Thursday, March 30, 2006

Retired F.B.I. Agent Turns Himself In to Brooklyn D.A.

Friends of ours: Gregory Scarpa Sr., Colombo Crime Family, Joseph "Joe Brewster" DeDomenico, Bonanno Crime Family
Friends of mine: Larry Lampesi


A retired F.B.I agent who has been plagued by allegations of close ties to organized crime for more than a decade turned himself in at the Brooklyn district attorney's office last night. The former agent, R. Lindley DeVecchio, who is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges that he helped a gangster kill at least three people, arrived at the office with two lawyers, Mark Bederow and Douglas E. Grover.

An indictment to be unsealed today in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn charges Mr. DeVecchio, 65, with providing the gangster, Gregory Scarpa Sr., with information that led to the killings, according to a law enforcement source.

Starting in 1982, Mr. DeVecchio spent years cultivating a relationship with Mr. Scarpa, a capo in the Colombo crime family who eventually became an informant for the bureau. But according to the indictment, Mr. DeVecchio began providing information to Mr. Scarpa, who in 1984 killed Mary Bari, an informant who had dated a mobster.

Mr. DeVecchio is also accused of providing Mr. Scarpa with information that helped him in the 1987 killing of Joseph DeDomenico, a mobster also known as Joe Brewster, and the 1992 killing of Larry Lampesi, a mob associate.

Mr. Grover last night called the charges "a complete fabrication."

In 1996, a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. into Mr. DeVecchio's work included allegations that he helped Mr. Scarpa keep track of rivals but found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. While some of his colleagues told superiors they felt his relationship with Mr. Scarpa had become too intimate, Mr. DeVecchio said in an affidavit that the only things he ever received from Mr. Scarpa were a Cabbage Patch doll, a bottle of wine and a pan of lasagna.

Mr. DeVecchio retired in 1996 after 33 years with the bureau and moved to Sarasota, Fla. Mr. Scarpa died of AIDS in prison in 1994.

Several of Mr. DeVecchio's former colleagues — including assistant F.B.I directors and Joseph D. Pistone, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family under the name Donnie Brasco — have rallied to his cause.

"We're perplexed at this point in time as to why the district attorney is bringing, from what we know, the same matters that were previously investigated and adjudicated," said Christopher Mattiace, a former F.B.I. supervisory special agent who is part of the group.

Thanks to Jennifer 8. Lee

In Mob Trial, a Spotlight on a Rogue

Friends of ours: Edward Lino, Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa


Steven Corso — tax cheat, thief, disgraced accountant — spent a good part of the week telling jurors at the racketeering trial of two retired New York detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, how the two men moved to Las Vegas in the early 1990's and committed crimes.

He testified that last year they helped arrange a two-minute, 19-second drug deal, in which Mr. Eppolito's son was secretly recorded selling an ounce of methamphetamine for $900. He said that a few weeks later, Mr. Eppolito, who acted in films and wrote scripts after leaving the police force, took $14,000 for a screenplay he was writing, even though he knew it had come from a mob-connected drug deal.

Eventually, of course, the witness, with his pomaded hair and designer suits, was forced to talk about his own high crimes and misdemeanors. Under cross-examination, he admitted having first approached Mr. Eppolito pretending to be interested in his daughter and acknowledged stealing $5,329,566 from his former firm, spending it on a "lifestyle" of "girlfriends, jewelry and going out."

Mr. Corso, 50, is the government's chief witness in the Las Vegas portion of the trial, a transcontinental case in which the two defendants have been charged with taking part in at least eight murders for the Brooklyn mob.

He traveled through Las Vegas with a miniature recorder, and the tapes he made have allowed the government to argue that the two defendants were engaged in a criminal conspiracy stretching from murder in the 1980's to a drug deal last year.

Bruce Cutler, Mr. Eppolito's lawyer, painted Mr. Corso as a debauched and profligate government pawn: a man, he said, who left $600,000 in "unpaid lines of credit at various and sundry casinos." Ever one for eloquent aggression, Mr. Cutler impugned his conduct (and oddly enough, with no apparent reason, his patriotism, too) then lambasted him for having stooped to recording Mr. Eppolito, recovering after heart surgery in a hospital room.

Rae Koshetz, Mr. Caracappa's lawyer, needled Mr. Corso for having said the phrase "with me" was gangland slang, as in, "He's with me."

In what was probably the only Mafia-logical interpretation of Scripture ever offered in a court, Ms. Koshetz read aloud from the 23rd Psalm to prove there was nothing inherently sinister about "with me."

"'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,'" she read, "'I fear no evil for you are" —pause — "with me.' " She then asked Mr. Corso. "Surely, you don't think the author of the 23rd Psalm was talking about a drug deal, do you, sir?"

Speaking of authors, one of the half-dozen or so who have hitched their wagons to the case is Jane McCormick, former president of a Las Vegas cleaning service and a onetime call girl whose most famous customer was, in her words, "Frank Sinatra when he wasn't married."

Ms. McCormick, 64, wrote "The Confidence Game," her life story — a tale of child molestation, rape, abortion, "favors for men" and silicone injections that led, she said, to "gangrene" in her breasts.

Four years ago, hoping to make the leap to Hollywood, she paid Mr. Eppolito $45,000 to turn her book into a screenplay — a screenplay, she has sued him for having failed to write.

Throughout the trial, Ms. McCormick has installed herself in the pews of court, hoping the publicity will help sell her book. She is also a figure of writerly retribution: the author as avenging angel. "He made me believe he was the hotshot of the movie world," she said. "But he didn't have what it took."

Little physical evidence has been introduced so far, though on Thursday, prosecutors presented what could become a crucial exhibit. It was a watch — specifically a Pulsar watch with a black, square face found near the curb of the Belt Parkway on Nov. 6, 1990. That was the date and place that Edward Lino, a Gambino family captain, was killed in his Mercedes-Benz — by the two ex-detectives, prosecutors say.

The watch was discovered within 100 feet of Mr. Lino's car by Detective Mary Dugan of the New York Police Department's crime scene unit. Detective Dugan, now retired, testified that she had found the watch on the night of Mr. Lino's death after finding his body slumped behind the wheel of the car.

Prosecutors plan to argue in closing remarks that the watch belonged to Mr. Caracappa.

As proof of just how exhaustive their case has been so far, they showed a photograph on Tuesday from a 1989 party celebrating the promotion of a former colleague of Mr. Caracappa.

The photograph shows Mr. Caracappa in his shirtsleeves and a tie, a cigarette tucked Jean-Paul Belmondo-style at his lip. On his wrist is a watch, with a black square face.

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Mobsters Indicted in Stock Scam

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Lucchese Crime Family, Joseph Baudanza, Carmine Baudanza

Members of two New York organized crime families were arrested and indicted on Thursday for running a penny stock scam that controlled and extorted money from brokerage firms through bribes, threats and violence, prosecutors said.

Ten members and associates of the Colombo and Luchese families were indicted in federal court in Brooklyn on charges including racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping and money laundering.

According to the indictment, the defendants controlled 15 small New York brokerage firms, mainly based in downtown Manhattan.

It said they falsely inflated stock prices by promoting penny stocks -- shares that trade under $5 -- before dumping their own personal holdings. The estimated loss to investors was $20 million.

Investors should not be "victimized by unscrupulous brokers backed by the mob," Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "Investors are entitled to a level playing field."

According to the indictment, between 1994 and 2005, licensed and unlicensed brokers were paid bribes in the form of commissions up to 50 percent of the price of each stock sold. Investors opening accounts were at first encouraged to buy established stocks, and then penny stocks, the indictment said.

The defendants, including accused Colombo family captain Joseph Baudanza, 61, and his brother Carmine Baudanza, 63, also extorted stock brokers, traders, cold callers and brokerage firm owners through threats and violence, authorities said.

One stock promoter was kidnapped and chained to a pit bull dog, one broker was beaten with a bat, and another was stabbed when he tried to leave one of the firms, authorities said.

Joseph Baudanza faces a maximum prison sentence of 70 years, while Carmine Baudanza faces up to 90 years.

Lawyers for the defendants could not be immediately reached for comment.

Time for "Mafia Cop" to Honor his Family

"There are some things that you're taught as a child that stay with you the rest of your life. It's like a code you can't break. In my case, a Cosa Nostra code. And if following that code means having to face the consequences, even among friends, then so be it."

Excerpt from "Mafia Cop," by Louis Eppolito.

It's time. Time for Louie Eppolito to face the consequences.

Now that he has announced he will not even mount a defense against the charges that he kidnapped and murdered for money, it's time for the former detective to act like a man, and fall on a grenade for his family.

Last Wednesday I sat in the courtroom at the so-called Mafia cops trial where a sleazy accountant named Steven Corso - who became a federal wire-wearing mole in the nether world of Vegas - introduced a hit parade of audiotape of Eppolito and former partner Stephen Caracappa. On one tape, Corso, posing as a middleman who can get investors to pay Eppolito money to write a screenplay, says the Hollywood guys want designer drugs. Eppolito says, "Tony can do that."

Tony being his son, Anthony Eppolito. Here is a guy, Louie Eppolito, a former cop who likes to brag he's the 11th-most-decorated cop in NYPD history, involving his son in a drug bust so that he can scam $75,000 for a movie script. Which is $5,000 more than the feds say Louie Eppolito charged for a mob contract killing on the Belt Parkway.

As the audiotape played, Eppolito sat at the defense table nervously craning his neck like a man preparing for the gallows. Seated behind him his wife, Fran, looked as defeated as Edie Falco in the recent hospital scenes in "The Sopranos." Then came the videotape. Fran watched her son sell an ounce of methamphetamine to Corso for $900, for which he's facing major time in jail.

It gets worse.

Because Louie Eppolito failed to report chunks of money on his tax returns, which Fran Eppolito co-signed, she is also facing an income tax evasion rap. Not only is Louie Eppolito a dirty cop, say the feds, but he's also dragging his wife and son into prison with him. Real men don't do that. That's definitely not part of The Code. And there was more.

In the afternoon, Fran watched an attractive woman named Cabrini Cama, who took the witness stand for the prosecution, admit she began a six-year "relationship" with Eppolito in 1983, and confirmed that Eppolito met with Burton Kaplan, the prosecution's star witness, in her Brooklyn apartment.

For causing his wife so much public shame, for getting her and his son jammed up with the law, Louie Eppolito owes it to his family to end this charade and do the time for his crimes.

I asked one of the feds associated with this case if Eppolito could still come clean, fess up and tell the truth, in exchange for a promise of no jail time for his wife and son. "The time to do that was really before the trial started," the fed said. "But, hey, our door is open."

All through his book "Mafia Cop" Louis Eppolito writes about the hard-knock lessons he learned from his brutal Mafioso father, Ralph (Fat the Gangster) Eppolito, who often beat him with his fists, two-by-fours, even loaves of Italian bread across the face at the dinner table. All this was supposed to teach young Louie to be a "man."

Louie Eppolito was raised by wolves and therefore acted like a wild animal out there on the street wearing the uniform and badge of the NYPD, beating prisoners, killing people, laughing as cops gave roof leapers "diving scores" as they plunged to their deaths, according to the book.

Ha-ha-ha. But sit ringside at this trial and you know that Eppolito and Caracappa are so far behind on rounds that they need a lottery punch knockout to win. That could come only if the judge's jury charge is so narrow on the statute of limitations aspect of the case that the jury doesn't believe the 2004 drug bust set up by Eppolito in Vegas constitutes evidence of a continuing criminal enterprise under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.

But that's one scary roll of the dice. Especially because there's a strong possibility that if Eppolito and Caracappa are cleared on the statute of limitations technicality in Federal Court, the State of New York could charge them for murder, on which there is no statute of limitations.

In his "Mafia Cop" dedication to Fran, Eppolito writes, "To my wife, Frances, who has put up with me for the past 20 years. Her great love and understanding of me will always be a mystery waiting to be solved."

Indeed.

Thanks to Denis Hamill

Actor Revisits Mob connection

One of the most prominent new faces on TV's most popular Mafia drama is an actor whose career in mob fiction began when he was just a boy.
The Sopranos
Though he's thoroughly ensconced in his new "Sopranos" role, Lou Martini Jr. fondly remembers one of his first acting gigs, in the wedding reception scene in "The Godfather."

"My part is when James Caan is taking the bridesmaid upstairs to go fool around . . . at the beginning of the movie," Martini said in a recent phone call from New York."Those two little kids run by into the kitchen, and there's the wedding cake the ladies are fixing, and we run around the cake. Well, the first kid is me."

Martini's father was cast as Luca Brasi in "The Godfather," the role that generated the memorable line "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes," a mob-movie quote that is second only to Marlon Brando's "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." But Lou Martini Sr. got sick on his first day on the set and was replaced by wrestler Lenny Montana. Martini had a stroke and died in 1970, and young Martini's mother took him out of acting and had him focus on school.

Still, after falling back in love with acting in college, Martini had to make a decision: scrape his way up through the world of sports broadcasting (his major) or return to New York to be with family while pursuing a career in acting.He chose family and acting.

His latest Mafia-related role is only a little shadier than "young boy at wedding party," so far, anyway. On "The Sopranos," he plays Anthony Infante, the reluctant new liaison between the New York and New Jersey crime families. When Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) needs to communicate with John Sacramoni (Vince Curatola), the jailed boss of one of the New York families, he goes through Martini's character, an unassuming optometrist who happens to be Sacramoni's brother-in-law.

Martini plays Infante as a skittish, nervous bystander who is uncomfortable at having to play the go-between for the powerful criminals. But he has some underlying complexity that may surface later this season. "I think in the back of Anthony's mind somewhere, like a lot of people, he may be a little bit excited about getting involved," Martini said. "It could be a dream of his to maybe be a gangster one day." On the other hand: "He's pretty happy selling Armani sunglasses."

Martini recently appeared as Lou the Doorman in the reality show "Gastineau Girls" and has been in Broadway plays such as "Tony n' Tina's Wedding." He also had a Sundance Film Festival hit with "Lbs.," a story about eating disorders. It hits theaters in May. And he's shopping around a sitcom based on his relationship with his mother, who died last year.

He got cut out of the March 19 episode of "The Sopranos" because of a change in the story line. That was "disappointing," he said. But he does have "a little thing" in the fifth episode on April 9. "And then my really nice episode, if it sticks the way it is -- because you never know in this business -- is episode 10," he said.

Even with as much fun as he's having in the acting world, he'd love to get back into sports broadcasting. "If you were to snap your fingers and say, 'You can be doing the sports report at 6 and 11 on ABC here in New York,' I'd take the job in a second."

Thanks to Bill Hutchens

Man Says "Mafia Cops" Ordered Him to Dig Grave

Friends of mine: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of ours: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa, Frank Santoro

A tow truck driver testified Tuesday that he was forced to dig the grave of a jeweler who was allegedly kidnapped and killed in 1986 by two New York City detectives moonlighting as hit men for the mob.

A gangster involved in the Brooklyn slaying "told me that I had to help bury the dead man," Peter Franzone said at the federal trial of the former detectives, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. "He said if I told anybody, he'd kill me and my family."

The 56-year-old witness said he kept quiet for 19 years because he was convinced no one would believe that police were mixed up with the mob, and because he feared Eppolito might put him in his own grave. "I was afraid of Louie Eppolito," he said.

Franzone broke his silence last year under questioning by federal authorities reinvestigating the slaying of Israel Greenwald, a Diamond District jeweler who ran afoul of the Luchese crime family.

Authorities allege Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were involved in the killings of Greenwald and seven other victims between 1986 and 1990 while on the payroll both of the NYPD and Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. Prosecutors said the detectives committed killings for up to $65,000 a hit.

Greenwald was killed in 1986 after being pulled over by Eppolito and Caracappa and taken to a parking garage managed by Franzone, prosecutors said.

On the witness stand Tuesday, the tow truck driver told jurors he had seen a man in a pinstriped suit and a yarmulke being led inside a one-car garage by a Luchese associate, Frank Santoro, and a man fitting the description of Caracappa. Eppolito -- whom he had previously met -- was waiting in a car outside, he said.

Franzone said about 20 minutes later, the garage door opened, and Santoro and the other man emerged without Greenwald. The other man left with Eppolito, and then Santoro took Franzone into the garage, showed him the victim's body and ordered him to dig a 5-foot grave in the garage, the witness testified.

The body was dumped in the hole, and covered with cement. Santoro himself was killed the next year.

Greenwald's body was discovered last April after Franzone told investigators where to find it. Authorities said the jeweler had been shot in the head.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

James Caan Hails District Attorney for Probing Agent

Friends of ours: Joseph "Jo-Jo" Russo, Colombo Crime Family, Gregory Scarpa

"The Godfather" and "Las Vegas" star James Caan is close to some real mobsters in his offscreen life - so he knows the difference between the Mafia and make-believe. So when he heard that allegedly corrupt FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio was being investigated, he took the time to thank Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in a letter. After all, DeVecchio had helped put away one of Caan's pals, Joseph (Jo-Jo) Russo, a Colombo family member convicted in 1992 of murder and racketeering charges.James Caan

Caan wanted "to thank [Hynes] ... for undertaking such an extensive and malignant corruption case." "Joseph Russo is a dear friend of mine and I cannot express enough how pleased I am that your office has taken interest and is in pursuit of corrrecting this problem," Caan wrote from his office in Encino, Calif. Caan's letter, obtained by the Daily News, also thanks Hynes for "taking the time to evaluate the situation to correct the wrongs that have affected so many lives."

Caan could not be reached for comment. His publicist, Paul Bloch, said, "He's shooting on location and I can't get to him."

There were other strong reactions to the news of DeVecchio's indictment, including charges that he allegedly helped mobster Gregory Scarpa kill 17-year-old Patrick Porco. "Losing Patrick Porco as a teenager ruined the lives of his entire family,"
said attorney David Schoen, who represents Porco's brother and sisters in a pending civil action against DeVecchio. "The family is stunned now to learn that an FBI agent is allegedly involved in Patrick's murder. Stunned, and they're looking forward to getting to the bottom of what happened," said Schoen.

Other reaction came from a former NYPD detective who said he was a fall guy for DeVecchio and now hopes his name will be cleared. Joseph Simone said his life was wrecked when he was accused of leaking information to the mob during the 1992 Colombo wars. At the time, he was working on a task force unit headed by DeVecchio.
Simone was acquitted in 1994 of the criminal charges, but lost his job after a 1996 NYPD administrative trial found he had failed to report that mobsters had tried to bribe him. He gets no pension despite more than two decades on the police force. "I hope now that the real rat is getting indicted, maybe that will allow the department to reconsider my case," said Simone.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

'Mafia cops' trial has new sidebar

Woman says she was financially ruined after paying defendant to write script about her life that hasn't sold

Whatever Jane McCormick did in Las Vegas during her wild days as a party girl (and the way she remembers things, she did a lot) certainly hasn't stayed there.

A brassy blonde who bears a resemblance to actress Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," McCormick, 65, is one of the most unusual spectators to show up at the "Mafia Cops" trial in Brooklyn federal court. She also hasn't been quiet about the $45,000 beef she has with one of the defendants, ex-NYPD detective Louis Eppolito, 57, who is on trial for racketeering, along with his former partner, Stephen Caracappa, 64.

McCormick, who is living on Social Security disability in Minnesota, said the money she paid Eppolito in 2002 represented a fee to write a film script about her life.

She paid him to write about her life? Isn't it usually the other way around? "I was stupid," McCormick now says in retrospect.

Actually, trial testimony showed that Eppolito, who got a taste for the movie business by doing bit roles in films such as "GoodFellas," regularly peddled the idea of raising money by getting fees from people to write scripts for them.

Seventy-five thousand dollars was the standard Eppolito pitch, said witness Stephen Corso. In McCormick's case, she said that when she balked at that price tag, Eppolito knocked it down to $45,000, an amount that McCormick raised through a bank loan and $10,000 cash advance from her credit card.

"He filled my head with delusion," McCormick said.

They way she tells it, there was a lot of material for a racy film. According to McCormick, she spent time as a prostitute in the 1960s in Las Vegas and was arm candy for the likes of Frank Sinatra. She caroused with the Rat Pack and knew mobsters. Silicone breast injections eventually led to a mastectomy. After quitting life on the Vegas Strip, she wound up in the Midwest, running a cleaning service.

McCormick said Eppolito told her that she could earn $130,000 to $160,000 from the sale of her script to Hollywood. He didn't guarantee it, but said it was 99.9 percent certain, McCormick recalled.

The script hasn't sold, she said, and the crush of the bank loan and credit card payments forced her to file for bankruptcy and to lose her business. She flew to New York for the first week of the trial, which began March 13, and listened with rapt attention. McCormick also said she confronted Eppolito and berated him outside court for promising her the moon.

"I wrote it four times for her," Eppolito told Newsday about the McCormick script. "It didn't go fast enough for her."

The federal judge in the "Mafia Cops" trial, Jack B. Weinstein, was an officer in the Navy during World War II and runs his courtroom on a brisk schedule that leaves reporters, lawyers and spectators feeling like they are on a forced march. What was expected to be a six-to-10-week trial could be over in four.

So punishing has been the 55-minute to 60-minute lunch period Weinstein enforces that defense attorney Bruce Cutler, who is representing Eppolito, one day asked for 10 more minutes. Weinstein, 85, who seems to thrive on the rapid trial pace, relented with a smile. Weinstein does allow mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks during which the jurors are served drinks and snacks. During those 10- or 15-minute breaks, Weinstein has been spotted at the courthouse snack bar getting a bag of nuts for his own pick-me-up.

Speaking of lunch, the two defendants spend their hour differently. Eppolito delights news photographers by walking outside the courthouse to the Park Plaza diner just across Cadman Plaza Park. His wife, Fran, is always with him. He likes pastrami on rye with mustard. By contrast, Caracappa seems to take his repast inside the new Brooklyn federal court building and never ventures outside during the noon hour.

Judge Weinstein referred last week to a ticking time bomb in the "Mafia Cops" case: a nettlesome statute of limitations problem. Simply put, there is the possibility that the racketeering conspiracy charged in the case might prove to be outside the five-year statute of limitations. Prosecutors contend that a 2004 drug charge that is also part of the case solves that problem. They also maintain that a continuous coverup by Eppolito and Caracappa brings the case well within the limitation date of March 9, 2000.

However, Weinstein is allowing defense attorneys in the case to propose a charge to the jury on the statute of limitations defense. Bettina Schein, who is co-counsel for Eppolito, said that is expected to be filed today. Rae Koshetz, co-counsel for Caracappa, said she expects to reveal today whether her client will take the stand. Cutler has already said Eppolito won't testify.

Thanks to Anthony M. DeStefano

Monday, March 27, 2006

'Mafia Cops' Trial Has Lots of Theatrics

Louie Eppolito had a story to tell. And, more importantly, one to sell.

The decorated ex-New York police detective, who also happened to be the son of a mobster, was living in Las Vegas and trying to peddle doomed screenplays with titles like "Murder In Youngstown." Eppolito was looking for an investor in his latest project and he was unconcerned about the source of the cash.

"If you said to me, `Lou, I wanna introduce you to Jack Smith, he wants to invest in this film,' (and) he says, `$75,000 comes in a (expletive) shoe box,' that's fine with me," Eppolito said during a surreptitiously taped conversation with a federal informant. "I don't care. I've had people give me money before."

It sounds like movie dialogue, maybe something out of "Get Shorty (Two-Disc Special Edition)." No surprise the trial of so-called "Mafia Cops" Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, heading into its third week, has featured plenty of theatrics.

The courtroom histrionics occasionally threaten to overshadow one of the most serious prosecutions in city history: a pair of top-echelon NYPD detectives accused of using their prized gold shields to kill eight people at the behest of a brutal mob underboss, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Prosecutors allege that Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were partners in crime from 1979 to last year, when they were arrested in Las Vegas. They remain free on $5 million bail.

The first day of testimony was punctuated with a screaming match between turncoat mobster Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco and defense attorney Bruce Cutler, who made his reputation defending the late Gambino family boss John Gotti.

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," snapped the grandfatherly D'Arco, 73, his Brooklyn accent unaltered by 15 years in witness protection. "You're not making any sense to me."

Cutler, his deep voice rising, tried to ask another question: "Wouldn't you agree with me …"

"I wouldn't agree with you on anything!" shouted D'Arco, who was threatened with contempt by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein. That was before the one-time Luchese boss ripped into Cutler as a loudmouth and a cheapskate. The judge showed little more tolerance for Cutler, cutting off his cross-examination for shouting at D'Arco.

The defendants themselves are a mismatched pair: the portly Eppolito, whose reputation was made as a street cop, comes to court in an ill-fitting sports coat. Caracappa so thin he was known among fellow cops as "The Stick" is fastidious in appearance, right down to his neatly trimmed mustache.

The prosecution has already called its key witness, confessed drug dealer Burton Kaplan, who spent four days testifying about the two detectives' brutal work on behalf of Luchese underboss Casso. Kaplan implicated the pair in a dozen homicides.

Cross-examination of another prosecution witness, crooked accountant Steven Corso, focused on his theft of $5.3 million from an ex-employer to finance a life of what he called "girlfriends, jewelry and going out." It was Corso who recorded the conversations with Eppolito about film financing. The ex-detective, playing up his mob pedigree, sprinkled the conversation with mob names like "Jimmy the Buffalo" and the late crime boss Joe Bonanno.

There was one witness whose testimony tugged on heartstrings while going to the heart of the case: Pauline Pipitone, describing how her youngest son, 26-year-old Nicholas Guido, had come home for Christmas dinner in 1986.

It was Guido's misfortune to share his name with a mobster involved in a botched hit on Casso. When the underboss wanted revenge, prosecutors said, he turned to the two detectives who provided an address for the wrong Nicholas Guido.

The innocent man was showing off his new car when he was shot by mob hit men. Pipitone was inside washing dishes.

"I ran over to the car," she testified. "He was sitting up at the wheel. I went to touch his hand, and he must have just died. His fingertips were cold."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Retired F.B.I. Agent Is Accused of Helping in Mafia Murders

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Bonanno Crime Family, Gregory Scarpa Sr., Joseph "Joe Brewster" DeDomenico, Nicholas Grancio
Friends of mine: R. Lindley DeVecchio, Larry Lampesi

A grand jury in Brooklyn has accused a retired F.B.I. agent of helping a Mafia killer and bureau informant murder or help murder at least three people, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the indictment confirmed yesterday.

The murder indictment in Supreme Court names R. Lindley DeVecchio, a career investigator and onetime head of the bureau's Colombo and Bonanno families squads. He led a government surveillance team during a bloody mob civil war in the 1980's. That war left at least 10 men dead and 14 wounded.

Mr. DeVecchio, 65, reached yesterday by telephone at his home in Sarasota, Fla., denied any wrongdoing and referred all further questions to his lawyer, Douglas Grover, who said the district attorney's case against his client was "complete nonsense."

"I'm going to bang the table" in court on Monday "and get a copy of the indictment," he said. Mr. Grover, a former federal prosecutor with the Organized Crime Task Force, added: "It's common for an indictment to be filed and sealed and kept secret until prosecutors make a decision as to how they want to deal with the arraignment. But it's uncommon to leak it to the press."

Starting in 1982, Mr. DeVecchio began grooming Gregory Scarpa Sr., a captain and an assassin for the Colombo crime family, as a mole for the F.B.I.

According to the still-sealed indictment, the law enforcement official said, Mr. DeVecchio, while an F.B.I. agent, provided information to Mr. Scarpa, who in 1984 killed Mary Bari, who had dated a mobster and become a bureau informant.

The indictment also charges that Mr. DeVecchio provided information that helped Mr. Scarpa assist in the 1987 killing of Joseph DeDomenico, a mobster also known as Joe Brewster, as well as in the 1992 death of Larry Lampesi, a mob associate.

Mr. DeVecchio had also been investigated in the death of a fourth person, Nicholas Grancio, a Colombo family captain. It is not clear if that case is addressed in the indictment.

In 1992, a hit team organized by Mr. Scarpa pulled alongside Mr. Grancio's car and killed him with a shotgun blast. Investigators wondered whether Mr. DeVecchio had withdrawn F.B.I. agents from the scene, making the murder possible.

In 1993, Mr. Scarpa pleaded guilty to murder and racketeering charges. He died of AIDS a year later in a prison hospital at age 66 after contracting the virus that causes it from a blood transfusion.

The indictment of Mr. DeVecchio was reported yesterday in The New York Daily News and The New York Post. Details of his possible indictment were also reported this month by Jerry Capeci, a longtime reporter on organized crime, on his Web site, GangLandNews.com.

Mr. DeVecchio's lawyer, Mr. Grover, said that Mr. Scarpa was interviewed in prison by the F.B.I. and was asked specifically whether Mr. DeVecchio was his source. "Scarpa said no," Mr. Grover said.

Mr. Grover described Mr. DeVecchio as a friend who had become a client and who had testified or worked in many organized-crime cases while Mr. Grover was a federal prosecutor.

Contrary to some press depictions of his client as a hermit, Mr. Grover said, "Lynn is not a recluse. He lives in a house in Florida. He has a significant other. He is retired from the F.B.I. but still works for a living, and he travels to New York on occasion. And I have seen him socially."

Thanks to Anthony Ramirez

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Intelligence Report: Operation Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo

It has been nearly a year since the upper echelon of the Chicago outfit was indicted in the biggest mob murder case in US history, Operation Family Secrets. In our intelligence report, ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie has new details about one of the mobsters charged and one who isn't, at least not yet.

The one who is charged, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, may be the reason that top hoodlum John Difronzo hasn't been charged as mobwatchers and many defense lawyers figured. You may remember that Joe Lombardo was a federal fugitive since being indicted last spring.

Early this year, just as federal prosecutors were looking to add Difronzo to the indictment, Lombardo was finally caught, temporarily interrupting the government's plan to expand the indictment.

Eighteen murders have been pinned on the who's who of gangland Chicago that was indicted in Operation Family Secrets. When Joe Lombardo was finally arrested in January, after the FBI couldn't find him for nine months, he was the highest ranking reputed member of the Chicago mob to be charged in the case.

Notable by his absence from the indictment was John Difronzo, the same age as Lombardo, 77.

If law enforcement considers Lombardo to be chairman of the board, then Difronzo is the outfit's chief operating officer.

Difronzo claims to be a used car salesman, but federal authorities believe he had a supervisory role in many of the crimes that have been charged against 14 outfit defendants in operation family secrets. Investigators say that Difronzo is a key link His rap sheet lists 26 arrests. Most recently he was convicted in a mob scheme to take over an Indian casino in Southern California and did federal time.

Difronzo is nicknamed "no nose," but not because police once shot him in the proboscis as mob lore has it. Actually, half of Difronzo's nose was sliced off as he jumped through a window during a fur store robbery.

Police caught him at the end of the blood trail and gave his nose back to him. The trail connecting Difronzo to Operation Family Secrets has been more complicated, according to investigators, in a case that has been 30 years in the making.

While researching this intelligence report, the I-Team found a painting of Lombardo for sale on the internet. The North Carolina artist, Gerhardt Isringhaus, tells us his girlfriend has a "clown phobia" and that's why he painted it. Isringhaus says he painted bullet holes in the background, figuring Lombardo has dodged gunfire most of his life. The artist grew up in St. Louis and says his next door neighbor was a seamstress who made wedding gowns for Chicago mob families.

Lombardo is housed at the federal lockup in the Loop, where Operation Family Secrets defendants have been abuzz at talk that Difronzo may be cooperating with the government, an unlikely scenario that defense lawyers deny.

Difronzo's attorney Carl Walsh says that he knows nothing of a pending indictment against his client. The US attorney's office declined comment.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, March 24, 2006

Did the Mob Elect Kennedy?

Friends of mine: Slick Hanner

While a UIC researcher earlier this week presented a case that he said debunked the Mob's impact on the Kennedy's election, is that really the case?

William "Slick" Hanner has a book coming out this fall in which he will refute those who claim the mob did not have a hand in the 1960 Presidential election. An excerpt:


In 1960 I was working in a Mafia run strip joint in Chicago's first ward. Although I was a felon and not allowed to vote, my boss Big Joe Smith (not to be confused with big Joe Arnold) told me to register to vote on election day. Me and the strip joint employees where transported to the polls to vote for Kennedy. "Don't make a mistake," Joe said.

Can you imagine if they did this for Nixon who would have won???


Slick's book, "Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist," is a Barricade Books release due out in fall of 2006.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mob Didn't Turn Out Vote for Kennedy: UIC Professor

Friends of ours: Sam Giancana

No, the Mafia did not win the 1960 presidential election for John F. Kennedy, according to a study by a University of Illinois at Chicago professor.

After Kennedy's razor-thin victory over Richard Nixon in Illinois, which cemented Kennedy's lead in the electoral college, Nixon backers blamed Mayor Richard J. Daley's notorious precinct captains for election-night hijinks. But years later, another argument emerged: Kennedy or his father made a deal with the mob to throw the election in Chicago -- and thus Illinois -- to Kennedy.

Author Seymour Hersh made the argument in a 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot. Frank Sinatra's daughter, Tina, and Judith Campbell Exner, reputed former mistress of the late president and of late Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, also made versions of that argument.

To test the theory that the mob turned out the vote in Chicago's 1960 general election, John Binder, a finance professor at UIC, analyzed vote totals for five city wards where the mob reputedly had clout, as well as in Cicero and Chicago Heights.

Those areas performed no differently than the non-mob wards and suburbs, Binder found. "There's really no evidence to support that story," Binder said. "Some of the people telling these stories are nuts."

The Democratic votes in the 1st, 24th, 25th, 28th and 29th wards, as well as in Cicero and Chicago Heights, did not jump any more from Adlai Stevenson in 1956 to Kennedy in 1960 than other comparable wards and townships, he said.

Exner had also said she was sent to deliver money from the Kennedy family to Giancana to help fund union efforts on Kennedy's behalf in the West Virginia primary election in which Kennedy surprised Hubert Humphrey. Binder questions that as well.

"How in God's name is Sam Giancana going to get anything done in West Virginia?" he asked. "They don't have any influence there."

Could the mob's influence in the 1960 Chicago general election have been citywide through the unions as opposed to just the mob-controlled wards? Binder calls that unlikely because Kennedy and his brother had antagonized union leaders during the McClellan hearings.

"There is evidence that unions voted the other way -- they couldn't stand the Kennedys," Binder said.

Thanks to Abdon M. Pallasch

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

UIC Researcher Debunks Mob Impact on 1960 Presidential Election

An analysis of voting totals from the 1960 presidential election debunks claims that the Chicago Mob played a significant role in tilting the election to John F. Kennedy, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago organized crime historian and researcher.

"There is little, if any, convincing evidence to support these extreme claims about the 1960 presidential election," John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit," writes in a summarized version of the copyrighted article "Organized Crime and the 1960 Presidential Election."

Binder, UIC associate professor of finance, statistically examined election voting by four groups of Chicago wards and suburbs where organized crime would have been most able to deliver votes for Kennedy if it so desired, including:

- the 1st, 24th, 25th, 28th and 29th wards
- the above five wards and the 45th ward
- the five "Outfit" wards and two suburbs (Chicago Heights and Cicero), and
- all six Chicago wards and the two suburbs

The percentage of voters casting a Democratic ballot in 1960 was compared not only to the percentage voting Democratic in the previous (1956) or the next (1964) presidential election, but also to how the other wards in Chicago voted in 1960.

The findings, detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Public Choice, show that in only one of eight cases is there any evidence of unusually strong Democratic voting that might have been due to organized crime.

"It certainly is not consistent with an all-out effort to elect John Kennedy, because in that case, increased Democratic voting should be evident in more than just 12.5 percent of the tests," Binder said. "The results, as further tests show, are more likely due to a concerted effort to defeat the incumbent Republican state's attorney, which due to straight-ticket voting in some cases, threw a few more votes to John Kennedy," he said.

"Therefore, much of what has been written about the Outfit, the 1960 presidential election and other events involving the Kennedy family appears to be historical myth -- which along with other fascinating myths, should not be taken seriously," Binder said.

Thanks to University of Illinois at Chicago

Mama Gets Her shot at 'Mob cops'

Friends of ours: Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Lucchese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Twenty years after Jimmy Hydell disappeared on a rainy Saturday, his mother will get her chance at revenge against the men she believes delivered him to his death - the so-called Mafia cops. Betty Hydell is set to take the stand this week to testify that Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were looking for her son the day he disappeared.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, have been charged with kidnapping Jimmy Hydell and handing him over to gangster Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso. The two ex-NYPD detectives are on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court on charges they killed and committed other crimes while secretly working for the mob.

Casso allegedly tortured Hydell, a wanna-be wiseguy, for hours, then fatally shot him after getting him to reveal the name of cohorts who had attempted to kill the Luchese capo, authorities contend.

Testimony last week by Burton Kaplan, a key government witness, has infuriated Betty Hydell further, her daughter told the Daily News.

Kaplan told jurors Jimmy Hydell knew he was going to die and begged Casso to "throw him in the street" so his mom could collect insurance. Kaplan said Casso promised he would, but Hydell's body was never found. "My mother was very upset about this," said Liz Hydell. "She's ready to come to court."

Documents obtained by the Daily News show Betty Hydell first contacted authorities about the two cops she believed were involved in her son's death seven years before the duo was arrested.

Betty Hydell, according to those papers, is expected to describe how, soon after Jimmy left the house on Oct. 18, 1986, her other son, Frank, returned to say he'd been followed by two men in a light blue sedan. He was driving Jimmy's car.

Hydell got in her car and found the sedan parked near her house. She says she pulled up alongside and asked the men who they were. The driver flashed a badge and she remembers saying, "You should let people know what you're doing."

Some time later, an NYPD detective showed up with Jimmy's clothes and a key ring. She didn't recognize the keys, but something on the ring was his. She kept the clothes for years.

At the time, she did not know the identity of the two cops and told no one of her suspicions. She feared retaliation against her Frank Hydell, who had his own problems with the law.

In April 1998, Frank was gunned down outside a Staten Island strip club. Betty Hydell claims she then told law enforcement officials her belief that two cops had kidnapped her son.

By then, she said she could identify them - claiming some years earlier that she saw Eppolito plugging his 1992 book, "Mafia Cop," on a talk show and recognized him as the driver of the car she'd seen the day Jimmy went away.

Thanks to Greg B. Smith

Monday, March 20, 2006

'Sopranos' Tour Showcases Hit's Sites

As the tour bus curves out of the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey, Marc Baron prepares his guests for what they're about to see: what Tony Soprano sees during the opening credits of "The Sopranos."

"Get your cameras ready," he tells the group of 51 people as they pass the glorious Manhattan skyline. "Welcome to New Jersey."

One of the biggest stars in "The Sopranos" -- which returns to HBO this Sunday after a nearly two-year hiatus -- is New Jersey itself.

A New York company has capitalized on the show's popularity, offering a four-hour "Sopranos"-themed tour of northern New Jersey. For $40 a head, fans visit the real home of the Bada Bing (a strip club called Satin Dolls) on Route 17 in Lodi and the fake storefront of Satriale's, where Tony and his crew often talk shop, in Kearny.

Film crews are regularly spotted around New Jersey, where fictional mob boss Tony Soprano and his family live and work. The show, which began in 1999, filmed scenes in downtown Newark and Clifton last month.

The company called On Location Tours, which also runs bus tours of "Sex and the City" sites in Manhattan, has taken about 20,000 fans around Jersey since the trips to the Garden State began about five years ago, said company owner Georgette Blau. "This is the new literary landmark tour," she said.

A spokeswoman for HBO declined to comment on the tours, which are not affiliated with the cable network. No matter to "Sopranos" fans, who are shuttled to about 40 different locations.

Some sites are clearly recognizable: the Pizzaland shack and the 25-foot-tall statue of a man holding a roll of carpet during the show's opening credits.

Other less-important "real" sites from the show are quickly pointed out as the bus rolls through the towns of Harrison and Kearny: the auto body shop run by Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, the newspaper box where Christopher Moltisanti steals papers with his name in it, or the high school Anthony Junior vandalizes.

June Gregory, visiting from Philadelphia, stood in front of the diner under the Pulaski Skyway, where in one episode of the show, Christopher was shot.

She decided against taking a photo, but other stops were worthy of pictures by some of the tour participants, who came from far (England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Australia) and near (Brooklyn and Long Island).

Gareth Edwards, visiting from Wales with his wife, said the tour was a highlight of their five-day trip to New York City. "I'm a big fan of 'The Sopranos.' We've got all the DVDs," he said.

They ranked the tour as important as tours of other New York landmarks they visited, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and ground zero. "It's better than a museum," added Edwards, 34.

Cameras clicked at Satriale's, which of course wasn't open, but props were visible inside. Baron said HBO holds a lease on the small building. As he peeked inside, Jim Washer said the show enjoys a cult following in London, where he lives.

Baron, an actor, talked about the show and shared biographies of the actors. He also gave prizes for answering "Sopranos" trivia questions. Many people on the tour knew the answers immediately.

One question: What are three kinds of animals killed on the Sopranos? The answer: Adriana La Cerva's dog, a deer in the famous "Pine Barrens" episode, and Tony's race horse.

As the bus snaked through downtown Newark, Baron pointed out Washington Park, where a group of American Indians protested Christopher Columbus in an episode from the fourth season, and the former insurance building now owned by Rutgers University that fronted as a court building for the show. But perhaps the highlight of the trip was the last stop: a visit to the strip club that serves as home base for the organized crime operation run by Tony and his "capos."

Inside, the purple lights are the same, but the room seems smaller. Dancers wore tops -- unlike in the show -- as they preened around two poles. "I was surprised they had clothes on," said Stacey Thomson of Fort Lauderdale. Participants were taken to a back area where they could buy hats, T-shirts, shot glasses and other trinkets bearing "The Sopranos" and Bada Bing logo.

Baron also pointed out how several buildings near the strip club have been used in the show, including a party store where Bonpensiero meets an FBI agent.

The tour was "something different" for London residents Michael and Victoria Nicholls, both 60, during their first trip to New York. Even though he couldn't answer any of the trivia questions on the bus, Nicholls said he enjoyed the tour. But the big fans said they enjoyed seeing the New Jersey spots where Tony, Paulie, Silvio and their favorite characters hang out.

Thomson and her husband said they are already preparing to have friends over for dinner Sunday to watch the show when it resumes. She'll be making ziti with marinara sauce and Italian sausage. "We'll be taking the phone off the hook," she said. "We won't be answering the door."

Drug Dealer Testifies That He Met Accused 'Mafia Cops' in Cemetery

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa


Defendants joked about being stiffed on payments due in murders, witness says.

Nothing was sacred to the two accused "Mafia cops," not even a Staten Island cemetery, a convicted drug dealer told jurors yesterday in Brooklyn federal court.

Testifying for a second day, Burton Kaplan said that, as the envoy of Luchese crime family underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, he met NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, formerly of Great Kills, in St. Mary's Cemetery, Elm Park.

Gallows humor was the order of the day, he said, as the cops laughed about being stiffed on payments due them for delivering up a Grasmere man to his death and murdering a Brooklyn jeweler. The pair, allegedly on a $4,000-a-month mob retainer, derided Casso for his reputed cheapness, particularly in connection with a mistaken-identity rubout, Kaplan noted.

"[Casso] got the address and number from a guy who worked at the gas company," Kaplan said of the Christmas Day 1986 hit -- not carried out by Eppolito and Caracappa -- on an innocent Brooklyn man.

"It was the wrong Nicky Guido who was killed. Frankie [Santora] and Louie [Eppolito] said the same thing: 'Gas should have paid the money [$4,000 to the detectives] and he would've got the right guy.'"

In arranging his meetings with the now ex-detectives, Kaplan recalled that he would contact Caracappa on his beeper "and put the number 259 behind it so he would know it was me."

Sometimes they met in the parking lot of a church near Caracappa's mother's house in South Beach, Kaplan said.

When Kaplan needed Eppolito, he said, he would call the robust detective's Long Island home. They'd meet at various Long Island locales, and sometimes Eppolito would drive to Kaplan's clothing warehouse on Port Richmond Avenue, the businessman testified.

Kaplan also dealt contraband out of Port Richmond, where he was busted in 1996 for trafficking in huge quantities of marijuana.

Kaplan said it was he who proposed that the two cops be put "on the books" in 1987, providing information on wiretaps, bugs, imminent arrests and names of "hot" police informants. Other jobs were extra.

Kaplan testified that when a scheme went awry, he asked for and received a Casso-sanctioned murder contract on an offending jeweler.

Kaplan said Caracappa, Eppolito and the latter's mobster cousin, Frank Santora, were paid $25,000 to kill "Jeweler No. 2" -- Kaplan couldn't recall the name of Israel Greenwald, who was shot dead in a Brooklyn parking garage after Caracappa and Eppolito allegedly pulled him over in their unmarked police car under the guise of investigating a hit-and-run.

Kaplan told jurors that he gave Santora $30,000 -- including a $5,000 bonus -- meant to be split three ways. But Santora pocketed the five grand, Kaplan said.

He said the cops and Santora were paid $35,000 to kidnap mob associate Jimmy Hydell, who was a marked man after he failed to kill Casso in a hit ordered by the Gambino crime family.

Kaplan said the pair found the Grasmere man in a laundermat in Brooklyn, threw him in the trunk and drove to the parking lot of the Toys "R" Us at Kings Plaza, where Casso and Kaplan were waiting.

Kaplan said he saw the two cops hovering near the entrance to the parking lot "as backup" before Casso told them to leave so he could murder Hydell.

Like the hit on the jeweler, Casso threw in an extra $5,000, which Santora also pocketed, Kaplan testified.

It wasn't until the three met in St. Mary's Cemetery that they realized Santora had done them dirty. "We were laughing about it," Kaplan recalled. "Louie said, 'That's typical of Frankie. Frankie put the rest in his pocket.'"

Thanks to Jeff Harrell

Former Aryan Brotherhood Member Says Gotti Sought Hit

Friends of ours: John Gotti

A former member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang testified Thursday that alleged gang kingpin Barry "The Baron" Mills once ordered a killing at the request of John Gotti after another inmate jumped the mob boss in a prison yard.

Glen West, a member of the white supremacist gang from 1981 to 2003, said Gotti later told him he had offered $100,000 to the group if they would kill the man named Walter Johnson.

Another gang member sent a message to Mills, who was in a different prison, requesting permission to carry out the hit, West said. "He'd sent it to Barry, and Barry sent word back that we were to get Johnson killed at all costs," West said. Prosecutors have said the killing was never carried out.

Mills is among four members of the Aryan Brotherhood on trial on federal racketeering charges in the case alleging a web of conspiracies and killings in the gang's efforts to sell drugs and conduct other criminal activities in prisons across the nation.

It's the first of several trials comprising one of the largest death penalty cases in U.S. history. Prosecutors said Mills had a hand in all but one of the crimes in the indictment that includes 32 murders and attempted murders.

Two of the men currently on trial -- Mills and T.D. "The Hulk" Bingham -- could face the death penalty. All have pleaded not guilty.

During cross-examination, attorney H. Dean Steward, who represents Mills, asked if West was testifying to avoid a life sentence and pointed out that he didn't come forward with his information until 2003, when he was trying to strike a deal with prosecutors. "You were arrested at the same time everyone else was in this," Steward said. "You know count nine (of the indictment) carries a potential sentence of life in prison, is that right?"

West answered "yes" but did not elaborate.

West, 52, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the current case, but he said that count will be dismissed in exchange for his testimony and a guilty plea in a separate attempted murder case from 1980.

Under earlier questioning, West said he had lied at another trial in the early 1990s to support an Aryan Brotherhood member. Later, he said he didn't testify at all in the case.

West also testified that he and Mills had been housed in the same prison block in Marion, Ill. During that time, Mills talked about at least five other murders that he said he ordered, according to West.

In one case, West said, Mills told him he was upset about a killing that got messy when the first strategy -- using a drug overdose -- didn't work.

Gang member Arva Lee "Baby" Ray was killed on July 9, 1989 because he threw a sugar packet and spit at another defendant, Edgar "The Snail" Hevle, and because he was abusing drugs and having a homosexual relationship, West said.

Mills "said they first tried to give him a hot shot, but that didn't work, so they had to strangle him and what they were using to strangle him with broke," West testified. "He said he was surprised at how hard Baby Ray fought it."

West, who was charged with one count of conspiracy to kill Ray, is now in the witness protection program.

Mills, 57, is already serving two life terms for a 1979 murder. In the current trial, he faces a possible death sentence for allegedly orchestrating the 1997 killings of two black inmates in Pennsylvania.

Rae Jones, 58, his stepsister, attended court proceedings. She said outside the courtroom that her parents had taken him in for a number of years when he was a teen and dating her older sister.

Mills worked at the family restaurant and later helped Jones raise her own sons. "He's a good man and has a loving heart," she said. "Barry was just one of the guys."

Bingham, 58, is currently serving time on robbery and drug charges. Also on trial are Hevle, 54, and Christopher Overton Gibson, 46. If convicted, both could face life in prison.

Authorities arrested 40 alleged Aryan Brotherhood members in 2002 after a six-year investigation that aimed to dismantle the gang's leadership under a federal racketeering law originally aimed at organized crime. Nineteen defendants struck plea bargains and one has died.

If convicted, 16 of the remaining defendants could face the death penalty.

Detectives Were Hired for Contract Killing, Witness Says

Friends of mine: Louis J. Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Fleshing out his tale of gangland murder and corruption, an aging marijuana dealer told jurors at the trial of Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa today that in 1986, the two New York detectives murdered a crooked jeweler in a parking garage and then, years later, laughed about the killing at a secret meeting in a Staten Island cemetery.

It was the second day of testimony by the dealer, Burton Kaplan, in the trial of the two detectives, who are accused of taking part in at least eight murders for Brooklyn's Luchese crime family.

Mr. Kaplan, who is serving a 27-year prison sentence, spun a mesmerizing yarn today about the shooting of Israel Greenwald, a jeweler who had made the grave mistake of crossing him in a scheme to selling stolen Treasury bills.

The marijuana dealer, 72 and ailing, spoke in gravelly, measured tones, saying that he had given the murder contract to Mr. Eppolito's cousin Frank Santora Jr. and that the cousin had then recruited the detective and his partner to stop Mr. Greenwald on the highway, tell him he was wanted in a hit-and-run accident and then assassinate him in cold blood.

"The guy was driving his car," Mr. Kaplan said Mr. Santora had informed him once the contract had been filled. "They put on the flashing lights and pulled him over and told him he was wanted in a hit-and-run and they wanted him to be in a lineup.

"They took him, according to Frank, to an automobile repair place, a collision place, that was a friend of theirs."

It was there, prosecutors say, that the three men bound Mr. Greenwald's hands, shoved a plastic bag on his head, secured it with his own scarf, then shot him twice in the head

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Friday, March 17, 2006

Documentary may tie Mafia to JFK assassination

Friends of ours: Johnny Rosselli

Last November we told you here about a book titled Ultimate Sacrifice, which purported to offer new details about the death of President John F. Kennedy. It's too complicated to go into all the revelations in this massive work by Lamar Waldron, but let it suffice to say that the San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a rave review written by Ronald Goldfarb. He was the Mafia prosecutor under Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, and this is the first time anyone closely associated with either brother has offered praise for a JFK assassination book.

Now we can tell you that NBC has completed an hourlong documentary focusing on the information in Ultimate Sacrifice, and this top-secret project will air soon on the Discovery Channel. It is to be titled Conspiracy Files: JFK and will include material withheld from the Warren Commission and from congressional investigations as well. Such material has never been seen on TV before.

Some of the protagonists are Mafia kingpin Johnny Rosselli and other godfathers telling how they tried to kill the president first in Chicago, then in Tampa, Fla., and later in Dallas, where they ultimately succeeded.

This documentary will offer the only TV interview in more than 40 years with Abraham Bolden, the first black Secret Service agent assigned to the White House. Framed by Rosselli's gang, he was arrested on the day he went to appear before the Warren Commission. He has fought for a very long time to clear his name.

Discovery will offer us a few startling realities about how the Secret Service destroyed crucial files covering the Tampa and Chicago attempts, and how there are still "well over 1 million CIA records" about the assassination that remain secret to this day.

Thanks to Liz Smith

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Junior Gotti: They're breaking me

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

John "Junior" Gotti, facing another retrial on racketeering charges this summer, is struggling financially to fight the charges, his lawyers say.

A second jury deadlocked last week on charges alleging the 42-year-old son of the late mob boss arranged the brutal beating of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin set a July 5 date for another retrial after Gotti lawyer Charles Carnesi said Monday that his client needed time to borrow money to pay his legal team. Prosecutors, however, argued that Gotti wants to sell property paid for with crime proceeds, and the judge set a schedule for both sides to argue the fates of several properties before trial.

Sliwa attended the brief court proceeding several hours after announcing on his radio show that he had calmed down since saying last week that his WABC-AM co-host, Ron Kuby, was no longer his friend. Kuby, who represented a Gotti co-defendant in the 1990s, had been called to testify that Gotti told him in 1998 he wanted out of organized crime. After the mistrial, Sliwa said he was so angry at Kuby he wasn't sure he could do the show anymore.

The two were more cordial on the air Monday. "There's not going to be a train wreck," Kuby said. Sliwa, later in the show, said: "Things are getting a little better. In fact, Ron is going to get me a hot cup of tea."

Gotti, free on bail with electronic monitoring, insists he did not order the attack on Sliwa.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Police Accused of Mafia Ties Head to Trial

Friends of ours: John Gotti, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Lucchese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

It's a crime story that begs for a best seller: A pair of oft-decorated NYPD detectives are accused of leading double lives, joining the mob's payroll. They allegedly go on a crime spree, leave a trail of dead bodies, and retire to a life as Las Vegas high rollers. But who could write such a bizarre tale?

There's plenty of talent right at the defense table. Ex-detective turned defendant Louis Eppolito wrote an autobiography titled "Mafia Cop" and even appeared in a mob movie. His attorney, Bruce Cutler, wrote "Closing Argument," covering a career that includes defending mob boss John Gotti. Cutler's co-counsel, Edward Hayes, has a memoir titled "Mouthpiece" that just hit stores, and he was a model for a character in a Tom Wolfe novel.

All this media know-how will assemble in court Monday when the so-called "Mafia Cops" - Eppolito and former partner Stephen Caracappa - arrive for opening statements in their racketeering and murder trial.

Expect a few plot twists. "I think there will be some surprises," Hayes predicted. "And I certainly have a few."

According to prosecutors, the two ex-detectives engaged in a cornucopia of criminal activity between 1979 and last year. Their indictment lists eight murders, allegedly at the bidding of Luchese family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Authorities said Casso paid $75,000 for one of the hits, regularly paid the pair $4,000 a month, and referred to them as his "crystal ball."

In one case, the detectives allegedly provided Casso with information to locate a mobster suspected in a murder plot against Casso. The tip, however, led to another man with the same name who died in a hail of gunfire on Christmas Day 1986.

There are charges of racketeering, kidnapping, murder, obstruction of justice, and money laundering, and after the pair retired to Nevada they were distributing methamphetamine, according to the indictment. The list could have been longer; in January, prosecutors opted to drop two additional murder counts.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, are both insistent about their innocence. Caracappa went on "60 Minutes" in January to express his indignation.

"Totally ridiculous," he said of the charges. "It's ludicrous. Anybody that knows me knows I love the police department."

Caracappa spent 23 years with the NYPD, working his way up to detective first grade and helping to establish the department's nerve center for Mafia murder investigations before retiring in 1992.

Eppolito actually grew up in a mob family: His father, grandfather and an uncle were all members of the Gambino family. The contrast between his police work and his family life was detailed in his autobiography, "Mafia Cop: The Story of An Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob."

He joined the department in 1969, and also made detective first-grade. Before his 1990 retirement, Eppolito was known among fellow cops as a tough guy with plenty of street smarts. The partners settled in Las Vegas to enjoy their golden years. They were arrested on March 9, 2005, at a Las Vegas restaurant, and released on $5 million bail each.

Their trial promises to be one of the year's great legal spectacles.

The bombastic Cutler is best known for his work with Gotti. In one memorable opening statement, he dramatically spiked the indictment against Gotti in a courtroom trash can.

"Garbage!" he thundered.

Hayes, a former prosecutor, brings his impeccable attire and a glittering client list that includes Robert De Niro and Sean "Diddy" Combs. He was the model for take-no-prisoners defense attorney Tommy Killian in Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Hayes said he's willing to let somebody else write about this case: "I already wrote a book."

If someone else takes up the challenge, there's always the chance of a movie - and Eppolito could play himself. He had a bit part in the Martin Scorsese mob classic "GoodFellas."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Gotti's Lawyer: Fuhgeddaboudit!

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

Fuhgeddaboudit! John "Junior" Gotti's confident lawyer hopes his client will whack any plea bargains that desperate prosecutors now put on the table in the wake of his second stunning mistrial on racketeering charges. Spurred on by the 8-4 hung jury that was in favor of Junior on Friday, lawyer Charles Carnesie said yesterday that he'd advise Gotti to prepare his Teflon armor for a third trial - and ignore any plea deals. "It's a personal decision, something that he has to decide, but personally I'd be disappointed [if he took a deal]," Carnesie said.

Gotti was on the verge of pleading guilty last year to charges of racketeering and ordering the kidnapping of radio host Curtis Sliwa. But the deal, which would have had him serve seven years of a 10-year sentence, was rejected at the last minute. Gotti had said a major concern was protecting himself with immunity from future prosecutions.

It is possible that the chance to start his life afresh could now be offered if he is willing to admit to all of his crimes. But the attorney who negotiated that last plea deal agrees with Carnesie - and says Gotti should hold out for a hung-jury hat trick, which would be "as good as an acquittal." "If I was in the government's position, I'd go on my hands and knees, begging for a plea agreement," said his former lawyer, Jeffery Lichtman. "At some point, the government is going to have to let go of its Moby Dick."

Gotti, who is out on $7 million bail, left the Long Island mansion where he is under house arrest for about two hours yesterday. Dressed in black and wearing a baseball cap, he left home carrying a mysterious black bowling bag and lost tailing reporters in a black Infiniti sedan. While Gotti did not reveal his destination, under the terms of his house arrest, he can only visit his lawyer and church. He returned home by afternoon to play soccer with two of his sons.

Jury foreman Greg Rosenblum revealed that eight jurors bought Gotti's defense that he has not been involved in the mob since 1999, which would mean that the five-year statute of limitations on racketeering charges has expired. Those same eight, Rosenblum said, had enough reasonable doubt to clear Gotti of charges that he ordered two hoods to kidnap and beat Sliwa with baseball bats in 1992 after the radio talk show host's constant criticism of his father. The thugs ended up shooting Sliwa in the back of a cab.

Sliwa, still smarting from yet another mistrial, said yesterday that he was adamantly against any plea bargaining. "I've never been in favor of plea bargaining with the head of the Gambino crime family," he said. "Let's take a roll before the jury."

Mob Hit: The Boss of Comedy?

It's hard to find anyone who will make a serious argument that "The Sopranos" is not great television. Sure, some squirm at the language and violence, but critics have plumbed the depths of their vocabularies for superlatives to describe the show since it debuted on HBO in 1999.

After a hiatus of almost two years, a new season begins Sunday; then, in 20 episodes, it will be over. What is it about this show that caused so many to call it a work of genius?

Most important is its choice of subject matter. The mob story, it might be argued, replaced the Western as the great American epic in the last third of the 20th century. As the counterculture was shredding the myth of the West into a million little pieces with movies such as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Wild Bunch" and even "Midnight Cowboy," the first two "Godfather" movies were winning Best Picture Oscars. Those films retold the American epic on the urban frontier. "Goodfellas" solidified the idea that "Mafia + Movie = Art."

The opening credits of "The Sopranos" seem ever so conscious of this fact. In 90 seconds, the story of the American dream is retold in a way that would warm the heart of any American studies professor.

It's a simple tale, really -- Tony Soprano driving from Manhattan to his home in suburban New Jersey -- but it's humming with symbols of the great immigration stories of upward mobility. The Statue of Liberty can be seen out the window of Tony's car as he moves down the turnpike through the toxic wastelands of urban industrialism to the old neighborhood, its streets lined with restaurants and small businesses.

As the trip continues, the houses get bigger, as do the spaces between each one, until he reaches his destination: a little estate with a swimming pool in a quiet wooded enclave. It's a trip many Americans have made, although it may have taken them a generation or two to do so, and one that many more Americans dream of making. Pretty deep for TV credits, don't you think?

The real stroke of genius in "The Sopranos," however, was that it took the idea of the artsy mob epic and turned it into farce. "The Sopranos" is a sitcom trapped in the body of a dramatic masterpiece. Many scenes in the show could work just fine with a laugh track.

"Family" is a major theme in most mob stories. Usually, as in "The Godfather" movies, family is presented with great gravitas and high tragedy, in the Shakespearean tradition. This is not the case in "The Sopranos." If the family in "The Godfather" resembles the feuding Plantagenets in Shakespeare's "Henry VI" plays, the family in "The Sopranos" resembles the Bundys in "Married . . . With Children."

In a clever sleight of hand, "The Sopranos" merged the epic mob story with the dysfunctional family sitcom. The clash of these two genres has provided some of the most irresistible moments in the show. While Tony is fretting over the imminent collapse of his criminal empire, for example, his wife is stressing over her need to get to the Sports Authority before it closes to buy gym socks. On another occasion, Tony whacks somebody while taking his daughter on a tour of college campuses.

As bizarre as the combination of sitcom and Mafia may seem on paper, it works -- brilliantly. Hiding in the Trojan horse of adrenaline-laced scenes of extreme violence and graphic sexuality, "The Sopranos" is one of the most insightful TV shows ever made about a multi-generational American family.

Tony's problem, however, is that he doesn't want to be in a comedy; he wants to be in "The Godfather." Tony is a mobster in a world where mobster movies win Academy Awards, but he believes that somehow he has missed the golden age described in those movies.

The nervous breakdown that sends Tony to the psychiatrist in the series's first episode was caused by just this anxiety. In his first confession to Dr. Melfi, he reports: "It's good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over."

Poor Tony has self-esteem issues.

"You tell people I'm nothin' compared to the people that used to run things," Tony shouts as he viciously beats a victim in one of many violent acts we've seen him perform over the years.

Tony's problem is simple. He wants people to think he's the Godfather, but deep down he's afraid they see him as Homer Simpson. In overcompensating for these feelings of inferiority, Tony has done many very bad things in the past five seasons -- and if he's not careful, it's going to get him killed in the sixth.

Thanks to Robert J. Thompson

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gotti Mob Magic Does It Again with Hung Jury.

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

Call him the Teflon Scion. John "Junior" Gotti, son of the Teflon Don, slipped clear of the feds' determined grasp yet again yesterday with his second mistrial in eight
months after prosecutors apparently failed to convince two-thirds of the jury that he was guilty of racketeering.

After less than 10 hours of deliberation, the jury foreman wrote a note to Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin: "We are completely DEADLOCKED. More time will not change the views in this room."

The foreman, Greg Rosenblum, later revealed that eight jurors believed Gotti's claim that he had quit the mob before July 22, 1999 - meaning the five-year statute of limitations would have expired on racketeering charges that the feds brought in 2004. Rosenblum told WNBC/Channel 4 those same eight jurors also had enough doubt in their mind to clear Junior on charges he ordered the kidnapping of radio host Curtis Sliwa.

"How many people on that jury felt that he had given up the mob life? Eight. And the other four felt . . . that he was still involved in some way," Rosenblum said. The foreman accused the four holdouts of finding Gotti guilty before giving him a chance to prove his innocence - and said that nothing the defense did was going to change their minds. "I was hoping that everyone could have at least kept an open mind, but it seemed like certain individuals on the jury had him guilty beforehand," Rosenblum said. "There was no evidence that we could directly see that linked him to anything since 1999 that would implicate him in any sort of extortion or loan-sharking schemes."

On Sliwa's kidnapping, Rosenblum said, "The eight that felt that he had withdrawn [from the mob] also felt that there was enough evidence pointing, enough doubt, enough reasonable doubt, that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever."

As the judge excused the panel, a relieved Gotti hugged his lawyer, Charles Carnesi, while another member of his defense team called Junior's wife, Kim. "He's coming home again - it was a good result," lawyer Seth Ginsberg told her. But Kim Gotti already knew, because minutes earlier a Post photographer had told her the verdict as she raked leaves on the front lawn of her Oyster Bay Cove, L.I., mansion.

"No way!" she exclaimed, dropping the rake and running inside the house. But her husband's trials are not over. The prosecution team immediately asked the judge for a speedy retrial date. "We gotta do it one more time," said Junior, who is free, under house arrest, on $7 million bail. "I'm going to sleep in my own bed tonight . . . It's better than sleeping in the MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center]. "I'm happy," he added as hugged his mother, Victoria. "I'm financially ruined, but what are you gonna do?"

His mother, Victoria, who heard testimony about her Dapper Don Juan hubby's love affairs and allegedly illegitimate children during the trial, was not happy. "I'm just very disgusted at this point . . . They're trying to railroad my son," she snarled. Her namesake daughter, Victoria, chimed in: "We wanted an acquittal. I just think they're going to keep on trying. The fact that they're not winning is great."

As he hopped into a car to head home, Gotti told a crush of reporters, "I'm going to see my children." On the prospect of another retrial, he said: "I'm worried. I'm
concerned always. I've got five children home. I want to raise my children."

If convicted, Gotti, 42, faced up to 30 years in prison for kidnapping and extortion. He is accused of a long-running racketeering conspiracy - including sending two mob hoods to kidnap and beat up Sliwa in 1992. Defense attorneys admitted young Gotti had been active in organized crime, but insisted he had withdrawn in early 1999.

Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, had testified about the shooting attack at the retrial - as he did at the first trial. But this time around, his WABC radio talk-show partner, civil-rights lawyer Ron Kuby, took the stand as a defense witness and, in bombshell testimony, supported Gotti's claim that he had quit the Gambino crime family. He testified that Gotti told him in 1998 that "he was sick of this life . . . He wanted to rejoin his family and be done with this."

Sliwa, who rushed to the federal courthouse when he learned about the hung jury, blasted Kuby for betraying him and said he wouldn't be surprised if his former pal was at Gotti's home "toasting his friend."

In seeking a speedy retrial, prosecutor Michael McGovern lobbied for an April 17 start, but the defense pushed for a later date. "The lawyers on this team haven't been paid for this trial, now we're talking about another trial," said defense lawyer Debra Karlstein. The judge ordered lawyers for both sides to return to court on Monday to set a retrial date.

Gotti's pregnant wife rushed out onto their front lawn with the family dog and three of her kids when he pulled up shortly before 5 p.m. "I feel great, these are my three sons," Junior Gotti said, posing with them briefly before disappearing inside. Asked what his wife had prepared for dinner, he said, "Whatever she makes - any free meal is a good meal."

Sliwa Bashes Kuby

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

An enraged Curtis Sliwa yesterday lashed out at his radio talk-show partner Ron Kuby for helping John "Junior" Gotti - the man the Guardian Angel founder believes had him kidnapped and nearly killed - get another hung jury. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to go into that studio on Monday without wanting to literally do harm to this guy," Sliwa said of his WABC co-host after Gotti's retrial on racketeering charges was declared a mistrial.

Sliwa, wearing his trademark red Guardian Angels cap and satin jacket, blamed civil-rights lawyer Kuby for convincing at least some jurors that Gotti couldn't be convicted of racketeering, due to the statute of limitations, because he had quit organized crime more than five years before he was indicted.

"My very dear friend, who is a friend no more, didn't even give me a heads-up he would be testifying for my enemy," he said, adding, "It hurt me even more than the three hollow-point bullets and the baseball attack in 1992." Sliwa called Kuby's testimony Gotti's "ace in the hole" and said, "I wouldn't doubt that he's probably at [Gotti's home in] Oyster Bay . . . literally
toasting his friend."

Sliwa said he can't fault the jurors for being unable to agree on whether - or when - Gotti quit the mob. "If I were a juror and saw Ron Kuby willingly coming in and testifying for the guy who ordered the death of his friend and co-worker, I would have my doubts also," he said.

Kuby said he understands Sliwa's distress, but insisted he's not to blame for the hung jury. "He thinks that the Gottis ordered him shot, and I understand Curtis is upset about the statute-of-limitations problem, but that's not my doing," he said. He pointed out that after the first trial, Sliwa "lashed out at the jury, claiming that they had been reached by the Gottis. "This time he lashes out at me," Kuby said. "It's not about him. It's not about me. It's about the strength or weakness of the government's case."

Kuby stressed that "the jury hung the first time, when I had no involvement in the case." He added that Gotti's claim that he was quitting the mob is something he's heard from "every defendant that I have ever had" who pleads guilty, which is what Gotti was doing when he allegedly told Kuby in 1998 that he wanted out of "the life."

"They say they're sick of this life or they want to go home, they're tired of this . . . Whether they ultimately gave up their life of crime or not is something of which I have no knowledge." Kuby also insisted, "I'm not good friends with John Gotti Jr. I'm not even friends with him."

Of his next broadcast with Sliwa, he said, "On Monday, we go in and continue to try to do good radio."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today's Mafia Upholds Nickname Traditions

In size, wealth and influence, today's Cosa Nostra doesn't match the Mafia of days gone by, Mob historians Jerry Capeci and Selwyn Raab say. However, there's one area in which modern Mafiosi are upholding a proud tradition of organized crime tradition nicknames.

Here are a few recent examples of Mafia nicknames and the inspiration for them, according to Mob historians and federal court records:

"Mikey Y." — for Michael Yannotti, a convicted associate of the Gambino family. Easier than saying his last name.

"Mikey Scars" — for Michael DiLeonardo, an acknowledged Gambino family member and government witness. From scars he received in a childhood accident.

"Vinny Gorgeous" — for Vincent Basciano, an acknowledged Bonanno family member. He owned a hair salon in the Bronx, N.Y.

"Richie from the Bronx" — for Richard Martino, a convicted Gambino family member. Apparently used to distinguish him from the many other Richies involved with the Mob.

"Good Lookin' Sal" — for Salvatore Vitale, an acknowledged Bonanno family member and government witness. Court records indicate he came up with the name himself and urged underlings to use it.

"Louie Bagels" — for Louis Daidone, a convicted member of the Lucchese family. He owned a bagel shop in Queens, N.Y.

"Gaspipe" — for Anthony Casso, an acknowledged Lucchese member and government witness. Referred to his tool of choice for his work as a Mob enforcer.

"Tony Ducks" — for Anthony Corallo, convicted member of the Lucchese family. He was known for his ability to duck subpoena servers.

"Phil Lucky" — for Philip Giaccone, a convicted Gambino family member. The name was unintentionally ironic; he was assassinated by a rival.

"Kid Blast" — for Albert Gallo, a convicted member of the Gambino family. He was known for enjoying parties.

"Nicky Eye Glasses" — for Nicholas Marangello, a convicted member of the Bonanno family. His glasses were very thick.

"Jackie Nose" — for John D'Amico, a convicted Gambino family member. Self-explanatory.

"The Chin" — for Vincent Gigante, a convicted member of the Genovese family. From "Cinzini," the nickname his mother gave him.

"Patty the Pig" — for Patrick DeFilippo, accused in a federal indictment of being a member of the Bonanno family. This was the pre-diet nickname for a Bronx man who used to weigh roughly 300 pounds.

"Patty from the Bronx" — DeFilippo's post-diet nickname.

Sources: Mob historians Jerry Capeci of Ganglandnews, Selwyn Raab, author of Five Families; defense lawyer Richard Levitt; federal court papers

Reputed Gambino leaders reject plea deal

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, Anthony "The Genius" Megale, Alphonse Sisca

The reputed leaders of the Gambino crime family rejected a plea offer Wednesday that would have headed off a New York trial and the testimony of an FBI agent who prosecutors said infiltrated the Mafia family, an attorney said.

Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, who allegedly served as Gambino boss, and Anthony "The Genius" Megale, who prosecutors said was the family's No. 2 man, were among dozens of people arrested in the New York mob sweep last year.

Federal prosecutors offered a plea deal that included a wide range of prison sentences of up to 15 years for nine defendants in the case, said Stephan Seeger, who represents Megale.

The defendants had until Wednesday to accept the offer and Seeger said it was rejected because all the defendants couldn't agree. He said he expects some defendants, including Megale, will continue negotiating before trial.

Squitieri's attorney, Gerald Shargel, had no comment on the negotiations and said he was preparing for the May 8 trial.

The U.S. attorney's office in New York had no comment Wednesday. Documents on file in New Haven, where Megale faces up to 6{ years in prison on a related case, also describe the negotiations.

Prosecutors say Squitieri, Megale and other defendants made millions of dollars through extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling and other crimes during the past decade.

Megale, 52, of Stamford, was Connecticut's highest ranking gangster, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in October to racketeering conspiracy in Connecticut but denies being the Gambino underboss.

An FBI agent in the New York case posed as a mobster and helped make hundreds of secret recordings, authorities said. He was so convincing, the FBI said, he was considered for Mafia membership.

Attorney John L. Pollok, who represents reputed Mafia captain Alphonse Sisca, said Wednesday morning that plea negotiations have been difficult because prosecutors insisted all nine defendants take the deal.

Megale's attorneys are trying to negotiate a deal in which his sentence could run concurrently with whatever he receives in Connecticut.

Thanks to Matt Apuzzo

The Other Problem at the Port

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime family, Genovese Crime family, Anthony Anastasio

With all the recent talk about security vulnerabilities at the nation's ports, one subject goes virtually unmentioned. The men who actually control many of the nation's docks, especially on the Eastern seaboard, are in the hip pocket of the Mafia and have been for decades.

Regardless of whether or not a Dubai-owned company manages operations at these ports -- currently the source of much hand-wringing in Washington -- many of those with the most direct access to the billions of tons of cargo that move through those ports owe their jobs to the mob.

How can that be? It all has to do with the peculiar institution of the union hiring hall. No matter who owns or operates the ports, the union, not the employer, actually assigns workers to jobs. You can't work unless you carry a union card. And on East Coast and Gulf ports, the union card belongs to the International Longshoreman's Association (ILA), one of the most mobbed-up unions in the country.

In July 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against the ILA, which targets the entire 31-member ILA executive council, including the president, secretary-treasurer, executive vice president, general vice president and more than two dozen others.

In a press release accompanying the suit, the Justice Department notes, "For decades the waterfront has been the setting for corruption and violence stemming from organized crime's influence over labor unions operating there, including the ILA and its affiliated locals, as well as port-related businesses. Since the late 1950s, two organized crime families -- the Gambino family and the Genovese family -- have shared control of various ports, with the Gambino family primarily exercising its influence at commercial shipping terminals in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and the Genovese family primarily controlling those in Manhattan, New Jersey and the Port of Miami."

The Justice Department has already won convictions against more than a dozen high-level Gambino and Genovese mobsters who controlled docks on the East Coast and is also seeking convictions of several ILA officials. The government has charged these men with extorting money from waterfront businesses and terminal operators and extorting thousands of dollars from individuals seeking employment on the docks, among other crimes.

And this recent spate of ILA indictments is only the most recent example in the long history of organized crime control over the union. New York University law professor James B. Jacobs describes that history in his new book, "Mobsters, Unions, and Feds: The Mafia and the American Labor Movement." "Cosa Nostra became the primary power on the New York harbor waterfront in 1937, when Anthony Anastasio . . . took control of the six New York harbor locals," says Jacobs, and it has remained so ever since. In the 1970s, the federal government won convictions of more than 100 mobsters, including 20 ILA officials, among them ILA Vice President Anthony Scotto.

Yet despite this sordid history, few lawmakers who profess concern about port security seem in the slightest bit worried that the ILA's role on the docks may constitute a huge security risk. The ILA contributes millions of dollars each election cycle. In the 2004 election cycle, the ILA's political action committee (PAC) had over $7 million cash on hand to distribute to candidates.

Among the top recipients of ILA PAC money in the last few elections were Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, all of whom represent states with important ports. Some of these same senators are among the chief critics of the Dubai port deal, but they are noticeably silent when it comes to mob influence in the union that actually controls who works on these ports.

Union bosses who would rob their members of pensions and health benefits, extort money to secure jobs on the docks, and use the docks to run gambling, loan sharking and other illegal enterprises could just as easily facilitate terrorists hoping to slip agents or weapons into the country, perhaps unwittingly, for the right price. But few in Washington seem to have considered the risk. The Dubai deal is not the only port issue that deserves more congressional scrutiny; ILA corruption surely deserves a close look as well.

Thanks to Linda Chavez