a Columbian drug cartel.

Carmassi, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, showed interest in the Rincon casino deal. In several tape recorded and filmed meetings with undercover agent Carmassi, Petti laid out the entire scam to take over the Rincon reservation gambling concession.

On January 9, 1992, the government indicted Petti, DiFronzo, Carlisi and the reservation's lawyer, on 15 counts of criminal conspiracy. DiFronzo and Angelini were convicted and got a 37-month sentence, with fines approaching one million dollars.

- Corbitt joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department, and was assigned to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. However, he was indicted and convicted for racketeering and obstructing justice in 1988.

- Jackie Cerone got nailed on federal charges for skimming $2,000,000 from the Stardust Casino in Vegas and was sent to prison in Texas.

Thanks to Mob Magazine

Mafia Influence on the Oscars

In a departure from past Oscar shows featuring syrupy Disney tunes and soundtrack ballads, this year's telecast will give audiences country music, alternative rock and a super-sanitized version of a racy rap song.

The song, called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," is from the movie "Hustle & Flow," the story of a pimp who aspires to a singing career. In the Oscars' first performance by a rap group, the group Three 6 Mafia will perform the song, one of three nominated in the best original song category, at the March 5 Academy Awards ceremony.

The pimp movie won't be the only aspect of the Oscars show that could make social conservatives cringe. The gay-themed cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain" leads the nominee pack and the show is being hosted by Jon Stewart, who fills his news satire "Daily Show" on the Comedy Central cable channel with George W. Bush jokes.

"The Academy (of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences) is really to be commended," said Aaron Rosenberg, lawyer for Three 6 Mafia. "It's admirable that voters are recognizing the hip-hop generation and its influence on American culture."

While rapper Eminem won the best song Oscar in 2003 for "Lose Yourself" from the film "8 Mile," he skipped the ceremony and the song was not performed.

With decency concerns in high gear in the aftermath of the notorious baring of Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Three 6 Mafia worked to make their lyrics meet ABC's broadcast standards.

"We took out all the cuss words and made it squeaky clean," rapper Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard, who co-wrote the song with Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and Cedric "Frayser Boy" Coleman, said in a telephone interview.

The writers substituted new lyrics where necessary in the song, which portrays the life of a hustler in the inner city of their hometown, Memphis, Tennessee.

For instance, Beauregard said they substituted "It's messed up where I live but that's just how it is," for the lyrics: "It's f---ed up where I live but that's just how it is."

"The song will be FCC friendly," Rosenberg said.

Just in case, ABC is also expected to use a five-second delay to aid network censors.

While Beauregard is thrilled with the chance to perform during the Oscars, he sees a double standard in the media.

"Some stuff should definitely not be heard by younger kids but what they're able to watch on television, like people stealing cars, is sometimes a lot worse than what we're singing about," he said.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dapper Don Juan's Double Life Exposed

Friends of ours: John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Junior Gotti, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo

The tale of John Gotti's two other "families" infuriated widow Victoria. The late Gambino boss John "Dapper Don" Gotti led a stunning secret life - fathering a pair of illegitimate daughters with two different girlfriends, according to sources and bombshell testimony from a mob turncoat.

Few knew of Gotti's double life, but the infamous Mafia don confided in his son John "Junior" Gotti about the existence of one of his illegitimate daughters, according to star witness Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo. Recounting a conversation with his ex-pal, DiLeonardo said the younger Gotti told him "his father had a secret second family and a daughter he had fathered out of wedlock."

A source close to the case said the elder Gotti had more than one skeleton in his closet - he had a second illegitimate daughter with yet another girlfriend. Two sources said at least one of Gotti's extramarital families still lives on Staten Island.

DiLeonardo testified that the younger Gotti, a father of five with a sixth child on the way, admired and emulated his infamous father, and followed in his footsteps as both a mob leader - and a philanderer.

The stunning revelations emerged on the third day of DiLeonardo's testimony against the younger Gotti - the witness' former best friend - who is on trial for racketeering crimes he allegedly committed while his infamous father was behind bars. Although this is a retrial, none of the reported dalliances surfaced in previous testimony.

The late Mafia don's widow, Victoria Gotti, and daughter Angel reacted audibly in their seats in Manhattan federal court yesterday as the mob turncoat made his stunning revelation. "Oh boy, oh boy," exclaimed Angel, who is one of four surviving children that John and Victoria Gotti raised in Howard Beach, Queens.

The younger Gotti also gasped at the defense table yesterday as DiLeonardo described how both he and Junior both brought girlfriends to the witness' 40th-birthday celebration 10 years ago. "John, for a surprise, he got a yacht in Battery Park City," DiLeonardo testified. DiLeonardo, who was also married at the time, said a woman named Carla came as his date. "John had been going with this girlfriend named Mindy ... he knew from Howard Beach," DiLeonardo said. Gotti, 42, would have been married for between five and six years at the time.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGovern whether Gotti's wife, Kim, knew the woman, DiLeonardo said: "Kim knew Mindy. John had told me they grew up together." But DiLeonardo said Kim - who currently lives in an Oyster Bay, L.I., mansion with her husband and kids - did not know her husband was having an affair with her friend.

Outside of court, Victoria Gotti blasted the feds for hitting below the belt. "It's dirty politics as usual. It's nothing that we wouldn't expect," she said. Reacting to allegations about her late husband's secret life, Victoria said, "John Gotti was the most highly surveilled man in the country. "Does anyone think he could pull that off?"

The widow then sarcastically suggested a reunion between the legitimate and illegitimate kids. "Maybe the siblings have all the cash the government's talking about. I'd like my kids to meet them," Victoria said.

Gotti told reporters outside the courtroom he hasn't dated Mindy since about 20 years ago, when he was dating his wife but not yet married. "He's pulling names from the '80s," Gotti said.

McGovern was permitted to question the witness about Gotti's alleged transgressions after defense lawyer Charles Carnesi opened the door during cross-examination on Thursday. Carnesi had asked the witness if he and Gotti had a falling out in 1997 because Gotti disapproved of DiLeonardo's womanizing - an allegation the turncoat denied.

Gotti's defense hinges on the claim that he left the mob as early as 1998 to become a devoted husband and father - and wants nothing more than a fresh start with his wife and kids.

In cross-examination Thursday, Carnesi asked DiLeonardo, "You never had any conversations with [Gotti] prior to 1997 about the way you were acting out in the street - with regard to your relationships with other women?" "Never. He was with me all the time," said DiLeonardo, who claims his falling out with Gotti was over business. In earlier testimony, DiLeonardo admitted that he had secretly started a second family in 2000 after years of cheating on his first wife, Toni Marie, with whom he had a son, Michael. The witness said he made a conscious decision to get his girlfriend, Madeline, pregnant and bought her and her mother attached houses eight miles from his wife's Staten Island home. The double life was exposed in 2000, when DiLeonardo's wife received an anonymous card announcing the birth of DiLeonardo's son with his girlfriend. DiLeonardo subsequently divorced his wife and married Madeline. The two are now living together in the witness-protection program with their son, Anthony.

Under cross-examination, DiLeonardo described his bitterness when he went to prison and learned he had been "put on the shelf" by the mob. This meant he no longer was included in decision-making, was no longer getting money from his crew and wasn't given the respect in jail that is normally due a "wiseguy." "I felt no good deed goes unpunished," he said. "I was befuddled that I was stripped. I was upset about it."

Meanwhile, Victoria also threatened to sue anyone who claims that the Gotti family is attempting to tamper with the jury. On Monday, a woman was asked by a court officer to leave the courtroom after he noticed her writing notes that described one of the jurors as balding and in his 50s. The U.S. Marshals Service said it was looking into the matter. But the Gotti family identified the woman as Raquel, the best friend of Angel Gotti, Junior's sister - and said she was taking notes because she's a psychic. They said the woman correctly predicted the outcome of the previous trial. Victoria Gotti was outraged at the suggestion of jury tampering. "I will sue anyone who says those things about my family," she said.

Boss of Aruban Casino Where Alabama Teen, Natalie Holloway, was Last Seen had Ties to Chicago Mob

Friends of ours: Michael Posner

Authorities on the island of Aruba have not been able to solve the mystery of what happened to Alabama teenager Natalie Holloway. She disappeared while on a high school trip last spring. The ABC7 I-Team has learned new details about the casino where Holloway was last seen, an Aruba casino run by a convicted high-ranking Chicago mobster.

The unsolved disappearance of 18-year-old Natalie Holloway has commanded worldwide attention. It has been widely reported that the last place Holloway was known to be alive was the Excelsior casino connected to the Holiday Inn where she and her classmates were staying.

The I-Team has learned that the casino where Holloway was last seen is operated by Chicagoan Michael Posner. The intelligence report on Posner lists him as a prominent member of the Chicago outfit for more than 40 years. According to federal law enforcement, Michael Posner's most recent mob assignment was boss of illegal rackets in the north suburbs. Posner was convicted in 1987 of threatening wayward gamblers with death and running prostitutes out of this Lake County strip club. Through his Chicago lawyer, Posner maintains that he has been clean for 15 years and since 1998 has operated the Excelsior casino on the Caribbean resort on the island of Aruba.

Last May, honor student Natalie Holloway was staying at the resort on her high school graduation trip when she disappeared. One of the last places she was seen alive was in Posner's Excelsior casino.

In security tape obtained by ABC News, Holloway is seen at a table seated next to Joran van der Sloot, a local who is the prime suspect in the case. Van der Slout admits having had a romantic encounter with Holloway, but in an exclusive interview to air Thursday night on Primetime, he says he is no criminal. "I think I've been portrayed unfairly. I've been portrayed as a murderer and a rapist and everything that I'm not," van der Sloot said.

Casino boss Michael Posner denies that he knows van der Sloot and denies ever extending him casino credit. Posner's lawyer Allan Ackerman says Posner was in Chicago when Holloway vanished and returned to Aruba the day after.

Now 64 years old, here's the intelligence report on Michael William Posner:


aka Michael Rubins and Irving Goldstein.

his family still resides in Riverwoods.

his criminal profile lists involvement in illegal gambling, strip clubs and vending machines.

criminal history dates to 1960 includes numerous arrests and successful tax and racketeering prosecutions.
Posner says it was he who voluntarily turned over this casino surveillance tape to Aruban authorities and that he is furious they have allowed ABC News to broadcast it. Posner says he has paid the expenses for private investigators to come here and assist in the search for Holloway

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Romance and Rubout of Mafia Kingpin's Moll Doll

Friends of ours: Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Colombo Crime Family, Greg Scarpa Sr.

Mary Bari loved living in the "Goodfellas" fast lane of New York's 1970s mob underworld. She loved the diamonds and furs. She loved the weekend trips to Vegas. She loved listening to Frank Sinatra. Most of all, though, she loved Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico - a dashing wiseguy nearly 25 years her senior, who fed the bubbly brunette's fantasies of danger and romance with his white Rolls-Royce and his pistol-packing bodyguard.

It was a love that would lead Bari to the heart of gangland high life - and to her murder at the Wimpy Boy Social Club in Brooklyn on the morning of Sept. 24, 1984, when she was held down by a group of her former boyfriend's pals and three bullets were pumped into her head.

Now authorities are looking into the circumstances behind the sexy mob moll's death, trying to find out if the Brooklyn woman was whacked because a renegade FBI agent ignored his pledge to protect and serve and instead outed her as a mob informant.

The only thing that is known for sure about the case now is that Bari's bloody end started with burning love for a married made man. "In the beginning, he was a real gentleman," said a relative of Bari's. "And she had a real crush on him."

The ebullient, popular teenager first met the handsome Persico on a street corner in 1969, while she was a student at New Utrecht HS. She was just about to turn sweet 16, her family said. He was pushing 40. Persico wasn't just any wiseguy wannabe trying to look tough on the Brooklyn street. He was the real deal, one of the Colombo crime family's best and baddest, brother of the gang's boss. He eventually rose to underboss and, some say, acting boss.

Despite their age difference, she was immediately smitten - and he was more than happy to make her his goumada, or paramour. Once she hooked up with Persico, the other young men in the neighborhood stopped asking her for dates. They all knew better. "Once they started dating, he started showering her with gifts. He took her to Vegas, to Hawaii, to Florida," the relative said. "He gave her a fox fur coat. He gave her diamond rings."

She loved the mob life - parties with crowds that looked like the cast of "The Sopranos," and money flowing as freely as a scene from "Casino." Her now-deceased mother, Louise, tried to warn her that being a Mafia gal pal may have seemed glamorous, but it was also dangerous. "[She said] they're bad people," the family member recalled. "But [Mary] wouldn't listen."

Bari knew that Persico would never leave his wife for her, but she still tried to treat him like a normal boyfriend. She had him meet her family, and even took him to her brother's wedding in 1979. She eventually got a peach tattoo on her butt as a gift to him.

By 1980, however, trouble began Persico jumped $250,000 bail while facing 20 years for extortion. While he was on the lam, he dumped Bari. It didn't go easy. "When they broke up, one of his men came over to her house and took back all of the gifts, the diamonds and jewelry," the relative said.

Without Persico in her life, Bari was stuck for money. She didn't work for more than a year afterward. Eventually, some of her old boyfriend's pals made her an offer she couldn't refuse - a job at the Colombo gang hangout in Bay Ridge.

For her interview, she dressed in her mob-moll best - high heels, snakeskin belt and a tank top. But she went to the Wimpy Boy with some trepidation, after a strange supernatural encounter a few days earlier. "She went to a fortune teller in Staten Island and she wouldn't tell her future," the relative said. "She seemed like she was getting really nervous."

According to a published report last week, Bari was killed by Colombo capo Greg Scarpa Sr. and some of his cohorts as soon as she showed up. They allegedly put a gun to her head while she was held to the floor, and blasted her three times.

At the time, Scarpa reportedly told his gang that he wanted Bari dead because she knew where Persico was hiding. But last week, ganglandnews.com reported a new development. It said grand jurors in Brooklyn are investigating whether former FBI Agent Lindley DeVecchio told Scarpa that Bari was a federal informant, leading to her death.

The Brooklyn probe is also looking into whether the former G-man leaked other information to the mob, endangering lives. The panel has reportedly heard another allegation that DeVecchio once told Scarpa that his son's 17-year-old friend was an informant, leading to the young man's murder.

He also has been accused of pulling police protection off of a mob target, who was then assassinated, according to sources familiar with the probe.

DeVecchio's lawyers have adamantly denied his guilt, and complained the leaks of so-far-unproven allegations made to the jury are hurting their client's reputation. As yet, he has been charged with nothing, including any role in Bari's death.

Bari's body was found a few days after the slaying, rolled in a blanket and dumped on a Brooklyn street. She was identified only because her sister recognized her peach tattoo.

After the murder, her younger brother became obsessed with finding the real killer. He wound up killing himself with a drug overdose in 1987, unable to deal with the loss. Persico was eventually captured in 1987, hiding in a Connecticut apartment. He died in 1989 of cancer.

Bari's parents never got over her death. And her surviving family members still grieve every day. News that a government agent may have played a role is only making their pain worse. "They should hang him if this is his fault," said one family member.

Thanks to Jennifer Fermino and Todd Venezia

Friday, February 24, 2006

Two Faces of Junior Gotti Presented to Jury

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Junior Gotti

Prosecutor says he's a mobster; defense says he's legit

A prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that John "Junior" Gotti was like his father, a merciless, violent mobster, but a defense lawyer said the son was out of the mob and ready to start a new and honorable Gotti legacy. A jury last fall acquitted Gotti of securities fraud but deadlocked on racketeering counts, leading to the retrial that started Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Hyun Kim and Gotti lawyer Charles Carnesi went on so long that the judge yawned, jurors fidgeted and Carnesi apologized. All the while, Gotti sat forward in his chair, following the speaker with his eyes as Kim pointed at him and accused him of a "life of crime." Carnesi later portrayed him as a man determined to steer his family to a mob-free future.

Gotti showed emotion only when Carnesi told jurors that his father, John Gotti Sr., suffered a "horrible death" from cancer in prison in 2002, 10 years after he was sentenced to life in prison after his own racketeering conviction. The prosecutor said the 42-year-old Gotti became upset that Curtis Sliwa was trashing his father on his morning radio show in 1992. Kim said Gotti instructed underlings in the Gambino mob family to kidnap Sliwa and beat him.

On June 19, 1992, Sliwa got into a cab at dawn outside his Lower East Side apartment only to discover that the rear doors and windows were inoperable from within and that a gunman had been hiding on the front passenger floor. He was shot twice and critically injured but managed to catapult into the front of the cab and out a window. "That was the price John Gotti made Curtis Sliwa pay for exercising his right to free speech," Kim said. Sliwa recovered and resumed his radio show and his attacks against the Gotti family. Sliwa is scheduled to testify at the current trial, just as he did at the last, which ended in September.

Kim said Gotti joined the century-old Gambino family in the 1980s, climbing the mob's ladder from associate to soldier to high-ranking captain to street boss after his father was put in prison. He said the Gambino family had hundreds of low-level mobsters virtually controlling parts of the city's construction industry for more than a decade as payoffs made their way to Gotti's pockets.

Carnesi said the government's case was built on the testimony of mob killers who made up lies to avoid life prison sentences and knew that Gotti's name could win them the best deal. He said Gotti never ordered the kidnapping and beating of Sliwa.
Carnesi said Gotti initially was under the spell of his larger-than-life father, but decided to reject organized crime when he pleaded guilty to other racketeering charges in 1999, serving five years in prison and giving up $1.5 million.

Godfather Facing Rat Infestation

Friends of ours: Bonanno Crime Family, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Joseph Massino, Patrick DeFilippo, James "Big Louie" Tartaglione
Friends of mine: Frank Santoro

Call it the March of the Rats.

When acting Bonanno boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano goes on trial, he'll face an extraordinary number of Mafia turncoats. The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office has a list of "more than 75 witnesses, including 18 cooperators," according to court papers filed by Basciano's lawyer. "There is not one trial in public consciousness that has seen as many rats," one legal insider said.

Former family godfather Joseph Massino, who was convicted in 2004 of committing seven rubouts but cooperated to skirt the death penalty, is expected to make his rat debut. Many of the Bonannos who testified against Massino will also be witnesses against Basciano and his co-defendant, reputed capo Patrick DeFilippo, when the trial begins Thursday, a source said.

Basciano and DeFilippo are charged with a host of illegal-gambling counts and attempting to murder David Nunez in 1985 over rival gambling operations. The hit failed, and Nunez is alive and well but currently serving a three-year stint in an upstate prison for sexually abusing two young girls.

On top of that, Basciano, 46, allegedly took part in the February 2001 murder of mob associate Frank Santoro, who was blasted with a shotgun while walking his dog after he plotted to kidnap one of Basciano's sons.

Playing the part of the Pied Piper is prosecutor Greg Andres, whom Basciano allegedly plotted to whack for decimating the crime family through numerous convictions. Basciano is charged with that crime in a separate indictment, and Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis said Andres is not allowed to mention it to the jury. Andres could often be seen glaring at Basciano and recently took umbrage with the reputed crime boss' passing comments to him and an unorthodox habit of standing next to his lawyers during side conversations with prosecutors and the judge throughout jury selection. "I don't want to talk to him, I don't want to hear from him, and I don't think he should be at the sidebar," Andres said during one of the side sessions, according to court papers filed late last week.

Also in the prosecutors' arsenal of evidence is a recorded conversation between Basciano and turncoat James "Big Louie" Tartaglione in which Basciano downplays the chances of being convicted of the Santoro murder, which could put him away for life.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Grandy Jury Indicts 32 New York Mobsters

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Liborio Bellomo, Ralph Coppola, Michael "Chunk" Londonio, John "Buster" Ardito, Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello, Gambino Crime Family, Junior Gotti

The acting boss of the city's most powerful crime family and 31 others are charged in a new indictment with racketeering crimes, including murder, extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering, authorities announced Thursday.

The indictment "delivers an absolute body blow" to the Genovese family's structure, said FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon. He said 30 people had been arrested. The 42-count indictment unsealed Thursday accuses the defendants of engaging in criminal activity for more than a decade.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia also released details about a corrupt lawyer whom he said had enabled the family's acting boss to order a murder from prison and direct other crimes. The lawyer, Peter J. Peluso, pleaded guilty last summer, admitted his role in the murder and agreed to cooperate against his client, Liborio S. Bellomo. Bellomo was charged with authorizing the 1998 murder of Ralph Coppola, a former Genovese soldier and acting capo, as part of a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy involving violent extortion, drug dealing, firearms trafficking and murder.

The arrests follow a three-year investigation into the family's activities in the Bronx, Harlem and the Westchester County suburbs north of the city.

Garcia said Peluso pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, admitting participation in numerous crimes, including extortion and obstruction of justice, as he shuttled important messages between family members, some of whom were in prison. He said he carried one message from Bellomo sanctioning Coppola's murder, Garcia said.

The prosecutor said the brazen nature of the crime family was demonstrated in December, when authorities went to arrest Michael "Chunk" Londonio. He fired shots at New York State troopers, wounding two of them, before being killed in the return fire. "I would look at the Londonio shooting as the best example we have of the public safety threat organizations like this pose," Garcia said. "It adds to an overall impression of violence, viciousness reaching the streets of our community."

The indictment and court papers related to Peluso's guilty plea were unsealed in the same Manhattan courthouse where John Gotti Jr., whose father headed the Gambino crime family, was on trial for allegedly arranged the kidnapping of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. A similar indictment last year charged members of the Gambino family with racketeering.

Others indicted by the grand jury include longtime Genovese captain John "Buster" Ardito and Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, who oversaw a large cocaine distribution network in New York, according to the indictment.

Ardito, Balsamo and others also are charged with attempting to tamper with several witnesses, including one who had his ear partially bitten off in a fight with a Genovese soldier.

The Justice Department has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty for Bellomo. There have only been three federal executions since 1977 versus more than 940 by the states in that time, Justice Department data show.

Federal agents say Bellomo is one of a string of chiefs to run the Genovese mafia family since the 1992 arrest of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who dominated the mafia for most of the 1980s and 1990s before dying in prison last year.

Last July, 20 Genovese members were indicted in New York on racketeering charges in a separate case including another reputed acting boss, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello. A month later, 14 accused Genovese family members were indicted in New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Feds Get 2nd Shot at Junior

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo

After narrowly ducking a conviction that could have put him away for 30 years, John "Junior" Gotti faces a fresh showdown this week with federal prosecutors, who saw their star witnesses sliced up on the stand like fine prosciutto last time around. But a rematch of Gotti vs. the government won't be a simple replay of last year's trial, when a lone holdout juror derailed the bid to nail the ex-Gambino crime king for plotting to kidnap radio host Curtis Sliwa, loan sharking and extortion in the construction trade.

This time, there's a new attorney for Junior, along with fewer witnesses against him, pared-down charges - the first jury cleared him of securities fraud - and no co-defendants. And while Gotti will take center stage by himself, at least he can walk through the front door: Judge Shira Scheindlin sprung him on $7 million bail following the mistrial.

The 42-year-old son of the late godfather John Gotti has spent the last five months of freedom with his family - and preparing hard for the new trial, say sources close to him. His mother, Victoria, sister Angela, brother Peter and other family members are all expected to be in attendance as prosecutor Michael McGovern calls at least three key turncoat witnesses, including murderous mob rat Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo. In the first trial, DiLeonardo had a staredown with Gotti, his former pal, calling him "brother" and claiming that he thought of Gotti when he gulped pills in a failed suicide bid.

Cross-examining him will be Junior's new lawyer, Charles Carnesi, who repped Gotti's co-defendant Louis "Louie Black" Mariani in the first trial. Carnesi is expected to conduct the same grilling that Gotti's first-round lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, gave the witnesses, using their own lies and vile connduct to hammer at their credibility. "The main advantage Gotti has now is that every witness who testified against him was blown away on the stand," said Lichtman.

Gotti will claim again that he quit the mob in 1999 after pleading guilty to unrelated fraud charges. The new jury has seven men and five women - the reverse gender makeup of the last jury. This time around, four white males, three black males, two white females, two black females and a Hispanic woman will deliberate.

One thing won't change: the name of the defendant. "The Gotti name is still a stumbling block for any criminal defense," said Lichtman. "It just intimidates so many people."

"Godfather" Actor Killed

A debonair 68-year-old actor - whose half-century career included a memorable role in all three "Godfather" movies - was last night dragged to his death in a horrific tour-bus accident on the Upper West Side, police sources said.

Richard Bright, whose piercing blue eyes and dark hair saw him often cast as a cop or criminal, crumpled to the ground as he was hit by the rear wheel of an Academy bus at about 6:30 p.m. as it turned left on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, according to witnesses. The driver was unaware of the accident until he reached the Port Authority terminal and was questioned by police. There was no indication of a crime and no charges were filed, police sources said.

Bright, whose winter coat and dentures were left behind on the street, was pronounced dead at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. "His face was beat up. His leg was mangled," said Teri Robinson, who saw the accident from the back of a taxi. "It was very startling."

Movie fans would best know Bright from his performance as Al Neri, the bodyguard to Al Pacino's Michael Corleone character in "The Godfather" trilogy. He played a key part in one of the most haunting scenes in "The Godfather II," when he shot Corleone's older brother Fredo (John Cazale) during a fishing trip.

The veteran actor also had guest roles in cop shows, such as "Law & Order," "Third Watch" and "The Sopranos."

"He had beautiful blue eyes and a beautiful smile," said neighbor Graham Gilbert. Gilbert and other shocked residents of Bright's brownstone on 85th Street called the veteran actor was a kind man, who would help with the upkeep of the building. "He was always looking out for the neighbors," Gilbert said.

Garrett Ewald, who learned of the accident as he was sitting down to watch Bright's 1976 movie, "Marathon Man," said the elderly actor often used a cane to walk. He said Bright, in recent years, had found he had a lot of time on his hands after his wife and teenage son moved to California, allowing him to help young actors with coaching. "You would see him on the stoop talking to [a young actor], coaching him on how to handle an audition," Ewald said.

A manager at the 3 Star Coffee Shop, near the site of the fatal accident, said Bright ate at the diner every night, and was probably on his way to the eatery when he was struck.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reputed Former Mob Leader 'Tony Ripe' Civella Dead

Friends of ours: Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella, Nick Civella, Carl "Cork" Civella, Joseph Auippa

Anthony Civella, said by federal investigators to have headed organized crime in Kansas City in the late 1980s and 1990s, is dead at 75.

Passantino Brothers Funeral Home said Thursday that it was handling arrangements and that rites for Civella were pending, but that it did not have information on when he died or on his survivors. There was no phone listing for a Civella in the Kansas City area, and the city's vital statistics office said it had not yet received a death certificate for him.

Civella once told a judge he had undergone seven heart bypass operations. Civella, whose nickname was "Tony Ripe," was the nephew of Nick Civella, the reputed leader of the Kansas City mob at a time when it allegedly worked with other organized crime families in Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland in schemes to skim money from Las Vegas casinos.

Tropicana Hotel and Casino Las VegasAfter Nick Civella's death in 1983, leadership was said to have passed to his brother, Carl "Cork" Civella, father of Anthony. Nick Civella died while under indictment as one of 12 people accused in a skimming case involving the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Subsequently, his brother Carl was among those charged in another Las Vegas skimming case involving the Argent Corp., which owned the Stardust and Fremont casinos. Carl Civella was one of five who pleaded guilty in that case. Five other defendants, including Joseph Aiuppa, described by the government as head of the Chicago mob, were convicted at a trial in Kansas City.

That trial included testimony from Roy Lee Williams, former president of the Teamsters Union, who said Nick Civella paid him $1,500 a month from late 1974 to mid-1981. He said the money was in return for his vote as a trustee of the union's Central States Pension Fund for a $62.75 million loan that enabled Argent Corp. to buy the two casinos.

Anthony Civella was convicted of bookmaking in the 1970s and served 3 1/2 years in prison. He had business interests that included automobile sales, restaurants, insurance and property ownership.

After his father and other reputed Kansas City mobsters went to prison, Civella was reported to have moved up to the leadership. In 1991, he and two associates were convicted on eight counts of fraud related to the resale of prescription drugs. They were accused of having brought more than $1 million worth of drugs at deep discounts, claiming they were intended for nursing homes, then re-selling them to wholesalers on the West Coast.

After his release from prison in 1996, Civella was barred from entering casinos in Missouri and Nevada. Gaming commissions cited his convictions, which included driving a vehicle without the owner's consent in 1964, conspiring to run interstate gambling in 1975 and running a sports bookmaking operation and continuing criminal business in 1984.

In his 1984 plea, Civella signed a statement acknowledging that prosecutors could prove his role in other crimes, including casino skimming, stealing from charity bingo games and setting up front companies to hide his ownership. He also acknowledged prosecutors could prove he conspired to commit murders and other violence to punish underlings, silence government witnesses and eliminate competing mob factions.

"His death reflects a passing of an era in Kansas City's colorful history," said David Helfrey, a St. Louis attorney who headed the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force at Kansas City during the casino skimming trials.

Chicago Water Department Worker Charged With Lying To Feds

A Chicago city worker fired for being AWOL from his water department job was charged Tuesday with lying to federal agents in the government's two-year investigation of Chicago's corruption-plagued Hired Truck Program. Frank Cannatello, 30, of Chicago became the forty-third person charged in the investigation that recently has branched out to include alleged city hiring fraud by Mayor Richard M. Daley's former patronage chief and other political operatives.

The Hired Truck Program, which cost taxpayers $38 million at its peak two years ago, was designed to save money by allowing the city to outsource its hauling work to private truckers. Prosecutors say the program has been awash in payoff money and fraud. Some of the companies that got sizable payouts through the program are tied to the mob.

Cannatello was charged with one count of lying to federal agents Dec. 14 when he said he had nothing to do with FRC Trucking Co., which made $187,000 in Hired Truck payments in three years. Ownership of the now dissolved company was listed to a female relative. Prosecutors said Cannatello helped to organize and operate the company. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday at the office of Cannatello's lawyer, Richard Jalovec.

Among other things, prosecutors said Cannatello asked another city worker, Randy Aderman, to help FRC get city hauling work and Aderman did so through the water department. Aderman already has been charged in the investigation along with former city Clerk James Laski. Aderman appeared for arraignment before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. Norgle set a status hearing in the case for March 13.

Cannatello's cousin, John Canatello, 60, of suburban Palos Park and Marco Island, Fla., was sentenced Jan. 19 to 27 months in federal prison, fined $14,000 and ordered to forfeit $100,000 for taking part in a payoff scheme to get Hired Truck business for another trucking company.

Frank Cannatello was among nine employees fired by the city water department on orders from Daley last June after it was discovered that they had been electronically logged in at their jobs at the city's Jardine Filtration Plant when in fact they were elsewhere. Officials said a two-month review of security tapes showed the employees had used each other's identification cards to make it appear that they were working when they were not.

Another former water department employee fired last June and now indicted along with Laski and Aderman is John Briatta, who is the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley -- the mayor's brother. Briatta, who is to be arraigned before Norgle on Thursday, is charged with accepting payoffs from Aderman in exchange for Hired Truck Program assignments.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

No Mafia Princess: 'Sopranos' Star Falco Likes to Shake Things Up

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

Edie FalcoIn the intense "Freedomland," in which a missing boy, prejudice and the police collide, Edie Falco is practically unrecognizable. Her Carmela of "The Sopranos" is gone. In the film, Falco plays Karen Collucci, a missing-child advocate who helps Julianne Moore's anguished mother. "I looked different because that's what was decided upon," she said about her black wig and absence of makeup. "I had very little to say about it, but I was happy for it."

Falco has much to be happy about these days. Last year's battle with cancer found this private person resigned to living a public life. "There is really nothing that has happened to me that hasn't happened to a lot of other people," she said during a one-on-one interview. "So it's not like it's so earth-shattering. There's nothing in my life that I'm ashamed of, and there's nothing in my life that I care all that much about people knowing about because it's just a life, just another life."

Having adopted a baby boy, now nearly 14 months old, Falco is happily surprised at how well at age 42 she has adapted to motherhood. "I never actually thought that I would be a mom, and then it became sort of a thing in the last number of years. I just knew that it was time," she said. "I didn't know what I'd be like. I think that we all have an innate ability to raise children; you don't have to read all the books and listen to all the advice. Under the best circumstances, it's pretty natural."
The Soprano's
As for her final months as Carmela Soprano, Falco said, "We're all in denial, first of all. But we've got a long way to go before we're down to the last few. We've been filming the last year, and we have another year to go."

Even her mother can't pry any plot revelations out of her. But Falco admits it is amazing that a show as phenomenally popular as "Sopranos" can keep its secrets until airtime. "I can't say I know why we've been so lucky - omerta," Falco said then laughed, referring to the mafia code of silence - or death. "For the most part, we've been able to keep stuff secret, and I think that's been part of the fun of watching the show, that very much like real life a lot of this stuff is very surprising."

Karen in "Freedomland" is a small role, but it is a chance to let people forget about Carmela - at least temporarily. "You know, there's a lot of good and bad stuff that comes with notoriety," Falco said. "Perhaps a lot of people would want to stick to roles like that knowing that they have had success. But that is entirely uninteresting to me. I'm in this business for my own reasons, and most of them are pretty selfish. I happen to really enjoy getting to be a lot of different people."

A late bloomer, Falco has had a bounty with "Sopranos." She's won three SAG Awards, two Golden Globes and three Emmys, starred on Broadway in hit revivals of " 'night, Mother" and "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune," and won praise in John Sayles' "Sunshine State."

"I love everything about acting. I hate to be that person, but I really do love it so much. The fame is very hard because I wasn't cut out for it," she said. "It wasn't part of my game plan. What I miss most of all is wandering anonymously through the city."

Thanks to Stephen Schaefer

Friday, February 17, 2006

New York, Ready For Another Gotti Trial?

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

The son of late mob boss John Gotti returned to court Tuesday for retrial on racketeering charges that include a violent plot to kidnap Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. A jury last fall acquitted John A. "Junior" Gotti of securities fraud but deadlocked on more serious racketeering counts, leading to the retrial.

Jury selection started Tuesday with the judge announcing that 71 prospective jurors among 250 who filled out questionnaires were disqualified. Others were to be questioned the rest of the week to determine whether they might qualify. Opening statements were scheduled to begin next week.

Gotti seemed almost in the clear last fall when U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin considered if the mistrial should be an acquittal because the jury failed to find Gotti had committed at least two related acts of racketeering. Instead, she ordered a retrial on charges that he ordered a botched 1992 plot to abduct Sliwa. Gotti has been under house arrest on $7 million bond since September.

Prosecutors say Gotti, 41, wanted to retaliate against Sliwa for his on-air rants against Gotti's father. Sliwa was shot but recovered and resumed his radio work. He also testified at the trial. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld Scheindlin's ruling. Lawyers have said one juror stood in the way of Gotti's conviction in the case.

A conviction could put Gotti in prison for up to 30 years. He turned down a plea deal that would have meant serving seven years of a 10-year sentence. In an interview in the New York Post, Gotti said his wife is expecting their sixth child and told him if he took the plea deal: "'If you do it, we're through. We need you in this house."'

Gotti, whose father was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 and died there 10 years later, told the Post he was confident he would be vindicated. "We're not going for a mistrial this time," he said. "We're going for an acquittal."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gangstas Hip to Mafia Rap

Friends of ours: Al Capone, John Gotti

The rap sheets say it all. They've got the body count and the prison cred, the bootlicking posses and the adoring wanna-bes. They drive luxurious cars and flash wads of cash.
Busta Rhymes
Gangsta rappers share a lot of similarities with La Cosa Nostra, and last Sunday the hip-hop hoodlums displayed yet another dreadful trait they share with the Mafia. After Busta Rhymes' bodyguard was shot dead in Brooklyn just feet from some of the biggest names in hip hop - including 50 Cent, DMX and Mary J. Blige - the rappers and their pals refused to talk to the NYPD in their own version of omerta.

Rhymes pledged to get justice for the family of his hired muscle, Israel Ramirez, a 29-year-old father of three. But so far his vow doesn't include cooperating with cops.
Al Capone
"Certainly when you look at Al Capone ... there is a connection there, a bond with hip hop," said hip-hop expert and author Kevin Powell. "The hip-hop community has always had some sort of [Mafia] connection because ... it was created by working class, poor blacks and Latinos in New York," Powell said.

"The Mafia was poor, working class. There is definitely a parallel existence between people marginalized, on the fringe of society, who want to make it - by any means necessary." That comparison has been encouraged for years by rappers and record producers who hope to capitalize on the notorious reputations of mobsters.

John Gotti, the late head of the Gambino crime family, has been canonized in many rap songs. Hip-hop mogul Irving (Irv Gotti) Lorenzo, the founder of Murder Inc. records, even adopted the Dapper Don's last name.

Snoop Dogg has called himself The Doggfather, Biggie Smalls fronted the Junior Mafia and Lil' Kim recorded "La Belle Mafia." And all the big-shot rappers surround themselves with a family - huge gangs who supposedly pride themselves on their loyalty and toughness. A shooting last year outside the Hudson St. studio of the radio station Hot 97 was blamed on a dispute between the posses of rappers 50 Cent and The Game.

"Certainly, if you look at African-Americans and Latinos, there's a loyalty to one community," Powell said. "I've interviewed Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Ice T, and they always had people they surrounded themselves with." But experts say the rappers' desire to pass themselves off as a modern-day Mafia falls short.

"The simple thing is, the hip-hop community emulates what they believe organized crime is," said Murray Richman, an attorney who has represented members of all five of New York's major crime families as well as rappers, including Jay-Z and DMX.

"It's wishful thinking on their part. They are emulating what never really existed. It is life imitating art," Richman said. "I do see similarities. The poverty aspect, coming up from an ethnically identifiable group. But in reality, that is armchair social work. "Their glamorization of the Mafia through names like Capone and Gotti is an emulation of a criminal culture, not an ethnic culture."

Gerald Shargel, a lawyer who has defended both John Gotti and Irv Gotti (Lorenzo), agreed. "As far as the violence is concerned, I don't see any similarity to traditional organized crime," he said. "In the hip-hop world, it just doesn't seem to have a common plan. The violence that you read about is like something out of the Wild West, a dispute. It's action and retaliation."

By contrast, the violence so idolized in Mafia movies was always considered "just business," a way to protect money-making interests - and power, said Powell. "That's the huge difference," he argued. "The Mafia had and has immense power. The hip-hop community does not.

"Look at the shooting last week, or any other hip-hop shooting. It's over an argument. There's no trace of controlling a power base or any kind of territory.

"One was real life, ultimately about power and control. The other is certainly real in terms of people getting killed and going to jail, but it's rooted in the entertainment industry."

Thanks to Adam Nichols

Just When He thought He was Out.....

Friends of mine: Donnie Brasco

Joe Pistone is buttressed by drywall in a corner of a mostly empty upstairs dining area at Gene & Georgetti Italian Steakhouse on North Franklin. He likes it here, feels safe. And well he should. Not only does the tucked-away nook offer fine protection from sneak attacks, but his thespian pal Leo Rossi, seated in harm's way near the room's entrance, is sure to get popped first in the event that some Frank Nitti wannabe shows up with heat a-blazin' and itchy digits. This is a comforting thought.

"I learned this a long time ago when I palled around with Joe," says Rossi, a veteran of more than 60 films, several of them (such as "Analyze This") mob-centric. "We went into a restaurant, about six people. So I sit down and [Joe] goes, 'Get up.' I go, 'What?' He says, 'Get up.' He's gotta have the seat by the wall."

That's what happens when the Mafia wants you whacked. After six years of brilliant undercover work for the FBI, after infiltrating New York's Bonanno crime family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco and almost becoming a made man, Pistone revealed his true identity, testified at trial after trial and helped send scores of his former associates (some of whom treated him like kin) to the joint. His adventures became a best-selling book, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, which became a hit movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Pistone's heroics, revealed like never before, made him famous. And infamous. The sorest of sore losers, La Cosa Nostra types marked him for death -- the lousy, lying, rat-bastard fink. The price on his head, half a mil, still stands.

Pistone, however, doesn't sweat it. A trim and amiable man in his 60s, he sometimes wears sunglasses and a hat indoors. He lives in an undisclosed location and guards his privacy when not engaged in show-biz PR, as he is today. But that's about all. Paranoia serves no purpose. Besides, he says between bites of lip-slicingly crusty bread dunked in olive oil, "They got other things they're worrying about. They ain't worrying about me, believe me. They may worry about him" -- he points at Rossi -- "because he's playing me, but that's not my problem! That's not my problem!" They laugh. If Rossi is nervous, he masks it well. Acting!

"You know what you worry about?" says Pistone, whose middle initial 'D' does not stand for 'Danger' but could, given his extensive record of nabbing bad guys (the baddest) in America and abroad. "You worry about a cowboy, somebody that thinks they're gonna make a name for himself. That's what you worry about. You don't worry about, you know, the professional."

In town with Rossi and Oscar-nominated screenwriter-director Bobby Moresco ("Crash") to stage a one-man, one-act play called "The Way of the Wiseguy," Pistone is on hand for script-tweaking and to make sure Rossi, who plays him more broadly than Depp (partly because live theater demands it), stays true to character. The multimedia experience, sculpted in Burbank and New York throughout much of last year, premieres on Valentine's Day at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Adapted from Pistone's 2004 book of the same name, it is brimming with Mafia wit and wisdom gleaned during Pistone's Brasco stint in the '70s and early '80s.

Between bites of penne pasta and chicken parm, they talk up their venture and bust each other's chops. Rossi yaps the most (he's very good at it), followed by Moresco and then Pistone, who probably wouldn't yap much at all if these two, his creative cohorts, his paisans, didn't goad him into elocuting. Then again, that's part of the reason he's wearing comfy kicks instead of cement shoes -- he doesn't run off at the mouth.

When Pistone was Brasco, organized crime had already begun to spiral downward. These days, some experts say, it's more like disorganized crime or reorganized crime -- a shadowy shadow of its former self. "They don't have the power and the control they had," says Casino author Nicholas Pileggi. "The bad guys have pretty much been done away with on different levels, and the newer guys, they just don't have the ability to corrupt the way [their predecessors] did. I don't mean there [aren't] any. They just don't look long-term."

Pistone agrees. "The younger generation [of mobsters] is just like the citizen generation. 'Me.' 'I want it now, and I don't wanna wait.' What's the best way you make money now? Drugs. And it all caved in."

In Chicago, land of Capone, Accardo and Giancana, ruthless thugs all, the mob (better known locally as the "Outfit") is still kicking, if more figuratively than literally. Wayne Johnson, a retired policeman and chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission, knows this better than most. "It's not the 'Mafia,'" he explains, careful to draw a distinction between New York's mostly Italian "patrimonial" system and Chicago's more diverse bureaucratic one, "but they still do what they do. They still have their gambling, they still have their social clubs, and they're embedded in legitimate business. They're just not having the shooting war they used to have. They got smarter." Dearth of tommy guns and broad daylight slayings aside, "I think it's more dangerous than it ever was because of the political inner workings," Johnson says. "And it costs people millions of dollars. But when it's in the shadows, nobody knows about it."

Well, not nobody. But it's a good bet more of us know what Tony Soprano uttered in his last therapy session than know where and when "Big Paulie" Castellano got clipped (in case you're wondering, it was on East 46th Street in Manhattan during a pre-Christmas shopping rush). And why? Because we're steeped in fakes. On screens big and small, on the stage and on the page, make-believe mobsters abound.

And unlike their real-life counterparts, they rarely bore. From "Goodfellas" and "The Sopranos" to "Donnie Brasco" and "The Godfather," mob fiction offers relentlessly snappy dialogue ("Leave the gun, take the cannoli," "Do I amuse you?"), flashy violence (Sonny Corleone murdered at the toll booth) and on occasion, insightful culinary tips (Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas": "Paulie ... had a system for doing garlic. He used a razor and he sliced it so thin, it used to liquify in the pan with a little oil.")

"We've kind of put them on a pedestal," Johnson says of Hollywoodized wiseguys. "Go sit through a couple of days of hearings on [convicted mob loan shark] Frank Calabrese [Sr.] -- you're not gonna see anything entertaining about him. He's a nasty individual who's committed some heinous crimes. They'll never be building a show around Frank Calabrese."

"It's the way they live," says Pileggi of the reasoning behind America's insatiable appetite for all things mobby. "They get up at 11 o'clock in the morning. Most of them have girlfriends, they gamble, they drink, they have a good time, they live in a period of perpetual adolescence. They have not been housebroken."

They are, in short, the raw id that most folks keep caged, the rebels to our conformists, the whoopin', ropin' ranchers to our desk-bound city slickers. "But if you hang around for the third act," Pileggi says, "you will be happy you are who you are, because it's the third act where the dues are paid."

That, in a walnut shell, describes "The Way of the Wiseguy." By building up and cutting down, by showing actions and consequences, Moresco, et al., hope to find some deeper meaning amid the wacky nicknames and the scattered F-bombs and the utterly moronic malapropisms.

"Oh, how they mangle the King's English," Rossi says, grinning. "We have a thing where we say, 'Left [Lefty Ruggiero, a mob hitman] was gonna build a club in Miami. He told me he wanted the place ornated. He told me to call an architecture.' "

"And that's legit dialogue," says Pistone, whose phone conversations with Ruggiero, his prime conduit to the underworld way back when, are re-enacted throughout the play courtesy of FBI phone tap transcripts.

"Another day," Rossi-as-Pistone resumes, "he came in all upset because a Hare Krishna tried to divert him."

"And I mean, ooh, the nicknames!" Rossi exclaims, gaining steam. "You got Sonny Red, Two-Finger White and Jimmy Blue -- very patriotic. Frankie the Nose, big one. Jimmy Legs, long ones. Willie Smokes and Joey Burns. Arsonists! Armand the Bug, Ronnie the Rat, Tony Roach and Sal the Snake -- exterminators, not bugs. Joey Half-a-Ball -- you don't wanna know. Lead Pipe Pete, Tony the Hatchet and Betty the Butcher -- you still don't wanna know."

While the play is rife with such lowbrow laugh lines, a deeper reality invariably swaggers forth and (per Pistone) "smacks ya." Evildoers get their comeuppance, one in particular via meat hook. And Pistone, the white-hatted tough guy who survives against seemingly insurmountable odds to tell his tale, finally reveals some psychic wounds he has long kept hidden.

"Part of the tragedy is that you got a guy like Pistone, who has been asked to give his life to something," Moresco says. "And he gives that life, and in giving it, something's been taken from him, and he never wants to admit it."

Even for a street-hardened Jersey boy, being one of them took its toll, a toll Pistone has hinted at in his books but never fully fleshed out for public consumption. "It's a lot of stuff that I just [didn't] wanna reveal to anybody," he says, mum on spoiler specifics, "but they [Rossi and Moresco] convinced me that this is how we're gonna make it work."

Ultimately, though, he convinced himself. Joe Pistone doesn't spill beans unless he wants to.

'THE WAY OF THE WISEGUY'
When: April 2
Where: Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green
Tickets: $34-$39
Phone: (312) 733-6000


Thanks to Mike Thomas

Pittsburgh Brewing pays $11,000 weekly to Son of Late Chicago Mafiosa

Friends of ours: Jackie "The Lackey" Cerone

Unsecured creditors of Pittsburgh Brewing went to court yesterday to stop the bankrupt Lawrenceville brewer from making $11,000 weekly payments to Jack Cerone, a Chicago attorney who owns a minority interest in the brewer. The unsecured creditors argue the payments are not permitted under bankruptcy law and, in a motion filed in federal bankruptcy court Downtown, asked U.S. Judge M. Bruce McCullough to prohibit them.

Pittsburgh Brewing, which sought bankruptcy protection Dec. 7, recently identified Mr. Cerone as a 20 percent owner and director of the company. Creditors said that makes him an insider and bankruptcy law requires the company to report any payments made to insiders in the year before Pittsburgh Brewing entered bankruptcy.

No such transfers to Mr. Cerone are listed, creditors said. However, the company has disclosed payments to its primary lender -- whom the creditors believe to be Mr. Cerone -- of nearly $145,000 in the three months prior to Dec. 7 and payments of $44,500 in December. Creditors said they believe the payments are continuing.

Mr. Cerone's involvement at the brewery has caused concern in some circles because his late father was a Chicago mob underboss. The elder Mr. Cerone, known as "Jackie the Lackey," was sentenced in 1986 to 281/2 years in prison for skimming $2 million in unreported gambling profits from Las Vegas casinos.

The younger Mr. Cerone's law firm and insurance company lost business with Chicago locals of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as the result of a 1989 federal court decree prohibiting the union from associating with organized crime. Mr. Cerone's attorney, Donald Calaiaro of Pittsburgh, and Robert Lampl, Pittsburgh Brewing's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

In their motion, unsecured creditors said Mr. Cerone purchased Pittsburgh Brewing's bank debt, estimated at $5.6 million, from National City Bank and Provident National Bank for $1.5 million in 2003.

Thanks to Len Boselovic

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mafia Lesson

An old Italian Mafia Don is dying and he calls his grandson to his bed.

"You lissin-a me. I wanna for you to taka my chrome plated 38 revolver so you will always remember me."

"But grandpa, I really don't like guns. Howzabout you leava me your Rolex watch instead?"

"Shuddup an lissin. Somma day you gonna runna da business, you gonna have a beautifula wife, lotsa money, a biga home and maybe a couple a bambinos. Somma day you gonna coma home and maybe find you wife inna bed with another man. Whadda you gonna do then......pointa to you watch and a say, "Times Up"?!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pittsburgh Brewing Investor is Son of Chicago Mob Boss

Friends of ours: John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone, Tony Accardo

A Chicago attorney who owns a 20 percent interest in bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing is the son of former Chicago mafia underboss John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone.

Attorney Jack P. Cerone's ownership was disclosed in papers filed by the brewery in federal bankruptcy court. Creditors believe that Mr. Cerone acquired a minority stake in 2003 by helping Pittsburgh Brewing pay off bank lenders. The Lawrenceville-based brewer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, previously disclosed that a bank accepted $500,000 as payment for a $5.1 million loan in 2003, forgiving the remaining balance of $4.6 million.

Court documents indicate Mr. Cerone is a secured lender with a $6 million claim against the company.

They list President Joseph Piccirilli as owning a 44 percent interest in the brewery. Two other investors, Thomas Gephart, of San Diego, and Steven Sands, of New York, are listed as owning less than 5 percent each. The other investor or investors, who own about 30 percent of the brewery, are not named.

Mr. Cerone did not return calls. Pittsburgh Brewing spokesman Jeff Vavro declined comment.Mr. Cerone's involvement has raised concerns among union workers, who said the attorney was the company's top negotiator in contract talks last spring. In Chicago, Mr. Cerone has represented unions in labor negotiations. His involvement also has attracted the interest of attorneys for other creditors. They have asked for copies of documents detailing terms of his loan to the brewery.

The Chicago media dubbed Mr. Cerone's father "The Lackey" because of his close association to his mentor, Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo, according to former FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr., who wrote a book on the Chicago mob. The elder Mr. Cerone was sentenced in 1986 to 28 1/2 years for skimming $2 million in unreported gambling profits from Las Vegas casinos. He died in 1996 at the age of 82.

The year before, his son's law firm sued the federal government for discrimination. The firm was contesting a 1989 federal court decree prohibiting the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from associating with organized crime.

Mr. Cerone charged that the decree unfairly caused Teamsters union locals in Chicago to stop using his law firm, Erbacci Cerone & Moriarty. Mr. Cerone also said one of the locals stopped dealing with the insurance company he owned, Marble Insurance Agency. A federal judge upheld the Teamsters decision because the younger Mr. Cerone admitted associating with his father.

Pittsburgh Brewing's bankruptcy papers list Erbacci Cerone and Marble Insurance as unsecured creditors. They are owed a total of $43,700.

Creditor attorneys and others familiar with Mr. Cerone said he did not have a criminal record.

Mr. Cerone's stake in Pittsburgh Brewing has not been reported to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. PLCB spokeswoman Molly McGowan said breweries were supposed to report ownership changes involving stakes of 10 percent or more within 15 days. The last time Pittsburgh Brewing provided ownership information to the agency, Mr. Piccirilli and Mr. Gephart were the only owners listed. Each had the same amount of stock, Ms. McGowan said.

Thanks to Len Boselovic

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Suspect in Mafia Associate's Slaying Discovered Dead of Apparent Suicide

A former Newark police officer, described as the "principal suspect" in a a mafia associate's 2002 murder, has apparently committed suicide, according to authorities.

Nicholas Baglione Jr., 48, was found dead Tuesday evening in a Hazlet parking lot, slumped over in the driver's seat of a limousine he drove for a living, according to local police. Baglione, who was reported missing Friday, died from a single gunshot would to the head. Authorities have ruled the death a suicide, pending results from an autopsy.

State authorities targeted Baglione during an investigation into the killing of Dennis Fiore, 50, an alleged small-time bookie who was fatally shot outside an Italian-American social club in Newark's North Ward in 2002.

John Hagerty, spokesman for the state Division of Criminal Justice, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Thursday newspapers that Baglione was a "principal suspect."

Baglione's suicide ended the possibility of the investigation going to a grand jury, Hagerty said.

Shot "Mobster" Refusing to Squeal

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine Sciandra, John Gotti, Junior Gotti, Ronald Carlucci, Michael Viga
Friends of mine: Patrick Balsamo

A retired cop who allegedly shot a reputed Gambino capo in the gut may get off scot-free because the "wiseguy" won't snitch.

Carmine Sciandra, who was shot inside his Staten Island produce store during a tussle with former NYPD Officer Patrick Balsamo in December, has refused to cooperate with authorities investigating the gunplay, authorities said. Prosecutors for the Staten Island DA have been unable to present the case to a grand jury because they are still not sure who fired the gun.

Balsamo stormed into the Top Tomato store in Travis with two reputed members of the Bonanno crime family in a dispute involving his daughter, Maria. She worked as a cashier at the shop before being fired, and accused Sciandra's brother, Salvatore, of groping her, authorities said. An enraged Balsamo started smashing windows with a baseball bat, they said. Carmine Sciandra was shot after confronting the ex-cop with a bat of his own, authorities said.

Sciandra is still recuperating from the bullet that ripped through his stomach and lodged in his buttocks, said a person close to the store owner. The friend said Sciandra is slated to undergo another abdominal surgery in April.

The two alleged Bonanno members brought in as muscle, Ronald Carlucci and Michael Viga, quickly drove off. They were never charged in the incident. "There's a lack of witnesses as to who actually pulled the trigger," said one law-enforcement official, adding that store surveillance videos also don't show who fired.

If the DA's case continues to be stalled, it is possible that assault and weapons charges against Balsamo could be dropped. "It would be a difficult case to prosecute without [Sciandra] offering his account," the source said. A spokesman for DA Daniel Donovan declined to comment on the investigation, saying only that Balsamo, 49, will be back in court March 14.

The unauthorized attack on an reputed "made" Mafia big with members of a rival crime family on hand left authorities fearing a mob war was on the horizon. But sources say all has been quiet and Balsamo, who retired from the NYPD in 1993, has been "hiding out" at his father's home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, since being released on $25,000 bail. "We haven't seen any repercussions here," the source said about gangland
retaliation.

Balsamo's father, Anthony, quickly hung up the phone when reached at home and the ex-cop's lawyer could not be reached. A lawyer for Sciandra, once considered a prime candidate to take over as boss of the Gambino family after John Gotti died and his son, John "Junior," was jailed, declined to comment.

Bad Cops First, Then Mob Cops?

Friends of ours: Burton Kaplan, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Luchese Crime Family, Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, John Gotti, Paul Castellano
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa

Before they were mob cops, they were bad cops. On top of eight murders, disgraced NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are accused of other sordid deeds while wearing their shields - including drug use and robbing stores for extra cash.

Caracappa, 64, boasted to one witness expected to testify at their pending trial that he dabbled with cocaine while working as an undercover narcotics cop, according to court papers filed by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office.

The ex-detective also admitted to Mafia turncoat Burton Kaplan - the go-between for the pair and Luchese family boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso - he and Eppolito used to hold up local delis for spending money in the late '70s, when the two started working together.

Prosecutors also unveiled allegations that when Eppolito was getting ready to hang up his badge, he asked Kaplan for cash so he could use it to bribe doctors into lying that he had a bad heart.

The court document, which prosecutors hope the judge presiding over the case will allow into evidence, details the numerous shady dealings the cops had with the Mafia.

The two were busted in Las Vegas last March on charges that they acted as assassins and moles for the Luchese crime family in the '80s and '90s.

Eppolito began taking bribes for leaking information to mobsters as early as 1979, the papers say, while Caracappa joined five years later, and the two were put on a $4,000-a-month retainer.

Some of the jobs prosecutors say the pair took on:
  • In 1982, Eppolito tried to get a $5,000 bribe from Gambino big-turned-rat Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano to not investigate a murder Gravano was suspected of committing. Prosecutors did not say if he ever received the cash.
  • In 1990, Casso offered to pay them to assassinate Gravano to avenge the murder of Paul Castellano by John Gotti. The pair declined the contract.

The documents go on to describe a conversation Caracappa had with Kaplan. Caracappa said he would "keep an eye on Eppolito, because both feared Eppolito would cooperate against them," the court papers say.

"Caracappa was the real thing - a hero," said his lawyer, Ed Hayes. "I look forward to confronting these human monsters who say otherwise in court."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Lombardo Claims He Has No Money - Feds To Pay Attorneys For Joey "The Clown"

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Lawyers for Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo got permission Thursday to collect their fees from the government, while federal prosecutors got the green light to do whatever it takes to prove that the reputed mob boss isn't as broke as he claims to be. Lombardo, 77, who claims he can't pay his lawyers because he has no money, appeared in court in an orange prison jumpsuit, wore his usual puzzled expression and said nothing.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel granted defense attorney Rick Halprin and an associate permission to represent Lombardo at public expense but said he might change his mind if federal prosecutors can prove that there has been "a fraud or a bad-faith exchange of assets." "The government is free to investigate to its heart's content," Zagel said.

Prosecutors noted that Lombardo was carrying $3,000 in cash the night of Jan. 13 when an FBI organized-crime squad caught him in a suburban Elmwood Park alley after eight months on the run. Lombardo is among 14 reputed mob figures charged in April 2005 with a racketeering conspiracy that included plotting at least 18 murders as far back as 1970.

When agents went to arrest him on that charge, Lombardo had vanished and immediately became the target of a high-profile manhunt. Lombardo claims to have had no income since May 2005. He was convicted and sent to prison along with former International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams in a 1982 bribery-conspiracy case.

Prosecutors said in court papers that "the FBI has obtained information that after the completion of his parole status on June 15, 2002, the defendant traveled to France for approximately 10 days, arriving in Paris on July 11, 2002, and continuing on to Nice."

"The defendant flew back to Chicago from France on July 21, 2002," prosecutors said. "The government respectfully submits that these facts including a 10-day trip abroad are not consistent with the need for a court-appointed lawyer."

Prosecutors said that after being indicted in the 1982 case Lombardo transferred "substantial assets" to a trust that benefits his children, Joseph and Joanne, "in an apparent attempt to put funds beyond the reach of the government." His ex-wife, Marion, is the trustee.

Prosecutors said Marion Lombardo appears to have sold three parcels in Florida held by the MJJ Trust for more than $4.5 million in 2003. They said there is a May 1992 dissolution of marriage record but that it appears the Lombardos lived together until the latest indictment. They said two warranty deeds recording the sale of the Florida property referred to Marion Lombardo as "a married woman."

Halprin scoffed at the government's claims, telling Zagel that the assets had been placed in "an irrevocable trust" for Lombardo's family. He said that if the government thinks Lombardo has money prosecutors should prove it. He did acknowledge that the trust might revert to Lombardo if his wife, son and daughter all died. But he said that considering his client's age, "That is worth about the same as 5,000 shares of Enron stock."

Is The Clown too broke to hire lawyer?

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

Does The Clown have the cash? That's the question facing a federal judge this morning in Chicago as he determines whether reputed top mobster Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo has the money to pay his prominent defense attorney Rick Halprin, or whether the public will pay for his defense. Halprin said his client is all but broke, receiving only $652 a month in Social Security before he went on the lam about eight months ago.

Lombardo, 77, charged in the most significant mob racketeering case in Chicago history, was arrested last month hiding out in Elmwood Park.

Prosecutors, though, put The Clown in Paris, not poverty. Prosecutors Mitchell A. Mars and John J. Scully note Lombardo traveled to France in July 2002 for 10 days, shortly after his parole ended in another criminal case.

Even though Lombardo was divorced from his wife in 1992, prosecutors suggest it was nothing more than a ruse to hide his assets, noting his wife sold $4.5 million in Florida property in 2003. And when Lombardo was arrested, the prosecutors said, he had $3,000 in cash, suggesting he had ready access to cash.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dramatic mob trials still fill the seats

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Gambino Crime Family, Peter Gotti, Colombo Crime Family, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Lucchese Crime Family, Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea, Bonanno Crime Family, Joseph "Big Joe" Massino, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Organized crime may be on the decline, but Mafia trials are getting as much attention as ever.

In New York City alone, three upcoming federal prosecutions are targeting La Cosa Nostra, the Italian-American crime syndicate made famous by The Godfather books and films, and the HBO series The Sopranos. Defendants include John A. Gotti, son of John J. Gotti, the "Dapper Don" who died in federal prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors hope to try alleged mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 76, and 10 alleged associates later this year for conspiracy to commit at least 18 unsolved murders, some dating back more than 30 years.

The cases all have the ruthlessness, and the color, that America has come to expect from the Mob.

First, there are the names. "Vinny Bionics," "Jackie Nose," "Mikey Scars," "Louie Electric" and "Skinny Dom," are among the characters who appear in court papers filed in the New York cases.

Then, there are the details. One case features an apparent first: the boss of a New York City crime family who, court papers say, "wore a wire" to secretly record conversations that were used to bring charges against other members. In another, two former New York City police detectives are accused of accepting thousands of dollars to carry out or aid seven Mafia-related slayings.

The public and the media are sure to be watching. Last month, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for Lombardo's first court appearance. Lombardo, who got his nickname by making jokes during legal proceedings, had disappeared soon after he was indicted and was on the lam for nine months before he was captured in a Chicago suburb Jan. 13.

Mafiosi "are not as large and as powerful as they once were, but they can still draw a crowd," says Jerry Capeci, organized crime specialist for Ganglandnews.com and author and co-author of six books on the Mob. "And let's face it, (Mob trials) are a lot more colorful than, what, Enron and like that."

Defendants in all of the Mafia cases have pleaded not guilty.

In Chicago, Lombardo and his associates are charged with plotting to kill a potential grand jury witness. They're also charged in the June 1986 killings of Chicago organized crime figure Tony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael, who were beaten, then buried alive in a cornfield. The episode was fictionalized in Casino, a 1995 movie in which actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro.


MAFIA CONVICTIONS AT A GLANCE
During the past nine years, federal and local prosecutors in New York City have secured convictions and prison sentences for defendants they described as the bosses or acting bosses of all five of the city's Mafia "families."
Family Boss Conviction Sentence
Genovese Vincent "Chin" Gigante Racketeering (1997) 12 years (died in prison, 2005)
Gambino Peter Gotti Conspiracy; money laundering (2003) 9 1/2 years
Colombo Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico Racketeering (2003) 13 years
Luchese Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea Construction bid rigging (2004) 3 to 6 years
Bonanno Joseph "Big Joe" Massino Multiple murders (2005) Life


In federal court in Brooklyn, testimony is scheduled to begin Feb. 22 in the murder, racketeering, bookmaking and extortion trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, 46. Court papers describe him as the acting head of the Bonannos, one of five Mob "families" in New York City. Since mid-January, jury selection has been going on in secret to protect potential jurors' identities, court spokesman Robert Nardoza said.

Basciano, whose nickname, Capeci says, derived from a Bronx beauty parlor Basciano once owned, is charged with killing a Mob associate and plotting two other slayings. Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo, 66, an alleged Bonanno capo, or crime crew chief, is accused of killing another family associate.

Both men also face gambling, loan sharking and extortion charges. The charges are based in part on secret recordings made by convicted Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, 66, in January 2005, when he and Basciano met in a detention center in New York City, court papers say.

Basciano, awaiting trial, was unaware that Massino — who was awaiting sentencing for a racketeering conviction — had agreed to work for the FBI, Basciano's attorneys say in court papers.

"That's huge," says Ronald Kessler, who has written two books on the FBI. "Getting a family leader to wear a wire is something that's never happened before. It should make for very interesting testimony."

One of the most interested parties might be DeFilippo, Basciano's co-defendant and, according to prosecutors, his fellow Bonanno family member.

Transcripts of the tapes in court papers indicate that Basciano asked Massino, the family leader, for permission to "jocko" — Mob slang for kill — DeFilippo in a dispute over money and Basciano's leadership style. "I have a problem living in the same world as this guy," Basciano said of DeFilippo, the court papers say.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the retrial of John A. Gotti in federal court in Manhattan. Gotti, 41, called "Junior" in court papers, is charged with ordering the kidnapping and non-fatal shooting of Curtis Sliwa, a New York City radio talk-show host and founder of the Guardian Angels citizen-patrol group. Sliwa was abducted by Gambino family crime members under Gotti's control in 1992, prosecutors allege, because Gotti was upset by Sliwa's criticism of his father. When Gotti was first tried in September, jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on the kidnapping and extortion and loan-sharking charges. He was found not guilty of securities fraud. His attorneys disputed prosecutors' claims that he is boss of the crime family his father once led. They said he had severed his ties with organized crime.

The younger Gotti was convicted of racketeering in 1999 and was imprisoned for six years.

This week, Judge Shira Scheindlin turned down Gotti's request that Sliwa not be allowed to criticize him on Sliwa's show during the trial. Gotti said Sliwa's comments could unfairly influence jurors.

On Feb. 21, also in federal court in Brooklyn, jury selection is scheduled to begin in the murder and racketeering trial of former New York City police detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, are charged with accepting up to $4,000 a month in the 1980s and early 1990s to give members of the Luchese crime family information on police surveillance and help them find the targets of seven family-ordered hits.

The retired detectives also are accused of fatally shooting a Mafia member who had agreed to turn over information to the government.

Jack Weinstein, the judge in the case, has asked for a larger courtroom to accommodate crowds.

"They don't get better than this," Capeci says.

Thanks to Richard Willing

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Detectives Who Broke "Mafia Cops" Case Won't Testify At Trial

Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

The former detectives credited with breaking the so-called "mafia cops" case will not testify at the upcoming trial.

Former NYPD detectives Thomas Dades and William Oldham were able to get a key informer to speak, which led to the charges against disgraced former police officers Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. However, the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office said Tuesday it has decided not to use Dades and Oldham as witnesses.

The news comes as the defense team works to uncover disciplinary action about Dades and Oldham which could hurt their credibility.

Eppolito and Caracappa are charged with helping to carry out hits for the mob while they were on the police force. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The two men are currently under house arrest, out on $5 million bail. The trial is set to begin later this month.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mafia-run Hospital Scam is in the Works

USA Network is taking a second look at "Organized Medicine," a Mob-based project that has been in the development pipeline for more than 18 months as a miniseries.

The cable network is redeveloping the project, about a Mafia-run hospital scam, as a pilot for a drama series. It will be written by Michael Angeli, a writer-producer on Sci Fi Channel's hit "Battlestar Galactica."