The Chicago Syndicate: Tapes Seal Fate of Genovese Associate

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tapes Seal Fate of Genovese Associate

Friends of ours: Joseph "Little Joe" Scarbrough, Genovese Crime Family, Harry Aleman, Lawrence "Little Larry" Dentico
Friends of mine: Peter "Petey" Caporino


Joseph Scarbrough came to his sentencing on federal racketeering charges yesterday with his wife, his daughter and a stack of letters from his friends and West Orange neighbors who insisted the genteel girls softball coach couldn't be the mobster the government said he was.

Prosecutors brought their own stack of papers -- transcripts of Scarbrough regaling an FBI informant with his war stories from decades inside the Genovese crime family. On the tapes, Scarbrough boasts of reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars in burglaries and cargo thefts, of his ties to corrupt cops and of running with violent mob crews.

"Harry (Aleman) was one of the most cold, calculating, (expletive) smartest killers that (expletive) hit Chicago, he really was ..." Scarbrough said, recalling a mob enforcer during a conversation three years ago. "Good man. Good (expletive) man. I loved the guy and vice versa."

The tapes won.

Turning aside arguments that the mob allegations were exaggerated, U.S. District Judge William Martini sentenced Scarbrough to five years in prison. After presiding over all the prosecutions in the long-running FBI investigation, the judge said he believed evidence that Scarbrough was an influential Genovese associate who supervised millions of dollars in gambling and loan-sharking from a Hoboken social club. "Somehow it was clear to everybody that Joe Scarbrough was the guy running the niche operation here in New Jersey," the judge said.

Scarbrough, 67, was the last of 15 reputed mobsters or associates to be sentenced in Newark after pleading guilty to charges ranging from racketeering to illegal gambling. Most received prison terms of less than three years.

One, Lawrence "Little Larry" Dentico, 82, a reputed ranking captain, was ordered yesterday to serve 51 months in prison. But Scarbrough, known as "Big Joe," was the government's key target. His last arrest was in 1977, a stretch of freedom that Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Faye Schwartz called lucky, given his history of crime. "We believe now is the day of reckoning, your honor," she said.

In a final exclamation point, the prosecutors again used Scarbrough's longtime friend and associate, Peter "Petey" Caporino, to seal his fate. Schwartz and Assistant U.S Attorney Jill Andersen gave the judge transcripts from three conversations that Caporino, a Genovese associate from Hasbrouck Heights, secretly recorded during more than a decade of work as an FBI informant.

In them, Scarbrough reveled in some of his crimes, like the time he said he made $170,000 hijacking a tractor-trailer full of hair dye in Jamesburg or the time he and a partner stole duffel bags filled with records from a company that made and sold safes. "We had (expletive) safes all over the United States ... where they were delivered, combinations, in banks," he said. "It supported us and kept us going for years."

He talked about a special safecracking tool he used -- "a thermo burning bar," he called it -- that he said he found 25 years after a cellmate first told him about a unusual heated drill Navy divers used to carve into sunken German battleships. But he was just as animated about the ones that got away. More than once on the tapes, Scarbrough blamed "bad breaks" or not enough time for ruining what might have been million-dollar heists.

"You never know, ya know? Even with scores," he told Caporino. "You never know when one is going to come along with a good one ... big payment. The biggest thing is you have to be here when it happens."

Scarbrough said he used to rely on a Hoboken police officer -- now dead -- to tip off the mobsters when officers were on the way. He also bragged about beating a woman in a traffic dispute and said he helped steal an unsuspecting man's car for a hitman to use as a getaway car.

Scarbrough said he staked out city parking lots to find a car that stayed untouched night after night. Using a Hoboken police officer's name, he said he called the state motor vehicles office, gave the license plate number and asked for details on the registered owner. Then, posing as the owner, Scarbrough said, he called a car dealer, said he was out of the area, had lost his key and needed the code for a locksmith to make a new one.

With a new key in hand, the hitman used the car to stake out and kill his target, Scarbrough said. "When I see these cases on (expletive) court and I know what we were capable of doing, I'm really skeptical," Scarbrough told Caporino.

Rarely did the conversations include names or dates. At the hearing, defense attorney Michael Koribanics asked the judge to disregard the tapes, arguing that the government never proved any of the crimes Scarbrough appears to take credit for. He noted the current case included no evidence of violence -- only some perceived threats -- and suggested the government exaggerated its mob claims. "Perhaps he's a blowhard, (but) this is not blowhard material, Mr. Koribanics," Martini responded, noting the detail on the tapes. "You can't make this stuff up."

Scarbrough also agreed to forfeit $256,000 in illegal proceeds. The judge ordered him to report to prison by Oct. 10.

Outside the courtroom, Scarbrough cordially shook the hands of the FBI case agent and prosecutors. He declined to discuss the case in detail, but was resigned by the outcome. "No use crying over spilled milk, ya know?" he said.

Thanks to John P. Martin

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