Thursday, March 30, 2006

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.

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