The Chicago Syndicate: Joseph Bonanno
Showing posts with label Joseph Bonanno. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph Bonanno. Show all posts

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

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mob Boss Joseph Bonnano's Son, Salvatore, is Dead

Salvatore (Bill) Bonanno, the oldest son of the late New York City crime chieftain Joe Bonanno and author of a book about growing up in a Mafia family, has died. He was 75.

Los Angeles literary agent Mickey Freiberg confirmed in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Bonanno yesterday in Tucson. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to Bonanno's nephew Anthony Tarantola.

Bonanno, who escaped mob hits and eventually the mob itself, wrote "Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story" in 2000. His Web site describes him as an author, movie producer and lecturer. The book was an attempt to make sense of myths about the Mafia in America, the site says.

Bonanno was made a member of the Mafia by his early 20s, according to the site.

He was the subject of Gay Talese's book "Honor Thy Father" and co-produced a 1999 miniseries based on the autobiography of his father, known as "Joe Bananas."

In 1968, Bonanno was imprisoned on contempt, credit card and other white-collar charges, according to his own biography. Between his first stint in prison and 1993, he spent 12 years behind bars for several convictions.

Bonanno served for decades as his father's adviser before becoming an author.

Bonanno's father died in 2002. Joe Bonanno was never convicted of anything worse than obstructing justice, but had admitted to belonging to "the Commission," an organized-crime board of directors of sorts in New York and other major American cities.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Castellammare del Golfo Exports Mobsters to New York?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Helen Kennedy

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the Oscar goes to ... Gregory DePalma?

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Gregory DePalma, Vincent "Chin"Gigante, Joe Bonanno, Gennaro Angiulo, Stefano Maggodino, Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce
Friends of mine: Ilario Zannino

Gregory DePalma, the powerful Gambino family captain, allegedly bragged about his Academy Award-caliber performance playing a desperately ill man looking for a sentence reduction. It worked; a federal judge jailed DePalma for less than six years instead of the 13-year maximum back in 1999.

There was just one problem: The federal government was secretly taping DePalma's post-sentencing review. And now he's back in court, allegedly battling another debilitating illness as prosecutors attempt to convince another jury that DePalma is a racketeer.

The 74-year-old mobster, sitting at the defense table with an oxygen tube in his nose and his feet resting on a small stool, is the latest Mafiosi caught in a medical controversy over competency to stand trial. The government inevitably insists the defendant is a healthy candidate for prosecution; the defense is equally insistent that he is not.

"Surveillance photos will show you Gregory DePalma on the move, an energetic, active man," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Marrah said in his opening statement at the reputed mobster's trial in Manhattan.

Not so, said defense attorney John Meringolo. DePalma was "a broken-down man who has a big mouth and is living through the past," Meringolo argued.

Trying to dodge prosecution through illness _ the "Sicilian flu," as federal agents once derisively called it _ is a long-standing Mafia defense. The most famous of all was Vincent Gigante, the so-called "Oddfather" who avoided conviction for nearly three decades by publicly acting like a loon.

Gigante strolled through his Greenwich Village neighborhood in bathrobe and slippers, whether it was time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gigante avoided conviction from 1970, when he first launched the ruse, until a 1997 conviction for racketeering and murder conspiracy.

FBI agents serving Gigante with a subpoena once found him standing naked in a running shower, clutching an open umbrella.

"With some of these guys, it would be hard to tell if it's dementia or just the way they are," said mob expert Howard Abadinsky. "They're that nutty."

The majority of cases run to heart problems rather than head cases.

Joe Bonanno, one of the founding fathers of New York City's mob, was summoned to testify in 1985 at a federal prosecution of the Mafia's ruling "Commission." Then 80, he was retired and living in Arizona - where he was definitely too ill to take the witness stand, said his lawyer, William Kunstler. The stress of testifying, Kunstler insisted, was too much for the octogenarian mobster. Bonanno did 14 months for contempt, coming out of prison in 1986. He died ... 16 years later, at the ripe old age of 97. Kunstler had died seven years earlier at 76.

Ilario Zannino, an associate of New England mob underboss Gennaro Angiulo, managed to avoid prosecution - albeit temporarily - after he was hospitalized with heart problems in 1985. He died in jail 11 years later at age 74.

Buffalo boss Stefano Maggodino, following his arrest, once claimed he was too sick to get fingerprinted. At a bedside arraignment, he told the assembled authorities, "Take the gun and shoot me. That's what you want!" He survived for another five years.

Not everyone lived as long as those three. Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce was arraigned by telephone in April 1985 from his Staten Island home, where he was laid up with heart disease and cancer. Dellacroce was dead before the end of the year.

"When you start to think of the lifestyles these guys live, there's a good chance it's not going to be so healthy," said Abadinsky. "One of the things that always fascinated me is that these guys didn't die earlier."

The Gigante case, with a mob boss feigning dementia to maintain his freedom, has become part of pop culture. Junior Soprano, on the hit HBO show, went from malingering to menacing mobster this year when he shot nephew Tony in a case of mistaken identity. The long-running hit TV show "Law And Order" did an episode using the Gigante premise. And author Jimmy Breslin did an entire book, "I Don't Want to Go to Jail: A Good Novel," that parodied Gigante with a character called Fausti ("The Fist") Dellacava.

"Gigante got a lot of exercise walking around the Village," Abadinsky said of the mobster who lived to age 77. "He just said he was nuts."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Monday, March 27, 2006

'Mafia Cops' Trial Has Lots of Theatrics

Louie Eppolito had a story to tell. And, more importantly, one to sell.

The decorated ex-New York police detective, who also happened to be the son of a mobster, was living in Las Vegas and trying to peddle doomed screenplays with titles like "Murder In Youngstown." Eppolito was looking for an investor in his latest project and he was unconcerned about the source of the cash.

"If you said to me, `Lou, I wanna introduce you to Jack Smith, he wants to invest in this film,' (and) he says, `$75,000 comes in a (expletive) shoe box,' that's fine with me," Eppolito said during a surreptitiously taped conversation with a federal informant. "I don't care. I've had people give me money before."

It sounds like movie dialogue, maybe something out of "Get Shorty (Two-Disc Special Edition)." No surprise the trial of so-called "Mafia Cops" Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, heading into its third week, has featured plenty of theatrics.

The courtroom histrionics occasionally threaten to overshadow one of the most serious prosecutions in city history: a pair of top-echelon NYPD detectives accused of using their prized gold shields to kill eight people at the behest of a brutal mob underboss, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Prosecutors allege that Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were partners in crime from 1979 to last year, when they were arrested in Las Vegas. They remain free on $5 million bail.

The first day of testimony was punctuated with a screaming match between turncoat mobster Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco and defense attorney Bruce Cutler, who made his reputation defending the late Gambino family boss John Gotti.

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," snapped the grandfatherly D'Arco, 73, his Brooklyn accent unaltered by 15 years in witness protection. "You're not making any sense to me."

Cutler, his deep voice rising, tried to ask another question: "Wouldn't you agree with me …"

"I wouldn't agree with you on anything!" shouted D'Arco, who was threatened with contempt by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein. That was before the one-time Luchese boss ripped into Cutler as a loudmouth and a cheapskate. The judge showed little more tolerance for Cutler, cutting off his cross-examination for shouting at D'Arco.

The defendants themselves are a mismatched pair: the portly Eppolito, whose reputation was made as a street cop, comes to court in an ill-fitting sports coat. Caracappa so thin he was known among fellow cops as "The Stick" is fastidious in appearance, right down to his neatly trimmed mustache.

The prosecution has already called its key witness, confessed drug dealer Burton Kaplan, who spent four days testifying about the two detectives' brutal work on behalf of Luchese underboss Casso. Kaplan implicated the pair in a dozen homicides.

Cross-examination of another prosecution witness, crooked accountant Steven Corso, focused on his theft of $5.3 million from an ex-employer to finance a life of what he called "girlfriends, jewelry and going out." It was Corso who recorded the conversations with Eppolito about film financing. The ex-detective, playing up his mob pedigree, sprinkled the conversation with mob names like "Jimmy the Buffalo" and the late crime boss Joe Bonanno.

There was one witness whose testimony tugged on heartstrings while going to the heart of the case: Pauline Pipitone, describing how her youngest son, 26-year-old Nicholas Guido, had come home for Christmas dinner in 1986.

It was Guido's misfortune to share his name with a mobster involved in a botched hit on Casso. When the underboss wanted revenge, prosecutors said, he turned to the two detectives who provided an address for the wrong Nicholas Guido.

The innocent man was showing off his new car when he was shot by mob hit men. Pipitone was inside washing dishes.

"I ran over to the car," she testified. "He was sitting up at the wheel. I went to touch his hand, and he must have just died. His fingertips were cold."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Saturday, November 12, 2005

JOE BONANNO'S SON DIES

Joseph Bonanno Jr., younger son and namesake of the late mob boss who headed one of New York's five original crime families, has died. He was 60. The younger Bonanno died Nov. 2 at his ranch in Ione, Calif., of a heart attack, his older brother, Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno said last night.

Bonanno, the youngest of three children born to Joseph and Fay Bonanno, followed a different path than his father and older brother. Joseph Bonanno Jr., studied animal husbandry at the University of Arizona, and later owned a 20-acre ranch near Sacramento, Calif. He and his wife of 34 years, Karen, had no children.

Joe Bonanno Sr. died of heart failure in 2002 at age 97. Derisively nicknamed "Joe Bananas," Joe Bonanno Sr. had retired to Arizona in 1968 after allegedly running one of the most powerful Mafia groups during the 1950s and 1960s, though the family had lived in Tucson part-time long before that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mafia Retirement Package Includes Funeral, Dat's About It

No pension, no medical benefits, no prescription plan. When you're a mob boss, retirement is more bronze casket than golden parachute.

Since the 1930s ascension of the Mafia, its leaders have departed "The Life" almost exclusively through their deaths. Albert Anastasia, Carmine Galante and "Big Paul" Castellano were brutally (and memorably) assassinated; Vito Genovese, John Gotti and "Fat Tony" Salerno died in prison.

A third, more palatable option emerged in recent years: The Witness Protection Program, for those who found relocation to Arizona preferable to interment in Queens. But an actual mob retirement, renouncing all illegal ties and income for a shot at the straight life, is a trick rarely turned. So it's no surprise that law enforcement officials remained skeptical about John A. "Junior" Gotti's claim that he did what his father, uncles and brother-in-law could not: quit the Gambino crime family.

Defense attorneys, arguing the younger Gotti had left organized crime in the late 1990s, managed to win a hung jury in the recent racketeering case against the mob scion. The mistrial indicated at least one juror was convinced that Gotti had gone legit.

Others are not as easily swayed. "You never leave the mob," said Bruce Mouw, former head of the FBI's Gambino squad. "Sometimes you're wishing you'd never gotten into it, when there's a contract on your life or you're going to jail. But you never leave."

Federal prosecutors agree; they were already considering a retrial for Gotti. Talk radio show host Curtis Sliwa, the target of a botched kidnapping attempt allegedly ordered by Gotti, expressed fear that Junior's possible release on bail could again make him a target.

The best known example of volunteer mob retirement was Joe Bonanno, who headed one of New York's original five families. After the bloody "Banana Wars," Bonanno ceded control of his family and bolted New York for Tuscon in 1968. He died peacefully in the Arizona desert three years ago, surrounded by his family, at age 97.

While Bonanno considered himself out of the crime business, authorities disagreed. He wound up serving 14 months in 1985-86 after refusing to testify at "The Commission" trial that earned 100-year jail terms for the heads of the Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese families.

The mob's induction ceremony, with the burning of a saint's picture and a blood oath of silence, makes it clear that leaving the family is a move taken at great risk for even low-level members. Death is the penalty for breaking any of the Mafia code, particularly omerta.

Gotti was 24 when he was became a Gambino family "made man" in a Christmas 1988 ceremony at his dad's Little Italy hideaway, the Ravenite Social Club. But he's distanced himself from the mob life lately.

Gotti, in various prison conversations recorded by authorities, expressed disgust to family and friends about following his father into the mob. In October 2003, Gotti said his association with the Gambinos had ended six years earlier. "Believe me, I like it better that way," he said. "I sleep better ... I just want to do my time, go home and go fishing."

He may go home on bail as early as Monday. But Gotti is likely to remain a target for catch of the day by law enforcers who reject his purported mob repudiation.

Veteran defense attorney Ed Hayes, a Court TV commentator, said Gotti's defense combined "good strategy and a good lawyer." But does that mean Gotti is no longer a top-echelon member of the Gambino family?

"Absolutely not," said Mouw. "The only way of leaving is by the slab. You're in the mob for life."

Or death.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Friday, November 14, 2003

Organized Crime and "Joe's Barbecue"

Forty-six years ago today (11/14/1957), an unusual group gathered at the rural estate of a soft drink bottler in Appalachin, a small town just west of Binghamton, New York. Mr. Joseph Barbara was supposedly hosting a "soft drink convention" that day.

Sergeant Edgar Croswell of the New York State Police was intensely interested in the gathering. He'd observed suspected criminals at the house before and was suspicious. With smoke rising from Barbara's grill, Croswell and Trooper Vincent Vasisko openly began to take down the license plate numbers of luxury cars jammed in the driveway.

Suddenly Barbara’s guests noticed…and panicked. Some fled to the woods; others dashed for their cars. Sergeant Croswell ordered an immediate roadblock and soon had detained 62 guests in order to check their identification; among them, Joseph Bonanano, Russell Bufalino, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, Antonio Magaddino, Joseph Profaci, John Scalish, and Santos Traficante.

A veritable Who’s Who of what we now call the "Mob," the "Mafia," or "La Cosa Nostra."

Croswell’s important detective work exploded nationally. Concerns had been expressed that a secret network of connected criminal enterprises existed. But many, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, had disagreed. They said crime was a serious problem, but there was no evidence that a conspiratorial web linked racketeers across the country.

Now there was evidence. Hoover got to work, ordering his field executives to develop maximum information on crime bosses in their areas of jurisdiction. This "Top Hoodlum Program" produced a wealth of information about organized crime activities. In a 1960 Letter to All Law Enforcement Officials, Hoover wryly commented: "If we must, let us learn a lesson from the barons of the underworld who have shown that cooperative crime is profitable – cooperative law enforcement can be twice as effective."

But the Bureau needed legislative tools to get past the small time crooks and connect them with those barons. Congress powerfully delivered, with illegal gambling laws that unlocked mafia financial networks and with laws like the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970. Soon, major cases like UNIRAC, BRILAB, and Pizza Connection led to the prosecution and jailing of top crime lords across the country. Then, in 1987, Judge Richard Owen of the Southern District of New York, sentenced the top leadership of five New York City "families" to 100 years each in prison for working together as a single enterprise. The "Commission Case" effectively broke the stranglehold of traditional organized crime in the U.S.

Today new organized crime syndicates operate on a global stage, and the FBI is working effectively with its international partners to dismantle them, piece by piece.

Thanks to the FBI


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