The Chicago Syndicate: "Mafia Cops" to Face Life Term

Magee 1866 Heritage Month

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"Mafia Cops" to Face Life Term

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

The only thing that didn't happen at the sentencing of two former detectives convicted of moonlighting as mob hit men was the sentencing.

A packed Brooklyn courtroom heard emotional testimony Monday from five family members whose loved ones were killed by Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa while the two were on the payrolls of both the Police Department and a brutal mob underboss.

Eppolito stood up to proclaim his innocence, and another man who was wrongly jailed for 19 years in a case investigated by Eppolito was thrown out of court after launching into a rant against him.

After all that, U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein told the two defendants he would sentence them to life in prison, but delayed the formal sentencing until at least June 23, when the pair will argue that their high-priced defense attorneys did not adequately represent them.

The judge left little doubt about his opinion of the two, who were convicted April 6 of racketeering charges that included murder, kidnapping, drug dealing and obstruction of justice. "This is probably the most heinous series of crimes ever tried in this courthouse," the judge said.

The two former partners were convicted in April of participating in eight slayings between 1986 and 1990. Prosecutors said the detectives committed some of the murders themselves and delivered other victims to the Mafia to be killed.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, received $4,000 a month from Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who also used them to get inside information on law enforcement investigations. Their pay went up for the murders: They earned $65,000 for one killing.

Federal prosecutor Daniel Wenner had described the case as "the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen."

Five victims' family members took the witness stand to testify how the murders linked to the two detectives had destroyed their lives. "You did not kill one person," said Michal Greenwald Weinstein, whose father was the pair's first victim. "You killed a family."

Eppolito, speaking for the first time in court, said he was innocent and encouraged the family members to visit him in prison. "I can hold my head up high," said Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family. "I never did any of these things."

Bruce Cutler, who represented Eppolito, was out of his office and unavailable for comment Monday. Caracappa's attorney, Edward Hayes, was in Los Angeles and did not respond to a message left at his Manhattan office.

During Eppolito's remarks, Barry Gibbs, who was imprisoned for almost 20 years after a wrongful conviction in a case in which Eppolito was lead investigator, lashed out at the former detective before federal marshals led him out of the courtroom. "Remember what you did to me? To me? You framed me!" he screamed as the crowd burst into cheers.

Caracappa, who retired in 1992, helped establish the Police Department's unit for Mafia murder investigations. Eppolito was a much-praised street officer despite whispers that some of his arrests came via tips from mobsters.

Eppolito also played a bit part in the mob movie "Goodfellas." After retiring in 1990, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at Hollywood scriptwriting. In his autobiography, "Mafia Cop," he portrayed himself as an honest officer from a crooked family.

The pair, both highly decorated, spent a combined 44 years on the force and eventually retired to homes on the same block in Las Vegas.

The racketeering convictions could be overturned because of the statute of limitations. The defense argued that there was no ongoing criminal enterprise while the detectives were living in Las Vegas, making a racketeering charge legally untenable.

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