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

Friday, May 04, 2007

Little Italy's Bonnie and Clyde were Gambino's Trophy

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family Bonanno Crime Family, Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, John "Junior" Gotti, Joseph Massino

Thomas and Rosemarie Uva were not exactly criminal geniuses.

The couple liked to rob Mafia-run social clubs in Little Italy and elsewhere around the city, which, as just about everyone knows, is a really good way to get killed.

They even had the audacity to force mobsters to drop their pants as they swiped their cash and jewelry and cleaned out their card games.

The holdups proved predictably hazardous: The Uvas got whacked on Christmas Eve 1992.

Fifteen years later, the story of the bandits who made the stupid mistake of stealing from the mob is playing out at the trial of the man accused of murdering them, a reputed Gambino crime family captain named Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia.

"There's virtually no greater insult than robbing the Gambino family where they socialized and hung out," federal prosecutor Joey Lipton said last month in opening statements in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors claim that John A. "Junior" Gotti, while acting boss of the Gambino family once led by his father, sanctioned the killings -- a charge he has denied.

Pizzonia's attorney, Joseph R. Corozzo Jr., told the jurors they would hear testimony that members of the Bonanno crime family were the real culprits.
Mafia 'turncoats'

Corozzo noted that the government was relying on an unsavory cast of Mafia turncoats to make their case, including former Gambino capo Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, who got his nickname as a child after a dog bit him in the face.

The case reflects a new willingness among several old-school gangsters -- some admitted killers like DiLeonardo -- to break the mob's vow of omerta, or silence, and help prosecute graying reputed gangsters like Pizzonia, 65, for crimes dating back decades.

In 2005, Bonanno boss Joseph "Big Joey" Massino stunned the underworld by becoming the first boss of one of New York's five Mafia families to flip.

Exactly why the Uvas gambled with their lives by robbing mobsters remains a mystery. But their former boss at a New York collection agency, Michael Schussel, offered some possible clues for resorting to making collections of a criminal kind.

Schussel testified that Thomas was a Mafia aficionado who asked for days off to attend the trial of the elder John Gotti, the Gambino don who died behind bars in 2002. The couple lived in Gotti's neighborhood in Ozone Park, Queens. "He was obsessed with the mob," the witness said.

Authorities say the Uvas began their robbery spree in 1991, apparently believing that social clubs -- home to high-stakes card games -- would provide an easy mark.

Rosemarie, 31, took the wheel of the getaway car and Thomas, 28, armed with an Uzi submachine gun, stripped patrons of their money and jewelry and made the men drop their pants. The couple became known on the street as Bonnie and Clyde.

The moonlighting was stressful: The day after one of the holdups made headlines, Rosemarie showed up for work looking pale and fainted to the floor, her ex-employer said.

By the time the Uvas had hit his Cafe Liberty in Queens a second time, Pizzonia had tired of their act, DiLeonardo testified.

Pizzonia "was very angry, as everybody else was, that these guys had the nerve to go around robbing clubs, like committing suicide," DiLeonardo said. A plan was hatched to track down the couple by getting their license plate number, he said.

On the morning of December 24, they were sitting in their Mercury Topaz at an intersection in Queens when they were each shot three times in the back of the head. The car rolled through the intersection and collided with another vehicle before it stopped; police officers found a stash of jewelry with the bloody corpses.

The killers vanished as mob bosses argued behind the scenes over who should get credit, DiLeonardo said. During a sitdown with his Bonanno counterpart Massino, the younger Gotti set the record straight.

The Bonnie-and-Clyde hit, Gotti said, was "our trophy."

Thanks to CNN

Godfather of Montreal Pleads Guilty

Friends of ours: Vito "Godfather of Montreal" Rizzuto, Bonanno Crime Family, Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Joseph Massino

A Canadian mobster who helped rub out three reputed New York Mafia captains in 1981 pleaded guilty Friday to racketeering under a deal calling for him to serve just 10 years in prison.

Vito Rizzuto, dubbed the "Godfather of Montreal" by the Canadian press, entered his plea at a federal court in Brooklyn a day before the 26th anniversary of the social-club slayings.

It took some coaxing from the judge to get the 61-year-old to break his long silence about one of the more spectacular gangland hits of the 1980s.

Prosecutors said Rizzuto came to New York at the behest of the Bonanno crime family to help execute three captains in the clan suspected of plotting a coup.

The plea bargain required Rizzuto to admit his guilt and describe his role in the crime. But in court on Friday, Rizzuto hesitated to get specific, initially admitting only that he had engaged in racketeering.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis demanded more detail. "Why should I accept a specific sentence when I don't know what he did?" Garaufis said. "Was he the driver? Was he one of the shooters?"

Rizzuto held a hushed conference with his attorney, then finally stood before the judge. "My job was to say, 'It's a hold up!' So everybody would stand still," Rizzuto said. He said his accomplices then opened fire, killing Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato.

That was enough, barely, for the judge, who accepted the deal and the 10-year term.

The sentence is a light one by today's standards, but prosecutors said their options were limited. Rizzuto was charged as part of a racketeering case, and under federal law at the time of the killing, faced a maximum of only 20 years if he went to trial and was found guilty.

The law has subsequently been changed to permit a life sentence, but the change does not apply to old crimes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg D. Andres said the age of the case, which would have complicated the prosecution, made the light term acceptable.

Rizzuto was one of about 100 alleged Bonanno family members snared in an investigation that crippled the organization and ultimately led its boss, Joseph Massino, to plead guilty to orchestrating a series of murders, including the 1981 slayings.

Massino got life in prison. Children discovered Indelicato's body shortly after the killings. Investigators acting on a tip returned to the vacant lot in 2004 and dug up Giaccone and Trinchera.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Death Penalty Sought for Mob Boss

Friends of ours: Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Bonanno Crime Family

Vincent Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a former New York City mob boss accused of ordering a hit on a rival.

The trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano will begin in June.

The one time leader of the Bonanno crime family is accused of ordering the murder of a rival gang member in 2004. He's also accused of trying to kill a federal prosecutor.

Basciano's fate will now rest in the hands of a jury. The 47-year-old was found guilty of racketeering, attempted murder and gambling in a separate case last year.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Powerful Mafia Boss Seeking Plea Deal?

Friends of ours: Vito Rizzuto, Joseph "Big Joey" Massino, Salvatore "Good- Looking Sal" Vitale, Gerlando "George From Canada" Sciascia, Patrick "Patty From the Bronx" De Filippo

Vito Rizzuto, named as Canada's most powerful Mafia boss, has asked a New York City judge to delay his trial for three gangland slayings, fueling speculation he is negotiating a plea deal.

David Schoen, defending Mr. Rizzuto against racketeering charges in the United States, declined to discuss any plea negotiations but said one thing is clear: Mr. Rizzuto is not considering co-operating with the authorities, as many of his American co-accused have done. "The answer is absolutely unequivocally 'no,' " he told the National Post.

An earlier document from prosecutors said Mr. Rizzuto, 61, of Montreal, was negotiating a settlement as far back as October, 2006. "If there were plea negotiations going on in any case, notwithstanding what may be a different practice for some other lawyers, I could never conceive of discussing them publicly," Mr. Schoen said. When pressed, he added: "Any speculation about a plea deal, at this point, is misguided."

He and his co-counsel are planning a vigorous defence that is well funded and well planned, he said. "Mr. Rizzuto is very strong and holding up well under these conditions - although I must say he misses Canada and his family very much," Mr. Schoen said. "In my view, there is no need or valid reason whatsoever for Mr. Rizzuto to be incarcerated in a jail in Brooklyn, or anywhere. He is no risk of flight whatsoever and certainly no danger to anyone in any community."

Mr. Rizzuto was arrested in January, 2004, inside his Montreal mansion at the request of the U.S. government. He is accused of being a shooter in an ambush of three rival mobsters in Brooklyn in 1981 as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. He has been imprisoned since. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a 20 years.

Mr. Rizzuto's desire to return to Canada could factor into any deal; he would likely ask to serve his sentence in Canada. If that were agreed to, it would see him released far sooner than if he served his prison term in America. Under international agreements on the transfer of prisoners, once back in Canada, inmates benefit from our more lenient release rules, including release after serving just two thirds of a sentence.

Mr. Rizzuto was the only Canadian among dozens of men ensnared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its assault on the Bonanno Mafia organization, one of the notorious and influential Five Families of New York.

Those indicted alongside him have not fared well. Almost all have pleaded guilty, been found guilty at trial or become government informants.

A cavalcade of Mafia turncoats are pointing fingers at former colleagues. The so-called "rats" include the former Bonanno Family boss, Joseph "Big Joey" Massino, and underboss, Salvatore "Good- Looking Sal" Vitale. Both are expected to be star witnesses against Mr. Rizzuto, should his case go to trial.

Vitale has already testified in other prosecutions, twice telling juries about Mr. Rizzuto's alleged crimes, but Massino has not yet been called to the stand. "I am not in the speculation business and I will leave such decisions to the government," Mr. Schoen said of whether he expects to see Massino testify against his client. "I certainly should hope we will be well prepared to deal with any witness."

Massino has been telling his secrets to the FBI for a year. Although the high-security debriefings are held in utmost secrecy, some of the information he provided was recently summarized in a note from prosecutors to a judge in another case. Some of it involves his contact with Canadian mob figures.

Massino said he ordered the murder of Gerlando "George From Canada" Sciascia, who was the Montreal Mafia's representative in New York and a close friend of Mr. Rizzuto's. He assigned the job to Patrick "Patty From the Bronx" De Filippo at Danny's Chinese Restaurant.

After the murder, Vitale, contacted Massino and spoke a prearranged code to signal the job was done: "I picked up the dolls for the babies."

Mr. Rizzuto continues to be a presence - through his name and photograph - in New York mob cases.

At the trial of De Filippo, which ended this month, the jury heard Vitale claim that Mr. Rizzuto started the shooting that killed the three mobsters.

"What was your role in that murder?" Vitale was asked by Greg Andres, the prosecutor. "Shooter," he answered.

"Were there other people assigned as shooters?" Mr. Andres asked.

"Vito Rizzuto; an old-timer from Canada, I never got his name; another individual from Canada named Emmanuel."

Vitale was shown a photograph and asked to identify it.

"That's Vito Rizzuto from Canada," he answered.

"Do you know where Vito lives?" Mr. Andres asked. "Montreal, Canada."

Later, Vitale again brought Mr. Rizzuto up.

"At the time of your arrest, was there a particular person who you considered the most powerful person in Canada, the person who you would deal with in Canada?" Vitale was asked.

"Vito Rizzuto," came the answer.

Pretrial motions in the case are expected to be ruled on in June.

Mr. Schoen estimates a trial would last nine weeks.

Thanks to Adrian Humphreys

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Unfinished Business of Donnie Brasco

The only real mobster I ever met was a funny little guy named Fred. He was short, stooped and rumpled, with basset-hound eyes and pallid skin. A wise-cracking, kewpie-doll of a guy with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. Maybe you remember him. Fred Roti, former alderman of the old mobbed-up First Ward. The representative, as Harper's Magazine once described him, of the "Italian business interests" in City Hall.

Freddy liked to hang out at the City Hall press room and share coffee and jokes with the beat reporters. In fact, he was the Art Linkletter of the city council. Freddy thought reporters, just like kids, say the darnedest things!

I happened to be there on the day he asked his legendary question: "So, boys, what should my campaign slogan be this year?"

"Vote for Roti," Bob Davis said without skipping a beat, "and nobody gets hurt!"

Furtive glances. A pause. A long pause. It seemed to get awfully hot all of a sudden, too. And then that old Linkletter look spread slowly across Roti's gnarled face. "You're baaaad," he chortled to relieved laughter all around.

If we're lucky, that's as close as most of us will ever get to an honest-to-goodness wiseguy. But Joe Pistone, a k a Donnie Brasco, has lived in the belly of the beast.

Pistone is the former FBI agent who went undercover as a Mafia soldier for six years and helped cripple the Five Families of New York. He told his story in a best-selling book that later became a movie starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

Now, Pistone is back with a sequel. Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business promises to reveal the tales that he couldn't disclose earlier. Unfortunately, it seems more like a ploy to cash in one more time on the Donnie Brasco brand. The book has all the drama of a night out with the boys, reliving the glory days. And it reads with all the charm of a 300-page federal indictment.

And that's a shame, since if you can endure the self-congratulation, insufferable stories about being on the set with Al and Johnny, and a Jack Webb -- just the facts, ma'am! -- style of storytelling, there are some fascinating insights here into what mobsters are really like, and what it takes to bring them down.

The best stories illuminate the moral ambiguity inherent in the double life of an undercover agent. In the name of the law, he has to be ready to break the law. To catch a criminal, he has to risk becoming one.

For the first time, Pistone admits to crimes that would have ended the Donnie Brasco operation if his superiors in the FBI had known about them -- hijackings, burglaries, armed robberies and beatings. "I had to gain the trust of criminals and gangsters," he says, "and there is only one way to do that. You got to do what you got to do."

Pistone tells a chilling story about a capo -- his boss -- ordering him to kill a mob enemy. It's a wiseguy's ultimate test. "The people I had been assigned to infiltrate engaged in murder the way a cabbie goes through a yellow light," Pistone writes. "I had long ago made my decision of what to do when this predictable occasion arose. If Bruno's there, he's gone. If I have to put a bullet in his head, I will."

There is a nagging conflict between what Pistone thinks he can achieve and what his FBI superiors think is reasonable -- and safe.

After blowing one assignment for his mob bosses, Pistone is called to a summit to face the music. He knows the FBI would rather pull the plug on the operation than risk his life. Pistone also knows the basic rule of mob life is "not to rat, and not to run." So he goes, without telling the FBI. "I was finally in so deep I was lying to the FBI by omission," he says. "Because of my job I lied regularly in my personal life to those I was closest to. I was finally in the mud at the deep end."

One reads on in anticipation and, finally, irritation, waiting in vain for more stories packing this kind of tension. The closest he comes is a brief description of how Donnie Brasco was ordered to abort his undercover pose just as he was on the verge of becoming a "made member" of the Bonnano crime family, a decision he describes as having "the keys to the vault and suddenly throwing them away." But there's no elaboration, no sense of what the debate was like, and what was really lost.

Instead, an interminable, mind-numbing timeline of recent mob cases descends into a tirade on a trial in which Pistone claims everyone involved -- wiseguys, investigators and prosecutors -- are angling ineptly for book deals. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight winds up as The Gang That Couldn't Write Straight.

Thanks to Joe Kolina, a Chicago journalist with a long-standing interest in what Bonnano family soldier Lefty Ruggiero described as "the underworld field."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Joe Pistone Confesses to Crimes as Mob Mole

Legendary FBI agent Joe Pistone is confessing for the first time that he broke the law during the years he spent undercover as mob wanna-be Donnie Brasco.

Warehouse burglaries. Beatings. Truck hijackings. And even a conspiracy to murder a Bonanno crime family capo.

In his new memoir, Pistone details the crimes he committed to prove his loyalty to the gang he eventually took down. "Sometimes you have to do stuff you don't normally do, you wouldn't do," Pistone told the Daily News, which got an exclusive peek at "Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business."

For instance, there was the phone call that came in 1981 when Pistone and his mob buddies were playing cards in Brooklyn's Motion Lounge.

It was a tip that Bonanno big Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato, who took part in the infamous 1979 rubout of Gambino boss Carmine Galante, was camped out on Staten Island.

On the orders of his own capo, Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, Pistone headed out to find Indelicato - with a .25-caliber automatic.

It turned out the caller had bum information, but the former lawman admits he would have pulled the trigger on Indelicato before jeopardizing his life or the operation. "If Bruno's there, he's gone," Pistone writes.

"If I have to put a bullet in his head, I will, and I'll deal with the federal government and the Staten Island DA later. ... There's no doubt they both would charge me for murder. The Bureau would brand me a rogue agent and hang me out."

During his six years infiltrating Sonny Black's vicious crew, Pistone dug up enough evidence to put away nearly 200 mobsters, all while making life-or-death decisions on how far to take his role-playing.

Now 65, the New Jersey native lives with his wife in an unidentified location, but will come out of hiding for a book tour in the coming weeks.

Over the years, Pistone - portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 1997 movie "Donnie Brasco" - has been cagey when discussing how he gained the trust of an insular gang of suspicious men because revealing more could have damaged prosecutions. But his most revealing book to date details the incredible lengths he went to.

Take the beating he delivered on two druggies dumb enough to stick up Pistone and his mob pal Benjamin (Lefty Guns) Ruggiero in the stairwell of a Little Italy walkup. "You just saw two dead punks run down the stairs," Ruggiero told him.

At Ruggiero's urging, Pistone caught up with them a few days later near Little Italy and meted out the punishment. "He hit the pavement as if I'd had a roll of dimes in my right fist," Pistone writes.

"I looked down at the kid on the ground and realized he was out cold and so I sprung suddenly and hauled off an overhand right on the other one and he went down ... "From the kidney blows they bled piss for weeks. And until the breaks healed they had no use of their fingers for such things as shooting a gun."

It was savage, but Pistone says the beating saved their lives. "Otherwise they would have got killed," Pistone said. "Either I go take care of it or they [the mob] will. You don't stick up a wiseguy and live to tell about it." He's quick to point out that the assaults he carried out always involved thieves or other wiseguys. "No citizens got hurt," he said.

Pistone also admits getting cuts of between $2,500 and $5,000 from warehouse burglaries he took part in but says he turned over the money to the FBI.

He doesn't offer details on the hijackings he carried out. But he admits that "my participation in Mafia hijacking has always been an open sore for me, something that I have hesitated to talk about."

Even after 30 years, Pistone is still angry that the FBI didn't let him stay undercover longer so that he could become a made man. "Imagine if I had been made," Pistone writes. "It would have been the biggest humiliation the Mafia had ever suffered. And it was the one chance the FBI would ever have to pull it off.

"Imagine the embarrassment for the Mafia from coast to coast and all the way to Sicily when the news got out that the exalted Bonanno crime family had made an agent."

Thanks to Thomas Zambito

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mafia Conned by Desperate Housewife

A desperate housewife pulled a fast one on a mob of real-life Sopranos, the wiseguys' lawyers are whining in court papers. Queens homemaker Yvonne Rossetti conned three Bonanno gangsters out of a cool half-million dollars after convincing them to invest in a phony real-estate deal, court papers say.

When the thugs got wise to the Howard Beach woman and threatened to "put her in the trunk of a car" - mobspeak for murder - her husband wore a wire and turned them over to the feds, the mobsters' mouthpieces claim. "She's a con artist," said Joseph Benfante, who represents Michael "Mike the Butcher" Virtuoso. "The real danger to the community is Yvonne Rossetti."

Virtuoso and Michael Cassese, reputed made members of the Bonannos, and alleged family associate Agostino Accardo were indicted last month on loan-sharking charges in Brooklyn federal court after Rossetti's husband, Vincent, ratted them out. Vincent faces federal extortion charges in an unrelated case.

Cassese's lawyer, Steve Zissou, questioned Vincent's sudden decision to go to the feds. The feds "got it wrong," Zissou said. "They got sold a bill of goods by the Rossetti characters."

Lawyers for all three Bonannos say Yvonne is a con artist who bilked her neighbors, the wiseguys and their family members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. "For $100,000 . . . she promised an extraordinary rate of return" from selling shares in a real-estate venture in California, Zissou said in court documents.

"As with every pyramid scheme, [her] inability to . . . attract new victims eventually caused the scheme to implode."

In 2005, Yvonne convinced Accardo and his family to invest $500,000 in her land deal, said Accardo's lawyer, James DiPietro. Accardo coughed up what he could, then turned to his friend Virtuoso and his family for the rest.

When the profits failed to appear, Accardo asked Cassese to put the screws to the wayward businesswoman.

Vincent taped Cassese and Virtuoso threatening his wife and gave the recording to the feds, authorities said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Chan insists the three indicted mobsters are in the loan-sharking business. Virtuoso, Chan said, was arrested with a ledger of debts owed to the "family" on him and a scrap of paper with Yvonne and Vincent Rossetti's name in his pocket.

Accardo is free on $1 million bail. The other two men are being held without bail.

Thanks to Stefanie Cohen

Monday, November 20, 2006

Castellammare del Golfo Exports Mobsters to New York?

From the turquoise Mediterranean lapping its shore to the winding streets where old men soak up the sun on rickety chairs, a tourist would never know this one small town has produced many of New York's most notorious gangsters. Then again, the narrow-eyed suspicion with which outsiders are greeted might be a tipoff.

So it is fitting that New York's latest mob boss has roots in the same western Sicilian town that has exported some of the city's toughest mobsters for generations. His name is Salvatore (Sal the Ironworker) Montagna, 35, the reputed acting head of the Bonanno crime family.

Like the legendary Joseph Bonanno, model for "The Godfather," Montagna was born in Castellammare del Golfo. His family immigrated first to Canada (he has cousins who run a gelato business there) and then to New York.

It was last week that the Daily News exclusively reported that law enforcement authorities determined the Bonanno family, its ranks decimated by prosecutions, has turned to the youthful Montagna to take the leadership reins.

A hardscrabble fishing village clinging to a mountain rising steeply out of the sea 40 miles west of Palermo, Castellammare has been a stronghold of the Mafia for centuries, its men known for their pride, clannishness and violence when crossed.

Now a town of 20,000, its name - translated as the Castle at the Sea - comes from a ruined but still forbidding Saracen fortress near the small marina. The marble mausoleums clustered in the town cemetery bear many family names that became famous in New York: Bonanno, Profaci and Galante chief among them.

Questions about the Montagna family are greeted with some hostility. There is one Montagna listed in town, but no one answered the phone and asking around in his neighborhood wasn't fruitful. "I know him, but he's dead," said one of the old men lounging over coffee at a cafe. "Sorry."

During Mussolini's brutal crackdown on the Mafia in the 1920s, scores of Castellammarese fled to America, many settling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The immigrants' ties to the land, each other and the Old World codes of honor gave rise to powerful, insular gangs that cornered the market on bootlegging, gambling and then-lucrative ice deliveries. Men from the town also went to Buffalo and Chicago, where they started their own mobs.

In the 1930s, New York was rocked by the Castellammarese War, which pitted immigrant mobsters from the town - led by Bonanno, Joseph Profaci and then-boss Salvatore Maranzano - against factions from Calabria and Naples, including Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Vito Genovese and Frank Costello. The bloody war ended when Maranzano set up an organizational structure for La Cosa Nostra and divided New York City into five families.

At 26, Bonanno was nearly a decade younger than Montagna when he came to head his own family. Then, as now, immigrants from Castellammare were prized soldiers.

BonannoA Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, in his autobiography, "A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno," wrote of their discipline and the importance of ancient family ties. He told a family legend about his Uncle Peppe ordering a younger man to strip off his shirt and take an undeserved lashing with a whip. "It's one thing to say you're never going to talk against your friends, but it's quite another not to talk when someone is beating you. I wanted to see how well you took a beating," Bonanno recalled his uncle saying.

His affection for his birthplace was evident: He spoke of playing in the fortress as a child, the taste of fresh mullet caught in the gulf nearby and the smell of lemons on the wind. When he died in 2002 at the age of 97 in Arizona, his funeral cards bore the image of Santa Maria del Soccorso, the patron saint of Castellammare del Golfo.

Another Castellammarese, Joseph Barbara, hosted the notorious Appalachian Mafia Conference of 1957, which was raided by the cops and began the mob's long slow decline.

In the past decade, Italian authorities have made a great effort to crack down on gangsters, and Castellammare is now thriving, with new six-story blocks of condos going up on the outskirts of town and fewer poor laborers leaving in search of a better life. But the port city is still a major center of Mafia activity in western Sicily.

The crew filming "Ocean's 12" in nearby Scopello in 2004 were caught up in it when 23 people - including a local police commander - were busted after a year-long probe of a sprawling Castellammarese extortion racket that included surveillance of the film set. Producer Jerry Weintraub later hotly denied widespread Italian news reports that the film crew was being shaken down with threats of arson on the set and that film's stars - George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones - might have been in danger.

The national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera said the local Mafia is known for targeting moviemakers and has a lock on the hiring of extras.

While the ancient codes still hold sway, the gangsters are keeping up with the times and enforcement has gone high-tech. When producers of a recent feature wouldn't cooperate, thugs broke into the production offices and erased the moviemakers' hard drive's to make their point.

There have been other signs of modernity. Two of the highest ranking Mafiosi arrested in a big 2004 Castellammare bust were women - the wives of the town's top Mafia chieftains. Italian authorities said it would have been unheard of even a few years ago for women to get involved in protection rackets, but bragged that their prosecutions have been so successful that most of the men are now behind bars.

In New York, parallel crackdowns on the mob have put half the Bonanno family soldiers behind bars. So once again, the family has looked to the tough men and closed mouths of Castellammare del Golfo's crooked streets.

Thanks to Helen Kennedy

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bonanno's Name Bambino Godfather

Friends of ours: Bonanno Crime Family, Salvatore "Sal the Ironworker/Sal the Zip" Montanga, Joseph Massino, Baldassare "Baldo" Amato, Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante

The Bonanno crime family has tapped a man of steel to rebuild its crumbling empire, the Daily News has learned.

He's Salvatore (Sal the Ironworker) Montagna, the newly minted boss of the Mafia family, according to law enforcement sources - and he's practically a bambino at only 35 years of age.

The Sicilian-born Montagna and his wife, Francesca, own a small ironworks company in Brooklyn, but they show no signs of living the high-life of a Mafia don. The couple and their three daughters live in a modest ranch house in working-class Elmont, L.I., not far from the Queens border.

"Putting someone that young and relatively unknown in charge indicates that they're desperately seeking to salvage the remnants of the family from the recent prosecutions and convictions," said Mark Feldman, former chief of organized crime for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office.

Feldman said the move clearly "signals desperation" on the part of a mob family that has seen three bosses and acting dons bite the dust in three years. Most noteworthy was the conviction of longtime family boss Joseph Massino, who is now serving life in prison.

Last night, a teenage girl answered the door of Montagna's vinyl-sided home on Oakley Ave. and said the reputed crime kingpin was not at home. Two little sisters stood at her side. Outside, a small construction crew was wrapping up its day working on Montagna's brick driveway.

A short time later, Francesca Montagna drove up in a late-model Lexus SUV and turned angry when asked if her husband was the new head of the Bonanno family. "I don't know what you're talking about," said the dark- haired woman, dressed in a sweatsuit. "I have kids in here. It's not appropriate for you to be here."

Until now, Montagna has rarely appeared on the radar of the NYPD and the feds, and neighbors said they knew nothing about any reputed mob ties. Still, the Mafia talk didn't worry them. "Am I scared?" said one local. "Absolutely not. I come from Brooklyn. Believe me, when you live next to one of these people, there's nothing to be afraid of."

Another neighbor found the suggestion "ridiculous," but quickly added, "We'd be shocked and scared at the same time if that is true. Wow!"

The Montagnas run the family-owned Matrix Steel Co. on Bogart St. in Brooklyn. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the firm supplies structural material for builders and reported a modest $1.5 million in sales last year.

In 2003, Montagna pleaded guilty to criminal contempt charges and was sentenced to probation for refusing to answer questions before a Manhattan grand jury. He had been indicted a year earlier after a probe by the Manhattan district attorney's office as one of 20 wiseguys charged in a takedown of a Mafia crew allegedly involved in gambling, loansharking and weapons possession.

Whether the new Bonanno boss has any other arrests was unclear yesterday.

"He's well-liked by the rank and file," said an underworld source, adding that Montagna is also known as Sal the Zip, a reference to the name bestowed on members of the crime family's Sicilian wing.

Sources said Montagna was close to legendary Bonanno gangster Baldassare (Baldo) Amato, another immigrant from near Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily, and served in the crew of capo Patrick (Patty from the Bronx) DeFilippo. Those guys are largely history now, with Amato recently sentenced to life in prison and DeFilippo facing a retrial on murder charges.

Led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres, the feds have indicted and convicted more than 70 Bonanno gangsters since 2002, leaving behind about 75 shell-shocked members on the street. Sources said Montagna's promotion couldn't have happened without the blessing of Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano, who once operated Hello Gorgeous, a hair salon in the Bronx, and became the official boss of the crime family after Massino turned rat.

Thomas Reppetto, author of the just-published "Bringing Down The Mob: A War Against the American Mafia (Henry Holt)," said the new breed of boss pales in comparison to past godfathers like the late John Gotti or Vincent Gigante. "There may no longer be a boss in the sense that we understood the term, an all-powerful figure at the top, because naming an official boss provides the FBI with a clear target," Reppetto said.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bonanno's Baldo Gets Life in Prison for Murders

Friends of ours: Baldassare "Baldo" Amato, Bonanno Crime Family
Friends of mine: Sebastiano DiFalco, Robert Perrino

Baldassare Amato, a powerful Bonanno crime family figure who represents the group’s traditional Sicilian roots, stood silently with his arms crossed yesterday as a federal judge denounced him and meted out a life sentence for two 1992 Mafia murders.

As the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of United States District Court in Brooklyn, tore into him for “using murder as a business tactic,” at several points Mr. Amato raised his right hand to his chin and then crossed his arms again in front of his chest. “Mr. Amato,” said the judge, making no effort to mask his disgust, “you’re just a plain, wanton murderer and a Mafia assassin. The sentence I’m going to give you, as far as I’m concerned, is a gift.”

Mr. Amato, 54, dressed in a gray prison sweatshirt and khaki trousers, appeared unmoved when the judge handed down the life sentence, almost as though it were a cost of doing business. He and his lawyer had both declined to address the court.

After pronouncing the sentence, Judge Garaufis asked the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant United States Attorney John Buretta, how much of a fine he could levy. Mr. Buretta said the maximum was $250,000, and the judge levied it.

Mr. Amato, who is known as Baldo and who immigrated to New York from the Sicilian fishing village of Castellammare del Golfo when he was 18, was convicted on July 12 of racketeering conspiracy charges, including the murders of two Bonanno associates.

The jury concluded that he ordered the murder of restaurant owner Sebastiano DiFalco and carried out a second killing himself, shooting Robert Perrino in the head several times.

Prosecutors had presented evidence that the Bonanno family was concerned that Mr. Perrino, a delivery supervisor for The New York Post, might help expose an infiltration of The Post’s delivery operation by the crime family.

The judge said that Mr. DiFalco was killed “possibly because Mr. Amato and his Mafia colleagues wanted to take over the business and they might have had a disagreement over price or some other detail.”

The six-week trial was a primer on the devastation that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have wrought on the Bonannos, cutting a swath through the family’s ranks and upending its traditions with a growing cadre of informers.

Mr. Amato was also stoical when Judge Garaufis rejected a request by his lawyer, Diarmuid White, for a recommendation that he be sent to a prison in the New York area so his family could visit. “It’s for them, your honor,” Mr. White said of the family.

The judge was unmoved.

“I have compassion for the defendant’s family, and I also have compassion for the members of the families of Sebastiano DiFalco and Robert Perrino,” the judge said. “This defendant made it certain that they would never visit their family member, anywhere.”

Mr. DiFalco’s two nephews were in court yesterday and said they were gratified by the life sentence and the fine against Mr. Amato. “He’s a cold and evil person,” said one of them, Sal Montoro, 42. He said Mr. Amato had gone to their uncle’s wake and vowed to help find the killer.

For Mr. Amato, after the sentence was handed down, it was a brisk, businesslike handshake and a small smile for his lawyer, and he walked out the courtroom’s side door to the holding cells, accompanied by United States marshals.

Thanks to William Rashbaum

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Bizarro FBI" Roots for "Defendant"

When Lin DeVecchio goes to court, he never goes alone.

His lawyers are there, making arguments. The news media are there, taking photographs and notes. His wife sometimes shows up, making small, sorrowful faces as she grips him by the hand. Then there are the men who make a path for him as they escort him back and forth through the crowd. The ones with the gray hair and the jowls, the stern faces and the off-the-rack suits.

Almost from the moment he was charged in March with helping to commit four murders for the mob, R. Lindley DeVecchio has been surrounded by this posse of supporters: retired F.B.I. men who for years were not only his colleagues, but also his friends.

They watch his back. Personally guarantee his million-dollar bond. Solicit money for his legal bills. Scoff at his accusers. Interview — or, some have said, intimidate — witnesses in the case. And at every chance they get, tell whoever cares to listen that Mr. DeVecchio is an innocent man.

Sixty-five years old and retired from the F.B.I., Mr. DeVecchio stands accused in a state indictment of four counts of second-degree murder. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office says he helped an informant in the mob, Gregory Scarpa Sr., kill four times in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, so that Mr. Scarpa could rid himself of rivals and win bloody battles in a war within the Colombo family.

To a federal agent, there is nothing more toxic than a corruption charge — which even by association can ruin a career. And the charges faced by Mr. DeVecchio are radioactive: that he gave secret information to Mr. Scarpa in exchange for $66,000.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that 19 former F.B.I. agents have put their names and reputations on the line to save their troubled friend. These were not the bureaucrats or pencil pushers of the New York office, but its veteran undercover and investigative men. “We’ve all worked with Lin since the early 1970’s,” said Joseph D. Pistone, the real-life Donnie Brasco, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family as an undercover agent in the 1970’s.

“We’re all veteran street guys,” Mr. Pistone said. “If anyone could smell something bad, it would be us. And with Lin, we never smelled bad.”

The so-called Friends of Lin DeVecchio have a total of 480 years of street experience, give or take a few, and while most spend their time these days on a golf course or at the shore, they remain encyclopedic on the subject of the mob.

Who knows better than us, they say, what happened 20 years ago at Carmine Sessa’s bar or at Larry Lampesi’s house near McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn? (Both places will figure prominently at trial.) “We gathered the information,” said James M. Kossler, who from 1979 to 1989 was Mr. DeVecchio’s boss.

Much of that information has been posted on a Web site, www.lindevecchio.com, which attempts to refute the state indictment with transcripts of federal trials and with private F.B.I. reports called 302’s. There is information about how to donate money toward Mr. DeVecchio’s legal expenses. The Web site also levels personal attacks against the state’s lead prosecutor, Michael Vecchione; its chief witness, Linda Schiro, Mr. Scarpa’s former companion; and Sandra Harmon, who is a self-described relationship coach and the co-author with Priscilla Presley of a tell-all book on Elvis Presley, and who had planned to write a book with Ms. Schiro but wrote one instead about Mr. Scarpa’s son.

Mr. DeVecchio’s supporters make no bones about their deep disdain for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who they say considers a good Mafia case to be rounding up gamblers on Super Bowl Sunday. “Here you have a rackets bureau that doesn’t know a thing about organized crime,” Mr. Kossler said. “They don’t know what they’re doing. If they had a track record of making great O.C. cases, fine — but they don’t.”

The bad blood between the state and the F.B.I. goes back many years, to at least 1992, when Mr. Scarpa went into hiding after Brooklyn prosecutors obtained a warrant for his arrest on a gun possession charge. From April to August of that year, court papers say, Mr. Scarpa met or spoke with Mr. DeVecchio seven times, but the F.B.I. neither informed the state of his whereabouts nor arrested Mr. Scarpa.

Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes, waved off accusations that the office was incompetent. “These people who are making these allegations can’t possibly know the depth of the evidence we have compiled to make this case,” he said.

Part of that evidence is likely to include the testimony of Lawrence Mazza, Mr. Scarpa’s one-time disciple, who has already told investigators that Mr. Scarpa had a friend in law enforcement, whom he used to call “the girlfriend.” Mr. Mazza, who now works at a gym in southern Florida, said that several weeks ago, one of the retired agents paid him a visit. Without saying exactly what happened, he said the agent had tried to intimidate him in connection with the case.

Mr. Kossler scoffed at the charge, saying the former agent had gone to Florida merely to interview Mr. Mazza on Mr. DeVecchio’s behalf. As a witness for the prosecution, Mr. Mazza is of obvious interest to the defense, he said. While the prosecution has said in court that intimidation of witnesses may have occurred, it will not publicly discuss Mr. Mazza’s accusation.

At its core, the DeVecchio case is about the tenuous give-and-take that exists between an agent and a confidential source. Prosecutors say that Mr. DeVecchio abused that give-and-take, giving Mr. Scarpa names and addresses of men who wound up dead.

Mr. DeVecchio has said that in the 12 years he “ran” Mr. Scarpa, he never leaked a secret and never received anything more than a Cabbage Patch doll, a bottle of wine and a pan of lasagna.

As for the Friends of Lin DeVecchio, they maintain it takes a special sort of man to handle Mafia informants. He must speak the language of the street and of the F.B.I. He must appreciate the criminal mind without admiring it. He must be able to cultivate trust among those who trust no one but themselves. “That’s the fine line the agent has to walk — to always remember who he is and who he’s dealing with,” said Christopher Mattice, who served for many years as the F.B.I.’s informant coordinator in New York. “You have to talk the language and make them understand you understand what’s going on.” And most important, he said, you must remember that no conversation between an agent and a mole takes place in a vacuum. Questions fashioned to elicit information give information: If Agent X asks about Gangster Y, it means that he is interested in Gangster Y. If Gangster Y winds up dead, is that Agent X’s fault?

For now, Mr. DeVecchio’s trial is scheduled to open at the beginning of next year, and his federal friends are planning to attend. “The bond is very close,” said Douglas E. Grover, Mr. DeVecchio’s lawyer. “It’s not just that they worked together; it’s like they were in the Army together, like they went through the wars.”

Should things go poorly for Mr. DeVecchio, his supporters will not quit, they say. “We’ll continue to do what we’re doing,” Mr. Kossler said. “We’ll fight this as far as it has to go.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring

FBI file on Rockford Mobster Joseph J. Maggio shows likely motive for his 1980 killing and Mob efforts to gain access to FBI files - By Jeff Havens

Friends of ours: Joseph J. Maggio, Joseph Zammuto, Pietro Alfano, Gaetano Badalamenti, Frank J. Buscemi, Jasper Calo, Joseph Zito, Frank G. Saladino, Charles Vince, Phillip J. Emordeno, Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Michael Sa Bella, Tony Riela, J. Peter Balisrieri, Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine "Lilo" Galante, Gambino Crime Family, Carlos Gambino, Pasquale Conte Sr., Tommaso Buscetta, Frank Zito, Vito Genovese, Genovese Crime Family, Paul Castellano, Joe Bonanno, John Gotti
Friends of mine: John S. Leombruni, "Donnie Brasco"


He was found dead in the back seat of his car along Safford Road by two Winnebago County Sheriff's deputies on April, 6, 1980. The victim, Rockford Mob member Joseph J. Maggio, was shot once in the side of the head at close range with 6.35mm bullet, which was made in Austria.

His killer has never been charged, and the shooting remains an open and unsolved case. However, according to Maggio's extensive FBI file, a "prime suspect" was identified by unknown sources, and the motive for his killing was "a result of his objection to LCN [La Cosa Nostra or Mafia] entry into the narcotics business in Rockford." And according to an October 1984 FBI document, an unknown informant "was instructed by his 'associates' in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles that Maggio had to be killed. [Redacted] 'associates' are members of the LCN."

Maggio's murder and FBI file provides another piece to the puzzle that may one day directly link Rockford to the Mafia-run heroin and cocaine smuggling conspiracy of the 1970s and 1980s, which was known as the "Pizza Connection."

Of the nearly 1,500 pages The Rock River Times requested from Maggio's FBI file, only 90 pages were released by the U.S. Justice Department. Most of the 90 pages released were heavily redacted or censored for content.

However, the information that was released shows the Mob's determination to not only scam ordinary citizens out of money through businesses that appear completely legitimate, but also gain access to FBI files.

ORIGINS

Less than two months before Maggio was killed, he and other Mafia members met "several times" in February 1980 with Rockford Mob boss Joseph Zammuto in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. — where Zammuto vacationed during the winter each year.

Exactly what was discussed at the meeting is not known. However, Maggio's heavily redacted file indicates an unknown individual or group "began dealing narcotics in Rockford in August 1980, with Zammuto's sanction."

As to who began dealing drugs with Zammuto's approval is not known due to Maggio's redacted FBI file. However, what is known is John S. Leombruni was convicted in 1983 for trafficking cocaine in Rockford and the surrounding area.

According to a March 4, 1984 article in the Rockford Register Star, "There were indications in 1982 that a six-moth investigation by the FBI of cocaine traffic in Rockford had turned up Mob connections. Twelve persons were indicted, including John S. Leombruni, who was described as the city's biggest cocaine dealer. ...Leombruni had lived in Las Vegas the year before his arrest." And according to the Register Star article, an FBI affidavit indicated, Leombruni "was run out of town by 'the Mafia chief in Las Vegas.' Court approved wiretaps showed Mob involvement in the Rockford cocaine case FBI agents said, but were not allowed as evidence in Leombruni’s trial." He was tried in federal court in Rockford.

The sequence of incidents, from published sources, suggests a strong link between the Rockford Mob and other participants in the Pizza Connection, whose second in command for Midwest operations was Oregon, Ill., pizza maker Pietro Alfano.

According to a source for The Rock River Times, Alfano, now 70, "retired" and returned to Sicily shortly after his release from federal prison in 1992. As of 2004, Alfano's son operated the restaurant, which was still in business in Oregon.

Ralph Blumenthal, reporter for The New York Times and author of the 1988 book Last Days of the Sicilians, wrote that Alfano immigrated to the United States between 1963 and 1967 from Cinisi, Sicily, a town about 8 miles west of Palermo near the Mediterranean Sea.

Cinisi was also the hometown of former Sicilian Mob boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who was born in 1923, and died in 2004. Badalamenti became head of the Sicilian Mafia in 1969, but fled for his life to Brazil in November 1978 in the wake of the "Mafia wars" in Sicily.

Alfano and other Mob members born in Sicily, but working in United States, were referred to as "Zips" by their American-born counterparts. According to Selwyn Raab, former New York Times reporter and author of the 2005 book Five Families: The rise, decline and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires, the term "Zip" may be Sicilian slang for "hicks" or "primitives."

DRUGS AND INTELLIGENCE FILES

On April 8, 1984, Alfano and Badalamenti were apprehended by police in Madrid, Spain. Authorities charged that they, along with 29 others overseas and in the United States, participated in a multinational, $1.65 billion heroin/cocaine smuggling and money laundering conspiracy.

The conspiracy stretched from poppy fields in Afghanistan to banks in Switzerland, ships in Bulgaria and Turkey, pay phones in Brazil, and pizza restaurants in New York, Oregon, Ill., and Milton, Wis. The conspiracy would become known as the "Pizza Connection," the successor to the 1950s' and 1960s' "French Connection."

Interim Chief of the Rockford Police Department Dominic Iasparro, head of the Rockford area Metro Narcotics task force, has been with the agency for about 32 years. Iasparro recalled area drug trafficking during the time of the Pizza Connection.

"As I understand it, the drugs weren't coming out here—they were staying in New York," Iasparro said during an April 12, 2004 interview.

In addition to being head of the local narcotics unit, Iasparro was also responsible for destroying police intelligence files concerning Rockford Mob members in the mid-1980s that Iasparro said was part of a nationwide effort to purge such information. Maggio's dossier was among the files requested by The Rock River Times last year, but apparently destroyed during the purge.

IMMIGRATION AND SPONSORSHIP

Under what circumstances Alfano arrived in the United States is not clear. However, what is clear is Alfano and other Zips in the Midwest and on the East Coast were employed in the pizza business. Also apparent is former Rockford Mob boss Frank J. Buscemi was reported by the Register Star to have facilitated the immigration of "several cousins to Rockford from Sicily and set them up in business."

What is not certain is whether Buscemi, a Chicago native, sponsored Alfano's move to Illinois. Buscemi was owner of Stateline Vending Co., Inc., and Rondinella Foods Co., before his death in Rockford on Dec. 7, 1987. Rondinella was a wholesale cheese, food and pizza ingredient distributor.

Stateline Vending began operating from the basement of the Aragona Club on Kent Street before moving to 1128 S. Winnebago St., which was owned by former Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito and Mobster Jasper Calo. The vending business eventually settled at 326 W. Jefferson St., in Rockford, before it was dissolved in 1988, after Buscemi’s death.

Winnebago County court documents from 1988 indicate alleged Rockford Mob hit man Frank G. Saladino worked for Rondinella in the 1980s when Buscemi owned the business. Saladino was found dead April 25, 2005 in Hampshire, Ill., by federal agents that went to arrest him on charges of murder and other illegal Mob-related activities.

According to Buscemi's recently released FBI file, Buscemi was also the target of a federal investigators from 1981 to 1986 in connection with Maggio's murder and "extortionate business practices."

"These allegations involved Buscemi's cheese distribution business, RONDINELLA FOODS, and his vending machine operation, STATE-LINE VENDING." Buscemi's also indicates that the investigation produced "numerous leads of extreme value, including contacts between Frank J. Buscemi and the subject of an ongoing Boston drug task force investigation."

Despite the years of investigations, Buscemi was never charged with any crime before his death in 1987. Also unknown is whether Zammuto's only sister, whose married name is Alfano, was related to Pietro Alfano through marriage.

BUSINESS MEETING

The Mob's historic ties to the vending machine business is significant in establishing an indirect link between the Rockford Mob and the Pizza connection because of a meeting that took place in July 1978 in Milwaukee between Mob members from New York, Milwaukee and Rockford.

In July 1978, federal court documents show Rockford Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito, Mob Underboss Charles Vince, and Phillip J. Emordeno along with other members of the Milwaukee and New York Mafia were alleged to have tried to extort money from a competing upstart vending machine company owner. The owner of the company the Mob members tried to shakedown, was actually an undercover federal agent named Gail T. Cobb who was masquerading as Tony Conte, owner of Best Vending Co.

According to page 229 of Raab's book, legendary FBI agent Donnie Brasco, whose real name was Joseph P Pistone, was "used" by Bonanno Mob soldier Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero "on cooperative ventures with other families in New York, Florida and Milwaukee."

Blumnenthal wrote on page 42 of his book that in 1978 Pistone traveled to Milwaukee to vouch for Cobb, and "Pistone helped Cobb cement an alliance between the Bonanno and [Milwaukee Mob boss Frank P.] Balistrieri clans."

Actor Johnny Depp portrayed Pistone in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, during the time in the late 1970s when Pistone infiltrated organized crime. ("Lefty Guns" Ruggiero was played by Al Pacino.)

The Register Star described the 1978 meeting in their March 1984 article as being partly arranged by Rockford Mob members. The article concluded the meeting "confirmed long-held intelligence information that...[the Rockford Mob] possessed the influence to deal directly with the Milwaukee and New York organized crime families." The meeting was set to quash a possible violent conflict between Cobb and Mafia members.

Ruggerio's Mob captain, Michael Sa Bella contacted Tony Riela—a New Jersey Mob member with ties to the Rockford Mafia. Riela called Rockford to schedule the meeting, and Ruggiero called Zito several times. Vince also called Balistrieri’s son J. Peter Balisrieri shortly before the meeting.

According to the Register Star article, "on July 29, 1978 Cobb met the three Rockford men and Ruggiero at the Centre Stage Restaurant in Milwaukee. ....Ruggiero told Cobb that the vending machine business in Milwaukee was controlled by the mob," and if Cobb wanted to enter the business he would have to share his profits with the Mafia or be killed. Since the New York and Milwaukee crime families worked together, "Cobb also was told he would have to pay a portion of his profits to the Bonanno family," which was headed at that time by Carmine "Lilo" Galante.

DEATH ON THE PATIO

Blumenthal wrote that the shotgun assignation of Galante in the mid-afternoon on July 12, 1979 while he was dining on the patio of a restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., marked a tipping point in the power struggle to control drug trafficking in America. Pizza Connection prosecutors believed Galante’s murder "cleared the way for Sicilian Mafia rivals in America to set up the Pizza Connection."

Raab said on page 207 that Galante attempted to injure the other four New York Mob family's interests in the drug trade, especially the Gambino crime family. "Perhaps even more grievous, after Carlo Gambino's death [Galante] had openly predicted that he would be crowned boss of bosses."

Although Frank Balistrieri and others would be sent to prison as a result of Cobb and Pistone's efforts, no Rockford Mob members were indicted in the Milwaukee case. The same may also be said about the Pizza Connection conspiracy.

SHOOTING ON THE SIDEWALK

Unlike Galante, Alfano survived a Mob attempt on his life.

After emerging from a Balducci's delicatessen in Greenwhich Village N.Y. the evening of Feb. 11, 1987, Alfano was shot three times in the back by two men who emerged from a red car. The shooting occurred during the October 1985 to March 1987 Pizza Connection trial.

Blumenthal wrote the failed assassination attempt was allegedly arranged by Gambino family associates, which left Alfano paralyzed below the waist and confined to a wheel chair.

Blumenthal alleged Salvatore Spatola, a convicted heroin and cocaine smuggler, said the attempted killing of Alfano had been arranged by Pasquale Conte, Sr.— a captain in the Gambino family.

The exact motive for Alfano's shooting appears to be a mystery. However, Blumenthal wrote that convicted New Jersey bank robber Frank Bavosa told the FBI and New York police he and two other men were paid $40,000 to kill Alfano "allegedly because of his continuing drug-trafficking activities."

AUTONOMOUS BUT UNITED

Even though the Rockford Mob has historically been considered part of the Chicago Mafia, which is known as "The Outfit," Tommaso Buscetta, Sicilian Mafia turncoat and lead witness in the Pizza Connection trial testified that Italian-based Mobsters based throughout the world acted as one in achieving their objectives.

Supporting that claim is a statement from Thomas V. Fuentes, special agent in the organized crime section for the FBI. During a 2003 broadcast on the History Channel, Fuentes said a Nov. 14, 1957 meeting of Mafia bosses from throughout the United States in Apalachin, N.Y., was in part to decide whether American Mob members would act cohesively to cash in on the drug trade.

Specifically, Fuentes said: "We believe that the main purpose was for the bosses of the American families to decide whether or not they would engage jointly in heroin trafficking with their cousins in Sicily."

Rockford Mob Consuleri Joseph Zito's brother, Frank Zito, boss of the Springfield, Ill., Mob was one of those who attended the Apalachin conference, according Joseph Zito's FBI file.

Also in attendance at the Apalachin meeting with Zito were at least 58 other Mob members, which included Carlo Gambino; Vito Genovese, boss of the New York Genovese crime family; Gambino’s brother-in-law Paul Castellano; and Joe Bonanno. Castellano would be Gambino’s successor after Gambino’s death in 1976. Castellano was murdered in 1986, and was succeeded by John Gotti, who died in a Missouri prison medical center June 10, 2002.

SCAM IN ALABAMA

In addition to a probable motive for Maggio's killing, Maggio's FBI file shows Mob's determination to not only steal money from citizens, but gain access to FBI files.

Maggio was convicted on Dec. 6, 1972 on seven counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy. The conviction was obtained after an unidentified male informant said the conspiracy involved a "boat registration scheme", wherein the name United States Merchant Marine was used to collect funds for a national boat registration service.

"He said they planned to circulate a letter to all boat owners for a $10 contribution, which would then be used as a registration fee for a registry to be maintained by the company [United States Merchant Marine Service, Inc.]. ...

"[Redact] had asked him if he had any idea how the United States Merchant Marine Service could patch into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC)."

Maggio was born Aug. 30, 1936 in Rockford, where he lived his entire life, until his death at age 43. Maggio married in 1959, and had three sons and one daughter. He became a made Mob member in approximately February 1965.

About the author: Jeff Havens is a former award-winning reporter for the weekly newspaper The Rock River Times in Rockford, Ill. Havens lived most of his life in the Rockford area, and wrote dozens of news articles about the Mob in Rockford and Chicago.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Book Club: Five Families: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Bonanno Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Lucchese Crime Family, Genovese Crime Family. John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Vincente "The Chin" Gigante, Charles "Lucky" Luciano

Selwyn Raab recently met with Gotham Gazette's Reading NYC Book Club to discuss his book Five Families: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, a history of the Mafia from its origins in Sicily to the present day. The following is an edited transcript of the event.

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Mr. Raab, your book focuses largely on the fall of the New York crime families, but the title includes the phrase "resurgence." What's going on with the Mafia in New York City right now?

SELWYN RAAB: Up until 9/11, there had been a 20-year long, concentrated attack against the Mafia, based on the Racketeer Influence Corruptions Act, popularly known as RICO. What was important about RICO was that for the first time it gave prosecutors an effective tool to go after the big shots in organized crime. At the attack's peak, there were 200 people working full time on just investigating the five Mafia families in New York -- the Gambino, the Bonano, the Colombo, the Lucchese, and the Genovese. The FBI had a specific squad following each family, and were able to bust John Gotti, Vincente "The Chin" Gigante, and other bosses, even though they didn't pull a trigger or shake anyone down themselves.

[This prosecution was coupled with a] concentrated effort to knock the Mafia out of some industries. Waste collection and construction were two immense moneymakers for them, and they've been hurt in both industries, especially commercial garbage collection. There is now some oversight by city agencies, licensing etc. The Mafia has been severely wounded in some of these big industries – but not mortally.

As soon as 9/11 occurred, terrorism justifiably became a prime concern and objective for the FBI and most police departments, including New York's. This created a reprieve – suddenly you had this tremendous diminution of people investigating the mob.

Today, the Mafia is still making money in gambling and loan sharking. The penalties for these crimes are very small, nobody goes away for a long time, and bosses are never brought up on charges. Still, this is terrific seed money to keep them going.

The Mafia is still very big on Wall Street, counterfeit credit cards, and phone scams. But a lot of the most recent action has been in the suburbs, where the theory is the local police departments don't have the expertise to stop them.

FORMING THE MAFIA

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Is there a fundamental difference between the Mafia and other types of organized crime?

SELWYN RAAB: We've always had organized crime groups – you had Irish and German gangs on the Bowery, Jewish bootleggers, the Italians, and so on. To oversimplify, prohibition changed all these gangs from street thugs to executives. The money was so big that they could expand, and when prohibition ended, they had big organizations to go into different things like labor racketeering.

But the Italians had a business genius named Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano saw the handwriting on the wall – prohibition was going to end, and what were gangs going to do for loot? He also saw the lack of a central organization. Luciano had a major convention [of Italian gangs] in Chicago in 1931, and said we can't have fights among ourselves anymore, because it's bad for business. He turned the Italian gangs into a semi-military organization based on what had been going on in Sicily, where each family had a boss, underboss, consigliere, and soldiers.

If you knocked out the leaders of the Jewish or Irish gangs, they dissolved, because there was no military setup. But Luciano set up the Mafia so that the individual is secondary to the organization; the theory was that the organization had to survive at any cost. If the boss died or was arrested, the organization replaced him, and he set up another hierarchy.

To stop disputes between families, Luciano created something called the Commission comprised of representatives from each of the five New York families. Immediately, they had more power than anyone else in the country.

Luciano also urged the Mafiosi to diversify their activities. Instead of having just gambling or loan sharking as other gangs did, they went into labor racketeering. They were a mirror image of capitalism: whatever works.

That distinction still exists today. The Mafia has such a lot going for it. The Latin Americans – Columbians and Mexicans – are into one thing: narcotics. They don't have the know-how to do these other kinds of crimes. Same thing with the Asian gangs, the Chinese. They may be involved in smuggling immigrants, or do shake down rackets on stores or restaurants in Chinatown and Queens. But they're not involved in other things.

THE IMPACT OF ORGANIZED CRIME ON NEW YORK CITY

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Why did New York City's Mafia families have such a disproportionate amount of power within the nationwide Mafia right from the beginning?

SELWYN RAAB: We can thank Benito Mussolini partly for this. The Mafia had always been very strong since it started out in Sicily in the 18th century, where people once thought of them as liberators because they fought against the foreign invaders, protecting the small farmers, peasants, and businessmen. They developed into a tyrannical organization, and they grew very powerful both politically and financially. When Benito Mussolini came into power, he saw them as a threat and started a crackdown. He rounded people up and put them in cages, sent them away for life, or killed them.

Because of this, a lot of the young Mafiosi in the 1920s emigrated to the United States, and the major place they went was New York City. They liked New York. It was very profitable. There was a big Italian American population, bigger than anywhere else. They settled into New York because they were welcomed here.

The curse of New York is that there are still five powerful Mafia families here. In the rest of the country it wasn't that hard to combat the Mafia – you just had to knock off one family and there would be no one around to fill their shoes. Here, if there is a devastating blow to one family, that vacuum can be filled by one of the others. They know if it's a good opportunity, and they'll take advantage of it.

PHILIP ANGELL: In New York City organized crime families were involved in a lot of very public rackets – the trash business, the construction business, the ready-mix concrete business. These were pretty open secrets for a long time. Do you have any sense of why this was tolerated by the political, financial, and law enforcement establishment?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, one major reason was that J. Edgar Hoover didn't want the FBI to do anything with the mob. They didn't do anything until after his death in 1972.

I started as a reporter in New York in the 1960s on the education beat. I was working for a year when there was a big scandal: schools were falling apart. I was assigned to the story and found so many connections. There were secret Mafia partners to all these construction firms that were allowing ceilings to collapse, and building shoddy buildings. There was a big investigation, and eventually the city got rid of some of the people who worked for the Board of Education and banned some of the contractors. But they never went after the Mafia.

So I started asking around: Why don't you do anything about the Mafia? "It's too hard," I was told. But the real reason was that the Mafia was paying off the politicians and the judges. Every stone you turned up in this town had to do with the Mafia. Garbage, the fish market, you name it.

Also, when you talked to mayors off the record they'd say: 'everything runs smoothly now. If you fool around with the construction industry, there will be a strike. If you do anything about trying to regulate the garbage industry, they won't pick up the garbage. If you try to do anything about the fish market, restaurants won't get any fish. Leave well enough alone. They're not bothering anybody.'

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Can you point to any industries that the Mafia ruined or ran out of town?

SELWYN RAAB: I used to speak to people in the garment center, and they said you had a choice: either you get protection from the mob, or you sign up with the union and pay the union dues. The union will let you be non-union, but you have to be hooked up with some family. In fact, the corrupt unions were getting part of the payoffs.

There were mob families running all the trucking in the garment center – the Colombos and the Luccheses. You couldn't be an independent trucker and go into the garment center. You'd have flat tires, and your drivers would be beaten up. These weren't the only reasons – there were runaway industries for cheaper labor elsewhere, too– but they added an extra inducement. Why bother?

It wasn't just the garment industry. Garbage haulers wouldn't come into New York because they knew it wasn't worth the effort. If you came in you'd be shaken down, and if you didn't pay them off there would be a strike, because they controlled the Teamsters on the garbage locals.

A lot of fish wholesalers wouldn't come into New York for many years. They would rather go to New England, or the big fish markets in Baltimore, where they wouldn't have this trouble.

PHILIP ANGELL: And the important thing to remember is that it was underwritten by violence, no matter what industry.

ROMANTICIZING THE MOB

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Why do people have such a romantic view of this?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, that's Hollywood. American entertainers have always had a vicarious love affair with criminals. They're interesting people; you're more interested in rogues than good guys. Do you want to do a story about the founder of the Red Cross or Salvation Army? No one is too interested in that.

One of my pet peeves is a movie like the Godfather, where we set up the idea that there are good Mafiosi and bad Mafiosi. Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, he's a white hat, a good guy cowboy. At one point, he's opposed to narcotics, and as a result there's an attempt on his life by the bad Mafiosi. But who wins? The good guys. They try to create this image that it's not so simple, that you can identify with them.

I don't watch the Sopranos every week, but when I do watch what I see is a soap opera not about a mob family, but a dysfunctional suburban family. If you're a middle-aged man, you can easily identify with Tony Soprano. His kids are rebelling against him, his wife is smarter than him and wants to leave him, he doesn't have the old time loyalty when he goes to the office anymore. He has all these midlife crises, even though he lives in a mini mansion, has a harem of beauties throwing themselves at him, and he's got big cars and all the money in the world. Yet he's got these crises; you can sympathize with him. You don’t see him for the most part killing people.

You get a vicarious kick out of watching these people. Look at the great lives they lead: they sleep late, they don't have to go to work, they make a lot of money, they have a lot of woman friends. It looks good.

There's one other aspect which I think is a subtext to all of this, which makes these movies popular and is why people romanticize the Mafia: they're antiestablishment. In the Godfather, they talk about how the Italian Americans couldn't get a break. They had to become a government onto themselves, because the WASP establishment wouldn't allow them to become bankers or big businessmen. You can see it also in the Sopranos. His father was a laborer. What a choice: drive a truck for a living, or could he work for the mob and make a lot of money, be comfortable, take care of your family?

GOTHAM GAZETTE: But how much of that is true?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, I've talked to a few made men. They always rationalized what they did and why they did it. But they have always been into anything that will bring them money.

Thanks to the GOTHAM GAZETTE

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Canaries Get Tweet Salvation

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti, Bonanno Crime Family, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Patrick DeFilippo, Vito DeFilippo, Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore LoCascio, Genovese Crime Family, Joseph Ida, John Gotti, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Today's rats escape sleepin' with fishes

The stampede of Mafia turncoats joining Team U.S.A. is radically changing the way gangsters try to beat the rap. Faced with damning testimony from high-ranking rats, wiseguys are wising up to the fact that it's futile to deny they're in the mob.

It was once a violation punishable by death to publicly acknowledge one's membership in a crime family. But John A. (Junior) Gotti has done it. So too has a gaggle of gangsters in the hope the wiseguys can neutralize the government's weapons.

"He's in the Bonanno family," declared defense lawyer Barry Levin last week at the trial of Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano, once the clan's acting boss. "We don't care. So if you spend three weeks listening to the Bonanno family, you've heard it here. You can take a nap."

Levin's strategy so infuriated prosecutors they asked the judge to instruct the jury that it was out of bounds. The lawyer for Basciano's co-defendant Patrick DeFilippo was also up front with jurors about his client's mob lineage. "His father Vito was a member ... and it was as natural for him at that time a long time ago to join as it was, say, for me to become a lawyer," said attorney Richard Levitt.

Recently, lawyers for Gambino capo Salvatore LoCascio and Genovese soldier Joseph Ida admitted their clients were made men, but insisted each had decided to quit the Mafia.

It's a long way from the bold denials John Gotti's mouthpiece Bruce Cutler was making in 1990 when he said: "There is absolutely no evidence of what prosecutors call an Italian-American Mafia in America."

Mafia historian Thomas Reppetto recalled that Chicago gangster Joey (The Clown) Lombardo even took out an ad in a newspaper in 1992 to proclaim he wasn't in the Mafia anymore. Lombardo was indicted last year on a raft of charges.

For years wiseguys and their lawyers nervously tiptoed around naming the criminal enterprise when pleading guilty to racketeering. Has omerta - the Mafia's code of silence - been revised? "Apparently so," said former federal prosecutor Edward MacDonald. "There's no point in contesting membership anymore. The evidence is so overwhelming. You might as well concede the obvious."

Thanks to John Marzulli

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Real Dons Steal Sopranos Limelight

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Vinny "Gorgeous" Basciano, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Bonanno Crime Family, Lucchese Crime Family, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Joseph Massino
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa, Soprano Crime Family


While the acclaimed TV series bows out, New Yorkers are gripped by the drama of three real-life Mafia-linked trials

The final series of The Sopranos will go out on American TV a week today, beginning the last chapter of its epic chronicle of the lives, loves and murders of the nation's most famous Mob family. But one part of America does not have to wait with bated breath: New York. After all, who needs Tony Soprano and his fictional travails when real mafiosi such as John 'Junior' Gotti, Vinny 'Gorgeous' Basciano and Mikey 'Scars' DiLeonardo stalk the front pages.

In a throwback to the Mob's long-lost heyday, New York has gone Mafia-mad in the past week. No fewer than three high-profile trials are dominating the tabloid press and local TV stations, uncovering a mobster world of hitmen, assassinations and police corruption that even Tony Soprano's scriptwriters would have hesitated to invent.

Top of the heap is the dramatic trial of Gotti, alleged head of the Gambino crime family, whose father was known as the Dapper Don for his sharp suits and high profile on the social scene. Now the junior Gotti faces racketeering charges, including the kidnapping and attempted murder of Curtis Sliwa, a radio host and founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting volunteers. Another case involves Basciano, charged with killing one Mob associate and plotting the death of two others. He is alleged to be acting head of the Bonanno crime family. The third prosecution, set to start within weeks, has been called the 'Mafia cops' trial. It involves allegations that two top policemen, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, worked as hitmen for the Lucchese crime family.

But it is the Gotti trial - with its mix of Mob glamour and death - that has grabbed attention. 'They can still draw a crowd,' said Jerry Capeci, who has written six books on the Mafia. Given the alleged crimes, that is no surprise. In one gripping piece of recent testimony Sliwa told how a gang killer tried to 'whack' him by shooting him in a taxi with its windows and doors rigged so they would not open. As he was travelling to work in Greenwich Village, a man suddenly popped up in the front seat, said 'Take this' and began shooting at him. Sliwa, bleeding from gunshot wounds that left him in hospital for two weeks, escaped by climbing through a broken car window as the taxi zig-zagged down the street.

In another of the trial's 'highlights', one witness, DiLeonardo, revealed that the late Dapper Don had fathered a child by a woman living on Staten Island. That triggered the sort of tabloid frenzy among gossip writers and paparazzi usually associated with Hollywood stars. The child was found to be a 19-year-old dental student. 'I feel bad for my daughter. It's 2006. We want to move on,' said her mother, Shannon Connelly.

The Gotti trial has been so highly publicised that tourists have been flocking to the Manhattan court for a dose of the real Sopranos. But all the court cases have exposed crimes that are hard to romanticise. Prosecutors say Basciano blasted one rival with a 12-gauge shotgun. The attack on Sliwa left him needing a colostomy bag after one bullet went through his intestines. There are drug rings, extortion, bribery and cold, hard killings: all revealed in sordid detail.

Yet the real story is that these cases have all been brought simultaneously, dealing what remains of the Mafia in New York a potentially fatal blow. The FBI and police have so successfully infiltrated the gangs over the past two decades that the Mob is a shadow of its former self. Many of the witnesses are turncoats from the highest levels of an organisation once thought impenetrable. The main evidence against Basciano comes from conversations taped by former don Joseph Massino, the first head of a Mafia family to wear a wire and betray his associates. Gotti's lawyer has used this as a defence, saying his client was born into the Mob family but wanted to leave due to the huge degree of betrayal. 'He saw a life where his father went to jail for the rest of his life, died locked away from his family, based on the testimony of a serial killer who was supposed to be his closest associate. He saw the treachery first hand,' said Charles Carnesi.

When it comes to the old values of silence and loyalty, it is other ethnic gangs in New York, such as the Russians and the Chinese Triads, who are far more of a criminal threat. Neighbourhoods dominated by Russians and Chinese are full of new immigrants vulnerable to gangs; meanwhile the Italians have moved to Long Island or New Jersey.

Yet despite the decline in the Mafia's power, it still dominates the headlines more than any other form of organised crime. That is far more to do with the media and Hollywood than reality. For the American love affair with the Mafia is one based on the entertainment industry.

Before the Gotti trial began last month the once-feared family's name had been best known recently for a tawdry reality TV show starring Gotti Junior's sister, Victoria, called Growing Up Gotti. It has been a steady decline from the Oscar-winning art of the Godfather movies to the high-class soap opera of The Sopranos and finally to reality television.

Tony Soprano would recognise that as a rule of the fictional gangsters: No one lives forever, everyone gets whacked in the end. Even, perhaps, the Mafia itself.

Thanks to Paul Harris

Friday, February 24, 2006

Godfather Facing Rat Infestation

Friends of ours: Bonanno Crime Family, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Joseph Massino, Patrick DeFilippo, James "Big Louie" Tartaglione
Friends of mine: Frank Santoro

Call it the March of the Rats.

When acting Bonanno boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano goes on trial, he'll face an extraordinary number of Mafia turncoats. The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office has a list of "more than 75 witnesses, including 18 cooperators," according to court papers filed by Basciano's lawyer. "There is not one trial in public consciousness that has seen as many rats," one legal insider said.

Former family godfather Joseph Massino, who was convicted in 2004 of committing seven rubouts but cooperated to skirt the death penalty, is expected to make his rat debut. Many of the Bonannos who testified against Massino will also be witnesses against Basciano and his co-defendant, reputed capo Patrick DeFilippo, when the trial begins Thursday, a source said.

Basciano and DeFilippo are charged with a host of illegal-gambling counts and attempting to murder David Nunez in 1985 over rival gambling operations. The hit failed, and Nunez is alive and well but currently serving a three-year stint in an upstate prison for sexually abusing two young girls.

On top of that, Basciano, 46, allegedly took part in the February 2001 murder of mob associate Frank Santoro, who was blasted with a shotgun while walking his dog after he plotted to kidnap one of Basciano's sons.

Playing the part of the Pied Piper is prosecutor Greg Andres, whom Basciano allegedly plotted to whack for decimating the crime family through numerous convictions. Basciano is charged with that crime in a separate indictment, and Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis said Andres is not allowed to mention it to the jury. Andres could often be seen glaring at Basciano and recently took umbrage with the reputed crime boss' passing comments to him and an unorthodox habit of standing next to his lawyers during side conversations with prosecutors and the judge throughout jury selection. "I don't want to talk to him, I don't want to hear from him, and I don't think he should be at the sidebar," Andres said during one of the side sessions, according to court papers filed late last week.

Also in the prosecutors' arsenal of evidence is a recorded conversation between Basciano and turncoat James "Big Louie" Tartaglione in which Basciano downplays the chances of being convicted of the Santoro murder, which could put him away for life.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shot "Mobster" Refusing to Squeal

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine Sciandra, John Gotti, Junior Gotti, Ronald Carlucci, Michael Viga
Friends of mine: Patrick Balsamo

A retired cop who allegedly shot a reputed Gambino capo in the gut may get off scot-free because the "wiseguy" won't snitch.

Carmine Sciandra, who was shot inside his Staten Island produce store during a tussle with former NYPD Officer Patrick Balsamo in December, has refused to cooperate with authorities investigating the gunplay, authorities said. Prosecutors for the Staten Island DA have been unable to present the case to a grand jury because they are still not sure who fired the gun.

Balsamo stormed into the Top Tomato store in Travis with two reputed members of the Bonanno crime family in a dispute involving his daughter, Maria. She worked as a cashier at the shop before being fired, and accused Sciandra's brother, Salvatore, of groping her, authorities said. An enraged Balsamo started smashing windows with a baseball bat, they said. Carmine Sciandra was shot after confronting the ex-cop with a bat of his own, authorities said.

Sciandra is still recuperating from the bullet that ripped through his stomach and lodged in his buttocks, said a person close to the store owner. The friend said Sciandra is slated to undergo another abdominal surgery in April.

The two alleged Bonanno members brought in as muscle, Ronald Carlucci and Michael Viga, quickly drove off. They were never charged in the incident. "There's a lack of witnesses as to who actually pulled the trigger," said one law-enforcement official, adding that store surveillance videos also don't show who fired.

If the DA's case continues to be stalled, it is possible that assault and weapons charges against Balsamo could be dropped. "It would be a difficult case to prosecute without [Sciandra] offering his account," the source said. A spokesman for DA Daniel Donovan declined to comment on the investigation, saying only that Balsamo, 49, will be back in court March 14.

The unauthorized attack on an reputed "made" Mafia big with members of a rival crime family on hand left authorities fearing a mob war was on the horizon. But sources say all has been quiet and Balsamo, who retired from the NYPD in 1993, has been "hiding out" at his father's home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, since being released on $25,000 bail. "We haven't seen any repercussions here," the source said about gangland
retaliation.

Balsamo's father, Anthony, quickly hung up the phone when reached at home and the ex-cop's lawyer could not be reached. A lawyer for Sciandra, once considered a prime candidate to take over as boss of the Gambino family after John Gotti died and his son, John "Junior," was jailed, declined to comment.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mob figure dies, taking 'a lot of secrets' with him!

Friends of ours: Chris Petti, Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero, Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno, Bonanno Crime Family

San Diego mob figure Chris Petti, whose attempts to earn money for the Chicago mob ultimately led to convictions of several underworld bosses as well as financier Richard Silberman, has died, the FBI confirmed yesterday. A close associate of slain Las Vegas rackets boss Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Petti had lived in Chula Vista and reportedly had been in poor health.

Born Christopher George Poulos in Cicero, Ill., Petti died on New Year's Eve, according to an obituary notice published Friday. He was 78. Petti was long regarded as a low-level hood - a law enforcement official once suggested his lack of respect made him the Rodney Dangerfield of the mob - but his expletive-laced phone conversations, picked up in FBI recordings, led to major federal convictions here.

According to the FBI, Petti sought to fill the void created by the 1986 murder of Spilotro, who was beaten to death, along with younger brother, Michael, and buried in an Indiana cornfield. Petti was in frequent contact with Spilotro's bosses in Chicago and was directed to collect money still on Spilotro's books and to scout out earning opportunities.

According to court records, his extortions included threats to chop off one man's legs; in another, he told a victim that he owed the mob $87,000 and needed to come under Petti's wing. "When you eat alone, sometimes you choke," Petti threateningly told the man, according to court records.

One potentially major venture caught his bosses' attention: a scheme to infiltrate a casino planned in North County by the Rincon tribe.

During that late 1980s investigation, Silberman unexpectedly showed up in FBI surveillance, plotting with Petti and an undercover FBI agent to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars. Silberman had been a top aide to former Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. and was married to then-county Supervisor Susan Golding. Silberman was convicted in 1990 and sent to prison. He and Golding divorced, and she went on to serve two terms as San Diego mayor.

With the Silberman trial out of the way, federal prosecutors returned to the Rincon case. Top leaders of the Chicago mob were indicted in 1992; two were convicted the next year and sentenced to three years in prison. Petti pleaded guilty that year in a deal calling for 9½ years in prison but no requirement to testify against his bosses. When U.S. District Judge William B. Enright asked if Petti was indeed guilty, he at first replied: "I guess so." Petti gave a firmer answer when pressed by the judge. He also served a concurrent term in prison for a Las Vegas federal drug offense.

Petti's lawyer in the San Diego case was famed criminal-defense attorney Oscar Goodman, known for his defense of mobsters such as Spilotro. Today, he is mayor of Las Vegas. The prosecutor was Carol Lam, now U.S. attorney for San Diego and Imperial counties.

Retired FBI agent Charlie Walker, who had tracked Petti for years, said the Rincon case revealed Petti's ambitions. "A lot of law enforcement thought he was a two-bit punk, that he didn't have any connections, but he did," Walker said yesterday. Walker said he gained "a bit of grudging respect" for Petti for his refusal to turn informant. "You hate to say you respect anyone (in the mob)," said Walker, "but the one thing about Chris . . . when we arrested him, he had plenty of opportunities to cooperate, if he wanted to, but he steadfastly refused. "He went to his grave with a lot of secrets. I would have loved to have talked to him," said Walker, now assistant federal security director for the San Diego branch of the Transportation Security Administration. No doubt it would have been an interesting story.

Petti was listed in Nevada's "black book" of people - many of them mob figures - banned from Silver State casinos. In a confidential, 1975 intelligence report, the California Department of Justice listed Petti as a "close associate" of San Diego mob boss Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero, who would be gunned down, gangland-style, in 1977 while walking to his home in Pacific Beach from a nearby pay phone. It was later learned that Bompensiero had been an FBI informant.

Infamous mob turncoat Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno claimed during San Diego federal court testimony in 1982 that Petti and Spilotro had plotted to kill him. Fratianno, who collaborated on an autobiography titled, "The Last Mafioso," went on to earn millions of dollars testifying against Mafia figures. He died in 1993.

Petti co-founded P&T Construction in the 1970s; at one time the company was believed to be involved in aluminum-siding schemes involving Bonanno crime-family figures. He had multiple arrests - for theft, extortion, gambling and other crimes - but few convictions. Among them: a 1970s conviction for a baseball-bat assault in La Jolla.

Thanks to Philip J. LaVelle

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