The Chicago Syndicate: Paul Castellano

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Showing posts with label Paul Castellano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Castellano. Show all posts

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

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

Tuesday, March 03, 1992

Sammy the Bull Testifes That John Gotti Ordered the Slaying of Gambino Crime Boss Paul Castellano

Reputed mob boss John Gotti ordered the slaying of Paul Castellano out of fear that he faced assassination himself, Gotti's onetime underboss said during his first day of testimony yesterday in a hushed and heavily guarded courtroom.

There were "quite a few reasons" why Gotti wanted the head of the Gambino crime family killed, Salvatore Gravano said in a low and gravelly voice. But, he testified, Gotti's chief motive was self-preservation.

Gravano described the 10 months during which, he, Gotti and others planned Castellano's execution. He said the final plan came shortly after the death of cancer-striken Aniello Dellacroce, the Gambino family's underboss and Gotti's mentor.

"Paul showed total disrespect and didn't go to the funeral," Gravano told the jury. "We were wondering if and when . . . Paul might make a move - if he might strike," Gravano testified. "We wondered if he might shoot John and Angelo" Ruggiero, a close Gotti associate. "Paul Castellano, after Neil [Dellacroce] died, said he was going to wreck John's crew," said Gravano. He said Castellano was angry that members of Gotti's crew had violated a family rule - enforceable by death - against drug dealing.

Gravano, the highest-level mob informant ever to testify against Gotti, was calm and composed as he took the stand under a deal to reduce his prison sentence to 20 years. Indicted along with Gotti and co-defendant Frank Locascio, he faced life in prison without parole if convicted at trial. Gravano occasionally glanced at Gotti, and once during the testimony pointed out Gotti and Locascio as being the boss and consigliere of the crime family.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gleeson, Gravano said others beside Gotti were dissatisfied with Castellano.

"At the time, there were a lot of conversations about Paul. Nobody was too happy with him . . . He was selling out the family for his own basic businesses," said Gravano, explaining that Castellano formed several business partnerships with leaders of the Genovese crime family.

Gravano said Gotti and his followers also were upset that Castellano had allowed another crime family to kill a Gambino crime captain in Connecticut. "You just don't let another family kill a captain in your family," Gravano testified. "That's against the rules."

Gravano said Gotti discussed two other possible plans for killing Castellano that were rejected. In one plan, Castellano was to have been shot at his home on Staten Island. But that plan was dropped because "there was a lot of FBI surveillance at his house," Gravano said.

Another rejected plan called for an old-time mobster to walk into a diner where Castellano and his driver, Thomas Bilotti, frequently went before meeting with Castellano's lawyer, James LaRossa. "The old man was known by Paul and would be able to walk in and shoot him," Gravano said.

Gravano, 46, said the final planning session for Castellano's murder came the night before Castellano and Bilotti were shot to death outside Sparks Steak House on East 46th Street on Dec. 16, 1985.

Frank DeCicco, a Castellano loyalist, had informed Gotti and Gravano that he would be meeting Castellano and Bilotti for dinner at Sparks on Dec. 16, Gravano testified. Also among those attending the dinner, said Gravano, would be Thomas Gambino, son of the late Carlo Gambino, for whom the Gambino family is named.

The night before, at a meeting Gotti arranged, Gotti, Gravano and Ruggiero sat down with eight other mob figures at Gravano's drywall construction firm in Brooklyn and outlined a plan to kill two men whose names were not revealed. "We didn't tell them who was going to be hit," Gravano said. "We just said he had to be done."

Gravano said it was decided that the shooters would be John Carneglia, Edward Lino, Salvatore Scala and Vinny Artuso, all members of the Gambino crime family.. The others would serve as backups who would be stationed at various locations.

The next afternoon, the participants - armed with guns and walkie-talkies - met Gotti and Gravano in a small park on the Lower East Side and were told the names of their targets for the first time. "We told them exactly who was going, and that it had to be done," Gravano testified.

The designated shooters were stationed in front of Sparks, Gravano said, and four backup shooters were posted around the block. He said the backups included Anthony Rampino, a convicted Gambino soldier, and Ruggiero.

"Me and John got in the car and went to the Third Avenue side of East 46th," Gravano testified. "I was a backup shooter. If they [Castellano and Bilotti] got away, we would be ready."

At that point in his testimony, U.S. District Court Judge I. Leo Glasser closed the session for the day and ordered Gravano's examination to continue today.

Gravano, known on the street as Sammy the Bull, spent much of his two hours on the witness stand discussing his crime career, which he said began shortly after he dropped out of school at the age of 16. From 1961 to 1964, "I worked on and off. I committed armed robberies, burglaries."

He served in the Army between 1964 and 1966. After his discharge, he said he returned to Brooklyn. "I went back to my life of crime," he said.

Gleeson asked him how many murders he was admitting."Nineteen," Gravano said.

Gravano said he was something of an expert killer. Asked by Gleeson if there was a common expression used by the Gambino family for murder, Gravano said without emotion: "To do a piece of work - to whack someone out."

He described his 1976 initiation into the Gambino crime family in the presence of Castellano. He said during the ceremony, his trigger finger was pricked with a pin, a drop of blood was placed on the picture of a saint and the picture was set afire.

He then repeated his oath of silence: "If I divulge any secrets of this organization my soul should burn like this saint."

Gravano testified that officials of the Luchese, Colombo and Bonanno crime families were notified of the plan to kill Castellano. "They were behind the killing," he said. New York's fifth crime organization, the Genovese family, was not consulted. "We didn't trust them because Paul Castellano was in partners with them," Gravano said.

Thanks to Pete Bowles

Monday, October 21, 1991

U.S. Says Mob Is Drying Up In New York

New York's five Mafia families, who survived years of Federal attack, have deteriorated in recent months to the point that three are virtually out of business and two are crumbling, many law-enforcement authorities and experts say.

After 60 years of illicit expansion, the combined racketeering power and wealth of New York's five traditional families is going the way of their counterparts in most other cities around the country, who have succumbed to a decade of aggressive Federal prosecution, the authorities say.

For the first time since the Mafia groups were formed in the 1930's, the experts say that all five families -- Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno -- are in disarray, hurt by convictions and indictments of top leaders, murderous internal disputes, generational changes and defections by high-ranking members who have become Government witnesses.

The Lucchese family, for example, has had three changes of leadership in less than a year: one boss was jailed, and a second became a Government witness after he botched the killing of a mob captain -- who himself went on to become a key witness in a major racketeering trial aimed at ending the Mafia's influence in the window-installation industry.

All eight defendants were cleared of the racketeering charge on Friday, and six were cleared entirely, while two mid-level bosses were convicted of extortion. But prosecutors said afterward that the case had succeeded in driving the mob out of what had been a lucrative industry.

Moreover, many of the mob's customary money-producing rackets in the New York region, including extortions and kickbacks in the garment district, the Fulton Fish Market and the construction and trucking industries, have been eliminated or reduced by recent convictions and civil court remedies, the experts assert.

Federal and state law-enforcement officials say that the Colombo and Bonanno families have also been so shaken that they are no longer considered powerful threats. But officials cautioned that the the Genovese and Gambino groups -- the two largest in the country -- remain potent forces in illegal sports betting, loan-sharking, labor racketeering and the waste removal industries in the region.

Andrew J. Maloney, the United States Attorney in Brooklyn, and Ronald Goldstock, the director of the state's Organized Crime Task Force, forecast that the families could be reduced to the level of street gangs within a decade. They said that if prosecution pressure and defections continue, the mobs will lose what remains of their once-flourishing extortion rackets in legitimate businesses.

"No organization, legal or illegal, can withstand repeated decapitations at the top," Mr. Maloney said about the New York area. "They are certainly no longer a growth industry."

Not all experts are that optimistic. Robert J. Kelly, the president of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime, agreed that the families seemed to have been weakened, but said that if the family units disappear they may undergo another incarnation. Mafiosi 'Will Persist'

"There may not be a Mafia, but there will be mafiosi who will persist as long as there are lucrative criminal opportunities," said Mr. Kelly, who is a professor of social science and criminal justice at Brooklyn College.

From intelligence obtained mainly from electronic eavesdroping and informers, experts cited these signs of decay in the families:


  • Leadership vacuums or internal wars have weakened the Gambino, Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno groups, with the bosses and top leaders in each of the families serving prison sentences or in jail awaiting trials.
  • The number of active mob members has dropped by half in most cases since a peak in the late 1970's, law-enforcement officials say. The Colombos are down to about 100 members and the Bonnano family to 75.
  • The only reputed boss of a family not behind bars is Vincent Gigante, the suspected Genovese leader, who has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial on racketeering charges. Four capos or captains are trying to run the family but still consulting Mr. Gigante on major decisions.
  • The acting boss of the Lucchese family, Alphonse D'Arco, 59 years old, and a capo, Peter Chiodo, 40, both apparently fearing for their lives because of family strife, have become government witnesses. Their defections, said Mr. Maloney, may produce a wave of new indictments against Lucchese members. "It could be the death knell for the family," he asserted.
  • Control of the Colombo family is being disputed by two factions and the authorities say that the rivals have issued contracts to murder each other.


The new turmoil in the Lucchese family stemmed from distrust and a failed attempt to kill Mr. Chiodo in May. After surviving 12 bullet wounds, Mr. Chiodo became a Government witness. When Mr. D'Arco learned last month that there was a contract on his life for botching the hit on Mr. Chiodo, he, too, became a turncoat.

Since the 1930's, the New York region has been the Mafia's strongest bastion in America. Except for New York and Chicago, the F.B.I. and Federal prosecutors maintain that in the last decade they have largely eliminated Mafia strongholds in most big cities. But they say the job has been harder in New York, the only area with five separate, large families, while other cities had one family to eradicate.

Experts say that New York's families have survived because each family created a rigid organization, with rules that defined what kinds of crime could be committed and how profits would be divided.

The Mafia groups also engaged in more sophisticated white-collar crimes than other criminal gangs, and they infiltrated major labor unions. 'Mob's Invisible Tax'

The Manhattan District Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said that by skimming "multimillions" annually from the construction and garment industries, the families had imposed an "invisible tax" on the region.

"What they do translates directly into higher costs for such basic things as clothes, the costs of an apartment and an office and discourages legitimate businesses from coming here or staying here," Mr. Morgenthau added.

Laura Brevetti, a former Federal prosecutor, noted that testimony and records disclosed that the Colombo family alone netted at least $80 million a year in the mid-1980's from gasoline tax frauds in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And Mr. Morgenthau noted that a raid last year on the office of Thomas Gambino, 62, whom prosecutors have called a major organized-crime figure in the garment district, found records showing that he had $75 million in stocks, bonds and bank accounts.

The names of the five families are actually designations by law-enforcement authorities, based on the groups' founders or later bosses. Most members are not related by blood.

As in other regions, the New York Mafia has now has been severely injured by long-term legal strategies that concentrate on eliminating entire family hierarchies.

Federal prosecutors have used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, and state authorities have applied the state's new Organized Crime Control Act, known as Little RICO, to obtain convictions and indictments against previously insulated bosses and leaders. 'Process of Grinding Down'

Mr. Goldstock, who was not involved in the case, called the window trial "neither a victory nor a defeat, but rather part of an investigative process of grinding down organized crime."

He emphasized that until several years ago it had been "almost unheard of" to convict such high ranking mobsters as Venero Mangano and Benedetto Aloi, who were convicted on Friday on charges of extortion in the window-installation industry.

Two bosses who remain in control of their organizations, investigators say, are John Gotti and Vincent Gigante, 63; authorities say they head the Gambino and Genovese crime families.

Mr. Gotti, 51, is in jail awaiting trial on racketeering charges that include the slaying of his predecessor, Paul Castellano. But Federal and state investigators said that Mr. Gotti still runs the Gambino family from prison, using his son John Jr. The officials, however, believe that his absolute control has slipped in his absence.

Mr. Gigante, 63, was declared mentally unfit last March to stand trial. But investigators believe that he, too, is still in charge.

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

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