The Chicago Syndicate: Peter Zuccaro
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Showing posts with label Peter Zuccaro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Zuccaro. Show all posts

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mob's Roach Motel

Kevin McMahon never had a chance. Both his parents were junkies.

McMahon was born addicted to heroin, he said Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court. Then, when he was 6, Mommy and her boyfriend killed Daddy. Mommy went away. Grandma took little Kevin in for a few years, but she couldn't handle him in their rough East New York neighborhood, so when, he said, he was 12 or 13, she threw him out into it. He slept in alleys and yards, and one day, he found a cabana and went inside. He was discovered by the owner. The good news: The owner and his wife took Kevin into their home, and over time, they essentially adopted him.

The bad news: The owner was top John Gotti hit man John Carneglia. And he took Kevin right under his gun-bearing wing.

A teenager. Perfect chum. Just the age when kids with not enough love or luck are feeling the most vulnerable. And McMahon isn't the only one the Mafia grabbed at this impressionable age. Peter Zucarro, who also testified at the ongoing trial of mob hit man Charles Carneglia, John's younger brother, said that he was about 13 when neighborhood mobsters started giving him money for doing errands, sucking him in. "I wanted to be just like them," Zucarro said.

One problem: The mob is like a Roach Motel. You crawl in, but you can't crawl out.

Both Zucarro and McMahon and other informants have referred to themselves as "property." The capos owned them. In this democracy, they volunteered to live in a military dictatorship. They obeyed any order. Anything to feel like they belonged.

It's like the story of the child soldiers in Africa, kidnapped and then rewarded for killing. In his great book "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," Ishmael Beah tells of a contest the grownups would hold between the kids "for who could slice the prisoners' throats quickest. ...A lot of things were done with no reason or explanation. Sometimes we were asked to leave in the middle of a movie. We would come back hours later after killing many people and start the movie where we left off as if we had just returned from intermission."

In the mob, you followed orders or you would be killed, as anyone who has a TV set knows. But with law enforcement's ongoing destruction of the Italian-American Mafia, why do we care? Because youth gangs have filled the void. "There are now a million gang members in the U.S., up 200,000 since 2005," according to a report released last week by the National Gang Intelligence Center, and they commit 80% of crimes in some communities.

The MS-13 gang, with roots in El Salvador, is particularly brutal, and many gangs are using the Internet "to develop working relationships with foreign drug traffickers."

"Gangs give a sense of feeling safe, of discipline, of belonging," FBI gang expert Linda Schmidt has said. Schmidt recommends that the government fund programs "that our young people can turn to" and that they be "24/7 - like gangs are."

Thanks to Joanna Molloy

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Court Officers Fill Gallery to Honor Murdered Colleague at Mob Trial

It was a courtroom, but the court officers seemed out of place. They were not escorting prisoners or guarding a judge, shepherding the family of a defendant or quieting a crowd. They were the crowd.

In federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, in a rare rendering of a grim law enforcement rite, court officers filled the rows of the gallery to honor the memory of a colleague killed in the line of duty. The ritual, one that the city’s police officers have become woefully accustomed to, was unusual for the court officers, who, in the last 40 years, have lost only a handful of their number in violent circumstances.

The occasion was the trial of Charles Carneglia, who is accused of murdering Officer Albert Gelb, a decorated court officer, and several others.

Officer Gelb was fatally shot in 1976, and his death remained a mystery for more than three decades. The authorities, who accused Mr. Carneglia last year in a wide-ranging racketeering case in which 61 others were also charged, say the killing was mob related.

Also in court was Emily Gelb, Officer Gelb’s sister, listening as Peter Zuccaro, a burly Gambino family associate who became a government informant, testified about the killing. Ms. Gelb buried her face in her hands as Mr. Zuccaro matter-of-factly talked about beating her brother and of later hearing from his associate, Mr. Carneglia, a reputed Gambino soldier, about his death.

About two dozen court officers, wearing suits rather than uniforms, filled up several rows. They said they knew about Officer Gelb from stories told at the Court Officers’ Academy and from the plaque dedicated to him in criminal court in Brooklyn, where he had worked.

Officer Gelb, 24 when he was killed, was the most decorated court officer in the city at the time, making arrests, both on and off duty, of men with guns and a purse snatcher.

“He didn’t have to get involved,” said Sgt. Tim Smyth, a court officer, outside court. Mr. Zuccaro’s testimony had been tough to watch, he said. “It made it real.”

The state’s 4,000 court officers protect and secure courtrooms and court buildings. They guard defendants and sequestered juries, keep guns out of courthouses and escort judges to their cars (and in some cases, when the judges receive threats, guard them at home). They are authorized to carry weapons when they are off-duty.

In interviews, court officers said their work was not without dangers, although nothing like those faced by police officers. They are not out on the streets alone, or forced to confront heavily armed criminals.

Dennis Quirk, who has been president of one of the two court officers’ unions since 1974, said that he and his colleagues had to master different skills, like subduing attackers in the courtroom without using guns. “The perps we’re dealing with are criminals who we know don’t have a weapon,” he said.

The perils court officers confront are courthouse scuffles and the occasional riot, or the crush of observers at high-profile trials, officers said.

Lt. Jack Sullivan, 49, said in an interview that the trial of John A. Gotti in Manhattan, for example, was a circus. “There were as many people rooting for him as against him,” he said. Lieutenant Sullivan said he had taken his share of knocks, but he did not want to talk about his injuries in detail.

When court officers die in the line of duty, it is usually away from the safety of the courthouse

In 1973, Francis Carroll, an officer in Criminal Court in Manhattan, was shot to death trying to prevent the escape of two men who took $50 from the clerk of a Midtown hotel.

Alphonso B. Deal, another court officer, was also killed while off duty. Mr. Deal, a senior court clerk who worked in Lower Manhattan and lived in Harlem, was fatally shot in 1988 when he came to the aid of a neighbor who had been shot in a robbery attempt.

Senior Court Officers Mitchel Wallace and Thomas Jurgens as well as Capt. William Thompson died after they raced to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then there was Officer Gelb, the son of a dry cleaner from Flatbush, Brooklyn, who in three years as a court officer racked up more arrests than many of his colleagues made in a career.

In February 1975, in the Esquire Diner in Brooklyn, he crossed paths with Mr. Carneglia, according to Mr. Zuccaro, who was in the diner at the time.

Officer Gelb wore a leather jacket and a big hat, and Mr. Carneglia wore two guns. Mr. Zuccaro said that he saw Officer Gelb and Mr. Carneglia struggling over a pistol, and that Mr. Carneglia had asked for his help.

Mr. Zuccaro said he had obliged. “I punched him to the side of the head,” he said. “I kicked him a couple of times.”

Mr. Carneglia was arrested on a charge of weapons possession and, Mr. Zuccaro testified that later, Mr. Carneglia told him that he was trying to “straighten it out” with Officer Gelb so that he would not testify against him.

In March 1976, before he was scheduled to testify against Mr. Carneglia, Officer Gelb was found dead in his car with four bullets in his body.

In court on Tuesday, Mr. Zuccaro testified about another conversation with Mr. Carneglia. “He told me that the guy couldn’t be reached,” Mr. Zuccaro said, “and that he wouldn’t back off and that he had to go.”

Thanks to Kareem Fahim

Sunday, February 10, 2008

After Husband is Arrested, Did Mobster's Wife Reach Out and Touch a Warning to Her Reputed Gambino Capo Father

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Reputed Gambino capo Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo was able to elude the feds' rubout of more than 100 of his associates Thursday - allegedly thanks to a timely, heads-up phone call from his daughter, who had just watched her mobster husband hauled away in cuffs, sources told The Post yesterday.

Vincent "Skinny" Dragonetti was busted as he walked out of his Bellmore, LI, home a few minutes ahead of the early-morning synchronized sweep. That gave his wife, Bernadette, enough time to warn her dad, who lives a few blocks down the same street.

Corozzo was so quick in fleeing that he left behind his wallet, sources said.

Bernadette refused to answer a Post reporter's questions yesterday, slamming the door in his face.

Corozzo remained on the lam as new details emerged about the historic mass arrest - which involved charges of murder, corruption, extortion, drug dealing and loan-sharking from the city to Sicily.

Its central figure, Staten Island truck-company owner Joseph Vollaro, wore a wire for more than two years.

The ex-con provided intricate details of the Gambino crime family's inner workings at meetings and meals with top bosses, sources said.

Vollaro, who had been staring at a life sentence after he was pinched with two kilos of cocaine in 2004, made the deal in exchange for his freedom and entry into the witness-protection program.

His wife has decided not to join him in the program, which he entered last week as the feds were putting the finishing details on Thursday's massive bust, sources said. The couple has no kids.

As valuable as Vollaro was in bringing down one of the city's biggest crime syndicates, the feds apparently didn't know what to expect when he first agreed to help with their large-scale investigation.

Vollaro, who shared a federal prison cell with Corozzo and began doing business with the Gambinos when he got out in 1999, was initially expected to help with a multifaceted national drug investigation. But he cozied up to the "family" so well over the next few years that he was even on the verge of becoming a made man when the hammer fell on the organization, the sources said.

Vollaro's sweetheart deal sickened the rogues gallery of thugs he ratted out.

"Everybody thought he was a nice guy," said Joel Winograd, the lawyer for Leonard "The Conductor" DiMaria, who, among other things, is charged with money laundering, stealing union benefits and gambling. "He's probably in Hawaii on the beach spending his illegally obtained drug-dealing money right now."

The evidence obtained by Vollaro was a key building block for many of the extortion and racketeering cases.

The multiple murder charges - for crimes that date back as far as 30 years - were brought with extensive wiretap evidence gathered by longtime Gambino associate Peter Zuccaro, 52.

Zuccaro was a key member of one of Corozzo's biggest crews run by Ronnie "One Arm" Trucchio. He and several other associates cut a deal with the feds after his conviction in Tampa, Fla., in 2005 on extortion and other charges.

Zuccaro, a trusted member of the late John Gotti's inner circle, provided a treasure trove of damning evidence - including information on the murder of court officer Albert Gelb, which was allegedly committed by hit man Charles Carneglia.

Thanks to Murray Weiss, Stephanie Cohen, Eric Lenkowitz


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