Monday, December 31, 2007

Were Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham-Clinton both Trained by the Mob?

Barack Obama's campaign blamed Benazir Bhutto's killing in Pakistan, on the regional instability caused by the war in Iraq for which Hillary voted. Both candidates know a thing or two about local leaders being gunned down in the streets. They are both from Chicago. ;-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Now an Author, Retired Chicago Cop to Write about the Chicago Mob

A retired Chicago police officer who gained notoriety writing about an infamous triple murder is now at work on his next book, about the mob.

James Jack's book "Three Boys Missing: The Tragedy That Exposed the Pedophilia Underworld" won awards for its telling of the murders of Robert Peterson and Anton and John Schuessler in 1955. The boys' murders ended an era of perceived innocence for many Chicago families.

As a rookie detective, Jack helped investigate the case, but it went unsolved for four decades before horse trainer Kenneth Hansen was convicted.

Now, another high-profile case is giving Jack material for his second career as a writer.

The Daily Herald wrote about Jack in June, just before the Family Secrets mob trial, recounting his run-ins in the 1950s and '60s with Frank Calabrese Sr. and other players in the Chicago Outfit. Since then, Jack has become something of a minor local celebrity, attending the trial every day and commenting on it for WGN 720-AM, WLS-TV Channel 7 and other media outlets.

Now, Jack is working on his next book, about his brushes with the mob since his youth with young hoodlums in pool halls on the city's West Side.

Growing up, he knew future mob members like Frank Santucci and Phil Tolomeo, who was briefly his police partner before working on juice loan collections and eventually turning state's witness. "I was like the nice guy," said Jack, a former Gold Gloves boxer. "I used to tell these guys to back off."

After all these years, Jack's glad that the hoods who caused so much trouble are finally being put away. "These guys will never see green again," he said. Though he talked to one of the defendants, a fellow former cop, Anthony Doyle, during the trial, others, like reputed mob boss James Marcello, didn't speak with him, and instead gave him the "cold eye."

At age 79, Jack has survived open heart surgery and is in remission from Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He still appears for occasional book signings at bookstores, most recently in Schaumburg, and will speak at the Palatine Public Library in April.

Thanks to Robert McCoppin

America's Most Wanted Top 10 Fugitives for 2007

America's Most Wanted
10: Alexis Flores: Five-year-old Iriana DeJesus was found sexually assaulted and strangled to death in an empty apartment complex near her house in 2000. For years, the case went unsolved, but in March, the FBI got the break they were looking for: a DNA match from convicted criminal Alexis Flores.

9: Dominic Lyde: Deputies in South Carolina say two fugitives still on the run after one of the country's largest armored car heists might just be staying close to home. Police say Dominic Lyde played a role in stealing nearly $10 million -- $5 million of which is still missing.

8: Derrick Benjamin: Deputies in South Carolina have already arrested five suspects who they believe were involved in the robbery. Detectives say that Derrick Benjamin was also involved.

7: Nai Yin Xue: Authorities in Los Angeles tell AMW that a multi-agency international task force is currently on the lookout for Nai Yin Xue, a self-proclaimed martial arts master accused of killing his wife in New Zealand and abandoning his 3-year-old daughter at a train station in Melbourne , Australia.

6: Patricio Sosa: Patricio Sosa was one of the ringleaders of an operation that imported women and children from Mexico and forced them into prostitution in Florida , according to authorities. Now, law enforcement wants to put the brakes on this alleged trafficker.

5: Rafael Cadena-Sosa: Like many young men, authorities say Rafael Cadena-Sosa went into the family business. Unfortunately, that business was human trafficking and prostitution, according to the FBI.

4: Carmela Cadena: Imagine being kidnapped from your home country, held captive, and forced to work as a prostitute. This is the fate of thousands of women and children who are smuggled into the U.S. every year. The FBI says they're kept in line by women like Carmela Cadena, a member of the Cadena-Sosa family who is alleged to run a major trafficking and prostitution enterprise.

3: Paul Jackson: Cops say that when Paul Erven Jackson went to visit his brother, the pair didn't engage in the usual family bonding. Instead, they lured teenage girls back to a homemade sex-torture chamber. While Jackson is still on the run, Vance Roberts turned himself in back in September of 2006 and was convicted on June 6, 2007 after an hour of jury deliberation on 24 counts of charges ranging from first-degree kidnap to first-degree rape. On August 3, 2007, Judge Timothy Alexander sentenced Roberts to 108 years in prison.

2: Robert Bowman: AMW tipsters are telling cops exactly where they've seen 71-year-old accused killer Robert Bowman. Cops say the strongest tips are out of southern California and Sin City : tipsters have spotted Bowman living on the strip in Las Vegas as a homeless man. None of the sightings have been confirmed but cops are working to pinpoint any location that Bowman may have been recently. Since 1967, Ohio cops say Robert Bowman has literally gotten away with murder. They say science has finally caught up to the accused killer, and DNA irrefutably ties him to the abduction, rape and murder of 14-year-old Eileen Adams in Toledo , Ohio some 40 years ago.

1: If we told you before Saturday night, we would have to kill you.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Mafia Boss Tries Witchcraft to Thwart Prosecutors

A federal judge Thursday unsealed a handwritten incantation that Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano stashed in his shoe to put a curse on prosecutors, FBI agents and mob turncoats during his 2006 racketeering trial.

Basciano has been jailed under conditions usually reserved for terrorists because the feds suspect it was a hit list to eliminate the gangster's enemies.

Basciano's lawyers say it was merely Santeria witchcraft meant to drive away bad vibes.

The spell goes: "Before the house of the judge, three dead men look out the window, one having no tongue, the other no lungs, and the third was sick, blind and dumb."

The words are to be repeated on the way to court and inside the courtroom, an Internet gypsy book of magic says.

Basciano must have been a lousy warlock, because he was convicted of murder and racketeering.

The beleaguered mafioso got a break from his stifling confinement yesterday after Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the government to allow Basciano to spend one hour in the courthouse with his mistress and their 6-year-old son - under the supervision of FBI agents.Charles Tyrwhitt

Thanks to John Marzulli

Threat to "The Sopranos" Eliminated

A federal jury on Wednesday ruled against a man who says he helped "The Sopranos" creator David Chase develop ideas for the hit HBO mob drama.

The jury dismissed the claims of Robert Baer, ruling the aspiring writer and former prosecutor was not owed anything for help he provided while Chase wrote an early draft of the pilot.

Chase's lawyers hugged after hearing the verdict, which came after less than two hours of deliberations on the trial's fifth day.

Baer claimed he arranged meetings with police and prosecutors during a three-day tour of New Jersey mob sites in 1995 and engaged in subsequent conversations — sparking ideas for what became the hit HBO mob drama that ended in June.

Both men testified that Baer turned down compensation from Chase three times. But Baer claimed Chase agreed to "take care of him" if the show was a hit. Baer said no monetary figure was ever discussed. Chase never offered him a writing job on the show.

Chase's attorneys contended it was not the industry practice to pay advisers for help during the writing of a pilot.

Chase said Baer himself was not an expert in the Mafia, and that Baer introduced the Emmy-winning writer-producer to people with knowledge. When Chase rewrote "The Sopranos" pilot after it was rejected by Fox and other networks, he turned to "a true Mafia expert," Dan Castleman, his defense maintained.

Castleman, chief of the Manhattan district attorney's investigations division, testified that he provided free consulting services to Chase, over several dozen phone calls, as Chase worked on rewriting the pilot.

Castleman didn't enter into a contract as a technical adviser with HBO until after the pilot was written. He was paid $3,000 for help in filming the pilot, and got $1,000 for each of the 12 subsequent episodes in the first season. He declined to say how much he was paid for his role throughout the five seasons that followed until the show ended in June.

Castleman also eventually appeared on the show nine times in the role of a federal prosecutor, and prosecuted Tony's uncle, Corrado "Junior" Soprano, in his federal trial in Newark.ZIRH Men's Skin and Shaving Products

Thanks to Janet Frankston Lorin

Las Vegas Museum to be Mobster Lite?

Where's the respect?

Las Vegas, the flamingo city of lights, has the gumption to be planning a mob museum. But since Las Vegas is the town where the mob tried to go straight, this proposed museum will probably be more like Mobster Lite.

Imagine: Chicago -- the town run by Al Capone, where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre became the iconic event of the Era of the Mobster, where John Dillinger was welcomed with a hail of bullets outside the Biograph Theater, where police and judges raked in bribes by the tens of millions during Prohibition -- being upstaged by upstart Las Vegas.

Where do they get the ego? Even the most famous Las Vegas mob hit -- of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel -- took place in Los Angeles.

Chicago, New York and maybe Cleveland were home to the real gang activity of the teens and '20s. Hundreds of larger and lesser mobsters in those towns met their violent rewards on the streets, in barber chairs and at quiet restaurants with checkered tablecloths.

Las Vegas was the Johnny-come-lately spot with only a few mob hits as the violence waned and the old crime families withered on their way to going straight.

The FBI thinks the museum is a good idea.

The feds, of course, want good local billing in it. They certainly were more successful in cleaning up Las Vegas than they were in Chicago (but far more credit in Las Vegas goes to the Nevada Gaming Commission).

At such a museum there probably is money to be raked in. They better just hope New York and Chicago mob families don't demand a cut.

Many think America's old mobsters looked like James Cagney, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and George Raft rather than Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano or syphilis-marked Capone.

Still, menacing gangsters behind glass in an air-conditioned museum would be more palatable than on the doorstep in the morning, demanding protection money as you open your mom-and-pop sundry store.Shop the Morgan for fine collectible coins

Give Las Vegas three bars on a slot machine for coming up with another tourist draw. But this museum sounds like it might be to the old mob what fine cabernet is to bathtub gin.

Thanks to TCH

Lucchese Crime Family Partners with The Bloods Street Gang

State authorities on Tuesday broke up what Attorney General Anne Milgram said was an “alarming alliance” between the Luchese crime family and the Bloods street gang to supply drugs and cellphones to gang members inside a New Jersey prison. Paul Fredrick MenStyle

Two members of the Luchese family connected to the prison scheme, Ms. Milgram said, were also involved in a sports gambling ring. The gambling operation took in $2.2 billion in bets over 15 months, mainly through the Internet, law enforcement officials say, and relied on violence and extortion to collect debts.

All told, the authorities charged 32 people, 27 from New Jersey and 5 from New York, in connection with the prison and gambling operations, on charges ranging from racketeering and money laundering to conspiracy to distribute heroin and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Among those arrested were three high-ranking members of the Luchese organization and a New Jersey prison guard who is accused of acting as the conduit for the drugs and cellphones.

“With today’s arrests and charges, we have disrupted the highest-echelon organized crime family in both New York and New Jersey,” Ms. Milgram said at a news conference.

During the yearlong investigation, Ms. Milgram worked with her former boss, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, and other law enforcement agencies.

New York’s five organized crime families have long built alliances with nontraditional organized crime groups in the city, including Russians, Cubans and Asians. Nationwide, organized crime groups are also no stranger to running criminal operations inside prisons. But in New Jersey, which has seen a rapid growth in gang activity in the cities and the suburbs, law enforcement officials said, the prison scheme provided the first evidence of an organized crime family from New York working with the Bloods street gang, one of the state’s largest. Moreover, Ms. Milgram said, the potential for more cooperation was great, given their shared interests in “violence, illegal drugs and quick profits.”

“What we have here in this case is really the realization of what we feared: connecting old-school organized crime, the Mafia, with new-school organized crime, gangs,” Ms. Milgram said. “We’ve heard anecdotes about overlap, but this is the first time we’ve had a direct link between the two organizations.”

As part of what they called Operation Heat, investigators executed search warrants at 10 locations in New Jersey and 2 in New York, Ms. Milgram said. They seized two shotguns, one handgun, one hand grenade, 2,000 OxyContin-grade pills and $200,000 in cash. State officials also obtained court orders to take possession of 7 homes and 13 luxury cars.

Ms. Milgram, together with Gregory A. Paw, director of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice, made the announcement at the West Orange Armory, where the New Jersey suspects were processed on Tuesday. The suspects’ first court appearances were expected in a Morris County courtroom on Wednesday.

According to law enforcement officials, the prison scheme revolved around a prisoner, Edwin B. Spears, 33, who has served time for a variety of offenses since 2002.

Officials said that Mr. Spears, who is reputed to be a “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters faction of the Bloods, cooperated with two Luchese members — Joseph M. Perna and Michael A. Cetta — to smuggle heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prepaid cellphones into East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge.

They enlisted the help of Michael T. Bruinton, a senior prison guard, by offering him $500 each time he allowed smuggled goods to pass through, Ms. Milgram said. Mr. Bruinton has worked in corrections since 1987, always at the same prison, said Danielle Hunter, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.

Mr. Perna and Mr. Cetta are suspected of having given money to Mr. Spears’s brother, Dwayne E. Spears, to buy drugs and phones. Dwayne Spears then passed the goods to Mr. Bruinton, officials said, and they were given to inmates who had placed orders with Edwin Spears.

As of Tuesday night, Mr. Bruinton was one of five suspects still at large. “He wasn’t home or at work,” said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Ms. Milgram. Attempts to reach him for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The gambling operation was more conventional. Law enforcement officials said it involved agents who brought in bets from hundreds or even thousands of gamblers who bet on, among other things, basketball, football, greyhound races and the lottery.

The gambling operation used what officials called a wire room in Costa Rica, where bets were taken over the Internet or a toll-free phone line, and tabulated.
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The gambling operators in the metropolitan area made tribute payments to two of the Luchese family’s top bosses in New York, Joseph DiNapoli, of Scarsdale, and Matthew Madonna, of Selden, both 72, according to Ms. Milgram. Sometimes, debtors were forced to take loans at annual interest rates exceeding 200 percent. Some debtors were even forced to refinance their homes.

The New Jersey group was said to have been led by Ralph V. Perna, of East Hanover, who officials said was named top capo for the New Jersey division of the Luchese family this year. Three of his sons, including Joseph, and his daughter-in-law, were also charged in the investigation.

It is not clear whether the Bloods were involved with the gambling operation. But officials said the accusation that they joined forces with the Mafia was surprising but not unexpected.

According to Marc Agnifilo, the former head of the gang unit in the United States attorney’s office in New Jersey, the cultural differences between the two groups would appear to be too great to allow for a long-term alliance.

Mafia crews try to run their enterprises quietly, Mr. Agnifilo said, while street gangs like the Bloods and Crips are prone to ostentatious shows of raw power. “No self-respecting mobster would want anything to do with the Bloods or Crips because those gangs are the antithesis of the Mafia,” he said. “The mob is concerned with making money over the long haul, trying to appear respectable. But the Bloods are concerned with projecting their status, so they’re all, ‘I’m going to shoot up the block and wear a red bandanna.’”

Yet Mr. Agnifilo said that when he had prosecuted both organized crime and street gang cases between 1998 and 2003, he frequently heard members of the Bloods speak of Mafia members and customs with admiration. “The Blood guys love mobsters because they’re the old-school gangsters,” he said. “A lot of my Mafia informants in prison would complain that they couldn’t get away from the Bloods’ always following them and fawning over them.”

Thanks to David W. Chen and David Kocienwski

Sopranos Reunion This Weekend

The cast of THE SOPRANOS will reunite on Saturday, December 22nd, to raise money for two former crew members' cancer battles.

Six months after the final episode aired, the Soprano family - James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler; Robert Iler and Michael Imperioli will join up to 20 other cast members at a benefit in New York. The team is reuniting at the Mirage in Westbury, Long Island, to help raise money for two former employees, one of whom is fighting terminal cancer; the other who has beaten the disease but faces crippling medical bills.

Organizer and backstage assistant Jeff Marchanti says of the two anonymous crew members, "(One is) one of our most beloved prop guys, who's been on the show from the beginning. His name is Anthony B., but he wanted to remain nameless. "He's battling lymphoma and nobody knew about it, until a month and a half after we wrapped. Everybody loves the guy because we are absolutely a true family and we're gonna support him in every possible way we can." The other crew member, who is in cancer remission, also asked to remain anonymous.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

US Attorney Denies Interrogating US Marshal about Leak to the Mob

The U.S. Attorney in Chicago has denied in grand jury proceedings he interrogated a U.S. Marshal suspected of leaking information to the mob.

Patrick Fitzgerald said he summoned federal Marshal John Ambrose to FBI offices in September 2006 for "a conversation," and not an interrogation, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

Ambrose is suspected of leaking information to a mob star witness in another trial he was assigned to protect.

On Tuesday, Ambrose said while meeting with Fitzgerald he was closely guarded by FBI agents, including when he went to the washroom, and was never read his Miranda rights, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

Fitzgerald in turn said Ambrose was agitated, and the agents only accompanied him to the washroom because "I did not want to see him kill himself."

The hearing is set to resume Jan. 3 with further cross-examination of Fitzgerald, the report said.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deputy US Marshal Breaks Down Meeting with Prosecutors Regarding Mob Leak

A deputy U.S. marshal from Chicago, once a rising star in his office and now accused of leaking information to the mob, was questioned about possible contacts with other reputed mobsters, according to testimony in federal court Tuesday.

Investigators quizzed Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose about any contacts he had with top reputed mobsters John "Pudgy" Matassa and Tony Zizzo, who is now missing, according to testimony. Ambrose denied even knowing who the men were.

Ambrose, 39, is charged with lying to the feds about leaking secret information about mob killer Nicholas Calabrese, who decided to cooperate with the government and was in the witness protection program.

The feds caught on tape two mobsters, reputed Chicago Outfit boss James Marcello and his half brother, Michael, talking about Calabrese's "baby-sitter" -- their code name for Ambrose -- and the information "the baby-sitter" was providing to them.

The hearing was to determine whether statements that Ambrose made to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, the head of the FBI in Chicago, should be tossed out.

Ambrose contends he was in custody when he made statements and was not read his Miranda rights, so the statements shouldn't be allowed in. The feds say he wasn't in custody and gave the statements freely in talks with Fitzgerald and Grant in September 2006. Fitzgerald testified Tuesday that he told Ambrose he was not under arrest -- which Ambrose denies.

U.S. Marshal Kim Widup, Ambrose's boss, backed Ambrose's account in one key detail. Widup said he believed Ambrose was in custody when he was being questioned, which could support Ambrose and undermine the prosecution's case. Ambrose's uncle, Gerald Hansen, a retired Chicago police officer and current federal court security officer, visited Ambrose while he was at FBI offices and also said he believed his nephew was in custody.

It's unclear how much those statements will assist Ambrose. U.S. District Judge John Grady said he likely wouldn't consider their opinions all that helpful.

Ambrose broke down on the witness stand as he described how he was confronted by Fitzgerald and Grant.

"I was thinking about my wife and how she was going to raise the kids if we were separated, how we were going to provide," Ambrose said, tears coming to his eyes. "I felt I had been hurled into a vat of quicksand, and Mr. Fitzgerald was throwing bricks at me," Ambrose said.

Investigators were worried that Ambrose might kill himself, and lured him to FBI offices on a ruse.

Ambrose had to hand over his gun, a customary procedure, before he went up to 10th floor conference room at FBI offices, where he was confronted by Fitzgerald and Grant.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

America's Most Wanted to Feature Chicago Drug Conspiracy Case and Unknown Chicago Jane Doe

America's Most WantedUnknown Rashawn Brazell Killer: Police in New York want to know who would want to decapitate 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell, stuff his body parts into trash bags and leave them in a New York Subway station. That's why they've turned to AMW to help solve this gruesome murder. AMW received lots of tips the first two times we aired this story. Now, cops hope the third time is a charm in finding Rashawn's killer.

James Bell: Parents near Providence , R.I. , were in for the shock of their lives when they found out that James Bell -- the trusted gymnastics coach at a local YMCA -- was accused of molesting their children. What's more, cops say this is just one incident in a long history of sexual abuse and manipulation. But now, Bell has disappeared, and police are on the manhunt for a predator they say is responsible for victimizing girls across the country.

Troy Bolin: Police say although fugitive Troy Lane Bolin might be a thin, scruffy looking guy, he's as dangerous as child predators come. Bolin is wanted for molesting two young girls repeatedly over the course of several years.

Evelyn Guzman: Evelyn Guzman was only spotted once by FBI agents, but what they saw was enough to convince them that she was part of a large drug conspiracy that been operating for months in Chicago.

James Roberts: Police say Toby Roberts had a mission, and he wasn't going to stop until it was completed. Cops say he tried to kill his girlfriend, and he was so determined, he used three different tools to finish the job. But he might not have known his girlfriend as well as he thought, because she wasn't going down without a major fight.

Augusto Rodriguez: Most fugitives will do anything to avoid being recognized -- use an alias, change their hairstyle, you name it. But the FBI says one Pennsylvania kidnapper has gone even further. According to reports, Augusto Rodriguez is so afraid of getting caught, he may have taken on the ultimate disguise -- dressing like a woman.

Unknown Chicago Jane Doe: Chicago Police are doing everything they can to identify an unknown murder victim, even reaching out to one of AMW's favorite crimefighters for help -- forensic artist Karen Taylor. With Karen's illustrations and clay recreations, Windy City detectives are hoping someone recognizes the victim and that will lead them to her killer.

Mark Everett: Once upon a time, Mark Everett was a child actor who craved time in front of the camera. Now, cops say he's a killer on the lam who's doing everything he can to stay out of sight -- and his run from justice isn't easy with a kid in tow.

Bobby Weatherton: U.S. Marshals say Bobby Weatherton -- accused of rape, kidnapping, attempted murder and violating his federal probation -- very nearly killed a female friend he'd assaulted and held prisoner. She managed to escape, and now the Feds are hot on Bobby's trail.

Shorty Rodriguez: Police announced the capture of a suspected career criminal -- Ronald "Shorty" Rodriguez -- at a press conference Thursday in New York . Nassau County , N.Y. cops say it all went down in the picturesque beach resort of Coney Island after Shorty's family saw him on AMW; police believe people close to Rodriguez turned on him to save themselves from getting into serious trouble. Rodriguez is now in custody awaiting trial on a number of charges.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lucchese Gambling Ring Broken Up

Dozens of alleged members of the Lucchese Crime Family were arrested Tuesday morning in raids in New Jersey and New York that authorities say broke up a major sports betting ring.

Police say the 32 suspects were taken into custody at their homes and are being processed at the West Orange Armory.

They will be arraigned, likely tomorrow, at the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown.

Taken into custody, according to authorities, were the crime family's New Jersey capo, 61-year-old Ralph Perna of East Hanover, as well as several leaders of the New York faction. Also arrested were Ralph's son, Joseph, and 41-year-old Michael Cetta, both of Wyckoff.

Investigators with the New Jersey Attorney General's Office reportedly swooped down on the suspects' homes in Bergen and Morris counties this morning to make the arrests.

Cetta's Wyckoff home was described as a $1.9 million mansion, which investigators were searching this morning. He is a reputed member of the Bonanno crime family, but linked by marriage to the Luccheses.

The suspects were believed to behind a sports betting operation that took in more than $2 billion over the past 15 months. Along with gambling, the suspects are allegedly linked to loan sharking and extortion. Their operation is said to be based in Northern New Jersey and in New York.

Officials say the arrests are the culmination of a year-long investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.

Earlier this year, authorities arrested a 56-year-old East Hanover man as part of a Lucchese crime family gambling operation. At that time, the quiet Morris County town was described as a hub for illegal gambling activity run by organized crime.

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US Marshal Accused of Being Mob Mole Appears in Court

A U.S. marshal accused of leaking information about a key mob trial witness says he felt he'd been "thrown into a vat of quicksand" when he realized he faced possible criminal charges.

A sometimes tearful John Ambrose testified Tuesday at a hearing to determine whether statements he made before being formally charged will be admissible in court.

Ambrose says he was intimidated into making the 2006 statements to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys say Ambrose was effectively under arrest and should've been read his rights. Since he wasn't, they say his statements shouldn't be admissible. But prosecutors say Ambrose wasn't under arrest and made the statements freely.

Attorneys gave no indication what Ambrose told prosecutors.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Crime Time Blogs

A few weeks ago, this site was named to the ABA journal Blawg 100. It was their editor's way to honor the best 100 blogs "by lawyers for lawyers". Although, I mentioned this back when it was first released and I added a Vote for this Blog button on the left side column, I wanted to mention each of the other blogs that were classified in the Crime Time category. If you want to vote for this blog, that is fine with me. If you find another from the list below that is more in tune with your interests, vote for them. If you do not want to vote at all, fine by me too.

Crime Time Blawgs

Blonde Justice
A pretty-in-pink anonymous take on life as a pink-suited public defender in an unnamed city, with some details fudged to keep identities private.

Capital Defense Weekly
Nothing fancy, but a solid source of death penalty news, litigation updates and case information published on the blog as they are found, then shipped direct in a weekly e-mail.

Clews The Historic True Crime Blog
Proof positive that truth is stranger than fiction, Clews draws in true-crime enthusiasts with stories from the horrifying to the surreal.

Crime and Consequences
Takes a prosecutorial, victim’s-rights view of the criminal justice system and is hosted by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Crime Scene KC
All the crime that’s fit to print in Kansas City. The cops’ beat is updated throughout the day and organized by dozens of criminal justice categories.

Grits for Breakfast
Covers criminal justice news and events, with a healthy dose of Texas-size politics.

Meeting the Sin Laws
Like the blog says, nothing generates more controversy (except maybe when a Wal-Mart comes to town) than when a strip, er, gentleman's club opens up. Covers a range of so-called vice industry laws and legal developments.

Sentencing Law and Policy
Highly respected and oft-cited, Professor Doug Berman’s scholarship and avant-garde commentary is open for discussion.

Simple Justice
Entertainingly jaded take on criminal justice news and issues within and sometimes beyond New York City’s borders.

The Chicago Syndicate (Yours Truly)
The Syndicate blog has made our hit list as a go-to site for courtroom mafia news. Syndicate is a historical repository for a list of infamous made men—plus, recently, marathon coverage of Chicago’s Family Secrets trial.

Illinois Governor Blagovich Leads List of Politicians Receiving Contributions from Friend of Mob Boss

An Oak Brook businessman who has extensive financial and personal ties to the former head of the Chicago mob has given more than $200,000 in contributions to Illinois politicians through personal and corporate donations -- with Gov. Blagojevich receiving the most money, $35,000, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Among other top recipients of donations from the businessman, Nicholas Vangel, a longtime friend of mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, were former Gov. George Ryan, House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, an analysis of the political contributions shows.

Vangel has not been accused of any wrongdoing and did not return phone messages Friday. He has denied in court documents any connections to organized crime. Some politicians who received contributions from Vangel or his businesses told the Sun-Times they were either unaware of Vangel's relationship with Marcello or had no idea who he was.

"We don't know much about the person in question and are still reviewing the contributions," said Doug Scofield, a spokesman for the governor's campaign.

A spokesman for Madigan, who received more than $17,000 over 10 years, had no idea who Vangel was and noted the amount contributed was relatively small per year. Saviano, who got more than $20,000, did not return phone messages.

Vangel, 66, and his family have extensive investments in several nursing homes throughout the Chicago area, as well as other businesses, but another side of him was shown during the recent Family Secrets mob trial.

In a secret videotape made by the FBI and played to jurors, Vangel was shown chatting as he visited Marcello at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., in February 2003. As Marcello snacks on a bag of Fritos, Vangel talks with him about the secret ongoing federal investigation of unsolved mob murders, including which mob leaders have been swabbed for DNA testing. Vangel tells Marcello he will find out what he can.

The men at times speak in code, and Vangel tells Marcello he wishes an unnamed individual had gone to testify before the grand jury investigating the mob murders. "Fact is, I mean to tell ya the truth, I was almost hopin' he'd a gone to find out what they were gonna ask him," Vangel tells Marcello.

His assistance to Marcello did not end there.

Vangel at times would deliver cash to Marcello's mistress, according to the woman's testimony. The woman was also put on the payroll of one of Vangel's businesses, so she could get health insurance.

After Marcello was arrested in the Family Secrets case in 2005, Vangel offered to put up his home, which had more than $1 million in equity, for Marcello's bond.

The judge refused to release Marcello, but if he had gotten out, Marcello could have returned to the job Vangel gave him, which involved calling upon several nursing homes on behalf of Vangel's management company.

In the Family Secrets case, Marcello was convicted of racketeering and was found to have taken part in the 1986 murders of the mob's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother, Michael.

Marcello drove the brothers to what they believed was a mob meeting at a Bensenville area home, where they were lured into a basement and beaten to death, according to court testimony.

Vangel is an investor in another company with the wife of a Marcello associate. Vangel is listed on the corporate records of a temporary worker business called Patriot Staffing Management Inc. with Susan Zizzo, wife of missing mobster Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, records show.

Vangel's interests do not end there. He has been, for instance, an investor in the well-known Rush Street restaurant Tavern on Rush, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Vangel is the former owner of the Carlisle banquet hall in west suburban Lombard and was among nine people arrested there during a gambling raid of a Super Bowl party in 1991. Among those arrested were William Galioto, who is a former Chicago Police officer and Marcello's brother-in-law. Galioto has been identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as a mob lieutenant. Also there were two union leaders, who lost their positions after their locals were found to be mobbed up.

Charges against all the men were dropped when prosecutors missed a filing deadline, authorities said.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

The  Wine Messenger

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Will the Chicago Outfit Assign Hitmen to Compose 'Trunk Music' Against the Writers Guild?

Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart has come up with a novel idea to end the six-week-old writers’ strike – bring in the Chicago mafia to whack a few leaders of the striking Writers Guild.

In a column that ran in Daily Variety on Dec.10 under the headline “A way to settle so it’s all in the ‘family’” – with the word ‘family’ in quotes to make sure we all know he’s talking about the Mafia – Bart writes: “OK. I’ll admit it: I was once on reasonably friendly terms with Sidney Korshak” – the Chicago mafia’s man in Hollywood for more than 50 years.

KorshakSupermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, who was the go-to guy for the late-Universal Studios mogul Lew Wasserman when contract talks stalled, was a master of “the trade-off,” according to Bart, although in fact, Korshak was even more the master of a quite different art – the art of the implied death threat.

“Korshak died 11 years ago,” Bart writes, “but had he been alive today, he would have been dismayed by the state of disarray in Hollywood. The writers and show-runners don’t seem to appreciate what management has done for them, he would have declared. And the companies similarly seem to have lost their talent at hard bargaining.

“Korshak surely would have enhanced the proposed compensation for digital downloads (one of the sticking points in the contract talks), and had his offer not been embraced, a few individuals might have been downloaded as well. Peace would prevail.”

Here, by ‘downloaded,’ Bart apparently means whacked; and by “a few individuals,” he assumedly means union leaders, since they are the ones to whom contract offers are generally made.

“Does he know what century we’re in?” asked an astonished member of the WGA’s hierarchy. “Next he’ll be calling on Pinkerton agents to fire into our picket lines.”

Of course, Bart, who is a longtime member of the Writers Guild, may be just joking around – showing off the tough-guy image he has of himself, which is something he’s known to do on occasion. But a reasonable reader might ask: Is this anything for the editor of a newspaper to joke about during an increasingly tense strike?

Joking or not, whacking troublesome Hollywood union leaders is something that Korshak’s friends in the Chicago syndicate were known to do once in a while. One famous case was the murder of Willie Bioff, the #2 guy in the one of Hollywood most powerful unions, who in 1943 publicly identified Sid Korshak as the mob’s man in Hollywood.

Korshak’s ties to the Chicago mob go all the way back to the 1930s and the days of Al Capone. In 1943, his name came up during the sensational trial of some of Chicago’s top mobsters on charges that they’d extorted more than $1 million dollars from Hollywood’s movie studios. Unlike today, however, back then Daily Variety had an editor named Arthur Unger who wasn’t so cozy with the mafia, and who bravely crusaded against the mob, writing editorials in which he called on Hollywood to run the gangsters out of town.

The scandal began in the late 1930s when the Chicago mob seized control of one of Hollywood’s most powerful unions - the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents most of the behind-the-scenes workers in show business.

Frank Nitti, who was running the outfit while Capone was serving time for income tax evasion, controlled the union’s bosses, including Willie Bioff, who was finally indicted on charges of extorting money from the studios in exchange for labor peace.

During the trial, Korshak’s name came up when Bioff testified that he had been introduced to Korshak by one of the mob defendants, who had said: “Willie, meet Sidney Korshak. He is our man. . . . Any messages he might deliver to you is a message from us.”

Nitti had killed himself shortly after being indicted, and a lot of top mob guys went to jail, including Johnnie Roselli and Paul “The Waiter” Ricca. And in 1955, a decade after he was released from prison, Bioff was blown to pieces by a car bomb, which in those days was a signature mob hit.

Korshak, who was once described as “the toughest lawyer in America,” was never charged with any crime, and moved easily between gangsters and movie moguls. Though not licensed to practice law in California, where he lived for many years, Korshak served as an adviser to many of the top Hollywood studios. And at the same time, authorities said, he was also an adviser to such mob figures as Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Gus Alex.

In 1978, the California attorney general’s Organized Crime Control Commission issued a report that called Korshak “the key link between organized crime and big business,” noting that he was a “senior adviser” to organized crime groups in California, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York. In a rare interview, Korshak denied the allegations. “I’ve never been cited, let alone indicted, for anything,” Korshak told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1978.

In Hollywood, Korshak helped broker numerous deals for some of the top studios. In 1973, he mediated in the negotiations that led to the sale of MGM’s theaters and properties in its overseas markets to Cinema International Corp., a joint venture between MCA and Paramount. MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf & Western owned Paramount, personally negotiated the deal with MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian - with Korshak as mediator.

Bart knew Korshak back in those days, too – back when Bart was second-in-command at Paramount Studios in the 1970s – back when Korshak was the mentor of Bart’s mentor – Robert Evans, who was head of production at Paramount.

“Sidney (Korshak) was in my office every day for 10 years,” Evans said in an interview for my L.A. Weekly cover story about Bart in 1994. “There’s not a day that went by when I was in Los Angeles that Sidney wasn’t there…Sidney and Peter and I spent a lot of time together. They never broke bread. But, you know, Peter was my right-hand guy and Sid was my consigliere, so naturally they met.”

In his book, “The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life,” Evans wrote that Korshak “was not only my consigliere, but my godfather and closest friend . . . my lifelong protector.”

Bart, whose coverage of the strike has been criticized for toadying up to management, was a newspaperman in the 1960s before he joined Evans and Korshak in running Paramount Studios. In 1990, Bart actually boasted in an article for Gentlemen’s Quarterly that he carried a gun while covering riots in Los Angeles for The New York Times in the mid-1960s. “I carried a gun in my last days at The Times,” he said, claiming that he had twice been shot at while covering a race riot. “My philosophy was: If a man’s going to shoot at me, he’s going to get it right fucking back. I was a good shot. But it was not Times policy.” (Nor is it the policy of any newspaper in the country.)

And he says he wasn’t joking about having shot people during the Watts Riots. When asked about this in 1994, he told LA Weekly that the gun he used was taken from him “by an L.A. cop who was chasing somebody that ran past. He said, ‘Hey, Pete, do you have a gun? And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Hand it to me.’ That’s the last I saw of that goddamn gun.”

So maybe he’s kidding about killing union leaders, and maybe he’s exaggerating about shooting black people during the Watts riot. But either way, maybe the Writers Guild should ask: Why is this guy still a member of this union? Isn’t there some bylaw against members advocating the murder of Writers Guild leaders – especially during a strike?

Thanks to David Robb, Inc.

Federal Case for Sopranos Sequel

Tony Soprano never had to sing in court. But the brains behind the mobster is ready to take the stand.

David Chase turned up Wednesday in a federal courtroom Trenton, New Jersey, for a trial that will determine whether the Sopranos mastermind got help dreaming up the series from a former gavel-banger.

The outcome, or any financial award, will be decided by a jury of seven women and one man, who were seated during the morning session. Two would-be jurors were given the boot after they admitted to being huge fans of the HBO hit, which, literally, went black earlier this season.

Chase sat at the defense table, flanked by his wife and his legal team.

Robert Baer, who toiled as a municipal court judge in Prospect Park, New Jersey, filed suit in 2002, claiming he's due some serious clams for coming up with key elements of The Sopranos.

A federal judge twice dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the deal between him and Chase was too vague to be binding.

Both times, however, an appeals court overturned the decisions by U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano and reinstated the complaint. The appellate panel did agree with several of Pisano's points, though, and allowed the lower court judge to limit the case's scope.

Per his breach-of-contract suit, Baer claims he and Chase met for lunch in California in 1995 and discussed the idea for The Sopranos. During their conversation, Baer says he gave a thorough debriefing about his days as an assistant DA targeting Mafia types and suggested colorful locales to set the show.

"He proposed the idea about doing the show about the north Jersey Mafia," Baer's lawyer, Harley Breite, told the Asbury Park Press. "He's looking to be compensated for the value of what he did, the services and assistance he provided to Mr. Chase."

Breite says Chase kept in touch with Baer and frequently used him as an expert consultant on questions about organized crime. Chase even sent Baer a draft of The Sopranos pilot to weigh in on, the attorney claims.

Baer also claims to have introduced Chase to detectives on the mob beat. Among his most significant suggestions, Baer alleges, were that Tony and his crew hang out a local pork store and have an older Jewish character as an adviser.

Breite says that when Baer tried to contact Chase after The Sopranos was picked up by HBO, the producer never returned his calls.

According to Chase though, Baer can fuhgeddaboud trying to claim credit for the most honored drama in cable TV history.

Calling Baer's lawsuit "grossly distorted, petulant and self-aggrandizing," Chase says the former judge provided only a "modest service." And while he admits sending the ex-judge a copy of The Sopranos episode in court papers, Chase says the former judge didn't submit "a single suggestion for improvement of [his] script."

The producer has also stated that he had come up with the concept five years prior to his lunch date with Baer and was "keenly aware" of the subject, having spent his childhood in the Garden State.

The plot-poaching trial is expected to last five days.

Thanks to Josh Grossberg

Sopranos Store

Friday, December 14, 2007

Would the Mob Control a City of Chicago Casino?

Cities across the country have looked to casinos as a way to generate money, but Chicago is going a step further. There's a movement in Illinois to allow Chicago to actually go into the casino business. Under the deal, Chicago would own and operate a casino, making it the first municipality in the country to do so. Given Chicago's history with the mob, gambling and corruption, the plan is raising more than a few eyebrows.

Ben Calhoun's audio report provides more details and includes comments from Mayor Daley, Chicago Crime Commission President Jim Wagner and author Richard Wagner, who has written several books about Chicago.

Once you listen to the report, you can vote in a Chicago Crime Commission poll on the topic.


Mob Trial Ends in Aquittal for Pizza Maker

In a stunning reversal of fortune, a Brooklyn jury Thursday night acquitted a pizza maker of cooking up a plan to gun down a mob loanshark and his cousin.

Carmine Polito, 48, whose 2003 federal conviction in the case was overturned on a technicality, is free and clear after a five-week trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court - where one of the victims and two accomplices testified against him.

"Obviously there is no justice," said Assunta Rozza, whose brother Sabato (Tino) Lombardi was killed and cousin Michael (Cookie) D'Urso wounded in the 1994 attack at a Williamsburg social club. "This mother------ is going to have Christmas with his family - and my brother never will," she said, adding that she thought jurors were afraid because the case involved mobsters.

She also said she thought Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Joel Goldberg disallowed too much evidence.

The judge will decide the fate of Polito's co-defendant, Mario Fortunato, 60, whose federal conviction also was overturned.

"This is a big win. It's a huge upset," said Polito's gleeful lawyer, Gerald McMahon, who fought a contentious battle and very nearly came to blows with prosecutor Christopher Blank during a break in the action last week. "These guys were so confident they wouldn't even offer a serious plea" deal, said McMahon, who had blasted the three main witnesses.

D'Urso joined the main shooter and the getaway driver in testifying against Polito and Fortunato.

Prosecutors said the pair organized the hit because Polito owed money to the Genovese-connected Lombardi and Fortunato wanted to settle an old score with D'Urso.

The evidence was considered stronger against Polito than Fortunato, who chose a bench trial before Goldberg.

"These three guys were two crackheads and a wanna-be [mobster]," McMahon said. "Juries are looking at these types of cases [based on accomplice testimony] a little more carefully now."

The federal case came after D'Urso entered the witness protection program and helped convict about 40 Genovese crime family members, including the late boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante, then Polito and Fortunato.

Goldberg is expected to render his opinion in the Fortunato case Friday.

Thanks to Scott Shifrel

One Year of Online Backup from Carbonite Holiday Offer

Monday, December 10, 2007

Big Pussy is Not Dead, He's in Chicago

When you play a guy on TV named Big Pussy, you have big problems. People yell that name in the most inconvenient places -- in quiet bookstores, in churches, in restaurants. Actor Vincent Pastore, one of the most popular members of Tony's crew on "The Sopranos" before being whacked at the end of the second season, puts it like this: "Big Pussy is my nickname for the rest of my life. My friends even made up a T-shirt. Big Pussy is not dead. He's in Chicago."

That means he's in the musical "Chicago" on Broadway alongside Aida Turturro, who played Tony Soprano's sister Janice in the HBO mob series. Pastore's latest role is in Guy Ritchie's new film "Revolver," where he plays a con man. He's also doing a stint on the new "Celebrity Apprentice," debuting in January on NBC, and he has his own Sirius radio show.

1. What was it like to work with Guy Ritchie in "Revolver"? My Wines Direct DECSAVE

It was unbelievably great. Now Guy, [co-star] Jason [Statham] and I are friends. We're like the Three Musketeers now. When we did the movie, I really listened to Guy. The script was a different type of script for me -- something to bite into and work on. I liked my character because he was different. Not to give too much away, but he's a con man and something beyond that.

2. Were you nervous singing and dancing on stage the first time on Broadway in "Chicago"?

The acting I love. I'll act with a grapefruit. That doesn't bother me. Thank God I got my friends here in New York helping me with the singing and dancing for the show. I get more and more confident with each show. As the shows go along, I improve. Now it's like "Sopranos" go to Broadway with Aida and me on that stage. People are loving it. We come out and there are cheers and people waiting backstage with "Sopranos" stuff for us to sign. I think my friends from the show will come soon. I know Jim Gandolfini is coming. Lorraine [Bracco] is coming.

3. Tell us about your role on "Celebrity Apprentice." How was it being hired or fired by Donald Trump?

Donald is the boss. That's all I can say. ... We signed some crazy contract. If I tell you what happened they take my thumbs off. I can say that one day we sold hot dogs on a New York street corner. Me and Gene Simmons selling dogs. We sold a lot of hot dogs.

4. What did you think of the controversial, fade-to-black "Sopranos" finale?

I talked to ["Sopranos" creator] David Chase about the ending and he said he didn't want Tony to die. People talk about that ending with me now all the time. I figure it this way: If Tony would have went into witness protection, people wouldn't be talking about it that much. David did a good job.

5. We know your Big Pussy is swimming with the fishes, but can't he come back in dream sequences in a "Sopranos" movie? By the way, any news on that front?

To tell you the truth, I think David did that ending to keep it open. David can do what he wants to do now. A lot of the characters are still alive. I don't think Silvio Dante [Steven Van Zandt, who was shot and in a coma] died, either. He can wake up. The movie could be flashbacks of Tony and the guys sitting at the meat store. You could pick it up from Tony's childhood. I'm hopeful. I love those guys.

Thanks to Cindy Pearlman

Mob Influence on Tennis Worries John McEnroe

US tennis legend John McEnroe expressed his concern on Friday that organised crime, such as the Russian mafia, could be infiltrating tennis.

The former world number one believes that threats to tennis players or their families could be forcing them into throwing matches. "The thing that worries me is that mafia types, like the Russian mafia, could be involved. That's potentially pretty dark and scary," McEnroe told The Daily Telegraph. "I think that's the side that people aren't really looking at with these match-fixing stories. Someone may have threatened the players, and they are put in a situation. I'm guessing that could happen. That would make more sense to me than top players throwing a match for money.

"Throwing a match for money would be stupid, as you would be risking losing what you've worked for your whole life. It seems crazy that players would take that risk for money. It would make more sense that they've been threatened in some way and that's why they're doing it."

Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the world number four, is being investigated by the ATP after a defeat in Poland in August while Italian Alessio di Mauro was suspended for nine months for betting on matches and Philipp Kohlschreiber has had to defend himself of accusations of match-fixing in the German press.

"With a high-ranked guy like Davydenko, he's making so much money to begin with that he'd be risking so much by doing it, as if you get caught you should be banned for life," McEnroe said. "But it's pretty tough to prove that someone has thrown a match unless you're tapping the guy's phone or something."

But some of the lower-ranked players in men's tennis could be tempted by bribe money, McEnroe said.

"I think this issue has to be closely looked at, because it's very conceivable that it's happening. There are guys out there who are 100 in the world, 200 in the world, and they're making 50,000 pounds a year.

"And if someone says that they'll give you 50,000 pounds, so your entire year's money, I think there's a strong possibility that they have taken the money, without a doubt," McEnroe said.

"There is definitely temptation for people. It's becoming more of a drama because there's more money in sports."

Mafia Princess Finds God

I was a mafia princess. I know—it sounds like something straight out of The Sopranos, dangerous and exciting. The truth is much less glamorous, and I don't look back on any of it with relish. In fact, I'd prefer to keep those now-unpleasant memories safely locked away, out of sight and mind. But God's voice whispers, Good can still come from the past, Barbara, if you'll just release it. So I trust and obey.

What's wrong with me?
I grew up with a father who was a chronic alcoholic and all the chaos that accompanies that addiction. Even more painful, I was sexually abused from the age of 7 until I was 12 years old. Because abuse and dysfunction became a part of my life at such an early age, I equated them with normalcy and love. As a young adult, I sought this kind of love wherever I could find it.

In 1980 I was 20 years old and working as a cocktail waitress in a seedy nightclub in Texas. I was attractive, intelligent, and capable of doing much more with my life. But with only a high school education and a lifetime of diminished self-worth, I figured it was the best I could hope for.
Secret Behind the Secret 120x600
I liked not having to think through each day. If I didn't think, I didn't need to wrestle with the morality of my behavior—which, I reasoned, was a natural consequence of my messed-up childhood. The things I indulged in—promiscuity, alcohol, drugs—dependably silenced questions that had nagged me for years: Why can't somebody really love me? What's wrong with me that I can't seem to ever do the right thing? My destructive behaviors were like a cooing mother, soothing my troubles away: "There, there, everything's going to be just fine." That peace, unfortunately, was counterfeit and my need for it grew insatiable.

Meeting "Papa"
Not long after I started my job, a strikingly charismatic man came into the nightclub. He had a boxer's physique, a nose that looked to have been broken multiple times, olive skin, silver hair and beard, and piercing, slate-blue eyes.

"That's Papa," one of the girls whispered. "He's the owner."

"Papa" turned out to be Antonio Palermo (not his real name), a street-smart Italian from New York City. Papa didn't try to look tough; he was tough. He was the quintessential Mafia ideal—he dressed smartly, drove a late-model Cadillac, wore expensive jewelry, threw money around, and most of all, commanded respect.

Mafia members have subliminal ways of exuding their clout. Like a predator, they use a potent blend of machismo, ego, and a palpable lack of fear. They trace invisible lines around themselves that no one had better cross, unless invited. I was. Tony pursued me and wooed me, and I naively believed that it was love.

Tony made me feel, for the first time in my life, there was somebody strong enough to keep the monsters that had consistently haunted me at bay. "No man will ever hurt you again," he'd assure me. Desperate to believe, I eventually married him.

Pampered and privileged
Tony owned adult bookstores and arcades. Daily a white van, driven by a quietly menacing guy named Dave, would pull up to our condo with the day's take. Bags of money were counted—spoils from needy consumers dependent upon the many forms of sexual depravity the bookstores provided. I didn't let myself think about how those stores could be hurting other people—husbands, fathers, sons. What mattered was that for the first time in my life, I had all the money I wanted. I was certain I'd found the answer to all my problems.

All that money allowed Tony and I to live an extravagant—and sometimes self-destructive—lifestyle. One day he introduced me to a friend whose influence I spent agonizing years trying to escape—cocaine. I call the drug Tony's friend, but really, it was his Lord. He cowered to it in a way he never submitted to anyone else. Discovering cocaine sealed my former commitment to substance abuse, and now I had all the funds I needed to feed my habit.

Tony and I took exotic vacations and rarely ate at home. In fact, as in any good mobster story, there was a typical Italian restaurant where we dined several times a week. The owners were Italian immigrants filled with their homeland's deference for La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia). It didn't matter what time of day or night we came in, they were always eager to serve, with a table available. We were privileged and pampered to a disgusting degree.

No Marlon Brando
Deep down I knew Tony was capable of doing unspeakable things, yet somehow I separated the doting husband from the cold deviant. I deluded myself into believing that all the stories of Mob brutality and killings were just myth, telling myself that Tony was like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, a loveable patriarch whose cruel acts were ultimately just. That brand of justice, however, can only be reconciled by ignoring God's command to leave vengeance in His hands. By refusing to face this truth, I drifted further and further away from the God I had learned about as a child.

Faithfulness and honesty are not Mafia ethics, so it shouldn't have surprised me that Tony had affairs. To his peers, monogamy would have been viewed not as a virtue, but a weakness. According to the Italian Old-World influence, wives are highly regarded and usually isolated. But girlfriends, it's understood, are an important mark of gangster virility. Still, I was hurt every time I knew he'd been with another woman.

"B.J.," he'd say with his most charming smile, "you know I can't be with just you, but I do love only you."

I tried to convince myself that frequent champagne lunches with the girls, frenetic shopping sprees, exorbitant gifts from my husband, and other consolation prizes, were enough. They weren't. I wanted and needed love, not accoutrements. I'd thought I'd found that with Tony; realizing I'd been mistaken was a bitter pill to swallow.

The last straw
The more I pressured Tony to become the faithful husband, the more he pulled away. Finally I gave him an ultimatum—me, or those other girls. I was certain if forced to make a choice, he would pick me. But I was deluded.

"Please Tony," I begged, "Can't we try to make it work?"

There are two things that neither Tony nor his type could ever stomach—vulnerability and humility. My pleading proved to be the last straw in our troubled relationship.

I'll never forget that day and the look in Tony's eyes when he told me it would never, could never work. It was the first time I'd seen that steely coldness, always directed toward others, trained on me. It seemed as if he'd turned off a switch inside, then walked away without a shred of remorse.

For Tony, divorce was a far lesser evil than monogamy. He couldn't have a "broad" telling him what to do, especially one that wasn't even Italian.

We kept in touch for a few years after separating. In retrospect, I think it was just so he could keep an eye on me. He most likely suspected that the FBI might come calling—and they did. Though I didn't know anything to tell them, Tony adhered to the old adage: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

After the divorce I continued to stumble through life, growing wearier and wearier, making a concerted effort to kill the person I hated inside of me with whatever chemicals I could get my hands on. Although I had, in my childhood, known Jesus, I felt we'd turned our backs on each other long ago.

Embraced by the Father
Five years after my divorce, I met someone very special—my present husband, Joe Cueto. Despite the countless mistakes I'd made, I knew instantly he was the man God always had intended for me to marry. But while he satisfied the deep need for genuine love I'd always sought from a man, a void still remained deep inside me.

Then, in January 1991, my mother invited me to go on a church retreat. That entire weekend I felt as though God was welcoming me with the tender embrace of an adoring Father. Every meal served was my favorite dish. Even Mother teasingly remarked, "Well, it seems like God is trying to make this extra special for you." One night there was a healing service, and Christ mended a throbbing toe I'd injured. Even more amazing, however, He healed my wounded spirit. When I joyfully accepted His offer to come into my life, I knew I was finally home!

Step by step, through painful rehabilitation, Jesus delivered me from all my addictions. Slowly I came to understand that the deep psychological wounds of my childhood had caused me to become numb. The methods I used to shield myself from the pain—drugs, alcohol, and even my life with Tony—had only increased it. But God loved and didn't forget that hurt little girl; He saved me from myself. Though I deserve to be His slave forever, He made me His Princess.

When God first compelled me to share my story, some well-meaning loved ones—knowing the Mob's reputation for guarding its privacy—asked if I feared for my life. The answer is a resounding no. I was dead before, but God graciously, miraculously, brought me back to life. Now I know I need never fear death again.

Thanks to Barbara Cueto

Friday, December 07, 2007

Last of Gotti's Capos To Marry

One way or another, his life as a free man is nearly over.

Reputed Gambino capo George DeCicco, 78, and his longtime girlfriend, Gail Lombardozzi, 52, yesterday got a marriage license - a year after feds indicted the high-powered capo, who had successfully ducked prosecution for decades.

A federal judge allowed the gray-haired mobster - who is under house arrest pending his racketeering and loan-sharking trial - to leave his home for a few hours yesterday so he and Lombardozzi could take a ride over to Staten Island Borough Hall to get the license.

DeCicco has a particular claim to fame as the last of the known capos for "Dapper Don" John Gotti not to be either put behind bars or planted under a tombstone.

A man of few words, DeCicco shrugged off a reporter who asked if he was happy about his pending nuptials.

"Come on, of course," he said. "I have a bad heart, and she's not doing too well. She takes care a me, I take care a her, we take care a each other," he said matter-of-factly.

DeCicco chose his words more carefully last year when he threatened a loan-shark victim who wasn't paying him, the feds say.

"I'll burn your eyes out, did you ever screw me? Do you want me to burn your eyes out?" he said, according to audiotapes made by the feds.

DeCicco's reputation on the street was so brutal that a simple repairman who botched some phone work for the elderly gangster was afraid to be seen on Bath Avenue in Brooklyn for fear of running into the mobster, said Assistant US Attorney Taryn Merkl at a bail hearing earlier this year.

"He's convinced that Mr. DeCicco is going to kill him when he does a shoddy job on the repair," Merkl said. But yesterday, the mobster played the good groom as his blushing bride-to-be smiled widely. "When you get through the bad times, you know you can get through anything," she bubbled. "We're thrilled."

Yesterday was a much-needed happy occasion for DeCicco, whose 56-year-old son was shot three times in the arm by a man in a ski mask during a botched rubout on Bath Avenue last June, and who watched his once-fearsome Bensonhurst crew crumble after an insider flipped and agreed to wear a wire - recording hundreds of conversations over a year.

DeCicco's nephew Frank was also a victim of mob violence when he was blown up in 1986 as retribution for helping Gotti assassinate Paul Castellano at Sparks Steakhouse a year earlier.

DeCicco is facing a slew of charges, including racketeering, loan-sharking, extortion and money-laundering. He's under house arrest after offering a $3 million bond.

Thanks to Lorena Mongelli and Stefanie Cohen

Lin DeVecchio to Return to Court?

Former G-man Lindley DeVecchio may return to court as a defense witness for Colombo crime boss Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico, the Daily News has learned.

DeVecchio, 67, was cleared last month of orchestrating four gangland murders with informer Gregory Scarpa after a key witness was snared in a web of lies.

Defense lawyer Sarita Kedia wants to call the retired agent as an organized crime expert Monday to testify about the bloody Colombo war of the early 1990s. Scarpa was aligned with Colombo boss Carmine (The Snake) Persico - Allie Boy's father - against a rival faction.

Alphonse Persico is charged with ordering the 1999 murder of underboss William (Wild Bill) Cutolo as payback for backing the other faction.

In a letter to prosecutors, Kedia said she will question DeVecchio about "the identities, positions and affiliations of certain individuals involved in the war."

It's unclear if prosecutors will try to keep DeVecchio off the stand. "If he's subpoenaed and the government permits him to testify, he will testify truthfully," DeVecchio's lawyer Douglas Grover said.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Charles Tyrwhitt

Gangster Bronx Tale On Broadway

Chazz Palminteri stars in his 1993 one-man show of growing up in The Bronx when The Bronx was The Bronx, and having to choose between hoodlum gangster and bus-driver father.
Walter Kerr Theatre,
219 W. 48th St.
(212) 239-6200.
Closes Feb. 10.

Vincent "Chin" Gigante Kept Up 'Crazy Act' Even in Prison

Alone in a North Carolina prison cell, the nation's most powerful Mafia don welcomed a steady parade of guests each evening.

Small children, and dancing inmates.

Men in suits with matching hats, and women in long dresses.

A big black cat, and the original Boss: God.

It was summer 1997, and Vincent (Chin) Gigante faced a lengthy prison stint for racketeering. For the first time in decades, the former mob hit man's inspired dodge of using a demented alter ego to avoid jail had flopped and the Chin was forced to swap his ratty bathrobe and slippers for a prison jumpsuit. Wayne Dyer - Buy now and get a free gift 120x600

The Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., was a long way from the Greenwich Village streets where Gigante ruthlessly directed the fortunes of the Genovese crime family.

Within weeks of his July 26, 1997, arrival, it was obvious the mobster's change of address wouldn't mean a change in demeanor.

Federal prisoner No. 26071-037 never abandoned his off-kilter character through prison stops in Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Missouri. For the next eight years, despite failed appeals and an April 2003 guilty plea in which he confessed to the scam, Gigante continued in crackpot mode until his demise behind bars nearly two years ago.

It was a show so breathtaking in scope that even those charged with evaluating his condition conceded they were in the presence of greatness. "Mr. Gigante's case is truly fascinating," raved one staff psychiatrist in 1999. "His ability to sustain his 'crazy act' over many years ... places Gigante in the ranks of the most cunning of criminals."

A four-star review for a guy who never took an acting class.

Gigante's dedication to his craft was revealed in hundreds of pages of prison records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act filing. The documents illustrate how Gigante's "mental state" led to increased paranoia - on the part of the government.

They offer glimpses of the Chin's previously unseen droll sense of humor. And they detail his cat-and-mouse game with prison officials. "I'm not crazy, doctor," Gigante said in August 1997, shortly after arriving at Butner. Maybe. Maybe not. But 12 days later, the Chin recounted how a group of children arrived one evening to perform a musical right outside his cell.

Gigante was unfamiliar with the Strasberg method of acting, but his performance after a 1997 racketeering and murder conspiracy conviction was fueled by tremendous personal motivation: The case was on appeal, with his lawyers arguing the Chin was mentally unfit. And so prison officials - intent on capturing the mob boss in an unguarded moment - kept close watch on Gigante's demeanor, monitoring his condition in his cell, recreation areas and psychiatric clinics.

Daily reports detailed his assorted nocturnal visitors, including a black cat he insisted made sleep impossible.

When Gigante arrived at the Springfield, Mo., prison medical center in December 1997, a nurse recorded their introductory conversation: "Reason for admission (in patient's own words): 'I don't know.'"

An April 1998 prison report noted Gigante "continues to hear God talking and that he talks to Him," and that he occasionally hears "bad people talking bad things."

In early 2002, at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., Gigante sat for yet another psychiatric evaluation. "I've hurt no one in my life," he announced with a grin. "I've got nothing to fear from anyone."

Asked about his legal history, the Chin responded, "Whatever it was, I'm innocent." And later, in an extremely random observation, Gigante told a hospital staffer, "I was there once, but not any longer."

What did that mean?

"You know," the mob boss replied, a smile on his lips indicating some appreciation of the moment's absurdity. It wasn't the only time Gigante, once arrested in a bathtub while clutching an open umbrella, offered prison officials a look at the man behind the (shower) curtain.

After arriving in a Minnesota prison in March 1999, Gigante told a staff doctor there was no need for psychological testing. "No disrespect, I love you people dearly, but I don't want to talk to you," he said politely. "How will it help to do another evaluation? I still have to do my time."

Months later, when a nurse returned from a two-week vacation, the Chin greeted her warmly: "Hi, Marsha. How have you been?"

Such incidents were short intermissions in the ongoing production. By summer 1999, Gigante was refusing to shower or shave and accusing the prison staff of torture and abuse.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal in January 2000, and a new indictment two years later charged him with running the crime family from a Texas prison cell.

Undaunted, the Chin maintained his bizarre behavior. In January 2003, he informed a prison psychiatrist he was having trouble sleeping because of nightly visits from Satan.

Three months later, Gigante stood before Brooklyn Federal Judge Leo Glasser and admitted lying to doctors about his mental health. Then Gigante went back to prison and his strange ways, now nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion.

Gigante's health deteriorated after his guilty plea; the don grew frail from an assortment of physical ailments.

Mentally, his condition was unchanged. Gigante insisted he was mentally adrift, signing prison documents with a shaky "X."

In October 2005, Gigante was shipped to a special unit in the Forth Worth, Tex., federal prison, where inmates received intensive nursing care.

The final curtain was about to fall.

His prison doctor paid a Halloween visit, where a smiling Gigante offered a handshake and shared a pleasant, coherent conversation. Gigante asked about the doctor's family; the doctor explained about Gigante's new digs before heading back to the rest of the prison population.

One day later, a staff psychologist came by for a consultation. He met with a Chin who turned the other cheek.

Gigante insisted he could not remember the doctor's name despite their previous sessions. The psychologist later grudgingly hailed Gigante for the "sophistication of his malingering attempt."

Old habits, it seemed, die hard. Vincent Gigante died seven weeks later, alone in a Texas prison cell, at 5:15 a.m.

He was 77.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sinatra to Get His Own Stamp

Ol' Blue Eyes will get his own postage stamp next spring.

The stamp commemorating Frank Sinatra was announced Wednesday by Postmaster General John Potter, who called the crooner "an extraordinary entertainer whose life and work left an indelible impression on American culture."

"His recordings, concert performances and film work place him among America's top artists, and his legendary gift for transforming popular song into art is a rare feat that few have been able to replicate," Potter said.

The stamp image will be unveiled next Wednesday — Sinatra's birthday — at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif.

While the stamp will be for first-class mail, the rate has not been announced. Currently the letter rate is 41 cents but the postal governing board is thought likely to raise the price next year.

Under new rules a hike in the letter rate would be limited to the rate of inflation, probably to 42 cents if it does go up in the spring.

During his career Sinatra won an Oscar, several Grammy awards and was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983. President Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.

He was born in Hoboken, N.J. in 1915 and died in 1998. The Hoboken Post Office was renamed in his honor in 2002.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

La Cosa Nostra Not Playing Well in the South

Mike Huckabee pulled close to Rudy Giuliani in the national GOP presidential polls Sunday. He regales crowds with very funny Hillary jokes and Jesus jokes. Rudy has plenty of great material too, but Mafia jokes have a limited appeal in South Carolina

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Secret Golf Dome Tapes

A businessman, contending he got muscled out of his suburban golf dome and lost millions of dollars, secretly recorded the mayor of Bridgeview once and the mayor's right-hand man several times, and has testified before a federal grand jury as part of an FBI investigation into the allegations.

Fresh details of the FBI investigation into Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek and the circumstances surrounding businessman John LaFlamboy losing his golf dome are revealed in a recent court filing that's part of a civil lawsuit LaFlamboy brought in federal court.

The filing reveals LaFlamboy secretly recorded Landek once for the FBI in July 2000 and recorded the mayor's assistant, Steven Reynolds, about six times in 2003 or 2004. The hulking Reynolds died in March in Phoenix, Ariz., after mixing alcohol with prescription medication.

LaFlamboy also revealed in a deposition he gave in October that he testified before a federal grand jury investigating his allegations. No one has been charged in the investigation.

LaFlamboy sued Landek, Reynolds and others in federal court in 2005, contending he was harassed and threatened into selling his share of the World Golf Dome. Village officials wanted to use the site to lure a professional soccer team to town.

LaFlamboy contends he lost millions of dollars and says one of the men threatening him was former Chicago Police Officer Fred Pascente, who was banned from Las Vegas casinos in 1999 for alleged connections to the Chicago mob.

Now, the defendants in the lawsuit want the judge to order the FBI to turn over a copy of the secret recordings LaFlamboy made, so they can hear what's on the tapes. The FBI has opposed releasing the recordings.

"We motioned for the tapes held by the government, because we are confident they will help further vindicate our clients in this case," said Ed Burke, an attorney for the Village of Bridgeview. "We are not afraid of the truth."

Landek did not return phone messages requesting comment.

LaFlamboy's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, said he, too, is eager for the tapes to be released and is confident in his client's case. LaFlamboy says in his deposition the mayor acknowledges on tape that he received money characterized as a bribe in the lawsuit, according to a source familiar with his deposition.

"We welcome the release of the tapes," said Ettinger.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, December 03, 2007

Junior Blasts the Government

John "Junior" Gotti lashed out at the government, saying a report that he has cooperated with investigators put him and his family at risk -- including the danger that he might "get one in my head."

"My family lives in fear as a result of that," the son of late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti said Tuesday.

He was apparently referring to a New York Post story last year in which unidentified sources said he had considered becoming an informant and had told prosecutors about crimes he and others had committed.

Gotti, who was on trial when the story was published, said an FBI agent was behind the claim -- which he denied -- and "should be brought up on charges."

"What happens next?" he asked. "Does it make it all better if I get one in my head? ... Does it make it all better if I'm found in the street?"

He offered to take a lie detector test on live television if the agent were charged. FBI spokesman James Margolin declined comment.

Gotti spoke after a hearing in White Plains federal court on an unrelated tax matter.

Probation officials claim Gotti violated the terms of his 2005 release from prison after serving six years for extortion by failing to pay $202,364.17 in taxes.

Judge Stephen Robinson had previously forbidden the Probation Department from sharing Gotti's financial information with criminal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, prosecutors requested free access, claiming Gotti had lied on some forms. But Robinson refused, saying probation officers must first show the judge that they have reason to believe a particular document might asked been filled out falsely.

Gotti could be sent back to prison if the judge determines he violated the terms of his release by not paying taxes.

Gotti's lawyer, Charles Carnesi, predicted outside court that even if Gotti were found to be in violation, any prison term would be suspended because of jail time Gotti served during unsuccessful prosecutions.

Gotti was tried three times in Manhattan on racketeering charges for an alleged plot to kidnap Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.

The trials in 2005 and 2006 ended in hung juries and mistrials, and federal prosecutors announced a year ago that they were giving up.

However, Carnesi pointed out another Post story from Monday that reported, again from unidentified sources, that Gotti was likely to be charged with at least five murders thanks to "Mafioso pals" trying to get leniency. "We don't expect that there will be any charges, and if in fact somebody is so misguided as to bring charges on the basis of liars and murderers who are looking to get themselves out of jail, then we'll address them at that time and we have every confidence that we'll be successful as we have been in the past," Carnesi said.

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