Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Capo "Convicts Himself"

Friends of ours: Gregory DePalma, Gambino Crime Family

A prosecutor told a jury in closing arguments yesterday that an ailing Gambino captain has all but convicted himself of racketeering by bragging about the family and its crimes as he cozied up to an undercover FBI agent. Gregory DePalma, 74, breathing through a tube connected to an oxygen tank and holding a blanket in front of him, sat with his eyes closed as Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Conniff berated him as a "violent and cunning criminal."

"In the end, it was Gregory DePalma's love of Mafia life that did him in. He could not stop talking about it. He has literally convicted himself in this case," Conniff said in Manhattan federal court.

The government has cited one audiotape in which the defendant bragged he should win an Academy Award for winning leniency with his frail appearance. The prosecutor said DePalma welcomed undercover FBI agent Joaquin Garcia into the Gambino family because he thought Garcia could provide stolen jewelry.

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa, one of the most controversial labor leaders of his time, helped make the Teamsters the largest labor union in the U.S., and was also known for his ties to organized crime. His son, James P. Hoffa, has been a general president of the Teamsters since 1999.

• 1913: Born February 14 in Brazil, Indiana
• 1928: Leaves school to work as a stock boy
• 1940: Becomes chairman of the Central States Drivers Council
• 1942: Elected president of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters
• 1952: Becomes international vice president of the Teamsters
• 1957-1971: Elected international president of the Teamsters
• 1967: Starts 13-year sentence for jury tampering, fraud and conspiracy
• 1971: President Richard Nixon commutes Hoffa's sentence
• 1975: Disappears on July 30 from a restaurant in suburban Detroit, Michigan
• 1982: Legally declared "presumed dead"

Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica

FBI Calls off Dig for Hoffa

Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa

The FBI said Tuesday it found no trace of Jimmy Hoffa after digging up a suburban Detroit horse farm in one of the most intensive searches in decades for the former Teamsters boss. The two-week search involved dozens of FBI agents, along with anthropologists, archaeologists, cadaver-sniffing dogs and a demolition crew that took apart a barn.

Louis Fischetti, supervisory agent with the Detroit FBI, said he believed the tip that led agents to the farm was the best federal authorities had received since 1976. The agency planned to continue the investigation into Hoffa's 1975 disappearance. "There are still prosecutable defendants who are living, and they know who they are," said Judy Chilen, assistant agent in charge of the Detroit FBI. The farm was once owned by a Hoffa associate and was said to be a mob meeting place before the union boss' disappearance.

Hoffa vanished after he went to meet two organized crime figures. Investigators have long suspected he was killed by the mob to prevent him from reclaiming the presidency of the Teamsters after he got out of prison for corruption. But no trace of him has ever been found, and no one was ever charged.

The farm was just the latest spot to be dug up in search of clues to Hoffa's fate. In 2003, authorities excavated beneath a backyard pool a few hours north of Detroit. The following year, police ripped up floorboards in a Detroit home to test bloodstains. But the blood was not Hoffa's.

Over the years, some have theorized that Hoffa was buried at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands; ground up and thrown into a Florida swamp; or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant.

The FBI began the excavation on May 17, digging at Hidden Dreams Farm, 30 miles northwest of Detroit. The search started after a tip from Donovan Wells, an ailing federal inmate who once lived on the farm and was acquainted with its former owner, 92-year-old Hoffa associate Rolland McMaster, according to a government investigator.

McMaster's attorney Mayer Morganroth said he was not surprised that the search was wrapping up with the mystery unsolved. "We never expected that anything was there," he said, adding that the FBI probably felt pressured to respond to the tip, lest it seem as if it were not trying to solve the case. The FBI said the search was expected to cost less than $250,000. The government plans to pay for the barn to be rebuilt.

While many veteran investigators and Hoffa experts were skeptical about the search, the little community of Milford Township seemed to relish the attention. A bakery sold cupcakes with a plastic green hand emerging from chocolate frosting meant to resemble dirt. Other businesses sold Hoffa-inspired T-shirts and put up signs with wisecracks such as "Caution FBI Crossing Ahead."

Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975. He was scheduled to have dinner at a restaurant about 20 miles from the farm. He was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain, both of whom are now dead.

Congressman Questions Cost of Hoffa Search

Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa

A Michigan congressman is questioning the cost of the FBI's search for the remains of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. "The FBI might be better off establishing a budget and some kind of timeline, because what new information do they have now, 31 years later?" said Rep. Joe Knollenberg, whose district is near the search site. Monday marked the 13th consecutive day that agents have worked at Hidden Dreams Farm in Milford Township, 30 miles northwest of Detroit.

The Republican told The Associated Press he has not asked the FBI for an explanation but may do so this week. "It seems to be a no-holds-barred move on the part of the FBI to do all this sifting and digging and searching," Knollenberg said. "It's purely a question of cost at this moment. ... It's the taxpayer that has the voice here, too."

Messages left for FBI spokeswoman Dawn Clenney were not immediately returned Monday.

The FBI has declined to release an estimate of how much the search will cost but has said it will last a couple of weeks and involve more than 40 FBI personnel, as well as demolition experts, archaeologists and anthropologists. "The expenditure of funds has always been necessary in each and every case the FBI works, and this one is no exception," the FBI said in a statement last week.

"We will not abandon our responsibility to effectively investigate a pending organized crime case simply because it might be termed 'too old.' " The FBI has said it received a credible tip that Hoffa's body is buried at the farm, once owned by a Hoffa associate.

Hoffa was last seen when he was scheduled to have dinner at a restaurant about 20 miles from the farm. He was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain, who are now both dead.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Donald Trump Connected to Chicago Mob?

Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago private club may be fined $15,000 by the Town of Palm Beach for three code violations — including a $5,000 hit for advertising and holding free-lunch seminars pushing a financial services company for older retirees.

Free lunches? Retiree seminars? Advertising? Holy Marjorie Merriweather Post!

Trump was in the Caribbean Thursday and couldn't be reached. But the Mar-a-Lago member whose company organized the lunches, Phillip Roy Financial Services boss Phillip Wasserman, said he was at the receiving end of a good "talking to" by The Donald.

Palm Beach forbids events at Mar-a-Lago to be advertised as "open to the public," which Wasserman did on the company's Web site. "Mr. Trump was stern with us," said Wasserman, who has offices in Boca and North Palm Beach.

The company boasts hundreds of free-lunch financial planning seminars in places like Carrabba's and Outback Steakhouse. The general concept of the popular seminars is being investigated by state regulators because it can hide high-pressure pitches.

"Mr. Trump didn't mention anything about a fine, but we'll be happy to reimburse him when he pays," Wasserman said.

Wasserman's background, meanwhile, may cause some members to question the "exclusive" label Trump tagged on the historic property's club, which charges a $175,000 membership fee. A lawyer by trade, the Sarasota-based Wasserman, 49, resigned from the Florida Bar nine years ago while facing disciplinary action. The Florida Supreme Court found him guilty of charging excessive fees, failure to act with diligence, improper trust-account maintenance and even paying a disciplinary fine with a bad check.

"I hope this isn't going to cause Mr. Trump to cancel my membership," Wasserman said, "although I've seen (boxing promoter) Don King at the club and he is a convicted killer."

Wasserman also acknowledged that several members of his family were tied to the Chicago mob.
The town, meanwhile, wants Trump to pay another $5,000 for having 820 fans at the Elton John concert in March, exceeding the occupancy permit by 120; and $5,000 for removal of 8-foot hedges.

"The fines will be addressed before the Town Council in June," said Town Building Department Director Veronica Close.

Thanks to Jose Lambiet.

Reputed Capo recalls " A Few Nice Smashes" on Tape

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Gregory DePalma
Friends of mine: Joseph "Joey Per Voi" Fornino

The final piece of evidence at reputed Gambino capo Gregory DePalma's racketeering trial depicted the Scarsdale man as a violent, robust Mafia enforcer rather than the ailing old man who drowsed at the defense table for the last two weeks.

Keenly aware of the image jurors might have of DePalma from watching him during the trial, federal prosecutors Christopher Conniff and Scott Marrah finished their case with a flourish; they used DePalma's own words to imprint their assertion that the 74-year-old was an active member of a ruthless organized crime family up until his arrest in March of last year.

Defense lawyers claim that DePalma is a sick old man living in the past, who routinely exaggerates his criminal deeds and power to puff up his own importance. An ashen-faced DePalma is brought into court every day in a wheelchair, oxygen tubes running from a green canister to his nose. He suffers from heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.But in a secretly taped conversation with a mob informant just two weeks before he was arrested, DePalma recounts a beating he administered to a man who owed money to a reputed associate of DePalma's.

"Oh, I gave him a few nice smashes," DePalma said of the attack on John Nigro at Pasta Per Voi, a Port Chester restaurant owned by Joseph "Joey Per Voi" Fornino, an accused associate of DePalma's who has also been charged in the case. DePalma claimed Nigro owed Fornino money.

In the conversation with the informant, Peter Forchetti, DePalma said he finally caught up with Nigro at the restaurant. In an obscenity-laced rant, DePalma says he called Nigro a rat, accusing Nigro of giving information to authorities about DePalma's son, Craig.

The elder DePalma pleaded guilty in 1999 to extorting Nigro. Craig DePalma also was convicted in the case. The younger DePalma is currently in a coma in a New Rochelle nursing home following a failed jail-house suicide attempt.

Gregory DePalma laments to Forchetti that there was one thing he didn't do when he beat up Nigro. "I made a mistake," he said. "I didn't rip his hairpiece off."

He accused Nigro of ripping off a Yonkers toupee maker by not paying him the $5,500 he owed for the rug.

Of course, DePalma had his own toupee trauma just before the trial began when deputy U.S Marshals found two $50 bills taped under DePalma's hairpiece in his Westchester Medical Center hospital room.

The finding assisted Judge Alvin Hellerstein in his decision not to postpone the trial, despite assertions by DePalma's lawyers, Martin Geduldig and John Meringolo, that he was too ill to stand trial.

Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Tuesday.

Thanks to Timothy O'Connor

Friday, May 26, 2006

DA Scoffs at "Mafia" Fed's Claim

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Gregory Scarpa

Brooklyn prosecutors yesterday blasted accused FBI mob mole Lindley DeVecchio's claim that he's entitled to a federal trial.

The former G-man, who's accused of helping the Colombo family engineer four gangland rubouts during the 1980s and early 1990s, made his request under a little-used rule that applies only to officials who are engaged in federal duties when the alleged crime occur. But in legal papers, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes' prosecutors say DeVecchio isn't entitled to the change of venue because gangland killings aren't part of an FBI agent's duties.

"[The] defendant's job as [Gregory] Scarpa's FBI handler did not require him to provide Scarpa with the identities of potential government informants so that Scarpa could kill them," the papers read.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gotti Jr. Indicted Again on Variety of Federal Charges

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, John Gotti

In preparation for a third trial in less than two months, a federal grand jury has indicted John Gotti Jr. on a variety of Mafia-related crimes, including jury tampering as recently as this past summer.

Gotti was also accused of using proceeds of what government prosecutors call Gambino crime family illegal enterprises to establish and use companies to purchase real estate and collect rent from businesses. The indictment, returned on Monday, also said Gotti took part in a conspiracy to convince a witness to lie under oath at a trial of members of another organized crime family.

Gotti has twice been tried on racketeering charges. Both trials ended in hung juries. His third such trial is scheduled to open in federal court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan on July 5. Conviction on most serious charges could bring up to 30 years in prison.

The government contends that Gotti still runs the Gambino crime family. Gotti insists he turned away from such activities years ago. Gotti still faces charges that he ordered an attack on Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa in retaliation for Sliwa's reviling of Gotti's late father, John Gotti Sr.on Sliwa's radio show. The elder Gotti died in prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence on conviction of racketeering and murder. Sliwa suffered a baseball bat attack when he hailed what turned out to be a stolen taxi in Manhattan on June 19, 1992.

Thanks to Phillip Newman

Alledged Mob Social Club: We Do a Lot of Good Things

Friends of ours: Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, Bruno Caruso, Fred Roti, Frank "Toots" Caruso, Michael Talarico
Friends of mine: Robert Cooley

Leaders of the Chicago mob's 26th Street Crew established the Old Neighborhood Italian-American Club in 1981.

Members said it was just a private social club. But the FBI tapped the club's phones in the 1980s, suspecting it was a nerve center for gambling and "juice loans" -- illegal, high-interest loans enforced with the threat of violence. The wiretaps became part of a case against 10 men accused of running an illegal gambling operation in Chinatown.

Some reputed mob figures still hang out at the club. But one of them says reputed mob members no longer run the place as they once did. He put it this way: "We're not influenced by us any more."

The club -- which includes members of the powerful Roti family -- has broadened its membership since it was founded in 1981 by the late Angelo "The Hook'' LaPietra, who ran the 26th Street Crew. The members include doctors and lawyers, and people from different ethnic backgrounds.

The club has sponsored youth baseball teams, hosted anti-drug seminars for kids and held civic events featuring, among others, former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball manager Tommy Lasorda. It's opened its doors to church functions and school graduations. It's hosted "breakfast with Santa" and huge July 4th parties. "We do a lot of good things," one longtime member says. And when the White Sox are playing, its big-screen TV is blaring. Sox Park is just a few blocks south of the club, a red-brick building at 30th and Shields -- a big improvement over its former home in a Chinatown storefront. "It started out as a storefront, they'd play cards, sit around," said one veteran mob investigator. "Now, it's a Taj Mahal, with dues, workout rooms."

One past member is Robert Cooley, a former Chicago cop who became a mob lawyer, then government informant. "Everybody that I knew from the Chinatown area belonged, all of the bookmakers that I represented, that I knew," Cooley said in a July 1997 deposition to union investigators examining alleged mob ties of labor leader Bruno F. Caruso.

Caruso, a nephew of the late Ald. Fred B. Roti, was identified in a 1999 FBI report as a "made" member of the mob. He is also a member of the Old Neighborhood Italian-American Club. The group's "purpose . . . was to keep the neighborhood very active with children," Caruso said in a deposition six years ago.

Other current or recent members include two other men the FBI identified as "made" mob members: Caruso's brother Frank "Toots'' Caruso and Michael Talarico, a restaurant owner who married into the extended Roti family.

The club president is Dominic "CaptainD" DiFazio, a longtime friend of "Toots" Caruso. In a recent interview, DiFazio allowed that he was involved in illegal gambling but said that was years ago.

"Twenty five years ago, I was arrested for taking bets on horses -- 25 years ago," DiFazio said. "You learn your lesson quick in life, and that's it. Everyone's made a mistake in their life.

"Whatever I do now I do now, my heart's in this organization . . . It was always for the community, never anything sinister, believe me."

Thanks to Robert C. Herguth, Tim Novak and Steve Warmbir

Did a Mob Boss Help Elect Richard J. Daley?

Friends of ours: Bruno Roti Sr., Fred Roti, Al Capone

Did Bruno Roti Sr. -- one of Chicago's earliest reputed mob bosses -- help Richard J. Daley win his first election, to the Illinois Legislature, 70 years ago?
Chicago's Richard J. Daley
Daley's victory came in one of the strangest elections in Illinois history. The future Democratic boss won a write-in campaign -- as a Republican -- to replace a Republican legislator who'd died just 16 days before the election.

Daley won with the support of the 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. He also got help from Bruno Roti Sr., said Ald. Bernie Stone (50th), a close friend of Roti's late son, Ald. Fred B. Roti.

"From what Freddie told me, his father had a hand in helping Richard J. Daley become a member of the state Legislature,'' Stone said. "That was back in the '30s. I don't know what the story was. I was in diapers back then." In a follow-up interview, Stone said: "I have no reason not to believe it. I knew his father was very influential in politics in those days. I think there was a certain amount of influence."

Daley's son, the current mayor, doesn't know if Roti helped his father, according to the mayor's press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard.

The Sun-Times could find no evidence to prove that Roti Sr. -- an associate of Al Capone, according to the FBI -- helped Daley get elected to the Legislature on Nov. 3, 1936. This was 19 years before he became mayor.

Every Daley biography discusses his 1936 election, focusing on him winning as a Republican who wound up sitting with the Democrats in the Illinois House. Few of those books mention Bruno Roti Sr., and none has him playing any role in Daley's elections to any office.

Daley's political career began when, as a Democratic Party patronage worker in Cook County government, he and fellow Democrats wrested a legislative seat away from the Republicans after David Shanahan died just before the election. For decades, Shanahan had been the Republican representative for the district, which also had two Democratic representatives. Each district had three representatives, and state law guaranteed each party at least one representative per district.

Shanahan's death left the Republicans without a candidate in the November general election. His party asked a state election board to replace Shanahan with another Republican. The election board's three members -- all Democrats, including Gov. Henry Horner -- refused, ruling Shanahan's replacement would be decided by a write-in vote. Both parties waged write-in campaigns, with Democratic voters helping Daley win the Republican seat, leaving the district with a Republican legislator in name only.

The only available election records from 1936 are handwritten tallies. They show Daley got 8,637 write-in votes from a district that covered parts of six wards, including Daley's own 11th Ward. Daley got 77 percent of his votes from the 11th Ward. In one 11th Ward precinct, Daley's Republican write-in campaign got 77 percent of all the votes -- five times as many votes as either Democratic candidate could muster. And their names were printed on the ballot.

Daley's district didn't include the adjacent 1st Ward, where Bruno Roti Sr. lived. And Roti couldn't vote: He didn't become a citizen until nine years later.

Thanks to Tim Novak

Running a Union, Ruling the Alley

Friends of ours: Bruno Roti Sr., Al Capone, Bruno Caruso, Frank "Toots" Caruso, Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Frank "Skid" Caruso, Fred Roti
Friends of mine: Nicholas Gironda, Leo Caruso, Charles "Guy" Bills, Ernest Kumerow

For years, the City of Chicago's garbage collectors and pothole patchers served two masters: Mayor Richard M. Daley. And the Roti family.

For decades, the Roti family has held extraordinary sway at City Hall. A key part of that clout was its control of a union that represents the city's unskilled laborers and had a long history of mob ties.

Bruno F. Caruso -- a grandson of family patriarch Bruno Roti Sr., identified by the FBI as an associate of Al Capone's -- ran Laborers' International Union Local 1001, which represented 3,500 city workers while Caruso was in power, mostly in two city departments -- Streets and Sanitation, and Transportation. They empty garbage cans, pave streets, fix potholes.

When Caruso left the union leadership, his cousin Nicholas Gironda took over. Caruso's brother Frank "Toots" Caruso headed another Laborers' local that represented city workers. When he left, his cousin Leo Caruso took over. Together, the four Roti family members controlled thousands of unionized city jobs, as well as pension funds and other union assets that once topped a billion dollars. Often, they decided who got unskilled laborers' jobs with the city and who got promoted into supervisory positions in those areas, sources said.

They had that power until they were forced out of or resigned their leadership posts over allegations of corruption and mob ties that had been pursued for years by the international union's in-house prosecutor. As part of that effort, the international union filed a complaint in 2003 that accused Gironda of taking bribes from city job-seekers "on behalf of" his cousins Bruno Caruso and "Toots" Caruso. By 2004, all were gone from the union.

"I haven't been involved in running things for many years," Bruno Caruso, forced out in 2001, said in a recent interview.

Links to the mob

The Roti family's union power goes back to two late organized-crime figures, Ald. Fred B. Roti and Chicago Outfit boss Anthony Accardo, according to union investigators.

Bruno and "Toots'' Caruso are nephews of Roti. The three were among 47 men identified by the FBI in 1999 as "made'' members of the mob. "Made'' mobsters, according to the report, pledge loyalty to the Outfit "and would carry this oath of commitment and silence to the grave.'' Bruno Caruso denies having organized-crime ties. "Toots" Caruso declined to comment.

Accardo was once a Capone bodyguard and a suspect in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He wound up in charge of the Outfit, which he helped run for more than five decades. In a 2003 filing, union investigators said "Accardo used his influence" to ensure his son-in-law Ernest Kumerow became Chicago's top Laborers' official in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1982, Kumerow appointed Bruno Caruso secretary-treasurer of Local 1001. After Accardo died, Kumerow left, and Caruso took over Local 1001 and the Laborers' Chicago District Council, a larger consortium of 19,000 union members. He ran the council until 1998 and the local until 2001.

Bruno Caruso and "Toots" Caruso are the third generation of the Roti family linked to the mob, according to FBI reports. The allegations began with their grandfather, Bruno Roti Sr., who ran the mob's South Side operations, and continued with their father, Frank "Skid" Caruso, who took over when Roti died in 1957, according to a 1966 FBI report.

"Skid" Caruso married Roti's daughter Catherine. They raised four children -- daughter Frances and sons Peter, Bruno and "Toots" -- in a house on 23rd Street at the center of both Chinatown and Roti family life.

Political beginnings

Bruno Caruso became one of the most powerful labor bosses in Chicago. But he started out cutting hair and drumming up votes in the 1960s for Democrats in the 1st Ward, the mob's historical political power base. "I gave outstanding haircuts," Caruso boasted in a 1997 deposition.

This son of Chinatown, who now lives in Darien, soon traded his scissors for a jackhammer. Caruso, 62, went to work for the city in 1966 as an asphalt laborer. He became a steward for Laborers' Local 1001 in his first year on the job. Caruso moved from foreman to supervisor to superintendent of pavement repair. As a city superintendent, Caruso was paid $39,072 in 1982 to oversee as many as 400 workers -- who belonged to his union. He was their boss -- and their union leader.

Caruso -- who married Mary Ann Rizza, whose family owns five car dealerships -- was a Department of Streets and Sanitation superintendent when he joined the executive board of Laborers' Local 1001 in 1981. A year later, Kumerow made Caruso the union's secretary-treasurer, a full-time job, and Caruso left his city job.

A labor leader, speaking on the condition he not be named, said of Caruso: "Bruno cared about his membership, very family-orientated. But evidently other people thought different things."

Ousted by their own union

As the mob dominated the Laborers' Union nationwide into the mid-1990s, the Justice Department agreed to let the international union clean house. The union hired investigators to ferret out crime and corruption. In 1997, the Laborers' International Union went after the powerful Chicago District Council, filing a complaint that ultimately booted its officers. The international union's in-house prosecutor, Robert Luskin, later filed charges against Bruno Caruso, as well as "Toots" Caruso and Leo Caruso, who ran Laborers' Local 1006, also representing city workers. The Carusos, accused of having links to organized crime, were kicked out of the union forever in 2001.

Bruno Caruso was replaced by Gironda, his cousin. Gironda "was placed in Local 1001 to continue organized crime influence over Local 1001," according to the 2003 complaint Luskin filed. Gironda quit in 2004, agreeing to leave the union forever.

Last summer, Local 1001 held its first contested election in decades.

'A very dull person'

During the proceedings to oust Bruno Caruso, a Chicago Police detective testified he'd seen him and "Toots" Caruso with two mob bosses in 1994 -- a meeting Bruno Caruso said was to organize festivities for St. Joseph's Day, an important holiday for Italians. On other occasions, Bruno Caruso was spotted with other reputed mob bosses.

These days, Caruso owns Maxwell Street Depot, a 24-hour, fast-food joint near Sox Park.

"I go to church every morning," Caruso said during the proceedings that led to his ouster from the union. "In the circles of nightlife and that nature, I am known as a very dull person, yes."

Hoodlum-turned-informant Charles "Guy" Bills recalled once seeing Caruso at a card game. "He was walking around like a little prince," Bills said in a July 1997 deposition. "But 'Toots' was the biggest prince."

'Out of a 'B' movie'

"Toots" Caruso had nothing to say in 1995 when union investigators wanted to ask about the mob. He had plenty to say three years later, when only son Frank Jr. faced prison for beating a black teen, Lenard Clark, who'd ventured into the Carusos' neighborhood. "Toots" Caruso pleaded for leniency, telling the judge: "The area in which we live has set up standards that are so archaic, out of a 'B' movie, that I would have moved eight to 10 years ago, but did not want to leave my mother. (God, I wish I had)."

Caruso, 60, also discussed personal moments with his son, who ended up spending more than four years in prison. "I can recall watching scary movies with him," he told the judge. "We would put on all the lights in the basement because we were both frightened, then run up to our rooms. My wife would say, 'If the both of you are scared, don't watch them.' Frank would say, 'Dad is scared,' and I would say he was."

Caruso said he advised his son: "Tell me who you hang with, and I'll tell you who you are." After the trial, Caruso moved to Lemont.

'Always wanted to be a boss'

"Toots" Caruso grew up next door to his maternal grandfather, the reputed mob boss who, according to the FBI, turned over his criminal operations to his son-in-law "Skid" Caruso. The youngest son of a mob boss, "Toots" Caruso wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, according to a 1997 deposition from onetime friend Bills. "Toots always wanted to be a boss," Bills testified. "That was his goal. He told me."

"Toots" Caruso hung around with relatives and friends who were under orders to protect him, Bills said, explaining that he heard this from Caruso's cousin Leo, 62. "Leo told me, 'My uncle will kill everybody if anything happens to Toots or he gets in any kind of trouble," Bills said.

In 1982, "Toots" Caruso was arrested with his cousin Fred Bruno Barbara and two reputed mobsters, accused of trying to collect an illegal, high-interest "juice" loan from an undercover FBI agent in a bar at Lake Point Tower. Caruso told authorities he'd just been dropped off there by his uncle, Ald. Fred Roti. A jury found all four not guilty.

Nine days after his arrest, Caruso -- then a Laborers' Local 1006 business representative and delegate to the Chicago District Council -- got a promotion. He went on to become the local's top officer, a post he quit in 1995, a day after getting a subpoena from union investigators.

Caruso then got a job running a multimillion-dollar pension fund for the Laborers'. He was fired in 1998. Soon after, Caruso had another job, union records show -- driving a truck for Schadt's Inc., one of the biggest companies in the city's Hired Truck Program.

Thanks to Tim Novak and Robert C. Herguth

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One Family's Rise, A Century of Power

Friends of ours: Bruno Roti Sr., Al Capone, Fred Bruno Roti, Johnny Genero, James Belcastro, Frank "Skid" Caruso, Pat Marcy, Frank "Toots" Caruso
Friends of mine: Morris "Mutt" Caruso, Dominick Scalfaro, Robert Cooley

When Bruno Roti Sr. died in 1957, 3,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects. Fourteen cars overflowed with flowers.

The wail of a 12-piece marching band filled the streets of the neighborhood that Roti Sr. had called home for nearly five decades, since leaving his small village of Simbario in southern Italy in 1909. Nearly 100 men wearing black sashes across their chests escorted the hearse through the neighborhood today known as Chinatown. They were members of an organization Roti founded -- the Society of St. Rocco di Simbario.

It was a funeral fit for a cardinal. Or a mayor. According to his death certificate, Bruno Roti Sr., dead at 76, was a beer distributor.

To people in his tightly knit Italian neighborhood, Roti Sr. was their leader. Years after Roti's death, his godson, in a recorded interview he gave in 1980 for the "Italians in Chicago" project run by the history department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recalled him as a man who showed immigrants a "clean, decent, respectable way of life.''

To Chicago Police, though, Roti Sr. was "The Bomber," "The Mustache," "a big man in the Chicago crime setup." In the early part of the century, he was part of the Black Hand, police said -- the name given to loose-knit gangs of extortionists who preyed on fellow Italian immigrants for money. The Black Hand gangs would be taken over in the 1920s by Al Capone's gang.

"Roti was close to Al Capone and was visited by Capone on many occasions,'' according to an FBI report prepared nine years after his death.

The FBI identified Roti Sr. as the leader of what would become the Chicago Outfit's 26th Street/Chinatown crew, a key cog in organized crime here. His descendants would build upon his legacy, extending the family's influence over public office and organized labor.

A neighborhood grocer

Bruno Roti Sr. visited Chicago in 1901, then returned eight years later for good, according to the passenger manifest of the ship -- named La Bretagne -- that brought him to America when he was 28.

Roti passed through Ellis Island in the spring of 1909 on his way to Chicago to join his two brothers and his pregnant wife's siblings. Wife Marianna Bertucci Roti and the couple's two sons stayed behind in Simbario, joining Roti in Chicago seven months later, according to his petitions for citizenship.

Roti Sr. became a grocer, operating a store in the 2100 block of South Wentworth, according to a Chicago city directory from 1917.

Chicago -- booming with hundreds of thousands of immigrants -- was a brutal place, with gangland killings, immigrants preying upon each other, rampant vice.

Roti Sr. himself was arrested twice in murder investigations.

The first time, in 1920, he was picked up with four others in the slaying of labor leader Maurice "Moss'' Enright, according to newspaper accounts. Enright was trying to take over the city's street sweeper union. Police suspected Roti had disposed of the sawed-off shotgun that was used to kill Enright. But he was never charged.

As Prohibition-era violence raged, Roti Sr. was charged in a killing in 1931, according to newspaper accounts. At the time, he was 51 and the father of 10 children. One of his sons, then 10 years old, was Fred Bruno Roti, who would grow up to be a powerful Chicago alderman -- and, according to the FBI, a "made" member of the mob.

The victim was Johnny Genero, a gangster who was driving to his mother's house with another man when his car was trapped by another car at 29th and Normal. Genero was shot in the head. He died instantly. His companion wasn't harmed.

Police arrested Roti Sr., described in newspaper reports as a saloonkeeper, and four others, including James Belcastro. Belcastro, nicknamed "King of the Bombers,'' had been arrested more than 150 times. Among his alleged crimes: the 1928 murder of a political candidate and the operation of a bomb factory. He wasn't convicted in either case.

Belcastro was often referred in newspaper stories as Chicago's "Public Enemy No. 4,'' and as a "pineapple thrower'' -- a flip reference to persistent allegations he threw bombs at homes or businesses. The Chicago Daily News decreed he was "head of the bombmaking division of Capone Inc.''

A few weeks after Genero's murder, prosecutors dropped all charges against Roti, Belcastro and the others. No one was ever convicted of Genero's murder.

When Belcastro would be arrested, Roti Sr.'s wife sometimes put up her family's home to bail Belcastro out of jail. Or her brother Bruno Bertucci would. In fact, the Rotis and Bertuccis often put up their homes to bail people out of jail, among them Bruno Roti Sr. himself, according to Cook County property deeds.

Rejected, twice, for citizenship

Roti applied twice during Prohibition to become an American citizen. The first time, he was rejected for "ignorance,'' the second for not having "five years good character.''

Finally, 36 years after he moved to America, Roti was granted citizenship in 1945, a few months after World War II ended. One of his character witnesses was John Budinger, the alderman of the 1st Ward, the hand-picked successor of Michael "Hinky Dink'' Kenna, the infamously corrupt alderman who'd served during Prohibition.

Chicago's 1st Ward -- which included the Loop and Near South Side -- had long been ruled by the mob, which had a hand in everything from gambling to politics to development. Eleven years after Bruno Roti Sr.'s death, his son Fred became the 1st Ward alderman, a job he eventually gave up when he got caught taking bribes.

Son-in-law takes over

When Bruno Roti Sr. died, his criminal empire went to Frank "Skid'' Caruso, who had married Roti's daughter Catherine in 1934, according to FBI reports.

According to an FBI report dated Feb. 25, 1966, "His 'clout' comes from the fact he is the son-in-law of BRUNO ROTI referred to as 'MUSTACHE.'

"It has previously been reported that CARUSO is the leader of rackets and organized crime in that area and gets a piece of all action taking place there," the report said, referring to Chinatown.

Another FBI report, from Oct. 20, 1969, said: "CARUSO characterized as formerly a 'baggage thief' and was nothing until he married into the Bruno Roti family."

Caruso was a onetime patronage worker for the city street department. He served in the Army during World War II, was wounded in France and received a Purple Heart -- a fact his son Bruno proudly noted during a deposition six years ago.

Taking over from his father-in-law, Caruso concentrated on illegal gambling, including "juice loans" -- illegal, high-interest loans often made to gamblers. A craps game Caruso ran in Chinatown in 1962 was "one of the biggest and best in the entire Chicago area,'' an informant told the FBI.

"Bruno Roti had considerable wealth and property and cash in that area and this wealth is still somewhat controlled by [Caruso] in view of his leadership capacity concerning gambling and criminal matters," according to the 1969 FBI report.

On the city payroll

Over the years, many of "Skid" Caruso's relatives held city patronage jobs, usually in the Streets and Sanitation Department. Two of his three sons, two of his brothers, his sister's husband and five of his wife's brothers all had city jobs at some point. Today, he has grandchildren, nieces and nephews -- more than 30 relatives in all, including Carusos, Rotis and other family members -- on the city payroll.

Caruso's older brother, Joe "Shoes" Caruso, made headlines in 1959, when a reporter found him working at a liquor distributorship when he was supposed to be at his city job -- using a hand broom to sweep two city blocks in Chinatown. "Shoes" Caruso didn't bat an eye at getting caught.

"I've been through all this before,'' he told the Chicago Tribune in 1959. "It's always the same -- a lot of wind, and nothing ever happens. Wait and see. There still will be payrollers after all of us are dead and gone.''

Thirty-two years later, "Skid'' Caruso's oldest son, Peter, and other relatives got caught up in a similar scandal involving city workers assigned to sweep streets with brooms. Once again, city officials found they weren't working eight hours a day.

"Skid" Caruso's gambling associates also landed city jobs, thanks to Caruso's brother-in-law, Frank Roti, according to an FBI report filed shortly after Roti's funeral in 1966. "Frank Roti held a city job most of his life and was responsible for hiring many individuals who assisted Caruso in racket operations," the FBI said.

Why 'Skid?'

The FBI had two versions of how "Skid" Caruso got his nickname, according to its files. One said it was due to his "association with the Skid Row element." The other said it was a shortened version of "Machine Gun Skid," which he was called in his younger days, when he "committed numerous acts of terrorism,'' according to an Oct. 20, 1966, FBI report.

Caruso was arrested at least 10 times, mostly on gambling charges, but never convicted, according to his FBI file. In 1965, Chicago Police arrested him on gambling charges, but the case was dropped after prosecutors discovered that evidence had been "lost or misplaced," according to the FBI.

"I know the system must be working if my father never did a day in jail ... for organized crime," his son Bruno Caruso said in a 2000 deposition.

"Skid'' Caruso's gambling crew included his brother, Morris "Mutt'' Caruso, and their sister's husband, Dominick Scalfaro, who were arrested in separate gambling cases in the 1960s. "Mutt'' Caruso's case was dismissed. Scalfaro was convicted, but the case was dismissed on appeal.

Caruso died in 1983 at 71. Fourteen years later, his grandson and namesake, Frank Caruso, was charged with beating Lenard Clark, a black teenager who had come into the Carusos' neighborhood. Frank Caruso was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced to eight years in prison.

His trial brought the close-knit family even closer together, as relatives defended the young man, arguing that reporters unfairly portrayed him as a racist.

Caruso's father, Frank "Toots" Caruso, wrote to the judge, asking for leniency. He described Sunday gatherings at the home of his mother, Catherine Roti Caruso, Bruno Roti Sr.'s daughter and matriarch of the family. The elder Caruso wrote that his son "speaks to his Nana with reverence. I have let him know that she is 87-years-old and any day could be her last. We all eat at Nana's house every Sunday. She cooks for 21 people, but her granddaughters serve and clean up afterward. Frank's job is to set the table the third Sunday of every month."

The grandmother is now 94 years old. She still lives in the Chinatown home where she raised her family, right next door to the home of her late younger brother, Fred Roti, who, as alderman, would take the family farther in politics than any other family member.

A power at City Hall

Roti became 1st Ward alderman in 1968. He soon became one of the most powerful, well-liked and respected members of the City Council. Roti was also a "made member" of the mob, according to the FBI -- a fact not made public until after his death in 1999.

Roti's political career abruptly ended in 1991, when he was charged with taking bribes to fix zoning and court cases. Two years later, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison.

The charges resulted from a federal probe that loosened the mob's political grip over the 1st Ward, including the area controlled by the 26th Street Crew long run by Roti's brother-in-law, "Skid'' Caruso.

"The 26th Street/Chinatown Crew historically was supposedly aligned with the 1st Ward, which was operated and controlled under organized crime auspices . . . and historically has had influence within the city of Chicago government for contracts, jobs with Streets and Sanitation, city contracts for hauling, trucking companies and so on," former FBI Agent John O'Rourke, an expert on the Chicago Outfit, said in a July 1997 deposition in a labor case.

Federal authorities attacked the mob's hold on Chicago politics with the help of Robert Cooley, a Chicago cop-turned-mob-lawyer who secretly recorded conversations with politicians and judges. Federal agents also hid a listening device in a booth at the old Counsellor's Row, a restaurant and 1st Ward mob hangout that was across from City Hall.

The investigation found that the powerhouse in Chicago's mob politics was Pat Marcy, who held the unassuming title of secretary of the 1st Ward Democratic Organization but whose power was vast. Marcy took bribes and doled out city contracts and jobs, fixed criminal and civil cases, and bribed politicians and judges, according to testimony at Roti's trial. Roti was alderman, but he answered to Marcy.

'Nobody gets hurt'

Roti reveled in his reputation as the mob's voice on the City Council. During Roti's re-election campaigns, the joke around City Hall was "Vote for Roti, and Nobody Gets Hurt.'' And Roti shared in the laugh.

He was elected alderman in 1968 and held the job until he resigned in 1991, when he was indicted. He'd been a state senator from 1950 to 1956. When he left the Senate, he was a patronage worker in the city's Sewer Department.

Over the years, Roti often was asked about his many relatives working for the city. "So I have some relatives on the payroll," Roti said in 1981. "They're doing an excellent job."

That comment came a year after his son -- city employee Bruno F. Roti -- was indicted in a police motor-pool scandal, charged with billing the city for work done on Bruno Roti's own car. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a work-release program for six months and fined $5,000.

Ald. Roti also faced criticism that he helped steer the city's trucking business to his nephews -- including Fred Bruno Barbara, who would make a fortune off city business.

When Roti died, his family and friends jammed the streets of Chinatown for a funeral procession similar to his father's 42 years earlier. His longtime friend, Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), made sure everyone knew the role Roti played in Chicago history.

"Our skyline should say 'Roti' on it,'' Stone said at the funeral. "If not for Fred Roti, half the buildings in the Loop would never have been built."

Roti, his father Bruno Roti Sr. and brother-in-law Frank "Skid" Caruso are buried together at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside. Roti Sr. is interred in a stone mausoleum -- one of the most ornate, intricately carved edifices in the cemetery. It towers over the graves of his relatives. To the right is the grave of Ald. Fred Roti; to the left, "Skid'' Caruso. Other relatives are buried nearby.

At Christmas, fresh wreaths decorated each grave. A large one with a red bow was hanging on Roti Sr.'s mausoleum.

Nearly 50 years after his death, Bruno Roti Sr. hasn't been forgotten.

Thanks to Tim Novak, Robert C. Herguth, and Steve Warmbir

Monday, May 22, 2006

Overheard: Jimmy Hoffa Dig Site

Jimmy Hoffa Dig Site
The FBI began digging up a horse farm in Michigan looking for Jimmy Hoffa on Wednesday. The pressure's on to find him. President Bush knows from experience that his approval rating goes up ten points every time he finds a tyrant in a hole.

Marketing Al Capone

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Ralph "Bottles" Capone, George Meyer

A photograph of one of the world's most famous mobsters vacationing in Hot Springs, Ark., is being used for a new postcard to promote the historic town.
Al Capone, Ralph 'Bottles' Cappone and George Meyer
The photo shows Al Capone wearing a floppy cowboy hat and riding a donkey in Happy Hollow Springs, a popular tourist spot in the town in the 1930s. Capone is joined by his brother, Ralph "Bottles" Capone, and George Meyer, who supposedly drove the getaway car in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago.

In the 1930s, Hot Springs was considered neutral ground for mobsters who visited, said Steve Arrison, executive director of the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. Capone frequented the town so often that he had his own suite at the Arlington Hotel, and guests at the Arlington still ask to stay in "Al's Suite."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the Oscar goes to ... Gregory DePalma?

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Gregory DePalma, Vincent "Chin"Gigante, Joe Bonanno, Gennaro Angiulo, Stefano Maggodino, Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce
Friends of mine: Ilario Zannino

Gregory DePalma, the powerful Gambino family captain, allegedly bragged about his Academy Award-caliber performance playing a desperately ill man looking for a sentence reduction. It worked; a federal judge jailed DePalma for less than six years instead of the 13-year maximum back in 1999.

There was just one problem: The federal government was secretly taping DePalma's post-sentencing review. And now he's back in court, allegedly battling another debilitating illness as prosecutors attempt to convince another jury that DePalma is a racketeer.

The 74-year-old mobster, sitting at the defense table with an oxygen tube in his nose and his feet resting on a small stool, is the latest Mafiosi caught in a medical controversy over competency to stand trial. The government inevitably insists the defendant is a healthy candidate for prosecution; the defense is equally insistent that he is not.

"Surveillance photos will show you Gregory DePalma on the move, an energetic, active man," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Marrah said in his opening statement at the reputed mobster's trial in Manhattan.

Not so, said defense attorney John Meringolo. DePalma was "a broken-down man who has a big mouth and is living through the past," Meringolo argued.

Trying to dodge prosecution through illness _ the "Sicilian flu," as federal agents once derisively called it _ is a long-standing Mafia defense. The most famous of all was Vincent Gigante, the so-called "Oddfather" who avoided conviction for nearly three decades by publicly acting like a loon.

Gigante strolled through his Greenwich Village neighborhood in bathrobe and slippers, whether it was time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gigante avoided conviction from 1970, when he first launched the ruse, until a 1997 conviction for racketeering and murder conspiracy.

FBI agents serving Gigante with a subpoena once found him standing naked in a running shower, clutching an open umbrella.

"With some of these guys, it would be hard to tell if it's dementia or just the way they are," said mob expert Howard Abadinsky. "They're that nutty."

The majority of cases run to heart problems rather than head cases.

Joe Bonanno, one of the founding fathers of New York City's mob, was summoned to testify in 1985 at a federal prosecution of the Mafia's ruling "Commission." Then 80, he was retired and living in Arizona - where he was definitely too ill to take the witness stand, said his lawyer, William Kunstler. The stress of testifying, Kunstler insisted, was too much for the octogenarian mobster. Bonanno did 14 months for contempt, coming out of prison in 1986. He died ... 16 years later, at the ripe old age of 97. Kunstler had died seven years earlier at 76.

Ilario Zannino, an associate of New England mob underboss Gennaro Angiulo, managed to avoid prosecution - albeit temporarily - after he was hospitalized with heart problems in 1985. He died in jail 11 years later at age 74.

Buffalo boss Stefano Maggodino, following his arrest, once claimed he was too sick to get fingerprinted. At a bedside arraignment, he told the assembled authorities, "Take the gun and shoot me. That's what you want!" He survived for another five years.

Not everyone lived as long as those three. Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce was arraigned by telephone in April 1985 from his Staten Island home, where he was laid up with heart disease and cancer. Dellacroce was dead before the end of the year.

"When you start to think of the lifestyles these guys live, there's a good chance it's not going to be so healthy," said Abadinsky. "One of the things that always fascinated me is that these guys didn't die earlier."

The Gigante case, with a mob boss feigning dementia to maintain his freedom, has become part of pop culture. Junior Soprano, on the hit HBO show, went from malingering to menacing mobster this year when he shot nephew Tony in a case of mistaken identity. The long-running hit TV show "Law And Order" did an episode using the Gigante premise. And author Jimmy Breslin did an entire book, "I Don't Want to Go to Jail: A Good Novel," that parodied Gigante with a character called Fausti ("The Fist") Dellacava.

"Gigante got a lot of exercise walking around the Village," Abadinsky said of the mobster who lived to age 77. "He just said he was nuts."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mob Boss Threatens Liza Minnelli's Former Manager

A New York mob boss allegedly forced Liza Minnelli's former manager to pay for a group of Mafia wives to go to Las Vegas, a federal jury was told.

The jury in the trial of Greg DePalma heard recordings made by federal agents that revealed DePalma forced Gary Labriola to use his American Express card to pay for the women's $12,000, eight-night stay at the Venetian Hotel -- then threatened him when some of the charges were rejected -- The New York Post reported Thursday.

"I'm with my friends now. I look like a (expletive) horse's ass," DePalma said in the recording made Oct. 21, 2003.

After DePalma threatened him, Labriola promised to take care of the bill. However, when notified two months later there was still an outstanding balance of $4,800 on the hotel's account, DePalma made a phone call -- again recorded -- saying if he had Labriola in his hands "I would strangle him." Labriola paid the remaining balance a short time later, the Post said.

DePalma, 74, is on trial for charges including extortion, loan sharking, assault and receiving stolen property.

FBI Digs for Clues to Hoffa

Friends of ours: Sam Giancana, Sal "Sally Bugs" Briguglio, Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone
Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa, Rolland "Red" McMaster

The digging continued Thursday at a Michigan farm where FBI agents are looking for clues to one of the great mysteries in US history, the disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa.

The digging began Wednesday at the property outside of Detroit. One agent is describing the lead that led them to the farm as one of the best ever. The horse farm outside Detroit now being searched by federal agents is called "Hidden Dreams." The question is: are the remains of Jimmy Hoffa also hidden there? In 1975 when Hoffa seemed to have evaporated from earth, the farm was owned by one of his closest teamsters union allies. Authorities searched the farm at the time and found nothing. But the I-Team has learned that recently a federal prison inmate gave investigators new information that has sent them back to the farm digging for clues.

More than 50 federal agents, soil experts and college archeologists converged on Milford, Michigan to look for what the search warrant calls "the human remains of James Riddle Hoffa."

"I've been the agent in charge and this is the best lead I've seen come across on the Hoffa investigation. You can see from the amount of FBI and police department personnel out here that this is probably a fairly credible lead," said Daniel Roberts, FBI-Detroit.

FBI officials declined to give any details about the new information about why they are searching the farm almost 31 years after the last time they were in Milford right after Hoffa disappeared.

But here's what we know:

It was July of 1975 when Hoffa disappeared after a lunchdate at this suburban
Detroit restaurant.

He had called his wife from a phonebooth at an adjacent shopping center and was never heard from again.

One of Hoffa's closest union confidantes at the time was a man named Rolland "Red" McMaster. Now 93 years old, McMaster used to own this farm where the FBI has returned to begin a two-week excavation.

A former associate of McMaster's-now in federal prison-provided authorities with new leads that prompted them to look for Hoffa's remains on the farm.
The federal team working in Michigan includes two FBI evidence experts from the Chicago field office. So far they have found no evidence of Jimmy Hoffa at this location and are being assisted by anthropologists from Michigan State University in analyzing the dirt.

This is the third time in three years that federal agents have gone to a location to dig for Jimmy Hoffa clues, the previous operations unearthed nothing...

The federal prison inmate who provided the horse farm tip is said to have passed a lie detector test. FBI agents have paid a visit to the former farm owner, Red McMaster, who worked with Hoffa until the day Hoffa disappeared.

Law enforcement sources say they have long considered McMaster an important piece in the Hoffa puzzle because of his connections to the late Chicago outfit boss Sam Giancana and the fact that the Chicago mob had muscled control of the teamsters pension funds when Hoffa vanished. McMaster once speculated that Hoffa wasn't dead, that he "ran off to brazil with a black go-go dancer".

Chicago FBI agents are helping in the digging operation outside Detroit. In this Intelligence Report: why some investigators take a wait-and-see attitude about this latest chapter in one of the country's biggest mysteries.

The Jimmy Hoffa case is forever intertwined with Chicago, from the top hoodlums who are suspected of having a role in his disappearance to the FBI agents who spent their careers searching to solve the puzzle. Federal investigators who know the case inside out, tell the ABC7 I-Team that they are skeptical of the lead that has led authorities back to that suburban detroit Horse farm.

The James r. Hoffa file at FBI headquarters in Washington is thick. The "R." in Hoffa's name actually stands for "Riddle," his mother's maiden name. But former Chicago FBI agent, now private investigator, Joe Brennan says the riddle of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa was actually solved years ago.

According to Brennan, the FBI knew what happened to Hoffa en route to his last meal at a suburban Detroit eatery. Shortly after Hoffa called his wife from a payphone near the restaurant -- these were pre-cell phone days -- authorities believe he was from his behind the wheel of his own car in the parking lot. Agents believe he was stuffed into the trunk of a second car and driven away by two outfit hitmen, including a New Jersey hoodlum named Sal "Sally Bugs" Briguglio, who himself was silenced in a gangland hit a few years later.

Jailhouse snitches and mob insiders told the FBI that Hoffa's body was put into a 55 gallon oil drum, put on a truck and driven to New Jersey, where they say mob boss Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano was waiting for proof Hoffa had been taken out. According to an FBI source, Provenzano popped the lid of the drum, saw Hoffa's head under the platter, and sent the packaged remains to the Meadowlands Sports Complex or had it dumped in the Atlantic. That is why Brennan and other FBI agents who worked the case today are wary of the horse farm being Hoffa's final resting place.

The farm, once owned by a close Hoffa's union ally, was also a popular mob meeting spot, a well-secluded retreat for Chicago outfit boss Sam Giancana and Chicago hoodlums who had business to discuss with their Detroit counterparts led by Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone.

The farm is an unlikely location, say some veteran agents, for a body to buried. Nonetheless, dozens of FBI agents with heavy equipment have descended on this farm that was first searched in 1975 to no avail.

"There have been a number of leads out in this area that have been covered over the last 30 years," said Daniel Roberts , FBI-Detroit.

New Jersey mafia capo Tony Provenzano died by heart attack in 1988. Authors and armchair criminologists just assume that Provenzano had Hoffa killed to prevent Hoffa's return to the teamsters. But Joe Brennan and other FBI insiders believe Tony Pro was motivated by a personal grudge, that when he and Hoffa were in the same Pennsylvania prison in the late 60's and 70's, Hoffa disrespected the mob boss and that, on his last July 30, came to regret it.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Michigan Farm Subject of Hoffa Search

Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa

In one of the most intensive searches for Jimmy Hoffa in decades, the
FBI summoned archaeologists and anthropologists and brought in heavy equipment to scour a horse farm Thursday for the body of the former Teamsters boss who vanished in 1975.

Daniel Roberts, agent in charge of the Detroit FBI field office, would not disclose what led agents to the farm, but said: "This is probably a fairly credible lead. You can gather that from the number of people out here."

No trace of Hoffa has ever been found, and no one has ever been charged in the case. But investigators have long suspected that he was killed by the mob to keep him from reclaiming the Teamsters presidency after he got out of prison for corruption.

The farm, just outside Detroit, used to be owned by a Teamsters official. And mob figures used to meet at a barn there before Hoffa's disappearance, authorities said.

Investigators began combing the area Wednesday, and the search continued Thursday and included the use of heavy construction equipment. Roberts said it would probably involve the removal of a barn. Authorities also led cadaver dogs across the property, and the FBI called in anthropologists and archaeologists from Michigan State University. Roberts said he expects the search to go on for at least a couple of weeks.

Hoffa was last seen on a night he was scheduled to have dinner at a restaurant about 20 miles from the farm. He was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain, both now dead.

Over the years, Hoffa's disappearance spawned endless theories — that he was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands; that he was ground up and thrown to the fishes in a Florida swamp; that he was obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant that has since burned down.

In 2003, authorities searched beneath a backyard pool a few hours north of Detroit but turned up nothing. The following year, they pulled up the floorboards on a Detroit home and found bloodstains, but the blood was not Hoffa's.

A law enforcement official in Washington said the latest search was based on information developed several years ago and verified more recently.

Among other things, there was a high level of suspicious activity on the farm the day Hoffa vanished, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A backhoe appeared that day near the barn organized crime members had used for meetings, and that location was never used again, the official said.

At the time of Hoffa's disappearance, the property was owned by Rolland McMaster, a longtime Teamsters official. It is now under different ownership and is called Hidden Dreams Farm. McMaster's lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, said he doubted the FBI would find anything. "That farm was looked at with a fine-toothed comb in the '70s, when Hoffa was missing," Morganroth said. "There's nothing there."

McMaster was convicted in 1963 of accepting payoffs from a trucking company and, according to a 1976 Detroit Free Press account, served five months in prison.

Reporters were not allowed onto the property, which is surrounded by a white wooden fence just off a dirt road. Images from news helicopters showed about a dozen people, some with shovels, standing by an area of newly turned dirt about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Morganroth said McMaster was in Indiana on union business at the time of Hoffa's disappearance. He said that to his knowledge, McMaster was never a suspect. Morganroth said FBI officials visited McMaster, 93, this week at his home in Fenton, where one of several horse-breeding farms he owns is situated.

"They were just asking about the farm itself — did he ever get any inkling?" he said.

In 1967, Hoffa was sentenced to 13 years in prison for jury tampering and fraud, but he refused to give up the Teamsters presidency. After he quit the job in 1971, President Nixon pardoned him.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We're Not Mafia - Enron's Last Defense

Lawyers for Enron's indicted ex-chiefs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling made their final sympathy plea to keep the pair out of prison - claiming prosecutors treated them like common Mafia thugs.

In an impassioned six-hour closing argument, defense lawyers took turns trying to prove the two men did nothing wrong other than take down Enron in bankruptcy through their own management failures. "Bankruptcy is not a crime. Failure is not a crime," said defense lawyer Daniel Petrocelli.

He insisted that prosecutors tainted the trial process by unfairly building their case against Enron's executives as if they were "tackling a mob organization."

Petrocelli said Skilling was portrayed as "a mob chieftain" and his colleagues as gang "lieutenants" who ratted him out, gangland style. "They take down mob kingpins that way," Petrocelli said.

Petrocelli particularly was annoyed by ex-Enron executive Sherron Watkins, whose famous memo warned Lay about the company's impending collapse from accounting scandals. "She went on 'Good Morning America' and she said that Mr. Skilling was the mafia boss and (CFO Andy) Fastow was the assassin," Petrocelli said, referring to the prosecution's key witness. "She compared my client to a mob boss," he said.

Petrocelli said government witnesses - a string of other indicted Enron executives - were pressured by threats of long prison sentences. Those witnesses' testimony was not backed up by any documents, he said. "Documents don't lie; people do," Petrocelli said. "It's hard to create fake documents . . . but it's not so hard to create fake testimony."

Another defense lawyer for Lay, Bruce Collins, told jurors they must "decide whether Ken Lay is locked in a cage for the rest of his life."

Lay, 64, and Skilling, 52, each face at least 25 years in prison if convicted of charges that they used off-the-books partnerships to manipulate Enron's finances. The jury is expected to begin deliberations today.

Thanks to Paul Tharp

Mariah Carey Linked to Mafia

Diva Mariah CareyPop beauty Mariah Carey allegedly dined with a New York gangster during her marriage to ex-husband Tommy Mottola, a former FBI agent claims.

Joaquin Manuel Garcia, who retired from the FBI in March, made the revelations as he testified in alleged mob boss Greg DePalma's racketeering trial in a Manhattan court room on Monday.

Garcia claims De Palma, 74, brought him into the mob and he secretly recorded conversations during his time with the criminal gang. During a recorded conversation, De Palma claims he enjoyed a series of dinners with the singer and her music mogul husband in the mid-1990s. De Palma described Carey as "very nice, very quiet, reserved".

When asked for comment by the New York Daily News, a spokesman for Mottola denied he had spent time with De Palma.

Mob Rat on Stand at Trial of Jersey City 'Soldier'

Friends of ours: Peter Caporino, Genovese Crime Family, Michael Crincoli, Lawrence Dentico, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, Joseph "Big Joe" Scarbrough

Eighteen years as a Mafia turncoat came to a climax yesterday when Peter Caporino took the witness stand in U.S. District Court. Jurors also heard the first of 300 conversations between reputed mobsters recorded over three years by Caporino, who wore a wire for the feds.

Caporino testified for the prosecution against reputed Genovese crime family soldier Michael Crincoli, 46, of Jersey City, who allegedly ran a loansharking and extortion business out of his deli at 944 West Side Ave. Caporino ran a bookmaking operation, also protected by the Genovese family, out of the Character Club in Hoboken.

Caporino said he'd already been working as an informant for the FBI for 15 years when he was busted by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office on gambling charges in February 2003. At that point, he said, he decided he would go from confidential informant to cooperating witness. "Cooperating witness meant I would wear a wire and testify," he said.

He said his FBI handlers gave him a recording device, disguised as a pager, that could tape up to 10 hours of conversations. Caporino's recordings resulted in 16 arrests in 2005. All save one - Crincoli - has since taken a plea deal.

Among those arrested was Lawrence Dentico, 81, of Seaside Park, one of a handful of men thought to run the Genovese crime family since Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was convicted of extortion in 1997. Dentico has pleaded guilty.

Also snared was Joseph "Big Joe" Scarbrough, 66, of West Orange, an alleged Genovese family associate accused of loansharking, illegal gambling and extortion. Scarbrough has pleaded guilty.

Jersey City Incinerator Authority Inspector Russell Fallacara, 38, of Keansburg, was picked up in the sweep and he later admitted he demanded a $100,000 payment from Nacirema Carting and Demolition of Bayonne, which had a contract with Jersey City.

Caporino said he grew up in Hoboken and graduated from Demarest High School, now Hoboken High. He worked for a trucking company before joining the Army; after his discharge, he returned to the trucking company and discovered the man who'd run the local numbers game had died. He and another worker then took it over, he said.

He eventually expanded the business to the point where he had to make a weekly tribute payment to the mob in order to continue operating. Caporino will likely be on the stand until tomorrow, when Crincoli's attorney will have a chance to cross examine him.

Thanks to Michaelangelo Conte

Fraud Forum will Feature Former Mafia Kingpin

A three-day forum on fraud and identity theft, featuring a talk from a former Mafia boss, is expected to attract law enforcement agencies from throughout California to Gold Country Casino, starting May 16th. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, whose office is presenting the forum, said fraud and identity theft are the country's two fastest-growing categories of crime.

Topics to be covered include investigation of check and credit card fraud, computer and Internet fraud, counterfeiting, postal fraud and frauds involving contractors, workers compensation and automobile insurance.

On Thursday police officials will hear from Michael Franzese, a recognized expert on business and corporate fraud and a convicted Mafia boss once dubbed the "Long Island Don."

He reportedly beat charges brought by former New York state prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, but later decided to plead guilty to a racketeering indictment, accepted a 10-year prison sentence, then quit the mob.

From 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Ramsey and investigator Jos Van Hout will present information to the public on fraud and identity theft at Gold Country Casino.

There is no reservation needed to attend the free public seminar. More information about identity theft and fraud can be obtained at buttecounty.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring

FBI file on Rockford Mobster Joseph J. Maggio shows likely motive for his 1980 killing and Mob efforts to gain access to FBI files - By Jeff Havens

Friends of ours: Joseph J. Maggio, Joseph Zammuto, Pietro Alfano, Gaetano Badalamenti, Frank J. Buscemi, Jasper Calo, Joseph Zito, Frank G. Saladino, Charles Vince, Phillip J. Emordeno, Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Michael Sa Bella, Tony Riela, J. Peter Balisrieri, Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine "Lilo" Galante, Gambino Crime Family, Carlos Gambino, Pasquale Conte Sr., Tommaso Buscetta, Frank Zito, Vito Genovese, Genovese Crime Family, Paul Castellano, Joe Bonanno, John Gotti
Friends of mine: John S. Leombruni, "Donnie Brasco"

He was found dead in the back seat of his car along Safford Road by two Winnebago County Sheriff's deputies on April, 6, 1980. The victim, Rockford Mob member Joseph J. Maggio, was shot once in the side of the head at close range with 6.35mm bullet, which was made in Austria.

His killer has never been charged, and the shooting remains an open and unsolved case. However, according to Maggio's extensive FBI file, a "prime suspect" was identified by unknown sources, and the motive for his killing was "a result of his objection to LCN [La Cosa Nostra or Mafia] entry into the narcotics business in Rockford." And according to an October 1984 FBI document, an unknown informant "was instructed by his 'associates' in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles that Maggio had to be killed. [Redacted] 'associates' are members of the LCN."

Maggio's murder and FBI file provides another piece to the puzzle that may one day directly link Rockford to the Mafia-run heroin and cocaine smuggling conspiracy of the 1970s and 1980s, which was known as the "Pizza Connection."

Of the nearly 1,500 pages The Rock River Times requested from Maggio's FBI file, only 90 pages were released by the U.S. Justice Department. Most of the 90 pages released were heavily redacted or censored for content.

However, the information that was released shows the Mob's determination to not only scam ordinary citizens out of money through businesses that appear completely legitimate, but also gain access to FBI files.


Less than two months before Maggio was killed, he and other Mafia members met "several times" in February 1980 with Rockford Mob boss Joseph Zammuto in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. — where Zammuto vacationed during the winter each year.

Exactly what was discussed at the meeting is not known. However, Maggio's heavily redacted file indicates an unknown individual or group "began dealing narcotics in Rockford in August 1980, with Zammuto's sanction."

As to who began dealing drugs with Zammuto's approval is not known due to Maggio's redacted FBI file. However, what is known is John S. Leombruni was convicted in 1983 for trafficking cocaine in Rockford and the surrounding area.

According to a March 4, 1984 article in the Rockford Register Star, "There were indications in 1982 that a six-moth investigation by the FBI of cocaine traffic in Rockford had turned up Mob connections. Twelve persons were indicted, including John S. Leombruni, who was described as the city's biggest cocaine dealer. ...Leombruni had lived in Las Vegas the year before his arrest." And according to the Register Star article, an FBI affidavit indicated, Leombruni "was run out of town by 'the Mafia chief in Las Vegas.' Court approved wiretaps showed Mob involvement in the Rockford cocaine case FBI agents said, but were not allowed as evidence in Leombruni’s trial." He was tried in federal court in Rockford.

The sequence of incidents, from published sources, suggests a strong link between the Rockford Mob and other participants in the Pizza Connection, whose second in command for Midwest operations was Oregon, Ill., pizza maker Pietro Alfano.

According to a source for The Rock River Times, Alfano, now 70, "retired" and returned to Sicily shortly after his release from federal prison in 1992. As of 2004, Alfano's son operated the restaurant, which was still in business in Oregon.

Ralph Blumenthal, reporter for The New York Times and author of the 1988 book Last Days of the Sicilians, wrote that Alfano immigrated to the United States between 1963 and 1967 from Cinisi, Sicily, a town about 8 miles west of Palermo near the Mediterranean Sea.

Cinisi was also the hometown of former Sicilian Mob boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who was born in 1923, and died in 2004. Badalamenti became head of the Sicilian Mafia in 1969, but fled for his life to Brazil in November 1978 in the wake of the "Mafia wars" in Sicily.

Alfano and other Mob members born in Sicily, but working in United States, were referred to as "Zips" by their American-born counterparts. According to Selwyn Raab, former New York Times reporter and author of the 2005 book Five Families: The rise, decline and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires, the term "Zip" may be Sicilian slang for "hicks" or "primitives."


On April 8, 1984, Alfano and Badalamenti were apprehended by police in Madrid, Spain. Authorities charged that they, along with 29 others overseas and in the United States, participated in a multinational, $1.65 billion heroin/cocaine smuggling and money laundering conspiracy.

The conspiracy stretched from poppy fields in Afghanistan to banks in Switzerland, ships in Bulgaria and Turkey, pay phones in Brazil, and pizza restaurants in New York, Oregon, Ill., and Milton, Wis. The conspiracy would become known as the "Pizza Connection," the successor to the 1950s' and 1960s' "French Connection."

Interim Chief of the Rockford Police Department Dominic Iasparro, head of the Rockford area Metro Narcotics task force, has been with the agency for about 32 years. Iasparro recalled area drug trafficking during the time of the Pizza Connection.

"As I understand it, the drugs weren't coming out here—they were staying in New York," Iasparro said during an April 12, 2004 interview.

In addition to being head of the local narcotics unit, Iasparro was also responsible for destroying police intelligence files concerning Rockford Mob members in the mid-1980s that Iasparro said was part of a nationwide effort to purge such information. Maggio's dossier was among the files requested by The Rock River Times last year, but apparently destroyed during the purge.


Under what circumstances Alfano arrived in the United States is not clear. However, what is clear is Alfano and other Zips in the Midwest and on the East Coast were employed in the pizza business. Also apparent is former Rockford Mob boss Frank J. Buscemi was reported by the Register Star to have facilitated the immigration of "several cousins to Rockford from Sicily and set them up in business."

What is not certain is whether Buscemi, a Chicago native, sponsored Alfano's move to Illinois. Buscemi was owner of Stateline Vending Co., Inc., and Rondinella Foods Co., before his death in Rockford on Dec. 7, 1987. Rondinella was a wholesale cheese, food and pizza ingredient distributor.

Stateline Vending began operating from the basement of the Aragona Club on Kent Street before moving to 1128 S. Winnebago St., which was owned by former Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito and Mobster Jasper Calo. The vending business eventually settled at 326 W. Jefferson St., in Rockford, before it was dissolved in 1988, after Buscemi’s death.

Winnebago County court documents from 1988 indicate alleged Rockford Mob hit man Frank G. Saladino worked for Rondinella in the 1980s when Buscemi owned the business. Saladino was found dead April 25, 2005 in Hampshire, Ill., by federal agents that went to arrest him on charges of murder and other illegal Mob-related activities.

According to Buscemi's recently released FBI file, Buscemi was also the target of a federal investigators from 1981 to 1986 in connection with Maggio's murder and "extortionate business practices."

"These allegations involved Buscemi's cheese distribution business, RONDINELLA FOODS, and his vending machine operation, STATE-LINE VENDING." Buscemi's also indicates that the investigation produced "numerous leads of extreme value, including contacts between Frank J. Buscemi and the subject of an ongoing Boston drug task force investigation."

Despite the years of investigations, Buscemi was never charged with any crime before his death in 1987. Also unknown is whether Zammuto's only sister, whose married name is Alfano, was related to Pietro Alfano through marriage.


The Mob's historic ties to the vending machine business is significant in establishing an indirect link between the Rockford Mob and the Pizza connection because of a meeting that took place in July 1978 in Milwaukee between Mob members from New York, Milwaukee and Rockford.

In July 1978, federal court documents show Rockford Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito, Mob Underboss Charles Vince, and Phillip J. Emordeno along with other members of the Milwaukee and New York 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 T. Cobb who was masquerading as Tony Conte, owner of Best Vending Co.

According to page 229 of Raab's book, legendary FBI agent Donnie Brasco, whose real name was Joseph P Pistone, was "used" by Bonanno Mob soldier Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero "on cooperative ventures with other families in New York, Florida and Milwaukee."

Blumnenthal wrote on page 42 of his book that in 1978 Pistone traveled to Milwaukee to vouch for Cobb, and "Pistone helped Cobb cement an alliance between the Bonanno and [Milwaukee Mob boss Frank P.] Balistrieri clans."

Actor Johnny Depp portrayed Pistone in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, during the time in the late 1970s when Pistone infiltrated organized crime. ("Lefty Guns" Ruggiero was played by Al Pacino.)

The Register Star described the 1978 meeting in their March 1984 article as being partly arranged by Rockford Mob members. The article concluded the meeting "confirmed long-held intelligence information that...[the Rockford Mob] possessed the influence to deal directly with the Milwaukee and New York organized crime families." The meeting was set to quash a possible violent conflict between Cobb and Mafia members.

Ruggerio's Mob captain, Michael Sa Bella contacted Tony Riela—a New Jersey Mob member with ties to the Rockford Mafia. Riela called Rockford to schedule the meeting, and Ruggiero called Zito several times. Vince also called Balistrieri’s son J. Peter Balisrieri shortly before the meeting.

According to the Register Star article, "on July 29, 1978 Cobb met the three Rockford men and Ruggiero at the Centre Stage Restaurant in Milwaukee. ....Ruggiero told Cobb that the vending machine business in Milwaukee was controlled by the mob," and if Cobb wanted to enter the business he would have to share his profits with the Mafia or be killed. Since the New York and Milwaukee crime families worked together, "Cobb also was told he would have to pay a portion of his profits to the Bonanno family," which was headed at that time by Carmine "Lilo" Galante.


Blumenthal wrote that the shotgun assignation of Galante in the mid-afternoon on July 12, 1979 while he was dining on the patio of a restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., marked a tipping point in the power struggle to control drug trafficking in America. Pizza Connection prosecutors believed Galante’s murder "cleared the way for Sicilian Mafia rivals in America to set up the Pizza Connection."

Raab said on page 207 that Galante attempted to injure the other four New York Mob family's interests in the drug trade, especially the Gambino crime family. "Perhaps even more grievous, after Carlo Gambino's death [Galante] had openly predicted that he would be crowned boss of bosses."

Although Frank Balistrieri and others would be sent to prison as a result of Cobb and Pistone's efforts, no Rockford Mob members were indicted in the Milwaukee case. The same may also be said about the Pizza Connection conspiracy.


Unlike Galante, Alfano survived a Mob attempt on his life.

After emerging from a Balducci's delicatessen in Greenwhich Village N.Y. the evening of Feb. 11, 1987, Alfano was shot three times in the back by two men who emerged from a red car. The shooting occurred during the October 1985 to March 1987 Pizza Connection trial.

Blumenthal wrote the failed assassination attempt was allegedly arranged by Gambino family associates, which left Alfano paralyzed below the waist and confined to a wheel chair.

Blumenthal alleged Salvatore Spatola, a convicted heroin and cocaine smuggler, said the attempted killing of Alfano had been arranged by Pasquale Conte, Sr.— a captain in the Gambino family.

The exact motive for Alfano's shooting appears to be a mystery. However, Blumenthal wrote that convicted New Jersey bank robber Frank Bavosa told the FBI and New York police he and two other men were paid $40,000 to kill Alfano "allegedly because of his continuing drug-trafficking activities."


Even though the Rockford Mob has historically been considered part of the Chicago Mafia, which is known as "The Outfit," Tommaso Buscetta, Sicilian Mafia turncoat and lead witness in the Pizza Connection trial testified that Italian-based Mobsters based throughout the world acted as one in achieving their objectives.

Supporting that claim is a statement from Thomas V. Fuentes, special agent in the organized crime section for the FBI. During a 2003 broadcast on the History Channel, Fuentes said a Nov. 14, 1957 meeting of Mafia bosses from throughout the United States in Apalachin, N.Y., was in part to decide whether American Mob members would act cohesively to cash in on the drug trade.

Specifically, Fuentes said: "We believe that the main purpose was for the bosses of the American families to decide whether or not they would engage jointly in heroin trafficking with their cousins in Sicily."

Rockford Mob Consuleri Joseph Zito's brother, Frank Zito, boss of the Springfield, Ill., Mob was one of those who attended the Apalachin conference, according Joseph Zito's FBI file.

Also in attendance at the Apalachin meeting with Zito were at least 58 other Mob members, which included Carlo Gambino; Vito Genovese, boss of the New York Genovese crime family; Gambino’s brother-in-law Paul Castellano; and Joe Bonanno. Castellano would be Gambino’s successor after Gambino’s death in 1976. Castellano was murdered in 1986, and was succeeded by John Gotti, who died in a Missouri prison medical center June 10, 2002.


In addition to a probable motive for Maggio's killing, Maggio's FBI file shows Mob's determination to not only steal money from citizens, but gain access to FBI files.

Maggio was convicted on Dec. 6, 1972 on seven counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy. The conviction was obtained after an unidentified male informant said the conspiracy involved a "boat registration scheme", wherein the name United States Merchant Marine was used to collect funds for a national boat registration service.

"He said they planned to circulate a letter to all boat owners for a $10 contribution, which would then be used as a registration fee for a registry to be maintained by the company [United States Merchant Marine Service, Inc.]. ...

"[Redact] had asked him if he had any idea how the United States Merchant Marine Service could patch into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC)."

Maggio was born Aug. 30, 1936 in Rockford, where he lived his entire life, until his death at age 43. Maggio married in 1959, and had three sons and one daughter. He became a made Mob member in approximately February 1965.

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.

Monday, May 15, 2006

La Cosa Nostra Tough Guy-Turned-Witness follows the Rules

Friends of ours: Bruno Facciola, Luchesse Crime Family, Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, John Gotti, Vittorio Amuso, Paulie Vario, Henry Hill, Vic Amuso, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Colombo Crime Family, "Little Vic" Orena, Bonanno Crime Family, Anthony Spero, James Ida
Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

The killers placed the dead canary in the freezer. Later, after their work was finished, they placed the bird inside the mouth of the equally deceased Bruno Facciola.

The August 1990 mob hit followed a tip from two corrupt NYPD detectives that the Luchese family capo had turned government informant. Facciola was stabbed, shot through both eyes and shot again in the head before the bird was stuffed in his mouth. It was murder with a message: See no evil. And definitely speak no evil.

The slaying was orchestrated by one of the crime family's true believers, a diminutive thug known to fellow Mafiosi as "Little Al." Few in organized crime embraced the mob ethos more fervently than Alphonse D'Arco, a hard case from the cradle.

"I was a man when I was born," Little Al once bragged. He committed every crime except pimping and pornography, which D'Arco deemed beneath his dignity. Murder was a different story; he committed eight while rising from Luchese associate to acting boss.

Few in organized crime despised informants more than Little Al. "Rats," he'd spit, his face contorted with disgust. He did a three-year heroin rap without opening his yap. So when the word came down that Facciola was singing to the feds, D'Arco arranged for his demise. And for the canary.

Four months later, with the family in turmoil, D'Arco stepped up to become the Luchese boss. His reign abruptly ended on Aug. 21, 1991, but not in the fashion he expected: on the wrong end of a jury verdict. Or maybe a bullet. Instead, D'Arco _ disgusted by the loss of mob honor, double-crossed by men he had respected _ became what he most abhorred: a rat. And not just any rat.

He brought down mob bosses, underbosses, consiglieres. Fifteen years later, the former made man is still making inmates out of accomplices as perhaps the most devastating mob informant ever _ even better than Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who famously flipped on mob superstar John Gotti.

Alphonse D'Arco, born July 28, 1932, grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The neighborhood was heavy with heavyweight mobsters, including some of his relatives. His childhood, D'Arco once recalled, was "like being in the forest and all the trees were the dons and the organized crime guys." D'Arco walked into the woods without hesitation. He was 14 when he started hanging with the local mobsters; one year later, he dropped out of school.

Two tenets of the old-school Mafia appealed to D'Arco: Loyalty and honor. Both extended into his personal life; in 1951, during the Korean War, D'Arco volunteered for the Army, served two years and received an honorable discharge. When he returned to Brooklyn and the mob, he found a wife; they remain married to this day. The D'Arcos had five children.

In 1959, D'Arco first met future Luchese family boss Vittorio Amuso. He was soon making money for the Lucheses in a variety of ways: Hijacking. Drug dealing. Burglary. Counterfeiting. Arson. Armed robbery.

D'Arco became a made man on Aug. 23, 1982, in a ceremony held in a Bronx kitchen. "I should burn like this paper if I betray anyone in this room," D'Arco swore. D'Arco was particularly good with dates, and he always remembered this one. He remembered plenty of other things along the way. D'Arco was a guy who listened more than he spoke.

D'Arco had long ago resolved the differences between mob life and straight society. As John Q. Citizen, D'Arco would have lived by the rules. As Alphonse D'Arco, mobster, he would abide by the Mafia's code _ no questions asked. He obeyed orders and his elders, kicked money up to the bosses. And he never cooperated with law enforcement. Not even on the smallest of matters.

His capo was Paulie Vario, one of the family's most valued leaders. As the entire crew would soon discover, the erosion of mob values was under way. And it was happening in their midst.

Henry Hill was a Luchese associate and a cocaine dealer. Once arrested, Hill became the most notorious Mafia turncoat of the decade. His testimony helped put Vario away in 1984. Hill's life became fodder for the classic mob movie "GoodFellas." Vario, played by Paul Sorvino in the movie, died in a Texas prison four years later. His replacement was Alphonse D'Arco.

D'Arco's old friend Vic Amuso became the head of the family. His underboss was another pal, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a hoodlum responsible for three dozen murders.

The mob life was good for D'Arco. He had about $1 million in loan-sharking money spread around, and ran his own crew. The family hierarchy relied on him to handle important business _ labor unions, racketeering, murder.

"He was a true believer in La Cosa Nostra," said former federal prosecutor George Stamboulidis. "He grew up in the life. It was something that he wanted, and succeeded at."

D'Arco dressed in shirts with big "wiseguy collars," and lived in an apartment on Spring Street in Little Italy. The market rent was $1,200 a month; D'Arco paid $200.

He brought his son, Joe, into the family business, and considered doing the same for another son, John. When the order came down for Joe to whack a guy in California, Al unflinchingly told his son to do it. At his father's behest, Joe committed a second mob murder in New York. The son played by his father's rules.

A few months after they exposed Bruno Facciola, the two crooked detectives provided Casso with a new bit of information: the underboss and Amuso were targeted for arrest. On Jan. 9, 1991, the pair met with Little Al at a Brooklyn bar, where Amuso pronounced him acting boss of the Lucheses. Then Casso and Amuso vanished. Top of the world, Al.

During eight eye-opening months as boss, D'Arco's blind allegiance to the mob was undermined. From seclusion, Amuso and Casso started a whispering campaign against D'Arco among the Luchese faithful. A fellow mobster informed D'Arco about the betrayal; so did FBI agents.

Yet D'Arco was unconvinced until the night of Sept. 18, 1991, when he attended a meeting in a midtown Manhattan hotel room. His longtime Luchese associates appeared unnerved. A family hit man was among the group, and the vibe was ugly. D'Arco had no doubt that he was marked for death.

D'Arco managed to bolt the meeting, and reconsidered his life _ or what might be left of it. He considered going to war against the Amuso/Casso faction, handling things in the style of his Brooklyn mentors. But D'Arco had no more loyalty to the Lucheses. And he no longer viewed them as men of honor.

"So I says, `That's it,"' D'Arco explained later from the witness stand. "I washed my hands of the whole thing."

D'Arco sent most of his family to Hawaii, far from the deadly streets of New York. Accompanied by his son, D'Arco hid in his mother's Long Island home. A deal was made. On Sept. 21, 1991, Alphonse D'Arco became the most unlikely cooperating witness ever recruited. And also one of the most expensive.

The federal government spent more than $2 million to relocate the D'Arco clan. Little Al and six other families were moved from New York to parts unknown. He left behind a mob fortune; his legal net worth was about $30,000.

News of the stunning defection spread quickly through the underworld. An attorney was dispatched to the Metropolitan Correction Center to inform jailed Gambino boss John Gotti that Little Al was switching sides.

The acting boss was one of the highest-ranking mobsters to ever flip, and federal authorities took advantage. He testified more than a dozen times against his former friends and the mob's top echelon.

D'Arco was a combative and effective witness. His memory for details and dates was unshakable. He took on New York's top defense attorneys, and refused to let any put words into his mouth.

Testifying at a 1996 competency hearing for Genovese family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, D'Arco flew into a rage. "Don't break my chops," D'Arco warned defense attorney Michael Shapiro. "I'll break yours, too."

D'Arco's testimony helped convict ex-cronies Amuso and Casso; Gigante and Colombo boss "Little Vic" Orena; Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero; Genovese consigliere James Ida; and an assortment of other mobsters.

He testified before uncounted grand juries, spilling about corruption in the unions, the Garment District, the airports and the Hunts Point market. "D'Arco gave them great value for the money," said criminal defense lawyer Edward Hayes. "He testified against a lot of guys, and they got convicted. D'Arco is a lunatic, but he has a story."

Once, in a Brooklyn courtroom, D'Arco stood before a federal judge who noted they had grown up in the same nearby neighborhood. "Yeah," D'Arco replied. "And we both rose to the top of our professions."

Prosecutor Stamboulidis said D'Arco embraced his new calling as fervently as his old. "When he entered an agreement with the government, he answered all the questions with brutal honesty and thoroughness," Stamboulidis said. "A true believer does everything 100 percent. He believes 100 percent in his current position."

His reward came in November 2002, when D'Arco was sentenced at a courtroom in suburban Westchester County. Little Al appeared via closed-circuit television and received time served, which essentially meant no jail time. He was fined $50, and returned to obscurity.

While mob turncoats like Gravano and Hill went back to jail, D'Arco stayed on the right side of the law. And one of the biggest trials yet remained in his future _ one that brought him back to the day when Bruno Facciola had a canary for his last meal.

It was March 2005 when federal authorities announced the indictments of ex-NYPD detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, former police partners-turned-partners in crime. The two were charged with taking $4,000 a month from Gaspipe Casso to work as Luchese family hit men.

On occasion, they also slipped the underboss inside information. They let Casso know that Facciola was reportedly working as an informant. Casso ordered D'Arco to handle the hit.

Little Al was called again to testify. The federal RICO statute, a powerful tool that allows law enforcement to link crimes committed over decades, made D'Arco every bit as valuable in 2006 as he was 15 years before. It was a big case, and D'Arco could help bring down the "Mafia Cops."

The ex-boss, now 73, looked more grandfatherly than Godfatherly as he testified, his thick Brooklyn accent unchanged by years of life outside the city. He wore a 20-year-old suit to court, one of two now hanging in his closet.

He spent parts of two days on the stand, standing firm under withering cross-examination from Hayes and former Gotti lawyer Bruce Cutler. Caracappa and Eppolito were quickly convicted, and faced life in prison.

Alphonse D'Arco went home, where his loyalty was still appreciated. But there was a moment during his testimony where D'Arco recalled a less complicated time, when he was a young man whose belief in simple values was absolute.

The burly Cutler, his booming voice filling the courtroom, recited a litany of perks that came D'Arco's way from the Witness Protection Program: No jail time. A new identity. An attorney, free of charge. "That's another reward, yes?" Cutler asked.

"I don't see anything to be a reward," D'Arco responded without hesitation. "I'd trade it all to go back on Spring Street."

Thanks to Larry McShane

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