The Chicago Syndicate: Joseph Massino

Showing posts with label Joseph Massino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph Massino. Show all posts

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

Friday, May 04, 2007

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

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

Thomas and Rosemarie Uva were not exactly criminal geniuses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to CNN

Godfather of Montreal Pleads Guilty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Powerful Mafia Boss Seeking Plea Deal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vitale was shown a photograph and asked to identify it.

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

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

Later, Vitale again brought Mr. Rizzuto up.

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

"Vito Rizzuto," came the answer.

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

Mr. Schoen estimates a trial would last nine weeks.

Thanks to Adrian Humphreys

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bonanno's Name Bambino Godfather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Marzulli

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Real Dons Steal Sopranos Limelight

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Paul Harris

Friday, February 24, 2006

Godfather Facing Rat Infestation

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

Call it the March of the Rats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dramatic mob trials still fill the seats

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Gambino Crime Family, Peter Gotti, Colombo Crime Family, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Lucchese Crime Family, Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea, Bonanno Crime Family, Joseph "Big Joe" Massino, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Organized crime may be on the decline, but Mafia trials are getting as much attention as ever.

In New York City alone, three upcoming federal prosecutions are targeting La Cosa Nostra, the Italian-American crime syndicate made famous by The Godfather books and films, and the HBO series The Sopranos. Defendants include John A. Gotti, son of John J. Gotti, the "Dapper Don" who died in federal prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors hope to try alleged mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 76, and 10 alleged associates later this year for conspiracy to commit at least 18 unsolved murders, some dating back more than 30 years.

The cases all have the ruthlessness, and the color, that America has come to expect from the Mob.

First, there are the names. "Vinny Bionics," "Jackie Nose," "Mikey Scars," "Louie Electric" and "Skinny Dom," are among the characters who appear in court papers filed in the New York cases.

Then, there are the details. One case features an apparent first: the boss of a New York City crime family who, court papers say, "wore a wire" to secretly record conversations that were used to bring charges against other members. In another, two former New York City police detectives are accused of accepting thousands of dollars to carry out or aid seven Mafia-related slayings.

The public and the media are sure to be watching. Last month, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for Lombardo's first court appearance. Lombardo, who got his nickname by making jokes during legal proceedings, had disappeared soon after he was indicted and was on the lam for nine months before he was captured in a Chicago suburb Jan. 13.

Mafiosi "are not as large and as powerful as they once were, but they can still draw a crowd," says Jerry Capeci, organized crime specialist for Ganglandnews.com and author and co-author of six books on the Mob. "And let's face it, (Mob trials) are a lot more colorful than, what, Enron and like that."

Defendants in all of the Mafia cases have pleaded not guilty.

In Chicago, Lombardo and his associates are charged with plotting to kill a potential grand jury witness. They're also charged in the June 1986 killings of Chicago organized crime figure Tony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael, who were beaten, then buried alive in a cornfield. The episode was fictionalized in Casino, a 1995 movie in which actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro.


MAFIA CONVICTIONS AT A GLANCE
During the past nine years, federal and local prosecutors in New York City have secured convictions and prison sentences for defendants they described as the bosses or acting bosses of all five of the city's Mafia "families."
Family Boss Conviction Sentence
Genovese Vincent "Chin" Gigante Racketeering (1997) 12 years (died in prison, 2005)
Gambino Peter Gotti Conspiracy; money laundering (2003) 9 1/2 years
Colombo Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico Racketeering (2003) 13 years
Luchese Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea Construction bid rigging (2004) 3 to 6 years
Bonanno Joseph "Big Joe" Massino Multiple murders (2005) Life


In federal court in Brooklyn, testimony is scheduled to begin Feb. 22 in the murder, racketeering, bookmaking and extortion trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, 46. Court papers describe him as the acting head of the Bonannos, one of five Mob "families" in New York City. Since mid-January, jury selection has been going on in secret to protect potential jurors' identities, court spokesman Robert Nardoza said.

Basciano, whose nickname, Capeci says, derived from a Bronx beauty parlor Basciano once owned, is charged with killing a Mob associate and plotting two other slayings. Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo, 66, an alleged Bonanno capo, or crime crew chief, is accused of killing another family associate.

Both men also face gambling, loan sharking and extortion charges. The charges are based in part on secret recordings made by convicted Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, 66, in January 2005, when he and Basciano met in a detention center in New York City, court papers say.

Basciano, awaiting trial, was unaware that Massino — who was awaiting sentencing for a racketeering conviction — had agreed to work for the FBI, Basciano's attorneys say in court papers.

"That's huge," says Ronald Kessler, who has written two books on the FBI. "Getting a family leader to wear a wire is something that's never happened before. It should make for very interesting testimony."

One of the most interested parties might be DeFilippo, Basciano's co-defendant and, according to prosecutors, his fellow Bonanno family member.

Transcripts of the tapes in court papers indicate that Basciano asked Massino, the family leader, for permission to "jocko" — Mob slang for kill — DeFilippo in a dispute over money and Basciano's leadership style. "I have a problem living in the same world as this guy," Basciano said of DeFilippo, the court papers say.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the retrial of John A. Gotti in federal court in Manhattan. Gotti, 41, called "Junior" in court papers, is charged with ordering the kidnapping and non-fatal shooting of Curtis Sliwa, a New York City radio talk-show host and founder of the Guardian Angels citizen-patrol group. Sliwa was abducted by Gambino family crime members under Gotti's control in 1992, prosecutors allege, because Gotti was upset by Sliwa's criticism of his father. When Gotti was first tried in September, jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on the kidnapping and extortion and loan-sharking charges. He was found not guilty of securities fraud. His attorneys disputed prosecutors' claims that he is boss of the crime family his father once led. They said he had severed his ties with organized crime.

The younger Gotti was convicted of racketeering in 1999 and was imprisoned for six years.

This week, Judge Shira Scheindlin turned down Gotti's request that Sliwa not be allowed to criticize him on Sliwa's show during the trial. Gotti said Sliwa's comments could unfairly influence jurors.

On Feb. 21, also in federal court in Brooklyn, jury selection is scheduled to begin in the murder and racketeering trial of former New York City police detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, are charged with accepting up to $4,000 a month in the 1980s and early 1990s to give members of the Luchese crime family information on police surveillance and help them find the targets of seven family-ordered hits.

The retired detectives also are accused of fatally shooting a Mafia member who had agreed to turn over information to the government.

Jack Weinstein, the judge in the case, has asked for a larger courtroom to accommodate crowds.

"They don't get better than this," Capeci says.

Thanks to Richard Willing

Monday, April 27, 1998

A Who's Who, and Who's Where, of Mafia Families

Although six leaders of the Genovese crime family were convicted of racketeering last year, investigators still rank the Genoveses as the nation's most potent and insulated Mafia faction. The family is said to be the largest gang, with 200 to 250 ''made,'' or inducted, members and almost 1,000 associates -- people who assist the family's underworld operations.

Joseph J. Coffey, the former commanding officer of New York State's Organized Crime Task Force and a consultant to the New Jersey and Nevada gambling commissions, described the Genovese family, with its extensive network of gambling and loan-sharking operations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as ''the Ivy League of the underworld,'' referring to its reputation among law enforcement officials as the most successful organized-crime family.

Federal and state officials have identified Dominick V. Cirillo, a longtime capo, or captain, as the acting Genovese boss. They say Mr. Cirillo, 68, of the Bronx, took over last year in the wake of the racketeering conviction and imprisonment of Vincent Gigante, 70, his predecessor.

Law enforcement analysts see the Gambino crime family as the area's second-most-powerful group. But they say its influence has been undermined by a spate of convictions of its leaders and the defection of a former underboss, Salvatore Gravano.

John J. Gotti, 57, the family boss, is serving a life sentence without parole for murder and racketeering, and his son, John A. Gotti, 34, who Federal and state officials say was appointed as the acting boss by his father six years ago, is being held without bail, awaiting trial on racketeering, fraud and extortion charges.

Investigators identify John J. D'Amico, 63, a Gambino capo with homes in Hillsdale, N.J., and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as the family's primary leader. Mr. D'Amico's prestige, the authorities say, increased after the indictment in January of the younger Mr. Gotti, and the conviction and imprisonment last year of Nicholas Corozzo, 58, another high-ranking capo.

J. Bruce Mouw, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Gambino squad, said that although the younger Gotti has the title of acting boss, the family actually has been run by a committee consisting of Mr. D'Amico, Mr. Corozzo and Peter Gotti, a capo who is John J. Gotti's brother. John J. Gotti's attempt to oversee the family from a Federal prison in Marion, Ill., floundered, Mr. Mouw asserted. ''They are in a sad state,'' he said. ''They have no real boss, no underboss and no consigliere.''

As a sign of the Gambinos' problems, law enforcement agents note that its crews -- units led by capos -- are down to 12 from a high of 21, and that active soldiers now number about 150, compared with 250 in 1986 when John J. Gotti seized power.

Although overall mobster influence appears to be declining, the authorities believe that the Bonanno family has gained strength and is approaching the Gambinos as the country's second-most-dangerous Mafia faction.

The Bonanno organization, the authorities say, has 100 active members and is the only New York family with an active boss, Joseph C. Massino, 55, of Howard Beach, Queens. And, unlike other mob families, it has no top leaders in prison or under indictment.

Murderous family disputes, turncoats and numerous convictions have severely weakened the Lucchese and Colombo crime families in the last decade, investigators say. Each group is estimated to have about 120 members and is led by acting bosses and committees. Joseph A. DeFede, 64, a capo from Howard Beach, is the temporary Lucchese chief, and Andrew Russo, 63, of Old Brookville, N.Y., who is in jail for parole violations, is the Colombo family's acting boss.

In describing the Mafia's gradual decline in the area, Robert T. Buccino of the New Jersey Attorney General's office said that in 1969, the apparent peak of the mob's influence, more than 200 Mafia capos and soldiers flourished in the state. Today, he said, the number of active New Jersey mobsters is about 20.

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

Sunday, September 03, 1995

Genoveses Surpass Gambinos as Most Powerful New York Crime Family

With John Gotti and scores of other organized-crime members behind bars, law enforcement officials say that New York's mob families are undergoing a major power realignment, elevating to the top rung of the Mafia a man who is best known for walking around his neighborhood in his pajamas.

Federal and state officials say that since Mr. Gotti, the head of the Gambino family, was convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992, the rival Genovese organization has supplanted the Gambino family as the most powerful Mafia group in New York and the nation. The shift has placed significant power in the hands of Vincent Gigante, the boss of the Genovese family and now the decisive voice on the Mafia's commission, the group that sets mobster policies and resolves disputes.

Since Mr. Gotti, 54, began serving a life sentence without parole, the officials say, he has been confined away from the general inmate population and his communications outside of prison have been closely monitored. As a result, his hold on the Gambino family has loosened and the crime organization has fallen into disarray, lacking firm leadership. The family's ranks have been whittled in the last five years to about 200 active members from 400, according to Federal and state investigators who work on organized-crime cases.

The Genovese family, on the other hand, has 300 members and a hierarchy relatively unscathed by prosecutions, making it the country's strongest Mafia force, Federal and state law enforcement officials say.

Law enforcement officials emphasize that huge amounts of money are at stake in the shift of power. Mr. Gigante's influence on the commission, the officials say, often allows the Genovese family to harvest the largest shares of revenue in mutual crime ventures with other families. On Friday, a Federal grand jury in Manhattan charged that the Genovese family took a secret bite out of the Feast of San Gennaro, one of the city's most popular street festivals. In a perjury indictment, the grand jury said that Genovese members picked vendors for the feast in lower Manhattan and siphoned off significant amounts of the rents paid for stalls.

Law enforcement officials say that the Genovese family has risen in the wake of the Gambino family's decline, allowing Genovese mobsters to take over some construction and gambling rackets previously dominated by the Gambino faction.

Federal and state officials estimate that New York's five Mafia organizations -- the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Colombo families -- annually take in billions of dollars in illicit profits. City Police Department officials estimate that Mafia groups and people who work for them reap more than $2 billion a year alone in profits from illegal bookmaking and gambling enterprises in the New York area. Salvatore Gravano, the former Gambino underboss, testified that he routinely turned over more than $1 million a year in cash to Mr. Gotti as his share of the family's plunder from extortion in the construction industry.

The Genovese family has created the largest bookmaking and loan-sharking rings in the New York area, the officials say. The family's other major rackets include shakedowns from construction companies for labor peace, control of the Fulton Fish Market and extortion of companies doing business at the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth.

As the head of the Genovese family, the 67-year-old Mr. Gigante presents an unorthodox image for a mob titan. Since the early 1980's, he has been seen strolling sober-faced and bent near his home in Greenwich Village, clad in pajamas and bathrobe and mumbling incoherently.

Federal prosecutors say that Mr. Gigante, by feigning mental illness, has managed for five years to evade trial on charges of racketeering and plotting to murder his rival, Mr. Gotti. "Gigante still remains a very powerful figure in organized crime," said Lewis D. Schiliro, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's criminal division in New York. "We are confident he is the boss of the Genovese family."

New Jersey authorities say the Genovese family has also emerged as the strongest Mafia group in that state. Robert T. Buccino, deputy chief of investigations for the state's Organized Crime Bureau, said that the Genovese family is suspected of being involved in gambling and loan-sharking rings and of extorting kickbacks for labor peace from construction, garbage-removal and trucking companies.

Overall, the authorities say that from informers and wiretaps they have noticed significant shifts in the underworld, including these:

* All five families are reinforcing their ranks in an action they call opening the books. In 1990 they stopped accepting new members because of fears that newcomers could be more vulnerable to Government pressure to become turncoats. Defections and prosecutions, however, have reduced their combined rolls to about 700 active mobsters from 1,000 in the late 1980's, and the godfathers believe it is now safe to admit carefully screened recruits.

* After four years in prison, Mr. Gotti has lost control of the Gambino family. Although he appointed his son, John Jr., 31, as acting boss, the younger Gotti's rank is meaningless, and most Gambino captains are acting on their own authority.

* The Bonanno family has revived and prospered since its boss, Joseph C. Massino, was released three years ago from prison. The family is now almost as strong as the Gambino family.

Along with the Lucchese and Colombo families, the Genovese, Gambino and Bonanno organizations have operated in the region for 60 years and have created the largest and most entrenched mobster stronghold in the country, F.B.I. officials and prosecutors say. And even though Government efforts over the last decade have helped weaken or virtually eliminate most of the 20-odd Mafia families in the country, the organizations in New York have proven more resilient, officials say.

Still, the officials say, they have achieved significant victories against the mob in New York City and its suburbs, severely wounding the Gambino, Lucchese and Colombo families through the convictions of their bosses and their top lieutenants on racketeering charges.

Additionally, prosecutions and civil suits brought since 1990 by Federal prosecutors and the Manhattan District Attorney's office have loosened the Mafia's hold over major unions. The cases disclosed that the five families had a hand in milking union pension and welfare funds and used threats of violence and work stoppages to rig contracts and to extort millions of dollars from companies in the construction, trucking, garbage-carting, garment and newspaper delivery businesses.

Federal and state officials and investigators, however, grudgingly concede that no major figure in the Genovese family has become a turncoat. "Clearly, we have not had the same impact on them as the other families," said Eric Seidel, head of the state's Organized Crime Task Force. "They have hardly been touched."

Mr. Seidel and other officials credit Mr. Gigante's organizational skills and tight security for keeping his family intact.

Mr. Gigante, whose underworld nickname is Chin, relays his orders through a handful of trusted intermediaries, officials said. Secrecy is so intense, they said, that Genovese members are forbidden to mention Mr. Gigante by name and refer to him only by touching or motioning to their chins.

"We've had some bad breaks with the Genovese family," Mr. Schiliro, the F.B.I. official, acknowledged in an interview. "Chin represents a difficult individual for us. We've had him in court a number of times without final success."

Mr. Gigante was indicted in 1990 on Federal charges of bid rigging and extortion, and in 1993 he was accused in a superseding indictment of conspiracy to murder eight organized-crime figures and of plotting to kill Mr. Gotti.

A hearing on his mental and physical ability to stand trial will be held on Sept. 11. Barry Slotnick, Mr. Gigante's lawyer, did not respond to repeated telephone calls for comment on the charges against Mr. Gigante.

As evidence of Mr. Gigante's power, law enforcement officials point to the Gambino family's acceding to his ultimate authority on the Mafia commission even though he is accused of ordering the murders of Gambino leaders. The Federal indictment against Mr. Gigante asserts that he wanted Mr. Gotti and several of his captains killed because they engineered the murder in 1985 of the previous Gambino boss, Paul Castellano.

The decline of the Gambino family, authorities say, stemmed largely from Mr. Gotti's conviction three years ago on Federal charges of murder and racketeering and the life sentence that followed. Investigators say they believe that even Mr. Gotti's most steadfast supporters in the family realize there is faint hope that his conviction will be overturned.

Mr. Gotti is being held in virtual solitary confinement in the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and officials said that his network of receiving information from New York and transmitting instructions has been shattered. Visitors can talk to him only over a monitored telephone, and his mail is inspected. "By not being in the general prison population," a Federal agent said, "it is impossible for him to keep in touch, issue orders and have control over anybody."

Mr. Gotti's son continues to collect the "tribute," a share of the family's income that is reserved for the boss, officials said. But they noted that prison sentences have reduced the number of active family crews to 10 from 22 and sharply cut the Gambino family's income.

While the Gambino family's fortunes have waned, numbers in the once nearly moribund Bonanno family seem to be surging, officials said. Since Joseph Charles Massino, the 52-year-old boss of the family, was released from prison in 1992, the family has mustered 12 active crews and is considered by prosecutors and agents to have become a formidable crime family again.

The Bonanno and the Genovese families, investigators said, are the only New York families operating with a full hierarchy of boss, underboss and consigliere, or counselor, who are not behind bars.

An indication of the importance attached to the regrouping of the Bonanno family is the F.B.I.'s assignment of Bruce Mouw, who headed the squad that dug up the evidence that convicted Mr. Gotti and his chief aides, to direct the unit investigating the Bonanno group.

The Colombo family, which has been shattered by a murderous internal war, also has a new leader. Investigators said that Andrew T. Russo, a capo, or captain, was recently promoted to acting boss by Carmine Persico Jr., the family's boss who is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder.

Federal agents said that a shaky truce exists between two Colombo factions. Mr. Russo is a cousin of Carmine Persico's, and agents believe he may be serving as a caretaker boss until Mr. Persico's son, Alphonse, is installed by his father.

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

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