Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mobster Steps Down, Successor Unknown

Vincent Pastore, who played a tough-guy mobster in the early years of "The Sopranos,' has dropped out of "Dancing With the Stars" after a week of training.

At least this time he wasn't sent off to sleep with the fishes, the fate that befell his "Sopranos" character. "I didn't realize just how physically demanding it would be for me. Unable to put forth my best effort, I felt it appropriate to step aside and give someone else the opportunity," Pastore said in a statement Wednesday.

The 60-year-old actor had joined 10 other celebrities for the fourth season of ABC's 10-week dance competition, which returns March 19.

"ABC will be announcing a replacement shortly," said Conrad Green, executive producer of "Dancing With the Stars."

The new cast includes Olympic skater Apolo Anton Ohno, boxer Laila Ali, former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone, country singer-actor Billy Ray Cyrus and Paul McCartney's estranged wife, Heather Mills.

Mills, an activist for animal rights and the elimination of the use of land mines, will be the show's first contestant with an artificial limb. She told TV entertainment show "Extra" in an interview set to air Wednesday that "it's very unlikely" her prosthetic leg will "fly off." To prevent such an incident, she said she will wear a special strap. She lost her leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident in 1993.

Albert "The Old Man" Facchiano Pleads Guilty

Friends of ours: Albert "The Old Man" Facchiano, Genovese Crime Family

Albert Facchiano pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering conspiracy and other offenses prosecutors say he committed for the Genovese crime family, but its unlikely that the mobster will serve a day behind bars.

At 96, Facchiano, known in crime circles as "The Old Man," is in frail health and will likely be sentenced to house arrest, the Associated Press reports. Faces charges robbery, money laundering and bank fraud, the aged gangster pleaded guilty to a Florida charge of racketeering conspiracy and a New York charge of witness tampering.

Although Facchiano could have faced a maximum sentence of 30-years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines, under a plea agreement, prosecutors recommended that he be placed under house arrest, the AP reported. He's scheduled to be sentenced May 25.

Facchiano was among 30 alleged members of the Genovese crime family charged in a wide-ranging federal case.

What surprised some observers is that the charges against Facchiano stemmed from crimes committed late in his life. Prosecutors charged that from 1994 to 2006, Facchiano supervised associates who committed robberies, laundered money, engaged in bank fraud, and possessed stolen property. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and experts in organized crime say Facchiano may be the oldest racketeer ever prosecuted for crimes committed so late in life.

Facchiano's lawyer, Brian McComb told the AP that his client must see a doctor four times a week for back pain and other maladies, and "couldn't have stood trials in both Florida and New York."

Facchiano, who has an arrest record dating to 1932, walks with a cane and in court used a special headset to hear questions from the U.S. District Judge James Cohn.

A "made" man in the Genovese crime family, he spent eight years in prison on a 25-year sentence for racketeering after being arrested in 1979. The FBI, which monitors known members of organized crime, considers Facchiano a low-level figure.

Facchiano turns 97 on March 10.

Thanks to William Macklin

Everybody Pays

Friends of ours: Harry Aleman

Bob Lowe's father told him not to get involved. Just keep his mouth shut and forget everything he saw. But to the 25-year-old blue collar mechanic, husband, and father, that was entirely out of the question. How could he? While walking his dog he saw his acquaintance, Billy Logan, murdered on the street right in front of him. And more importantly, he held the triggerman's gaze for four frightening seconds, enough to easily identify him in a mug shot book, lineup, or court chambers. In Lowe's mind, it was his simple duty as a citizen to I.D. the guy and put a killer behind bars.

But Bob Lowe's seemingly straightforward decision to do that duty in 1972 provided the catalyst for a 25-year hellish personal odyssey, all while being constantly on the move and looking over his shoulder for the bullet with his name on it. That's because the face that Lowe saw didn't belong to any garden variety street thug, but that of Harry Aleman, the feared, proficient and very busy hit man for the Chicago mob. And Harry had a lot of powerful friends.

EVERYBODY PAYS is not the story of Logan or even Aleman, but of how Lowe's life began to spiral out of control after his agreeing to testify. Little did he know that larger forces were literally conspiring against him. Although he positively identified Aleman immediately following the shooting, the corrupt investigating cops buried the information for four years. At the eventual trial, the presiding judge had been bribed, deeming Lowe "a liar" in open court. Left dangling when Aleman was acquitted --- and in real fear for their lives --- the Lowes entered the Witness Protection Program, beginning a harrowing litany of changes in their residence, job, lifestyles, and even identities.

The constant pressure drove Lowe to extended flirtations with booze, cocaine, petty crime, and estrangement from his family. After years of bitter thoughts and second-guessing of his actions, Lowe eventually does crawl back. The book closes with Aleman's 1997 retrial --- a historic overturning of the Constitutional "double jeopardy" clause --- and ultimate vindication for Lowe, who as an older, grayer man found himself giving the same testimony that he had 20 years earlier.

Possley and Kogan --- both experienced journalists for the Chicago Tribune --- keep the narrative fast-paced, to the point and interesting. They also know their turf well, particularly in their discussion of the hierarchy of the Chicago Mafia and how it differs from its flashier, more storied New York counterpart. Drawing on historical material as well as fresh interviews from most of the participants (save the incarcerated Aleman, who refused to talk with them), the pair paint a sympathetic but even-keeled portrait of Lowe, who was not entirely blameless for his subsequent misfortunes.

Ultimately, the large and looming question that hangs throughout the book is this: Was it all worth it? Was it worth it for Lowe to go through his own seven circles of hell for doing what he initially felt would be a simple and just action, or should he have heeded his father's advice to go deaf, dumb, and blind? The reader is left to ponder that for themselves --- as well as think about what they'd do in a similar situation. In either case, the book's title stands as both a warning and a thesis: in crime, everyone does pay --- and not just the guilty.

Thanks to Bob Ruggiero

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

After Winning Oscar, Scorsese to Direct "The Departed" Sequel?

The Academy Awards aired live from Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday. It was the most international awards show in Oscar history. Afterwards backstage, Martin Scorsese agreed to direct George Lopez, Carlos Mencia, and Paul Rodriguez in The Deported.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Goodbye Fellas

Friends of ours: Joseph Valachi, Bugsy Siegal, Frank Sinatra, Sam Giancana, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, Paul Castellano, John Gotti

The perspective on organized crime that Thomas A. Reppetto developed from his career in law enforcement and more than 20 years as president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, tempered by a Harvard Ph.D., paid off handsomely in his 2004 book, “American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power,” which described the mob’s growth to its pinnacle in the mid-20th century. The writing was lucid, concise and devoid of sensationalism, rare qualities in the plethora of books by turncoat mobsters and their ex-wives, journalists, cops and aged Las Vegas insiders. This equally well-written sequel, “Bringing Down the Mob,” chronicles the Mafia’s near demise over the past 50 years. Following this specific thread of American history, general readers will benefit from Reppetto’s cogent examples of how changes in the culture at large affected both the mob itself and the tactics employed by law enforcement. Organized-crime buffs will be familiar with much of the material, but unaccustomed to seeing it assembled into so big and coherent a picture.

In 1950 and ’51, the Kefauver Senate committee’s televised hearings on the Mafia introduced mobsters into American living rooms, the lasting images being close-ups of Frank Costello’s manicured hands — he did not want his face on camera. The public outcry was short-lived and the Mafia cruised comfortably until 1957, when, in Apalachin, N.Y. (population 350), more than 60 Mafia notables attended a conference that was raided by the state police. As Reppetto says, the media have often presented the raid as “some hick cops stumbling on a mob conclave.” He debunks that interpretation and shows how the publicity moved the resistant J. Edgar Hoover to action, so that “from Apalachin on, the United States government was at war with the Mafia.”

As attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy led the next sustained attack on organized crime. He focused obsessively and successfully on Jimmy Hoffa, who was allied with the Mafia while serving as president of the two-million-member Teamsters union. Kennedy also brought before the TV cameras Joe Valachi, a low-level Mafia soldier who, with some coaching, provided extensive information “without revealing that much of it had been obtained through legally questionable electronic eavesdropping.” A new name for the Mafia emerged from the hearings — La Cosa Nostra — which allowed Hoover to say he had been right all along: there was no Mafia; there was a Cosa Nostra organization, exposed by the F.B.I.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Las Vegas provided a battlefield on which the F.B.I., armed with bugging equipment (and caught using it illegally in 1965), defeated the mob, which had been involved from the start of significant gambling in Nevada in the 1940s. Bugsy Siegel put up one of the first casinos on the Strip, the Flamingo. Las Vegas was designated an “open city,” in which any mob family could operate. As Reppetto writes, mobsters “secured Teamster loans to build casinos that they controlled through fronts, or ‘straw men.’ ” (Frank Sinatra lost his license as owner of a Nevada resort for allowing the Mafia boss Sam Giancana, reputedly his “hidden backer,” to frequent the hotel.) These casinos had overseers appointed by the controlling family to run “the skim,” cash siphoned off before the casino take was put on the books for tax purposes. The poorly chosen overseers played a large role in bringing down the mob in Las Vegas, generally being far too violent and unsophisticated to operate in a milieu that demanded a veneer of respectability. Reppetto points out the factual basis of much of Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese’s script for the film “Casino ,” including the chilling scene of Joe Pesci squeezing a victim’s head in a vise until an eye pops out (although that incident actually happened in Chicago). The mob’s management of Las Vegas turned out to be “a disaster,” Reppetto says. “Once it was the Mafia that was well run, while law enforcement plodded along. ... The situation was now reversed.” In the 1980s, corporations began to take control of the casinos.

One of the great hurdles the government had to clear at the start of its war on the Mafia, Reppetto says, was that the approach required to bring down a criminal organization ran “counter to general principles of American criminal justice”: “The usual practice, investigating a known crime in order to apprehend unknown culprits, was reversed. Now the government was investigating a known criminal to find crimes he might be charged with.” The most potent weapon was developed in 1970 — the RICO statute, to which Reppetto devotes a full chapter, pointing out that it took its creator, G. Robert Blakey, a decade of proselytizing before prosecutors would employ it.

A minor quibble: I think the book gives short shrift to the effect of the witness protection program, without which far fewer mobsters could have “flipped” over the years. As to Reppetto’s belief that the Mafia is in serious decline? At any time in the past, asking an average American to name major mob guys might well have elicited several of the following: Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, Paul Castellano, John Gotti. Who comes to mind today?

Thanks to Vincent Patrick whose novels include “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and “Smoke Screen.”

Friday, February 23, 2007

Virtuous Trepidation: The Black Hand of the Mafia

Dive deep into the complicated world of an internationally connected Mafia in Carl E. Prichard's new fictitious book, "Virtuous Trepidation: The Black Hand of the Mafia".

When low-level hit man and thief Antonio Spinelli stumbles into the wrong job, he loses his partner and fatally wounds an FBI agent who is on a mission to arrest the drug dealer Spinelli was robbing. He is fortunate enough to escape with his life, though, and enough heroin to buy a new identity and five years in the French Foreign Legion.

Upon his return to the United States, he takes a new wife, the beautiful Ruthie, and a new moniker, "the Frenchman." He meets up with another criminal known as Shaggy Dog and his beautiful, high-class hooker girlfriend in Las Vegas. The two men go into business together and complete some very successful heists, but run into trouble when a job leads them to Italy and they kill the only son and daughter-in-law of Gus DePhillips, the most powerful Mafia don in the United States.

When Gus learns of the deaths, he vows revenge. He and his second-in- command, Frank Tomasino, begin a country-wide campaign to seek out the guilty parties and make them pay.

Forced into hiding, the Frenchman, Shaggy Dog, Ruthie and Nancy Jean hide out in Las Vegas. In the meantime, the Detroit Mafia begins to crumble and the national organization suffers when Gus is assassinated. The equally ruthless Frank is set to take over in the United States, but he is soon beckoned to Italy by the Italian don who offers him control of the entire organization. While the Frenchman and Shaggy Dog are given great opportunities to advance within the organization, their inability to resist beautiful women leads to their eventual downfall.

"Readers who like nicely tied-up stories of ribbons and lollipops may quickly toss this book aside, for this is a book that takes you deep into the life and death, the power and the fear that is organized crime," Prichard says. "The action is fast-paced and the storyline uncomfortably plausible."

This complex tale of connections and killings will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Don't miss this thrilling story of betrayal, deceit and murder.

Prichard lives in the Rocky Mountain region in the western United States where he writes full-time. He has written two previous books, "Silent Agony" and "Fate's Left Hand"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Goomba Diet: Living Large and Loving It Book

The Goomba Diet is the personal lifestyle guide from Steven R. Schirripa--Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri from The Sopranos and author of "A Goomba's Guide to Life". Developed over decades of dreaming about and then living the high life, it's a how-to guide for happy living--how to duke a maître d', how to order a good meal, how to be a good father, a good husband and a good friend, and how to behave at a wedding, a funeral, and on the job.

The Goomba Diet is for everyone with an appetite for life, and for everyone who understands that the key to happiness isn't found in a smaller waistline but in a bigger heart. Like Steve says, "There's a lot of skinny actors wearing black turtlenecks and tending bar right now who'd kill for a part on The Sopranos. This fat goomba is doing all right for himself."

So relax! Stop worrying about how much youýre eating, and start worrying about how much you're enjoying it. Lose weight if you like--but live! Put a fork in your right hand, a hunk of bread in your left, and mangia like you mean it.

Joey the Clown's Brother Gets Probation

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Rocco Lombardo
Friends of mine: Rick Rizzolo

The brother of reputed mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was sentenced Wednesday to 60 months' probation for conspiracy in a tax fraud scheme centered at a strip club in Las Vegas.

Sixteen individuals, including Lombardo's brother Rocco, have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy scheme for underreporting cash they received while working at the Crazy Horse Too strip club.

The case stems from a lengthy federal investigation of the strip club and owner Ricky Rizzolo. Rizzolo formerly owned and managed a Chicago strip club also known as the Crazy Horse Too. He was paid as much as $240,000 to manage the club here, according to court records.

Joey Lombardo has pleaded innocent in Chicago to racketeering charges that accuse him of murder and extortion. He was arrested last year after nine months in hiding following his indictment.

Rizzolo and Rocco Lombardo would dine with Joey Lombardo when Rizzolo came to Chicago on business, court records show. And when Joey Lombardo disappeared, FBI agents went looking for him in Las Vegas.

In court filings, John Spilotro, the attorney for Rocco Lombardo, argued that a probation report linking him to his brother was unfair. He asked the court to delete a reference to Joey Lombardo as being the head of the Chicago Outfit and his arrest on the pending federal charges in Chicago.

Spilotro asked the judge for probation for Rocco, citing his lack of involvement in prior criminal activity, his age, and his deteriorating health.

Rocco Lombardo, 71, was known as a body builder and health-food advocate, according to lawyers. He once operated a restaurant in Melrose Park called "Rocky's" and served as a floor manager at the Las Vegas club.

Last month, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for his role in the tax fraud. His plea agreement required him to sell the business and pay nearly $17 million in fines and restitution.

Thanks to Ray Gibson

Was Sam Giancana Murdered by Johnny Roselli over Marilyn Monroe?


"As the plump sausages were beginning to brown, there was a knock on the door. Chicago Mob Boss SAM GIANCANA showed no fear as he turned back the double locks on the heavy steel door of his fortress like home that protected him from the outside world. Sam looked his old friend JOHNNY ROSSELLI in the eye and invited him in. The men kissed on the cheek, exchanged pleasantries and shared a laugh.

Then "Mooney", as Johnny affectionately called Sam, heard the sausages sizzling in their pan and ran back to the stove to keep them from burning. While he was rolling them over, Johnny quietly crept up behind him and placed the muzzle of a .22 caliber handgun equipped with a silencer at the base of his skull and said "Sam, this is for Marilyn".

Sam hesitated a moment as he tended to the sausages. A split second passed. In that moment, an image of MARILYN MONROE, the quintessential Hollywood Goddess, platinum blond bombshell, orphaned child, cheesecake pin up girl, fantasy lover to thousands of men, supposed tragic suicide victim and lover of PRESIDENT JOHN F KENNEDY and his brother BOBBY, filled Sam's head.

Then Johnny pulled the trigger."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Crime Boss Goes to New Orleans

Chilly temperatures did not deter the revelers who turned out Sunday to watch the parades roll through the city on the last weekend before Mardi Gras.

Bryan Young of Hammond hunched over a grill at a spot along Napoleon Avenue, a main parade route, cooking hamburgers and sausages in the 40-degree weather. Dressing in layers was the key to staying warm, he said. "It's part of what makes the city the city," Young said.

Several parades rolled Sunday, culminating with the Krewe of Bacchus, one of the most anticipated events of Carnival.

This year, the parade was led by actor James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos."

He was an immediate hit, posing with people for pictures and signing autographs before the parade began at dusk.

Clad in a black derby, a white tunic over white tights and black knee-high boots, Gandolfini threw doubloons to giddy spectators by the fistful. He was on the upper level of double-decked float where he sat on a half-crown throne.

It was because of Gandolfini that truck driver Andre Fos staked out a spot early. "Anything to do with the Mafia is my thing," said Fos, as he drained a beer before noon on nearby Magazine Street.

Earlier, the Krewe of Thoth put on a crowd-pleasing processional, including double-decker floats with costumed masked riders tossing beads, stuffed animals and other trinkets to revelers.

Leslie Petty of Slidell wore feathers and a necklace adorned with large plastic apples. She was with friends and family, feasting on a spread including barbecue and chicken. She said she had abandoned her diet until Wednesday. "We're going to party until Lent," Petty said.

Mardi Gras is considered a key to reviving New Orleans' tourism business following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. The signs of the devastating storm are still obvious in swaths of the city but are largely unnoticeable to those who stay in the French Quarter and central business district.

Before the storm, about a million visitors came here over the four days capped by Fat Tuesday. Officials expect about 700,000 this year -- but as of Sunday, did not have any estimates.

Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Narcisse said there have been some instances of people drunk in public or disturbing the peace, but Carnival so far has been relatively uneventful.

Most were just trying to stay warm. Ron Wauters of the Krewe of Mid-City, one of Sunday's parade groups, said things warm up quickly for the costumed members on the floats once the action starts.

"When you're up there throwing the beads, you work up a good sweat," Wauters said.

Does "The Departed" Show Martin Scorcese's Heart of Darkness?

In 1990, director Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas ” examined gangster life from the inside. The film didn’t shy away from the downward spiral of its characters, as they were slowly consumed by their own culture of corruption. As in several of Scorcese’s well-known works, the characters here reap what they sow – they’re violent men who meet violent ends. Religion, in the form of Catholic rituals and iconography, is present but rarely redemptive.
Click Here

To many critics, the film’s violence and stylish camerawork were masterful in technique and execution, and represented an artistic high point for the filmmaker. “Goodfellas” soon took its place alongside “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” among the director’s most acclaimed works.

Since “Goodfellas,” Scorcese has directed several films, including a remake of “Cape Fear”; a romantic period piece ( “The Age of Innocence”); another mob tale (“Casino ”); a story about the dalai lama (“Kundun”); and a couple of shots at earning an elusive Best Director Oscar (“Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator”). Each film had its rewards, but each was notably flawed in some way – too long, too impersonal, or too lacking in passion.

With “The Departed,” the passion returns in spades, but the film is, like so many other Scorcese-directed works, overly long, terribly profane, brutally violent and extremely dark. The cinematic technique, especially during the film’s first hour, is dazzling – a fluid mix of camera movement, Classic Rock, and Mob machinations that sets a grim and gritty tone for what’s to come. But the energy soon lags, and a sea of despair drowns most of the characters, while the law of diminishing returns takes hold of the film. It becomes one more look at the criminal mind, with big-name actors depicting desperation, savagery and duplicity.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Billy Costigan, a cop from a troubled family who goes undercover to infiltrate the circle of Boston crime lord Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Costigan works closely with superiors Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and Queenan (Martin Sheen) who protect his identity, but their efforts to arrest long-time crime boss Costello are stymied by Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a police mole who keeps Costello one step ahead of law enforcement. The parallels between Costigan and Sullivan carry over to their love lives, with both men falling for the same woman (Vera Farmiga). As the noose tightens around Costello, the two cops struggle to keep up their false fronts, while each seeks to expose the other.

“The Departed” is a remake of “Infernal Affairs,” a Hong Kong film that clocks in at 1 hour and 41 minutes, but Scorcese, given the chance to work with Nicholson and his favorite actor of late, DiCaprio, can’t contain himself. He takes the efficient Hong Kong story and pads it significantly, resulting in a bloated, drawn-out story that grows punishing as the violence mounts. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, “The Departed” manages to be more confusing than the much shorter film on which it’s based. Even so, the morbid outcome still surprises – it provoked gasps among the audience watching an advance screening – but getting to that point is arduous.

For this viewer, the ending couldn’t have come sooner. “The Departed” is ultra-violent, and despite memorable performances from the iconic Nicholson and the scene-stealing Alec Baldwin, the end result is less than thrilling.

Scorcese has gone to this well too many times. That well is not yet empty, but “The Departed” is far from refreshing. It is, rather, soul-deadening. Better for Scorcese to make different films, even if flawed, than to rehash the bloodletting and tough talk he’s already proven he can do so well.

Thanks to Christian Hamaker

Fed Request Cloaked Jury for Chicago Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., William Dauber

Federal prosecutors in one of the most significant Chicago mob cases ever are moving to cloak the names of jurors in secrecy. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitch Mars told a federal judge last week prosecutors intend to ask for an anonymous jury -- a move defense lawyers in the case are likely to oppose. The request is considered rare and extreme. It's typically reserved for cases in which alleged mobsters, terrorists or drug kingpins are on trial.

Mars did not say in court why he wanted to keep jurors' names secret, but usually prosecutors make the move to reduce jury tampering. Also, the feds can ask for an anonymous panel when jurors would have a reasonable concern about their safety.

Some of the defendants on trial have a history of allegedly tampering with the judicial system.

Reputed top mobster Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo is accused of killing a witness against him in another federal case in 1974.

Another defendant, brutal mob loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr., is accused of taking part in the murder of mob enforcer William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, in 1980. William Dauber was cooperating with federal investigators when he was slain.

In the mob case, jurors are expected to have to fill out a questionnaire. But potential jurors would not even put their names on the questionnaire, instead only using their juror number, if U.S. District Judge James Zagel grants the prosecution's request.

Defense lawyers in the case have signaled they would object to an anonymous jury. Jurors may already be on edge hearing evidence in an organized crime case. To be told their identities are being kept secret could create bias or fear concerning the defendants, according to defense lawyers involved in the case.

Judges don't always grant a request for an anonymous jury. In the Chicago trial of two men charged with racketeering and allegedly tied to the terrorist group Hamas, prosecutors wanted an anonymous jury, but the judge denied the request. This month, the men were found not guilty of the most serious charge against them but convicted on lesser charges.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Brothershood Mob Squad

Friends of ours: Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, Joseph Valachi, John Gotti, Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Soprano Crime Family, Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

The phenomenon of Mafia nostalgia is so ingrained in the American consciousness, one might think Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia were among the founding fathers. In fact, our fascination with modern Italian-American organized crime dates only to the early 1960s, when the traitor Joseph Valachi first laid bare its internal structures and codes. Interest in the Mafia has proved far more enduring than the syndicates themselves, which have never recovered from the jailing of John Gotti and so many other godfathers in the 1980s and early 1990s. All we have left are Tony Soprano, the best work of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and our memories. Ah, the bad old days.

The Mafia has been very good for Hollywood producers and newspaper reporters, which explains the media circus that surrounded the trial earlier this year of New York’s two infamous “Mafia cops,” Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who today remain in jail even though a judge has vacated their convictions. The now-retired detectives, dragged from their gaudy Las Vegas old-age homes to face the tabloid pack, were shown to have funneled sensitive intelligence and actually carried out murders for the crazed Luchese family godfather Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso back in the 1980s. The whole episode felt plucked from another era, as if these were the last two American turncoats to be prosecuted for cold war espionage.

Any number of books and movie projects are said to be in the works, and the first, “The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia,” by Guy Lawson, a veteran crime reporter, and William Oldham, a former New York Police Department detective who helped break the case, has now arrived. The good news, at least for Mafia aficionados, is that Lawson and Oldham have this material down cold. They seemingly had access to every Police Department document, every recorded conversation and every exhibit employed to convict Eppolito and Caracappa.

The bad news is that it’s all here: every dull dinner between the two detectives and an F.B.I. informant, page after page describing a screenplay Eppolito once wrote, apparently every case Oldham ever worked. “The Brotherhoods” is a perfectly fine book that could have been much, much better had the authors only known when to clam up. One suspects that within this overstuffed, ultradense 511-page anvil is a lean, nimble 275-page claw hammer yearning to swing free, a sequel to breezy underworld page-turners like Howard Blum’s “Gangland.” It’s not just that Lawson and Oldham throw in the kitchen sink. Like Gambino soldiers gleefully raiding a Canarsie warehouse, they haul out a refrigerator, 18 microwave ovens, 82 dinette sets, 994 Viking ranges and, still feeling a tad light, the entire inventory of the New Jersey Turnpike Ikea.

Part of the problem is that “The Brotherhoods” is not one book but two. The first is a straightforward if exhaustive narrative of the case, presumably written by Lawson. After putting down the galleys for the 15th time, unable to thrash my way through thickets of paragraphs so dense I began looking for hobbits, I took a hard look at his prose. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. His sentences are spare, his adverbs scarce, his name-pronoun exchanges are good, his transitions are functional if unspectacular. The trouble is Lawson’s use of detail. There’s a world of difference between “telling” detail and telling every detail. At one point I had to stop and shake my head when I realized he was actually explaining the brand name of a chair Oldham uses during a prison conference.

The second book really slows things down. This is Oldham’s lengthy interjections into Lawson’s prose, which come in paragraph after paragraph of quotation, sometimes five and six at a time. While Oldham’s views can be informative and entertaining, the effect is akin to a director’s commentary on a DVD film. Oldham strives to provide context, but too often serves up platitudes. To cite just one example of dozens: “In major organized criminal investigations there is not an obviously straightforward cause and effect. Conspiracies occur in parallel universes and timelines. What is the chronology of the crimes that are investigated? What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen?” This might be catnip for cops, but ahem, sir, could you please stop talking during the movie?

For those willing to wade through it, “The Brotherhoods” has its rewards. The authors do a stellar job of portraying the Police Department as a dysfunctional bureaucracy, making us see how Caracappa, who worked in the elite Major Case Squad alongside Oldham, was a much bigger fish than Eppolito, a blowhard toiling in deepest Brooklyn. They are adept at conjuring organized crime’s inbred world of social clubs and row houses; every cop in the book seems to have a cousin Joey “in the life,” and vice versa. Rarely have Mafiosi seemed like such losers as they do here, obese men in track suits debating whom to kill once they finish their ziti. Gaspipe Casso comes off as a cut above his knuckle-dragging peers, but his story was told just as well — and faster — in Selwyn Raab’s “Five Families.”

Of the two cops, the pathetic, porcine Eppolito — whose cinematic ambitions peaked with a goombah cameo in Scorsese’s “Goodfellas ” — is the most vividly drawn, this due to his mind-bogglingly wrongheaded memoir, “Mafia Cop,” in which he boasted of his Mafia lineage, which included his father, Ralph Eppolito, known as Fat the Gangster, and an uncle, Jimmy the Clam. Caracappa remains a cipher throughout, a wary, watchful figure with the look, and apparently the personality, of an undertaker on downers. Both could have used additional reporting to flesh out their careers and back stories; there aren’t many clues in the text as to what a pro like Caracappa would see in a mook like Eppolito. But Lawson, presumably viewing Oldham as the Ken Jennings of criminalia, falls prey to the common trap of letting only the caged canary sing. Isn’t there anyone else who knew these two detectives?

The book also suffers from several factors out of the authors’ control. For one thing, they cannot tell the full story of what Eppolito and Caracappa actually did, because the two detectives have never publicly discussed, much less admitted, their crimes. So what we get is a narrative engine built around Oldham’s investigation. This is interesting if unremarkable material, in part because his probe was a whodunit only in its infancy. After Casso, in an abortive attempt to reduce a life sentence for murder, told prosecutors about Eppolito and Caracappa in 1994, the next 10 years of story line are purely an exercise in proving what the unreliable Casso claimed.

In the end, for all Oldham’s dogged work, the case is broken when Casso’s conduit to the cops, the aging fence Burton Kaplan, finally cuts a deal of his own after nine years in prison. The authors do their best to wring drama from Oldham’s jailhouse tango with Kaplan, but Kaplan is bland beyond belief. The narrative payoff, the eureka moment the authors spend 300 pages building up to, comes “after dozens of calls and six weeks of talking,” of which little is said. “I think we got a deal,” Kaplan’s attorney tells Oldham. Memo to: Ahab. From: Whale. I think we got a deal.

Thanks to Bryan Burrough

Family Above All - The Black Donnelly's

From a promo for the new NBC Show called The Black Donnelly's. They are already being called the "Hunky" Mobsters".

Meet the Donnelly Brothers: Tommy, Jimmy, Kevin and Sean. There is nothing that these four Irish brothers wouldn't do to protect each other, and for them that means lying, cheating, stealing, and, occasionally, calling the cops. Narrated by wannabe gangster Joey "Ice Cream", this gritty series bears witness to the Donnelly brothers sudden involvement in organized crime, focusing on how they go from boys to mobsters, and showing how their new life affects their relationships with family, friends, and lovers.

Academy Award winners Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco ("Crash ") are the creators of this gritty new crime drama series loosely based Moresco's background. The ensemble cast includes Jonathan Tucker ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), Billy Lush ("Huff"), Thomas Guiry ("Mystic River"), Michael Stahl-David ("Uncle Nino"), Keith Nobbs ("25th Hour"), Olivia Wilde ("The O.C."), Kirk Acevedo ("Oz").

Reputed Chicago Mob Boss 'Joey the Clown' Could Face Fresh Charges

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Frank "the German" Schweihs

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and another man could face new charges for going on the lam after a major indictment against them was unsealed, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

"We may seek to add charges to the indictment based on their fugitive status," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell A. Mars told federal Judge James B. Zagel at a hearing in a racketeering case known as Operation Family Secrets.

Fourteen alleged mobsters and mob associates were charged in the indictment alleging that leaders of the Chicago Outfit were involved in 18 murders, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's onetime top man in Las Vegas who was killed and buried in an Indiana corn field.

Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film "Casino."

Lombardo, 77, was captured by FBI agents in a suburban Elmwood Park alley in January 2006 after nine months on the run.

The other runaway defendant, alleged mob enforcer Frank "The German" Schweihs, 76, was captured by FBI agents in December 2005, hiding in the hills of Kentucky south of Lexington.

Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said that an unlawful flight to escape prosecution charge would add little to the case compared to the racketeering count his client is charged with. "Given the breadth and scope of the case, I don't believe I'm going to lose any sleep over it," he said. Schweihs attorney Ellen R. Domph had no comment.

Zagel told attorneys Tuesday that he likely would order a hearing to determine exactly what jurors might hear from prospective government witness James Wagner, a former FBI mob investigator who now is president of the Chicago Crime Commission.

Prosecutors want Wagner to tell the jury the story of the Chicago Outfit based on his decades of experience investigating the mob.

Halprin has asked Zagel to limit what Wagner would be allowed to say. Zagel told Mars to provide the court with a written explanation of what the former agent would tell the jury.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Departed is Released

'The Departed' is set in South Boston, where the state police force is waging war on organized crime. Young undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob syndicate run by gangland chief Costello (Jack Nicholson).

While Billy is quickly gaining Costello's confidence, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the police department as an informer for the syndicate, is rising to a position of power in the Special Investigation Unit.

Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the gangsters and the police that there's a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy -- and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Unfinished Business of Donnie Brasco

The only real mobster I ever met was a funny little guy named Fred. He was short, stooped and rumpled, with basset-hound eyes and pallid skin. A wise-cracking, kewpie-doll of a guy with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. Maybe you remember him. Fred Roti, former alderman of the old mobbed-up First Ward. The representative, as Harper's Magazine once described him, of the "Italian business interests" in City Hall.

Freddy liked to hang out at the City Hall press room and share coffee and jokes with the beat reporters. In fact, he was the Art Linkletter of the city council. Freddy thought reporters, just like kids, say the darnedest things!

I happened to be there on the day he asked his legendary question: "So, boys, what should my campaign slogan be this year?"

"Vote for Roti," Bob Davis said without skipping a beat, "and nobody gets hurt!"

Furtive glances. A pause. A long pause. It seemed to get awfully hot all of a sudden, too. And then that old Linkletter look spread slowly across Roti's gnarled face. "You're baaaad," he chortled to relieved laughter all around.

If we're lucky, that's as close as most of us will ever get to an honest-to-goodness wiseguy. But Joe Pistone, a k a Donnie Brasco, has lived in the belly of the beast.

Pistone is the former FBI agent who went undercover as a Mafia soldier for six years and helped cripple the Five Families of New York. He told his story in a best-selling book that later became a movie starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

Now, Pistone is back with a sequel. Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business promises to reveal the tales that he couldn't disclose earlier. Unfortunately, it seems more like a ploy to cash in one more time on the Donnie Brasco brand. The book has all the drama of a night out with the boys, reliving the glory days. And it reads with all the charm of a 300-page federal indictment.

And that's a shame, since if you can endure the self-congratulation, insufferable stories about being on the set with Al and Johnny, and a Jack Webb -- just the facts, ma'am! -- style of storytelling, there are some fascinating insights here into what mobsters are really like, and what it takes to bring them down.

The best stories illuminate the moral ambiguity inherent in the double life of an undercover agent. In the name of the law, he has to be ready to break the law. To catch a criminal, he has to risk becoming one.

For the first time, Pistone admits to crimes that would have ended the Donnie Brasco operation if his superiors in the FBI had known about them -- hijackings, burglaries, armed robberies and beatings. "I had to gain the trust of criminals and gangsters," he says, "and there is only one way to do that. You got to do what you got to do."

Pistone tells a chilling story about a capo -- his boss -- ordering him to kill a mob enemy. It's a wiseguy's ultimate test. "The people I had been assigned to infiltrate engaged in murder the way a cabbie goes through a yellow light," Pistone writes. "I had long ago made my decision of what to do when this predictable occasion arose. If Bruno's there, he's gone. If I have to put a bullet in his head, I will."

There is a nagging conflict between what Pistone thinks he can achieve and what his FBI superiors think is reasonable -- and safe.

After blowing one assignment for his mob bosses, Pistone is called to a summit to face the music. He knows the FBI would rather pull the plug on the operation than risk his life. Pistone also knows the basic rule of mob life is "not to rat, and not to run." So he goes, without telling the FBI. "I was finally in so deep I was lying to the FBI by omission," he says. "Because of my job I lied regularly in my personal life to those I was closest to. I was finally in the mud at the deep end."

One reads on in anticipation and, finally, irritation, waiting in vain for more stories packing this kind of tension. The closest he comes is a brief description of how Donnie Brasco was ordered to abort his undercover pose just as he was on the verge of becoming a "made member" of the Bonnano crime family, a decision he describes as having "the keys to the vault and suddenly throwing them away." But there's no elaboration, no sense of what the debate was like, and what was really lost.

Instead, an interminable, mind-numbing timeline of recent mob cases descends into a tirade on a trial in which Pistone claims everyone involved -- wiseguys, investigators and prosecutors -- are angling ineptly for book deals. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight winds up as The Gang That Couldn't Write Straight.

Thanks to Joe Kolina, a Chicago journalist with a long-standing interest in what Bonnano family soldier Lefty Ruggiero described as "the underworld field."

Capone, Mobsters, Relaxed in Pingree Grove

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Sam "Teets" Battaglia, Sam Giancana

What would the world’s most famous mobster want with little Pingree Grove?

Well, there were no police, few people were around and everyone in town minded their own business, locals say, making the little village an ideal place for Al Capone to relax.

Resident Alice Thurnau, 86, says Capone was even rumored to have owned a house in Pingree Grove. That house no longer stands.

Alice’s husband, Kenneth, 92, also known as “Shorty,” is the oldest resident in town to have been born and raised in Pingree Grove.

He says that when he was 12, he once had a personal encounter with the mobster. One day in 1927, Capone brought his car to the Thurnau Garage, opened by his father, Jack, a one-time mayor of Pingree Grove. Capone had a flat tire and asked Shorty if he’d change it. And after he did, Capone rewarded him with a tip. “It was pretty big,” Shorty said.

But Capone isn’t the only mobster thought to have cooled his heels in Pingree Grove.

Various residents say Sam “Teets” Battaglia, a member of the Chicago Outfit and close associate of Sam Giancana, who died in prison in 1973, maintained a house and farm on Damisch Road. But in Pingree Grove, Battaglia was known for furnishing all of the children with free pop, Alice Thurnau said.

“He wanted to make a good name for himself,” she said.

Thanks to Lenore T. Adkins

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Untouchables

A depiction of the mob warlord who ruled Prohibition-era Chicago . . . and the law enforcer who vowed to bring him down. Stars Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, Robert De Niro as gangland kingpin Al Capone and Sean Connery as Malone, the cop who teaches Ness how to beat the mob: shoot fast and shoot first.

Apple iTunes

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chicago Crime Commission Raises Concern Over Expanded Gambling in Illinois

Today, the Chicago Crime Commission said that Illinois State Representative Lou Lang's (D-Skokie)recent proposal to expand gaming in Illinois, which would add four gaming licenses and slot machines at horse race tracks, would have a significant negative impact to the integrity of gaming in Illinois. To address these concerns, the Chicago Crime Commission is suggesting a pay-as-you-go solution to keep gaming in Illinois honest and not place the financial burden on taxpayers.

The Chicago Crime Commission is concerned the Illinois Gaming Board is ill-equipped to facilitate the expansion of gaming outlined in Representative Lang's proposal. "From what we have seen, the proposal to expand gaming in Illinois does not appear to address the need for required suitability investigations to be conducted by the Illinois Gaming Board on the potential investors in these new gambling operations," according to Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "To even consider expanded gambling, I think the citizens of Illinois must be assured that the companies and employees who provide gaming services, gaming equipment and other ancillary services are beyond reproach," Wagner continued.

Unfortunately, even at current levels of gaming in Illinois, the Illinois Gaming Board has had difficulty reviewing applications for investments and conducting thorough background investigations on companies providing gaming equipment, in a timely manner. "As the former top investigator at the Illinois Gaming Board, I will tell you we have never had sufficient staffing to routinely review all vendor contracts that provide services to the gaming industry in Illinois," Wagner added.

"Budget restrictions imposed on the Illinois Gaming Board by the State of Illinois have left Illinois Gaming Board staff with concerns about appropriate due diligence or comprehensive background investigations over all aspects of gaming in Illinois," said Wagner. "Adding four new casino licenses and slot machines at horse race tracks would, potentially, completely overwhelm the ability of the Illinois Gaming Board to provide complete, competent and independent oversight of the industry," he added.

Arguments have been made that increasing the budget of the Illinois Gaming Board in order to improve their ability to investigate and monitor the gaming industry would decrease the revenue generated by taxes on gaming. "The answer to this concern can be found in the business model provided by the gaming control operations in both Nevada and New Jersey. Both states utilize variations of a pay-as-you-go investigative requirement. They require companies and individuals to pay, in advance, the cost of each investigation. Refusal to pay ends the licensing process," Wagner said.

To further defray costs to the taxpayers and increase the integrity of gaming, each casino could also be required to pay for the cost of Illinois Gaming Board Agents who are required to be on-site during gaming activity but should be on-site at all times. "While these steps would not remove the need for state budget appropriations, the overall costs of operating the Illinois Gaming Board would shift significantly to the companies and individuals that benefit from owning and operating Illinois gaming facilities and their ancillary businesses," he concluded.

Battle of Thieves?

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Since 1995, George Knapp has been the chief reporter on the Las Vegas Channel 8's I-Team investigative unit. In that capacity, he has earned two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a national Edward R. Murrow award for his investigative stories on the voter registration fraud in the Clark County election of 2004. Knapp has won eleven Emmy Awards. Seven were for his "Street Talk" commentaries and one was for an investigative story. Seven times, he has won the Mark Twain Award for best news writing from the Associated Press. Recently Knapp ran a series (Part 1 and Part 2) that covered his interview with Frank Cullotta, a former thief/mob hitman who turned government informant.

Slick Hanner has shared with me an email that he has sent to Knapp in which he challenges the credibility of Cullotta. In addition to providing examples, Hanner proposes a sitdown in which Knapp moderates a discussion between the Cullotta and Hanner as a "Battle of Thieves". It is a compelling idea and one that I hope that Knapp embraces. Below you will find Hanner's email to Knapp. Feel free to pass along your thoughts on this to both myself and directly to Knapp.

Dear Mr. Knapp,

The last couple of nights I watched your show on Frank Cullotta with my mouth open in disbelief. This guy is trying to whitewash every lousy thing he did. I admit to being a thief all my life. But I was an honorable thief, meaning I never snitched on my friends or turned states evidence against anyone. You will see that I'm telling the truth when you read my life story in my newly released non-fiction book, Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist (Barricade Books.) In the book, I reveal my life of crime with the mob, prostitution and gambling when I lived in Chicago (Outfit headquarters,) Miami and Las Vegas. And I hold nothing back about what kind of a guy I was. I wrote THIEF to straighten out the public on Cullotta and Rosenthal's lies (Pileggi's main informants) in the book Casino.

Cullotta was the worst kind of thief. He thought nothing of betraying his friends and even turned on his brother in order to save his own neck. Now he's on your program telling so many lies, which I will be happy to refute.

For instance, Cullotta said Tony Spilotro brought him to Las Vegas to be in his Hole in the Wall Gang. But the truth is that Cullotta came to town as a pimp for his girlfriend, Debbie, who worked at the Dunes. Then Cullotta hooked up with his boyhood friend, Tony Spilotro, and asked Tony if he could bring his own burglary crew to Las Vegas. Tony said yes as long as he got a piece of Cullotta's action.

Mr. Knapp, this is only one example but there's much more. I can recite chapter and verse on the truth about Frank Cullotta. I also have a friend who is willing to step forward with more evidence of Cullotta's lies, and he was in a position to know. Together, we have an arsenal of information that has never come out previously. Should you want more information from me or care to have me on your show, I will be happy to give names, places, dates, etc., as would my friend.

Why would I even bother to do this? Cullotta makes the Hole in the Wall Gang seem like Robin and his merry men, just a bunch of innocent pranksters. What a joke! Let's get some facts on the table. Maybe you could have me and Cullotta on your show together in a "battle of the thieves?"

William "Slick" Hanner

Is a Mob Hitman Revealing Family Secrets?

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

The Mafia bosses who once controlled Las Vegas are long gone, but their ghosts are about to be resurrected. Federal prosecutors in Chicago are working on one of the largest, and perhaps last, trials of organized crime kingpins in America, targeting some of the men who pulled the strings in Las Vegas during the darkest days of mob influence in the city.

At least 18 unsolved gangland murders could finally be solved. One former Las Vegas mobster says he's ready to tell the court what he knows about those crimes. Frank Cullotta has been in hiding for 25 years but he surfaced long enough to give an exclusive interview to the I-Team's George Knapp. (Part 1)

George Knapp: "Do you think of yourself as a hitman?"

Frank Cullotta: "Not really. I guess if you kill one person you're a hitman. I don't think of myself as a hitman."

But hitman or not, Frank Cullotta did kill people on orders from the mob. He murdered a man named Jerry Lisner in this house on Rawhide and left the body in the swimming pool. Cullotta won't say how many others he may have killed, but it's more than just Lisner.

When things began to unravel for the mob in Las Vegas, everyone was expendable, even the other members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, like Ernie Devino and Joe Blasko, both of who were slated for death. And the boss himself, tough Tony Spilotro, who was beaten to death in front of his brother Michael and then both were dumped in a cornfield. Even though Spilotro okayed a hit on his pal Cullotta, Cullotta still winces when he thinks of the brutal way Spilotro died.

Frank Cullotta said, "I know that Tony was a violent person himself and that he killed a lot of people and hurt a lot of people, but I grew up with this guy. I just don't think if I had to kill him, I could kill him that way. I'da just shot him."

The murder of the Spilotro brothers is one of the charges now facing 14 Mafia figures in Chicago, including longtime mob kingpin Joey The Clown Lombardo, the boss to whom Spilotro reported. Cullotta thinks Lombardo had to okay the Spilotro murders, as well as the murder of the mobster who botched the burial of the bodies. He's pretty sure a Mafia soldier named Al Tocco was also in on the hit and that the upcoming trial just might be the end of the line for the Chicago mob.

Frank Cullotta said, "I would think it's the end. I don't think it will ever be as strong or as organized as it was."

What about certain Las Vegas mysteries? Who tried to kill Frank Lefty Rosenthal by planting a bomb under his car on Sahara Avenue?

Contrary to law enforcement suspicions, Cullotta says it wasn't Spilotro for the simple reason that if Tough Tony had done it, Lefty wouldn't have escaped. What about their former lawyer, now Mayor Oscar Goodman? Might he have anything to fear from a tell-all book by Cullotta? Did he ever cross the line?

Cullotta said, "Nah, he's just got a big mouth. I got nothing to say about him. He's got the right job. He likes everyone to see him and hear him."

For the record, the mayor is no fan of Cullotta's either and says the former gangster is a notorious liar. Former strike force prosecutor Don Campbell who helped turn Cullotta from killer to witness says Cullotta's testimony was critical in the conviction of numerous mob figures, but he scoffs at Cullotta's suggestion that the Hole in the Wall members were modern Robin Hoods who only stole from other crooks.

Don Campbell, former federal prosecutor, said, "Like hell. They were absolute scum of the earth. They would turn on anyone. Themselves. They would rob their own mother. They were despicable human beings."

Cullotta says he's a much different person since going straight. He owns a business in an undisclosed town and says some of his new neighbors have figured out who he is from seeing old TV footage.

Cullotta said, "They know I'm a changed guy. I live a legitimate life. I don't harm nobody. They don't feel uncomfortable around me. As a matter of fact, they feel protected. Don't ask me why."

Cullotta's tell-all book is slated for release in late April. The Chicago mob trial is expected to begin in May.

Thanks to George Knapp

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sequel for The Departed?

Screenwriter William Monahan is working on a treatment for a sequel to The Departed, reports Variety, and he's even passed the notion by the director of the first film, Martin Scorsese.

Without getting too spoilery, anyone who has seen Warner Bros.' The Departed might wonder how a sequel to the Oscar-nominated crime drama could even be possible judging by how things end up in the picture. But then again, the film is based on the Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs, which of course went on to spawn two follow-ups.

Mark Wahlberg, who co-stars in the film, recently said that he may be back for a sequel, and that Robert De Niro was in talks to appear in the picture as well -- if it were to happen. Of course, as Variety points out, there's no sign that Scorsese would return for a Departed 2 or that Warner Bros. would even want to produce the sequel.

The Hollywood Reporter, however, claims that "Scorsese would need to approve any take before development was to move forward. A prequel is not being ruled out, either." THR also adds that Warners' deal had option rights to the two Infernal Affairs sequels, but that it is uncertain how the next Departed film might figure into that since Monahan could be fashioning an original tale.

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

Joseph P. Macheca served as a street warrior for the intensely corrupt New Orleans Democratic machine, as a pioneer of the Crescent City’s fruit trade, as a Confederate privateer in the Gulf and, according to legend, as the “godfather” of the first Mafia organization to germinate in American soil.

Macheca lives on in New Orleans legend as the criminal overlord whose 1891 lynching death atoned for the assassination of city Police Chief David C. Hennessy. However, Macheca’s death was less a spontaneous lynching than a cold-blooded murder. The gang leader's old political and underworld allies sacrificed him so their own roles in local intrigues might not be discovered and so they could assume control of his assets.

Deep Water is the historical biography of Joseph P. Macheca. It establishes the factual details of Macheca’s epic life story and sets them against the vivid backdrop of Gilded Age New Orleans.

This biography of Joseph Macheca—merchant, smuggler, Mafia “godfather”—documents the early New Orleans underworld, explains Police Chief Hennessy’s assassination and the largest American lynching.

Set in the Gilded Age of New Orleans, the historical biography Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia establishes the factual details of Macheca’s epic life story, the assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy and the Crescent City lynchings.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hitman Could be Key Operation Family Secrets Witness

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo

One of the largest Mafia trials in American history is slated to begin in Chicago in May, and a key witness could be a former killer and thief who roamed Las Vegas during the heyday of the local mob.

His name is Frank Cullotta. He's been in hiding since the early '80s but agreed to meet with the I-Team's George Knapp to talk about the bad old days and about the secrets he's ready to spill.

The I-Team first interviewed Frank Cullotta on camera five years ago. At the time, he said he was working on a book about his life of crime. The book is just about complete, and with the trial of the Chicago Mafia just around the corner, the I-Team located Cullotta again, even though he still lives under an assumed name, still lives in a place that can't be revealed, and still has people who want him dead.

George Knapp: "If it had happened in the old days?"

Frank Cullotta: "I'da went there and killed everybody in the hospital and that is a fact."

There's still a bit of the old Frank Cullotta tucked way down inside the new version. He's been on the run from his former mob associates for more than 20 years, but he still slips in and out of Las Vegas from time to time, most recently to visit the grave of his teenage granddaughter, who's death last year Cullotta blames on St. Rose hospital. Lucky for them Cullotta is out of the life.

Frank Cullotta: "I do miss them days but I'm glad I'm in this situation and not in that situation."

George Knapp: "If you'd stayed in that life?"

Frank Cullotta: "I'da been dead or in prison. One of the two. Take your choice."

Death and prison are the dual fates that most of his former Las Vegas associates met. The I-Team arranged to meet Cullotta in a West Coast city to talk about the book he's written and about the upcoming Mafia trial in Chicago.

He won't say where he lives or what name he uses, even though he left the witness protection program years ago after giving testimony that helped put more than a dozen higher ranking mobsters behind bars. He's had three phony names and more addresses than he can count.

Frank Cullotta: "I lived in the south for quite a while. I went as far as Biloxi, Mississippi, Gulfport, Texas, Virginia. All over the place."

George Knapp: "You must have stuck out like a sore thumb?"

Frank Cullotta: "Terrible. Terrible, especially Texas. This is the way I sound. They knew right away I didn't belong there. As soon as I was off parole, I was outta there."

But he stays in touch with the FBI and has been interviewed twice about the Chicago trial, where 14 alleged Mafia figures will be tried for 18 gangland murders, including the slaying of Cullotta's boyhood friend and former tough boss Tony Spilotro, the reputed rackets boss of Las Vegas.

Cullotta followed Spilotro to Las Vegas along with other members of what came to be known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. These men helped Spilotro protect the flow of money skimmed from mob-tainted casinos, but then branched out into other enterprises -- arson for hire, strong arming bookies and drug dealers, and burglaries accomplished by cutting holes in walls to bypass alarms, which inspired a nickname Cullotta hates to this day.

Cullotta said, "Everybody was knocking holes in the wall. You get a rap for every one with a hole in the wall. They had us doing a million places. Half of them scores we didn't do."

But they did their share. When federal and local lawmen turned up the heat, catching the gang in the act of a million dollar burglary, things fell apart. In his book, Cullotta reveals for the first time there was a plan to murder fellow gang member Ernie Davino to keep him from talking. Also on the hit list was former cop turned gangster Joe Blasko, for the same reason.

Cullotta personally carried out a hit on a mobster wannabe named Jerry Lisner and testified it was under orders from Tony Spilotro. And then, facing life behind bars himself, Cullotta learned that his name was on the list. The FBI played him tapes of Spilotro speaking to mob boss Joey Lombardo in Chicago.

Cullotta said, "And Joey told him in so many words, you gotta clean your laundry, because Joey asked him, what the hell is going on out there?"

George Knapp: "You were the laundry?"

Frank Cullotta: "Absolutely."

Cullotta says that if he testifies in the Chicago trial it won't be about specific murders, but rather about the mob hierarchy. He feels certain that Lombardo, who was Spilotro's boss, would have had to sign off on the 1986 murder of Spilotro and his brother Michael, whose bodies were buried in an Indiana cornfield. Cullotta is cagey about how many people he's killed himself but says his book, due out in late April, will solve a lot of mysteries.

Cullotta continued, "Anywhere from 36 to 50 guys I know who were murdered by our friends. And they were our friends who got murdered, and they were all killed for different reasons by different guys. The guys who killed the guys got killed by other guys."

Cullotta says there are a lot of people in Las Vegas who will likely be put on the spot when his book is released, people in the casino industry for example.

Thanks to George Knapp

Monday, February 05, 2007

Celebrate Valentine's Day Chicago Mob Style

Friends of ours: Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Scarface Al Capone

On Valentine’s Day, Chicago’s literary scene will take a step back in time, to the 1920s, with the launch party for Laura Mazzuca Toops’ Jazz Age historical novel, Hudson Lake, at The Green Mill. A classic Chicago jazz club, dating back to 1907, The Green Mill is actually one of the settings for the novel, having been co-owned in the 1920’s by Machine Gun Jack McGurn. Reputed to be a both a mobster and the man most responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, McGurn appears in Hudson Lake as a villainous emissary of Al Capone.

“The Green Mill is icon in the Jazz world,” says author Toops, who will be signing her novel while sitting in the booth favored by Scarface Al Capone, himself. “This is a truly historical setting, and is such an ironic place to be on Valentine’s Day. It’s not often you can appear in the same place your book is set, on a day with such significance to one of the characters. It’s also great that The Book Cellar is our bookstore for this event. We’re keeping it local for the evening.”

The party will run from 6:30pm to 8:00PM, at which time The Green Mill will return to their regular Jazz schedule with Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan; and the Frank Catalano Trio and playing that evening.

Time: 6:30-8:00pm
Place: Green Mill Jazz Club
4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Chicago, IL

Friday, February 02, 2007

Toni Marie Ricci Can't Resist Gambinos

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Frank "Frankie Fap" Fappiano, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Frank DeCicco, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Junior Gotti
Friends of mine: Toni Marie Ricci, Kurt Ricci

Toni Marie Ricci was blessed with good looks, but she can't catch a break with men.

Toni Marie RicciHer husband was arrested this week, along with her cousin, in a federal roundup of alleged Gambino crime family members and associates. And the rest of the guys in this doll's life aren't exactly prizes.

Her ex-husband is a former Gambino gangster who turned out be more canary than lovebird, her brother is a Mafia rat, and one of her cousins died in a rubout.

"The men in her life have brought her some unhappiness," said Jean Marie Graziano, the lawyer for her current husband, Kurt Ricci. "But they have also brought her good things," Graziano said, referring to Toni Marie's 19-year-son from her first marriage. "Even with all that's gone on with her life, she's stronger and better for it."

Toni Marie's ex is former Gambino crime family capo Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo, an infamous turncoat.

Her brother Frank (Frankie Fap) Fappiano was a Gambino soldier before he started singing for the feds. And one of her cousins was Frank DeCicco, underboss to the late John Gotti. DeCicco was blown up in his car in 1986.

Toni Marie has only been married to her current husband for 11 months, but she's already had to bail him out.

Kurt Ricci, a reputed associate of the Gambino crime family, was charged with bank fraud. The indictment also charges Ricci's second cousin, reputed capo George DeCicco, 77, with racketeering.

The brunette looker lit up arraignment court as she signed a $300,000 bond secured by the couple's house in Staten Island to spring her hubby. Graziano denied that Kurt Ricci is mobbed up, and she staunchly defended the reputation of his 41-year-old bride.

For her part, Toni Marie has been candid about some of the tumult in her personal life.

In an interview last year with New York magazine, she recalled what happened when she learned Mikey Scars was having a love child with his mistress. "He handed me the phone, and I said to her, 'Where do you come off having this child? I'm married to this guy for 17 years.'

"She didn't answer. I said, 'What's the matter? You're not woman enough to answer?' He took the phone and hung it up. So I took the phone and hit him over the head with it."

But when Toni Marie testified last year at former Gambino boss John A. (Junior) Gotti's retrial, she played a little more coy. Peppered with questions about all her family ties to organized crime, she demurred. "I'm just a housewife and a mother," she said.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Failed Bribery Scheme Leads to Mafia Indictments


The Justice Department has made the following announcement: Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, announced that an indictment and complaint were unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York charging eleven members and associates of the Gambino and Luchese organized crime family and two associates of the Sicilian mafia with multiple charges, including racketeering, loansharking, extortion, bribery of a federal official, money laundering, attempted bank fraud, check forgery, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and smuggling conspiracy.

The two cases represent the culmination of an eleven-month investigation that generated hundreds of hours of recorded conversations with Gambino family captain GEORGE DECICCO, soldiers and associates of DECICCO’s Gambino family crew, and other organized crime members and associates as they planned and engaged in criminal activity, including a plot to bribe a federal immigration officer to release a member of the Sicilian mafia from federal detention.

The charges contained in the indictment and complaint are merely allegations, and thedefendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The defendants arrested this morning are: GEORGE DECICCO, JOSEPH ORLANDO, STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, ROBERT DECICCO, RICHARD JULIANO, RICHARD J. JULIANO, JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO, KURT RICCI, MICHAEL FICHERA, VITO RAPPA, FRANCESCO NANIA, JAMES AVALONE and JERRY DEGEROLAMO. The defendants are scheduled to appear this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. The indicted case has been assigned to United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

As alleged in the indictment and a detention letter filed by the government, in 2006, Gambino family soldier Joseph ORLANDO believed that a Gambino family associate had connections to corrupt immigration and other government officials. ORLANDO approached the individual and sought his assistance in obtaining legal residence status for his girlfriend through those corrupt contacts. Although the individual did not in fact have any such contacts, he accepted $9,000 from ORLANDO as potential bribe money. When the individual was unable to procure the resident status sought by ORLANDO for his girlfriend, ORLANDO threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, the individual contacted the FBI and agreed to cooperate in an undercover investigation. Subsequently, the FBI arranged for ORLANDO to meet an undercover agent, posing as a corrupt immigration official. These and later meetings would be recorded by the FBI.

ORLANDO told other members and associates of the Gambino family of the cooperating witness’s purported contact with corrupt government officials; this in turn led other defendants to contact the cooperating witness in attempts to further other criminal schemes.

For example, the indictment alleges that ORLANDO, Gambino family associates JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO and STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, and Sicilian mafia associates FRANCESCO NANIA and his brother-in-law VITO RAPPA offered bribes to the cooperating witness’s purported corrupt contact at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") to arrange for the release of NANIA from federal detention, where he was being detained in connection with his immigration status. NANIA has since been charged in a criminal complaint filed in the District of NewJersey with making false statements in immigration applications.

NANIA and RAPPA paid approximately $70,000 to ORLANDO and the cooperating witness in order to secure NANIA’s release. According to the government’s detention letter, NANIA was previously convicted in Italy for mafia-related aggravated attempted extortion, and Italian law enforcement authorities are seeking his extradition to Italy.

In another scheme alleged in the indictment, ORLANDO, FAMIGLIETTA, and Luchese family associate JERRY DEGEROLAMO are charged with illegally conspiring to smuggle gold bars worth millions of dollars from the Philippines into the United States.

The defendants planned to use the cooperating witness to bribe his purported corrupt ICE contact to ensure the success of the scheme.

The criminal complaint filed today also charges that ORLANDO and Gambino family associate JAMES AVALONE plotted to bribe the purported corrupt ICE contact to protect from investigation by immigration officials a New Jersey spa owned by AVALONE, and paid ORLANDO more than $100,000 in an effort to gain access to the supposed ICE contact in order to obtain legal immigration status for the women who worked in the space.

As set forth in the documents filed in connection with today’s arrests, during the course of the investigation, several defendants discussed their willingness to commit violent acts in furtherance of their criminal activity. In one recorded conversation concerning the cooperating witness’s outstanding loansharking debt to Gambino family captain GEORGE DECICCO, DECICCO stated, "I’ll burn your eyes, did you ever screw me? Do you want me to burn your eyes out?" In another conversation, Gambino family soldier ORLANDO admits committing eight murders: "I got eight under my belt already, so I don’t give a f--- who nine’s gonna be. . . . " In a conversation recorded during a trip to Las Vegas to collect a $250,000 debt, ORLANDO stated that he was "going to shoot him [the debtor] in his f------ knee for starters."

"We are committed to eradicating the violence and corrupting influence of organized crime in our communities," stated United States Attorney Mauskopf. "The investigation and prosecution of organized crime continues to be a priority of this office." Ms. Mauskopf thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their outstanding cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mershon stated, "George DeCicco has operated continuously for so long that his arrest today is like the end of Cal Ripken’s consecutive-game streak. The difference is that Ripken’s streak ended when he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup. Today’s arrests also show that New York-based mobsters and the Sicilian mafia are willing to work together, which is why the FBI and Italian law enforcement authorities have solidified an already-strong partnership. We will continue to maintain vigilance against the threat posed by organized crime."

If convicted of racketeering or racketeering conspiracy, defendants GEORGE DECICCO, JOSEPH ORLANDO, JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO, STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, ROBERT DECICCO, RICHARD JULIANO, and RICHARD J. JULIANO face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of attempted bank fraud, defendants KURT RICCI and MICHAEL FICHERA face a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of bribery, VITO RAPPA and FRANCESCO NANIA face a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, and if convicted of conspiracy, defendants JAMES AVALONE and JERRY DEGEROLAMO face a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment.

Mafia Library

Crime Family Index