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

Monday, June 03, 2019

Will the @SenSanders and @AOC Loan Shark Prevention Act Actually Create a Booming Market for Mafia Loan Sharks?

Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez debuted the Loan Shark Prevention Act, whose chief provision amounts to a national interest rate ceiling of 15%. In a video accompanying the announcement, Sanders invoked Hollywood’s version of loan sharks to illustrate his point: “You’ve got all these guys in their three-piece suits who are now the new loan shark hoodlums that we used to see in the movies. You know, in the movies, they say, ‘I’ll break your kneecaps if you don’t pay back.’ Well, I don’t know that they break kneecaps …”

Sanders’s invocation of yesterday’s leg-breakers is obviously intended to conjure the colorful figures of American imagination, from Don Corleone to Tony Soprano. But the terror that real loan sharks inflicted on immigrant and working-class families is not merely the stuff of Hollywood; it was a brutal reality for much of American history. And the ubiquity of loan sharks in American history is directly attributable to forerunners of the interest-rate ceilings proposed by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez.

“Usury ceilings,” as interest-rate price controls were traditionally labeled, began as a paternalistic effort to protect low-income and supposedly vulnerable consumers from exploitation by greedy bankers. Yet, as well-intentioned regulations so often do, usury ceilings backfired spectacularly, primarily harming those they were intended to help. And far from shutting down loan sharks, history shows that usury ceilings have been the primary catalyst for the loan sharks that have preyed on low-income and vulnerable Americans throughout history.

The advent of industrialization saw thousands of prewar immigrants and farmers flood into American cities in search of work. The challenges of city living created unprecedented demand for small-dollar, short-term loans. Yet making small loans to wage earners was an expensive business. First, it was risky — the same factors that necessitated borrowing in the first place (low wages, periodic unemployment, and unexpected expenses such as medical bills and home repairs) translated into high loss rates. Second, the costs of small loans is high relative to the amount borrowed —operating expenses such as rent, employee wages, and utilities are very similar regardless of whether the customer borrows $50, $500, or $5,000. In order to cover losses and those operating expenses, therefore, the effective interest rate on a small loan will have to be higher.

As a result, prohibitively low usury ceilings made it impossible for working families to borrow the money they needed from legitimate lenders. Illegal loan sharks filled the void, creating a reign of terror in American cities.

In New York, future Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey first came to fame through his 1935 bust of the city’s loan shark racket. With 1,040% interest rates and brutal means of enforcement — including, according to the front page of the New York Times, “Beatings and Death Threats” — the operation had netted the syndicate a cool $5 million. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan referred to it as an era of “virtual serfdom” for urban families trying to make ends meet.

In response to the ubiquitous problem of loan sharks, consumer advocate groups led a nationwide crusade to loosen interest rate restrictions to permit legitimate lenders to compete with the loan sharks. The reform effort culminated in the drafting of the Uniform Small Loan Law, which proposed dramatic increases in state usury ceilings. Although the proposal to raise usury ceilings was controversial at first, by mid-century the loan shark problem had largely dissipated in states that adopted the law, replaced by personal finance companies and small-loan companies operating legally.

Yet the lull in regulation, and crime, would prove short-lived. Acting under the theory that excessive access to consumer credit by working families was a primary cause of the Great Depression, many states rolled back their liberalization of interest rate ceilings. The results were predictable — and devastating to America’s working families. According to a Senate investigation, by 1968 loan sharking was the second largest revenue source of organized crime. That same year, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon pledged to appoint an attorney general that would “be an active belligerent against loan sharks and the numbers racketeers that rob the urban poor in our cities.” A 1969 book by a former police officer estimated the size of the illegal loan shark industry to be $10 billion per year — the equivalent of $69 billion in today’s dollars and about twice the size of the estimated $32 billion payday loan market (storefront and online combined) today in the United States.

Unfortunate borrowers were often lucky to get off with “only” a broken leg. In one 1978 criminal trial, prosecutors played a tape recording in which Louis “Blind Louie” Cavallaro of the Chicago syndicate threatened to “cut out the eyes and tongue of a man who owed him $18,000” and expressed his desire to wear the victim’s teeth “around [his] neck.” Threats involving the forcible amputation and public display of body parts usually kept private seem to have been especially popular. Usually threats, in connection with the loan shark’s menacing physique and reputation for violence, were enough to ensure timely payment, but not always. One mob enforcer confessed that when one borrower didn’t pay up, he “clipped off” a portion of the borrower’s ear and then explained that if “you pay me you can keep the rest of your ear.” If not, he would take the remainder. “Then the next day I’ll take your other ear. Then we’ll start on your fingers.” Still other delinquent customers were enlisted by the shark into criminal activity to pay off their debts.

Liberal politicians and consumer advocates were finally forced to admit that usury ceilings ended up hurting those they intended to help. In 1964, the New York state legislature opened an inquiry into the state’s billion-dollar loan-sharking racket. Sen.-elect Robert F. Kennedy, in a statement filed with the committee, recommended “altering the state laws on usury so an insolvent person who needs money for legitimate purposes might borrow it at rates that were not exorbitant.”

Kennedy’s sentiment echoed the economic and sociological consensus of the time. A year before becoming the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Paul Samuelson had appeared before the Massachusetts legislature to testify that “[f]or 50 years” research demonstrated that “setting too low ceilings on small loan interest rates will result in drying up legitimate funds to the poor who need it most and will send them into the hands of the illegal loan sharks.” He continued, “History is replete with cases where loan sharks have lobbied in legislatures for unrealistic minimum rates, knowing such meaningless ceilings would permit them to charge much higher rates.” A decade later, a Cornell study prepared for the United States Department of Justice concluded, “[T]here can be little doubt that [usury laws], at least in part, have created a black market for credit dominated by organized crime.”

The high inflation rates of the 1970s tolled the intellectual death knell for restrictive interest rate ceilings and the Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in the Marquette National Bank case effectively deregulated credit card interest rates by holding that the applicable interest rate on a credit card would be the issuing bank’s state ceiling, not the consumer’s state. The results transformed the American economy: Between 1970 and 2000, the percentage of American households with general purpose credit cards rose from 15% to 70%. And loan sharking became the thing of movies, cable television programs — and now, ill-conceived legislative proposals.

Comparing today’s financial markets to Hollywood villains diminishes the real terror that loan sharks inflicted on generations of immigrant and working-class families and ignores the pivotal role of usury ceilings in creating the conditions for loan sharks to operate. The story of the relationship between usury ceilings and loan sharking is one that’s had numerous remakes and sequels. It always ended the same way — with desperate borrowers turning to illegal lenders to get money in a pinch. Congress can pass all the laws it wants, but it can’t repeal the law of supply and demand — or the law of unintended consequences.

Thanks to Todd J. Zywicki.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia - A Quality Work by @NateHendley

From the James gang to Nicky Barnes to John Gotti, the American gangster has become an iconic outsized American archetype, with the real criminals sometimes rivaling their fictional counterparts—like the Corleones and the Sopranos—for their ability to captivate the public and attain genuine folk antihero status.

A detailed compendium of American gangsters and gangs from the end of the Civil War to the present day.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, ranges from Western outlaws revered as Robin Hoods to the Depression’s flamboyant bootleggers and bank robbers to the late 20th century’s drug kingpins and “Dapper Dons.” It is the first comprehensive resource on the gangster’s historical evolution and unshakable grip on the American imagination.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, tells the stories of a number of famous gangsters and gangs—Jesse James and Billy the Kid, the Black Hand, Al Capone, Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels, the Mafia, Crips and Bloods, and more. Avoiding sensationalism, the straightforward entries include biographical portraits and historical background for each subject, as well as accounts of infamous robberies, killings, and other events, all well documented with both archival newspapers and extensive research into the files of the FBI. Readers will understand the families, the places, and the times that produced these monumental criminals, as well as the public mindset that often found them sympathetic and heroic.


  • Comprises 50 alphabetically organized entries on American gangsters and gangs from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Offers a wealth of primary sources, including newspaper articles dating back to the 1880s and FBI files obtained by the author
  • Includes photographs of prominent American gangsters and the aftermaths of their crimes
  • Presents a glossary of gangster slang, past and present
  • Provides a comprehensive index


  • Spans the whole history of the gangster in the United States, from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Features the insights and writing skills of an accomplished author of crime books
  • Makes the connection between gangsters from different eras
  • Dispels a number of misconceptions about gangsters and the destruction they cause

Nate Hendley is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. His published works include Greenwood's Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, Crystal Meth: North America's #1 Drug Problem, Al Capone: Chicago's King of Crime, Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York, and Edwin Alonzo Boyd: Life and Crimes of Canada's Master Bank Robber.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Godfather and Game Theory

An example of commitment using third party contracts is found in Mario Puzo's classic novel The Godfather. Those who may have only seen the film and not read the book might remember a few references to "the hostages" prior to any meetings between the heads of the families. In the book, this is described in much greater detail.

"The Bocchicchio Family was unique in thatThe Godfather, once a particularly ferocious branch of the Mafia in Sicily, it had become an instrument of peace in America." The Bocchicchio Family is described as most ruthless and completely unamenable to logic and reason. Their simple code of vengeance did not make exception - if you harmed a member of their family, revenge would always follow. This irrationality become a limitation in America and the Bocchicchio family "knew they could not compete with their Mafia families in the struggle to organize and control more sophisticated business structures like prostitution, gambling, dope and public fraud." However, searching for an occupation in the new land of America, "the Bocchicchio Family became negotiators and hostages in the peace efforts of warring Mafia families."

Here is the basic idea. Say that Michael Corleone, the head of one Mafia family wishes to meet with Don Tessio, the head of another in order to discuss a deal for mutual advantage. The invited guest has no way of knowing if he will be safe during the visit, and Michael's promises that he will not hurt the guest cannot be believed. There is a problem of commitment here, and without some commitment, the two will not meet.

Enter the Bocchicchio Family. When Michael invites Don Tessio, he not only promises not to harm him, but also hires a member of the Bocchicchio Family to go to Tessio's house. There, the "hostage" will be guarded by Tessio's men. If Don Tessio does not return safely, Tessio's men will kill the hostage. The Bocchicchio Family, seeking revenge, will blame Michael Corleone for the death, since he made the promise that Don Tessio will not be harmed.

Now here is where the Bocchicchio Family's ruthlessness and irrationality is important. They have a reputation for revenge. They can't be bargained with. They can't be bribed. This way, Michael Corleone recognizes that breaking his promise to keep Tessio safe will result, eventually, in his own death. So, he commits to Tessio not through "cheap talk" or empty promises, but through a contract with a third party which is both credible and a strong enough commitment to guarantee that the meeting will take place.

Thanks to Mike Shor

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Godfather Returns

Forty-three years ago, Mario Puzo’s great American tale, The Godfather, was published, and popular culture was indelibly changed.

In The Godfather Returns, acclaimed novelist Mark Winegardner continues the story–the years not covered in Puzo’s bestselling book or in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic films.

It is 1955. Michael Corleone has won a bloody victory in the war among New York’s crime families. Now he wants to consolidate his power, save his marriage, and take his family into legitimate businesses. To do so, he must confront his most dangerous adversary yet, Nick Geraci, a former boxer who worked his way through law school as a Corleone street enforcer, and who is every bit as deadly and cunning as Michael. Their personal cold war will run from 1955 to 1962, exerting immense influence on the lives of America’s most powerful criminals and their loved ones, including

  • Tom Hagen, the Corleone Family’s lawyer and consigliere, who embarks on a political career in Nevada while trying to protect his brother;
  • Francesca Corleone, daughter of Michael’s late brother Sonny, who is suddenly learning her family’s true history and faces a difficult choice;
  • Don Louie Russo, head of the Chicago mob, who plays dumb but has wily ambitions for muscling in on the Corleones’ territory;
  • Peter Clemenza, the stalwart Corleone underboss, who knows more Family secrets than almost anyone;
  • Ambassador M. Corbett Shea, a former Prohibition-era bootlegger and business ally of the Corleones’, who wants to get his son elected to the presidency–and needs some help from his old friends;
  • Johnny Fontane, the world’s greatest saloon singer, who ascends to new heights as a recording artist, cozying up to Washington’s power elite and maintaining a precarious relationship with notorious underworld figures;
  • Kay Adams Corleone, who finally discovers the truth about her husband, Michael–and must decide what it means for their marriage and their children and
  • Fredo Corleone, whose death has never been fully explained until now, and whose betrayal of the Family was part of a larger and more sinister chain of events.

Sweeping from New York and Washington to Las Vegas and Cuba, The Godfather Returns is the spellbinding story of America’s criminal underworld at mid-century and its intersection with the political, legal, and entertainment empires. Mark Winegardner brings an original voice and vision to Mario Puzo’s mythic characters while creating several equally unforgettable characters of his own. The Godfather Returns stands on its own as a triumph–in a tale about what we love, yearn for, and sometimes have reason to fear . . . family.

The Godather II Video Game Goes Gold

Electronic Arts has announced that its slightly-delayed organized crime action game The Godfather II has gold gold for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

The Godfather II puts players in the role of DominicThe Godfather II Video Game, a made mad in the Italian mod. After the leader of Dominic's family is killed at a mob meeting in Havana on the eve of the Cuban Revolution, the Corleone family recruits Dominic to act as Don so Michael Corleone keeps his hands clean while under investigation by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime. Aided by the Corleone's consigliere Tom Hagan (voiced by the role's originator Robert Duvall), Dominic has to figure out how to run his crew, expand a mob empire, reach out to corrupt officials, keep mob rivals in check, and set up new rackets in new markets like Miami and Cuba.

Although an action game, The Godfather II also features a "revolutionary" "Don's View" which offers a 3D visualization of criminal activities, enabling a player to coordinate their strategy and plan their moves.

The Godfather II is rated M for "Mature" by the ESRB.

Thanks to Geoff Duncan

Friday, June 26, 2015

National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets INSIDE THE MAFIA

Four-Hour Series Pierces Inner Workings and Violent History of the Criminal Corporation With Global Reach

Through a pop culture lens, the notorious and mysterious Mafia is typically seen as entertainment: The Godfather; The Sopranos; Goodfellas; Donnie Brasco. Now the National Geographic Channel (NGC) exposes the dramatic history and infiltrates the legendary secrecy of one of the world's most powerful criminal organizations in the four-hour world premiere event, INSIDE THE MAFIA.

Narrated by Ray Liotta -- star of the film Goodfellas -- INSIDE THE MAFIA will premiere Monday, June 13 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 from 9 to 11 pm. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (encore Sunday, June 19 from 7 to 11 p.m. ET). Four programs -- Mafia? What Mafia?, Going Global, The Great Betrayal and The Godfathers -- chronologically trace the growth of the U.S. and Sicilian Mafias, as well as the determined American and Italian efforts to stop it.

"It's not personal; it's just business" is a popular catchphrase attributed to the Mafia's code of honor. And big business it is -- its global assets were on par with some of the richest corporations in the world, bursting for a time with billions in annual profits derived from much of the world's drug trade.

With remarkable access to FBI and DEA agents as well as members of crime families, INSIDE THE MAFIA provides the complete behind-the-scenes story of this powerful enterprise known for its ruthlessness and brutality.

Featured are new and original interviews with influential mobsters like Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and Gambino family soldier Dominick Montiglio, and, on the law enforcement side, Joseph Pistone, the fearless real-life FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco," and DEA undercover agent Frank Panessa, among many others.

Cutthroat deals, gangland assassinations and secret rituals within the infamous global mob are described by these insiders in intimate detail. "The bathroom door was slightly open and there were two bodies hanging with their throats cut," said Montiglio. "Everyone had butcher's kits and they sawed off everything ... chopped off the head, arms, etcetera. Then put them in a box and took 'em to the dumpster. Suffice to say, none of them were ever found."

In addition to inside access to important characters and events, the special uses contemporary and archival news footage, FBI and Italian police surveillance, telephone intercepts, transcriptions from major Mafia trials and dramatic reenactments of clandestine meetings and violent confrontations.

INSIDE THE MAFIA interweaves two parallel stories. The first is the emergence of a "new Mafia" after a historic deal between American and Italian mob families to control the international heroin trade. The second is the tale of the strong anti-Mafia campaign, spearheaded by a small group of law officers determined to permanently undermine the culture and infrastructure of the Cosa Nostra.

Over the course of the series, viewers will become familiar with a core group of warring protagonists. In the Mafia are men like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a Sicilian immigrant who by 1931 murdered his way to the top of the American Mafia; famous mob leader Joe Bonnano; Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who emerged in the 1980s as perhaps the most ruthless and violent Mafia boss ever; Tomasso Buscetta, whose decision to break the Mafia's strict code of silence set in motion a series of events giving U.S. and Italian authorities the upper hand in identifying and tracking key mobsters; reputed Mafia godfather John Gotti; and soldiers like Hill and Montiglio, whose tales of living and working inside the Mafia are gruesome and often shocking.

Fighting the Mafia are Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecutor who challenged the Mafia's power and paid the ultimate price; Pistone ("Donnie Brasco") who still has a mob contract out on his life ("Once folks found out about my cover, there was a contract on me," he says in the program. "It's not something I think about all the time ... if it happens, it happens ... and may the best man win."); Giovanni Falcone's sister, Maria, who was privy to much of her brother's strategy and key events in his life; and lesser-known law officers with colorful and suspenseful inside stories, like Panessa and Carmine Russo, who shadowed the Bonnano crime family.

The rise of the modern Mafia is a gripping and often tragic tale of corruption, crime, murder and betrayal by two distinct operations -- the Sicilian Mafia, running multinational efforts from Palermo, and the American Mafia, controlling one of the biggest marketplaces in the world. Their separate but symbiotic relationship is one that perpetually eluded and confounded U.S. and Italian authorities.

In 1957, a police raid on a Mafia summit in upstate New York revealed to the nation evidence of "organized crime." However, the Cold War took priority at the time, and mob activity continued to thrive. Major breakthroughs in the 1980s cracked open the Mafia's highly lucrative drug trade, and exposed the global reach and immense profits of its dealings.

In the U.S. today, the mob's activities have been scaled back, particularly now that narcotics are distributed via different mobs from the Far East and South America. John Gotti's prosecution created a domino effect, crippling all five of the crime families of New York. They are now a shadow of an organization that once claimed politicians as their friends; however, as recent arrests have indicated, the Mafia continues to operate in some capacity in the U.S. In the past few months, New York authorities indicted 32 people after a two-and-half year "Donnie Brasco style" undercover sting, and 14 Chicago Mafia members were indicted in April, a move authorities claim shed light on 18 previously unsolved murders dating back to 1970.

In Sicily, the situation is very different. The Mafia has largely abandoned its policy of violence in order to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities; however, according to the chief prosecutor of Palermo, they are even more dangerous now that many people believe that the problem is in some way over.

The days of the Mafia's massive, unchecked drug-dealing have gone, but INSIDE THE MAFIA shows that the organization -- particularly its blueprint for how national and ethnic groups can operate on a global scale -- continues to be a thriving and insidious role model for racketeering everywhere.

INSIDE THE MAFIA is produced for NGC by Wall to Wall Media. Jonathan Hewes is executive in charge of production; Alex West is executive producer; Charlie Smith is producer. For NGC, CarolAnne Dolan is supervising producer; Michael Cascio is executive producer; John Ford is executive in charge of production.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Is the Food at Mob Eateries Overrated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Steve Cuozzo

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Would You Help Michael Corleone?

A couple of years ago, EA took on the ambitious task of creating a video game based around the iconic film, The Godfather. While video games based off of films generally turn out to be real stinkers, the developers had some interesting concepts that eventually made the video game adaptation a hit. One major aspect of the first game that was missing was the feeling of actually being a Don and controlling your crime family. EA thought this through, and due to the overwhelming request for a follow up, it was one aspect they couldn’t refuse for the sequel.

The Godfather II takes place during the eve of the Cuban revolution. In the midst of a major mob meeting in Havana, the Don of your family is killed and you take control of your battered organization. Once Michael Corleone is investigated by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime, he calls upon you to gain control and reestablish the New York operation and make an expansion into Miami. To succeed you must hire men, gain loyalty, extort businesses, and if need be, take out a made man or two. As they say, it’s only business.

Admittedly the concepts behind this new game made my mouth water with anticipation. I mean finally I get to be the Don of my own family and take siege of territories. With that said, the actual strategies of the game fare very well. You get to recruit your own members one by one, taking in consideration what strategies will be best suited for each operation. You get to have conversations with each new recruit to see if their lifestyle and goals mesh with your own. Once you have your crew established, it’s time to make some money. You can start off by taking over one business at a time, but most businesses are linked which allow you to quickly organize your own crime ring. To take over businesses you have to intimidate the owners. You don’t wanna go in guns a blazing, that does no one any good, not to mention who wants to own a bullet riddled burlesque house? Each owner can be manipulated by a series of measures, physically, destroying property, it is up to you to find the owner’s weak spot and exploit it to take over a business, and maybe even earn a little extra scratch if you take your time with such actions.

Of course just taking over business isn’t as easy as going in and roughing up the place. You will have rival families to deal with, and not just the ones who own the rackets, but other families who are just as eager to make a name for themselves. You can set up guards to hold down any businesses you control, and if need be, send one of your own family to take care of the business and increase that man’s loyalty to the family. If you find that a particular family is getting too greedy, you can take out a made guy and show that family who is boss. There will be certain circumstances where the made man is too strong to just walk in and execute, so it is up to you to find out the right way to take them out as if not to have the entire family gunning for you.

Here you can find key individuals on the street from civilians who need a favor or even corrupt officials who are on the take. They will not only tell you the location of the made guy in question, but provide clues on how to properly perform the execution.

All these factors can be controlled by looking at the “Don’s View” menu that shows you the entire map and the specific locales and people involved. It is here where you can manage your affairs such as money, how many guards to control areas, where made men hide out, etc. This all sounds good right? Well indeed the whole Don control aspects are the meat of the game and will keep anyone interested from beginning to end. I do have a few certain gripes about the way the A.I. plays out in this portion of the game, such as territories being taken over too quickly, or even retaken over once controlled. So there are a few setbacks that hamper exploration in the game.

Where The Godfather II hurts in implementation is the actual gameplay itself. With a little more polish on visuals, controls, and A.I. The Godfather II could have been something special. Not that the game is unplayable or has major problems, but little things like floaty controls, the inability to jump unless prompted, the less than next generation visuals, and extremely dumb and erratic A.I. keep the game from living up to the expectations of many gamers. All my little nitpicks are vague and if you really enjoy the strategies and aspects of the Godfather II, then you will soon forget about the issues and appreciate what it does best; allows you to finally be the Don. There are many gamers out there who will let the action portions of the game intrude on their enjoyment, which is a shame as the core of the game is very addictive.

The Godfather II offers online play, but at the time of this review (before the game’s official release), it wasn’t yet implemented, so I was unable to be apart of the game’s online experience. You can however, join up and have an all out crew battle with 16 players by taking members of your own family online, raising their ranks, and even transfer cash into the single player campaign.

I for one love what ideas the developers had in store with The Godfather II. The strategy elements were well thought out, implemented nicely, and the game really gives players the feeling of controlling your own family. If a bit more polish and time were given to the game’s action portion, The Godfather II would indeed be one you couldn’t refuse. As is, I can only suggest playing it first to see if you are the kind of gamer who appreciates the game enough to endure the subtle flaws. If you are, you can rest assured you will have a great time going to the mattresses.

Thanks to Brian Peterson

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How the Cast of The Godfather was Trained by The Real Mafia

The real Mafia played a significant—if hidden—role in the creation of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather, and Mark Seal’s story in the 2009 Hollywood Issue (“The Godfather Wars”) detailed most of it. But one of the most remarkable anecdotes came to light only after the magazine was published, when the daughter of a reputed mobster told V.F. how her family befriended, tutored, and overfed the Corleones.

You always lament the ones that get away. In “The Godfather Wars,” my article in the March 2009 issue of Vanity Fair about how the actual Mafia interacted with the Hollywood cast and crew in the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film, I wrote briefly about Al Lettieri, the brooding actor who breathed fire into the part of Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, the drug-dealing gangster who sets up the hit on Don Corleone. “Lettieri hadn’t had to study the Mob to get into his part,” the article stated. “One of his relatives was a member.” As I learned from the actor’s ex-wife, Lettieri brought Marlon Brando to dinner at this relative’s house in New Jersey so that Brando, in preparation for his role as Don Corleone, could “get the flavor.”

I spent a considerable amount of time trying to track down Lettieri’s Mob-connected kin, but I was unsuccessful—until, that is, the day the magazine hit newsstands nationwide, when a woman called the offices of Vanity Fair and said that through a good friend she knew all about the dinner in New Jersey. That friend, Giovannina Bellino, whom she called “a real-life Meadow Soprano,” was the daughter of Lettieri’s relative and wanted to tell the story of how, on one incredible night in 1971, her family and the Corleones bonded over eggplant parmigiana and gallons of good red wine. Before I knew it, I had her on the phone.

“I was 15, going on 16,” said Giovannina, who goes by Gio. Her father, Pasquale “Patsy Ryan” Eboli—“a reputed capo in the Genovese crime family,” according to The New York Times—got a call from his brother-in-law Al Lettieri. “How about if I bring some of the cast over for a nice dinner?,” Lettieri asked. Eboli said sure; after all, his brother, Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli, the head of the Genovese family, had granted permission for Lettieri to get involved with the film in the first place. So Gio’s mother, Jean (Lettieri’s sister), prepared some of her Italian specialties, set the table, and put on some music.

The doorbell rang at seven p.m. at the family house in Fort Lee, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. “I opened the front door and there was Marlon Brando, James Caan, Morgana King [who played Don Corleone’s wife], Gianni Russo [who played Don Corleone’s son-in-law, Carlo], Al Ruddy [the film’s producer], and my uncle Al [Lettieri],” recalls Gio. “We all went downstairs into the family room, where the table was set and where we had the pool table and the bar.”

Gio was shuttling between the kitchen and the family room, serving food and wine as the cast became acquainted with the family. “Marlon Brando loved my mom’s eggplant parmigiana,” Gio says. “I remember sitting with him on the basement steps and watching this little drip of olive oil going down his chin and him telling my mother, ‘Jean, this is the best eggplant I’ve ever eaten!’ [See the food page of Gio’s Web site,, for the recipe.] It was a wonderful, relaxed, and casual evening—I danced with James Caan all night.” She laughs. “I’m sure the Fed who was parked up the block­—this guy that was always tailing my father—got a big kick out of it.”

A few weeks later, Gio’s mother made linguine with clam sauce for another special guest: the impoverished young actor Al Pacino. “I remember he was very quiet, and we had to pay his cab fare,” says Gio. The role of Michael Corleone required the New York–born Pacino to speak Italian in several scenes, and he had come to the Eboli house with Lettieri to work on his Italian for the famous sequence in which Michael guns down the double-crossing Sollozzo and the crooked police captain, McCluskey, played by Sterling Hayden. “My dad and Uncle Al spoke Italian fluently,” Gio says. “They drank plenty of wine that night. My brother joked at the time, ‘How’s this kid going to get the lines down after they go through six bottles?’”

That brother, Pat Eboli, was on the set later for the pivotal scene. “Pacino was definitely struggling with the Italian,” says Pat. “I remember Hayden saying, ‘If I have to eat any more of this spaghetti, I’m going to explode.’ Eventually, they decided to rework the scene.” Michael looks over at the cop—who’s busy with his spaghetti and obviously not paying attention—before turning to Sollozzo and breaking into English to tell him: “What I want, what’s most important to me, is that I have a guarantee: no more attempts on my father’s life.”

As movie audiences all across America thrilled to the saga of the Corleone family, a real-life drama unfolded in the Eboli family. At one a.m. on July 16, 1972, four months after the premiere of The Godfather, Gio’s uncle Tommy Eboli was found dead on a Brooklyn street, having been struck by five bullets to the head and neck. The police said that he had probably been shot in or near his car and that he had staggered to the sidewalk before collapsing. “When I heard about it, I pictured the scene in The Godfather when Don Corleone got shot,” Gio says. As for her father, Patsy Eboli, he disappeared in 1976 and was never heard from again. The only trace he left behind was “a bill for long-term parking at Kennedy Airport,” where his Cadillac was found abandoned with the keys in the glove compartment. In addition to losing her father and her Uncle Tommy in the 1970s, Gio also lost her Uncle Al. The actor died of a heart attack in 1975, at age 47. Like so many of his co-stars, he contributed to the greatness of The Godfather not only with his performance but also with his connections.

Thanks to Mark Seal

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Be the Don and Build Your Crime Family on April 7, 2009

"The Godfather II is taking the open-world genre in an entirely new direction by combining the furious combat of acting like a mobster, with the strategic gameplay of thinking like a Don," says Hunter Smith, Executive Producer for The Godfather II.

"As game makers, when we looked at what lies at the heart of the Godfather universe, we discovered a game focused around organized crime. The Corleones and all the other families schemed and fought to gain access and control of different territories, so that they could control the flow of money in those areas.

This underlying battle cloaked secrecy is what The Godfather II and mafia life is all about, and we wanted players to be in control as a Don and make those strategic decisions to lead their families to success."

As a Don in the Corleone family, The Godfather II allows players to carve out their own story of deception, betrayal, and conquest in a 1960's organized crime world. Interacting closely with major characters, your story will interweave with many of the key events From The film, such as the meeting of the Don's in Cuba, blackmailing Senator Geary, and the Senate investigation of organized crime.

Players will have to invest in their family, manage their business, and reach out to corrupt officials - all of which is done through the revolutionary Don's View. The Don's View is a 3D representation of the player's criminal empire; it allows them to coordinate their strategy, plan hits on rival made men, attack enemy rackets, and much more. By letting players call the shots, The Godfather II delivers the ultimate organized crime experience.

Developed at the EA Redwood Stores studio, The Godfather II will be coming to the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system, PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system, and PC.

Players who pre-order The Godfather II at participating retailers worldwide will receive an exclusive crew member, named Tommy Cipolla, to hire into their family. The Godfather II has been rated M for Mature by the ESRB and 18+ for PEGI.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum

After taking a hail of bipartisan bullets in recent days over the suggestion that a federal stimulus package should help pay for a proposed $50 million museum here on the history of organized crime, the project’s godfathers are returning fire, complaining that Washington pols are scapegoating the museum and the city.

The planned Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a k a “the Mob Museum” on its own Web site, is to include interactive exhibits where visitors can snap their mug shots, stand in police lineups and wiretap one another. Such a center, Mayor Oscar B. Goodman said in an interview Thursday, is “absolutely falling within the four corners of what President-elect Obama is trying to achieve.”

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum“This is a project where all the plans are in place and we can start it within 30 days,” said Mr. Goodman, a former criminal defense lawyer who represented several Mafia figures in the 1970s and 1980s.

Citing studies showing that 250,000 tourists a year would visit the attraction and noting that tourism is to Las Vegas what car sales are (or were) to Detroit, the mayor continued: “I don’t know why Mitch McConnell would take on this project. It’s a great project.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and the minority leader, attacked the museum this week as a kind of localized earmark project that does not belong in legislation Congress passes to jumpstart the flailing economy.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and the majority leader, said Mr. McConnell’s statements were “moot because Senator Reid has been clear that there will be no earmarks” in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, as President-elect Barack Obama calls it. Instead, Mr. Summers said, the money is likely to go to federal agencies for disbursement based on criteria not yet decided.

Slated to open in 2010, the museum would occupy the entire 42,000 square feet of a three-story neoclassical building that was the first federal courthouse in Clark County and one of the sites of the 1950 hearings into organized crime led by Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat of Tennessee.

The creative director of the planned museum, Dennis Barrie, who also curated the International Spy Museum in Washington and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, said the structure was the second-oldest in Las Vegas and needed a $26 million restoration.

So far, $15 million has been raised, including about $3.6 million in federal grants and a nearly equal amount in state and local money, since 2001. A full-throttle fund-raising effort is to begin later this year. The federal government deeded the building to the city for $1 in 2000 with the stipulation that it be put to a cultural use. Restoration has begun.

“I’m sure it’s good fodder for politicians,” Mr. Barrie said, “but the interesting thing about the mob museum is that it’s a real look at the history of organized crime in America that goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the mob came out of the various ghettos and how it influenced America. A lot of people, what they know about the topic is what they learned from Hollywood.”

That said, Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone would get their due in a room about the Mafia’s influence on popular culture, and visitors would be exposed to unvarnished tales of the exploits of law-enforcement and mob figures, said Ellen Knowlton, a retired special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is the museum’s chairwoman.

“We’re trying to make sure this project is as accurate as possible,” Ms. Knowlton said, “so there are people involved who have had organized crime in their life or family. I don’t want to go beyond that to say who is participating. But it’s interesting that a number of people want their family’s side of the story told accurately.”

Even within Las Vegas, though, the project is controversial. The mayor acknowledged that some Italian-Americans were so alarmed when he first hit upon the idea in 2002 that he backed off quickly, joking that he had actually proposed a “mop museum.”

The F.B.I. supports the museum and has agreed to lend records and other artifacts to be exhibited. But among those opposed is a former federal prosecutor, Donald Campbell, who had a hand in breaking the mob’s hold on Las Vegas in the 1980s. “I don’t think we should ever romanticize a criminal activity,” Mr. Campbell said.

A spokesman for Senator McConnell, Don Stewart, said the senator was not attacking the idea of the museum so much as Mayor Goodman’s inclusion of it on the list of projects he would jumpstart with stimulus money. “The parameters for this bill need to be, does it create jobs, is it a waste of the taxpayers’ dollars, is it something that will help us long-term, not just a temporary thing, ” Mr. Stewart said.

Supporters say the museum will do just what the bill intends.

“This project exactly meets the criteria," said Alan Feldman, a museum board member and senior vice president of the casino giant MGM Mirage, the state’s largest private employer. “It is a construction project. It’s a legacy project; it’s a project that stimulates the economy by putting a wonderful tourist attraction downtown.”

Either way, Mr. Goodman is clearly enjoying the national attention the museum financing plan has prompted. “This is $1 million worth of publicity for us,” he said. “I love it. Just spell my name right.”

Thanks to Steve Friess

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Are the Clintons the New Corleones?

Interesting call from a woman to the Rush Limbaugh radio show in which Hillary Clinton is compared to mafia wives and Bill Clinton is portrayed as The Godfather.

RUSH: Peggy in Fort Pierce, Florida, great to have you on the program. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Rush --

RUSH: Yes.

Are the Clintons the New Corleones?CALLER: -- just what you said before, it's a theory I've had for a long time. I think Hillary is a Mafia wife. If you saw the Married to the Mob movie, it was those gals that pretended they didn't know how their husbands gave them the money, or got the money for their perks. Now, I feel Hillary is the same thing. I think Tim Russert is way off saying, you know, she wasn't aware, everybody feels so badly for her --

RUSH: Wait, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa -- Russert said she wasn't aware of what?

CALLER: That she was not aware that he was that much of a cheese or that he was cheating on her, or as she said, he's never going to do it again. This gal doesn't care. This gal has a nuptial agreement, never mind a prenup. She is going to go for the perks just like, God forgive me, the Kennedy women did. It's you just turn a blind eye, you turn your head, your husband's cheating, but you're getting power, money, notoriety. It's like selling your soul.

RUSH: You know, I can't argue with that. That is a pretty good analogy.


RUSH: I'll tell you why I like it, too. I like it because it's coming from you, a woman.


RUSH: See, if I had said that, a lot of women who might be predisposed to agree with me would still have gotten angry because I was sounding like I was speaking disrespectfully, but you can say that, and it has power because it connects. I'm glad that you called. I had never consciously looked at it that way. Because you're absolutely right, there's no way she doesn't know what he's been doing --

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: -- for all of these years.

CALLER: Exactly.

RUSH: She's exacted a price for it.

CALLER: Yes, she has, and she's going to exact a bigger price if she gets in any position to. She's going to buy his silence. Omerta.

RUSH: Well, all right, now, let me ask you this. Continuing here with the Mafia analogy.


RUSH: Don Clintonleone.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: It is now his wife who seeks to run the mob.

RUSH: What if she loses? What if she loses? Don Clintonleone is of no more value to her.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: He is only a liability. And, of course, Don Clintonleone will see her as a liability, because you can't get back where he wants, the White House, without her getting there. What, then, happens to this famous mob couple?

CALLER: I wonder if they would have the guts to shed themselves of each other, because I think they're just hanging on to each other for what they can get out of it.

RUSH: Well, this is --

CALLER: There's no love there. I don't know if there ever was. But even if there was, as I said, she sold out a long time. She sold out on women. That's why I can't understand why more women don't see that. Women are smart.

RUSH: A lot do. A lot do.

Thanks to Rush Limbaugh

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Blood vs. Blood in Operation Family Secrets

The mob hit men were under the gun -- literally -- as they exited the brown Ford LTD and approached their target in front of the His 'N Mine Lounge in Cicero.

One of them, Nick Calabrese, felt he had a choice. Either kill the intended victim, Richard Ortiz, an alleged dope peddler who had crossed the mob -- or be killed himself.

Nearby, in the car he just left, sat his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., with a gun aimed out the window. Frank Calabrese Sr. was providing cover for the hit men. He could just as easily mow them down if they froze on the job.

Nick Calabrese had no doubt his brother would do it if he didn't complete the job, according to federal court testimony. It was not a new feeling for Nick Calabrese. He and other family members often worried that Frank Calabrese Sr. was going to kill them. In fact, Frank Calabrese Sr. instilled fear and terror into his family every day.

Interviews with friends and acquaintances of the family and law enforcement sources along with a review of court records provide fresh details on life in the Calabrese family. The stereotype of the mobster -- whether it's Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone -- is that while he does business brutally, he treats his family with honor and respect. Calabrese Sr. shattered that perception, according to interviews and court records.

In the 1983 murder of Ortiz, the victim had been stalked for months. Nick Calabrese had called off one hit attempt because he believed it was too risky. But rather than tell his brother the truth and incur his wrath, he told him another hit man, James DiForti, froze during the job.

Frank Calabrese Sr. told Nick Calabrese he should have killed Ortiz anyway. And then Frank Calabrese Sr. told his brother he should have killed DiForti, as well.

Such brutality and ruthlessness may help explain why Calabrese Sr. has not one but two family members cooperating against him in a case that has been called the most important mob prosecution in Chicago history. The investigation is called Family Secrets, and it indeed will reveal some of the deepest family secrets of the Chicago Outfit. But underlying the case are other family secrets -- those of the Calabrese family -- that many never saw but that still haunt the family.

At the trial starting in May, Nick Calabrese will testify about the mob killings he and his brother went out on together, such as the Ortiz killing. In that case, Nick Calabrese and DiForti went through with the hit at the His 'N Mine.

Calabrese Sr.'s son Frank Jr. was less involved in the mob life and has gone clean. He will tell jurors about the conversations he had with his father as they walked the yard while in prison together on another case in 1999 -- conversations he secretly recorded at great risk to himself to ensure his father never saw freedom again.

In those conversations, Calabrese Sr. may have believed he was advising his son on mob life and planting the seeds with him to continue the Calabrese legacy in the Outfit. Instead, he may have been sowing his own destruction.

Frank Calabrese Sr. is even recorded once on tape telling his son he would send "his blessing" if other top mobsters determined his brother Nick was cooperating and had him killed.

How Frank Calabrese Sr. treated his children became a sore point between Calabrese Sr. and his brother Nick. The tension reached a high point during the first federal case against them in 1995, according to law enforcement sources.

While Frank Sr. and Nick had deep involvement in their street crew, Frank Jr., had much less involvement, while his son Kurt's role was virtually nonexistent.

Nick Calabrese felt his brother could have better looked out for his sons in the case and worked to reduce any chance of prison time for the two young men. But in the end, both went to prison. While Calabrese Sr. was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, son Frank got 57 months and Kurt got 2 years.

When Frank Calabrese Jr. and his younger brother, Kurt, were growing up in Elmwood Park, their childhood, from the outside, seemed normal and all-American, according to people who know them. They lived in a tight-knit, Italian-American neighborhood, going to school at John Mills Elementary and to what was then Holy Cross High School.

In the community, Frank Calabrese Sr. worked to portray himself as a great father, one who was always friendly with the neighborhood kids. Inside the home, though, was a radically different story.

Calabrese Sr. would at times erupt in rages, even over the smallest matters, and scream like a maniac at his two sons, according to sources who know the family. Following the humiliation would come the beatings, with Kurt Calabrese often taking the worst of it. It was a reign of terror that left both sons dreading the time their father came home every day. The abuse continued into adulthood.

When Kurt Calabrese, for instance, got married in the early 1990s, the matter was not a cause of celebration for his father. Kurt was seeing the granddaughter of Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, a brutal mobster who was Calabrese Sr.'s mentor in the mob.

Neither Calabrese Sr. nor LaPietra wanted the two young people to see each other, but the two fell in love and secretly got married.

On his wedding night, Kurt Calabrese broke the news to his father while they were sitting down at a restaurant in the west suburbs. Calabrese Sr. was stunned that his son would disobey him and punched him in the face. Fearing for his life, Kurt Calabrese hightailed it out of the restaurant and drove off. The two engaged in a high-speed chase, with Kurt Calabrese eventually eluding him.

Chicago political operative Frank Coconate, a friend of Frank Jr.'s, pointed to that confrontation as an example of the price the family paid for Calabrese Sr.'s decisions. "That's what the Outfit does, it makes you choose between them and your family," Coconate said. Frank Calabrese Sr. "chose the mob and threw his family in the gutter."

Despite often taking the worst of the abuse, Kurt Calabrese is not cooperating in the case, law enforcement sources said.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney Joseph Lopez denied that his client ever abused his children and said the elder Calabrese loves both sons dearly. But Lopez also went on the attack on Frank Calabrese Jr., calling him a con artist who "could sell air conditioners to Eskimos."

Calabrese Jr., who is believed to be living out of state, put his life on the line by secretly recording his father, according to court testimony and law enforcement sources. FBI agents did not have the ability to listen in on the conversations as they happened, and if his father attacked him, agents -- whose presence at the prison was a secret -- were not close enough to protect him, law enforcement sources have said. Calabrese Jr.'s key reason for cooperating with the government was to keep his father locked up for good, sources said.

People who associated with Calabrese Sr. say no one was safe from his wrath. Even having breakfast at a restaurant with Calabrese Sr. could turn into a free-for-all. Calabrese Sr. would be very particular about his order. If the waitress should make an error, the mobster would erupt in a fury, spewing obscenities.

Calabrese Sr.'s demanding nature has not mellowed with age.

Well-known Chicago private investigator Ernie Rizzo learned that firsthand when Calabrese Sr. hired him last year to help him prepare for trial, according to a source familiar with Rizzo's account. Calabrese Sr.'s trial strategy is to try to dig up dirt on his son Frank Jr. in an attempt to undermine his testimony.

It's unclear how attacking the son, though, will counter Calabrese's Sr. own words on hours of secretly recorded conversations in which he discusses mob hits. His attorney has suggested in court that Calabrese Sr. was merely bragging about things he actually never took part in.

Calabrese Sr. wanted Rizzo's office number. And his cell phone numbers. Plus his home phone number. And the phone numbers of any bars where he hung out.

Calabrese Sr. also was frustrated with his attorney, Lopez, because Lopez allegedly wasn't taking his calls -- or calls from his representatives -- as often as Calabrese Sr. wanted.

So Calabrese Sr. wanted to find out if Rizzo had better luck with Lopez. Calabrese Sr. wanted Rizzo to keep a log on how many phone calls it took before the attorney answered Rizzo's calls. That way, Calabrese Sr. would have something to badger Lopez about.

Calabrese Sr. "orders people around like a hit man," Rizzo would say, according to the source.

The thing that disturbed Rizzo most was that Calabrese Sr. would try to get to meet him alone, away from his lawyer, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop, where Calabrese Sr. is being held. The one-on-one meeting never took place.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Still in the Mob at Almost 100?

Friends of ours: Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Carlo Gambino, Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, Corelone Crime Family, Genovese Crime Family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Liborio "Barney" Bellomo, John Ardito

Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Carlo Gambino are long gone. Murder Inc. is out of business. Las Vegas has been so cleaned up it resembles Disneyland. And Havana? Forget about it since Castro took over. But Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, at 96, is still standing. And like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather III," he is still very much involved in the family business, according to the FBI.

At an age when most people are long retired and happy just to be alive, the reputed mobster was indicted earlier this year in Florida and New York. He is accused of trying to intimidate and possibly kill a witness against the powerful the Genovese family of New York in 2005. He is also accused of helping to run the rackets in Florida.

It was unclear whether Facchiano intended to break legs with his own gnarled, 96-year-old hands.

There have been plenty of elderly Mafia defendants, including 86-year-old Genovese family member Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, who pleaded guilty to federal charges recently in Connecticut. But prosecutors, defense lawyers and Mafia experts say they can't remember someone Facchiano's age facing crimes of such recent vintage.

"I don't think there's anybody older than him," said Jerry Capeci, author of several books on organized crime and operator of the Internet site ganglandnews. "The rule is, you go in alive and you go out dead. You're not allowed to quit."

It appears that Facchiano, also known as "The Old Man," lived up to that Mafia credo, according to prosecutors. Facchiano, born in 1910, has been a "made member" of the nation's largest and most powerful Mafia family for decades, but was a low-level figure, rising no higher than soldier, according to the FBI. His nickname is apparently a play on his last name.

He was a boy when Arnold Rothstein supposedly fixed the 1919 World Series. He was a young man during the Depression when he took his first arrest. He was entering middle age during La Cosa Nostra's go-go years in the 1940s and '50s, when the Mafia skimmed its share of America's postwar prosperity. And he was a senior citizen in the 1980s and '90s when John Gotti and other bosses were taken down by the FBI.

In Florida, Facchiano was indicted along with the reputed Genovese chief in the Miami area and several others on charges of extortion and racketeering. Prosecutors say Facchiano from 1994 to 2006 mainly supervised associates who committed such crimes as robbery, money laundering and bank fraud.

The New York indictment accuses Facchiano and more than 30 other alleged Genovese members, including acting family boss Liborio "Barney" Bellomo, of a range of mob-related crimes. Facchiano is accused specifically of trying in 2005 to locate and intimidate a government witness known as "Victim-5" in court papers.

In one conversation picked up on an FBI listening device, Genovese associate John Ardito said he and Facchiano were "the hit men" who were looking for Victim-5, according to federal prosecutors. Ardito traveled from New York to Florida to meet with Facchiano about Victim-5, who had "gone wrong," according to an FBI transcript.

Facchiano pleaded not guilty and is free on bail, living at a condominium in swank Bal Harbor with a daughter. Facchiano's lawyer in the Florida case, Brian McComb, would not discuss the charges. He said his client is in reasonably good health, apart from a bad back and difficulty hearing. "He's got the typical ailments of an almost 97-year-old man," McComb said. "From day to day, who knows? He seems like a very nice gentleman."

Facchiano's first arrest came in 1932, on robbery and receiving stolen goods charges out of Pittsburgh, according to an FBI rap sheet. He got a sentence of two to five years, then was arrested again in 1936 in New York on grand larceny charges and yet again in 1944 on a bookmaking count. The records do not show how much prison time he did, if any.

"Chinky" stayed relatively clean until 1979, when he was arrested on federal racketeering charges and got a 25-year sentence. He served eight years, winning release at age 79. Then, nothing until his twin arrests this year.

If convicted on all charges, Facchiano could be looking at a sentence of well over 60 years in prison. Given the slow pace of federal prosecutions, he could be nearly 100 by the time he is sentenced.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons records show that as of the end of 2003 - the last year complete records are available - there were 30 inmates 80 and older. Officials could not say whether anyone as old as Facchiano is behind bars in the federal system.

As for his chances of actually being sent to prison, Ryan King, policy analyst with the nonprofit Sentencing Project, said: "A judge might look at someone in their 90s and consider the likelihood of re-offending. Are they really going to go out and commit another crime?"

Capeci, the Mafia expert, said someone Facchiano's age might have some difficulty keeping up with the younger wiseguys if he does go free. "There's no way a guy at age 96 can threaten people, break legs, do the normal routine that guys 50 and 60 years younger can do," he said. "But the guy is, according to the rules of the Mafia, still a made guy. He still has to take orders from the superiors and do what they tell him."

Thanks to Curt Anderson

Friday, October 06, 2006

Taste of Mob Life at Little Italy in New York

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family, Corleone Crime Family, Tony Soprano, Vito Corleone, Al Capone, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, "Crazy Joe" Gallo, Mickey Cohen, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, John "Junior Gotti

Once home to New York's huge immigrant Italian population and a hot-bed of mafia activity, Little Italy still draws crowds fascinated by mob life.

Now a popular tourist destination, there is little in Little Italy to back its violent history and visitors are unlikely to encounter anything more unusual than the smell of fresh garlic wafting from family-owned restaurants. But a recent exhibition, "Made In America, the Mob's Greatest Hits," gave fans of fictional mobsters Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone a taste of what the community used to be like with curator Artie Nash in talks to take the show elsewhere.

The exhibition housed in a small museum in Little Italy, featured a collection of original photographs and arrest warrants of some of the most notorious Mafiosos, including Al Capone and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano was the Italian-U.S. mobster behind the explosion in the international heroin trade on whom the character of Vito Corleone in "The Godfather" was loosely based.

Nash, curator of the exhibition, spent the best part of 15 years putting the collection together piece by piece, from both police department sources and from the estates of some of the most famous figures in organized crime. "I am mainly fascinated by the relationship that the American public have had with organized crime. It really has, over the last 75 years, permeated our popular culture to such a great degree," Nash told Reuters.

The mob enjoyed its hey-day during the backbreaking years of the Great Depression and Prohibition in the 1920's and 30's, when gangs all over the country carved out an existence in bootlegging, drug-dealing, blackmail and racketeering.

New York and Chicago were home to some of the most active branches of the mob and violent rivalries between different Mafia "families" often resulted in bloodshed.

Hollywood and the media have contributed in large part to glamorizing the life of the mobster, often depicted as fiercely loyal foot soldiers who struggled to protect their families.

The exhibit has attracted a wide variety of visitors, including students, high-ranking police officers, and even some current crime figures, Nash said.

Actor Leonardo Di Caprio even took a tour of the collection to check out the real "Gangs of New York," the 2002 Martin Scorsese film in which he played a gangster in the blood-soaked turf wars set in the 19th century in the notorious "Five Points" slum in what is now downtown Manhattan.

Popular items include a fedora worn by "Crazy Joe" Gallo, a ruthless Brooklyn-born killer, the day he was shot on Mulberry Street and a collection of silk pajamas from the lavish wardrobe of diminutive dapper Los Angeles don, Mickey Cohen.

The collection also features a series of gruesome photos of the victims of "Murder Inc," a crime organization that carried out hundreds of hits on behalf of the Mafia in the 1920's.

Public interest in the Mafia has been revived in recent years by hit TV drama "The Sopranos" and real-life events such as the trial of accused mob boss John Gotti, son of the late John J. Gotti, former head of New York's Gambino family.


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