Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor Is in the Mafia

10. He seems to do really well for a guy who runs a candy store that's open one or two hours a day
9. His partner in the neighborhood 3-legged race: Vincent "The Chin" Gigante
8. For his son's birthday, buys him a U.S. senator
7. Your tomato plants keep getting singed by the cars exploding in his driveway
6. Tuesday: paper boy misses porch; Wednesday: paper boy gets "iced"
5. All his anecdotes end with, "So I blew his head off"
4. Two goons show up and make your wife reveal the family recipe for apple crisp
3. At their Halloween party, they bob for mob informants
2. After having an argument with his kid, your kid wakes up with the head of Tickle Me Elmo on his pillow
1. His lawn gnome is riddled with bulletholes

Thanks to David Letterman.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tony Montana Has Game, Scarface - The World is Yours Collector's Edition Video Game

Video Game Tony Montana in Action
Gangster Tony Montana is iconic, extreme and exactly the way Vivendi Games sees its release "Scarface The World Is Yours Collector's Edition." Developers went to great lengths to infuse the project with all of the creativity and craftsmanship that go into a tentpole feature film.

The "Scarface" franchise was "built for the video game generation before video games existed," according to Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger. "Now that technology and the audience have all caught up, we're hoping for great results."

"World," produced by Sierra Entertainment, allows players to assume the persona of the sneering, ruthless crime boss who stormed the screen in Brian De Palma's 1983 film amid a ferocious hail of bullets, blood and four-letter words.

Shmuger calls the game, which took three years to create, an "A-plus" production. Striving to adhere to the movie's spirit, story line, characters and locations to create a sequel of sorts, developers first answered the question: How does one build a game around a film in which the main character dies?

Screenwriter David McKenna was brought onboard to craft a game story worthy of the iconic drug lord. He proposed: What if Tony gets out of the movie's mansion shootout alive but with nothing -- no power, real estate or money?

According to "World" executive producer Pete Wanat, players must rebuild Tony's empire from scratch, earning back his cash, clout and crib. "They can pimp out his house however the player wants it done," he says.

Game developers painstakingly portrayed details in order to create a "fictional extension" of the film. "The fictional extension is not to tell the movie story but to fill in the blanks," says Bill Kispert, vp interactive at Universal Studios Consumer Products Group.

Locations such as Tony's mansion, the Babylon Club and the Sun Ray Motel are identical to those in the film, he adds. "Tony still hates Colombians, and he still has a propensity for dropping the F-word," Wanat says.

The biggest coup for Vivendi was bringing Al Pacino onboard to review the characters and other game elements. "World" marks the first time the actor has allowed his likeness to be used in a video game, according to Kispert.

Says Wanat: "Tony is a much-loved character. You have to nail that character -- it can't just be OK. It's gotta look like Tony, walk like Tony and talk like Tony."

Pacino insisted on bringing Tony's moral code into "World," especially given the popularity of violent video games such as those in the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. "Scarface" has a body count of 42, but Tony does not hurt innocents -- and the game does not allow players to do so, either.

If a "World" player lines up an innocent woman and attempts to shoot her, Tony's voice will issue a reprimand like, "That goes against my code!" "If you did this game without that, it wouldn't be Tony Montana," Wanat says. But that does not mean the game version of Tony will take it easy on his enemies, or that there is a lack of action. "World" opens with a shootout scene at Tony's mansion and does not slow from there.

Striving to match De Palma's crisp colors and rich textures, Wanat and his team were supported by production values including THX sound, effects from Skywalker Sound, McKenna's script and musical licensing from top artists.

Rounding out the talent are about 40 Hollywood actors, many of whom requested to be a part of the game. Joining the film's Steven Bauer and Robert Loggia were Ricky Gervais, Elliott Gould, Oliver Platt, James Woods, the music industry's B Real, Ice-T, Ivy Queen and Lemmy of Motorhead and even popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A collectors' edition of "World" will be available for a limited time for PS2. The specially packaged set includes a bonus DVD featuring a "Making of the Game" documentary, a walk-through with producer commentary, cast interviews, playing tips and a map of the game world.

Thanks to Angelique Flores

The Godfather Returns

Forty-three years ago, Mario Puzo’s great American tale, The Godfather, was published, and popular culture was indelibly changed.

In The Godfather Returns, acclaimed novelist Mark Winegardner continues the story–the years not covered in Puzo’s bestselling book or in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic films.

It is 1955. Michael Corleone has won a bloody victory in the war among New York’s crime families. Now he wants to consolidate his power, save his marriage, and take his family into legitimate businesses. To do so, he must confront his most dangerous adversary yet, Nick Geraci, a former boxer who worked his way through law school as a Corleone street enforcer, and who is every bit as deadly and cunning as Michael. Their personal cold war will run from 1955 to 1962, exerting immense influence on the lives of America’s most powerful criminals and their loved ones, including


  • Tom Hagen, the Corleone Family’s lawyer and consigliere, who embarks on a political career in Nevada while trying to protect his brother;
  • Francesca Corleone, daughter of Michael’s late brother Sonny, who is suddenly learning her family’s true history and faces a difficult choice;
  • Don Louie Russo, head of the Chicago mob, who plays dumb but has wily ambitions for muscling in on the Corleones’ territory;
  • Peter Clemenza, the stalwart Corleone underboss, who knows more Family secrets than almost anyone;
  • Ambassador M. Corbett Shea, a former Prohibition-era bootlegger and business ally of the Corleones’, who wants to get his son elected to the presidency–and needs some help from his old friends;
  • Johnny Fontane, the world’s greatest saloon singer, who ascends to new heights as a recording artist, cozying up to Washington’s power elite and maintaining a precarious relationship with notorious underworld figures;
  • Kay Adams Corleone, who finally discovers the truth about her husband, Michael–and must decide what it means for their marriage and their children and
  • Fredo Corleone, whose death has never been fully explained until now, and whose betrayal of the Family was part of a larger and more sinister chain of events.


Sweeping from New York and Washington to Las Vegas and Cuba, The Godfather Returns is the spellbinding story of America’s criminal underworld at mid-century and its intersection with the political, legal, and entertainment empires. Mark Winegardner brings an original voice and vision to Mario Puzo’s mythic characters while creating several equally unforgettable characters of his own. The Godfather Returns stands on its own as a triumph–in a tale about what we love, yearn for, and sometimes have reason to fear . . . family.

The Godather II Video Game Goes Gold

Electronic Arts has announced that its slightly-delayed organized crime action game The Godfather II has gold gold for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

The Godfather II puts players in the role of DominicThe Godfather II Video Game, a made mad in the Italian mod. After the leader of Dominic's family is killed at a mob meeting in Havana on the eve of the Cuban Revolution, the Corleone family recruits Dominic to act as Don so Michael Corleone keeps his hands clean while under investigation by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime. Aided by the Corleone's consigliere Tom Hagan (voiced by the role's originator Robert Duvall), Dominic has to figure out how to run his crew, expand a mob empire, reach out to corrupt officials, keep mob rivals in check, and set up new rackets in new markets like Miami and Cuba.

Although an action game, The Godfather II also features a "revolutionary" "Don's View" which offers a 3D visualization of criminal activities, enabling a player to coordinate their strategy and plan their moves.

The Godfather II is rated M for "Mature" by the ESRB.

Thanks to Geoff Duncan

Friday, June 26, 2015

National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets INSIDE THE MAFIA

Four-Hour Series Pierces Inner Workings and Violent History of the Criminal Corporation With Global Reach

Through a pop culture lens, the notorious and mysterious Mafia is typically seen as entertainment: The Godfather; The Sopranos; Goodfellas; Donnie Brasco. Now the National Geographic Channel (NGC) exposes the dramatic history and infiltrates the legendary secrecy of one of the world's most powerful criminal organizations in the four-hour world premiere event, INSIDE THE MAFIA.

Narrated by Ray Liotta -- star of the film Goodfellas -- INSIDE THE MAFIA will premiere Monday, June 13 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 from 9 to 11 pm. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (encore Sunday, June 19 from 7 to 11 p.m. ET). Four programs -- Mafia? What Mafia?, Going Global, The Great Betrayal and The Godfathers -- chronologically trace the growth of the U.S. and Sicilian Mafias, as well as the determined American and Italian efforts to stop it.

"It's not personal; it's just business" is a popular catchphrase attributed to the Mafia's code of honor. And big business it is -- its global assets were on par with some of the richest corporations in the world, bursting for a time with billions in annual profits derived from much of the world's drug trade.

With remarkable access to FBI and DEA agents as well as members of crime families, INSIDE THE MAFIA provides the complete behind-the-scenes story of this powerful enterprise known for its ruthlessness and brutality.

Featured are new and original interviews with influential mobsters like Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and Gambino family soldier Dominick Montiglio, and, on the law enforcement side, Joseph Pistone, the fearless real-life FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco," and DEA undercover agent Frank Panessa, among many others.

Cutthroat deals, gangland assassinations and secret rituals within the infamous global mob are described by these insiders in intimate detail. "The bathroom door was slightly open and there were two bodies hanging with their throats cut," said Montiglio. "Everyone had butcher's kits and they sawed off everything ... chopped off the head, arms, etcetera. Then put them in a box and took 'em to the dumpster. Suffice to say, none of them were ever found."

In addition to inside access to important characters and events, the special uses contemporary and archival news footage, FBI and Italian police surveillance, telephone intercepts, transcriptions from major Mafia trials and dramatic reenactments of clandestine meetings and violent confrontations.

INSIDE THE MAFIA interweaves two parallel stories. The first is the emergence of a "new Mafia" after a historic deal between American and Italian mob families to control the international heroin trade. The second is the tale of the strong anti-Mafia campaign, spearheaded by a small group of law officers determined to permanently undermine the culture and infrastructure of the Cosa Nostra.

Over the course of the series, viewers will become familiar with a core group of warring protagonists. In the Mafia are men like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a Sicilian immigrant who by 1931 murdered his way to the top of the American Mafia; famous mob leader Joe Bonnano; Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who emerged in the 1980s as perhaps the most ruthless and violent Mafia boss ever; Tomasso Buscetta, whose decision to break the Mafia's strict code of silence set in motion a series of events giving U.S. and Italian authorities the upper hand in identifying and tracking key mobsters; reputed Mafia godfather John Gotti; and soldiers like Hill and Montiglio, whose tales of living and working inside the Mafia are gruesome and often shocking.

Fighting the Mafia are Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecutor who challenged the Mafia's power and paid the ultimate price; Pistone ("Donnie Brasco") who still has a mob contract out on his life ("Once folks found out about my cover, there was a contract on me," he says in the program. "It's not something I think about all the time ... if it happens, it happens ... and may the best man win."); Giovanni Falcone's sister, Maria, who was privy to much of her brother's strategy and key events in his life; and lesser-known law officers with colorful and suspenseful inside stories, like Panessa and Carmine Russo, who shadowed the Bonnano crime family.

The rise of the modern Mafia is a gripping and often tragic tale of corruption, crime, murder and betrayal by two distinct operations -- the Sicilian Mafia, running multinational efforts from Palermo, and the American Mafia, controlling one of the biggest marketplaces in the world. Their separate but symbiotic relationship is one that perpetually eluded and confounded U.S. and Italian authorities.

In 1957, a police raid on a Mafia summit in upstate New York revealed to the nation evidence of "organized crime." However, the Cold War took priority at the time, and mob activity continued to thrive. Major breakthroughs in the 1980s cracked open the Mafia's highly lucrative drug trade, and exposed the global reach and immense profits of its dealings.

In the U.S. today, the mob's activities have been scaled back, particularly now that narcotics are distributed via different mobs from the Far East and South America. John Gotti's prosecution created a domino effect, crippling all five of the crime families of New York. They are now a shadow of an organization that once claimed politicians as their friends; however, as recent arrests have indicated, the Mafia continues to operate in some capacity in the U.S. In the past few months, New York authorities indicted 32 people after a two-and-half year "Donnie Brasco style" undercover sting, and 14 Chicago Mafia members were indicted in April, a move authorities claim shed light on 18 previously unsolved murders dating back to 1970.

In Sicily, the situation is very different. The Mafia has largely abandoned its policy of violence in order to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities; however, according to the chief prosecutor of Palermo, they are even more dangerous now that many people believe that the problem is in some way over.

The days of the Mafia's massive, unchecked drug-dealing have gone, but INSIDE THE MAFIA shows that the organization -- particularly its blueprint for how national and ethnic groups can operate on a global scale -- continues to be a thriving and insidious role model for racketeering everywhere.

INSIDE THE MAFIA is produced for NGC by Wall to Wall Media. Jonathan Hewes is executive in charge of production; Alex West is executive producer; Charlie Smith is producer. For NGC, CarolAnne Dolan is supervising producer; Michael Cascio is executive producer; John Ford is executive in charge of production.

Time to End Mob Stereotypes?

FIFTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO this fall, in the tiny town of Apalachin, near Binghamton, N.Y., Americans were unexpected guests at the coming-out party for organized crime. American popular culture has never been the same since then. Neither has the psyche of Italian-Americans.

The Apalachin conclave of 1957 was the final event in a series of truly Byzantine shifts and alliances in the world of organized crime. As the iconic "Godfather" film notes, there had been a great struggle in the mob over drug trafficking. By the spring of 1957, it had become nearly impossible to salvage the non-trafficking accord crafted by leaders some 10 years prior.

The key figure in the drama was Frank Costello, the flashy, debonair "prime minister," so-called for his political talents, who tried to maintain the sanction against drug dealing. He was allied with powerful leaders like Joe Bonanno and Albert Anastasia. However, others such as Vito Genovese favored narcotics trafficking as good business. As a result of many machinations, a contract was put out on Frank Costello in May, 1957. Most surprisingly, the attempt failed.

Costello retired from "office," but Albert Anastasia, once the CEO of Murder Incorporated, wished to hit Genovese. According to Bill Bonanno's book, Joe Bonanno convinced Anastasia to sit tight while he (Joe) was on a trip to Italy. On Oct. 25, 1957, while relaxing in a barber's chair, Anastasia was gunned down in what was the most famously reported and photographed mob hit ever.

This assassination was equivalent to a political coup d'etat. To prevent the chaos of all-out war, a number of diplomatic meetings were held to reestablish order: who would forego vengeance, who would sell drugs, how the syndicate would continue in the future. The Apalachin meeting was to be the last of these diplomatic congresses. But some good luck and some good police work put an end to the mob convention before it began. The group was dispersed, as were doubts about the existence of organized crime.

Since the coming out at Apalachin, the idea of an American Empire of Crime seized upon the popular imagination, and mob figures, books, TV dramas and movies became cultural icons. The TV show "The Untouchables," (1959-1963) portrayed Eliot Ness battling hundreds and hundreds of Italian-American gangsters. For America, it became clear that all Italian-Americans were mobsters and all mobsters were Italian-Americans.

Fortunately, Italian-Americans could proudly point to the fact that one (just one) of Ness' lieutenants was himself an Italian-American. Pheww!

This flat-out stereotyping found Italian-Americans powerless to resist it or change it.

With the release of "The Godfather" movies in 1972 and 1974, America was treated to a different view of organized crime and its Italian connections. The intense character portrayals and brilliant acting in these films made Italian-American crime lords sympathetic figures who exercised a favorable hold on the national imagination. For various reasons, movies about Louis Lepke (with Milton Berle), Bugsy Siegel and Dutch Schultz failed to create a similar standing for Jewish-American mobsters.

For the psyche of Italian-Americans, the result of the "Godfather" movies was truly schizophrenic. Should they condemn or admire the heroes of the films, even as the majority of Americans seemed to lionize them?

The release of HBO's hugely popular and successful drama "The Sopranos" brought organized crime into our living rooms, each episode willingly accepted and highly anticipated by the American public. The mobsters fleeing in the Apalachin countryside wound up safe at home in our living rooms and rec rooms!

Certifying this change has been the rise of tourism and museums dedicated to the history of mobsters and organized crime. In Chicago, there is a popular Al Capone bus tour taking tourists to gangland sites.

The Chicago Historical Museum's Web site gets 50,000 hits a month for Al Capone, but only 10,000 for the Great Chicago Fire.

In Las Vegas, Mayor Oscar Goodman is founding a "Mob Museum." The project is a good bet to succeed, according to some museum consultants. So it comes as no surprise that in little Apalachin, the owner of Angelo's Pizza is working with the online store nymobstore.com, which sells mob memorabilia. The items range from Frank Costello T-shirts to special key chains, with plans to sell the tomato sauce made by Fat Clemenza in Godfather.

Since Apalachin 58 years ago, the mob has been sanitized and found fit for American cultural consumption. The Sopranos' show recently won three more Emmys.

Only one thing remains to be done. Our government should come into the 21st century and stop labeling crime groups by the names of Italian-American leaders who have long gone from the scene, replaced by other ethnic groups whose chronicles and films are now being made.

Thanks to Silvio Laccetti

Donnie Brasco on The Sopranos

The best way to know if a show about the mob is authentic is to ask a mobster. But that's scary. So we did the next best thing. We invited former FBI agent-turned-mob-infiltrator-turned-mob informer Joseph Pistone (the real Donnie Brasco) to watch "The Sopranos" and give us his thoughts.

An expert on organized crime, Pistone served six years undercover in the notorious Bonanno crime family in New York City. His testimony helped lead to the arrest of more than 175 criminals.

Pistone is sharing his Mafia knowledge with his book Way Of The Wiseguy, a funny and frightening look at how one becomes a wiseguy. It's like a FAQ on the world of Cosa Nostra, showing a typical day in the life of a gangster: the dos and don'ts of the Mafia code; interactions with their families and other thugs, and their unique and creative use of language.
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"People are fascinated because they think they would like to live like a wiseguy," Pistone explains. In the movies, the guys are tough, always have cash and lead exciting lives. But Pistone warns, "What they don't see is the treachery involved."

Here's what Pistone had to say about "The Sopranos":

Tony looks for buried money in the backyard.

"That would happen," Pistone said. "They bury it and then go look for it later." Pistone said he knew guys who would wrap money in leather bags and then stick them in the drainage system of a sink in an unused bathroom, for example. Seems Chase Bank just isn't an option.

The criminal's usual dapper attire.

That is pretty accurate, Pistone said. There is no such thing as a casual Friday in the mob. "You don't see guys wearing jeans," he said. "When they were grooming me, they said they wanted me to dress neat. Most of these guys have slacks or something. One of the things they didn't want to see was a pair of Levis. "They wanted to portray an image."

The jargon.
Pistone said most of the dialogue in the show is accurate -- he thinks there may be someone on "the inside" who is helping out the writers -- but he did find one particular thing jarring: the foul language used in front of the women. "I have been to many dinners at wiseguys' houses where their wives were there or their mothers, and I never heard those guys use vulgarity around the kitchen table," he said. "I was around these guys for six years and I never heard any vulgar language around women."

A meeting in Tony's office.
Pistone said he is disappointed by some mob movies where the boss' office is a palatial pad with fancy furniture and paintings. It looks like the office of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. "Tony's office is the way most of the offices looked like, in the back of a club," Pistone said about Soprano's office in the back of the Bada Bing club. "There was nothing fancy about it."

Tony and his wife go to a sushi restaurant.
Pistone laughs. "That would never happen," he said. "I never knew a mob guy who would go eat sushi." According to Pistone, the wiseguy diet consists pretty much of two types of cuisines -- (obviously) Italian and (surprisingly) Chinese. "That was the two main dinners," he said. "Why they love Chinese food, I don't know."

Tony kids around with lawmen he knows are investigating him.
"That's a good scene," Pistone said. He said that it wasn't unusual to see mobsters talking to the cops who were tailing them. He said the cops would sometimes hang out at the mob joints just to let the wiseguys know that they were onto them. And the wiseguys, in turn, would let them know they knew they were being watched. He said many times there was good natured ribbing. "It's done with mutual respect," he said. "You can bust the agents' balls, but you can't go too far. You can't make it too personal."

Tony gets an envelope of money at a funeral parlor.
That may be the best place to do business, Pistone said. "That is a great place to hand off money because you know the place isn't going to be bugged," he said. And any undercover cop would be spotted easily because he'd be recognized in a place where it was only family and friends, he said.

Tony and Paulie walk outside to talk.

"That's called a walk and talk," Pistone said. "You walk out of the back of a building so you can talk without being recorded or listened to." Pistone said the ambient noise of the outside -- traffic, birds, people -- make it hard for police to record conversations.

One of Tony's guys walks into a hot dog stand and kills a customer.
That's the way it's done, Piston said. Walk in, shoot the guy, drop the gun, walk out. Nothing is ever said to the man who is shot. "It's nothing personal about it," he said. "It's business."

*Paulie "Walnuts," Johnny "Sack," Bobby "Bacala" ...
"Everybody has a nickname. It might be something you get as a kid or later on. And once you get a nickname, you can't get rid of it," he said. Piston said he knew guys with colorful nicknames. Bobby "Badheart" who was called that because he had a pacemaker. Charlie "Chains" wore a lot of jewelry. "You can know a guy for 10 years and you'd never know his last name," Pistone said. "Nobody would ever introduce someone with their last name and nobody would ever ask."

Tony sees a therapist.
"Would never happen," he said. Pistone said any Mafioso who went to a therapist probably would end up dead. Too many secrets could be revealed. And, Pistone said, there's a little thing called ego that could keep a wiseguy off the couch. "They are called 'wiseguys' for a reason. They think they are wise and know everything," Pistone said. "They aren't going to go to someone else for answers."

Thanks to Lucio Guerrero


Hitting the Mafia

The aging bosses seated at the defense table in the packed federal courtroom in lower Manhattan look harmless enough to be spectators at a Sunday-after noon boccie game. Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, 75, the reputed head of the Genovese crime family, sits aloof and alone, his left eye red and swollen from surgery. White-haired Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corallo, 73, the alleged Lucchese family chief, is casual in a cardigan and sport shirt. Carmine (Junior) Persico, 53, is the balding, baggy-eyed showman of the trio. Elegant in a black pinstripe suit, a crisp white shirt and red tie, the accused Colombo crime boss is acting as his own attorney. "By now I guess you all know my name is Carmine Persico and I'm not a lawyer, I'm a defendant," he humbly told the jury in a thick Brooklyn accent. "Bear with me, please," he said, shuffling through his notes. "I'm a little nervous."

As Persico spoke, three young prosecutors watched, armed with the evidence they hope will show that Junior and his geriatric cohorts are the leaders of a murderous, brutal criminal conspiracy that reaches across the nation. In a dangerous four-year investigation, police and FBI agents had planted bugs around Mafia hangouts and listened to endless hours of tiresome chatter about horses, cars and point spreads while waiting patiently for incriminating comments. They pressured mobsters into becoming informants. They carefully charted the secret family ties, linking odd bits of evidence to reveal criminal patterns. They helped put numerous mafiosi, one by one and in groups, behind bars. But last week, after a half-century in business, the American Mafia itself finally went on trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff, whose bushy mustache could not hide his tender age of 32, addressed the anonymous jurors in calm, methodical tones. Chertoff charged flatly that the Mafia is run by a coordinating Commission and that the eight defendants, representing four of New York City's five nationally powerful Mob families, were either on this crime board or had carried out its racketeering dictates. "What you will see is these men," he said, "these crime leaders, fighting with each other, backstabbing each other, each one trying to get a larger share of the illegal proceeds. You are going to learn that this Commission is dominated by a single principle -- greed. They want more money, and they will do what they have to do to get it."

Across the East River in another federal courthouse in Brooklyn, a jury was being selected for the racketeering trial of the most powerful of all U.S. Mafia families: the Gambinos. Here a younger, more flamboyant crime boss strutted through the courtroom, snapping out orders to subservient henchmen, reveling in his new and lethally acquired notoriety. John Gotti, 45, romanticized in New York City's tabloids as the "Dapper Don" for his tailored $1,800 suits and carefully coiffed hair, has been locked in prison without bail since May, only a few months after he allegedly took control of the Gambino gang following the murder of the previous boss, Paul Castellano.

Gotti, who seemed to personify a vigorous new generation of mobster, may never have a chance to inherit his criminal kingdom. Prosecutor Diane Giacalone, 36, says tapes of conversations between Gotti and his lieutenants, recorded by a trusted Gambino "soldier" turned informant, will provide "direct evidence of John Gotti's role as manager of a gambling enterprise." If convicted, the new crime chief and six lieutenants could be imprisoned for up to 40 years.

The stage has thus been set for the beginning of two of the most significant trials in U.S. Mob history. Finally realizing the full potential of the once slighted Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, federal prosecutors are trying to destroy Mafia families by convincing juries that their very existence is a crime, that their leaders should be imprisoned for long terms and that, eventually, even their ill-gotten gains can be - confiscated. Success in the New York cases, following an unprecedented series of indictments affecting 17 of the 24 Mafia families in the U.S., would hit the Mob where it would hurt most. Out of a formal, oath-taking national Mafia membership of some 1,700, at least half belong to the five New York clans, each of which is larger and more effective than those in any other city.

"The Mafia will be crushed," vows Rudolph Giuliani, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has been leading the major anti-Mafia crusade and who takes personal affront at the damage done by the Mob to the image of his fellow law-abiding Italian Americans. Declares G. Robert Blakey, a Notre Dame Law School professor who drafted the 1970 RICO law now being used so effectively against organized crime: "It's the twilight of the Mob. It's not dark yet for them, but the sun is going down." Insists John L. Hogan, chief of the FBI's New York office: "We are out to demolish a multiheaded monster and all its tentacles and support systems and followers."

More cynical, or possibly more realistic, law-enforcement authorities doubt that these grand goals can be achieved. But they nonetheless admire the determination and the sophisticated tactics that the current prosecutors are bringing to a battle that has been fought, mostly in vain, ever since the crime-breeding days of Prohibition. Even the doubters concede that the new campaign is off to an impressive start.

From 1981 through last year, federal prosecutors brought 1,025 indictments against 2,554 mafiosi, and have convicted 809 Mafia members or their uninitiated "associates." Many of the remaining cases are still pending. Among all criminal organizations, including such non-Mafia types as motorcycle gangs and Chinese and Latin American drug traffickers, the FBI compiled evidence that last year alone led to 3,803 indictments and 2,960 convictions. At the least, observes the FBI's Hogan, all this legal action means the traditional crime families "are bleeding, they're demoralized."

In Chicago, where the "Outfit" has always been strong, the conviction last January of four top local mobsters for directing the tax-free skimming of cash from two Las Vegas casinos has forced the ailing Anthony Accardo, 80, to return from a comfortable retirement in Palm Springs, Calif., to keep an eye on an inexperienced group of hoods trying to run the rackets. The same skimming case has crippled the mob leadership in Kansas City, Milwaukee and , Cleveland. The New England Mafia, jolted by the convictions in April of Underboss Gennaro Anguilo, 67, and three of his brothers, who operate out of Boston, is described by the FBI as being in a "state of chaos." Of the major Mob clans, only those in Detroit and Newark remain relatively unscathed. But the muscle of organized crime has been most formidable in New York City. Prosecutors have been attacking it with increasing success, but expect to score their biggest win in the so-called Commission case (dubbed Star Chamber by federal investigators). Chertoff and two other young prosecutors handling their first big trial will have to prove that a national Commission made up of the bosses and some underbosses of the major families has been dividing turf and settling disputes among the crime clans ever since New York's ruthless "Lucky" Luciano organized the Commission in 1931. Luciano acted to end the gang warfare that had wiped out at least 40 mobsters in just two days in September of that year. Before that, top gangsters like Salvatore Maranzano had conspired to shoot their way into becoming the capo di tutti capi ("Boss of Bosses"). Maranzano, who had organized New York's Sicilian gangsters into five families, was the first victim of Luciano's new order.

For more than two decades the Mafia managed to keep its board of directors hidden from the outside world, until November 1957, when police staged a celebrated raid on a national mobsters' convention in Apalachin, N.Y. In 1963 former Mafia Soldier Joseph Valachi told a Senate investigating subcommittee all about La Cosa Nostra, the previously secret name under which the brotherhood had operated. After the Mafia had been romanticized in books and movies like The Godfather, some mobsters became brazen about their affairs. In 1983 former New York Boss Joseph Bonanno even published an autobiography about his Mafia years.

Reading that book, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, helped Giuliani realize that the little understood 1970 RICO act could be used against the Mob. "Bonanno has an entire section devoted to the Commission," Giuliani recalled. "It seemed to me that if he could write about it, we could prosecute it."

Bonanno, 82, seems to have had second thoughts about what he triggered. The aged boss has left his Arizona retirement mansion to serve a contempt-of-court sentence in a Springfield, Mo., federal prison rather than give testimony in the Commission trial. The mobster turned author, says one investigator, "is hearing footsteps."

Brought to bay in a courtroom, the Mafia bosses have adopted an unusual defense: rather than fight the Government's efforts to prove the existence of La Cosa Nostra, they admit it. "This case is not about whether there is a Mafia," thundered Defense Attorney Samuel Dawson. "Assume it. Accept it. There is." Nevertheless, he told the jury, "just because a person is a member of the Mafia doesn't mean he has committed the charged crime or even agreed to commit the charged crime." Dawson depicted the Commission as a sort of underworld businessmen's round table that approves new Mafia members and arbitrates disputes. Its purpose, he insisted, is "to avoid -- avoid -- conflict."

Much more sinister conspiracies will be described by Government witnesses in the trial. The prosecutors will contend that the Commission approved three murders and directed loan-sharking and an extensive extortion scheme against the New York City construction industry. The killings involve the 1979 rubout of Bonanno Boss Carmine Galante and two associates. Bonanno Soldier Anthony Indelicato, 30, and alleged current Bonanno Boss Philip (Rusty) Rastelli, 68, are accused of plotting the hit, with the Commission's blessing, to prevent Galante from seizing control of the Gambino family. (Rastelli, already engaged in a separate racketeering case, will face trial later.) The jurors will see a videotape of Indelicato, who is a defendant in the Commission case, being congratulated shortly after the killings by high-ranking Gambino family members at its Ravenite Social Club. "Watch the way they shake hands, watch the way they are congratulating each other," said Prosecutor Chertoff.

The crux of the Government's case, however, is more prosaic than murder. It details a Commission-endorsed scheme to rig bids and allocate contracts to Mob influenced concrete companies in New York City's booming construction industry. Any concrete-pouring contract worth more than $2 million was controlled by the Mob, according to the indictment, and the gangsters decided who should submit the lowest bids. Any company that disobeyed the bidding rules might find itself with unexpected labor problems, and its sources of cement might dry up. The club dues, actually a form of extortion, amounted to $1.8 million between 1981 and 1984. The Mob also demanded a 2% cut of the value of the contracts it controlled.

The key defendant on this charge is Ralph Scopo, 57, a soldier in the Colombo family, and just as importantly, the president of the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council before he was indicted. Scopo is accused of accepting many of the payoffs from the participating concrete firms. Scopo's lawyer admits the union leader took payoffs, but he and the other attorneys deny it was part of a broader extortion scheme. Since the Mafia leaders own some of the construction companies, said Dawson, the Government was claiming "that these men extort themselves."

Although the Commission trial involves four of New York's five Mob families, a more recent murder plot has prevented the Gambino family from being represented. Former Gambino Boss Paul Castellano and Underboss Aniello Dellacroce had been indicted. But Dellacroce, 71, died last Dec. 2 of cancer. Just 14 days later Castellano, 72, and Thomas Bilotti, 45, his trusted bodyguard and the apparent choice to succeed Dellacroce, were the victims of yet another sensational Mob hit as they walked, unarmed, from their car toward a mid-Manhattan steak house.

Law-enforcement agents are convinced that Gotti, a protege of Dellacroce's, helped plot the Castellano and Bilotti slayings to ensure his own rise to the top of the Gambino clan. No one, however, has been charged with those slayings. The Castellano hit may not come up at the racketeering trial of Gotti, his brother Eugene and four Gambino associates. But two other murders and a conspiracy to commit murder are among 15 crimes that the Government says formed a pattern of participation in a criminal enterprise. The defendants are also accused of planning two armored-car robberies, other hijackings and gambling, and conspiracy to commit extortion.

The major evidence in the Gotti case was provided through a bugging scheme worthy of a James Bond movie. In 1984 Gambino Soldier Dominick Lofaro, 56, was arrested in upstate New York on heroin charges. Facing a 20-year sentence, he agreed to become a Government informant. Investigators wired him with a tiny microphone taped to his chest and a miniature cassette recorder, no bigger than two packs of gum, that fitted into the small of his back without producing a bulge. Equipped with a magnetic switch on a cigarette lighter to activate the recorder, Lofaro coolly discussed Gambino family affairs with the unsuspecting Gotti brothers. Afterward he placed the tapes inside folded copies of the New York Times business section and dropped them in a preselected trash bin. Lofaro provided the Government with more than 50 tapes over two years. Says one admiring investigator: "You can't help wondering how many sleepless nights he spent knowing that if caught he would get a slow cutting job by a knife expert."

The increasing use of wiretaps and tapes, says another investigator, is "like opening a Pandora's box of the Mafia's top secrets and letting them all hang out in the open." Both top Mafia trials will depend heavily on tapes as evidence, as have numerous RICO cases around the country. The FBI's bugging has increased sharply, from just 90 court-approved requests in 1982 to more than 150 in each of the past two years. The various investigating agencies, including state and local police, have found novel places to hide their bugs: in a Perrier bottle, a stuffed toy, a pair of binoculars, shoes, an electric blanket, a horse's saddle. Agents even admit to dropping snooping devices into a confessional at a Roman Catholic church frequented by mobsters, as well as a church candlestick holder and a church men's room. All this, agents insist, was done with court permission.

An agent posing as a street hot-dog vendor in a Mafia neighborhood in New York City discovered which public telephone was being used by gangsters to call sources in Sicily about heroin shipments. The phone was quickly tapped, and the evidence it provided has been used in the ongoing "pizza connection" heroin trial against U.S. and Sicilian mobsters.

The agents were even able to slip a bug into "Big Paul" Castellano's house on Staten Island some two years before he was murdered. Ironically, they heard Castellano apparently complaining about Sparks Steak House, the site of his death. "You know who's really busy making a real fortune?" Big Paul asked a crony. "(Expletive) Sparks. I don't get 5 cents when I go in there. I want you to know that. Shut the house this way if I don't get 5 cents." In Mob lingo, authorities speculate, he seemed to be warning that the restaurant would be closed if it did not start paying extortion money to the Gambino family.

In Boston, FBI agents acquired details on the interiors of two Mafia apartments in the city's North End. With court approval, agents picked the locks early in the morning and planted bugs that produced 800 hours of recordings. The monitoring agents learned fascinating tidbits about Mob mores. Ilario Zannino was heard explaining how dangerous it is to kill just one member of a gang. "If you're clipping people," he said, "I always say, make sure you clip the people around him first. Get them together, 'cause everybody's got a friend. He could be the dirtiest (expletive) in the world, but someone that likes this guy, that's the guy that sneaks you." They heard Zannino and John Cincotti complaining about a competing Irish gang of hoods. Said Cincotti: "They don't have the scruples that we have." Zannino agreed. "You know how I knew they weren't Italiano? When they bombed the (expletive) house. We don't do that."

A major break in the Commission case came on a rainy night in March 1983 when two agents of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force carried out a well-rehearsed planting of a tiny radio transmitter in a 1982 black Jaguar used by "Tony Ducks" Corallo. In a parking lot outside a restaurant in Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island, one agent carefully opened a door, pressing the switch that would otherwise turn on the interior lights. Another helped him spread a plastic sheath over the seats so that rain would not spot the upholstery. With a stopwatch at hand, they quickly removed the dashboard, installed the bug, replaced the dash and closed the car door. The operation took 15 minutes.

For four months the bug transmitted intimate Mob conversations between the Lucchese boss and his driver, Salvatore Avellino, to agents trailing discreetly in various "chase cars," which rebroadcast the signals to a recording van. "It was the most significant information regarding the structure and function of the Commission that has ever been obtained from electronic surveillance," declared Ronald Goldstock, chief of the Organized Crime Task Force. After building his own case against the Lucchese family for a local carting-industry racket, Goldstock alerted Giuliani to the broader implications of using the evidence to attack the Mob's controlling Commission.

Where federal agents and local police once distrusted one another and often collided in their organized-crime investigations, a new spirit of cooperation is proving effective. In New York, state investigators have been invaluable to the FBI in probing the Mob, and some 150 New York City police are assigned full time to the New York FBI office.

The current wave of Mob trials has benefited as well from the number of former gangsters who have proved willing to violate the Mafia's centuries-old tradition of omerta (silence) and provide evidence against their former partners. Racket victims are less fearful than before of testifying. Nationwide, says Giuliani, "we've got more than 100 people who have testified against Mafia guys." To be sure, many witnesses are criminals facing long sentences; they have a strong self-interest in currying favor with prosecutors.

That is a point that the defense lawyers attack forcefully. "I can't tell a witness in jail to come and testify for me and I'll give him his freedom," Persico told the Commission jury. "The Government can do that. They're powerful people . . . Not me." Persico, a high school graduate who learned legal tactics working on appeals during some 14 years behind bars, is described by his longtime attorney, Stanley Meyer, as "the most intelligent fellow I have ever met in any walk of life." His unusual self-defense role also gives him a chance to come across as an unsinister personality to jurors. Persico's strategy, says one court veteran, "is brilliant, if it works." But he runs a risk: his questions must not convey knowledge of events that an innocent person would not possess.

The Commission trial is not expected to produce a turncoat as high ranking as Cleveland Underboss Angelo Lonardo, the top U.S. mobster to sing so far. He learned how to be a turncoat the hard way. Charged with leading a drug ring, Lonardo was convicted after a lesser hood, Carmen Zagaria, testified about the inner workings of the Cleveland Mob. Zagaria described how the bodies of hit victims were chopped up and tossed into Lake Erie. Lonardo, who wanted to avoid a life sentence, then helped prosecutors break the Las Vegas skimming case.

John Gotti is haunted by the deception of Wilfred ("Willie Boy") Johnson, a Gambino-family associate. Caught carrying $50,000 in a paper bag in 1981, Johnson invited New York City detectives to help themselves to the cash. They charged him with bribery. After that Johnson, who hung out at Gotti's Bergen Hunt and Fish Club, kept the cops posted on how the rising star was progressing. He also suggested where bugs might be placed.

The most loquacious turncoat may be James Frattiano, 72, once the acting boss of a Los Angeles crime family. He not only confessed publicly to killing eleven people but also wrote a revealing book, The Last Mafioso, and has taken his story on the road, testifying at numerous trials. All this public testimony means that the Mafia is losing what Floyd Clark, assistant FBI director in charge of criminal investigations, calls a "tremendous asset: fear and intimidation. That shield is being removed."

The willingness of some hoodlums and victims to defy the Mob is partly due to the existence of the Federal Witness Security Program, which since it started in 1970 has helped 4,889 people move to different locations and acquire new identities and jobs. At a cost to the Government of about $100,000 for each protected person, the program has produced convictions in 78% of the cases in which such witnesses were used. For some former gangsters, however, a conventional life in a small town turns out to be a drag. They run up fresh debts and sometimes revert to crime.

A more significant reason for the breakdown in Mob discipline is that the new generation of family members is not as dedicated to the old Sicilian-bred mores. Some mafiosi may have been in trouble with their families already. "Often, they're going to be killed if they don't go to the Government," says Barbara Jones, an attorney in Giuliani's office. Others feel that a long prison sentence is too stiff a price to pay for family loyalty. The younger mafiosi, explains one Justice Department source, "are much more Americanized than the old boys. They enjoy the good life. There's more than a bit of yuppie in them." Contends RICO Author Blakey: "The younger members are a little more crass, a little less honest and respectful, a little more individualistic and easier to flip."

The combination of prosecutorial pressure and the slipping of family ties may be feeding upon itself, creating further disunity and casting a shadow over the Mob's future. Certainly, when the old-timers go to prison for long terms, they lose their grip on their families, particularly if ambitious successors do not expect them to return. Younger bosses serving light sentences can keep operating from prison, dispatching orders through their lawyers and visiting relatives. They may use other, less watched inmates to send messages. Prison mail is rarely read by censors.

Still, the convicted dons run risks. The prison pay phones may be legally tapped. When the feds learned that the late Kansas City boss Nick Civella was directing killings from Leavenworth prison in Kansas, they bugged the visitors' room and indicted him for new crimes. But can prison bars really crush the Mob? Giuliani contends that as the Italian-American community has grown away from its immigrant beginnings, La Cosa Nostra has been losing its original base of operations and recruits. Pointing to the relatively small number of "made" Mafia members, Giuliani says, "We are fighting an enemy that has definable limits in terms of manpower. They cannot replenish themselves the way they used to in the '20s, '30s and '40s." The Mafia seems aware of the problem: U.S. mobsters have been recruiting hundreds of loyal southern Italian immigrants to run family- owned pizza parlors, help with the heroin traffic, and strengthen the ranks. Experts point out that the Mafia remains a wealthy organization that collected at least $26 billion last year. The Mob has deep roots in unions and labor- intensive industries such as building construction, transportation, restaurants and clothing. In many industries, says Ray Maria, the Labor Department's deputy inspector general, "the Mob controls your labor costs and determines whether you are reputable and profitable."

Repeated prosecutions alone will not put the organization out of its deadly business. Veteran observers of the Mob recall the prediction of the imminent demise of the Chicago Outfit in 1943 when its seven highest hoods were convicted of shaking down Hollywood movie producers. The bell of doom seemed to be tolling nationwide in 1963 when Joseph Valachi's disclosures set off an FBI bugging war against the families. In 1975 the most successful labor racketeering prosecution in U.S. history was supposed to have cleaned up the terror-ridden East Coast waterfront from Miami to New York. None of those highly publicized events had lasting impact.

Still, today's zealous prosecutors have a new tool that gives them a fighting chance to take the organization out of organized crime, if not actually to rub out the Mob. The same RICO law that allows prosecutions against criminal organizations also provides for civil action to seize their assets, from cash to cars and hangouts. A prime example of this technique was the action taken in 1981 against Teamsters Local 560 after it was shown to have been dominated by New York's Genovese family. A civil suit led to the discharge of the local's officers. The union was placed under a court- appointed trustee until free elections could be held. While such suits have been attempted against organized-crime figures only ten times, top Justice Department officials concede they have underestimated the leverage the law can give them. They vow to follow up the convictions they have been winning with civil suits against the family leaders.

The crusading Giuliani admits that the old practice of locking up a capo or two "just helped to speed the succession along." But by striking at all levels of the Mob families and then "peeling away their empires," Giuliani insists, "it is not an unrealistic goal to crush them." Perhaps. But first there are two new and potentially historic courtroom battles to be fought. For the Mob, and for an optimistic new generation of federal crime fighters, it is High Noon in New York.

Thanks to Ed Magnuson

Tracing the Roots of the American Mafia

The inchoate beginnings of the Mafia in the United States at the turn of the century cannot be nailed down to one moment, but the incident that Mike Dash uses to demonstrate its public arrival is an apt one: the "Barrel Murder" of April 14, 1903. Giuseppe Morello - nicknamed the "Clutch" or "the Clutch Hand" for the maimed right arm and one-fingered hand with which he wreaked terrible violence - and his henchmen stabbed and sliced a rival to death, stuffed him into a barrel and left him on the street to be found.

That incident catches most of the elements that were to become associated with Mafia activity in subsequent years: rivalry over illegal activityAmerican Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power, extortion, intimidation, protection and other rackets (such as kidnapping) and vendettas. And, most of all, murder. Rarely was there any middle ground; the way to deal with competition was to kill its operators.

In the earliest days, gangs (or "families") were concentrated in New York City. At first they preyed, as in Sicily, on their own, demanding "protection" money from Italian merchants or controlling Italian-run businesses such as ice and coal distribution.

Crime paid. By 1908, the Clutch Hand's influence had spread through New York's five boroughs. Three years later, he was considered the boss of bosses of the entire fledgling American Mafia. But there are always hammers waiting to whack the nail that sticks up. Dash covers in great, and sometimes gruesome, detail the rival Mafiosi who rose up to challenge Morello. Most of the names are obscure, though as we get closer to the 1930s familiar ones appear, such as Joe Bonanno, Joe Valachi and Charles "Lucky" Luciano.

Hammers were wielded by the good guys, too, the most prominent among them being William Flynn, chief of the New York office of the Secret Service, and Joseph Petrosino, a member of the police Italian Squad. Both had success in investigating, prosecuting and imprisoning Morello and others.

Slowly, crime that had been "Italian" became more "Americanized" as Mafiosi such as Luciano chose to work with non-Sicilians and even non-Italians. Luciano, an equal-opportunity murderer, hired two Jewish hoods to kill a rival, Salvatore Maranzano, in 1931. But until the 1920s, organized crime was relatively small potatoes. With Prohibition came gang wars worthy of the name and gangsters whose reputations still resound, like Dutch Schultz and Al Capone, the latter of whom made so much money in the Midwest "that his influence could be felt in Manhattan." And the "industry" was, in a sense, a gift from the U.S. government.

Thanks to Roger K. Miller

Reinhard in 1969: Rockford Mobsters 'Retired or Inactive'

Federal judge and former Winnebago County State’s Attorney Philip G. Reinhard said in an April 4, 1969, interview with the Rockford Morning Star that he believed Mob figures in Rockford were "retired or inactive." Reinhard added he had "seen no evidence or indication" of Mafia-related activity in the Rockford area at that time.

Reinhard’s comments are in contrast with articles published in the past 15 months by The Rock River Times that detailed past Mob-related activity dating back to at least the 1970s.

Reinhard was Winnebago County assistant state’s attorney from 1964 to 1967, and Winnebago County state’s attorney from 1968 to 1976. He was nominated as federal judge for the Western Division of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Reinhard has been on the federal bench since Feb. 10, 1992.

During the 1969 interview, Reinhard reacted to a question about the extent of Mafia activity in Rockford by saying: "There is a local structure, but if it has any ties with the national syndicate, they are very loose. There are individuals who, perhaps, made their money in syndicate-connected activities years ago and are now 'retired' or inactive. In the short time that I have been state's attorney, I have seen no evidence or indication that there is organized, syndicate activity here."

Reinhard did not respond for comment for this article, but did acknowledge during a February 2005 interview that he never knowingly prosecuted any Mob members during his tenure as state’s attorney.

MOB ATTORNEY TURNED INFORMANT

Reinhard's 1969 perception of Mafia activity contrasts with comments by former Chicago Mafia attorney turned federal informant Robert Cooley. He said in a Nov. 24, 2004, article in The Rock River Times that the Chicago Mafia, which is known as "The Outfit," had considerable interest in Rockford during the 1970s and 1980s.

Specifically, Cooley said: "[Chicago Mob captain and member of the Elmwood Park/North side crew] Marco [D'Amico], at the time when we were in power, Marco had a major crew working up there in the Rockford area. They had some illegal gambling interests up there."

According to the Chicago Crime Commission’s 1997 publication The New Faces of Organized Crime, D'Amico and eight others were indicted in 1994 "for running an illegal sports bookmaking operation, using extortion to collect gambling debts, and juice loans and conspiring to commit racketeering."

Cooley described in his 2004 book, When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down, how he assisted federal agents set up the illegal gambling sting that snagged D'Amico in November 1989 in Lake Geneva, Wis., which resulted in the 1994 indictment.

Cooley turned from Mob attorney to federal informant in 1986 after the death of his father. During the next 11 years, Cooley's efforts to expose public corruption resulted in bringing more than 30 lawyers, politicians, and Mobsters to justice by secretly taping dozens of Mob meetings.

INDICTMENTS

Whether the recent naming of 10 Rockford-area men in an illegal gambling ring was connected to D'Amico’s former crew is not known.

However, according to a separate, but likely related, indictment last April in Chicago, alleged Mob hit man from Rockford, Frank G. Saladino, was a member of the South side/Chinatown crew at the time he committed crimes for the Chicago Mob sometime between the 1960s and 2005.

Cooley explained during an interview last April that Saladino may have been a member of both the North and South side crews at differing times during that period. Saladino was named a co-conspirator in the Feb. 1 federal indictment, which alleged the sports betting operation accepted "bets and wagers on the outcome of sports events, including football and basketball games" from the early 1980s until about May 2002.

A former bookie familiar with the illegal sports gambling ring in the Rockford area alleged in 2004 one of the key organizers was a prominent business leader. That leader was not among the individuals indicted.

Saladino was found dead April 25, 2005 — the same day he was indicted on federal charges of murder and undisclosed criminal activities on behalf of the Chicago Mafia. The Kane County coroner ruled Saladino's death was due to natural causes in May 2005.

Specifically, the FBI-led probe named "Operation Family Secrets," alleged the Chicago Mob was involved in 18 murders and racketeering conspiracy extending from the mid-1960s to 2005. The alleged racketeering involved sports betting, video gambling, loan sharking and collecting "street tax" from participants in illegal activities.

According to the 2005 indictment, Saladino was a "member of the South Side/26th Street crew." Saladino's last known Rockford address in 2004 was 1303 Montague Rd.

PROBES AND LAWSUITS

But illegal gambling charges and probes extend further back than the February 2006 indictment. In December 1968, a federal grand jury in Freeport called at least
eight people for questioning in connection with illegal gambling and other Mob-related activity in Rockford and northern Illinois. Reinhard became Winnebago County state's attorney in November 1968.

Among those subpoenaed before the Freeport grand jury were: Rockford Mob boss Joseph Zammuto; Adviser Joseph Zito; Underboss Charles Vince; Zammuto’s successor, Frank J. Buscemi; Philip Priola and Mob Soldier Joseph J. Maggio (see Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring).

Priola is former AFL-CIO union official and one of the original members of a group that wanted to bring a casino boat to Rockford in the early 1990s. He was also one of the owners of U Grill It Inc., which did business in Machesney Park Mall several years ago as Texas Grill Steakhouse and Lounge.

Priola and others in his family were charged by federal officials on July 29, 2003, for allegedly conspiring to "defraud" the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department.

In response to an Oct. 6, 2003 article in the Rockford Register Star, which detailed the case, Priola sued the Rockford Register Star in 2004 alleging the article concerning U Grill It was libelous.

The case is still in the discovery phase, and was scheduled for a March 22 status hearing with 17th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Janet Holmgren. The Register Star is seeking tax returns and other documents related to the litigation, which also involved Priola’s son-in-law, Todd Gage.

When interviewed by The Rock River Times in 2004 about the lawsuit, Priola said he moved from Rockford to Las Vegas. He and other members of his family eventually pled guilty to the charges before a scheduled trial.

The indictment alleged that from at least 1992 to 1998, Priola and others "intentionally conspired" to under-report "gross receipts and net profits of
LT's Bar." It also alleged a cash-skimming operation took place for the benefit of the named family members.

Included in the alleged skimming operation were proceeds from "cigarette vending machines and coin-operated amusement machines."

Buscemi, a Chicago native, was owner of Stateline Vending Co., Inc., and Rondinella Foods Co., before his death in Rockford Dec. 7, 1987. Winnebago County court documents from 1988 indicate Saladino worked for Rondinella in the 1980s when Buscemi owned the business. The vending machine company was dissolved in 1988.

According to Buscemi's FBI file, the Rockford Mob was alleged to control the
vending machine business in Rockford during the 1980s, and used "extortionate business practices."

Vince, another person in addition to Priola and Buscemi who was called before the 1968 grand jury, was identified in a March 4, 1984, Rockford Register Star article as residing in an apartment at 1904 Auburn St., in Rockford. Land records for the address show the property was owned by the grandparent's of Peter and Mathew Provenzano from 1964 to 1987.

In July 1978, federal court documents show Vince, along with other members of the Rockford and Milwaukee Mafia, were alleged to have tried to extort money from a competing upstart vending machine company owner. The owner of the company the Mob members tried to shakedown was actually an undercover federal agent named Gail Cobb who was masquerading as Tony Conte.

Cobb and legendary FBI agent Donnie Brasco, whose real name was Joseph P. Pistone, worked together at the behest of the Bonanno crime family in New York to forge an alliance between the Rockford, Milwaukee and Bonanno family (see Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring).

Actor Johnny Depp portrayed Pistone in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, during the time in the late 1970s when Pistone infiltrated organized crime.

As to Vince's residence and the Provenzano family's ownership of the property, Peter Provenzano was given the opportunity in October to comment about this coincidence and other questions, but declined after he was given an advance copy of topics for the interview.

Provenzano is a board commissioner at Rockford/Chicago International Airport, proponent for Rockford's return to home rule, and part owner of military contractor SupplyCore, Inc. Since its incorporation in 1987 as Pro Technical Products, Inc., the companies have been awarded more than $1 billion in U.S. Defense Department contracts—most of which has been awarded since the late 1990s.

Pro Technical Products, which was formed by Provenzano's father, changed its
name to SupplyCore in 2001, according to state records. Provenzano's brother, Mathew Provenzano, is secretary of SupplyCore and is one of the board of directors for the taxpayer-supported MetroCentre in Rockford.

Both Provenzano brothers were nominated for their positions by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. SupplyCore heavily financed Morrissey's successful mayoral campaign last year.

About the author:
Jeff Havens is a former award-winning reporter for the weekly newspaper The Rock River Times in Rockford, Ill. Havens lived most of his life in the Rockford area, and wrote dozens of news articles about the Mob in Rockford and Chicago. Assistant Editor for The Rock River Times, Brandon Reid contributed to this article.

Legendary Don: Mysterious and powerful, Joe Bonanno Retreated to Tucson, but Violence Followed

Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno sits in a backyard tree at his father's Tucson home, a shotgun cradled in his arm, watching for assassins. The family's German shepherd, Rebel, paces the patio, toenails clicking on flagstone. The digs are hardly ostentatious for a family of such repute; just a modest stucco dwelling on a quiet residential street.

Inside, the old man, Joe Sr., recovering from his third heart attack, watches TV in the living room with a friend. Bill's mom, Fay, is in bed, sick. Security, already tightened in recent weeks, is now locked down like one of bodyguard Pete Notaro's lumpy fists.

This is the so-called life of America's infamous crime family on July 22, 1968.

The Bonannos have retreated from a Mafia war in New York to their residential sanctuary at 1847 E. Elm St. But violence follows like an unwanted shadow.

A few weeks back, someone hurled a rock through the front window. Death threats arrived by mail and phone. And, one night earlier, dynamite tore apart a shed outside the home of longtime friend Peter "Horseface" Licavoli Sr., a retired godfather from Detroit.

Arizona just isn't safe anymore. Which is why Bill Bonanno, in dark pants and a black polo shirt, stands guard and wonders what the hell will come next.


In the history of America's Mafia, no name looms larger than that of the late Joseph Bonanno Sr. He became the youngest don in a world of tradition. He endured nearly a century while peers succumbed to bullets and prison. He was among the most powerful, yet mysterious, figures in a secret society.

Over the past half-century, the drama and intrigue have spilled into books, movies and news articles. Pieces of his life are littered in more than 1,700 pages of FBI intelligence obtained for this story, along with a box of confidential files from Arizona strike forces. His autobiography is part of the record, along with books written by family members. Bonanno is even considered by many to be the figure upon whom Mario Puzo based his lead character, Vito Corleone, in The Godfather series of books and films.

Yet his image, tangled with fictional mobsters like Tony Soprano, remains cloudy, if not contradictory: He is portrayed as a lawless hood, yet a man of principles; an uncommon crook, yet a venerable philosopher.

Although Bonanno's crime family was based in New York, his home for most of the last 50 years of his life was in Arizona. They say he retired here, but the history is clear that "Mr. B" oversaw an underworld empire from the Old Pueblo.

Crime came with him, and so did violence.

The June night drags on, hot and silent except for the chirping of crickets. Bill lights up a cigar and tries to relax.

At 36, the mobster's son is no stranger to combat. As a Tucson teenager, he got into a gunfight running firearms across the Mexican border. Much later, as third in command of the Bonanno crime family, he shot his way out of a New York ambush. But this guard duty . . .

Nobody likes waiting for an unknown enemy.

Around 9:30, Bill decides to go inside for a drink. As he opens the back door, Rebel snarls and bolts toward the gate. An object sizzles through the night sky, landing in the barbecue pit with a thud. Bill races to the stone steps against the tree, climbing so he can see over the wall. A silhouette runs toward the street. Bill levels his shotgun and fires once. The shadow stumbles, then disappears into a car that peels away.

As Bill watches - Boom! - an explosion knocks him to the ground and showers the yard with bricks and mortar. He rises, stunned, ears ringing. Joe Sr. appears at the door in shorts, bewildered. A second blast detonates atop the garage, slamming Bill against a lemon tree. Shattered windows and debris cascade to the ground. Faces and voices swirl in the smoke, yelling, "Are you OK?"

Fay is the last to appear, screaming in terror, her hair aglitter with shards of glass from a bedroom window.

Giuseppe Charles Bonanno Sr. was born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, in 1905. The family moved to New York when he was 3, then returned to the homeland. His father, an Italian soldier, died of war wounds in 1915. His mother passed away five years later, leaving Peppino a 15-year-old orphan. He attended a nautical school in Palermo and then fled Italy because he despised Benito Mussolini's fascism or because he was wanted as a Mafioso, depending on which account you believe.

At 19, Bonanno caught a boat from Cuba to Florida and headed straight to New York, where he joined the mob and worked at a funeral parlor. During Sicilian gang wars of 1929-30, Bonanno rose to second in command of a crime family headed by his mentor, Salvatore Maranzano. He explained the promotion with sardonic humor, noting, "I didn't attain that position by being a spectator."

Within months, Maranzano was killed by rival boss Lucky Luciano. Bonanno made peace with Luciano and, at 26, became the youngest Mafia don. For more than three decades, Bonanno ruled mob crews in New York, Canada, Colorado, Wisconsin and Arizona. He helped found a nine-member Commission that regulated the 24 families of La Cosa Nostra. By his own account, the criminal enterprises included bookmaking, black-marketing, racketeering and political corruption.

The villainy often led to violence. If a Mafia underling defied or betrayed a boss, the code called for death. If one crime family leader plotted against another, it meant war.

Blood streams from Bill's face. Joe Sr. has cuts on his mouth and hand.

The wounds are nothing. The two men tell Fay to leave them so they can figure out what's going on and what to do. Still hysterical, she protests, but they send her to her room, telling her to have a cognac and calm down.

There is no time for hand wringing. Sirens echo in the night. It will be a matter of seconds before the squad cars arrive, joined by TV crews. Already, neighbors are gathering on the street out front.

Bill Bonanno, with a criminal history, doesn't hang around to answer questions about a shotgun and a wounded bomber. He hoofs it down a side street, dodging behind oleanders for cover, then heads to the nearby University of Arizona campus, his alma mater, a familiar haven where he can blend in with strolling students.

At the house, Joe Sr. puts on a pair of pants and hurries out back to the demolished barbecue pit. He hunches over and digs frantically through rubble. After a moment, he retrieves a pair of canvas bags, each about 20 inches long and 8 inches wide, then scurries inside the house.


Fay and Joseph Bonanno first visited Arizona in 1942. Their eldest son, Salvatore, was in agony from chronic ear infections. A physician said he would recover in a hot, dry climate. So the 10-year-old, nicknamed Bill, was brought to Tucson where he could turn his aching ear to the desert sun for relief.

Each summer, the Bonannos withdrew to New York, leaving the family scion behind in boarding school. A similar pattern evolved with the other offspring: Catherine attended a convent in upstate New York, and Joe Jr. was educated mostly in Arizona. Each winter, Joe and Fay returned to their sons in the land of saguaros.

Bonanno told neighbors he was a retired clothing manufacturer, a cotton farmer, a cheese baron. He invested in bakeries, parking lots, barbershops and real estate, usually through blind trusts. He befriended the bishop, a congressman, a state Supreme Court justice. He joined the Old Pueblo Country Club. "I had always rejected any attempt to include Tucson in my world," Bonanno explained years later. "Tucson was a place to get away from it all."

Mobsters and law officers familiar with "Joe Bananas" of New York were not buying the story. This was a guy who Time magazine described as "one of the bloodiest killers in Cosa Nostra's history." This was a guy who explained in coldblooded terms how to take out a rival: "Don't let the other guy know how you feel. Just keep patting him on the shoulder. . . . Be a diplomat. Make the guy think you're his friend until the right time comes, the right setup, and then you make your move like a tiger."

His life was a chain of intrigue, corruption and crime. How could he be legit in Arizona? Still, the early '40s were peaceful years in Tucson. Folks didn't worry about the debonair family man with the silk suits, Sicilian accent and pinky rings. They didn't appreciate his history.

Police arrive to gather evidence: a shotgun shell, bloodstains, dynamite fuses.

They ask about Joe Sr.'s injuries, but the old man dodges every question with his thick accent and sarcasm. His demeanor flits like a nervous bird from humor to anger. He talks about the beautiful Catalina Mountains. He bemoans the loss of his barbecue pit. He has nothing to say about a shotgun being fired.

A detective asks about the perpetrators. Joe Sr. shrugs: "You know how it is. . . . . Whoever did this has a demented mind. There's no such thing as a gangland war going on."

He looks the cop in the eye and adds, "If they want to kill me, they should do it on a man-to-man basis and not involve innocent children and women."

The place is crawling with cops, firefighters and reporters. A TV cameraman slips into the back yard, and Joe Sr. goes ballistic until the guy is escorted out.

An urgent teletype skips across America to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: "Instant date double dynamiting occurred at subject's Tucson residence. . . . No injuries reported. Tucson P.D. still investigating."

The swift response: "If not already done, advise military intelligence and Secret Service."


Bonanno always maintained that Arizona was a sanctuary, but mob business followed inevitably. As far back as 1946, Tucson Police Chief Don Hays warned about underworld figures of Bonanno's ilk. "We have their records, their rogue's gallery photographs," Hays said in a speech. "We know they have unlimited finances. We know they are determined to take over Tucson."

For the next two decades, cops and politicians nationwide pursued him to little avail. Bonanno flourished until 1964, when mob politics and federal prosecutors threatened his life and freedom. On a rainy night in New York, Bonanno stepped out of a taxi and vanished.

The disappearance captured a nation's imagination and remains a mystery. Many believed the mobster was dead. Some figured he arranged a sham kidnapping to avoid prosecutors and assassins. Bonanno claimed later that he was abducted by Mafia rivals, held captive for weeks, then inexplicably released, whereupon he spent nearly a year hiding out in disguises and safe houses.

On May 17, 1966, Bonanno showed up in New York City's federal courthouse, surrendering to stunned U.S. marshals. It was typical of the Bonanno style. He spoke seven languages, was a prolific reader and regaled fellow mobsters with witty stories as they downed wine and pasta. But he also was a survivor who usually outsmarted enemies and the law. Ultimately, Bonanno even recast his own legend in his 1983 autobiography, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno: "I have tried to be a good Father," he wrote. "I've led a productive life, not a parasitic one. I've had to protect myself and my people, but I've never been bloodthirsty."

The morning headline says it all: "Bonanno brings N.Y. mob war to Tucson."

FBI informers claim a rival crime boss hired a hit man who bungled the job. Justice Department lawyers churn out a memo: "The Cosa Nostra warfare concerning the Joe Bonanno Family in New York has now spread to Bonanno's home in Tucson, Arizona."

But it doesn't make sense; these attacks are being carried out by amateurs, not by hit men.

Two weeks go by. A bomb explodes at the home of Notaro, the bodyguard. Another blast detonates outside the residence of Evo DeConcini, former Arizona Supreme Court justice and erstwhile Bonanno friend.

Journalists and politicians launch a campaign to get Joe Bananas out of the Old Pueblo. Mayor James Corbett invites underworld figures to "live elsewhere." U.S. Rep. Morris Udall calls upon Hoover to send FBI reinforcements. Sen. Barry Goldwater declares that "the reign of the princes of La Cosa Nostra must end."

Publicly and privately, the Bonannos are mystified. Who would attack them or Licavoli or DeConcini? Why? What the hell is going on?


The Banana Wars erupted in 1965 with mayhem unseen since Al Capone. Bonanno henchmen riddled three enemy "soldiers" with machine-gun bullets as they ate spaghetti in Brooklyn. Another rival was shot in the throat while parking a car. An elderly capo was seated at a soda fountain when bullets tore his face apart.

After a year of fighting, the New York Times declared a victor: "Bonanno regains power in Mafia gang." But the situation remained precarious, and in 1968, Joe Bonanno Sr. withdrew to Arizona full time with his wife and a core of followers. That move has never been clearly explained. FBI reports suggest that Bonanno failed in a final power grab and was given a choice between death and retirement.

Bonanno offered a more honorable explanation: After winning the war, he realized that La Cosa Nostra was doomed; the Sicilian guard was dying out along with old loyalties and rules. Plagued by health problems (he suffered his third heart attack that year) and worried about his sons' future, Bonanno washed his hands of the whole mess.

There was no peace out West, however, as life spiraled through criminal investigations, bombings and family scandals. Bonanno's sons, operating at various times in Tucson, Flagstaff, Phoenix and San Jose, danced through a comic opera of crimes. And agents in dark sedans continued dogging the old man.

"I would have been content, after 1968, to lead a quiet, uneventful life," Bonanno said years later. "My retirement to Tucson, however, turned out to be a retreat into an inferno."

After dozens of bombings, Tucson is fed up. A Citizens Crime Commission forms. FBI agents and cops create anti-mob strike forces. Newspaper editorials call for Bonanno to leave.

Months elapse with no answer.

Then, exactly one year after the dynamite attack on Elm Street, police arrest two men: Paul Mills Stevens and William J. Dunbar Jr. Both suspects admit guilt but claim they were hired by FBI Special Agent David Hale, the bureau's Mafia expert in Tucson, who they claim was trying to foment a mob war.

Other witnesses back up that story.The FBI declines to comment.Hale resigns without facing charges.

Dunbar and Stevens, who was wounded by Bill Bonanno's shotgun blast, plead guilty. They pay $300 fines each but get no jail time.

Bonanno, once a feared crime lord, laments his plight as a victim. "This was a cover-up. . . . He (Hale) almost got away with murder. How come there was no public outcry of indignation?"

Years later, Hale tells a Tucson newspaper he was framed and had nothing to do with the bombings.

Either way, the Tucson bombing spree ends with a whimper, not a bang.


In 1976, the mob-style slaying of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles brought more heat from cops, plus a statewide media swarm. Bonanno called it the "Grand Inquisition."

Investigators watched his house, planted a beeper in his car, conducted illegal wiretaps and spied on him from aircraft. An Arizona strike force raided his garbage every week for 3 1/2 years.

Why? Intelligence reports from all over the nation asserted that Bonanno was planning a comeback, trying to take over the West. A 1976 FBI affidavit claimed he was even smuggling Sicilians into the country as "shooting men."

The Bonanno boys, meanwhile, stumbled through arrests and prison terms for fraud, extortion and other crimes. In fact, it was paternal loyalty that finally landed the old man behind bars with his only felony conviction. The charge: obstructing a 1980 grand-jury investigation of Bill and Joe Jr. by telling witnesses to lie and conceal evidence. Joe Sr. served eight months in prison.

Three years later, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. Bonanno refused to testify about the mob before a New York grand jury and spent 14 more months in jail for contempt.

That, for all practical purposes, was the end. The octogenarian retreated into his home, his family, his thoughts.

On May 11, 2002, after a lifetime defying the law and the gun, Bonanno died peacefully in Tucson. Hundreds attended the funeral while agents took snapshots from a dark van outside the church.

In a eulogy, Bill said, "If there is one word that identifies Joseph Bonanno, that word is tradition. . . . Tradition gave us a way of life."

His father's introduction to A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno contained an equally poignant epitaph: "Whatever your opinion of me, the truth is I am the last survivor of an extinct species of a bygone way of life."

Thanks to Dennis Wagner and Charles Kelly

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Drita D'avanzo of VH1's Mob Wives

Drita D'avanzo is the wife of Lee D'avanzo, who federal prosecutors allege is the leader of a Bonanno and Colombo crime family farm team. While Drita's husband is serving time in prison for bank robbery (for the second time), she is left alone raising two young girls, Aleeya (9) and Gizelle (3). Drita comes from a strict Albanian household who defied her parents and married someone outside the community -- an Italian.

Drita D'avanzo of VH1's Mob Wives


Drita grew up different from the other women. She was raised in the projects of Staten Island after her family settled there from Albania. Her father, a strict soccer coach, raised her to be tough and play with the boys. She was never allowed to cry, and had to do hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups a day to meet her father's high standards. Drita was invited to play for the Women's National Soccer Team and was all set to go until she met her first love, "the streets".

She dated street guy after street guy until ultimately finding and marrying Lee. At first everything was great and she had everything she wanted. However, Lee was allegedly robbing banks (among other things), and before she gave birth to their first daughter, he was escorted away by the Feds for an 8 year prison term. Drita had their baby, and stood by her man -- who promised her that he would never leave her again.

During Lee's first prison sentence, Drita realized that she must do something to stand on her own two feet in case she is ever left in a position like this again. She studied to become a make-up artist and worked for various high end cosmetic companies while her husband was away. Almost eight years later Lee came home and they started over. They built a new home, made baby number two, and Lee even got a legitimate job. However the good times were short lived. Again, Lee was arrested and sentenced to prison for 2 -- 5 years for similar crimes. Needless to say, Drita was not happy. But, like so many times before, she picked up the pieces and carried on. As a mother of two with a husband in jail, she struggles to keep it all together while figuring out if this is a lifestyle she wants to continue to live. Currently, she freelances as a make-up artist and plans to develop her own cosmetic line.

Drita is tough as nails and infamous for her many fights and knock outs growing up. Now a mother, she struggles to control her anger and often feels nostalgic for times when a problem could be solved with a fist.

Renee Graziano of VH1's Mob Wives

Renee Graziano is the daughter of Anthony Graziano, who according to the Federal Government was a high ranking member of La Cosa Nostra. Renee grew up during the heyday of the mob -- when things still fell off trucks and people still dropped off envelopes even when it wasn't your birthday. Immersed in the culture since birth, she embraced the lifestyle as her own and became a "mob loyalist". Renee eventually married (then divorced) Junior. Together they have one son, AJ.

Renee Graziano of VH1's Mob Wives

When Renee was young her best friend was arrested and sentenced to many years behind bars. This was her first real introduction to prison, but unfortunately not her last. Thanks to a circle of friends living the street life, Renee has visited over 83 prisons and written hundreds of letters to comfort the many friends she had on "the inside." This correspondence gave her the idea to turn her love of the "the life" into a greeting card company called JAIL MAIL.

Renee sometimes longs for the good old days, but thanks to her friends she is slowly starting to realize that this is not a life she wants her son to lead. She struggles to balance her allegiance to the street life with her hopes that her son will live a life free of it all.

Renee is hysterical, Renee is crazy, and Renee is drama, but she will be the first to give you the shirt off her back. Everyone and anyone who knows her, knows this.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dark Harbor - The War for the New York Waterfront

For most of us, knowledge of the crime-ridden New York docks in the years following World War II comes largely from Elia Kazan's film On the Waterfront, with its violence, murders, beatings, graft, and kickbacks.

In the movie, we saw how the rampant lawlessness made a few people very rich and very powerful while providing those willing to serve their crooked aims with comfortable, if precarious, lives. But for most working the piers, forced to make daily kickbacks even to get a job, existence was a succession of hardships, barely allowing them to scrape by from one uncertain payday to the next.

According to Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront, none of this was cinematic exaggeration, and in fact, according to one newspaper reporter of the day, "the waterfront of New York produces more murders per square foot than does any other one section of the country."

Nathan Ward, a former editor at American Heritage and Library Journal, begins his account of these urban badlands with the 1939 disappearance and murder of Peter Panto, a worker on the Brooklyn waterfront who had run afoul of Emil Camarda, the mob-connected boss of the International Longshoremen's Association local that ruled the Brooklyn docks.

The Panto killing and its aftermath begins a grim narrative of the dark side. The menace of such union bosses as Camarda in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and, most especially, Joseph P. Ryan, the outwardly charming "President for Life" of the ILA's New York local, fought to keep challengers to their rule at bay through intimidation, payoffs, and, if those failed, disappearances.

Their clout was achieved through threats, but it was maintained by the "shape-up" system, "the main source of the outlaws' power over the men who worked the docks." Whenever there was a ship to be loaded or unloaded, a crowd of potential workers would show up, their ultimate selection determined by who they knew or who they paid and, probably most especially, by how few questions they asked.

The crookedness of the "shape" led to a pattern in which, as Panto himself explained to a labor lawyer friend shortly before his murder, dockworkers "had to . . . have all [their] haircuts at a certain barber shop . . . [and] buy their wine grapes from a designated dealer at lush prices, whether they planned to make wine or not."

Panto also said that that "many longshoremen paid out almost half their wages in kickbacks to qualify for work." So pervasive was the mob coercion in the port of New York that, during World War II, the Office of Naval Intelligence enlisted Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and other gangsters to guard the harbor against sabotage and enforce a labor peace that allowed convoys to sail to Europe, threatened only by German submarines.

Some workers protested from time to time and some even talked to investigators, but mostly the real situation on the docks remained only a suspicion until a reporter on a dying newspaper, acting on an editor's hunch, began looking for facts behind the rumors.

The New York Sun, which had begun life in a blaze of glory in 1833 as the city's first successful penny newspaper, had fallen on hard times by 1948 and was then eighth in circulation among Manhattan's nine dailies. Still, it had editors who were curious and reporters who were talented, and when one of the former heard of the murder of a hiring boss in northern Manhattan, he was reminded of a similar event in Greenwich Village the previous year and dispatched one of his star reporters to investigate.

What Mike Johnson uncovered after many months of digging both on the docks and through the files of frustrated prosecutor William Keating was a whole host of similar events and a culture of crime and intimidation that stretched far beyond the waterfront to the highest reaches of the political and commercial establishments.

The investigation was aided most of all by a few heroic dockworkers fed up with the corruption they saw around them, but also by Keating's records, and by Father John Corridan, "the waterfront priest," who, in his righteous fury, called the struggle for the soul of the harbor "a fight with no holds barred, and sometimes you've got to knee and gouge and elbow in the clinches."

When they appeared in the Sun, the stories (which earned Mike Johnson a Pulitzer Prize in 1949) set off a firestorm of investigation and accusation, for until the series put names and dates to it, criminal activity around the port had been long assumed but rarely challenged. Suddenly, politicians from the state and city of New York to the U.S. Senate began their own probes, all eager to take credit for cleaning up the waterfront mess.

The reaction of the dock bosses to all this activity was to accuse the reporter and his allies of being Communists, a strategy that had succeeded in keeping Harry Bridges and his radical West Coast longshoremen's union from Atlantic ports.

This time, though, the red-baiting didn't work quite so well and the investigations continued, with the ultimate result of breaking much of the stranglehold of mob influence and causing the ILA to be temporarily expelled from the American Federation of Labor in 1953.

The long, bumpy road that brought the New York waterfront toward the light is one well traveled by Ward. Although written in a sometimes repetitive style that suggests a series of loosely connected articles rather than a seamlessly flowing narrative, Dark Harbor captures the troubling essence of a particularly bleak chapter in the history of both organized crime and organized labor.

Thanks to James Polk