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

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Underboss is Whacked, Because Even Mobsters Don’t Like Heroin

John Turano was working a shift at his father’s Italian-American restaurant, Joe and Mary’s, on July 12, 1979, when Carmine “Lilo” Galante walked through the door. A mob strongman and regular patron, Galante was escorted — along with two Sicilian bodyguards — to his usual table in the back courtyard. Temperatures soared that summer day in New York City, but the guards still wore full leather jackets to hide their heavy artillery. Galante, after all, had plenty of enemies.

Having served a stint in prison for attempted robbery in the late 1930s, Galante transitioned from strong-arm work for Vito Genovese to establishing his power base in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — Bonanno family territory. He shared a couple common enemies with Joe Bonanno, the most prolific being Carlo Gambino, and eventually rose to rank of underboss in the Bonanno family. While known as a cold-blooded killer — the NYPD suspected him of numerous mob-related murders — authorities could never find anyone to testify against the feared mobster.

“[Galante’s] foray into the drug world really got kicked into high gear in the ’50s,” says Christian Cipollini, author of Murder Inc.: Mysteries of the Mob’s Most Deadly Hit Squad. Galante traveled to Canada and Sicily to oversee narcotics trafficking, “and it wasn’t long before he gained recognition by law enforcement as a major player in drug trafficking.” The feds busted Galante, sending him to prison in 1962 for 20 years. Finally paroled in the early 1970s, Galante set out to regain his control of the dope business. The problem? His fellow mobsters didn’t like it.

That fateful afternoon, Galante, 69, was having lunch with a friend and bodyguard Leonard Coppola, 40, and Turano’s father, Giuseppe, 48 — also a Bonanno associate. Smoking a cigar and enjoying the conversation, Galante certainly didn’t expect what happened next. John remembers three masked men walking into the restaurant. One pointed a gun at him, telling him not to move. But before the shooters reached the courtyard, the son shouted a warning to his father. The gunman turned and fired, wounding the young Turano before joining his cohorts in the courtyard, where they unleashed a barrage of bullets.

Underboss Carmine Galante is whacked


“They blew Lilo away while he was eating lunch, in broad daylight,” says Mafia historian Ed Scarpo, author of Cosa Nostra News: The Cicale Files, Volume 1: Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire. John hid throughout the onslaught, and after the gunmen and bodyguards fled, he found the bodies. Galante had been blown off his chair and flung into the tomato patch behind him — a cigar in his mouth and a Zippo lighter in his hand. Coppola also was killed, and Turano was mortally wounded, dying later in the hospital.

Galante had reckoned he was untouchable as a former underboss to Joe Bonanno, and as a man who’d held to the code of omertà doing his jail time, he felt he deserved to get back what he lost. Assuming a leadership role without permission was one thing, but Galante had also started killing off his rivals in the Gambino family to take over the drug trade — and that was a step too far.

“His apparent desire to basically reap all the rewards of the New York Mafia’s lucrative drug trade — by cutting out most of the other mafiosi from the profits — became Galante’s ultimate downfall,” says Cipollini. Someone at Galante’s level in the mob hierarchy doesn’t usually get assassinated without a lot of other important peers giving the OK. But Bonanno family crime boss “Joseph Massino wanted him out of the way,” Scarpo explains.

Galante paid the ultimate price for “hubris and greed,” says Scott Burnstein, author of Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit. “He came out of prison and went against typical mob protocol by declaring himself boss without the universal approval of [the Bonanno] crime family.” To further complicate things, Galante isolated himself from his troops by creating his own handpicked inner circle of young native Sicilians to do his drug trafficking and strong-arm work. The irony? It was those very Sicilians — his bodyguards — who sold him out. Those armed bodyguards at his side weren’t killed that day because they had, in fact, betrayed Galante.

Galante’s rackets and drug dealings were taken over by Massino and the others who had plotted to take him down. Anthony “Bruno” Indelicato, a Bonanno soldier, was convicted of the murder in 1986 at the famous Mafia Commission trial and sentenced to 40 years.

Since then, the picture of Galante’s last meal has become an iconic image, representing what can happen when an ambitious mobster makes a power grab. While certainly not the first mobster to dabble with drugs, says Burnstein, “he was one of the first to do it so brazenly and unapologetically.” Rather than let him consolidate as a drug kingpin, the Bonnanos decided Galante had overstepped and that he had to pay the ultimate price.

Thanks to Seth Ferranti.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mafia Book Not So Easy to Forget About: The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino

Sometimes "forget about it" means just that - forget about it.

In the case of The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino, forget about it - it's a must-read for mafia nuts everywhere.

The book has everything a fan of "The Sopranos" could possibly desire: murder, mayhem and a plethora of shady characters with colorful names like Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano and "Patty Muscles."

The story concerns the rise to power and eventual downfall of Joseph Massino, a capo in the Bonanno crime family, one of the infamous five families of New York. After eliminating his rivals, Massino became capo di tutti capi, boss of bosses. At one point he had over 100 men and was involved in every conceivable racket, everything from "pump and dump" stock market schemes to good old loan sharking. After the FBI cracked down on organized crime in the '80s, he was the last don walking the streets.

And then it all came tumbling down, due in part to the infiltration of the family by FBI agent Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone.

The Bonannos - named after Joseph "Joey Bananas" Bonanno - boasted an impressive track record of never having had a rat in their midst. During its nearly 100-year existence, members would often go to the electric chair before dishonoring the family. This was part of omerta, the conspiracy of silence, that made the Mafia so successful. But by the late '90s, the honor among thieves had largely dissolved. High-ranking members were ready to jump ship and sell out their compatriots rather than face brutally long stints in prison. One by one, Massino's capos turned on him, ratting him out for the murder of Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, an infamous mob murder dramatized in the film "Donnie Brasco."

If this sounds like a lot of back story, it isn't. The book jumps back and forth between courtroom testimony and an account of the family's activities in the late '70s and early '80s. The story involves hundreds of people and dozens of murders, and a dizzying amount of shadiness.

The book, while fascinating, is written rather poorly. It's sentences are clunky, and the author usually explains his rather elementary metaphors. This is mildly insulting to one's intelligence, but the story is fascinating enough to leave the bad writing as little more than a minor irritation. If you need something to while away the nearly eternal dead space between "Sopranos" episodes, this book has you covered.

Thanks to John Bear

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire

Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire (Cosa Nostra News: The Cicale Files).

Dominick Cicale was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. From a young age he was closely associated with the Genovese crime family, considered the most powerful Mafia group in America. Fate intervened. In 1999 Cicale forged a tight alliance with Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, then an up-and-coming member of the Bronx faction of the Bonanno crime family. Under Basciano's tutelage, Dominick rode the fast track: he was inducted into the American Cosa Nostra and swiftly rose from soldier to capo, amassing great wealth and power. Cicale befriended and associated with numerous high-ranking figures within all of New York's Five Families as he plotted and schemed in a treacherous world where each day could be his last.

This installment views startling details surrounding the brutal gangland murder of Gerlando "George from Canada" Sciascia and its resulting impact on relations between the Bonanno family in New York and its Montreal -based "outpost" established by the Mafia Commission in 1931. The cast of characters further includes high-ranking Mafiosi such as Joseph Massino (The Last Don), Salvatore "Sal the Iron Worker" Montagna, Vito Rizzuto, Vinny Gorgeous (a nickname never used in his presence) and Cicale himself.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Joseph Charles Massino become Known as #TheLastDon

Born on Jan. 10, 1943 in New York City, Joseph Charles Massino is a former member of the Italian Mafia who was the boss of the Bonanno crime family from 1991 to 2004. During his 13 years running the crime syndicate, the powerful Massino was known as “The Last Don,” as he was the only New York mob leader at the time not in prison. However, he is perhaps best known as the first boss of one of the notorious five Mafia families to turn state’s evidence and cooperate with the government in prosecuting other Mafiosi. The ex-mobster entered the Witness Protection Program after his 2013 release from prison and his whereabouts are unknown.

One of three boys raised in Maspeth, Massino claimed he was a juvenile delinquent by age 12 and he was a high school dropout at age 15. He married Josephine Vitale in 1960, and soon began supporting his wife and three daughters through a life of crime, with brother-in-law Salvatore as one of his earliest associates.

By the late 1960s, the future Don was running a truck hijacking crew as an associate of the Bonanno family. He fenced his stolen goods and ran numbers from a lunch wagon which he used as a front for his illicit business. In 1975, Massino participated in a mob murder with brother-in-law Salvatore and future Gambino family head John Gotti. Two years after “making his bones” by killing for the mob, the Maspeth native became a made member of the Bonanno family. Joe Massino was on his way to the top of a criminal empire.

Following the 1979 murder of acting family boss Carmine Galante at a Brooklyn restaurant, Massino began jockeying for power with other Bonanno capos. Ever cunning and ready to use violence to serve his ends, he eliminated several key rivals in 1981. One capo who allegedly fell before The Last Don’s ambition was Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, who allowed undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone to infiltrate his crew under the name Donnie Brasco. Upon hearing about the unprecedented breach of mob security, Massino said of the disgraced capo: “I have to give him a receipt for the Donnie Brasco situation.”

The mobster’s climb to the top would not be without pitfalls, however. In 1987, when some believe he was already the underboss, Massino and Bonanno family head Philip Rastelli were sent to federal prison on labor racketeering charges. Following Rastelli’s death in 1991, Joe Massino was named boss of the Bonanno family while still incarcerated.

Under his leadership, the Bonanno crime syndicate regained the prestige it lost following the FBI undercover operation, and by 2000, with many other Mafia leaders in prison, Massino was considered the most powerful don in the nation. His time at the top would prove short lived. In 2004, The Last Don was indicted for murder and racketeering based on the testimony of other made mobsters, including underboss and brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale. Facing the death penalty if found guilty, Massino agreed to turn against his former associates and testify as a government witness. Although initially sentenced to life in prison, in 2013 he was resentenced to time served.

A Joe Massino quote: “There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth.”

Thanks to Greater Astoria Historical Society.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Vincent Asaro's Goodfellas Airport Cash and Jewelry Heist Trial to Begin Today

For nearly four decades, it remained one of America's most infamous unsolved crimes: on Dec. 11, 1978, a crew of masked men stole $6 million in cash and jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines cargo building at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

The brazen heist, which helped inspire the gangster movie "Goodfellas," left authorities largely frustrated until last year, when federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Vincent Asaro, a member of the Bonanno organized crime family, with participating in the theft.

His criminal trial is set to begin today in Brooklyn federal court before an anonymous jury.

Most of the other suspected participants in the robbery disappeared, were killed or died, making it difficult for authorities to piece the case together.

"Once you kill one guy, you gotta kill them all, because otherwise they'll get scared," said Howard Abadinsky, an organized crime expert and a professor at St John's University in New York. "He’s one of the few guys that's still alive."

Asaro, now 80, is accused of a litany of crimes stretching from 1968 to 2013, including murder, racketeering, arson and robbery. He was arrested alongside four other alleged members of the Bonanno family, who were charged with crimes unrelated to the Lufthansa heist.

Those defendants, Asaro's son Jerome, Jack Bonventre, Thomas DiFiore and John Ragano, all pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 21 to 90 months.

Asaro's defense lawyer, Gerald McMahon, did not respond to a request for comment but has said Asaro denies all the allegations.

The only man ever convicted for the Lufthansa heist was Louis Werner, a cargo agent and the inside man. Werner passed along the idea for the robbery in order to settle gambling debts.

The robbery's proceeds, most of which were never recovered, would be worth nearly $22 million today.

James Burke, an associate of the rival Lucchese crime family known as "Jimmy the Gent," was long considered the mastermind of the robbery; he died in prison in 1996 while serving time for murder. Burke inspired the character played by Robert De Niro in "Goodfellas."

"To pull it off at an airport – you hate to say criminals should get credit, but you have to credit them for pulling it off," Abadinsky said.

The investigation got a break in 2013, when federal agents dug up human remains from the basement of a home tied to Burke based on information from a cooperating witness. The remains were identified as Paul Katz, a former Burke associate.

Asaro and Burke strangled Katz with a dog chain in 1969 after becoming suspicious he was an informant, prosecutors said.

The evidence against Asaro includes recordings made by several cooperators, including high-ranking members of the Bonanno family, who hope to receive witness protection, according to court papers.

One expected witness at trial is Joseph Massino, a former boss of the Bonanno family who has previously testified for the government.

As recently as 2011, court filings say, Asaro was recorded complaining that he hadn’t gotten his share thanks to Burke. "We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get," he said, according to prosecutors.

The jury won't hear about the string of murders allegedly carried out in the robbery's wake to eliminate potential informants. Earlier this month, the judge overseeing the trial ruled that evidence of the killings would be too prejudicial to Asaro, who is not accused of carrying them out.

Asaro is charged with several other crimes, including setting a building on fire in Queens, robbing Federal Express of $1 million in gold salts, soliciting the murder of his cousin in the 1980s and loan sharking as recently as 2013.

Thanks to Joseph Ax.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Reputed Mafia Boss of Canada, Vito Rizzuto, Dies at 67

Vito Rizzuto, the reputed Mafia boss of Canada, whose dapper outfits and ability to avoid prison led the authorities to call him the John Gotti of Montreal, died on Dec. 23 in Montreal. He was 67.
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Mr. Rizzuto died of natural causes, Maude Hébert-Chaput, a spokeswoman for Sacré-Coeur Hospital, told The Associated Press. There were widespread reports that he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer.

Working with the Bonanno crime family in New York, Mr. Rizzuto ran an international drug smuggling operation that imported heroin and cocaine and distributed it in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, the authorities said. His father ran the operation before him.

“Compared to what New York-based authorities were used to looking at, the breadth of geography and intertwining connections of the Rizzuto organization surprised even seasoned investigators,” Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys wrote in the book “The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto.”

In a 2004 column on his website, then called This Week in Gang Land, Jerry Capeci, an expert on the Mafia, compared Mr. Rizzuto to Mr. Gotti, the longtime head of the Gambino crime family in New York, who died in 2002.

“Like Gotti in his heyday, Rizzuto is known as a flashy dresser who was tough to convict,” Mr. Capeci wrote. “He beat two major drug smuggling cases between 1987 and 1990 and his only jail time was a two-year bit for arson in 1972. As a result, he has often been compared to the Dapper Don by the Montreal press, and police.”

But Mr. Rizzuto’s luck ran out in 2004, when he was arrested in Montreal on racketeering charges related to a gangland shooting in Brooklyn that inspired a bloody scene in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco,” starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

In the shooting, on May 5, 1981, Mr. Rizzuto and three other men burst from the closet of a Brooklyn social club and shot three Bonanno captains who had been challenging the family’s leadership, the authorities said. The shooters wore ski masks to make the killing look like a robbery, but the authorities said it had been ordered by Joseph Massino, then a senior Bonanno captain.

Mr. Rizzuto was extradited to the United States in 2006. He pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sent to prison in Florence, Colo.

While he was in prison, organized crime in Montreal fell into chaos and many of his relatives were murdered. His father was killed by a sniper while standing in his kitchen, and his eldest son, Nicolo, was shot and killed. His brother-in-law disappeared, the keys still in the ignition of his Infiniti.

Before his death, Mr. Rizzuto had been working to reclaim control of the mob and exact revenge, experts said. Since his return to Canada in 2012, there have been nine mob-connected murders there, Mr. Capeci said on his website.

“Vito Rizzuto gets out, and this immediately happens,” Pierre de Champlain, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police intelligence analyst and author of a book about the Mafia, told The Globe and Mail after one such killing in 2012. “If it’s a coincidence, it would be a very strange one.”

Victor Rizzuto was born in the village of Cattolica Eraclea in Sicily on Feb. 21, 1946. His family moved to Canada in the mid-1950s, and Mr. Rizzuto married Giovanna Cammalleri in 1966. Survivors include his wife; a sister, Maria Renda; and two children, Leonardo and Bettina, both lawyers.

Despite the spate of killings after he left prison, Mr. Rizzuto once had a reputation as a peacemaker in mob circles.

Mr. Lamothe credited him with “bringing calm to an underworld that at times was out of control” in the 1970s by, for example, arranging an end to a dispute between the Hells Angels and a rival motorcycle gang.

“Mr. Rizzuto’s management style was pretty unique, at least compared to American crime figures, who went to violence as an instant default,” Mr. Lamothe wrote in an email. “He was born into the Mafia and, from his father, inherited the ‘Sicilian view’: Better to share than to shoot.”

Thanks to Daniel E. Slotnik.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Salvatore Vitale Offers List of Mob Commandments and Chain of Command at Thomas Gioeli Trial

It was summer 1999, and a meeting between the leadership of the Bonanno and Colombo crime families was under way in an apartment off Third Avenue, in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. But something was amiss: the seat that should have been taken by William Cutolo Sr., a Colombo underboss, was empty, a former Bonanno underboss testified on Tuesday.

The absence was noted, and then cryptically explained by another Colombo mobster: “You can’t take in this life what’s not yours,” the witness, Salvatore Vitale, recalled the man as saying.

Mr. Vitale, then the underboss of the Bonanno crime family, said he immediately knew what that meant. “I realized then that Wild Bill was dead,” said Mr. Vitale, invoking the nickname of Mr. Cutolo, one of six people whose killings are at the heart of the prosecution of Thomas Gioeli, who prosecutors believe is a former acting boss of the Colombo crime family, and Dino Saracino, who they allege was one of his hit men. The trial of the two men, charged with murder and racketeering, began on Monday.

Mr. Vitale, once known as Good Looking Sal, is admittedly no innocent bystander, nor is he a stranger to the witness stand. Following his arrest in 2003, he quickly began working with the authorities, and his testimony on Tuesday was the seventh time he had taken the stand in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on behalf of the government.

Currently under witness protection, Mr. Vitale has been credited by prosecutors with identifying more than 500 organized crime members and associates. Dozens of them, including Joseph C. Massino, a former Bonanno boss and Mr. Vitale’s brother-in-law, have been imprisoned as a result.

Most of Mr. Vitale’s testimony, under questioning by Christina M. Posa, an assistant United States attorney, amounted to a colorful primer on mob life, as he spoke casually of his nearly 30-year association with the Bonanno family.

At one point, Mr. Vitale was invited off the witness stand to outline the organizational structure of a typical crime family, presented on a large poster board as if it were a boardroom breakdown of a white-collar company. But Mr. Vitale spoke of a criminal hierarchy: the robberies, the loan-sharking, the “hijacking” of trucks carrying “tuna fish, lobster, clothes,” and the homicides.

He offered what amounted to a list of commandments for anyone hoping to succeed and survive in organized crime. “The dos are, ‘Do what you’re told, and you’ll be fine,’ ” he said, underscoring the vital importance of the chain of command in the Bonanno and other crime families.

The chain of command, he emphasized, was essential, especially when murder was involved. “We’re all supposed to be tough guys, we’re all supposed to be shooters,” he said. “But you have to get permission to do something like that.”

Mr. Cutolo disappeared on May 26, 1999; Alphonse Persico, then the boss of the Colombo family, and John DeRoss have been convicted in the killing.

In Mr. Vitale’s four hours on the stand, which included a cross-examination by Carl J. Herman, a lawyer for Mr. Gioeli, he only began to establish Mr. Gioeli’s connection to organized crime.

Mr. Vitale told the court that he had first met Mr. Gioeli, also known as Tommy Shots, when Joel Cacace Sr. — whom prosecutors have called a consigliere, or top mob adviser in the Colombo family — said he wanted Mr. Gioeli to act as a go-between.

“Joe Waverly,” Mr. Vitale said, using a nickname for Mr. Cacace, “had a lot of heat on him — the F.B.I. was all over him,” so he wanted Mr. Gioeli to, in a sense, be his public face.

Several meetings between Mr. Vitale and Mr. Gioeli followed. At some of those meetings, in the mid-1990s, Mr. Vitale said, Mr. Gioeli requested the Bonanno family’s approval, as was customary, of new members the Colombo family was considering. But at the time, the Colombo family’s internal struggle had been raging, and a commission of the top leadership from New York’s main crime families had to halt the Colombo family’s growth.

“When it’s all over the news, all over the newspapers,” Mr. Vitale said of the Colombo power struggle, “it’s bad for business.”

Thanks to Noah Rosenberg

Friday, May 20, 2011

How Joseph Massino Exposed the Ugly Truth About "Vinny Gorgeous"

A New York City mobster who is serving a life sentence for attempted murder could become the first mafia boss to face the death penalty after being convicted in a case accusing him of ordering a gangland killing to cement his rise to power in the Bonanno organised crime family.

A Brooklyn jury had deliberated for four days in the death penalty case before finding tough-talking Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano guilty of murder, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges on Monday.

The jury, after being swayed by wiretaps and a series of low-level mob witnesses, will reconvene next week to decide whether Basciano, 51, will get another life term or execution by lethal injection.

The federal trial of the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon featured testimony by former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who made another first in this trial, by becoming the first boss to testify against one of their own.

Massino, 68, began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the Bonanno ranks.

He is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He testified his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence.

By cooperating, he told jurors he was violating a sacred oath he took during a 1977 induction ceremony to protect the secret society. It was understood, he said, that "once a bullet leaves that gun, you never talk about it".

The bloodshed revealed by Massino's testimony includes the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover agent Donnie Brasco in the 1980s.

While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and betray Basciano, a gangster known for his meticulously groomed hair, sharp suits and hot temper. Before trial, Basciano won approval to have access to five different suits to wear to court – one for each day of the week.

Jurors heard one recording of Basciano boasting, "I'm a hoodlum, I'm a tough guy. Whatever happens, happens. Let's go."

The tape was evidence that the defendant is "a cold-blooded remorseless killer," Assistant US Attorney Stephen Frank said in his closing argument.

Prosecutors alleged that Basciano – while seizing control of the Bonannos as acting boss in 2004 after Massino was jailed – orchestrated the killing of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo. The slaying was payback for a drunken tirade by Pizzolo demanding induction into the family.

Thanks to Richard Hall and Tom Hays

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vincent 'Vinny Gorgeous' Basciano Could Face Death Penalty for Mob Murder

Notorious mob boss 'Vinny Gorgeous' could face the death penalty after being convicted on Monday in federal court of ordering the death of a former Mafia associate.

A jury in Brooklyn reached the verdict on its fourth day of deliberations after the month-long trial and now must decide whether he should be killed for his crime or locked up for life.

It is only the second time in 30 years that a mobster has faced the death penalty for a gangland murder.

In 1992 Thomas 'Tommy Karate' Pitera was convicted of seven murders and could have been executed, but instead the jury gave him life in prison.

There is no longer a state death penalty charge in New York but the feds are seeking the death penalty under the murder in aid of racketeering statute.

Vincent Basciano, who was known to mobsters as Vinny Gorgeous, was already serving a life sentence for an attempted murder conviction in 2007.

This time, he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, murder in aid of racketeering, and an illegal gun charge in relation to the killing of a mob associate who ran afoul of the Bonanno organised crime family in 2004.

The trial featured testimony by former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, the highest-ranking member of a New York City Mafia family ever to testify against his own.

Jurors heard secret recordings by Massino in which 51-year-old Basciano admitted to the killing. Prosecutors suggested Basciano was a power-hungry gangster, 'ruthless' and 'ambitious' in his lethal methods.

Basciano gave the order to kill Randolph Pizzolo, a Bonanno associate who was gunned down in 2004 in an industrial section of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Assistant US Attorney Stephen Frank told the jury at Brooklyn federal court Basciano continued to run the crime family from behind bars.

Basciano 'ordered the murder of Randolph Pizzolo, who disrespected and disobeyed the defendant and paid for it with his life,' he said. Pizzolo's death 'would be a statement to everybody in the crime family that Vinny Basciano don't play around,' Frank added.

He suggested a secret recording which captured the gangster saying 'let him [Pizzolo] go', proved the mobster's guilt.

Despite the recordings and testimony from former mob associates of the gangster, Basciano's defence had tried to argue he wasn't involved in Pizzolo's murder. 'At times in his life, he was a hoodlum. But he didn't kill Randy Pizzolo,' George Goltzer, one of Basciano's defense attorneys, told the jury.

The defence painted half a dozen former Bonannos who testified against Basciano as ruthless murderers seeking reduced sentences at any cost.

One of them, Joseph Massino, was the Bonanno boss for two decades before turning on his own and becoming the first head of a New York crime family to testify for the government.

The case relied heavily on secret recordings between Basciano and Massino, who was wearing a wire.

The jury will return to court in a few days to discuss Basciano's penalty and determine whether or not he should be executed for his mob crimes.

Thanks to DMR

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mobster Salvatore Volpe Paid $50,000 After Restaurant Owner Gets His Wife Pregnant

You'd have thought getting a mobster's wife pregnant would carry the ultimate price. But it turns out even a cuckolded Mafioso can sometimes forgive and forget - for the right fee.

Salvatore Volpe, a low-level Bonanno family associate, told a court in New York he accepted $50,000 from a restaurateur who impregnated his wife, in exchange for not killing him.

The 48-year-old took the stand yesterday as a government witness in the trial of Bonanno boss Vincent 'Vinny Gorgeous' Basciano, who is accused of ordering the 2004 murder of  Randy Pizzolo.

Volpe, who works as a plumber, revealed his wife had an affair with the owner of Trattoria Romana, Staten Island, in 2003.

Volpe didn't discover her infidelity until she fell pregnant - although she initially tried to pretend it was his baby, he told Brooklyn Federal Court. He claimed that when he found out the truth, he broke up with his wife then went straight to his crew boss, John Palazzolo, who sent three Bonanno gangsters to confront the owner, known only as 'Anthony'.

According to Volpe, the restaurateur had his own Mafia connections, and sought protection from the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante crime family. Except his plan backfired, and the family were allegedly keen to take the chance to appease the Bonnanos by killing him in his own trattoria basement.

The dispute led to two tense meetings at nearby Alfredo's restaurant as the rival gangs thrashed out a deal, Volpe told the court, although he was too junior to be privy to the talks. He said the Bonnanos sought to avoid killing the man, and instead proposed a $50,000 'tax', $10,000 of which would go to the DeCavalcantes as commission for brokering the deal.

According to the New York Daily News, Volpe told the court: 'Instead of [the restaurant owner] getting killed, he'd have to pay a tax. It was basically a penalty.' He gave the usual cut to his Bonanno bosses, he said, and took the rest for himself. He told the court it was a welcome sum, as the family rarely sent any work to his plumbing business.

Volpe's revelations about the inner-workings of the mob were part of his first day of testimony against Basciano, who faces the death penalty if convicted of ordering Mr Pizzolo's killing.

Yesterday Volpe said Mr Pizzolo sealed his death warrant by boasting he was going to 'level the Bronx' in revenge for not being indicted into the crime family. That was a reference to Basciano, who was then based in the Bronx as the acting Bonanno boss.

He also said the gang discussed killing defence lawyer Gerard Marrone after he put himself forward for membership - but Mr Marrone said he never asked to join.

Volpe is the second 'mob rat' to testify at the trial. Last week the court heard from former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, the New York mafia's highest-ever ranking informer. He agreed to wear a wire in jail to record a conversation with Basciano about the 2004 killing. Prosecutors played the recordings to the court last week, and the jury heard Basciano apparently tell his predecessor: 'I gave the order. Randy was a f***ing jerkoff.'

Bonanno soldier Anthony Aiello has already pleaded guilty to killing Pizzolo, but now his boss is on trial accused of ordering the murder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joseph Massino Testifies That Mob Commission is Extinct

A former mob boss has testified that the infamous Mafia "commission" glamourized in Hollywood films hasn't had a meeting in 25 years.

Ex-Bonanno crime family chieftain Joseph Massino made the claim this week while testifying for the prosecution in a murder trial in Brooklyn.

For decades during the mob's heyday, the leaders of New York City's five major crime families held occasional summits to lay down rules and settle disputes. But Massino says these commission meetings stopped happening after Gambino boss Paul Castellano was assassinated outside a Manhattan restaurant in 1985, and the heads of the other families went to prison for racketeering.

"There ain't no commission," Massino told a jury, although he acknowledged that top leaders of the crime rings do get together to talk shop now and again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joseph Massino Historical Mob Trial Testimony

A jailed former Mafia boss who once ordered a payback killing in the infamous "Donnie Brasco" case made gangland history Tuesday by becoming the highest-ranking member of the city's five Italian organized crime families to break their sacred vow of silence and testify against one of their own.

Joseph Massino Joseph Massino Historical Mob Trial Testimonytook the witness stand at the Brooklyn trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who served as one of his captains in the Bonanno crime family. Prosecutors say that Massino secretly recorded Basciano admitting he ordered a hit on an associate who ran afoul of the secretive Bonannos.

"You will hear the defendant did not tolerate being disrespected or disobeyed and that the penalty for both was death," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri said in opening statements.

Moments after being sworn in, Massino pointed across the courtroom and identified Basciano — "the guy sitting in the gray suit" — as the crime family's former acting boss. The defendant stared back at the government's star witness, steadily chewing on a piece of gum.

In clipped tones, Massino gave the anonymous jury a colorful tutorial on the Mafia.

By cooperating, he explained, he was violating a sacred oath he took during a 1977 induction ceremony to protect the secret society. It was understood, he said, that "once a bullet leaves that gun, you never talk about it."

He testified that when he took control of the family he gave strict orders to never utter his name — a precaution against FBI surveillance. Instead, his soldiers touched their ears to refer to him, earning him the nickname "The Ear."

Asked about his duties as boss, he replied, "Murder. ... Making captains. Breaking captains" — lingo for promoting and demoting capos. He said he also had to assess talent. "It takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce," said Massino, the one-time proprietor of a Queens restaurant called CasaBlanca. "Some people, they kill. Some people, they earn, they can't kill."

Massino, 68, broke ranks and began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the ranks of the Bonannos. The bloodshed included the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover Brasco in the 1980s. Brasco's story became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and betray Basciano.

The understudy "told me that he killed him," Massino said in recounting a conversation about the 2004 slaying charged in the current case. "He said (the victim) was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker, a bad kid."

In his opening statement, defense attorney George Goltzer told jurors that Basciano took credit for the coldblooded murder to protect the real killer — a friend in the Bonannos who acted without proper permission — "from the wrath of Joseph Massino." The lawyer described Massino and other turncoats slated to testify for the government as deceitful opportunists. "The United States government needs to make deals with the devil. ... You don't have to accept what they say," Goltzer said.

Prosecutors say Basciano, the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon, rose to his leadership role after a series of Bonanno defections and successful prosecutions in the 2000s decimated its leadership.

The 50-year-old defendant, known for his explosive temper, could face the death penalty if convicted of racketeering, murder and other charges. He already is serving a life term for a conviction in a separate case in 2007.

Massino is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He testified his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence.

He said he hoped "one day maybe I'll see a little light at the end of the tunnel."

And what about Donnie Brasco?

Massino said he had never met the real-life undercover. Asked whether the movie was accurate, he started to move his hand in a dismissive way before the judge cut him off. "Jurors, disregard this," the judge instructed while making the same motion.

Thanks to Tom Hays

Monday, November 01, 2010

Salvatore Vitale Murders 11, Serves Only 7 Years in Prison

A Mafia boss who turned informant on one of New York's notorious five families - and pleaded guilty to 11 murders - has been sensationally sentenced to 'time served' today.

Salvatore Vitale, 63, immediately cooperated with the FBI and prosecutors after his arrest and imprisonment in January 2003.

He identified more than 500 gangsters and helped convict more than 50 - including his brother-in-law and former Bonanno chief Joseph Massino.

Today's sentence will mean that Vitale will have served around 18 months for each of his 11 murders.

It is expected that he will immediately enter the witness protection programme
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'Quite simply, Vitale has likely been the most important cooperator in the history of law enforcement efforts to prosecute the Mafia,' said Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, of United States District Court in Brooklyn, when he meted out the sentence today.

Judge Garaufis noted that the criminal justice system was 'dependent on the cooperation of criminals in the prosecution of other criminals'. He added: 'This cooperation does not come without a cost.' The judge noted that he was under no illusion that Vitale had become a government witness for any reason other than self-preservation, noting that he did so only when he realised that the crime family had come to see him as a liability.

The judge said: 'It is unfortunate that law enforcement must, of necessity, obtain the cooperation of felons to address the pernicious crimes committed by organised crime,' the judge said. 'But without the benefit of cooperating witnesses like the defendant, the government’s ability to prosecute the secretive and rule-bound world of organised crime would be greatly impaired.'

In October 2004, information he gave to federal officers led to the discovery of three bodies in Ozone Park, Queens.

Vitale’s lawyers, Kenneth Murphy and Brian Waller, had pushed for the sentence to be 'time served'.
Vitale had been facing life in prison.

In a bid to put Vitale away for good, prosecutor Greg Andres read aloud letters sent to the judge from the wife and daughter of one of the victims. Robert Perrino was a Bonanno associate who was the superintendent of deliveries at The New York Post and who was slain in 1992. Vitale ordered the killing based on the fear that Perrino might cooperate with the authorities. Perrino’s body was not found until Vitale himself began cooperating with police. Perrino'd widow Rosalie wrote: 'As a result of Salvatore Vitale’s criminal inhuman behaviour, my grandson never knew his grandfather, and he and our granddaughter have grown up without this special man. 'Salvatore Vitale caused my own life to unravel and the colour in my life to drain away.'

Vitale alternately stared at the table before him and watched the judge as Mr Andres read the letter.
At the end of the hearing, the judge asked the people in the gallery to remain seated so deputy United States marshals could escort Vitale out of the courtroom. He left through the courtroom’s rear door, beside the judge’s bench, and did not look back.

It is not the first time Mafia informants have been given lesser sentences for information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of their bosses. Salvatore Gravano, an underboss for the Gambino family known as 'Sammy the Bull', admitted to 19 murders in 1991 in exchange for a lesser sentence and served just five years.
As part of his testimony, notorious gangster John Gotti was jailed for life.

Vitale, wearing a blue suit and silver pattered tie, twice dabbed tears from his eyes during the court proceeding - and exhaled sharply just before the judge read out the sentence.

The former paratrooper - known as Good Looking Sal' during his three decades committing countless crimes on behalf of the Bonanno family - read from a statement where he apologised to the families of his victims.
He said: 'I would say to them that I pray daily for my victims’ souls and I’m truly sorry. I stand in front of you, your honour, ashamed of the life I used to live. 'I disgraced my father’s name, my name, my sons’ name.'

Vitale operated at the highest levels of organised crime while a member of La Cosa Nostra, and knew many of the Bonanno secrets - including quite literally where bodies were buried.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

John Favara, Former Neighbor of John Gotti, Murdered and Dumped into Acid According to Federal Informant

The corpse of John Gotti's Howard Beach neighbor - murdered after he accidentally killed the gangster's 12-year-old son in a traffic accident - was dissolved in a barrel of acid, an informant says.

John Favara's grisly fate is disclosed in court papers filed Tuesday in the upcoming racketeering trial of reputed Gambino soldier Charles (Charlie Canig) Carneglia.

He has long been suspected of getting rid of Favara's body after the father of two was shot in March 1980 on orders of the late Gambino crime boss. Favara's body has never been found.

Carneglia told a Gambino family associate, who is a government witness, that he disposed of the body by putting it in a barrel of acid, Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roger Burlingame said.

The associate is not identified in the court papers, but sources told the Daily News it is Kevin McMahon, a mob wanna-be close to Carneglia.

Young Frankie Gotti was riding McMahon's minibike when the mob scion was fatally struck on 86th St. by Favara, who was briefly blinded by the setting sun as he drove home from work.

Prosecutors say Carneglia "protected" McMahon from retaliation by the Dapper Don for lending his son the minibike and - in a bizarre twist - McMahon is the one ratting him out.

No one could save Favara. He found the word Murderer scrawled on his auto and was attacked with a bat by Gotti's wife, Victoria, but failed to heed repeated warnings to move out of the area, sources said.

Several weeks after the tragic accident, Favara was abducted outside the Castro Convertible warehouse where he worked in New Hyde Park, L.I.. Cops identified his killers as Gambino members John Carneglia, Charles' brother, Gene Gotti, Wilfred (Willie Boy) Johnson, Anthony Rampino and Richard (Redbird) Gomes.

Favara was forced into a van, sources said, and shot in the legs. He was taken to another location in Brooklyn where he was killed and stuffed into a 55-gallon drum, sources said.

"In a later discussion concerning his expertise at disposing of bodies for the Gambino family, which included a discussion of a book (Charles Carneglia) was reading on dismemberment, (Carneglia) informed another Gambino family associate that acid was the best method to use to avoid detection," Burlingame wrote.

Carneglia, 62, who is charged with five murders, including the fatal shooting of a hero court officer scheduled to testify against him, asked McMahon to help him move barrels of acid stored in his basement.

Former Bonanno crime boss Joseph Massino told the feds he thought Favara's remains were buried in a mob graveyard on the Brooklyn-Queens border. The feds believe the barrel was tossed into the ocean, sources said.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Organized Crime Evolves with Economy and Pressure from The Feds

The Teflon Don is dead and gone. The Mustache Petes of the Mafia's old guard are mostly behind bars. And the crime rackets have gone global.

Think La Cosa Nostra is just a quaint throwback, the stuff of gangster movies? Fuggedaboudit.

Although the Mafia may not be as strong as it once was, FBI agents say organized crime is far from dead. Not only is the traditional mob still at it, but new organized crime groups also are vying for a piece of the action.

Weakened by two decades of prosecutions, the traditional Italian crime organizations plug away at what they know best: labor racketeering, infiltrating unions and construction industries, gambling and loan sharking.

"What you see in the movies about honor and code is a fallacy. That doesn't exist. It's completely about the money," said Mike Gaeta, a veteran agent who heads the FBI squad in charge of investigating the Genovese family. "As the economy evolves, they evolve."

The scams are growing in sophistication, focusing more than ever on the big money. Everyone pays the price, according to Gaeta. "There is a mob tax placed on everything from your garbage collection, food delivery, the rent that you pay," he said. "I don't know what the percentage is, but there is a premium that you pay because of the control that organized crime has on labor unions and on the contractors who are engaged in those job sites."

There are more than 3,000 Mafia members and associates in the U.S., the FBI estimates on its Web site. The presence is most pronounced around New York, southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The FBI has about 100 agents and 11 squads investigating mob activities at the New York hub.

The FBI touts its success against New York's five major Mafia families -- Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese -- as one of the bureau's biggest accomplishments in its 100-year history. Major arrests and convictions in the 1980s and 1990s crippled the mob. If they didn't get whacked first, the top dogs of the five families faced multiple prosecutions and long prison terms. Among the big names to take the perp walk as a result: John Gotti, Vincent Gigante and Joseph Massino.

The federal racketeering law passed in 1970 known as the Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, allowed agents to build stronger cases and secure stiffer sentences. It was added to the bureau's traditional crime-fighting arsenal of wiretaps, physical surveillance of targets and undercover agents.

As the years rolled by, the FBI benefited from "flipping" mob insiders like Massino, who, facing life sentences for RICO convictions, decided to violate the Mafia's code of silence -- omerta. Massino talked to avoid the death penalty for murder, becoming the Mafia's highest-ranking turncoat, and is now serving a life sentence.

Seamus McElearney, who spearheads FBI investigations against the Colombo crime family, has persuaded several mobsters to turn informant, and one case sticks out in his mind. "This individual was able to realize that he'd be going away for the rest of his life, and like anything in life, you build a rapport with someone, and you have to get over that trust factor. And he started to trust me and realize this was his best option," McElearney said, describing what it takes to persuade a witness to switch sides.

The FBI also uses forensic accounting and other sophisticated tools to penetrate the mob. "Looking at these guys from a financial point of view, because that's one of the best ways to hurt them is in the pocketbook ... ultimately led to the devastation of the family," said Supervisory Special Agent Nora Conley, who investigates the Bonanno family.

The mob adapted to investigations and convictions as layer upon layer of wiseguys-in-waiting stepped up. The Italians may still control the lion's share of illegal organized crime activity, but competitors are vying for a piece of the action.

Law enforcement officials say Asians, Russians and Albanians have established their own crime organizations in the United States. These groups are smaller and more disorganized than their Italian counterparts but pose their own danger.

Kevin Hallinan, an FBI supervisor who has worked organized crime for 18 years, said that groups of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese nationals, for example, are heavily involved in immigrant-smuggling, gambling, prostitution, counterfeiting and extortion of legitimate businesses as well as other crimes.

"Drugs are a serious problem," Hallinan said. "It's quick money. They have known transportation routes. A lot of the folks have international connections and know people at the ports, at the airports, and can get the drugs here."

He continued, "the big challenge for Asian organized crime and Albanian organized crime is having the finances to pay for a load of heroin, to pay for a load of cocaine, and then have the facilitator get it into the country, and then have the means of distribution, which the Italians have had in the past."

Russian and Albanian groups "are more like criminal enterprises than organized crime," observes agent Dennis Bolles, who heads the squad investigating them.

"Whether it is insurance fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, Medicaid fraud, securities fraud, mortgage fraud [or] multimillion-dollar scams, the Russians are very sophisticated," Bolles said. "They are very educated people. Some are former KGB. Some are former government officials -- masters degrees, PhDs -- and now they find themselves in the U.S., and they are using those brains to commit scams."

The FBI learned the hard way that foot-dragging on organized crime investigations can be costly.

In the 1930s, as Genovese family leader Lucky Luciano rose to power and brought the five families into a unified commission, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover resisted going after the mob. His inaction allowed the Mafia to become fully entrenched into American society and business.

It wasn't until the 1950s that the Mafia became a law enforcement priority. Sen. Estes Kefauver led congressional hearings on organized crime in May 1950, and the 1963 congressional testimony of Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi brought attention to a problem that long had been ignored. "From there, the program skyrocketed and became a very material priority for the FBI as criminal programs," Assistant FBI Director Mark Mershon said.
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FBI officials credit that effort and the intelligence-gathering skills learned in mob investigations for giving today's agents a foundation for future investigations, including of terrorists. "You have to understand who are the players, who are the leaders, how are they financed, how do they recruit, how do they handle their memberships," FBI Director Robert Mueller recently said as the bureau approached the 100-year mark.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Vinny Gorgeous Gets Life in Prison without Parole

A former beauty salon owner known by the Mafia as Vinny Gorgeous was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for the 2001 killing of one of his gangland rivals, federal prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Vincent Basciano in 2006 of racketeering, attempted murder and gambling but deadlocked on a murder charge in the slaying of Frank Santoro. After a retrial, Basciano was convicted of murder in July 2007.
Beauty.com
Basciano, who once owned a salon called Hello Gorgeous, used a 12-gauge shotgun to kill Santoro because he believed Santoro wanted to kidnap one of his sons, prosecutors said.

One of Basciano's lawyers, Ephraim Savitt, said he plans to appeal and challenge prosecutors' central trial witness, Dominick Cicale, a former Basciano protege who said he and Basciano gunned down Santoro. The defense lawyers have said prosecutors built the case on untruthful testimony from mob turncoats.

Basciano became the acting boss of the Bonanno organized crime family after the arrest of Joseph Massino.

Massino was sentenced in 2005 to life in prison for orchestrating murders, racketeering and other crimes over a 25-year period. He avoided a possible death sentence by providing to the government evidence against Basciano and other mobsters.

While imprisoned together, Massino secretly recorded Basciano discussing a plot to kill a prosecutor, resulting in new charges against Basciano, authorities said. If convicted in that upcoming trial, Basciano could face the death penalty.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is the Mafia a Farce?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Marzulli

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mob Fighting Forensic Accountant Earns FBI Promotion

The Target 12 Investigators bring you "Inside the Mafia" revealing a new threat to the New England mob.

An FBI agent who infiltrated a New York crime family and took down their powerful boss has just arrived in Providence. He's agreed to speak exclusively with Target 12 Investigator Tim White.

Jeff Sallet is the newest supervisor for the FBI in Providence. He quickly built a reputation in New York for being a tenacious investigator and for helping take down the city's last true "don".

A legendary bust that crippled the mighty Bonnano crime family. They're the notorious leaders of the five organized crime empires in New York.

Infamous Gambino boss, John Gotti, Colombo family boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Genovese leader Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Luchese boss Vittorio "Little Vic" Amuso, and boss of the Bonnano family Joseph "The Ear" Massino.

By 1997, all but one had been sent to prison. He was the "last don," and somehow, "The Ear" had successfully evaded the sting of law enforcement. Sallet says, "The reason they came up with the name "The Ear" is because he always had his ear to the ground, as Joe always knew what was going on."

In 1999 FBI agent Jeffrey Sallet and his partner Kimberly McCaffrey were assigned to infiltrate Massino's empire in an unconventional way.

The FBI calls them "forensic accountants" -- specially trained to sift through financial records and instantly recognize criminal patterns like "money laundering."

Sallet says, "I think there is nothing people fear more than an accountant with a badge."

The paper chase into Massino's massive finances led investigators down the chain to a low-level mob associate. Sallet not only convinced the mob insider to become an informant, but take on the dangerous assignment of wearing a "wire" around wiseguys.

Sallet says, "Top down our main targets were Joe Massino and Salvator Vitale. But in order to get to the top, we also had to get to the bottom and determine who were the people to get us in."

It took 4 years, but eventually the feds had their case. On January 9th, 2003, a team of federal agents knocked on Massino's door. The charges, among many: Loan-sharking and murder.

Sallet was there and in what he describes as surreal, the mob boss knew him and his partner by their first names.

Tim White asks, "Had you ever met Joe Massino before that moment?"

Sallet: "Never"

White: "So how did he know who you were?"

Sallet: "I think one of the quotes he also said is you do your homework and I do mine."

The case lead the FBI a lot in Brooklyn lot, where they recovered the bodies of three mob soldiers Massino had whacked. The last don is now in prison for life.

Sallet, has moved on, 6 months ago he came to the FBI's Providence office to run the organized crime, violent crime, gang criminal enterprises squad.

After helping take down the last don in New York, it makes sense why Sallet would be here. Sallet says, "The boss of the New England LCN is one of the only bosses, official bosses to be on the street."

Citing FBI policy, Sallet won't identify members of the Patriarca crime family. But law enforcement sources tell Target 12, the boss, is 80 year old Louis "Baby Shacks" Mannochio.

State police Major Steven O'Donnell, a veteran organized crime fighter, says Sallet's knowledge of the New York families will work here.

O'Donnell says, "you read a report about a wiseguy in Rhode Island... Its no different than reading about a wiseguy in New York, its the same type of activity just a different person."

O'Donnell says Sallet meets daily with state and Providence police. And, we've learned Sallet has made contact with the criminal side as well. Sallet won't comment, but mob insiders tell Target 12 he was spotted introducing himself to "Baby Shacks" Mannochio, letting the boss know, he's in town.

Sallet says, "I have been investigating organized crime for ten years, and what I can tell you is I have always treated everybody with the utmost respect."

Sallet's squad not only focuses on bringing down traditional wiseguys, but also with the growing national problem of violent street gangs. Sallet says their "turf wars" are a prime target for the FBI and local police.

Thanks to Tim White

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

La Cosa No More?

In early 2004, mob veteran Vincent Basciano took over as head of the Bonanno crime family. The reign of the preening, pompadoured Mafioso known as Vinny Gorgeous lasted only slightly longer than a coloring dye job from his Bronx hair salon.

Within a year, the ex-beauty shop owner with the hair-trigger temper was behind bars betrayed by his predecessor, a stand-up guy now sitting down with the FBI.
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It was a huge blow to Basciano and the once-mighty Bonannos, and similar scenarios are playing out from coast to coast. The Mafia, memorably described as "bigger than U.S. Steel" by mob financier Meyer Lansky, is more of an illicit mom-and-pop operation in the new millennium.

The mob's frailties were evident in recent months in Chicago, where three senior-citizen mobsters were locked up for murders committed a generation ago; in Florida, where a 97-year-old Mafioso with a rap sheet dating to the days of Lucky Luciano was imprisoned for racketeering; and in New York, where 80-something boss Matty "The Horse" Ianniello pleaded to charges linked to the garbage industry and union corruption.

Things are so bad that mob scion John A. "Junior" Gotti chose to quit the mob while serving five years in prison rather than return to his spot atop the Gambino family.

At the mob's peak in the late 1950s, more than two dozen families operated nationwide. Disputes were settled by the Commission, a sort of gangland Supreme Court. Corporate change came in a spray of gunfire. This was the mob of "The Godfather" celebrated in pop culture.

Today, Mafia families in former strongholds like Cleveland, Los Angeles and Tampa are gone. La Cosa Nostra our thing, as its initiates called the mob is in serious decline everywhere but New York City. And even there, things aren't so great: Two of New York's five crime families are run in absentia by bosses behind bars.

Mob executions are also a blast from the past. The last boss whacked was the Gambinos' "Big Paul" Castellano in 1985. New York's last mob shooting war occurred in 1991. And in Chicago, home to the 1929 St. Valentine's Day massacre, the last hit linked to the "Outfit" went down in the mid-1990s.

The Mafia's ruling Commission has not met in years. Membership in key cities is dwindling, while the number of mob turncoats is soaring.

"You arrest 10 people," says one New York FBI agent, "and you have eight of them almost immediately knocking on your door: `OK, I wanna cut a deal.'"

The oath of omerta silence has become a joke. Ditto for the old world "Family" values honor, loyalty, integrity that served as cornerstones for an organization brought to America by Italian immigrants during the era of Prohibition. "It's been several generations since they left Sicily," says Dave Shafer, head of the FBI organized crime division in New York. "It's all about money."

Which doesn't mean the Mafia is dead. But organized crime experts say the Italian mob is seriously wounded: shot in the foot by its own loudmouth members, bloodied by scores of convictions, and crippled by a loss of veteran leaders and a dearth of capable replacements.

The Bonannos, along with New York's four other borgatas (or families), emerged from a bloody mob war that ended in 1931. The Mafia then became one of the nation's biggest growth industries, extending its reach into legitimate businesses like concrete and garbage carting and illegal pursuits like gambling and loan-sharking. The mob always operated in the black.

Things began to change in the mid-1980s, when the Mafia was caught in a crossfire of RICO, rats and recorded conversations. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act handed mob prosecutors an unprecedented tool, making even minor crimes eligible for stiff prison terms.

The 20-year sentences gave authorities new leverage, and mobsters who once served four-year terms without flinching were soon helping prosecutors.

"A good RICO is virtually impossible to defend," insists Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, who drafted the law while serving as counsel to Sen. John McClellan in 1970. The results proved him right.

The first major RICO indictment came in 1985, with the heads of three New York families and five other top level Mafiosi eventually convicted. It took nearly two decades, but the heads of all five New York families were jailed simultaneously in 2003.

Authorities around the country were soon using Blakey's statute and informants against Italian organized crime in their cities.

In Philadelphia, where the mob was so widespread that Bruce Springsteen immortalized the 1981 killing of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa in his song "Atlantic City," one mob expert estimates the Mafia presence is down to about a dozen hardcore "made" men. Their number was once about 80.

The New England mob claims barely two dozen remaining made members about half the number involved 25 years ago. The Boston underboss awaits trial.

In Chicago, home of Al Capone, the head of the local FBI office believes fewer than 30 made men remain. That figure stood at more than 100 in 1990. The city's biggest mob trial in decades ended recently with the convictions of three old-timers for murders from the 1970s and '80s.

In Los Angeles, there's still a Mafia problem "La Eme," the Mexican Mafia. An aging leadership in the Italian mob, along with successful prosecutions, left most of the local "gangsters" hanging out on movie sets.

The Florida family dominated by Santos Trafficante, the powerful boss linked to assassination plots targeting President John F. Kennedy and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, is gone. The beachfront Mafia of the 21st century is mostly transplanted New Yorkers, and money generated by the local rackets isn't kicked up the chain of command as in the past.

"You have guys running around doing their own thing," says Joe Cicini, supervisor of the FBI's South Florida mob investigations. "They don't have the work ethic or the discipline that the older generation had."

The decline of "Family values" is nothing new. Back in January 1990, a government bug caught no less an expert than Gambino boss John Gotti wondering if the next generation of mobsters was equal to their forebears. "Where are we gonna find them, these kind of guys?" Gotti asked. "I'm not being a pessimist. It's getting tougher, not easier!"

During the same conversation, Gotti questioned the resumes of a half-dozen candidates for made man: "I want guys that done more than killing."

Even harder, it would turn out, was finding guys who could keep their mouths shut.

"Mob informant" was once an oxymoron, but today the number of rats is enormous and growing with each indictment. And the mob's storied ability to exact retribution on informants is virtually nonexistent.

"There is no more secret society," says Matthew Heron, the FBI's Organized Crime Section Chief in Washington.

"In the past, you'd start out with the lowest level and try to work your way up," Heron continues. Now "it's like playing leapfrog. You go right over everybody else to the promised land."

Basciano, 48, the one-time owner of the "Hello Gorgeous" beauty parlor, faces an upcoming trial for plotting to kill a federal prosecutor. The case was brought after his old boss, "Big Joey" Massino, wore a wire into a jailhouse meeting where the alleged hit was discussed.

By the time Massino went public with his plea deal in June 2005, another 50 Bonanno associates had been convicted in three years. The number of colleagues who testified against them, going right up to Massino, was in double digits. Basciano now faces the rest of his life in prison.

The Bonanno family is now led by the inexperienced "Sal The Ironworker" Montagna, just 35 years old, according to the FBI. Montagna shares one trait with his family's founder: He, too, is a Sicilian immigrant.

The mob of the 21st century still makes money the old-fashioned way: gambling, loan-sharking, shakedowns. Three Genovese family associates were busted this month for extorting or robbing businessmen in New York and New Jersey, making off with $1 million.

There are other, more modern scams: The Gambino family collected $230 million in fraudulent credit card fees linked to pornographic Web sites. Another crooked plan grossed more than $420 million when calls made to "free" phone services triggered unauthorized monthly fees on victims' phone bills.

After getting busted, mobsters are quick to offer advice to the FBI about allocating the agency's investigative resources.

"I can't tell you how many times we've gone to arrest people, and the first thing a wiseguy says is, `You should be going after the terrorists," said Seamus McElearney, head of the FBI's Colombo crime family squad in New York. "They say it all the time: `You should be doing that.'

"And leaving them alone."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Championcatalog.com (Sara Lee)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

90-Year-Old Sonny Franzese, Reputed Head of Colombo Crime Family, Jailed

Friends of ours: John "Sonny" Franzese, Joseph "Big Joey" Massino, Colombo Crime Family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello
Friends of mine: Frank Sinatra

A 90-year-old Colombo crime family leader who rubbed elbows with Frank Sinatra and other celebrities during his heyday was arrested for associating with known mobsters, his fifth parole violation in 25 years, the FBI said.

John "Sonny" Franzese was arrested Wednesday when he appeared for a regularly scheduled visit with a probation officer, said Jim Margolin, an FBI spokesman.

It was the fifth parole violation for Franzese. Among the others: He was jailed for three years after a November 2000 meeting at a coffee shop with three Colombo family associates. Another time, he spent two years behind bars after federal agents watched him enjoying a bowl of spinach soup with mob associates at a restaurant.

Margolin had no details this time on where Franzese had violated his parole or what he might have been eating or drinking at the time.

Franzese was being held in jail and was to appear in court next week. He didn't have a lawyer, Margolin said.

Despite his age, Franzese reportedly ascended to Colombo underboss two years ago after family boss "Big Joey" Massino was convicted of racketeering and became a federal witness. Massino, who spent 14 years running the family, became the first sitting boss of one of New York's five Mafia families to flip. But Franzese was involved in organized crime long before Massino's ascension. He was a fixture at the Copacabana nightclub, where he often spent time with Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., according to Jerry Capeci, author of several books on organized crime and operator of the Web site ganglandnews.com.

Franzese also had a financial stake in the legendary porn movie "Deep Throat."

Franzese's parole restrictions continue through 2020, when he would be older than 100. It was unclear how much prison time he might face on the parole violation.

Since going to jail in 1970 for a bank robbery, Franzese had spent more than two decades -- on and off -- behind bars. He was initially paroled on that charge in 1978, and the first of the parole violations was in 1982.

Franzese wasn't the only aging mobster in court Wednesday. Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, 86, was sentenced in New Haven, Connecticut, to two years in prison for racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion. The case was part of a federal probe of the trash hauling industry in Connecticut and New York.

Thanks to CNN

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