The Chicago Syndicate: Bonannos
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Showing posts with label Bonannos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bonannos. Show all posts

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires By Selwyn Raab

As the Mafia grew into a malignantly powerful force during the middle of the last century, it owed much of its success to its low-priority ranking as a law enforcement target. During most of his reign as FBI director from 1924 to 1972, J. Edgar Hoover denied that the Mafia even existed. In the late 1950s, Hoover was ''still publicly in denial" that there was such a thing as the Mafia, writes Selwyn Raab in ''Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires," his engaging history of the New York mob.

Even Hoover, who hesitated to tackle mob cases because they were difficult to win and might corrupt his agents, grudgingly came around. ''Five Families," a gritty cops-and-robbers narrative and a meticulous case history of an extraordinary law enforcement mobilization, shows how the federal government finally brought the Mafia down.

Raab, a former reporter for The New York Times whose beat was organized crime, exudes the authority of a writer who has lived and breathed his subject. Indeed, Raab seems too attached to every last nugget that he has unearthed. ''Five Families" bogs down in places under the groaning weight of excessive, repetitious detail.

Even as he tosses congratulatory bouquets to the cops for having reduced the mob to a ''fading anachronism," as one of them puts it, Raab inserts a cautionary note. The redeployment since 9/11 of US law enforcement personnel from an anti-Mafia to an antiterrorism posture is providing Cosa Nostra -- as the Italian-American organized-crime syndicates refer to themselves, meaning ''Our Thing" -- a ''renewed hope for survival," Raab says.

If they are to prosper again, all five of New York's mob families (the Gambinos, Luccheses, Colombos, Genoveses, and Bonannos) must first rebuild their leadership. The top bosses of the five families, along with many underlings, have been convicted in racketeering prosecutions and sentenced to long terms in federal prison. Those prosecutions constitute ''arguably the most successful anticrime expedition in American history," according to Raab.

The decades-long jelling of the law enforcement response to the Mafia threat commands Raab's close attention. An impetus came from Democratic Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, whose subcommittee investigated labor racketeering in the late 1960s. One key behind-the-scenes figure -- an American hero, in Raab's account -- was G. Robert Blakey, who helped craft the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations legislation as an aide to McClellan and, as a crusading law professor, tirelessly promoted the statute's use after Congress enacted it in 1970.

The law enabled prosecutors to throw the book at top mobsters, who otherwise would have been able to insulate themselves more easily from criminal accountability. Electronic surveillance, which a related law authorized, added another invaluable weapon to the federal prosecutors' arsenal.

Another of Raab's heroes, G. Bruce Mouw, supervised the FBI's Gambino Squad. Mouw's relentless, six-year investigation of John Gotti stands as a model of aggressive anti-Mafia pursuit. Gotti, whom the tabloids dubbed ''the Teflon Don," beat federal charges three times. Mouw produced ironclad evidence of Gotti's guilt by identifying an old lady's apartment as the Gambino godfather's clandestine inner sanctum and bugging it. Prosecutors nailed the Teflon Don in a fourth trial.

As for the villains portrayed by Raab, they and their operatic brutality seem endless. Raab's profiles of such ogres as Joseph ''Crazy Joe" Gallo or Salvatore ''Sammy the Bull" Gravano quickly dispel any Hollywood depiction of mobsters as lovable rogues or, as in the case of Tony Soprano of HBO's prize-winning series, as an angst-ridden man groping for life's meaning.

Mobsters typically start out as losers, dropouts from school at an early age. They are natural bullies who turn to crime out of desperation and indolence. As adults, to quote Raab's description of Gotti's wise guys, they join together as a ''hardened band of pea-brained hijackers, loan-shark collectors, gamblers, and robotic hit men."

No surprise, then, that such lowlifes would resort to violence as their modus operandi. But their cavalier acts of viciousness are nonetheless shocking. Thus, when Vito Genovese falls in love with a married cousin, he apparently has her husband strangled to death so he can marry her.

Or when Lucchese thugs believe that one of their own, Bruno Facciolo, is talking to authorities, they shoot and stab him to death. They then murder two of his mob buddies, Al Visconti and Larry Taylor, to prevent them from retaliating. Visconti is deliberately shot several times in the groin because the Luccheses believe he is a homosexual and has shamed the family.

Although ''Five Families" detours outside New York to chronicle aspects of the Cosa Nostra story, New England's Patriarcas, who deferred to New York's Gigante family, rate only passing mention. Summarizing how officials view Cosa Nostra's once-thriving 20-odd families around the country, Raab reports that those in New York and Chicago retain a ''semblance of [their] organizational frameworks," while the others, including Patriarca's, are ''in disarray or practically defunct."

Raab has much to say about what he regards as the possible involvement of a Florida mafioso, Santo Trafficante Jr., in President Kennedy's assassination. Raab theorizes that Trafficante -- who lost his organized-crime base in Havana when Fidel Castro took over and who loathed Kennedy for not unhorsing the Cuban revolutionary -- may have conspired to kill Kennedy.

Exhibit A is the confession of a gravely ill Trafficante, four days before his death in 1987, that he had had a hand in Kennedy's murder. Raab's source for the purported confession was Trafficante's longtime lawyer, Frank Ragano. Raab collaborated with Ragano on a book, ''Mob Lawyer."

Of course, any mob role in Kennedy's assassination remains a speculative matter, as Raab concedes. But in ''Five Families," he notes that ''Ragano's assertions are among the starkest signs implicating Mafia bosses in the death of President Kennedy." To buttress his theory, Raab might have mentioned that the Mafia was at or near the apex of its power in 1963, the year of Kennedy's murder.

Reviewed by Joseph Rosenbloom

Monday, October 12, 2015

2008 Survey Names the Top 10 Criminal Organizations in the World

THEY trade in everything from stolen art to nuclear technology and leave rivals riddled with bullets in the streets of Moscow.

Now the worst thugs in the Russian Mafia have blasted their way to the top of the global organised crime league.

Moscow's Solntsevskaya Bratva, known as the Brotherhood, have just been named the worst criminal gang in the world in a major survey. And the planet's most famous mobsters, the "Five Families" of the New YorkMafia, barely scrape into the top 10.

The Brotherhood took over the underworld of south-west Moscow in the 1980s after godfather Sergei Mikhailov learned his criminal trade in the Siberian labour camps. Then, by linking up with other gangs, they built an empire worth tens of billions of pounds across Russia and beyond.

The survey says: "From its base in Moscow, this syndicate runs rackets in extortion, drug trafficking, car theft, stolen art, money laundering, contract killings, arms dealing, trading nuclear material, prostitution and oil deals."

Anyone who threatens the Brotherhood's business tends to end up dead.

They murdered a string of rival hoods in Moscow in the early 1990s and a bid to put Mikhailov on trial in Switzerland in 1996 had to be abandoned after several witnesses were shot or blown up.

Former FBI agent Bob Levinson says the Russian Mafia are "the most dangerous people on earth". But the survey, compiled by online men's mag AskMen, reveals that they have rivals in every corner of the world.

No 2 in the gangland top 10 are the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, the biggest of Japan's Yakuza crime clans.

Based in the city of Kobe and run by mastermind Shinobu Tsusaka, the 40,000- strong Yamaguchi-gumi run extortion, gambling, vice, drugs and loan-sharking scams. They also take kickbacks from building projects and peddle online porn.

Third place in the poll goes to an Italian Mafia gang - but not the Sicilian Cosa Nostra or the Camorra of Naples. The little-known "'Ndrangheta", based in the southern district of Calabria, have ties to Colombian drug barons. Some believe they are responsible for 80 per cent of Europe's cocaine trade. While other Mafia gangs have been crippled by informers, the 'Ndrangheta have kept their vows of silence because the mob is built on close family ties.

Most gangs only care about cash. But the fourth mob on the list, India's D Company, have sinister ties to Islamic terror. Boss of bosses Dawood Ibrahim masterminded a wave of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. Ibrahim has links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan. He is rumoured to have had plastic surgery to alter his face.

Fifth on the list are the ruthless 14K triad from Hong Kong, who trade in human beings as well as drugs and assassinations.

The Sicilian Mafia only make sixth place in the poll after a string of high-profile arrests of their bosses.

Seventh are the Chinese Dai Huen Jai gang, many of whom are veterans of Chairman Mao's Red Guards.

One of the world's most violent mobs, theMexican Tijuana Cartel, take eighth place. Turf wars between the Cartel, led by Eduardo Arellano-Felix, and other gangs have killed hundreds in recent years.

Ninth spot goes to Taiwan's United Bamboo triad.

And despite their Hollywood reputation, the five New York Mafia families are left bringing up the rear.

The Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese clans have been relentlessly harried by the FBI. Many bosses are now behind bars, including Gambino godfather Nicholas Corozzo, who was held in March.

Top 10 criminal organizations

1 Solntsevskaya Bratva

2 Yamaguchi-gumi

3 'Ndrangheta

4 D Company

5 14K

6 Sicilian Mafia

7 Dai Huen Jai

8 Tijuana Cartel

9 United Bamboo

10 The US Mafia 'The Five Families'

Thanks to Ian Brandes

Friday, June 26, 2015

Donnie Brasco on The Sopranos

The best way to know if a show about the mob is authentic is to ask a mobster. But that's scary. So we did the next best thing. We invited former FBI agent-turned-mob-infiltrator-turned-mob informer Joseph Pistone (the real Donnie Brasco) to watch "The Sopranos" and give us his thoughts.

An expert on organized crime, Pistone served six years undercover in the notorious Bonanno crime family in New York City. His testimony helped lead to the arrest of more than 175 criminals.

Pistone is sharing his Mafia knowledge with his book Way Of The Wiseguy, a funny and frightening look at how one becomes a wiseguy. It's like a FAQ on the world of Cosa Nostra, showing a typical day in the life of a gangster: the dos and don'ts of the Mafia code; interactions with their families and other thugs, and their unique and creative use of language.
"People are fascinated because they think they would like to live like a wiseguy," Pistone explains. In the movies, the guys are tough, always have cash and lead exciting lives. But Pistone warns, "What they don't see is the treachery involved."

Here's what Pistone had to say about "The Sopranos":

Tony looks for buried money in the backyard.

"That would happen," Pistone said. "They bury it and then go look for it later." Pistone said he knew guys who would wrap money in leather bags and then stick them in the drainage system of a sink in an unused bathroom, for example. Seems Chase Bank just isn't an option.

The criminal's usual dapper attire.

That is pretty accurate, Pistone said. There is no such thing as a casual Friday in the mob. "You don't see guys wearing jeans," he said. "When they were grooming me, they said they wanted me to dress neat. Most of these guys have slacks or something. One of the things they didn't want to see was a pair of Levis. "They wanted to portray an image."

The jargon.
Pistone said most of the dialogue in the show is accurate -- he thinks there may be someone on "the inside" who is helping out the writers -- but he did find one particular thing jarring: the foul language used in front of the women. "I have been to many dinners at wiseguys' houses where their wives were there or their mothers, and I never heard those guys use vulgarity around the kitchen table," he said. "I was around these guys for six years and I never heard any vulgar language around women."

A meeting in Tony's office.
Pistone said he is disappointed by some mob movies where the boss' office is a palatial pad with fancy furniture and paintings. It looks like the office of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. "Tony's office is the way most of the offices looked like, in the back of a club," Pistone said about Soprano's office in the back of the Bada Bing club. "There was nothing fancy about it."

Tony and his wife go to a sushi restaurant.
Pistone laughs. "That would never happen," he said. "I never knew a mob guy who would go eat sushi." According to Pistone, the wiseguy diet consists pretty much of two types of cuisines -- (obviously) Italian and (surprisingly) Chinese. "That was the two main dinners," he said. "Why they love Chinese food, I don't know."

Tony kids around with lawmen he knows are investigating him.
"That's a good scene," Pistone said. He said that it wasn't unusual to see mobsters talking to the cops who were tailing them. He said the cops would sometimes hang out at the mob joints just to let the wiseguys know that they were onto them. And the wiseguys, in turn, would let them know they knew they were being watched. He said many times there was good natured ribbing. "It's done with mutual respect," he said. "You can bust the agents' balls, but you can't go too far. You can't make it too personal."

Tony gets an envelope of money at a funeral parlor.
That may be the best place to do business, Pistone said. "That is a great place to hand off money because you know the place isn't going to be bugged," he said. And any undercover cop would be spotted easily because he'd be recognized in a place where it was only family and friends, he said.

Tony and Paulie walk outside to talk.

"That's called a walk and talk," Pistone said. "You walk out of the back of a building so you can talk without being recorded or listened to." Pistone said the ambient noise of the outside -- traffic, birds, people -- make it hard for police to record conversations.

One of Tony's guys walks into a hot dog stand and kills a customer.
That's the way it's done, Piston said. Walk in, shoot the guy, drop the gun, walk out. Nothing is ever said to the man who is shot. "It's nothing personal about it," he said. "It's business."

*Paulie "Walnuts," Johnny "Sack," Bobby "Bacala" ...
"Everybody has a nickname. It might be something you get as a kid or later on. And once you get a nickname, you can't get rid of it," he said. Piston said he knew guys with colorful nicknames. Bobby "Badheart" who was called that because he had a pacemaker. Charlie "Chains" wore a lot of jewelry. "You can know a guy for 10 years and you'd never know his last name," Pistone said. "Nobody would ever introduce someone with their last name and nobody would ever ask."

Tony sees a therapist.
"Would never happen," he said. Pistone said any Mafioso who went to a therapist probably would end up dead. Too many secrets could be revealed. And, Pistone said, there's a little thing called ego that could keep a wiseguy off the couch. "They are called 'wiseguys' for a reason. They think they are wise and know everything," Pistone said. "They aren't going to go to someone else for answers."

Thanks to Lucio Guerrero

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bonanno Crime Family

This is a work in progress, but the table below will include Members of the Bonanno Crime Family who appear in articles within The Chicago Syndicate. Eventually, each member will have a bio page with links to the articles in which he appears. The gangsters have been split into 3 categories: "Bosses", "Friends of Mine" and "Friends of Ours". It is not intended to be an all-inclusive listing of Bonanno Members and Associates, but more of an index for this site. As other members or associates are mentioned in articles, the list will grow. If you have information on any additions or changes that should be made, please let us know.
BossesFriends of OursFriends of Mine
Joe Bonanno
Joseph C. Massino
Baldassare Amato
Michael Cassesse
Michael Virtuso

"Mike the Electrician" Urciuoli
Agostino Accardo
Kenneth Dunn

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Medicare Fraud Creates Easy Money for Organized Crime

Lured by easier money and shorter prison sentences, Mafia figures and other violent criminals are increasingly moving into Medicare fraud and spilling blood over what was once a white-collar crime. Around the nation, federal investigators have been threatened, an informant's body was found riddled with bullets, and a woman was discovered dead in a pharmacy under investigation, her throat slit with a piece of broken toilet seat.

For criminals, Medicare schemes offer a greater payoff and carry much shorter prison sentences than offenses such as drug trafficking or robbery. "We've seen more people that used to be involved in (dealing) drugs are switching over to health care fraud because it's not as dangerous," Miami FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.

Medicare scammers typically make their money by billing Medicare for medical equipment and drugs that patients never receive - and never needed. Some pay homeless people on Los Angeles' Skid Row for Medicare or Social Security numbers to use in fake billing invoices. Others intimidate elderly victims to use their Medicare numbers, federal authorities say.

Most Medicare schemes are based in cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit and Houston. And rather than building an elaborate hierarchy like the Mafia or other gangs, many Medicare con artists use common street criminals to recruit patients and doctors, authorities said.

A Medicare scammer could easily net at least $25,000 a day while risking a relatively modest 10 years in prison if convicted on a single count. A cocaine dealer could take weeks to make that amount while risking up to life in prison.

"Building a Medicare fraud scam is far safer than dealing in crack or dealing in stolen cars, and it's far more lucrative," said Lewis Morris, lead attorney at the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general's office.

It's unclear how many violent crimes are tied to Medicare fraud because most of them are carried out by someone within the hoax who attacks another person taking part in the crime.

One Southern California criminal task force has arrested about 50 suspects for Medicare fraud in the last three years. And 11 members of New York's Bonanno family were indicted in May in a Medicare fraud scheme in South Florida. They were accused of stealing patients' Medicare numbers and using them to submit false claims. Other allegations included identity theft and conspiring to commit murder.

Even criminals with violent records, including a convicted murderer, have been able to obtain Medicare supplier licenses. Applicants with felony records can only be rejected if their convictions are 10 years old or less.

"It's outrageous that those trusted to provide medical care are really nothing but common criminals," said federal prosecutor Kirk Ogrosky, who heads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force across the United States.

Guillermo Denis Gonzalez spent 14 years in prison for second-degree murder, but after his 2006 release, records showed he soon bought a business called DG Medical in the Miami suburb of Hialeah and applied to be a Medicare supplier. Within two months, federal investigators were alerted that the Medicare claims the company were making were fraudulent and suspended its license. By then, the sham company had illegally netted $31,000.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud and now awaits sentencing. He is also charged in a gruesome killing in May 2008 in which police say he repeatedly stabbed a man with a kitchen knife, crushed his face with a mallet, then cut off the victim's head and dismembered the body before stuffing the parts in trash bins. The killing might be related to Medicare fraud, authorities said.

His attorney, Stephen Kramer, has declined to comment.

Medicare-fraud investigations used to focus mainly on patient records and financial papers, but now the crime scenes are increasingly bloody:

- In 2007, authorities found Juana Gonzalez lying in a pool of blood on the floor of her Miami pharmacy. Her cousin was charged with second-degree murder, accused of taking a piece of a broken toilet and slitting Gonzalez's throat. Federal authorities said they were investigating the pharmacy for Medicare fraud and believe the crimes are related.

- In 2004, a week after the FBI issued search warrants on more than 50 fraudulent Medicare storefronts in Miami, the body of Ernesto Valdes was found in the back seat of his car, riddled with bullets. Federal authorities said he had information that could have linked players in the $148 million fraud scheme. No one has ever been charged in his slaying.

- In 2006, members of a Russian-Armenian organized crime ring were indicted for allegedly bilking Medicare of more than $20 million through a group of medical clinics they ran in the Los Angeles area. The group included Konstantin Grigoryan, a former colonel in the Soviet army, family members and others with past criminal records.

"They don't have the typical structure that we see in Italian mobs. They'll work with whoever can make them money. And if they don't get their way, they won't be ashamed to kidnap somebody, to shoot somebody," said Glendale Police Lt. Steve Davey, who leads the Southern California Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force.

The violent crimes are mostly to settle a debt or silence a witness.

"It's in-house. Typically professional hits, generally unsolved. Usually it's just a bullet in the head, nobody saw anything," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Stephen Opferman.

The Armenian gangs have also aggressively pursued elderly patients, intimidating them to obtain their Medicare numbers, Opferman said. Police have received reports from family members who feared their grandmother had been abducted, only to learn later that she was picked up in a van and taken to a fake store where her Medicare number was swiped.

The groups have broken into computer banking systems or paid moles to provide key information from court clerk's offices and various government agencies, Davey said.

In Los Angeles, two federal authorities investigating Medicare fraud say colleagues have been threatened and had their cars followed.

Sometimes Medicare fraud turns violent without the involvement of organized crime. Illinois podiatrist Ronald Mikos was sentenced to death for the 2002 fatal shooting of a patient to keep her from telling a federal grand jury how he defrauded Medicare. He shot the woman six times as she sat in her wheelchair at her home. Her subpoena was found on the floor next to her.

Thanks to Kelli Kennedy

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bonanno Organized Crime Family Ruling Panel Member, Captains, Soldiers, and Associates Indicted for Racketeering, Assault, and Other Offenses

A 33-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging members and associates of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Bonanno family) variously with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, assault in-aid-of racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault in-aid-of racketeering, threatening to commit a crime of violence in-aid-of racketeering, use and possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, bank fraud, illegal gambling, extortion, extortion conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Those defendants arrested earlier today in New York are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn. The case has been assigned to U.S. Senior District Judge Charles P. Sifton.

The charges were announced by Benton J. Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Joseph M. Demarest, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office.

As alleged in the indictment and detention memorandum filed today, Joseph Sammartino, aka “Sammy,” is a Bonanno captain and member of the Bonanno ruling panel; Anthony Sclafani, aka “Scal,” is a Bonanno captain; Joseph Loiacono, aka “Joe Lefty,” and Anthony Pipitone, aka “Little Anthony,” are Bonanno family acting captains; Frank Pastore, aka “Big Frank,” and Paul Spina, aka “Fat Paulie,” are Bonanno family soldiers; and Manny Bana, Peter DeFilippo, Frank DeRosa, Vito Pipitone, Joseph Spatola, and Natale Terzo are Bonanno family associates. The indictment is the result of a lengthy investigation by the FBI, which involved numerous law enforcement techniques, including consensual recordings, cooperating witnesses, confidential sources, and surveillances. The indictment and detention memorandum detail a pattern of alleged mafia violence and intimidation, including threats to murder victims of Bonanno family extortion schemes. For example, on one occasion when a loanshark victim fell behind in payments, Bonanno family captain Sclafani allegedly told him, “you’re lucky we don’t saw you in half and leave you in the woods.” The recordings also captured Bonanno family members and associates discussing their participation in a violent stabbing assault of two individuals in 2004 in Whitestone, Queens.

The indictment announced today is the latest in an ongoing investigation that has resulted in the prosecution of more than 125 members and associates of the Bonanno family in the Eastern District of New York. Since March 2002, four Bonanno family bosses or acting bosses—Joseph Massino, Anthony Urso, Vincent Basciano, and Michael Mancuso—have been convicted on racketeering and racketeering-related charges, which included murder or murder conspiracy as a racketeering act.

“Members of organized crime continue to victimize our communities with their brand of violence and other criminal activity,” stated U. Attorney Campbell. “We will not rest until we dismantle the entire Bonanno crime family and each of the other families of La Cosa Nostra.” Mr. Campbell praised the Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who led the government’s investigation.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Demarest stated, “The charges unsealed today are the culmination of another in a series of recent FBI investigations that put to lie the notion that violence is a thing of the past in organized crime. Today, as always, mob families are criminal enterprises bent on making money any way they can. As often as not, violence goes hand-in-hand with mobsters’ illegal schemes.”

If convicted, Bana, Frank DeRosa, Sebastian DeRosa, Loiacono, Lotito, Pastore, Anthony Pipitone, Vito Pipitone, Sammartino, Sclafani, Spatola, Frank Terzo, and Natale Terzo each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment; DeFilippo faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment; and, based upon a prior felony information filed this morning, Spina faces mandatory life imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri, Gina M. Parlovecchio, and Duncan Levin.

The Defendants:

Age: 42

Age: 47

Age: 45

Age: 66

Age: 64

Age: 46

Age: 39

Age: 37

Age: 28

Age: 55

Age: 63

Age: 33

Age: 54

Age: 24

Age: 52

Monday, August 03, 2009

Is the Food at Mob Eateries Overrated?

SO, Fat Tony misses Ba monte's mussels, Rao's chicken, and "great pasta" at Parkside and Don Peppe! It just shows you how out to lunch the mob is these days.

A joke among Italian-Americans secure enough to laugh off stupid stereotypes is to ask not whether a good Italian restaurant is northern or southern, but rather: "Gambino or Genovese?" (Sorry, Bonannos, Colombos and Lucheses.)

The myth that eateries owned or frequented by the Mafia have great food goes back many generations. Maybe "the Luna Azure up in The Bronx" really did have "the finest" veal in town, as Mario Puzo wrote in "The Godfather." But the Corleones never existed. And today's made men are mostly too drugged or stunad to be able to taste the difference between veal and Velveeta.

If Fat Tony wants real Italian food, he doesn't have to go back to the old country. It's kicking butt all over town as never before.

If Marea's brawny fusili with baby octopus, bone marrow and tomatoes doesn't give Tony a new perspective, neither will a set of brass knuckles.

The cooking at supposedly mobbed-up, old-time red-sauce restaurants was always overrated. Il Mulino costs a bundle, but it whips the meatballs off Tony's faves. On a good night, chicken scarpariello at cheap, mass-market Carmine's on upper Broadway could give Rao's lemon chicken a run for its money in a blind tasting.

Tony doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to go for prissy pasta primavera -- which is to his credit. But he'd flip for awesomely rich dishes coming out of the kitchens of Marea, Babbo, Il Gattopardo, Esca, Del Posto, Convivio, San Pietro, A Voce, Locanda Verde, Mia Dona, Cellini -- even all-American Union Square Café, where chef Carmen Quagliata's pasta shames most of what they eat in Rome.

The probation poobahs aren't keeping Tony away from New York's exploding (bad word!) super-pizza scene, either -- from the killer (!) $5 slice, hand-made by owner Domenico DeMarco, at Di Fara on Avenue J in Midwood to the luxuriously crusted 12-inchers at Keste on Bleecker Street, where Neapolitan "artisans" preside over the dough.

Thanks to Steve Cuozzo

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mob Boss Dies

Frank J. Valenti, Rochester's notorious mob boss who oversaw local organized crime during its heyday of gambling parlors, prostitution and extortion, died last Saturday at age 97.

While atop Rochester's organized crime mob hierarchy in the 1960s and '70s, Mr. Valenti was so infamous that the Democrat and Chronicle ran a regular update on his doings under the heading, "Spotlight on Rochester's Gambling Czar."

Mr. Valenti had been living in a nursing facility near Houston. His death was confirmed by four people, including retired law enforcers and people close to the family, who asked not to be identified. A death certificate was filed in Texas Wednesday.

Bart Maimone, who provided fuel to Mr. Valenti's construction business in the 1960s and '70s, said he would always remember Mr. Valenti as fair and generous, despite any criminal ties he may have had.

Once, Maimone said, he was prepared to go into business with a local company with organized crime ties and Mr. Valenti urged him not to. "He never wanted me to get involved with that," said Maimone, noting that he learned this week of Mr. Valenti's death.

Gentlemanly and handsome, Mr. Valenti fit a Hollywood stereotype of a gangster who could be both diplomatic and violently tyrannical.

That Mr. Valenti lived to almost a century may come as a surprise to those who saw him in 1964 when, for court appearances, he was disheveled, haggard and claimed he suffered from heart ailments and ulcers triggered by the constant attention from law enforcement. But Mr. Valenti often seemed able to appear on death's doorstep for court appearances, only to vigorously recover for meetings with his capos.

Mr. Valenti's travels read like a mob history. In 1957, he and his brother, Constenze "Stanley" Valenti, were two of the mobsters at the infamous Apalachin conference, a Mafia summit meeting held in Apalachin, near Binghamton.

Six years later, when mob turncoat and killer Joseph Valachi helped federal authorities detail the reach of organized crime, Frank and Stanley Valenti were two of the more than 300 Mafioso whom Valachi identified as central figures.

Mr. Valenti was considered to be "the most significant person" in organized crime in Rochester, said local lawyer and former district attorney Donald Chesworth, who was involved in mob investigations when he worked with the FBI in the 1960s.

With his charm, dapper attire and swept-back white hair, Valenti always seemed the center of attention within any crowd.

Rochester resident Diane Lamanna remembers meeting Mr. Valenti at a local restaurant/bar when she was a teenager. She was waiting for a friend when she struck up a conversation with him and complained about how she never had money. "He was polite," she said. "He was a total gentleman." After he left, Lamanna found a napkin he'd left her with a tip about a horse running in a race that evening. Bet on the horse, he'd written. She paid no attention. After she told her friends about the meeting, they informed her just whom she'd been talking to. And, sure enough, they checked and the horse had won.

Born in Rochester, Mr. Valenti ascended through the organized crime ranks as would-be challengers mysteriously disappeared or were slain.

"It was an interesting time and there were a lot of murders," said Hugh Higgins, an FBI special agent in Rochester during the mob era. "But they were killing one another."

Mr. Valenti moved to Pittsburgh in 1961 — "exiled" there according to news accounts — after a conviction on a voting fraud in Rochester. There, he became a prominent figure in organized crime, before returning to Rochester in 1964 and seizing control of gambling and prostitution. But Mr. Valenti apparently avoided drug trafficking, as that criminal enterprise began to grow, Mr. Higgins said. "It's a funny kind of world, but I think Frank had some morals."

The Rochester enterprise during the late 1950s and much of the '60s was linked to the Buffalo-based Maggadino crime family.

"They broke away from the Maggadino family and they were considered, quote, unquote, a 'renegade' group as far as La Cosa Nostra goes," said Richard Endler, a retired federal prosecutor. But Mr. Valenti also had connections with the powerful New York City-based Bonanno family.

Mr. Valenti was able to use that influence to instill fear in local bookmakers who always paid a portion of their illicit earnings to Mr. Valenti and his clan, said local lawyer Robert A. Napier, whose father, the late Robert C. Napier, defended many of those same bookmakers.

Napier said his father thought Mr. Valenti was able to use "more bravado than actual muscle" because of the Bonanno connection.

Constantly under police surveillance at his Henrietta home, Mr. Valenti grew wary of the law enforcement attention and in 1970 hatched a plot to direct police attention toward others. The ploy worked. "There were a bunch of bombings," Higgins said. "We always attributed it to civil rights leftist organizations. Turned out it was the mob."

Mr. Valenti groomed and schooled some young men who would become Rochester's organized crime leaders, including Salvatore "Sammy" Gingello, arguably the region's most famous Mafia underboss. "Valenti took Sammy under his wing," said former Rochester police Officer Ralph "Butch" Bellucco, who now has a private investigation business.

Mr. Valenti's basement was the site of initiation ceremonies, in which newcomers to the crime family agreed they would never spill Mafia secrets, would break laws only with the consent of their mob leaders, and would not sleep with a comrade's girlfriend or wife.

Some of those same neophyte mobsters decided to wrest control from Mr. Valenti when they decided he was pocketing too much of the illicit gains. In 1972, one of his closest associates was fatally shotgunned.

After a federal prison stint for extortion, Mr. Valenti moved to Arizona and stayed there for years. Meanwhile, Rochester erupted into violent gang wars between rival teams that, coupled with toughened law enforcement, destroyed the organized crime ranks. Mr. Gingello was killed in a 1978 car bombing.

Mr. Valenti was father of five daughters. His wife, Eileen, passed away years ago.

Thanks to Gary Craig

Friday, March 14, 2008

How Joe Pistone and the FBI Used Intel to Stop the Mob

Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano just couldn’t believe it.

On July 26, 1981, he and his fellow wise guys learned that Donnie Brasco—who they knew as a small-time jewelry thief and burglar, who they thought was their partner and even their friend, who they were about to officially induct into the Bonnano crime family—was actually FBI Agent Joe Pistone.

Pistone had fooled them all with a masterful acting job that had begun in 1976 and lasted six long years. He had appeared in “Little Italy” in New York City as a stranger and outsider, slowly meeting and making friends with a series of mobsters, gaining their trust, making it look like he was participating in their life of crime—all the while secretly gathering vital intelligence on the Mafia and its criminal ways.

It wasn’t easy, to be sure. Pistone had to think, talk, and act like a crook (he spent two full weeks, for example, studying the jewelry industry). He had to know the rules of the Mafia game. He had to tell lies—lots of lies—convincingly, about who he was and what he was up to. He had to make friends with mobsters and criminals and be separated from family and friends for long stretches of time, even on holidays.

It was incredibly dangerous work as well. While playing his part, Pistone could have been seen with the wrong person or been recognized by someone he knew. His various recording devices could have been exposed or gone haywire and given him away. He might have let a word slip. The slightest mistake or accident could have cost him his life. His mission was so secret that only a handful in the FBI knew about it.

The decision to put Pistone into this undercover role was made by our office in New York City, home of the five main Mafia families—Bonanno, Gambino, Colombo, Genovese, and Lucchese. In years past, we’d had some success in gathering intelligence on the mob, but typically only around the edges. The core—the leadership—was often untouchable because of the Mafia's code of silence. Agents in our New York office decided to try out a longer-term undercover operation—one of the first of its kind. But even they had no idea that it would end up lasting so long and bearing so much fruit.

And what an intelligence goldmine it was. The operation gave us a window into the inner workings of the Mafia generally and the Bonanno family specifically (and to a lesser degree, some of the other families), not only in New York, but in Florida, Michigan, and elsewhere. We learned firsthand who the players were, what kinds of rackets they were running, and what rules they played by. And it ultimately led to more than 100 federal convictions.

The end game. The tool that Pistone and a small band of agents bravely pioneered in the ‘70s was used again and again with great effect over the next three decades, generating intelligence that helped us target and take down major criminal enterprises and deal a serious blow to the Mafia. And it became a staple of our intelligence tradecraft, a crucial arrow in the quiver we use to protect the American people.

Thanks to the FBI. Discounts

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The History of Organized Crime Control of Gay Bars

I had a reader send me a link to the the History of Gay Bars in New York City from 1900 to the present. In addition to the Big Apple, you can also read accounts regarding the history of gay bars in Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Mob buffs will be most interested in the New York articles which include several accounts of involvement by the Bonannos, Colombos, Gambinos, Genoveses, and Luccheses crime families.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is the Mafia a Farce?

A contrite former Bonanno crime associate trashed the Mafia as "a farce" at his sentencing for murder yesterday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Francesco (Frank) Fiordilino was then rewarded for his cooperation against Bonanno big shots with a sentence of time served plus 30 days.

"Cooperating witnesses are essential to achieving justice, and you have done your part," said Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

Fiordilino, 37, pleaded guilty to shooting drug dealer Thomas Sajn in the throat in 1993 in Ridgewood. Sajn wasn't immediately killed by the gunshot, so a second assailant cut his throat, nearly decapitating him.

At the time, Fiordilino was paying his dues, making espresso and cappuccino at coffee shops under the control of the crime family. His uncle, Frank (Cheech) Navarro, was a made member of the Bonanno family.

Fiordilino was after Sajn's drug money and also wanted to prove to gangsters that he was capable of committing a murder. But after the feds arrested him in 2002, Fiordilino decided to change sides.

"I'm totally at peace with my decision to defect," Fiordilino said yesterday. "I no longer have to lie, cheat or pretend anymore."

He acknowledged the taking of Sajn's life was "cowardly," and reflected on the hypocrisy of the Mafia.
"The mob was and still is a farce that's built on deceit, venom, greed and destruction," he said. "As for loyalty and respect, I never seen it. I could recall hundreds of conversations in which guys would sit around a table bad-mouthing each other. I'm so glad that's behind me."

Prosecutor Greg Andres said Fiordilino's testimony against former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino and soldier Baldassare (Baldo) Amato contributed to their convictions.

"I apologize as well, especially to anyone of Italian background, by conspiring and utilizing our culture in the same manner the entertainment industry does with its stereotypes. ... Hollywood intensified my love for that life, and in the process blindsided what being Italian meant," Fiordilino said.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New York's 5 Crime Families to Get Corporate Sponsors?

Maybe the Mafia needs a new business model. The old one hasn’t been working well of late. That seems a reasonable surmise after the mass arrests that had a huge chunk of the Gambino crime family — pardon us, a huge alleged chunk of the Gambino crime family — parading around in manacles the other day.

It is said that the mob prides itself on being a solid business, with diversified interests and assorted revenue streams. If so, organized crime is missing out on a scheme that has been an enormous cash cow for some other businesses.

There is a fortune to be made from selling naming rights to New York’s five Mafia families.

Why should sports teams be the only ones to turn a buck by putting their stadiums and arenas on the auction block? Citigroup, to cite one of many examples, is paying the Mets $20 million a year to have the ball club’s new stadium in Queens called Citi Field.

That’s small potatoes compared with revenue possibilities for the gilded Yankees, who say they have turned down offers of $50 million or more from an unnamed corporation wanting to slap its name on their new Bronx stadium.

In similar fashion, the mob could market itself to certain companies, most likely those in serious trouble themselves.

Imagine an outfit like Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. It suffered a scandal-induced collapse. But while it struggled to stay alive, it might have done well to attach its name to a mob family. The way things were going, that kind of maneuver would have been a step up in class. And goodness knows the Mafia could use some new names. The existing ones are mustier than a “bada bing” tabloid headline.

Carlo Gambino has been dead for three decades, yet his name still graces (or disgraces) a crime group that has not lacked for famous latter-day leaders, men like Paul Castellano and John Gotti.

The same holds for the other families: Bonanno, Genovese, Luchese and Colombo, all named for men who died or faded away ages ago. The nomenclature dates to the early 1960s, with the exception of the gang once led by Joseph Colombo; his name supplanted that of Joseph Profaci in 1970. Still, that’s not exactly last week.

What gives with all this yesteryear? In any business, isn’t an occasional sprucing-up required?

In this regard, the mob is not much different from many corporations, said Thomas Reppetto, the author of “American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power” (Henry Holt & Company).

“Sears, Roebuck started out with two guys who were not running the company very long, but it’s still called Sears,” Mr. Reppetto said.

“I think, too, that it’s better to keep an established name,” he said. “It makes it appear more powerful when you say the family has been around a long time.”

A similar thought was offered by Mark Feldman, a director at BDO Consulting in Manhattan. He used to track organized crime for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn. “I don’t know for sure,” Mr. Feldman said, “but it would seem to me that a brand name means something even in criminal circles.”

Selwyn Raab, who used to report on the mob for this newspaper, says the five families’ labels really began with law enforcement agents, who saw it as a convenient way to distinguish one group from another.

“A guy in the Genovese family didn’t know he was in the Genovese family till he saw it in the newspapers,” said Mr. Raab, the author of “Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” (St. Martin’s Press). “All he knew was that he worked for Mike. He would say, ‘I’m with Mike,’ or ‘I’m with Al,’ or ‘I’m with Tony.’ ”

Even so, rebranding is not an entirely alien concept to the mob. Look at Joseph Massino, who was the Bonanno paterfamilias until he landed in prison a few years ago and started, as they say, singing to the feds. Mr. Massino appreciated what’s in a name.

“He wanted it to be known officially as the Massino family,” Mr. Raab said. “He had a little bit of, I guess, an ego. He’s gone now, too.”

Nobody said that selling naming rights to the mob would be easy. But opportunities abound, and are likely to continue regardless of last week’s “End of the Gambinos” headlines.

“The F.B.I. continues to use the same five names because it’s simple,” Mr. Raab said. “Also, for them it’s a good public relations ploy — that we wiped out the Gambino family. This is the third time in my lifetime that they’ve wiped out the Gambino family. They ought to call this Operation Lazarus.”

Thanks to Clyde Haberman

Friday, February 08, 2008

List of 62 Defendants Indicted in New York's Major Mobster Case

Defendants Associated with the Gambino, Genovese, and Bonanno Crime Families of La Cosa Nostra, the Construction Industry, or Its Supporting Unions Indicted in New York.

TARA VEGA, Age: 35

62 Mobsters Part of 80 Count Indictment Against the Gambinso, Genoveses, Bonanno's and Others

Charges Include Racketeering Conspiracy, Extortion, Gambling, and Theft Following
Joint Investigation by Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement

An eighty-count indictment charging sixty-two defendants associated with the Gambino, Genovese, and Bonanno organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra, the construction industry, or its supporting unions – including each member of the Gambino family administration currently at liberty – was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn. The indictment charges racketeering conspiracy, extortion, theft of union benefits, mail fraud, false statements, loansharking, embezzlement of union funds, money laundering, and illegal gambling. The charged crimes span more than three decades and reflect the Gambino family’s corrosive influence on the construction industry in New York City and beyond, and its willingness to resort to violence, even murder, to resolve disputes in dozens of crimes of violence dating from the 1970s to the present, including eight acts of murder, murder conspiracy, and attempted murder.

Twenty-five defendants, all members and associates of the Gambino family, are charged with racketeering conspiracy, which includes predicate acts involving murder, attempted murder, murder conspiracy, felony murder, robbery, extortion, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, securities fraud, mail fraud, loansharking, theft of union benefits, illegal gambling, and bribery. Notably, the evidence relating to many of the charged crimes consists of hundreds of hours of recorded conversations secured by a cooperating witness who penetrated the Gambino family over a three-year period.

The defendants arrested in New York today were arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto at the U.S. Courthouse, 271 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, NY. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis.

The charges were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Attorney General, Richard A. Brown, Queens County District Attorney, Gordon S. Heddell, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor, John S. Pistole, Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York, Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department, Rose Gill Hearn, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation, Michael Mansfield, Commissioner, New York City Business Integrity Commission, Patricia J. Haynes, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service, New York Field Office, Daniel M. Donovan, Richmond County District Attorney, and Thomas De Maria, Executive Director, Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

As noted, the indictment charges each currently active member of the Gambino family “administration,” or executive leadership – acting boss John D’Amico, acting underboss Domenico Cefalu, and consigliere Joseph Corozzo – as well as three Gambino family captains, three acting captains, sixteen soldiers, and numerous associates. Each member of the administration is charged with racketeering conspiracy and multiple crimes of violence, namely extortions and extortion conspiracies relating to the construction industry, which carry sentences of up to twenty years’ imprisonment on each count.

According to the indictment and the detention memorandum filed, the Gambino family profited from extortion related rackets at construction sites in the New York City metropolitan area, including the NASCAR NASCAR Superstoreconstruction site located in Staten Island and the Liberty View Harbor construction site located in Jersey City, among others. The NASCAR extortion involved the construction of a racetrack in Staten Island that required large quantities of dirt fill, thus requiring trucking contracts which were controlled by the Gambino family. These crimes were part of a longstanding effort by the Gambino family to control and coordinate the extortion of dozens of private construction companies. The charged criminal activity resulted not only in the extortion of business owners, but also the theft of union benefits from, among others, Local 282 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The indictment also documents the Gambino family’s routine use of brazen violence. In particular, four members of the Gambino family are charged with eight crimes involving murder, murder conspiracy, and/or attempted murder. Each of these crimes – charged as racketeering acts – are detailed below:

The Murder of Albert Gelb. Gambino family soldier Charles Carneglia is charged with the 1976 murder of Albert Gelb as a racketeering act. On March 11, 1976, Gelb’s body was discovered in the front seat of a car in Queens, New York, with multiple gunshot wounds to his face and body. Gelb was a Brooklyn Criminal Court Officer who, several years earlier, had approached Carneglia in a Queens diner after Gelb determined that Carneglia was carrying a firearm. Carneglia resisted, and after a struggle with Gelb, he was arrested. Gelb was killed on March 11, 1976, four days before he was expected to testify at Carneglia’s trial.

The Murder of Michael Cotillo. Carneglia is charged with the murder of Gambino family associate Michael Cotillo as a racketeering act. Cotillo died from a stabbing inflicted by Carneglia on November 6, 1977, in Queens, New York, following a fight between the two men.

The Murder of Salvatore Puma. Carneglia is charged with the murder of Gambino family associate Salvatore Puma as a racketeering act. Puma died as a result of a stabbing allegedly inflicted by Carneglia on July 29, 1983. At the time of the stabbing, the two men were arguing over a money dispute.

The Murder of Louis DiBono. Carneglia is charged with the murder of Gambino family soldier Louis DiBono. Carneglia allegedly shot and killed DiBono on October 4, 1990, in the parking garage of the former World Trade Center in Manhattan, on the orders of then-Gambino family boss John J. Gotti. According to the indictment and the government’s detention memorandum, Gotti ordered DiBono’s execution because DiBono had repeatedly failed to meet with Gotti.

The Felony Murder of Jose Delgado Rivera. Carneglia is charged with the December 1990 armed robbery and felony murder of Jose Delgado Rivera as a racketeering act. Rivera, an armored truck guard, was shot and killed during a robbery while he and a co-worker were delivering money to the American Airlines building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York.

The Murders of Robert Arena and Thomas Maranga. Gambino family captain Nicholas Corozzo is charged with the January 1996 double murder of Luchese family associate Robert Arena and Arena’s friend, Thomas Maranga. Corozzo ordered the murder of Arena in retaliation for Arena’s failure to return marijuana he had robbed from a narcotics dealer and for Arena’s suspected participation in the murder of a Corozzo crew member. Maranga was not a target of the murder but was killed because he was with Arena at the time of the attack.

Attempted Murder of John Doe. Gambino family soldiers Vincent Gotti, Richard G. Gotti, and Angelo Ruggiero, Jr. are charged with the May 2003 conspiracy to murder, and attempted murder, of John Doe as a racketeering act. John Doe was shot several times as he was leaving for work on May 4, 2003.

These arrests are the latest is a series of prosecutions in this district targeting the highest echelons of each of the five New York-based families of the LCN.

“The charges announced today are the result of a coordinated law enforcement initiative by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “I want to thank our partners for their extraordinary efforts and commitment to this historic investigation and prosecution. Today, we serve notice that anyone who aspires to a position in organized crime will meet the same fate. We will not rest until we rid our communities and businesses of the scourge of organized crime.” Mr. Campbell thanked Michael J. Garcia, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Barry Kluger, Superintendent Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr. of the Port Authority Police Department, and U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent-in-Charge Ned Schwartz for their assistance in the case.

“This case is noteworthy not only because of its breadth but also because it includes charges against the entire administration of the Gambino family of La Cosa Nostra,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “These charges are the result of the extraordinary work of the law-enforcement agencies that partnered together to take down a legacy of crime and violence that spanned decades.”

Queens County District Attorney Brown said, “Today’s arrests were the result of a coordinated law enforcement effort involving a multitude of agencies at all levels of government. The cooperative efforts of the agencies represented here today were critical to ensuring the successful outcome of this major takedown of individuals associated with organized crime. I commend all those who participated in this endeavor.”

Inspector General Heddell, United States Department of Labor, stated, “Today’s RICO indictment represents a significant milestone toward eradicating a far-reaching and insidious conspiracy involving some of the largest construction companies in New York City that are owned, controlled, and/or influenced by the Gambino organized crime family. Many of these construction companies allegedly paid a ‘mob tax’ in return for ‘protection’ and permission to operate. Through their alleged control of these companies, the Gambino organized crime family caused the theft of Teamsters union dues, and of health and pension funds, directly impacting the welfare and future of many workers. My office stands firmly committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of labor racketeering and organized crime.”

“Today’s arrests will be a major setback for the Gambino crime family, but it is a fallacy to suggest that La Cosa Nostra is no longer a threat to public safety,” stated FBI Deputy Director Pistole. “Organized crime in New York is not dead. As a consequence of acts charged in the indictment, however, seven people are dead. It’s also a fallacy that mob murder victims are just other mobsters. Three of the murder victims had no affiliation with organized crime,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mershon.

“This investigation demonstrates the long-term commitment by NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors in making sure the accused are brought to justice. The Gambino organization spilled a lot of blood in New York, and it is being held accountable – no matter how long it takes,” Police Commissioner Kelly said. “This history of violence has been abetted, often unwittingly, by people who see nothing wrong with placing a bet with a mobbed-up bookie,” Commissioner Kelly added. “I commend detectives from our Vice Enforcement Division, who in a related case with 26 arrests, today smashed one of the Gambino crime ring’s most profitable, illegal enterprises – namely, sports gambling.”
Cuban Crafters Cigars
DOI Commissioner Hearn said, “DOI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners and focus on this ongoing effort to drive out construction fraud in the City.”

New York City Business Integrity Commissioner Mansfield stated, “In addition to this indictment, and as a direct result of this long-term collaboration between the Commission and its law enforcement partners, effective immediately the Commission has terminated the authority of the carting companies controlled by these defendants to operate in New York City. The Commission remains committed to its mission of eliminating the influence of organized crime from the industries it regulates.”

Richmond County District Attorney Donovan stated, “This indictment is a prime example of the strong collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies in this region, today striking a major blow against organized crime in our community.”

Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor Executive Director De Maria stated, “For 55 years the Commission has spearheaded and actively participated with various state, federal, and local law enforcement authorities in a multitude of successful investigations which have led to countless criminal prosecutions and administrative action against waterfront- related figures. The Gambino crime family has been a predator of the longshore and construction industries and unions as well as many other industries and their related unions for decades in New York City.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mitra Hormozi, Joey Lipton, Roger Burlingame, Daniel Brownell, Evan Norris, and Kathleen Nandan, and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Leff and Amy Cohn.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Following eight weeks of trial, a federal jury in Central Islip, New York, returned a verdict convicting Colombo organized crime family acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico and administration member John "Jackie" DeRoss of murder in aid of racketeering and witness tampering. Specifically, Persico and DeRoss were found guilty of orchestrating the May 26, 1999, murder of Colombo family underboss William Cutolo, Sr.

The evidence at trial established that Persico and DeRoss murdered Cutolo because they believed he was about to take control of the Colombo family from Persico, and to serve as retribution for Cutolo's actions during the bloody Colombo family war in the early 1990s. During the war, Cutolo, on behalf of the faction loyal to Vic Orena, tried to wrest control of the Colombo family from Alphonse Persico and his father, the family's official boss, Carmine "The Snake" Persico. As part of the murder plot, Persico summoned Cutolo to a meeting on the afternoon of May 26, 1999. That afternoon, an auto mechanic dropped Cutolo off at a park near 92nd Street and Shore Road in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the designated place for the meeting with Persico. Cutolo was never seen or heard from again, and the government's evidence indicated that Cutolo's body most likely was dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. That evening, DeRoss kept watch over Cutolo's crew at the Friendly Bocce Social Club in Brooklyn, where the crew was awaiting Cutolo's arrival for their traditional Wednesday evening dinner. When Cutolo failed to show up, DeRoss feigned surprise and directed Cutolo's son, William Cutolo, Jr., to telephone his father. Early the next morning, May 27, DeRoss, on Persico's orders, arrived at Cutolo's home and began questioning Cutolo's widow, Marguerite Cutolo, about the location The United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York

Persico and DeRoss were also found guilty of tampering with witnesses Marguerite Cutolo (Cutolo's widow), Barbara Jean Cutolo (one of Cutolo's daughters), and William Cutolo, Jr. The trial evidence included a recording William Cutolo, Jr., secretly made of DeRoss threatening the Cutolo family in March 2000, several months after it was publicly disclosed that Persico was a target of the FBI's investigation of the Cutolo murder. During the meeting, DeRoss ordered the Cutolo family to provide false, exculpatory information to a private investigator hired by Persico. DeRoss told the Cutolo family that, if they did not assist Persico, Marguerite Cutolo could be "hurt," as could the "little . . . kids," referring to Barbara Jean Cutolo's seven and five-year-old daughters. Marguerite and Barbara Jean Cutolo both testified at trial that, as a result of DeRoss's threats, the Cutolos withheld information about the murder from law enforcement authorities for years, including Cutolo, Sr.'s statement to Marguerite Cutolo on May 26, 1999, that he was going to a meeting with Persico.

Persico was the second acting boss of an LCN crime family convicted in 2007 of murder charges in the Eastern District of New York. On July 31st, Bonnano organized crime family acting boss Vincent Basciano was convicted of racketeering murder and is awaiting sentencing. "Law enforcement's campaign against organized crime will continue until our communities are free from its corrupting influence," stated United States Attorney Benton J. Campbell. Mr. Campbell praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency that led the government's investigation.

When sentenced by United States District Judge Joanne Seybert, each defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. The government's case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John Buretta, Deborah Mayer, and Jeffrey Goldberg.

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.

BOGO 50% off

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Vinny Gorgeous Faces Death Penalty Alone

Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano will fly solo at his federal death penalty trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Four members of his Bronx-based crew will be tried separately from Basciano on racketeering and gang-related murder charges next year.

Basciano will go on trial in August for allegedly ordering from prison the rubout of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo in December 2004, and putting out a contract on prosecutor Greg Andres. He faces death by lethal injection if convicted of Pizzolo's murder.

Then-acting Bonanno boss Michael (Mikey Nose) Mancuso and reputed soldier Anthony (Ace) Aiello are charged with carrying out the hit on Pizzolo, but former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to seek the death penalty against them.

They will be tried in May, alongside reputed soldiers Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato and Anthony Donato, who are charged with whacking junkie Frank Santoro with Basciano in the Bronx in 2001.

Basciano was convicted last summer of killing Santoro for threatening to kidnap his son. During a recent hearing, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis noted it might be confusing in a single trial for the jury to consider murder charges against two of the defendants and not Basciano, who shotgunned the victim.

In a 17-page ruling issued yesterday, Garaufis concluded there should be separate trials due to the possibility of antagonistic defenses among the defendants.

"The easier course for any judge is to have a joint trial and go through it all once," said Mancuso's attorney, David Schoen. "The decision to sever the noncapital defendants was right and legally sound."

Basciano's attorneys also sought a separate trial because informing the jury that only Basciano was facing the death penalty would have been prejudicial.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are New York Gangsters Basically Teenage Girls with Guns?

Someone once said that New York gangsters are basically teenage girls with guns. Looked at from the proper angle, it does seem there is something particularly adolescent about a group of grown men for whom gossip, betrayal and a hair-trigger sense of loyalty runs deep in the blood.

Just Because BasketsTake, for instance, Vincent Basciano, the former hair salon owner and former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family, whose jailers — not coincidentally — once accused him of having an “unusual sophistication” at passing notes. In a legal dust-up that, beyond its violent elements, could have taken place in the girls’ locker room after field hockey practice, Mr. Basciano has accused a man, who once accused him of murder, of trying to implicate him in a phony plot to take the man’s life.

That probably bears repeating with a bit more explanation.

The trouble started in July when Mr. Basciano (known as “Vinnie Gorgeous” because of the hair salon he used to own) and his former best friend, Dominick Cicale, were both inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the huge federal jail in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Basciano was being held there during his racketeering trial in Brooklyn on charges of, among other things, having killed a gangland wannabe named Frank Santoro. Mr. Cicale, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in the same case, had double-crossed him and was, at that point, a main government witness at the trial.

According to court papers filed Tuesday evening, Mr. Cicale — in what some described as an attempt to get his former friend into further trouble with the law — reached out to a handful of fellow inmates in the super-secure witness section of the jail and asked them to tell the authorities that Mr. Basciano had recruited them through a jail guard to murder Mr. Cicale. Even the government acknowledges that there was no real plot beyond the vengeful, imaginary one that Mr. Cicale sought to pin on his onetime friend.

Ephraim Savitt, Mr. Basciano’s lawyer, said Mr. Cicale may also have been trying to get out of jail by hatching the phony plot. “What he was trying to convey was that there’s no place within the prison system that’s safe for him,” Mr. Savitt said. “I think he wants to convince the government and the court to let him out of jail to some undisclosed location.”

It was Mr. Savitt, in his legal papers, who first brought the plot to the court’s attention. He is hoping the allegations against Mr. Cicale will taint him to the point the judge in the case, Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, will grant Mr. Basciano a new trial. Mr. Basciano was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering at the trial, which ended in July, largely on the basis of Mr. Cicale’s testimony.

To further discredit Mr. Cicale, Mr. Savitt says an inmate from the jail has claimed that Mr. Cicale liked to order other inmates to “create mischief” and was known for “acting out.” He once told an inmate to throw water on the cable box, for instance, Mr. Savitt’s papers say. He also — on purpose — spilled his coffee on the kitchen floor.

The notes Mr. Basciano was accused of having passed in jail were mentioned in the defense’s recent filing to suggest that the government has a track record of watching its inmates closely and therefore must have known of Mr. Cicale’s plot. One of them was more momentous than your average teenage note, including as it did the names of five men the government says Mr. Basciano wished to kill. But, according to Mr. Basciano’s wife, Angela, who was interviewed by the government, the note was not a murder list but a “Santeria list.” She says that Mr. Basciano wanted to place the men — among them, a prosecutor and a federal judge — under a voodoo spell. Mrs. Basciano told the government that she went so far as to take the list to a “Santeria priestess” in the Bronx, court papers say.

Judge Garaufis has yet to rule on Mr. Savitt’s request for a new trial, which is contained in the court papers that are full of the he-said, he-said back-and-forth that makes up a large part of Mafia talk. One paragraph, in particular, catches the flavor. The names involved are less important than the air of gossipy disagreement.

“Cicale testified that Anthony ‘Bruno’ Indelicato initially was the person who called him about a ‘piece of work’ in which Cicale could ‘make his bones’ by killing Frank Santoro. Yet, P. J. Pisciotti testified that Indelicato told him that he was surprised to hear, just prior to the murder, that Santoro would be killed and that, in his view, it was a mistake to kill Santoro. Cicale testified that he had enlisted P. J. Pisciotti to kill Michael Mancuso and throw him off a boat. Pisciotti testified that, to the contrary, there was never a plan to kill Mancuso and throw him off a boat.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Catching Up with the Bonanno Mob Family

Gay Talese's efforts to catch up with the children of Bill Bonanno, son of Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno,brought the author to Arizona.

Talese's 1971 book "Honor Thy Father" focused on the Bonanno crime family but his latest essay, now appearing in Newsweek, seeks to find out how the children have dealt with their notoriety. Talese met with the children recently at Bill and his wife, Rosalie's, home in Tucson, according to a release promoting the article. Here's what he found:

* Son Joseph became a doctor, who says he's overcome the Bonnano surname, but hasn't escaped it, having to win acceptance in his profession. He attended the University of Arizona and interned in pediatrics at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical in Phoenix.

* Charles Bonanno is an interstate truck driver, a job he took after working in an auto-repair shop in Phoenix for 10 years. He told Talese about a trip across the Canadian border when he was questioned about his name. "Are you in any way related to either Joseph Bonanno or Bill Bonanno?" the guard asked. "They're my grandfather and father," Charles answered, and the response was: 'Well, then you're on the nonentry list.'"

* Salvatore Bonanno graduated from the University of Arizona and is a computer-systems executive with his own firm in Phoenix. However, he tells of quitting a previous job for a company installing casino security systems when he was shifted to another assignment because of the family name.

* Felippa Bonanno, who raised 10 children, is expecting another, and operates a day care center, says she has not experienced difficulty with the name.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Donnie Brasco Extended Cut

Friends of ours: Bonanno Crime Family, Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero
Friends of mine: Donnie Brasco

In the 1970s, FBI undecover agent Joe Pistone infiltrates the mob, leaving his family behind and assuming the false persona of the "jewel man" Donnie Brasco. His assignment: to become a trusted insider with the infamous Bonanno family by gaining the confidence of a low-level gangster.

Lefty Ruggiero is an aging, two-bit hit-man who sees a new future for himself with the smart, young thief Donnie Brasco and enlists him as his protege. Together the two men enter into a camaraderie that will not allow either one to distance himself emotionally. Meanwhile, Donnie begins to get lost in the distance between his real and undercover selves.

As Donnie moves deeper and deeper into the Mafia chain of command, he realizes he is not only losing the line between federal agent and criminal, between who he pretends to be and who he actually is, he is also leading Lefty, his closest friend, to an almost certain death sentence.


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