The Chicago Syndicate: Luccheses

Showing posts with label Luccheses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Luccheses. Show all posts

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Will DNA testing clear the "Mafia Cops"?

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Luchese Crime Family, Edward "Eddie" Lino, Anthony "Gas Pipe" Casso
Friends of Mine: Louis Eppolito and Stephen Carappa

Ex-detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, accused of being hit men for the mob, are seeking to have DNA tests run on a watch found at the scene of one of their alleged gangland murders, sources familiar with the case told Newsday. Legal and law enforcement sources said the defense believes the tests might help to show that Eppolito and Caracappa had nothing to do with the murder and thus cast doubt about other elements of the prosecution's case.

"This might be so important that I think it is better I not say anything," said defense attorney Ed Hayes, who is representing Caracappa.

Among the 10 murders that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have accused the former cops of being involved in is the Nov. 6, 1990, killing of Gambino family captain Edward "Eddie" Lino. The slaying occurred by the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

Lino was believed by investigators to have been one of a group of men involved in an unsuccessful attempt to kill former Luchese crime boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. It was Casso, federal investigators believe, who used Eppolito and Caracappa as alleged mob moles and assassins. Lino was killed after Eppolito and Caracappa followed him from his social club and forced him to pull over as he drove along the parkway, according to the federal charges.

Prosecutors recently turned over numerous pieces of evidence, including the investigative reports about Lino's murder, to defense attorneys. One of the documents indicated that a Pulsar watch was found at the Lino crime scene and that it contained some strands of brown human hair, said a lawyer familiar with the case but who asked not to be identified.

In a letter sent to federal prosecutors Tuesday, Hayes said he wanted to examine the watch and any diagrams, photos and test results related to it. Hayes noted in his letter that only fingerprint tests had been done on the watch and asked that "complete testing" be done. Though the Hayes letter didn't mention DNA tests, sources familiar with the case said defense attorneys believe DNA testing might show the hair strands were not from Caracappa or Eppolito. A law enforcement source, who also asked not to be identified, said it was unclear if the DNA that may be discovered from testing would be definitive about anything related to the case.

Thanks to ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO of Newsday

Monday, October 10, 2005

Where are the real tough wise guys of the past?

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Lucchese Crime Famly, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, Phil "Skinny Phil" Loscalzo

First, Junior Gotti pens a children's book in prison. Then the mob scion shows up at Sunday Mass. Now, federal prosecutors are claiming the Gambinos and the Lucheses - among the most bloodthirsty crime families New York City has ever known - are just a bunch of pansies. What's the Mafia come to?

Consider the trial going on in courtroom 26A of Manhattan Federal Court. There a group of Albanian-led mobsters are accused of crimes committed as they wrested control of Astoria's gambling clubs - and the protection money they generated - from the Luchese family. Federal prosecutors say gang leader Alex Rudaj, 38, had Gottiesque visions of heading a sixth crime family. They claim on one occasion, he and some pals even pushed their way into Rao's, the exclusive East Harlem eatery, demanded John Gotti's old table - and got it.

"The Gambino crime family simply could not stand in the way of the Rudaj organization, and the Rudaj organization took great pride in that," prosecutor Benjamin Gruenstein said. He told a jury that when the Gambinos tried to head off the Albanians in a showdown at a New Jersey gas station, they were sent away cowering. One of Rudaj's henchmen pulled a gun and pointed it at a gas pump, threatening to blow them all away. The leader of the Gambinos, Arnold (Zeke) Squitieri, backed off. After that, the Rudaj organization moved into Astoria, branching out from their base in the Bronx and Westchester, where they got their start forcing their "Joker Poker" machines on bar owners.

Attorneys for Rudaj and his five co-defendants have mocked the prosecution's theory during the opening weeks of an expected three-month trial. Rudaj's lawyer, James Kousouros, says his client was a legitimate businessman, owner of Morris Park Games, which sells foosball games, pool tables and gambling machines to bars and clubs throughout the city. "The Lucheses and the Gambinos are comprised of hundreds of members who shoot and kill anybody that stands before them and takes a nickel from them," Kousouros told jurors. "The reality is that these six gentleman did not displace two of the most powerful crime families in the world."

MenScienceAmong those on trial is Rudaj's alleged chief enforcer, Nikola Dedaj, gang members Ljusa (Louie) Nuculovic, Prenka (Frankie) Ivezaj and Nardino Colotti, a protégé of the late Gambino family soldier Phil (Skinny Phil) Loscalzo. All are charged with racketeering, gambling, extortion and loansharking.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Feds Fear Syndicate Rebirth

A tidal wave of imprisoned mobsters, including ferocious Mafia bosses champing at the bit to hit the streets, will soon be freed to reclaim the reins of the city's five crime families, The NY Post has learned.

In an extraordinary interagency memo, the FBI has been warned by the Bureau of Prisons to brace for the release of 80 goodfellas and their close associates, whose sentences behind bars will expire before January 2007, according law-enforcement sources. The list of hardened hoods in the prisons bureau survey reads like a Who's Who of Mafioso whose exploits were splashed across the front pages during the past two decades:

* Venero "Bennie Eggs" Mangano, 84, legendary underboss to Vincent "Chin" Gigante of the Genovese crime family, is scheduled for release on Nov. 2, 2006, after serving 15 years for his role in rigging window-installation contracts at city projects in the infamous "Windows Case."

* Sal Avellino, 69, the Luchese crime family underboss and one-time chauffeur for family godfather Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, is slated to be released Oct. 10, 2006, after serving 11 years in prison for his role in various mob activities, including the murders of two waste carters who were cooperating with the feds.

* Joe "Joe the German" Watts, 63, former chauffeur and gunslinger for John Gotti, the late Gambino boss, will be freed May 5, after serving 11 years for convictions for murder conspiracy and for an elaborate money-laundering scheme.

* Steve "Stevie Wonder" Crea, 58, a powerful Luchese underboss, is expected to be free Aug. 24 after serving three years for fixing prices on three Manhattan construction projects and extorting money from a Long Island construction company.

* Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo, 71, the capo cousin of Colombo crime family godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico, who was convicted as the muscle over private carters and is coming out June 6 after serving nine years for racketeering.

* Salvatore "Sammy Meatballs" Aparo, 75, a powerful Genovese capo, will be free May 25 after serving time for a 1991 labor-racketeering conviction in a case in which another mobster was caught on tape bragging, "Hurting people. That's what this is about."

* Charles Carneglia, 59, a trusted Gambino power whose brother, John, was a reputed hit man in the famed slaying of boss Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, will be free May 1 after serving five years for extortion.

* Richard G. Gotti, 37, nephew of the late John Gotti, and son of the Dapper Don's brother, Richard V. Gotti, will be free March 3 after serving three years in the same racketeering case that convicted his father and his uncle, Peter.

Experts say the survey, conducted in July, serves as additional proof that speculation about the demise of the Mafia is vastly premature — despite high-profile defections of mob bosses such as Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano, a succession of celebrated convictions and the latest twist involving a mob lawyer entering the witness-protection program, as The Post reported last week. "You only hear about the all the guys who flipped, but if you ever took a look at the list of guys who went into prison and how many rolled over, it is not even close," one longtime mob hunter observed.

In fact, there are about 1,100 members of organized crime, with each wiseguy connected to 10 associates, making for a separate rogues' gallery of about 11,000 businessmen, labor officials and others linked to the mob, the sources said.

In recent years, law-enforcement has broken the mob's stranglehold on certain unions and construction industries, but "the nucleus is still there" in those businesses as well as in the Mafia's bread-and-butter pursuit: gambling. "There's too much money to be made and always people willing to take the shot," one source said, adding that the "same is true of the leadership."Cannes Film Festival Club at the Film Movement

For example, the Gambino power vacuum created by the death of John Gotti and the subsequent imprisonment of brother Peter has been quickly filled by the lower-profiled Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo and his brother, Joseph "JoJo."

"For each rat or guy we put in prison, there are 20 others willing to take their place," a mob watcher said. "And none of these guys are coming out to shine shoes."

A prisons bureau spokesperson declined to explain what prompted the mob-inmate survey, but sources say the analysis was handed over to FBI brass in Washington and was being used to update the inmates' connections to the mob and assess "their potential impact" on La Cosa Nostra when they get out.

James Margolin, the FBI spokesman in New York, said the advisory "is further indication of what we have always maintained, that there remains plenty of work to be done in fighting organized crime, and that is why it continues to be a priority for this office."

And as chilling as the recent survey is, it does not list hoods such as Oreste "Ernie Boy" Abbamonte, a major convicted heroin dealer and a member of both the Bonanno and Luchese families, who came out of prison in February.

It also does not mention a future wave of releases expected after 2007 including gangsters such as Liborio "Barney" Bellomo, 48, the former Genovese street boss who is due out in August 2008.

Thanks to Murray Weiss

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mafia Retirement Package Includes Funeral, Dat's About It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or death.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Mafia Cops' lawyers demanding witness information

Lawyers for the "Mafia Cops" are pressing federal prosecutors to disclose whether a key government witness was a secret informant at a time when he allegedly helped engineer some mob murders.

Edward Hayes, who is representing ex-NYPD detective Stephen Caracappa, said in a letter to prosecutors that he has learned that the informant was providing information to the government much earlier than the defense has been led to believe

Caracappa, 63, and Louis Eppolito, 56, have been indicted on charges they worked as moles for the mob while they were detectives in the 1980s and '90s, and played roles in several hits. Court records and law enforcement sources have indicated that convicted drug trafficker Burton Kaplan is the main source of information used to get the two former cops indicted.

Citing his own sources and a recent Vanity Fair article, Hayes said in his Sept. 1 letter to prosecutors that Kaplan was providing information to the government well before the 2005 indictment against his client. If true, said Hayes, Kaplan might have himself exploited his relationship with investigators to glean information useful for the mob hits.

"Obviously, if he had a relationship with some law enforcement agency and failed to disclose it: 1. that relationship could be a source of information used to kill these individuals, and 2: failure to disclose it could show that he felt guilty or desired concealment of the relationship," Hayes said in his letter to Brooklyn Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Henoch.

Kaplan, whose daughter is a city criminal court judge, was convicted in 1998 on charges he trafficked in several tons of marijuana. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He apparently began cooperating against the former detectives in 2004. Kaplan reportedly was the intermediary between former acting Lucchese crime boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and Caracappa and Eppolito. Government records also revealed that Kaplan had ties to high-ranking members of the Bonanno crime family. He apparently began cooperating in early 2004.

According to an article in Vanity Fair last month that cited two retired police detectives and an FBI agent, all unidentified, Kaplan never disclosed his status as a confidential informant in the 1980s. The magazine stated that the FBI agent later changed his story, claiming to have never used Kaplan as an informant.

Hayes asked Henoch to provide him with information about "the circumstances in which Mr. Kaplan first began providing information of any sort to any government representatives, particularly federal agents." Hayes also wants to know if Kaplan was an informant when he was arrested in the 1990s.

Henoch couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Thanks to Anthony M. Destefano

Monday, August 15, 2005

Did cops double as mob hit men?

In Las Vegas, the players on the Strip know that a safe bet for celebrity sightings and traditional Italian food — a Caesar’s and Osso Bucco— is Piero’s.

It was supposed to be a quiet night at the restaurant one Wednesday in March, but it turned out to be anything but. As manager Linda Kajor started greeting two regulars strolling in for an early dinner, out of nowhere, guns were drawn all around. "Out of nowhere, the people at the end of the bar came running forward with guns drawn," recalls Kajor. "The front doors open up, and cops come running in. There are cops everywhere running after these two men that were standing there. We were very scared.”

The two patrons were suddenly thrown up against the wall and cuffed by federal agents. The pair were former New York City detectives about to be charged, astonishingly, as hit men for the mob. Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa weren’t just accused of being crooked, violent, or on the take — they were accused of being “mafia cops” and taking part in nine murders on behalf of an organized crime family, starting as far back as the 1980s.

U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf called it a “stunning betrayal of their shields, their colleagues and the citizens they were sworn to protect.”

A plotline worthy of a grade-D mob movieIt sounds like the stale script from a hack screenwriter with its storyline of bent cops, played by the usual over-the-top suspects. “This is a story of an organized crime person who joins the police department and then participates in organized hits and compromises investigations,” describes veteran police reporter Murray Weiss, who now works for New York’s Daily News. “People go ‘Ah, piece of junky pulp fiction.’ But it’s reality.”

Eppolito and Caracappa have both declared their innocence all along. Is this cops-gone-wild story mainly outrageous accusations made by convicted gangsters looking out for their own skin?

Caracappa’s defense attorney, Ed Hayes, thinks so. “Nobody gave these guys a fair shot,” says Hayes.

According to the prosecutor’s version however, the charges against the two former detectives are indefensible — and the most extreme acts took place on New York City’s busy Belt Parkway.

The former cops are accused of pulling over a small time hood in an unmarked police car in 1990 and killing him on behalf of another mobster who allegedly paid them $65,000 for the hit. “It’s still shocking to think that two cops would actually pull the trigger and kill someone,” says Newsday reporter Rocco Parascandola.

Even New Yorkers who thought they’d heard it all were flabbergasted. “Never has there been allegations like this. Never has there been policemen going out with their badges and killing people systematically and working with organized crime,” says Weiss.

A 'Dirty Harry' type and his low-key partnerStephen Caracappa worked in a major case squad tracking homicides inside organized crime circles. He had access to confidential information on mob informants. Slight and intense, Caracappa was as low-key as his friend was swaggering.

Louis Eppolito, a gold chain-wearing, pinky-ringed, decorated street detective from Brooklyn made his name taking down the toughest of thugs.

Eppolito, a former body builder, liked reading about his exploits the day after a big arrest. He seemed to relish the notoriety and the deference that came his way as the son of a mobbed-up family. “He just loved being the ‘Dirty Harry’ guy,” says Weiss. “His uncle’s name was ‘Jimmy the Clam’ and these were tough gangsters at seriously important levels of organized crime.”

After he retired from the NYPD, Eppolito wrote a self-congratulatory autobiography, “Mafia Cop.” The book was about walking the straight line as a detective from a family background steeped in organized crime. But was he a straight cop? In 1984, he’d been the target of an internal police investigation, suspected of leaking confidential documents to a known mob figure. He was cleared of the charges, but the rumors about Eppolito followed him all the way to his retirement in 1990.

After he turned in his badge, he even toyed with his reputation and got a few bit parts playing Mafiosos in movies like “Goodfellas.”

The case against the detectives

According to charges filed by the U.S. attorney, Eppolito was not only playing a movie mobster, he was one. And so was his quiet friend Stephen Caracappa. Authorities believe that starting in the mid-1980s, when both were New York detectives, they were also on the payroll of a crime family underboss who supposedly paid the cops $4,000 a month to be his “crystal balls.”

The two cops each brought something to the table, as Weiss sees it: “One guy is in bed with the mob and comes from a mob family, and the other guy is quiet and subdued, and winds up in a unit where he has access to all this confidential information involving organized crime.”

The files Caracappa had access would have been vital: “It’s priceless. You know who your enemies are and to find out who might be the witness against you… [You know] who’s starting to cooperate against the police and you can eliminate them. That by definition eliminates the case against you,” says Weiss.

Prosecutors believe that mobster Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso of the Luchese crime family paid the two to feed him confidential police information.

Casso particularly wanted to find out who’d tried to whack him in 1986. According to the indictment, the two detectives not only gave “Gaspipe” details about who was behind the botched hit, but were actually hands-on in helping execute his revenge. “They literally went and got that person and drove him, took him off the streets, threw him in a trunk and brought him to Casso,” describes Weiss of the allegations. But in the early ‘90s, after more than 20 years on the force, Eppolito and Caracappa retired to homes in a gated community in Las Vegas. They became across-the-street neighbors.

Back east, meanwhile, authorities had caught up with “Gaspipe” Casso who admitted involvement in 36 murders. The mobster began offering lurid stories about the two cops.

Still, the case against them didn’t gain traction until a team of investigators started going through old computer records and made links that, they believed, showed Caracappa had been pulling up files on mobsters who shortly thereafter ended up dead. The computer searches Caracappa made supposedly left virtual fingerprints.

In addition to computer file evidence, it’s believed that prosecutors also have a retired businessman, currently serving a 27-year prison sentence on mafia drug charges, prepared to testify that he was the middleman between “Gaspipe” Casso and the two detectives.

In a case built on decades-old stories told by accusations from convicted mobsters, the defense team is expected to attack the credibility of the government’s key witnesses.

“Anthony ‘Gaspipe’ Casso was the underboss of a crime family,” says Hayes, Caracappa’s defense attorney. “He is a raving lunatic. Nobody believed Casso. He, in fact, was so unbelievable the other gangsters didn’t believe him.”

In July, a federal judge said the evidence was stale and “not strong” — even questioning whether a statute of limitations may apply to the some of the charges. The prosecution did not contest the judge’s decision to release Caracappa and Eppolito on $5 million bonds.

The pair have been placed under house arrest with electronic ankle bracelets until their trial scheduled for September. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Thanks to Dennis Murphy

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