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Showing posts with label Gambinos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gambinos. Show all posts

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s "American Gangster," and La Cosa Nostra Connection

Special to The Chicago Syndicate by Ron Chepesiuk

Hollywood has been hard at work molding the image of former 1970s Harlem drug trafficker Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas into the prototype of the modern American gangster. Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s 'American Gangster,' and La Cosa Nostra Connection The image of the Lucas character, played by Denzel Washington, has some shades of Edgar G. Robinson´s Little Caesar and Al Pacino´s Scarface, but while ruthless, the character is also African American, entrepreneurial, independent and even visionary. As part of the creation, Universal, the movie´s maker, would have us believe that Lucas was so entrepreneurial and independent that he became the first black gangster to break free of La Cosa Nostra´s iron grip on the American heroin trade and develop his own independent heroin trafficking network.

In the 2000 New York magazine article upon which the ¨American Gangster¨ movie is based, author Mark Jacobson wrote that if he (Lucas) really wanted to become "white-boy rich, Donald Trump rich," Lucas thought, he'd have to ´cut out the guineas (Italian American mafia). He'd learned as much working for Bumpy (Johnson) , picking up "packages" from Fat Tony Salerno's Pleasant Avenue guys, men with names like Joey Farts and Kid Blast.¨

Jacobson quotes Lucas as saying, ¨I needed my own supply. That's when I decided to go to Southeast Asia. Because the war was on, and people were talking about GIs getting strung out over there. I knew if the shit is good enough to string out GIs, then I can make myself a killing."

In the movie, the Italian American mafia is represented by the character Dominic Cattano. Played by Amand Assante, Cattano works out a deal in which Superfly becomes the white Mob´s major supplier of potent Number 4 heroin from Southeast Asia. At the end of the ¨historic¨ meeting, Lucas dramatically tells his wife: ¨ They (the Mob) work for me now.¨

So how accurate is Hollywood´s depiction of the Lucas--La Cosa relationship? Not very. It´s one of many inaccuracies that make the movie largely a work of fiction. Frank Lucas did not have any independent source of Asian heroin, and he was never in any position to dictate business terms to the Mob. In fact, for most of his career, Lucas got his smack the old fashion way: from La Cosa Nostra.

First some historical background. From the 1950s through the 1960s, the old reliable French Connection dominated the heroin drug trade. It was an efficient network in which Corsican gangsters transported the morphine base from the poppy fields grown in Turkey to Marseille, France. The morphine base was then refined into heroin and smuggled into the U.S., the connection´s biggest market, via Sicily, Italy, and Montreal, Canada.

It was efficient network that, according to the U.S. government reports, accounted for as much as 80 percent of the heroin smuggled into the U.S. By the early 1970s, however, international law enforcement was having great success against the French Connection and taking down its key mobsters. Meanwhile, the U.S persuaded the Turkish government to tighten surveillance of the country´s poppy fields, purchase the poppy crop from its farmers and institute procedures to encourage crop substitution. By 1972, the French Connection was in shambles.

Up until law enforcement began having success against Lucas, he, like other New York city heroin dealers, was getting his heroin supply from La Cosa Nostra. My research shows that Lucas did not come to Bangkok, Thailand until about 1974. Joe Sullivan a retired DEA agent who worked drug cases in East Harlem in the 1970s, recalled: ¨The French Connection was in the process of being dismantled and the supply was tight and expensive,. All the big drug traffickers, including Lucas, was getting their heroin supply from the Italians. Lucas was getting it for about $200,000 a kilo.¨

It didn´t mean that Lucas wasn´t making a lot of money in getting his heroin from the Mob. As Sullivan revealed.¨They (La Cosa Nostra) trusted their foreign contacts and were satisfied with bringing their heroin into the country. But the Italians thought it beneath them to whack the heroin, mix it, put it in glassine envelopes and hawk in the street. They preferred to sell their heroin to the black dealers. A few black dealers, such as Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, became successful controlling the drug business on the street while insulating themselves from the actual distributor.¨

When this author asked Lucas if he had ever worked with the Italian mob, the mere suggestion was enough to set off the old drug trafficker. ¨I was not going to have no fucking fat guy leaning back in the chair, smoking a $20 cigar and bragging how he had another nigger in Harlem working for him,¨Superfly roared. ¨I don´t play that game. The Italians were charging $50,000 to 75,000 a kilo, and I was getting it for $4,000 a kilo (from Asia). My junk traveled from the Mekong Valley to the Ho Chi Minh trail to the U.S.¨

The historical record, however, suggests that for most of Superfly´s criminal career it was otherwise. In June 1974, Lucas went to trial with 12 others for conspiracy to traffic heroin. It was just seven months before the authorities raided his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, and busted him for good. And still at that late date, no mention is made in the court records and in the press of any Asian connection in his drug trafficking plan. That didn´t happen until 1977 when Lucas was in prison and got busted again for trying to keep his heroin network operating.

One defendant in that 1974 trial was prominent Italian American mobster Ralph Tutino, aka ¨The General.¨ Lucas, Tutino and the other defendants were accused of involvement in a heroin smuggling conspiracy. The prosecutor identified Tutino as the principle heroin supplier, and Lucas, along with Robert Stepeney, another heroin drug dealer, as the major distributors.

According to the indictment, La Cosa Nostra mobster Antonio DeLutro delivered a package of about 11 pounds of heroin to Anthony Verzino in November1973 and received, as payment, $250,000 in two installments. Then in December 1973, Mario Perna, and Ernest Maliza, two other La Cosa mobsters, delivered a package containing 22 pounds of heroin to Lucas at the Van Cortlandt Motel in the Bronx. As these transactions clearly show, Lucas was getting his dope from La Cosa Nostra.

Tutino, who lived in the Bronx but had his headquarters in East Harlem, was a big-time heroin trafficker during the French Connection´s heyday. When the authorities busted the French Connection in 1972, many La Cosa Nostra godfathers who had thrived in the old days were now having trouble finding sources of heroin supply. But not Tutino. The authorities suspected him of having a direct connection to Mexican and Asian suppliers.

Lew Rice, a former DEA agent, interrogated Lucas when he decided to become an informant after facing 70 years in jail. According to Rice, after being busted for heroin trafficking, Lucas readily acknowledged to Rice that La Cosa Nostra was his major source of supply. ¨Lucas told me he was getting his heroin from Tutino, The General,¨ Rice recalled.

Lucas´ relationship with La Cosa Nostra could only be described as a rocky marriage of convenience, for Superfly, according to DEA sources, was constantly in deep financial trouble with La Cosa Nostra. He even owed two well-connected mafioso from the Gambino crime family $300,000 and only managed to avoid ending up buried in cement because the two Gambino crime family mobsters were arrested and carted off to jail in 1974.

The mobsters faced the prospect of long prison sentences, so they began singing like the proverbial canary. They revealed that one of their biggest customers for heroin was a prominent and flamboyant black drug dealer named Frank Lucas, who liked to call himself "Superfly." The informants' information allowed the authorities to obtain a search warrant, which authorized the raid on Lucas's house on Sheffield Road in Teaneck, New Jersey, in late January, 1975. This was the beginning of the end of Frank Lucas´s big-time criminal career, thanks to La Cosa Nostra.

Leslie Ike¨ Atkinson, a former U.S. army master sergeant and prominent black American drug dealer of the 1960s to mid 1970s, not Lucas, was the one who pioneered the Asian heroin connection. It is Atkinson, DEA sources confirm, who supplied Superfly with his Asian heroin, making him, not Lucas, deserving of the title, ¨American Gangster.¨

Atkinson, whom the DEA dubbed ¨Sergeant Smack,¨ got a close up look at Lucas´ dealings with La Cosa Nostra. In a recent interview, he remembered the time he was imprisoned in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in the mid 1970s and two members of the Italian American mob paid him a visit. ¨´Frank Lucas said to come see you,´ one of the gangsters told me. ´He did what?´ I said. The mobsters said: ´Frank owes us $80,000 and he said you would take care of it.¨ Atkinson laughed. ¨Frank actually thought he could send two wise guys to me and I would pay off his debt."

Atkinson recalled another occasion when he went to New Jersey to pick up some money Lucas owed him. When he arrived at his destination, Lucas had men posted outside his residence. Superfly was in deep trouble with the Mob again.

So, yes, La Cosa Nostra did come to Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas. But it was to collect money owed him, not to get its heroin supply.

Investigative journalist Ron Chepesiuk is a consultant to the History Channel´s ¨Gangland¨ series and the co-author and co-producer of the book and DVD titled SUPERFLY: THE TRUE-UNTOLD STORY OF FRANK LUCAS THE AMERICANGANGSTER
(www.franklucasamericangangster.com.)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Police Corruption and Cover-ups Surround "The Brotherhood - The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia"

In 1994, an underboss of the Lucchese crime family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, flipped. He was in federal custody, facing numerous murder and racketeering counts, when he informed FBI agents that, in return for a "pad" of $4,000 a month, two New York City Police Department detectives had regularly slipped him confidential information from police and FBI organized-crime files: names and addresses of confidential informants (who were then knocked off), tipoffs on raids and phone taps, and advance warnings of arrests.

For almost a decade, Casso said that the two detectives, Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, conducted secret investigations for the Lucchese family. Eventually, Casso claimed, he hired the detectives as hit men. They used their badges to put unsuspecting gangland targets at ease, killed them and collected payoffs of up to $100,000.

What makes "Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia" even more alarming is the criminal negligence of law-enforcement officials, who showed little interest in bringing Caracappa and Eppolito to justice. "The Brotherhoods" chronicles years of egregious police corruption and the stupefying bureaucratic indifference that allowed it to flourish. It was not until 11 years after Casso first fingered the two cops that they were finally arrested.

After receiving life sentences, the two had their convictions thrown out by a judge who ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. At the time of their arrest, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said, "It's been a long time coming." Well, it's still not over. The book closes with the government's appeal of the ruling.

Investigative journalist Guy Lawson teamed up for this book with William Oldham, a retired NYPD detective who spearheaded the police corruption investigation as an investigator for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. Oldham brings an insider's insight and analysis to this absorbing book, which serves as a cautionary tale to all police departments. Because the NYPD brass did not assiduously follow up on the signs of corruption, the job of every cop in the department became more difficult.

Eppolito and Caracappa were longtime best friends and former partners as young detectives in south Brooklyn. Thin, quiet and with a preference for dark suits, Caracappa was called "the Prince of Darkness" by other detectives. He was also one of the department's top detectives, a go-to guy in the elite Major Case Squad, which investigated high-profile, difficult cases. Caracappa had "written the book on organized crime murders in New York," the authors explain. "If a wise guy was killed in Queens or the Bronx and the homicide detective who caught the case wanted to know how his victim fit in the Mafia, he would look in Caracappa's book for connections."

Eppolito, on the other hand, was "fat, loud, foul-mouthed ... with a thick mustache and a taste for gold chains. ... He was a conspicuous cop - he dressed like a wise guy." He also wrote a memoir called "Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob." Given his family's connections with organized crime, it is remarkable that NYPD screeners let Eppolito onto the force. His grandfather - "Diamond Louie" - and his father - "Fat the Gangster" - were members of the Gambino crime family.

Eppolito served as his father's bagman when he was a boy, handing cash to local cops so they wouldn't break up Fat the Gangster's dice and poker games. At his father's funeral - where the FBI took surveillance photos of the numerous organized-crime figures in attendance - Eppolito was slipped notes by wise guys.

After killing time at a no-work job set up by a Gambino relative, Eppolito decided to join the NYPD. To Eppolito's way of thinking, he was simply exchanging one brotherhood for another.

Eppolito retired before his memoir was published; Caracappa didn't. He was still on the force, and in the author's note for "Mafia Cop," Eppolito calls him "my closest and dearest friend." When Oldham came across a copy of Eppolito's memoir in the early 1990s, he was assigned to the Major Case Squad along with Caracappa. Oldham was stunned that Caracappa, who had access to the department's most sensitive intelligence, would be best friends with a dubious character like Eppolito. That was Oldham's first clue that the Mafia might have made inroads into the NYPD.

When Casso told federal authorities about Caracappa and Eppolito's criminality, Oldham assumed investigations would be launched. When the detectives later retired to Las Vegas and bought homes in a luxury development across the street from each other, Oldham was outraged. The crooked cops had skated. Oldham decided to investigate the case himself - first as an NYPD detective and later from the U.S. attorney's office.

In 2004, Oldham's situation improved, as the book relates: "Finally ... a small group of detectives and investigators came together to work on the investigation. Oldham called them 'the cadre.' ... They were all determined to see that justice was done. All of the voluminous information Oldham had gathered over the years was examined anew. More evidence was uncovered. Compelling connections between 'the cops' and long-forgotten murders were unearthed. Even with the accumulated facts, Oldham knew the case needed someone inside the conspiracy ... to take the disparate strands of the case and pull them together. He needed a storyteller."

Oldham found him in "Downtown" Burt Kaplan, a colorful Jewish gangster who was one of the most notorious dealers in stolen goods in New York. It was Kaplan who first made contact with the two detectives; it was Kaplan who set them up with organized-crime figures, and it was Kaplan who ultimately turned on them and testified in court.

Of course, it shouldn't have taken until 2005 to convict Caracappa and Eppolito. Shortly after teaming up in the 1970s, they accumulated numerous Internal Affairs complaints, including cash stolen from arrestees and money missing from a homicide scene. When the nephew of crime boss Carlo Gambino was busted for attempting to set up a major heroin deal with an FBI undercover agent, agents searching the house discovered a confidential NYPD Intelligence Divisions file. The FBI ran the documents for fingerprints, and they matched Eppolito's.

"Eppolito had a long, contorted explanation for how his fingerprints had magically appeared on a police department intelligence document found in a Gambino's house," Oldham recalled. "I wasn't buying it."

After the two cops retired, Oldham continued to try and bring them down. He told his NYPD supervisor about the trail he'd followed and the evidence he had collected. "He didn't want to hear about it. He said the words slowly, carefully enunciating them. 'I do not want to hear about that case ever again. Understand?'" Oldham recalled. "Catching Caracappa and Eppolito would ... hurt the whole department. Certain people think cops go bad every day. This would just confirm it."

"The Brotherhoods" is the anti-"Sopranos." Instead of yarns about colorful mobsters who believe in family, honor and omert ... , the book provides a glimpse of the New Millennium Mafia: arrested mobsters who start singing as soon as the cuffs are on, and crime bosses who let the families of loyal soldiers doing time live in penury. The book is long and dense, and it would have benefited from the perspective and insight of other detectives in "the cadre." On the other hand, readers will find this an important and well-told story.

Thanks to Miles Corwin

Sunday, March 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Joseph Rosenbloom

Monday, October 12, 2015

2008 Survey Names the Top 10 Criminal Organizations in the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ninth spot goes to Taiwan's United Bamboo triad.

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

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

Top 10 criminal organizations

1 Solntsevskaya Bratva

2 Yamaguchi-gumi

3 'Ndrangheta

4 D Company

5 14K

6 Sicilian Mafia

7 Dai Huen Jai

8 Tijuana Cartel

9 United Bamboo

10 The US Mafia 'The Five Families'

Thanks to Ian Brandes

Friday, June 26, 2015

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Mafia Crime Families Adapted for the 21st Century

New York City's Five Families owned the 20th Century. Now they must confront the 21st — still alive, still armed and still dangerous.

Today's traditional Mafia family has ventured far from its roots as an ultra-secret society formed in the streets of New York at the dawn of the Depression. The evolution has been epic.

To some, it appears a gang of criminals has turned into a popular culture commodity, spawning movies and TV shows that will long outlast the real-life story. In that version, the bosses are in jail, the gang is undone, and all that's left is the book and movie deal.

In reality, the mob somehow survives, transforming, changing, adapting to the new economies and technologies — sometimes a jump quicker than law enforcement. "As the economy goes, these guys go," said Michael Gaeta, supervisor of the New York FBI's organized crime unit. "Despite our attacks, they've managed to adapt."

Strategically, law enforcement sources say, the mob is closer to its roots, returning to the shadows, avoiding the public walk-talks that brought law enforcement to their door.

They still reap ill-gotten gains from traditional sources. They still have some control over corrupt contractors and unions, and illegal gambling continues as a primary source of wealth. They've also diversified, crafting new scams befitting a new century.

"They're clearly not as visible as they used to be," Gaeta said. "You're not going to see the regular meetings you used to see. They're much more compartmentalized.

"They're smarter about the way they conduct business. At meetings, they make sure everybody leaves their cell phone at the door."

Today's Mafia families no longer perform the ornate induction ceremonies in which a card depicting a saint is burned and a gun is displayed. They've ditched the saint and the gun. Still, they induct new members when old ones die, and they find new ways to steal.

Several families, for instance, got in on the housing boom of 2002-2007 through corrupt construction companies and unions, court papers and sources say. Records show mob-linked companies have been subcontractors on most of the major projects of the last few years, including highway repair, the midtown office tower boom, the massive water treatment plant in the Bronx, even the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

"They were taking full advantage of that — even if it was only removing waste from a construction site," one source said. "They'd have their favorite companies getting jobs. If the union was a problem, they'd take care of it."

Each family had a different method of adapting to the new century.

In the Wall Street boom, a Luchese soldier formed a fake hedge fund, operating out of a one-family house in Staten Island. He conned hundreds of wealthy investors into putting their money in bundled mortgage securities — one of the major causes of the economy's collapse.

When the housing bubble burst, a Genovese crew cashed in on the wave of foreclosures through house-flipping schemes in suburban Westchester.

The Gambino family stole credit card numbers via Internet porn sites, laundered gambling money through an energy drink company called American Blast, and took over a company that distributed bottled water — a far cry from the Prohibition days of bootlegging.

All the families use the Web to enhance their multi-million dollar illegal gambling empires through offshore betting shell corporations.

As part of the new mob order, the penchant for violence has diminished. That is a sea change in New York that also represents a return to the old ways.

For years, the five families divided up New York City in mostly peaceful co-existence, with occasional bouts of behind-the-scenes violence usually wrought by internal power struggles.

Bloodshed began to escalate in the 1980s, as bodies turned up in Staten Island swamps, the World Trade Center garage, even at the doorstep of Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan.

Then came a major shift in the mob's ability to enforce the vow of silence known as ‘omerta.' In 1991, Gambino underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano decided to become an informant. A wave of informants followed, which deteriorated into shootouts in the streets and dozens of suspected informants who disappeared.

Since 2000, the number of bodies has dropped precipitously, law enforcement sources say. They take this as a sign that the mob once again craves a lower profile to avoid scrutiny. "They keep things calm," one source said. "They try to keep things looking legit. They'd rather take 5 cents from 1,000 people than $10,000 from one."

They've also adopted management changes. Since the conviction of all the major bosses of the middle 20th century, all five families have struggled to find replacements who will last.

Three of the five families have retired the official boss altogether, forming flexible leadership panels that mediate disputes and enforce the so-called rules. "They retrenched. They became much less visible," said one law enforcement source. "The days of John Gotti nonsense, you don't see that anymore."

Today, the mob's haunts aren't what they were. Neighborhoods of Italian immigrants that once served as Ground Zero of Mafia-dom are ethnically diverse, with many former residents relegated to suburbia. The days when mobsters hung out at inner city social clubs — and FBI agents watched from nearby vans with tinted windows — are rare.

Some of the best-known clubs have just vanished:

  • Gravano's old hangout, Tali's Bar in Bensonhurst, where bar owner Mikey DeBatt was whacked in the back room by one of Gravano's crew, is a Vietnamese restaurant.
  • John Gotti's Ravenite Social Club is a trendy shoe store.
  • The Palma Boys Club, where the Genovese family met is an empty store front with lime green walls, is up for lease.
  • The Wimpy Boys Club in Gravesend — where a mob moll was once shot in the head and her ear turned up weeks later — is now Sal's Hair Stylist.

But just because they can't be seen doesn't mean they aren't there.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Did Organized Crime Firms Perform Work on Yankees and Mets New Stadiums?

Millions of dollars worth of work associated with the new baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets was performed by companies that New York City avoids doing business with because of prior allegations of corruption and ties to organized crime.

The roughly $17 million demolition of Shea Stadium, which cleared the way for the new Citi Field in Queens, was largely done by Breeze National Inc., whose vice president, Toby Romano, was convicted on federal bribery charges in 1988 and whom law enforcement officials have identified as having ties to organized crime.

Much of the electrical work at the new Yankee Stadium was done by Petrocelli Electric, a company that since June 2006 has been on a list of contractors that New York City cautions its agencies against using. The owner, Santo Petrocelli Sr., was indicted this month on charges that he had been bribing a leading union official for more than a decade.

In a third instance, the millions of dollars in excavation and cast-in-place concrete work at the new Yankee ballpark was performed by Interstate Industrial, a company that has been barred from doing city work since 2004. City investigators concluded several years ago that Interstate had connections to organized crime. The company has been accused of paying for more than $150,000 in renovations in 1999 and 2000 on the apartment of former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to accepting the work.

Two of the three contractors, Petrocelli and Interstate, were not paid with city funds. But both the ballpark projects were overseen by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and together received roughly $2 billion in public subsidies.

In defending themselves to city regulators and others, the companies have denied any improprieties, or have suggested the allegations were ancient ones that had been long contradicted by years of appropriate behavior on job sites.

The city development corporation’s policy is to review the hiring of major contractors on its projects only when they are paid directly with city funds. And even then, it generally takes no action to review what in some cases are dozens of subcontractors, a spokesman said.

The development agency says it does not have the staff to conduct background checks on all the companies working on a particular project, and with undertakings like the stadiums — private projects that are bolstered by a huge infusion of city, state and federal public benefits — the city has never sought to review the selection of the contractors.

The ball clubs say the companies were hired through competitive bidding processes and performed well under their contracts. No one has made any complaints about the competence or safety of the work they performed, and until recent years, both Petrocelli and Interstate had each won large city contracts with some regularity.

In the case of the demolition work at Shea, the contractor, Breeze National, was paid with state and city funds. But Breeze was hired to do the work by a subcontractor to Queens Ballpark Company L.L.C., a company created by the Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, to develop and operate the stadium.

The development corporation’s spokesman, David Lombino, said that while it reviews the general contractor and first-tier subcontractor, it does not review companies more than two levels down, as Breeze was.

Experts say the policy does not go far enough to help address the problems in the city’s construction industry, which has seen a rash of fatal accidents and has a long history of corruption and mob influence.

James B. Jacobs, a professor at New York University Law School who has written extensively about organized crime and construction corruption over the last two decades, suggested it was shortsighted on the part of the city to refrain from reviewing contractors that were not paid directly with city money.

“We’re talking about the nature of the whole construction industry, which affects public construction, private construction, not-for-profit construction and the whole economic viability of the city,” Professor Jacobs said. “So there ought to be a commitment to do what we can to purge corrupt influences out of that industry.”

Like much construction work in New York, stadium projects have some history of being infiltrated by companies whose ownership, work product or associations has drawn the attention of investigators. In the mid-1980s, for example, a plumbing company that listed John Gotti, the Gambino boss, as one of its salesmen, was hired to do work at Shea Stadium.

For the current projects, neither the city nor the baseball clubs released a list of the companies that have worked on the stadiums.

Questions about the city’s oversight of a stadium project also surfaced six years ago when the Yankees built a $71 million minor-league ballpark on Staten Island. On that job, the development corporation approved awarding the concrete contract to Interstate, though the company was then under investigation by the city.

The president of the development corporation at the time, Michael G. Carey, said there was no reason to question the company’s fitness. But city documents show the development corporation knew the city was examining accusations that the company had ties to the mob. It let the contract go forward when the company’s owner denied the allegations and told corporation officials that the inquiry was routine.

Mr. Lombino, the Economic Development Corporation’s spokesman, said the corporation carries out what it sees as its responsibilities under the law. “We go above and beyond what is required by law to ensure that construction projects are carried out safely and in a timely and cost-effective manner,” he said, adding that the effort “created thousands of jobs in neighborhoods that need them.”

David Newman, the vice president of marketing for the Mets, defended the selection of Breeze and Mr. Romano, saying that Queens Ballpark Company made the choice based on the recommendation of Hunt Bovis, which managed the construction of the new stadium and the razing of the old. It was based, he said, on their capability and resources and their ability to meet the schedule and bond the job. “The deconstruction,” he said, “was done on time, on budget and without incident or injury.”

Mr. Romano, for his part, said in an e-mail message: “It is completely untrue and totally unfair for anyone to state that I was ever connected to organized crime.” He said that the allegation was 17 years old and called it “a self-serving lie by a convicted felon.”

The accusation was made by Alfonse D’Arco, the former acting boss of the Luchese crime family, and was cited by city regulators in 2007 when they blocked another of Mr. Romano’s companies from a license to operate a construction trucking business in the city.

In the case of the electric company, law enforcement officials, trial testimony and F.B.I. reports say Mr. Petrocelli has had associations with members of the Genovese family dating to 1988. His lawyer could not be reached for comment. Mr. Petrocelli pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges filed this month.

Interstate’s owners have also denied the allegations that they have ties to the Gambino crime family or that they paid for Mr. Kerik’s renovations.

At Yankee Stadium, the contract was technically awarded to a company called Central Excavators. But the Yankees, Interstate and the Turner Construction Company, which built the stadium for the Yankees, have all acknowledged that Interstate performed the work.

Turner said in a statement that it selected Petrocelli and Interstate “after a competitive-bid process and based on Turner’s positive experiences working with these firms.” The statement noted that the work performed by the two companies was limited to the stadium itself, and thus no taxpayer money was used to pay them.

A spokeswoman for the Yankees, Alice McGillion, said that in an excess of caution, the company had brought in an independent construction monitor to oversee the stadium project, including the hiring of subcontractors by Turner.

The monitor, Edwin H. Stier, said his company came on the job after Petrocelli and Interstate had already been hired, but performed background checks on subsequent subcontractors.

“The important thing is that the Yankees did something about it, and as a result of it, we identified a number of issues, including the presence of Interstate and the presence of Petrocelli,” he said. “They were there already working on site and the Yankees said to our firm, we want you to monitor them very carefully.”

Thanks to William K. Rashbaum

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Waterfront, Mafia-Style, Leads to Operation UNIRAC

Dockworkers in Wilmington, North Carolina were getting sucked into a trap. Needing money between paychecks, some went to James Lee, a former dockworker who had become a leader in their union—the International Longshoremen’s Association, or ILA.

Lee had opened a small store across from the union hall and begun offering loans to his fellow members. But there was a catch. Lee charged an exorbitant interest rate, upwards of 25 percent per week.

Because he controlled the distribution of paychecks, Lee could make sure the dockworkers paid up: he would cash their checks by forging their signatures, take his cut, and then give what was left to the dockworker.

For the workers, this nefarious setup just kept them coming back for more loans. And if they complained? No luck—the mob had Lee’s back.

This scenario, which played out in the 1970s, was not an isolated one. The Gambino and Genovese organized crime families had begun asserting control over waterfront commerce along the eastern seaboard in the late 1950s through a variety of racketeering schemes. Their influence in ILA was cemented by the 1970s, and the FBI was understandably concerned.

In 1975, as part of the FBI's growing strategy to attack organized crime, they opened a case called UNIRAC (short for Union Racketeering), targeting systemic Mafia crime in ILA.

It began when a Florida businessman named Joe Teitelbaum—tired of being bilked by the mob—became a cooperating witness of the Miami Metro-Dade police. His information was shared with the FBI, and they opened a joint investigation with the Miami police. Eventually, they began pursuing related crimes up and down the East Coast.

New York became central to the widening investigation. Anthony Scotto, a Gambino family capo who often extorted the hardworking dockhands, was a national ILA leader and one of the most politically powerful union leaders in the country. He seemed untouchable.

As a young agent, Louis Freeh—who later became FBI director—played a key role in the New York side of the case. One of his targets was a mobster named Michael Clemente, who was well connected to wider mob schemes. Freeh’s job was to go undercover to get close to Clemente, discover his contacts, and help protect an informant working with the FBI.

He got very close, it turns out. Freeh often hung around the gym where the mobster used a sauna to conduct his private meetings. Clemente soon warmed to this newcomer. Often wearing nothing but a towel, the undercover Freeh was able to help identify the mobster’s associates. His act was so convincing that when Clemente saw Freeh in court waiting to testify at his trial, the Mafioso tried to get his attorney to let the judge know that the “kid” had nothing to do with the crimes.

Former Director Louis Freeh was recently interviewed about his role in the UNIRAC investigation and its place in FBI history. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

"The ramifications of the case were very significant. It was the first major labor racketeering case that the FBI had made. In those days, particularly in New York, the organized crime problem was dealt with by the FBI ... really sort of on a one-on-one basis. The notion of UNIRAC was that we would look at the entire enterprise, in other words the Longshoremen's union, juxtaposed [with] the Cosa Nostra groups that were controlling them. So the result of that was Director Webster in Washington established for the first time in the organized crime unit a labor racketeering desk. And the Bureau went on to look at cases not just on the East Coast but the central states, the Teamsters' cases, and really started to look at organized crime as an enterprise target. That was I think really responsible for the ... substantial weakening of [the Mafia] over the next 20 years."


Along with Freeh, dozens of agents worked for several years to develop evidence of criminal activity within ILA. It paid off on December 18, 1978—30 years ago this week—when a Miami grand jury charged 22 labor union officials and shipping execs for taking kickbacks and other illegal activities. It was just one of many indictments along the East Coast. In the end, more than 110 were convicted, including mobsters Scotto, Lee, and Clemente.

More work was yet to be done, but the Mafia was now on notice that the Bureau’s new strategy was working.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Junior Says Tampa Trial is Not Fair

John A. "Junior" Gotti thinks it's just not fair for prosecutors to insist that his mob racketeering trial take place in Tampa.

Charles Carnesi, 1 of Gotti's attorneys, told a judge Thursday that having the trial in Tampa would put a "crushing burden" on the Mafia scion and his family financially, plus make if difficult to get defense witnesses here to testify.

Gotti - the son of former Gambino family crime boss John Gotti - wants the trial moved to New York.

Prosecutor Jay Trezevant argued that the indictment grew out of an investigation of the criminal activity of Gotti and members of his crew in Tampa, so it's proper to have the trial here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Convictions of Mafia Cops are Reinstated

The racketeering convictions of two retired New York City detectives who helped to kill at least eight men in their role as mob assassins were ordered reinstated by a federal appeals court. It ruled that a trial judge wrongly overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts two years ago.

The decision means that the two highly decorated detectives — Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa — will now face sentencing for their convictions in one of the most spectacular cases of police corruption in city history.

The two men seem certain to spend the rest of their lives in prison. In 2006, after they were convicted of racketeering conspiracy, the trial judge, Jack B. Weinstein of United States District Court in Brooklyn, issued but did not officially impose life prison sentences for each man. Then, saying the five-year statute of limitations for racketeering had run out, the judge overturned the convictions despite what he called “overwhelming evidence” that the two men were “heinous criminals” who were guilty of the “most despicable crimes of violence and treachery.”

But in a 70-page opinion released on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, concluded that Judge Weinstein’s view of the conspiracy was too narrow, and that it had continued to exist within five years of when the men were charged.

Although murders and other serious crimes that the men were accused of occurred in Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors used more recent and less serious charges — money laundering and narcotics distribution in Las Vegas in 2004 and 2005 — to bring the earlier acts under the umbrella of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Judge Weinstein, in throwing out the men’s convictions, had found that the recent crimes were “singular, sporadic acts of criminality,” and could not be considered part of the earlier conspiracy, which included kidnapping, bribery and obstruction of justice. Because the older crimes dated back more than five years, the men, thus, could not be prosecuted for them.

“The government’s case against these defendants stretches federal racketeering and conspiracy law to the breaking point,” Judge Weinstein wrote.

Judge Weinstein had also decided that the earlier conspiracy ended when the two detectives retired and left the New York area and other co-conspirators were arrested. But Judge Amalya L. Kearse, writing for the appellate panel, said Judge Weinstein’s views of the criminal enterprise were too restrictive, given the evidence presented at the trial.

For example, Judge Kearse said, even after the two detectives retired in the early 1990s, one gave his pager number to Burton Kaplan, a former associate of the Luchese crime family who was the government’s key witness and testified about the services that both detectives had provided to organized crime.

She said the appeals panel concluded that the criminal enterprise had not ended before 2000, and thus the prosecution was not disallowed. Joining in the decision were Judges Robert D. Sack and Peter W. Hall.

Benton J. Campbell, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, whose office had appealed the case, said: “We are gratified by the decision of the Court of Appeals reinstating the jury verdict against the two defendants, who can now be sentenced for the extremely serious crimes that they committed.”

A police spokesman had no comment. Lawyers for each of the two men, who have been held without bond, did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

Prosecutors charged that the two men, who both joined the police force in 1969, had taken thousands of dollars to carry out the mob murders and to leak law enforcement information, disclosing the identities of witnesses and compromising investigations.

In the first of the mob killings, in 1986, the two detectives, driving in an unmarked police car and using a siren, pulled a jeweler named Israel Greenwald over on a Long Island road, according to a government brief summarizing the trial testimony.

The detectives told Mr. Greenwald that he was needed in a lineup concerning an automobile accident. They then drove him to a garage, where he was shot to death.

Prosecutors said the detectives had first offered their services to Mr. Kaplan through a cousin of Mr. Eppolito’s who was also a mobster. Mr. Kaplan entered into an agreement with the detectives to pay them regularly. “The defendants were paid $4,000 a month for information, and tens of thousands of dollars for murders and kidnappings,” the government brief said.

At the trial, the jury also found that the men murdered a capo in the Gambino family in his Mercedes-Benz on the Belt Parkway; and that they kidnapped a Staten Island man, put him in a trunk, and delivered him to another mobster who tortured him for hours before killing him.

Judge Kearse, in the decision, cited the payments to the detectives as one factor that supported the prosecution’s view that the conspiracy spanned the entire period of the indictment, from 1979 to 2005. She said that the jury had been told the principal purpose of the enterprise, as the indictment charged, was to generate money for the detectives, through legal and illegal activities.

Judge Kearse also noted that prosecutors had told the jury that the two men had “received money for each crime in New York, and they broke the law for money in Las Vegas.”

Thus, she ruled, the jury could have inferred that the conduct was “sufficiently similar in purpose” to show that “the enterprise that began in New York continued to exist in Las Vegas.”

Thanks to Benjamin Weiser

Friday, July 25, 2008

Growing Up as A Gambino

When it comes to the Mafia, there are five infamous surnames: Lucchese, Colombo, Genovese, Bonanno and the best known—my own—Gambino. And that name inevitably provokes two words that I've heard more times than I can count, so I might as well just spare you the breath: Any relation?

Truth is, I don't entirely know. Some details lend themselves to speculation. My father was born in Ozone Park, Queens, which was the stamping ground of John J. Gotti, who seized control of the Gambino Family in the 1980s. And when my dad and the rest of the family (that's "family," not "Family") moved to Long Island in 1960, it was James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, the true-life Robert De Niro character in GoodFellas, who bought our house. Then too, my uncle goes by the name "Choppy" and is in the construction business. But despite the circumstantial evidence, this branch of the family tree is clean. (Choppy is "Choppy" because his sister couldn't pronounce Charles, his given name, when she was young.) If we're related to the crime family, it's distant.

Blood relative or not, Gambino is a hefty weight to carry. I'm actually a mutt when it comes to ethnic background—more Irish than Italian—but the Italian in me trumps all. As a toddler, I had a T-shirt blazoned with "Bambino Gambino."

I wasn't aware that my last name connected me with a surly underworld until I was old enough for people to ask me about it. In high school, my history teacher warned boys they might find themselves wearing concrete shoes at the bottom of a lake if they messed with me. But I took everything in stride. In fact, I soon learned the name has its benefits.

A couple of years ago, I drove from Vermont to Boston with a few friends from college. While navigating my way through the Big Dig, I mistakenly drove down a street restricted to government vehicles and got pulled over. The officer took my driver's license, stepped away from the car to write up the ticket—then hastily returned. He said he didn't want any trouble; I could barely suppress a smile, as my slack-jawed friends looked on. My boyfriend, who happened to be in the car that day, hadn't met any I-talians before me. But now even he gets comments by association. When Gambinos made headlines this past February with the largest Mafia takedown in memory, his Swedish-American godfather asked him just what he had gotten himself into.

The power of the name grows stronger the closer I get to the Big Apple. (I've found the speed with which I can get a pizza delivered to be a good gauge of its clout.) Not long ago, my family made a reservation at Gallagher's Steak House in Midtown Manhattan. When we got there, the entryway was lined with the entire kitchen and wait staff; as we walked the gantlet to our table (far from any windows), I heard one waiter ask another, "Which one is Mr. Gambino?" But regardless of where I am, whenever a hostess, bouncer, retail worker, librarian or whoever else asks about my family ties, I tend to say "Nah" with a half-smile, to leave some room for doubt. And if any readers have any smart ideas about sending me less-than-complimentary letters about this piece, you might want to reconsider. Hey, you never know.

Thanks to Megan Gambino of the Smithsonian Magazine

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mob Turncoat Allowing State to Bring More Drug Charges

He's the rat who keeps on giving. The state is about to make a raft of new drug arrests courtesy of Mafia turncoat Joseph Vollaro, who has already helped hobble the Gambino crime family, the Daily News has learned.

Picking up where the feds left off, the state attorney general's office will soon start collaring about a dozen suspects on narcotics charges, sources said.

"It's going to be big," said a source with knowledge of the case.

Vollaro was a drug dealer before he began making money hand-over-fist in construction rackets with the Gambinos. When state investigators nailed him with a kilo of cocaine, the mob wanna-be eagerly flipped and began secretly recording mobsters and drug customers.

Several suspects have been approached recently by investigators and warned they face felony charges and long jail sentences. Unlike Joey the Rat, they have refused to cooperate and hired defense attorneys.

Those facing arrest are not tied to organized crime although Vollaro tried to entice Gambino associates into drug deals without success, sources said.

"I'm gonna do what I gotta do," Vollaro is heard saying as a preamble on taped recordings he made for law enforcement as he was about to embark on a drug deal.

Vollaro was en route to a drug sale three years ago when state investigators pulled over his car near Amboy Road on Staten Island. His customers watched from a distance as he was handcuffed and hauled away.

"Then he's back on the street a few hours later and he's trying to explain himself," said another source. "He said he had the drugs hidden in a trap (in his car) and they didn't find it. They (Vollaro's criminal associates) were suspicious but they didn't follow up to see if he was a rat because he was making money for them. It came down to greed."

If Vollaro ever makes his singing debut in a courtroom, there's a lot more dirt known about the shady businessman's activities now - including illegal dumping, money laundering and a previous marriage - than last February when prosecutors dropped a 62-defendant indictment on the Gambinos.

Vollaro's pregnant wife, Trish, hasn't entered the witness protection program with her hubby and their dogs, prompting speculation by the couple's acquaintances about her loyalties and trouble in their marriage.

"Lots of times they make it seem like (the wife) is angry at him and then she eventually goes into the program too," said another source.

Trish Vollaro is to be deposed in a civil case next month relating to the beating of 19-year-old Christopher Costantino outside her Docks Restaurant in Staten Island in 2004 that left him brain-damaged and in a wheelchair.

Several witnesses have claimed Joseph Vollaro was involved although it's unclear if he struck the victim, said Costantino's lawyer Evan Goldberg.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Friday, May 09, 2008

Reputed High-Ranking Gambino Figure Among 23 Named in Racketeering Indictment

A man the feds call one of the highest-ranking members of the Gambino crime family in New Jersey was among 23 people named Thursday in a racketeering indictment.

Andrew Merola, 41, of East Hanover was arrested and charged in an 82-page indictment with more than 20 counts that include running an illegal gambling ring, racketeering and extortion, among other charges.

Of the 23 people named in the indictment, 10 were arrested Thursday; the other 13 were issued summonses to appear in court.

Weysan Dun, the special agent in charge of the FBI in New Jersey, said all 23 people named in the indictment are reputed members and associates of Mafia factions. Also picked up in the sweep were Charles Muccigrosso, 68, of Newark, whom the FBI also described as a high-ranking Gambino crime family member, and Martin Taccetta, 56, of East Hanover, a reputed Lucchese crime family member who was granted a retrial in state court over a brutal 1980s murder.

Dun said the arrests were the result of a nearly two-year investigation. He said the bust would deal a significant blow to the Gambino crime family, coming on the heels of a large bust in New York that netted dozens of Gambino figures in February.

"Those out there in the 'wiseguy' community that think that crime pays: Forget about it," Dun said.

Some of the alleged schemes outlined in the indictment include manipulating union contract bidding; defrauding the chain store Lowe's by manufacturing fake bar codes to buy expensive power tools for pennies on the dollar, and rigging union jobs and construction contracts to force coffee cart vendors to pay kickbacks for being allowed to park their lunch trucks at construction sites.

Dun said that although the charges didn't involve physical violence, they were serious crimes that hurt honest working people.

"The message I hope organized crime families take from this is if they think law enforcement's focus on organized crime has diminished, you can be assured that we'll come after you," he said.

Thanks to Samantha Henry

Monday, March 31, 2008

CW to Detail Mafia's Connection to the Fashion Industry

Just when it seemed Seventh Avenue had shed its cloak of organized crime, it could be pulled right back in.

Lewis Kasman, a former trim producer who once fashioned himself as John Gotti's "adopted son," is expected to turn state's evidence this week in the latest Mob crackdown. A federal court in Brooklyn unsealed an 80-count indictment last month charging 62 alleged mobsters with a list of crimes, from racketeering conspiracy and extortion to theft of union benefits and money laundering.

Although the indictment focuses on the connection between the Mafia, the construction industry and its unions, testimony by Kasman, who is alleged to have for years run a fashion industry front for the Gambino crime family, might also illuminate connections between organized crime and the New York fashion industry over the past three decades — although the ties go back longer than that.

Kasman is slated to appear in federal court Thursday and is expected to testify on his background as an associate of the Gambino crime family and his relationship with its leaders, including Joseph "JoJo" Corozzo. The government also has filed a motion to disqualify Corozzo's son, Joseph, an attorney on the case.

The indictment outlined crimes dating back to the Seventies and ensnared reputed associates of the Gambino, Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families with movie-ready nicknames such as "Vinny Hot," "One Eye" and "Fat Richie."

The three-year investigation also included a cooperating witness who wore a wire, according to the indictment, although it could not be determined at press time whether that witness was Kasman.

"The evidence relating to many of the charged crimes consists of hundreds of hours of recorded conversations secured by a cooperating witness who penetrated the Gambino family over a three-year period," said a statement last month from the office of U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell, who oversees the Eastern District of New York.

Despite the breadth of the current wave of indictments, this won't be Kasman's first time in a courtroom. He was a principal with the now-defunct Albie Trimming Co., a family-owned trimmings manufacturer with a storefront operation and warehouse at 229 West 36th Street that supplied materials such as zippers, linings and buttons to garment industry companies, but was said to be a front for the Gambino family, then headed by John Gotti. At the time, the Gambino family had a stranglehold on Seventh Avenue's trucking activities.

Kasman, who often played up his relationship with Gotti by saying he was like an "adopted son" of the convicted murderer and racketeer, pleaded guilty in 1994 in Federal District Court in Brooklyn to lying to a grand jury in 1990 by saying he was not familiar with the terms "Gambino," "capo" or "consigliere." Kasman was sentenced to six months in prison, was given a $30,000 fine and was sentenced to three years of supervised release once he was out of prison, with the stipulation that he not associate with any members of organized crime.

When Gotti, also known as the "Dapper Don," died in prison in 2002, Kasman told newspapers, "He's a man amongst men, a champion."

During its investigation that led to Gotti's conviction, the government said Albie Trimming and an associated firm, Scorpio Marketing, existed "merely to provide the appearance that John Gotti and other Gambino family members have a legitimate income." Gotti was even said to have an Albie Trimming card that identified him as "salesman."

It was the same Gambino crime family that was prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in 1992 for illegally controlling garment industry trucking. Then-assistant district attorney Eliot Spitzer, in his opening remarks in the trial of Thomas Gambino and Joseph Gambino, sons of crime family founder Carlo Gambino, said the Gambinos and their associates resorted to an occasional show of force "where the velvet glove comes off."

Spitzer won acclaim for his successful prosecution and used it as a stepping stone to his now-disgraced governorship of New York.

The level of the Mafia's involvement in Seventh Avenue today is a matter of debate, with some contending that the corporatization of the industry and the federal government's repeated crackdowns have stifled the Mob, but others saying it's still around. Whether Kasman's testimony will shed the kind of light on the garment industry and organized crime that past state's witnesses have remains to be seen. Sources told WWD after the Gambino trucking trial in state court in 1992 that one reason Thomas and Joseph Gambino pleaded guilty of restraint of trade was that prosecutors were prepared to call Mob-turncoat Sammy "The Bull" Gravano to testify how the family and its associates used strong-arm tactics and unscrupulous bookkeeping to form a garment industry cartel. In a separate federal trial that same year, Gravano was the star witness against Gambino crime family head Gotti and his damaging testimony led to Gotti's conviction and life sentence for racketeering and murder.

Thanks to Evan Clark and Arthur Friedman

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The History of Organized Crime Control of Gay Bars

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

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

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Mob Ties That Bind in Ozone Park

Standing in front of the old site of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens, you can see a few immediate differences between its appearance now and its appearance when it was home base for the John J. Gotti and his associates in the Gambino crime family.

First, the space, at 98-04 101st Avenue, has been divided into two businesses, a medical supply store and a pet groomer, and it looks a lot more welcoming now than it used to. Second, there was some faded graffiti on the front of the building. That is the kind of thing, people in the neighborhood said this week, that would not have flown when Mr. Gotti, who died in prison in 2002, was still around.

I was in Ozone Park to visit a couple of Mafia landmarks for the Dispatches feature in this week’s City section, and to see what people thought about the arrests last week of dozens of people accused of involvement with organized crime. One thing that’s clear is that Mr. Gotti and his compatriots really did, and do, have a following in the neighborhood. They put on fireworks shows and held barbecues at the club, and anyone was welcome. And, people said, they kept the streets clean and safe, and scared away street criminals.

That last point is one you hear a lot regarding the civic benefits of organized crime, but I couldn’t find any substantiation for it in the city’s crime statistics. There are two police precincts covering Ozone Park, the 102nd and the 106th, and in both, every category of crime that the police track is down substantially since 1990, which was two years before Mr. Gotti went to prison.

The numbers can’t tell the whole story, of course — the city in general was a more dangerous place all those years ago, and maybe things would have been even worse in the neighborhood if Mr. Gotti hadn’t been around keeping an eye on things. But empirically, it seems the most you can say is that some people in the area felt safer. Albert Gelb, the court security officer killed near his home in the neighborhood in 1976, certainly wasn’t safer, and neither was John Favara, Mr. Gotti’s neighbor in nearby Howard Beach, who accidentally ran over Mr. Gotti’s son and disappeared in 1980, maybe to wind up dead and buried in an Ozone Park lot.

Things are not what they used to be, anyway. The neighborhood is less Italian than it was, and its newer residents lack a connection to the Gambinos’ prime years and may not have even heard of Mr. Gotti. And a quick search for addresses of the people named in the 170-page indictment reveals locations all over the tristate region, often in tonier areas than Ozone Park, a modest neighborhood of small, shingled houses.
Black Hound New York
Some people in the neighborhood who remember organized crime figures are not interested in discussing them. One business owner, who had stopped by the pet grooming store in the former Bergin social club storefront while I was there, maintained a stony silence on the topic of Mr. Gotti. But then, he had arrived while I was standing in Mr. Gotti’s old bathroom with a notepad, trying to find the words to describe his odd-looking toilet, so the man’s discretion did make some sense.

Others were almost as circumspect, but revealed a bit more. A waitress at the Esquire Diner, where Albert Gelb once clashed with Charles Carneglia, the man charged in his killing, said she was sad to see the era of Mr. Gotti and his former associates come to an end. The way they socialized, she said, was a lot like the mobsters’ nights out depicted in Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas” — being ushered to special tables in expensive nightclubs and spending large sums of money on food and drinks.

It’s tempting sometimes to conflate movie mobsters with their real-life counterparts, and generally that is a temptation worth avoiding. I couldn’t resist, though, taking a peek at the table-side jukebox mounted in my booth at the Esquire. Yes, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” is in there — No. 2602.

Thanks to Jake Mooney

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Clyde Haberman

Friday, February 08, 2008

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

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

JOSEPH AGATE, Age: 60
VINCENT AMARANTE, Age: 60
JEROME BRANCATO, Age: 76
THOMAS CACCIOPOLI, Age: 58
FRANK CALI, Age: 42
NICHOLAS CALVO, Age: 52
CHARLES CARNEGLIA, Age: 61
JOSEPH CASIERE, Age: 72
MARIO CASSARINO, Age: 42
DOMENICO CEFALU, Age: 61
JOSEPH CHIRICO, Age: 63
JOSEPH COROZZO, Age: 66
NICHOLAS COROZZO, Age: 67
GINO CRACOLICI, Age: 56
JOHN D’AMICO, Age: 73
SARAH DAURIA, Age: 33
VINCENT DECONGILIO, Age: ?
ANTHONY DELVESCOVO Age: 51
LEONARD DIMARIA, Age: 66
VINCENT DONNIS, Age: 38
VINCENT DRAGONETTI, Age: 43
ROBERT EPIFANIA, Age: 60
CODY FARRELL, Age: 29
RUSSELL FERRISI, Age: 41
LOUIS FILIPPELLI, Age: 41
RONALD FLAM, Age: 35
JOSEPH GAGGI, Age: 45
ABID GHANI, Age: 42
ANTHONY GIAMMARINO, Age: 56
RICHARD G. GOTTI, Age: 40
VINCENT GOTTI, Age: 55
ERNEST GRILLO, Age: 51
CHRISTOPHER HOWARD, Age: ?
STEVEN IARIA, Age: 43
EDDIE JAMES, Age: 49
JOHN KASGORGIS, Age: ?
WILLIAM KILGANNON, Age: 49
MICHAEL KING, Age: 41
ANTHONY LICATA, Age: 39
LOUIS MOSCA, Age: 62
LANCE MOSKOWITZ, Age:54
ANTHONY O’DONNELL, Age: 43
JAMES OUTERIE, Age: 54
VINCENT PACELLI, Age: 64
JOHN PISANO, Age: 49
TODD POLAKOFF, Age: 30
GUILIO POMPONIO, Age: 45
RICHARD RANIERI, Age: 51
JOHN REGIS, Age: 27
JERRY ROMANO, Age: 49
ANGELO RUGGIERO, JR., Age: 35
STEVEN SABELLA, Age: 41
ANTHONY SCIBELLI, Age: 57
AUGUSTUS SCLAFANI, Age: 67
JOSEPH SCOPO, Age: 31
WILLIAM SCOTTO, Age: 40
EDWARD SOBOL, Age: 41
JOSEPH SPINNATO, Age: 42
MICHAEL URCIUOLI, Age: 46
FRANK VASSALLO, Age: 38
TARA VEGA, Age: 35
ARTHUR ZAGARI, Age: 60

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

SIXTY-TWO DEFENDANTS INDICTED, INCLUDING GAMBINO ORGANIZED
CRIME FAMILY ACTING BOSS, ACTING UNDERBOSS, CONSIGLIERE,
AND MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES, AS WELL AS CONSTRUCTION
INDUSTRY AND UNION OFFICIALS
Charges Include Racketeering Conspiracy, Extortion, Gambling, and Theft Following
Joint Investigation by Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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