Mafia turncoat Anthony J. Arillotta took the witness stand for a second day in an ongoing mob murder trial in federal court in lower Manhattan on Thursday, detailing for jurors two cold-blooded murders and a third attempt on a union official’s life in 2003.
Standing trial are Arillotta’s reputed henchmen and confidantes, Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 44, of West Springfield, and his brother Ty Geas, 39, of Westfield, plus New York’s onetime acting boss of the Genovese crime family, Arthur “Artie” Nigro, 66, of Bronx, N.Y.
Arillotta, 42, of Springfield, was in 2010 charged along with the trio in a wide-ranging murder and racketeering indictment that includes the 2003 murder-for-hire of former Springfield mob boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno, the slaying of low level operator Gary D. Westerman, and the attempted murder of union official Frank Dadabo in New York the same year.
Arillotta testified he decided to turn prosecution witness almost immediately after his arrest in February 2010, and has pleaded guilty to the murders and attempted murder, plus a laundry list of extortions and drug and gun charges, in the hopes of escaping a life behind bars.
On Thursday, Arillotta spent several hours under direct examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D. Lanpher, calmly recounting first the attempt on Dadabo’s life in May 2003. He told jurors that Nigro ordered the hit on Dadabo over a union beef and gave him two guns fitted with silencers to do the job, which Nigro labeled in mob terms: “a piece of work.”
After waiting quietly on a city bench in the Bronx early that morning, Arillotta said he and Ty Geas ambushed Dadabo as he headed for his car. Fotios Geas was waiting in a nearby car to whisk the shooters away, according to the witness.
“As soon as we seen him, we jumped up, got our guns and started walking fast ... When we got into the street, the target was opening his car door ... Ty was right up in his window, firing his gun. He started emptying his gun and the window shattered. I went to the left and fired into the car,” Arillotta testified.
“How did he look?” Lanpher asked.
“He looked, uh, dead,” Arillotta answered.
But Dadabo survived. Lanpher asked how Nigro reacted during a later conversation when the two discussed the failed murder attempt.
“He said we had to get better at head shots,” Arillotta told the jury.
That shooting, however, propelled Arillotta to a secret induction ceremony into the Genovese crime family in August 2003. He was taken to a small, almost empty apartment in the Bronx, and asked a series of questions by Nigro to pledge his allegiance.
“He asked: if my wife was lying in bed dying and he called for me, would I come? I said yes. He said he comes first before anything,” Arillotta recounted, adding that he offered up his trigger finger to be pricked with a needle.
Nigro wiped the blood on a blank piece of paper Nigro then lit on fire, offering it to Arillotta to cup in his hands.
“He said I’m never to talk to law enforcement and if I did I would burn like the paper. I wiped my hands with the ashes,” he said.
Arillotta had begun his ascension. He had been made.
For Bruno’s part, his stock had been plummeting and the order came down from Nigro that Bruno had to be taken out, Arillotta told jurors. During dinners at a steakhouse in the Bronx in 2003, Nigro complained to Arillotta that Bruno wasn’t turning in enough crime revenue to his New York superiors and drank too much. The final breach came when Bruno’s name cropped up in a pre-sentencing summary for a fellow gangster, Emilio Fusco, who was readying to be sentenced for racketeering and loan-sharking convictions.
According to the report, Bruno had in 2001 casually confirmed to an FBI agent that Fusco had been made while Bruno was in prison, infuriating Fusco - who promptly circulated the paper in the underworld. Felix Tranghese, another made Genovese member from East Longmeadow, brought the offending document to Nigro in New York, Arillotta testified.
“They said to kill him,” Tranghese reported upon returning to Western Massachusetts, according to testimony.
“How did you react upon hearing Felix report the order,” Lanpher asked Arillotta.
“I wasn’t too surprised ... I mean, it’s kinda harsh but that’s a big no-no,” he responded.
But, Bruno proved to be a difficult target, ducking proposed trips to New York and dinner parties during which he was supposed to be killed. Ultimately, Freddy Geas recruited his friend and former prisonmate, Frankie A. Roche, of Westfield, a tattooed fringe player whom Geas referred to as his “crash dummy,” due to Roche’s reckless nature.
Conveniently, Roche and Bruno were embroiled in a pre-existing dispute over a bar fight and there was a fair amount of machismo being traded between the men.
Fusco, who also is charged in the case but is waiting extradition from Italy, where he fled before his arrest, provided Roche with a .45-caliber pistol. Roche waited for Bruno on Nov. 23, 2003, outside Bruno’s standing Sunday night card game and emptied the clip into him in the parking lot.
Arillotta then gave Freddy Geas $10,000 to give to Roche to get out of town, he testified.
Perhaps the most grisly killing he described for jurors was the fatal shooting of ex-convict and Arillotta’s brother-in-law, Gary D. Westerman. Westerman was regarded as a slippery thief even among thieves, a police informant and he had married Arillotta’s sister-in-law, 30 years his junior - creating an uproar in the family.
After the Dadabo fiasco, a series of failed attempts against other rivals’ lives and before the Bruno killing, Arillotta said Ty Geas exploded on Nov. 4, 2003, during a meeting among the brothers and Arillotta behind a cigar shop.
“(Ty) said ‘No one was getting killed! We’re about nothin,’ we’re weak. No one’s dyin’!’ He was all amped up, he got Freddy all amped up and he got me amped up,” Arillotta testified.
So, they set out to kill Westerman that night, the Geases luring him to a home in Agawam with a promise of cash and marijuana they could rob inside. Arillotta and Fusco waited in the shadows in the garage while the brothers led him around the house, according to testimony.
“I heard yelling and like, ‘Ouch! Ouch!” Arillotta told jurors. He had not heard the gunshots Ty Geas leveled at Westerman through a silencer, he later learned.
They leapt from the garage and saw the brothers dragging a seemingly unconscious Westerman across the grass toward a wooded area. Fusco grabbed a shovel and smashed it into Westerman’s face, Arillotta said. He responded in kind and began bludgeoning Westerman with a shovel from behind.
They dragged him toward an eight-foot hole that had already been dug, ironically, on Bruno’s orders weeks before because Bruno was mulling having Tranghese killed while the two were at odds. Fotios Geas checked Westerman’s pockets, took his watch and snapped his cell phone in half, according to testimony.
“Freddy pulled out a gun about five inches from Gary Westerman’s head and pulled the trigger, then Ty dragged him by his feet into the hole,” Arillotta testified, and the four began filling the hole. He added that the participants hardly spoke of the murder after, but that Freddy Geas once briefly marveled at the teamwork the murder required.
Seven years later, Arillotta led law enforcement officials to the spot where Westerman had been shot and buried, so a team of FBI agents and state police only had to dig one hole to unearth his remains.
Defense attorneys have not had a chance to cross-examine Arillotta, who will continue testifying in U.S. District Court on Monday. The trial was suspended until then.
Thanks to Stephanie Barry
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