The Chicago Syndicate: Stephen Caracappa

Magee 1866 Heritage Month
Showing posts with label Stephen Caracappa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stephen Caracappa. Show all posts

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mafia Cop Reportedly Can't Afford New Lawyer

Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

Convicted Mafia cop Stephen Caracappa is broke and can't afford to hire a new lawyer, according to a published report. The former Great Kills resident is $250,000 in debt, according to court papers filed this week, the Daily News reported.

Caracappa is also reportedly unhappy with his representation. In a letter to Federal Judge Jack Weinstein, Dominick Caracappa, Stephen's brother, wrote that "the defense attorneys failed to address" the defendants' relationship with members of the mob.

Caracappa's attorney Edward Hayes, who is not owed money by Caracappa, told the Daily News that his client "needs a fresh look at the case and someone who can knock me if that's what the appeal needs."

Caracappa and his former partner Louis Eppolito were convicted earlier this month of being hit men for the Mafia and face life in prison without a chance of parole when sentenced.

Thanks to Staten Island Advance

Friday, April 28, 2006

It's Splitsville!

Friends of ours: John "Dapper Don" Gotti
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Mafia cop Louis Eppolito and his mouthpiece Bruce Cutler are calling it quits. Less than a week after the convicted hit man for the mob complained to the Daily News that his lawyers "abandoned" him and former NYPD partner Stephen Caracappa at their trial, his defense lawyers had a message of their own.

"Counsel agree that Mr. Eppolito should have new counsel represent him," Cutler's co-counsel Bettina Schein informed the judge in a letter filed late Friday. "We respectfully request Mr. Eppolito be afforded sufficient time to find new counsel."

What amounted to a legal divorce filing came just days after an exclusive Daily News interview in which Eppolito blasted the colorful Cutler — best known as the lawyer for the late mob boss John (Dapper Don) Gotti.

"We were abandoned by the lawyers," Eppolito told The News. "They put up no defense for our lives. I believe you have to fight."

The legal bickering also came less than three weeks after Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted by a Brooklyn federal jury of eight gangland murders — including two killings they personally carried out for the Luchese crime family while they were NYPD detectives.

The duo faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when sentenced in one of the most notorious cases of police corruption in NYPD history.

Federal Judge Jack Weinstein ordered a hearing for today on Eppolito's comments — made to The News in a phone interview from the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he is being held in solitary confinement.

"I wanted to take the stand. I begged them," Eppolito, 57, told The News. "I said, 'Put me up there. This is my life I'm fighting for.'"

Eppolito's family members stepped up the blame in letters to the judge made public last week. "Lou and Steve had two very able attorneys that did not put on a defense," wrote Eppolito's sister Paula Guarneri. "There is so much the jury did not hear in their defense."

Cutler generated a lot of noise in court with his theatrics, but not much else, jurors told The News after the April 6 verdict. Schein mostly handled the legal paperwork.

The search for a new lawyer will likely delay sentencing currently scheduled for May 22. Eppolito's new lawyer must review the entire case and prepare a motion to set aside the verdict.

Caracappa, 64, has not publicly stated any opinion about his lawyer, Edward Hayes. "I think I'll stay with him until the sentencing," Hayes said. "I think he needs a fresh view for the appeal, but I will assist him in any way I can."

Thanks to John Marzulli

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mob Cop's Daughter Begs Judge: Free Dad

Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Daddy's dearest is coming to the rescue again.

The daughter of convicted Mafia cop Louis Eppolito has fired off an emotional letter to Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein, attacking the government's case, dissing her father's lawyers and begging the judge to set aside his conviction. In short, the dark-haired beauty launched the kind of defense her father claims he didn't get at his trial.

"There were so many things that I thought would have come out in trial, so many pieces of information and evidence that would have shown reasonable doubt and let the jury know that my father and Steve Caracappa are innocent," Andrea Eppolito said in a four-page missive made public yesterday.

"I don't know why the lawyers didn't do certain things, ask certain questions, or take a more aggressive defense. Your Honor, please do not punish my father and our family for those mistakes," she added.

A year ago today, Eppolito made front-page news when she unexpectedly waltzed in front of a bevy of microphones and delivered an impassioned defense of her father after a routine courthouse appearance.

This time around, Eppolito, a 29-year-old marketing specialist from Las Vegas, wrote Weinstein she was appealing to him "on behalf of my father, my family, and in the name of justice."

She implored the judge to set aside the April 6 verdict in which her dad and Caracappa, his former NYPD partner, were convicted of being linked to eight mob murders.

The disgraced ex-detective also ripped defense lawyers Bruce Cutler and Bettina Schein for not allowing him to testify and not aggressively defending him. Weinstein will hold a hearing Monday to determine whether Eppolito needs new counsel.

In her missive, Andrea says her dad's 1992 biography, "Mafia Cop," in which Eppolito admits his father, uncle and cousin were in the Mafia, revealed a family history that was largely kept secret from her as a child.

"My father walked away from a life of crime that was filled with easy money, easy hours, lies, deceit, coercion, murder and many other degrading acts, to wake up early, put on a uniform or suit and carry a badge.

"Please do not condemn him, do not force him to pay for the sins of his father and the family that came before him."

Thanks to John Marzulli

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mafia Cop's Bizarre Nondefense

Friends of ours: John Gotti
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Finally, Louie Eppolito offers a defense. His defense is that he had no defense.

The Mafia cop, in a jailhouse interview with my colleague Greg B. Smith in yesterday's Daily News, claimed that his defense team in his recent trial at which he was convicted of eight-mob related murders was poor.

Eppolito wasn't the only one surprised by the unfocused defense offered by Bruce Cutler and Eddie Hayes, two high-profile lawyers. In fact, Eppolito's first mistake probably was hiring Cutler. If you're trying to convince a jury that you're not mobbed up, why would you hire John Gotti's mouthpiece, the most high-profile mob lawyer in New York?

Almost everyone who attended the trial on a regular basis was surprised by the defense, which often rambled, got lost in name-calling and histrionics, and looked flatfooted in cross-examinations.

By contrast, Burton Kaplan was the best prosecution witness many court observers ever saw. His spellbinding testimony was like listening to an Elmore Leonard novel on tape. He was the quintessential shady Brooklyn character, an ingenious street kid who seemed to consciously have chosen "Crime" as a life plan on Career Day at Manual Training High.

Here was a complex man who says he loves his wife of 49 years, although he took a lover while on the lam. A man who adores his daughter - who became a Criminal Court judge - but a father who at middle age crossed the line to commit a murder that left two other daughters without a father. A family man who helped cause funerals in seven other families. And yet the defense was never able to paint this grab bag of contradictions as a liar.

The government started with a clear and lucid opening by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitra Hormozi, who led the jury through a nightmarish narrative of two cops who betrayed their badges for money in a sociopathic spree of kidnapping, bribery and murder. No $50 words, no table thumping, no bellowing. Just a well-prepared lawyer telling a compelling, true-crime story in prose as sparse and direct as James M. Cain's in "The Postman Always Rings Twice."

The great Samuel Goldwyn, who founded MGM studios, once said that he could tell if a movie was working by whether or not his butt squirmed. Not one juror squirmed during Hormozi's opening.

Then, lead U.S. prosecutor Robert Henoch, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves who had served in the Middle East, started calling witnesses to support Hormozi's harrowing tale. Henoch led Kaplan through his direct testimony, which was filled with precise, damning details like knowing where former Eppolito partner Stephen Caracappa's mother lived on Staten Island. Or that Caracappa had a black cat in an apartment in a "thin" building on 22nd St. in Manhattan. Or that he met with Eppolito at a "lady friend's" apartment in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Each detail became another brick in a prison wall.

Neither cop took the stand to counter Kaplan's testimony. Eppolito now claims that his lawyers forbade him from testifying. Excuse me, the client is the boss. But the two Mafia cops did worse than not testifying. Through the entire trial Eppolito and Caracappa sat stoically, showing zero emotion as their freedom was chipped away piece by icy piece by 40 prosecution witnesses. Noted anthropologist and linguist Ray Birdwhistell says the human face is capable of some 250,000 facial expressions. During the three-week trial, Eppolito and Caracappa each chose one expression - blank. Which made them look like the cold-blooded killers the prosecution claimed they were.


If I were a wrongly accused man fighting for my life, and my lawyers convinced me taking the stand would be counterproductive, I would at least use my face to emote and register outrage, horror, astonishment, disbelief, incredulity, shock, pity, sadness, rage and disappointment to the 12 very human jurors sitting in the box, who gazed constantly at the defendants for reaction to the terrible things being said about them. Only to see two blocks of ice.

If Burton Kaplan was falsely connecting me to eight Mafia murders, the U.S. Marshals would need to bind and gag me to keep me still and silent. If Eppolito was being framed, as he now claims from a jail cell, why didn't he leap from his seat in the courtroom and scream, "Liar!" Why not plant at least a single seed of doubt in the mind of even one juror by reacting like an innocent man framed?

What was the risk? A few days held in contempt while you're facing life in a cage? Instead, Eppolito waited until the jury said, "Guilty" 70 times, after which he embraced and backslapped Cutler, before claiming he doesn't know what the defense was thinking.

During the trial, many on the jury were probably wondering the same of poker-faced Eppolito.

Thanks to Denis Hamill

Monday, April 17, 2006

After Conviction 'Mafia cop' Insists: 'It Was a Perfect Frame'

Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

In his first interview since being convicted of racketeering conspiracy, so-called "Mafia cop" Louis Eppolito maintained his innocence, insisting that he was the victim of "a perfect frame."

"I was the most perfect scapegoat in history. Nobody was better than I was," Eppolito told the Daily News for Monday editions.

Days after being convicted alongside former NYPD partner Stephen Caracappa for doubling as hit men for the mob, Eppolito claimed he was targeted in part because he had been accused in 1984 of leaking secrets to the Mafia. He was later cleared of those initial charges. "It left a stigma that I was connected to the mob," he told the newspaper by telephone on Friday.

The former detective said he had thought about facing the family members of victims. "I'm going to have to stand there and have people look at me and say, 'You killed my father, you killed my son,"' Eppolito said. "I didn't kill anybody. ... What am I supposed to do? They'll say you don't have remorse."

Both men were convicted April 6 of participating in eight brutal killings while on the monthly payroll of a murderous Mafia underboss. They were also found guilty of kidnapping, witness tampering and bribery _ and of providing inside law enforcement information to the mob.

Neither man took the stand during the trial, though Eppolito told the Daily News that he "begged" his lawyers to let him take the stand.

The 57-year-old said his predicament could be blamed on his 1992 book, "Mafia Cop," which key witness Burton Kaplan said from the stand was "the reason for all our troubles."

"I've thought about it a million times," Eppolito admitted. "I would not have been arrested if I hadn't written the book."

"Still," he said, "there are no regrets. Not a one."

Mafia Cop Raped Me, Gal Says

Drug Bust Wife's Shocking Claim

Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

Mob cop Stephen Caracappa was not only a murderous Mafia mole when he wore an NYPD badge - he also was a rapist, according to a bombshell charge.

"That man reminded me of the devil - he was Satan," alleged victim Diane Frisco said about the dirty ex-detective, who she first met in the late 1970s while Caracappa was an undercover narcotics cop putting together a case against her and her husband, Richard Warme.

Frisco and Warme were once eyed as potential character witnesses for the feds in their case against Caracappa and disgraced former partner Louis Eppolito, who were convicted on murder raps earlier this month.

While being questioned on the Caracappa drug connection, Frisco told investigators that he had lured her into a Bronx motel room in 1978 and raped her. Her husband was in prison at the time awaiting trial after the then-cop busted him for facilitating a drug deal.

Warme said her ordeal began after then-cop Caracappa, whom she had only known as "Frankie Black" - his undercover persona - came to her house off the Throgs Neck Expressway and explained, "You know I can help your husband when it comes time for trial."

"Remember, I'm holding all the aces, kid," Caracappa allegedly told Frisco, now 58, who was charged along with her husband and was out on bail at the time. She was later acquitted at trial.

A few days later, Caracappa drove her to the Town and Country Motel on Conner Street, now a women's shelter, and led her into a first-floor room. "He put me on the bed and took off my pants," Frisco told The Post. "I was frozen - crying and frozen," she said, describing how Caracappa undressed and looked like "a skinny gorilla."

She never reported the loathsome tryst because the detective told her, "If you say anything, no one's going to believe you." "I felt dirty, filthy," said Frisco, who is threatening legal action against Caracappa. "I felt violated."

She also described some of the strong-arm tactics the cop allegedly used while acting as Frankie Black, including threatening to cut off her daughter's fingers if drugs weren't delivered to him.

She said the terrifying ordeal forced her to send her five children to stay with relatives in Arizona, where she also went for a year after her legal woes were cleared up. She then returned to The Bronx and took on her grandparent's last name.

Frisco eventually divorced Warme.

Warme, 59, is also preparing to sue Caracappa, claiming that the former cop made bogus statements on the stand about Warme taking off with $20,000 he had given him for drugs.

Caracappa testified to giving Warme cash at the man's 1978 trial. Warme adamantly denies ever receiving the moolah and now believes the rogue cop pocketed it.

Ed Hayes, Caracappa's lawyer, said he didn't know enough about the couple to comment on the charges.

Warme admits that he was "no angel," and that he helped put Caracappa in touch with drug dealers because, "at the time, I was desperate for money."

He told The Post how he was first asked to track down cocaine, then heroin.

Prosecutors tried to introduce evidence at the mob cops' trial that Caracappa was caught on tape admitting to using cocaine while working in the narcotics unit, but the judge wouldn't let the jury hear it.

Frisco and Warme were being considered as potential witnesses in the case but wound up not being asked to speak under oath, partly because of an abundance of other evidence against the former officers.

The ex-cops are to be sentenced on racketeering raps, including murder and drug dealing, May 22.

Thanks to Patrick Gallahue and Zach Haberman

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mandalay Hopes "Mafia Cop" Produces Another Hit

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Mandalay Pictures has turned last week's national news headlines into a project titled "Mafia Cop", a film based on the life of highly decorated NYPD detective Louis Eppolito, who was found guilty, along with Steven Caracappa, of participating in eight murders, two attempted murders, one murder conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and drug distribution.

Mandalay has Eppolito's life rights as well as film rights to the book the highly decorated imprisoned detective penned with Bob Drury about his life . The case is being labelled as one of the worst police corruption scandals in New York's history and detailed accounts on the stand showed the men often used their power to commit crimes while feeding police intelligence to Mafia underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Eppolito also has more than a dozen acting credits on his resume including Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas". Scribe Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane") who attended the three-week trial will pen the screenplay

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Two Decades Later, Family Sees Justice in New York 'Mafia Cops' Case

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Gambino Crime Family, Jimmy Hydell, Eddie Lino
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

In 1986, an unassuming jeweler named Israel Greenwald was secretly shot dead inside a Brooklyn garage and buried on the spot. His family had no clue he was executed _ or that two police detectives doubling as hit men for the Mafia were involved.

The family finally found a measure of peace on Thursday while on hand for guilty verdicts against Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa, the so-called "Mafia Cops". "Finally, justice has been served," Greenwald's 28-year-old daughter, Lea, told reporters outside a Brooklyn courtroom.

The convictions - which came two decades after the ex-detectives committed their first murder on orders from Luchese underboss Anthony ''Gaspipe'' Casso - closed perhaps the most astonishing police corruption case in city history.

"There has never been, in the history of the NYPD, an officer convicted of being a hit man for the mob," said Tom Reppetto, co-author of "American Mafia" and "NYPD," a department history.

"There's cases of police misconduct, but going to work for organized crime? Wow." The federal jury in Brooklyn deliberated for two days in the case against Eppolito and Caracappa, who spent a combined 44 years on the force and once worked as partners. The pair, who were immediately jailed after the verdict, face up to life in prison.

Neither defendant betrayed any emotion during the 10 minutes where the jury forewoman replied "proven" 70 times to the racketeering acts.

Eppolito, 57, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, and Caracappa, 64, were respected city detectives who moonlighted as hired killers for Casso between 1986 and 1990. In two of the slayings, they used their police credentials to make traffic stops that ended with the driver killed.

In another instance, the pair kidnapped a man suspected in an attempted mob hit against Casso and turned him over to the underboss. Casso, a remorseless mobster responsible for 36 slayings, reportedly tortured and killed Jimmy Hydell in September 1986.

The most shocking murder involved bad information provided by the detectives about another suspect in the Casso murder attempt. The tip led to the mistaken-identity murder of an innocent man killed as his mother washed the dishes following a Christmas Day family dinner.

U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein immediately revoked the defendants' $5 million bail pending their May 22 sentencing.

Hayes and Eppolito's attorney, Bruce Cutler, said they would appeal. "It's an appearance of justice, but it's not justice," Cutler told reporters outside court.

Prosecutors charged that the two used their positions as crime fighters to aid the crime family - at a price of $4,000 a month. Their salary increased when the detectives personally handled the killing, authorities said; they earned $65,000 for the slaying of mobster Eddie Lino during a phony traffic stop.

It was one of two slayings where the pair was directly involved.

A witness testified that Caracappa was present during the February 1986 slaying of Greenwald, who was allegedly cooperating with federal authorities. Jurors heard testimony from a parking lot attendant who described publicly for the first time how Eppolito stood guard while he was forced to dig a grave for the victim or face a bullet himself.

Another key prosecution witness was Burton Kaplan, an acknowledged drug dealer who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders between 1986 and 1990. Kaplan testified that he served as a middleman between Casso and the detectives.

Before the defendants were led away to jail, Eppolito calmly removed his tie, belt and a gold chain from his bulky frame and handed them to one of his daughters. Left behindon the defense table were wrapping paper from Caracappa's Life Savers, a blank verdict sheet, some court transcripts and a fortune from a fortune cookie.

It read: "Wisdom is the principal thing."

Thanks to Tom Hays

Monday, April 10, 2006

Stephen Caracappa

Stephen Caracappa is former policemen from New York City who retired in 1980. In 2005, Caracappa and his former partner, Louis Eppolito, were charged with carrying out various crimes, including murder, on behalf of the Lucchese Crime Family during the 1980's while they were still NYPD detectives. The media has dubbed the pair the "Mafia Cops".

Both men, who were lifelong friends, moved to Las Vegas following their retirement.

In 1994, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a member of the Lucchese crime family, became an informant and first brought the authority's attention to Caracappa and Eppolito. Amongst other things he alleged that, in 1986, the two policemen kidnapped and murdered a member of the Gambino family named James Hydell on the orders of rival mobsters.

After a long investigation, both Caracappa and Eppolito were arrested in March 2005 and charged with racketeering, obstruction of justice and eight counts of murder, including that of James Hydell. They are also accused of conspiring to murder Sammy Gravano, the famous informant who helped put John Gotti behind bars.

Caracappa and Eppolito were convicted in April of 2006. On June 30th, the Judge in that case threw out the murder convictions and granted the two a new trial on money laundering and drug charges.

Chicago Syndicate Articles with Stephen Caracappa

Mafia Cops Request Bail
Mafia Detectives Risks Mafia Cops Case
Mafia Cops Judge to Rule on Bail After Vacation Cruise
Mother of Mafia Cops Victim Pleads with Mayor Bloomberg
Convictions Tossed in "Mafia Cops" Case
Judge Throws Out Murder Conviction in Mafia Cops Case

Mafia Cop Trial Defense Was "Excellent" Judge Says
Mafia Cop Testifies It's True He's a Liar
Yet Another Chapter in Mafia Cops Case
Private Eye Who Investigated Mafia Cops Attacked
A Family Torn Apart by Mafia Cops
Bruce Lost His Bite
Last Shot for "Mafia Cops": Lawyers Did It
The Badge Still Shines
Mafia Cops to Face Life Term
Mafia Cops Face Life in Prison at Sentencing
Kin of "Mafia Cops" Victims Sue NYPD
Mop Cop Will Make Case for Poor Defense
Judge: Basis for Appeal in 'Mafia Cops' Trial
It's Splitsville!
Mob Cop's Daughter Begs Judge: Free Dad
Mafia Cop's Bizarre Nondefense
After Conviction "Mafia Cop" Insists It was a Perfect Frame
Mafia Cop Raped Me, Gal Says
Mandalay Hopes "Mafia Cop" Produces Another Hit
Two Decades Later, Family Sees Justice in New York 'Mafia Cops' Case
He's Got Courage of Clients' Convictions
NYPD Detectives Convicted of Mob Murders
"Mafia Cops" Convicted of Murder
Defense in "Mafia Cops" Trial Closes in a Blaze of Name-Calling
Closing Arguments Begin in Colorful 'Mafia Cops' Trial
Key Witness to be Recalled in Trial of 2 'Mafia Cops'
Judge Denies Mistrial for "Mafia Cops"
In Mob Trial, a Spotlight on a Rogue
Time for "Mafia Cop" to Honor his Family
Man Says "Mafia Cops" Ordered Him to Dig Grave
'Mafia cops' trial has new sidebar
Mama Gets Her shot at 'Mob cops'
Drug Dealer Testifies That He Met Accused 'Mafia Cops' in Cemetery
Police Accused of Mafia Ties Head to Trial
Trial Begins of NY Cops Charged as Mafia Hit Men
Real Dons Steal Sopranos Limelight
Bad Cops First, Then Mob Cops?
Dramatic mob trials still fill the seats
Detectives Who Broke "Mafia Cops" Case Won't Testify At Trial
'Mafia Cops' prosecutors drop two murders
Murdered man's mother files $150M suit against city, 'Mafia Cops'
Alleged mob cop's wife arrested for tax evasion
Alleged Mafia Cop Speaks Out
"Mafia" Cop Had a Mole
New charges for 'Mafia cops'
Will DNA testing clear the "Mafia Cops"?
'Mafia Cops' lawyers demanding witness information
Did cops double as mob hit men?

He's Got Courage of Clients' Convictions

Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

It was barely an hour after the jury came back in Brooklyn, carrying a verdict no defense attorney ever wants to hear. And Edward Hayes obviously wasn't enjoying this one.

His client, Stephen Caracappa, was one of the alleged "Mafia cops. " Caracappa had just been convicted in a racketeering conspiracy that included carrying out multiple hits for the mob.

"You lose a big case, and you feel awful," Hayes was saying, back now at his law office in midtown. "And then you win big cases, and you feel great. That's the life I've chosen. I worked like an animal. I did a good job for the guy. In this line of work, you're supposed to put the government to the test. I feel like I did that. Unfortunately, the jury convicted anyway. "

Even the greatest lawyers lose cases. If a lawyer says he's never lost one, don't even think of hiring him. He can't be trusted. He's already lying to you. But that's not Ed Hayes' way. He'll face the music, all of it, even on the toughest of days. And he wasn't hiding now.

It's a story and an ethos he's revealed in an eye-popping tell-all, "Mouthpiece: A Life in - and Sometimes Just Outside - the Law." From an abusive upbringing in working-class Queens. To a mind-expanding time at the University of Virginia and Columbia Law. To a stint as a homicide prosecutor in the Bronx. To a law career representing the likes of Lizzie Grubman, Sean Combs, Daniel Libeskind and the Andy Warhol estate. Ed Hayes is the quintessential behind-the-scenes New York power player and the first-call mop-up man in 10021.

At one time or another, he has been a source for most of the newspaper columnists in New York - and a lawyer for at least half of them, now including Jared Paul Stern, the alleged "Page Six" extortionist at the New York Post. He's a rare combination: fop and tough guy, well-connected and street-smart, a genuine Irish knock-around who can still sit down to dinner with Anna Wintour and Si Newhouse. Of course, his pal Tom Wolfe wrote the introduction to the book. But here was the ultimate test for Hayes, who's been touted and toasted plenty in the nine weeks since "Mouthpiece" came out. Would he still be a stand-up guy when the chips were down? Or would he suddenly slink away and hide?

I'm here to report that Ed Hayes did not slink. In fact, he sounded downright gracious, given all that had just occurred.

"You had very good prosecutors," he said of the Brooklyn-based team that pursued Caracappa and co-defendant Louis Eppolito. "The case was very well-investigated. They came up with stuff, like my client took a day off the day someone was murdered. And the jurors totally believed the main government witness, Burt Kaplan," an undeniable bad guy who ratted out the two ex-cops.

Just as ardently - even more so - Hayes stood by his freshly convicted client. "I really don't believe he did it, and I'm happy to represent him," Hayes said. "I never saw any indication that he would do this sort of thing. And where was the motive? You understand what I'm saying? He didn't need money. His wife made a very good living. He made a good living. Why take this kind of risk? I didn't see it. "

What Hayes did see was another stand-up guy. "He's got a lovely wife," the "Mouthpiece" lawyer said of his latest client. "He's very close to her. It's gonna be pretty grim.

"He is a very strong guy who takes very good care of his emotions. He's very careful about that. He showed some emotion after the verdict. But he is a very strong guy. He said, 'Eddie, don't worry. It'll be OK. I said to myself, 'Jesus, this guy is worried about me, and last night is his last free night.

Thanks to Ellis Henican

Friday, April 07, 2006

NYPD Detectives Convicted of Mob Murders

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, John Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Jimmy Hydell, Nicholas Guido
Friends of mine: Loui Eppolito, Steven Caracappa

Two highly decorated former detectives were convicted Thursday of moonlighting as hitmen for the mob in one of the most sensational cases of police corruption in New York history.

Louis Eppolito, 57, and Steven Caracappa, 64, could get life in prison for their roles in eight murders committed between 1986 and 1990 while they were simultaneously on the payroll of both the NYPD and Luchese crime family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Federal prosecutor Daniel Wenner described the case as "the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen." Prosecutors said the two men carried out two hits themselves — in one case after pulling a mobster over in a phony traffic stop — and delivered up some of the other victims to the Mafia to be killed.

The defendants rubbed their faces and stared at the federal jury upon hearing the verdict, reached after two days of deliberations. Eppolito's family wept. The defendants' $5 million bail was revoked and they were led off to jail to await sentencing May 22.

The men's lawyers said they will appeal. "It's an appearance of justice, but it's not justice," said Bruce Cutler, who once represented John Gotti and put on a thundering defense of the two former officers, claiming the government's mob witnesses were lying to save their necks.

Prosecutors said the two used their law enforcement positions to help the Mafia at a price of $4,000 per month — more if they personally handled a killing. They earned $65,000 for the phony traffic stop slaying, prosecutors said. The two officers also supplied Casso with inside information on law enforcement interest in the mob, prosecutors said. Casso was said to have referred to the two men as his "crystal ball."

They were convicted of charges that included racketeering conspiracy, witness tampering, witness retaliation and obstruction of justice.

Caracappa, who retired in 1992, helped establish the city police department's unit for Mafia murder investigations. Eppolito, the son of a Gambino crime family member, was a much-praised street cop, although there were suggestions that some of his arrests resulted from tips from mobsters.

In his autobiography, Mafia Cop, he portrayed himself as an honest cop from a crooked family. Eppolito also played a bit part in the mob movie GoodFellas. After retiring in 1990, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at Hollywood scriptwriting.

The former detectives, who retired to homes on the same block in Las Vegas, insisted on their innocence from the time of their arrests in March 2005. But neither took the stand at their trial.

The key prosecution witness was Burton Kaplan, a drug dealer who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders. Kaplan testified that he served as middleman between Casso and the detectives.

Casso, known as one of the most brutal mobsters in the city, is suspected of involvement in 36 murders himself. Both sides considered calling him as a witness but ultimately decided Casso came with too much baggage.

According to testimony, the detectives "arrested" a mobster named Jimmy Hydell in 1986, but instead delivered him to Casso for torture and execution.

That same year, the pair furnished the underboss with information on where to find Nicholas Guido, a mobster involved in a planned hit on Casso. Their inaccurate tip led to an innocent man with the same name, who was killed after Christmas dinner at his mother's house.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Mafia Cops" Convicted of Murder

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Gambino Crime Family, Eddie Lino, Nicholas Guido, Jimmy Hydell
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Steven Caracappa

Two decorated former New York City police detectives were convicted Thursday of murder while on the payroll of a Mafia underboss in one of the most astounding police corruption cases in city history.

The federal jury deliberated for two days in the case against Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa, who spent a combined 44 years on the force and once worked as partners.

They face up to life in prison.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were accused of leading a double life for years: respected city detectives who moonlighted as hired killers for Luchese crime family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Wenner described the case against the so-called "Mafia cops" as "the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen."

The defendants showed no visible reaction, while Eppolito's family wept as the verdict was read.

The men were accused in eight murders, with prosecutors charging that the two used their positions as crime fighters to aid the crime family -- at a price of $4,000 a month.

Their salary increased when the detectives personally handled the killing, authorities said; they earned $65,000 for the slaying of a mobster during a phony traffic stop.

Casso also referred to the pair as his "crystal ball," providing inside information on law enforcement interest in the mob world, authorities said. Caracappa, who retired in 1992, helped establish the city police department's office for Mafia murder probes.

Eppolito, the son of a Gambino crime family member, was a much-praised street cop -- although there were suggestions that some of his arrests followed tips provided by mobsters. The contrast between his police work and his "family" life was detailed in his autobiography, "Mafia Cop."

Eppolito also played a bit part in the classic mob movie "GoodFellas." After retiring in 1990, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at Hollywood script writing.

Since their March 2005 arrests, the men have said they are innocent. But neither one took the stand to refute charges in the trial that began March 13.

The key prosecution witness was Burton Kaplan, an acknowledged drug dealer who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders between 1986 and 1990. Kaplan testified that he served as middleman between Casso and the detectives.

Casso, known as one of the most brutal mobsters in the city, was reportedly involved in 36 murders himself.

Both sides considered calling him as a witness, but ultimately decided Casso came with too much baggage -- even after he wrote a letter from prison insisting the detectives were innocent of several crimes.

The details of the alleged killing spree were chilling. The detectives allegedly "arrested" a mobster named Jimmy Hydell in 1986, but instead delivered him to Casso for torture and execution.

That same year, the pair allegedly furnished the underboss with information to locate Nicholas Guido, a mobster involved in a planned hit on Casso. Their inaccurate tip led to the slaying of an innocent man who was having Christmas dinner at his mother's house.

The detectives also were charged with killing Gambino family member Eddie Lino during what began as a routine traffic stop, and finished with Caracappa allegedly shooting the mobster.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Defense in "Mafia Cops" Trial Closes in a Blaze of Name-Calling

Friends of ours: Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

After three weeks of testimony about gunshot wounds and buried bodies, about capos and whispered orders, the defense in the "Mafia cops" trial rested Tuesday morning with the image of a gnome.

"Franzone is a gnome," attorney Bruce Cutler said of a key government witness against his client, a retired New York City Police detective named Louis Eppolito. "A gnome," he said, "is defined as one of a race of dwarf-like creatures who lives underground and guards treasure hoards…. He's a creep and a lowlife and a liar."

It was a fitting end to a trial that has provided a three-week tour through Brooklyn's criminal underworld. Eppolito and his onetime partner, Stephen Caracappa, who retired from the force in the early 1990s, are accused of assisting a Luchese crime family underboss and participating in killings and racketeering.

Jurors will begin deliberations in the case today. Eppolito and Caracappa face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutor Daniel Wenner has called the case "one of the bloodiest and most violent betrayals of the badge this city has ever seen."

With little physical evidence, the government has built its case on the testimony of a series of shady figures — made men, felons, errand boys, stool pigeons — who testified that the two cops crossed over into their world.

The government's star witness was Burton Kaplan, 72, who is serving a 27-year sentence for drug dealing. Kaplan — a querulous, arthritic man — described himself as so ill-equipped for violence that when he was asked to ferry a corpse to Connecticut, he was "scared to death" and trembled the whole way.

Kaplan, a Jew, knew he could never be a made man, but he was well-connected. He introduced Eppolito and Caracappa to Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a Luchese underboss who began paying them a $4,000-a-month retainer to pass on police intelligence, Kaplan testified.

The prosecution also called Steven Corso, a New York accountant who moved to Las Vegas in 2002 after being convicted of embezzling almost $6 million. Corso made a deal with the government and became a one-man sting operation. It was in Nevada that he crossed paths with Eppolito, who had moved west to become a screenwriter. Last year, Corso said, he offered to introduce Eppolito to a group of movie industry players, telling him, "They're Hollywood punks — some of 'em are famous." When the contacts wanted methamphetamine, Corso testified, Eppolito offered to supply the drugs.

Then last week, the jury heard from Peter Franzone, 56, a Flatbush tow-truck driver. He described a February afternoon in 1986 when Eppolito's cousin, Frank Santora Jr., strode into his garage with two other men while Eppolito stood watch outside. Twenty minutes later, Santora led Franzone into the garage, where he showed him a body and handed him a shovel, he testified.

"Frankie told me I gotta help bury the body because I'm an accessory, and if I didn't help him, he would kill me," Franzone said. He did not report the crime until last year — when he was approached by prosecutors — because, he said, "Who would believe me?"

In closing arguments, Cutler and Caracappa's lawyer, Edward Hayes, heaped disdain on the government's witnesses.

By the 1980s, Hayes said, "the Mafia's over. What are you left with? Informants. Casso is an escapee from the Bronx Zoo." As for Corso, Cutler called him a "sophisticated, unctuous, polished, lowlife thief." But chief prosecutor Robert Henoch said Cutler and Hayes had failed to explain why Eppolito and Caracappa had relationships with criminals like Kaplan in the first place. Why, he asked, would someone like Kaplan be able to describe Eppolito's basement, or Caracappa's pet cat?

"The truth is not always pretty, but the truth is always perfect," he said, addressing one of the defense attorneys. "You're the best lawyer in America, but you can't explain that away."

Thanks to Ellen Barry

Closing Arguments Begin in Colorful 'Mafia Cops' Trial

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Two ex-police detectives betrayed their badges by becoming hired guns for the Mafia, a prosecutor said Monday during closing arguments at their federal racketeering trial.

Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa "led double lives," helping unleash a wave of violence that left eight people dead, prosecutor Daniel Wenner told the jury. "They gathered and sold information to the mob. They kidnapped for the mob. They murdered for the mob," Wenner said. The prosecutor described the case as "the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen."

Caracappa's lawyer, Edward Hayes, countered by accusing the government of using the testimony of a convicted drug dealer, a gangster and an embezzler to frame an honest crime fighter. The witnesses "have conned people their whole lives," he said. The decorated detective "has no vices," Hayes said. "He doesn't have a secret life. ... What would possibly motivate him to betray everything? Nothing."

Authorities allege Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were involved in eight slayings between 1986 and 1990 while on the payroll both of the New York Police Department and Luchese crime family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

The "Mafia Cops" are accused of accepting $4,000 a month to help Casso silence informants and rub out rivals.

The partners retired to Las Vegas in the early 1990s but were arrested a year ago because of new evidence. It included the eyewitness account of a tow truck driver who managed a parking garage where a jeweler was executed in 1986 after running afoul of the Luchese family. The driver testified last week that he was forced to dig the jeweler's grave while Eppolito stood guard.

During three weeks of testimony, the jury also heard allegations that the partners gunned down a Gambino family captain, Eddie Lino, in 1990 after pulling over his car in a phony traffic stop.

Another victim had the misfortune of having the same name as a mobster involved in a botched hit on Casso; when the underboss wanted revenge, the detectives allegedly provided an address for the wrong Nicholas Guido, who was killed outside his home in 1986.

Defense attorneys have argued that the five-year statute of limitations has expired on the most serious crimes. Prosecutors say the killings were part of a conspiracy that lasted through a 2005 drug deal with FBI informant Steven Corso.

Eppolito's lawyer was to give his closing argument on Tuesday.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Key Witness to be Recalled in Trial of 2 'Mafia Cops'

Friends of ours: Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Burton Kaplan, the government's star witness in the "Mafia cops" trial, already has told jurors that Louis Eppolito and former Great Kills resident Stephen Caracappa peddled information to the mob about police wiretaps, names of confidential informants and imminent arrests.

The two ex-cops also moonlighted as hit men, he testified. But Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, a bloodthirsty mobster who reputedly had the two former detectives on retainer, has said from prison that they were framed. So yesterday, Caracappa's lawyer Edward Hayes told U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein that he intends to recall Kaplan for questioning.

On Thursday, Casso told defense attorneys in a confidential phone conference that he had penned two letters to federal authorities claiming that he and Kaplan, with the backing of a corrupt FBI agent, had concocted the dirty-cops story.

Because prosecutors didn't reveal the Casso letters during pretrial discovery sessions, attorney Bettina Schein, co-counsel with Eppolito's lawyer Bruce Cutler, asked Weinstein to declare a mistrial.

Weinstein denied the bid. And after Cutler and Caracappa counsel Edward Hayes told the judge they would not call Casso as a witness, Weinstein refused to allow the jury to see the letters.

The judge also ordered the defense to limit its questions to Kaplan to new material.

Hayes participated in yesterday's court session by speakerphone from California. "You're supposed to be here in court," an obviously irked Weinstein told the absent attorney. "I'm only speaking with you on the phone as a courtesy to you and your client."

In testimony, retired Detective Leslie Shanahan told jurors that he and Caracappa worked back-to-back tours for nearly 30 hours straight on the day of the Eddie Lino rub-out. Caracappa is accused of pulling the trigger.

Kaplan is due to return to the stand when the trial resumes Monday morning.

Thanks to Jeff Harrell

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Judge Denies Mistrial for "Mafia Cops"

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

A federal judge ruled that 11th-hour revelations by a jailed Mafia underboss is not enough to cause a mistrial in the case of two former detectives accused of moonlighting for the mob.

Judge Jack Weinstein told attorneys for Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa they can still call Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso as a witness. The lawyers told the judge yesterday that Casso claims that their clients are innocent of some of the charges -- reversing allegations he made against the pair. The defense will decide today whether Casso will testify next week.

In a phone call yesterday from prison, lawyers said Casso referred them to a letter he wrote to federal prosecutors in which he claimed responsibility for some of the crimes for which Eppolito and Caracappa are charged.

Eppolito and Caracappa face charges for eight murders, two attempted murders and money laundering.

Casso pleaded guilty to murder and racketeering charges in 1994 and is currently serving a life sentence at a Colorado prison.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

In Mob Trial, a Spotlight on a Rogue

Friends of ours: Edward Lino, Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Steven Corso — tax cheat, thief, disgraced accountant — spent a good part of the week telling jurors at the racketeering trial of two retired New York detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, how the two men moved to Las Vegas in the early 1990's and committed crimes.

He testified that last year they helped arrange a two-minute, 19-second drug deal, in which Mr. Eppolito's son was secretly recorded selling an ounce of methamphetamine for $900. He said that a few weeks later, Mr. Eppolito, who acted in films and wrote scripts after leaving the police force, took $14,000 for a screenplay he was writing, even though he knew it had come from a mob-connected drug deal.

Eventually, of course, the witness, with his pomaded hair and designer suits, was forced to talk about his own high crimes and misdemeanors. Under cross-examination, he admitted having first approached Mr. Eppolito pretending to be interested in his daughter and acknowledged stealing $5,329,566 from his former firm, spending it on a "lifestyle" of "girlfriends, jewelry and going out."

Mr. Corso, 50, is the government's chief witness in the Las Vegas portion of the trial, a transcontinental case in which the two defendants have been charged with taking part in at least eight murders for the Brooklyn mob.

He traveled through Las Vegas with a miniature recorder, and the tapes he made have allowed the government to argue that the two defendants were engaged in a criminal conspiracy stretching from murder in the 1980's to a drug deal last year.

Bruce Cutler, Mr. Eppolito's lawyer, painted Mr. Corso as a debauched and profligate government pawn: a man, he said, who left $600,000 in "unpaid lines of credit at various and sundry casinos." Ever one for eloquent aggression, Mr. Cutler impugned his conduct (and oddly enough, with no apparent reason, his patriotism, too) then lambasted him for having stooped to recording Mr. Eppolito, recovering after heart surgery in a hospital room.

Rae Koshetz, Mr. Caracappa's lawyer, needled Mr. Corso for having said the phrase "with me" was gangland slang, as in, "He's with me."

In what was probably the only Mafia-logical interpretation of Scripture ever offered in a court, Ms. Koshetz read aloud from the 23rd Psalm to prove there was nothing inherently sinister about "with me."

"'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,'" she read, "'I fear no evil for you are" —pause — "with me.' " She then asked Mr. Corso. "Surely, you don't think the author of the 23rd Psalm was talking about a drug deal, do you, sir?"

Speaking of authors, one of the half-dozen or so who have hitched their wagons to the case is Jane McCormick, former president of a Las Vegas cleaning service and a onetime call girl whose most famous customer was, in her words, "Frank Sinatra when he wasn't married."

Ms. McCormick, 64, wrote "The Confidence Game," her life story — a tale of child molestation, rape, abortion, "favors for men" and silicone injections that led, she said, to "gangrene" in her breasts.

Four years ago, hoping to make the leap to Hollywood, she paid Mr. Eppolito $45,000 to turn her book into a screenplay — a screenplay, she has sued him for having failed to write.

Throughout the trial, Ms. McCormick has installed herself in the pews of court, hoping the publicity will help sell her book. She is also a figure of writerly retribution: the author as avenging angel. "He made me believe he was the hotshot of the movie world," she said. "But he didn't have what it took."

Little physical evidence has been introduced so far, though on Thursday, prosecutors presented what could become a crucial exhibit. It was a watch — specifically a Pulsar watch with a black, square face found near the curb of the Belt Parkway on Nov. 6, 1990. That was the date and place that Edward Lino, a Gambino family captain, was killed in his Mercedes-Benz — by the two ex-detectives, prosecutors say.

The watch was discovered within 100 feet of Mr. Lino's car by Detective Mary Dugan of the New York Police Department's crime scene unit. Detective Dugan, now retired, testified that she had found the watch on the night of Mr. Lino's death after finding his body slumped behind the wheel of the car.

Prosecutors plan to argue in closing remarks that the watch belonged to Mr. Caracappa.

As proof of just how exhaustive their case has been so far, they showed a photograph on Tuesday from a 1989 party celebrating the promotion of a former colleague of Mr. Caracappa.

The photograph shows Mr. Caracappa in his shirtsleeves and a tie, a cigarette tucked Jean-Paul Belmondo-style at his lip. On his wrist is a watch, with a black square face.

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Time for "Mafia Cop" to Honor his Family

"There are some things that you're taught as a child that stay with you the rest of your life. It's like a code you can't break. In my case, a Cosa Nostra code. And if following that code means having to face the consequences, even among friends, then so be it."

Excerpt from "Mafia Cop," by Louis Eppolito.

It's time. Time for Louie Eppolito to face the consequences.

Now that he has announced he will not even mount a defense against the charges that he kidnapped and murdered for money, it's time for the former detective to act like a man, and fall on a grenade for his family.

Last Wednesday I sat in the courtroom at the so-called Mafia cops trial where a sleazy accountant named Steven Corso - who became a federal wire-wearing mole in the nether world of Vegas - introduced a hit parade of audiotape of Eppolito and former partner Stephen Caracappa. On one tape, Corso, posing as a middleman who can get investors to pay Eppolito money to write a screenplay, says the Hollywood guys want designer drugs. Eppolito says, "Tony can do that."

Tony being his son, Anthony Eppolito. Here is a guy, Louie Eppolito, a former cop who likes to brag he's the 11th-most-decorated cop in NYPD history, involving his son in a drug bust so that he can scam $75,000 for a movie script. Which is $5,000 more than the feds say Louie Eppolito charged for a mob contract killing on the Belt Parkway.

As the audiotape played, Eppolito sat at the defense table nervously craning his neck like a man preparing for the gallows. Seated behind him his wife, Fran, looked as defeated as Edie Falco in the recent hospital scenes in "The Sopranos." Then came the videotape. Fran watched her son sell an ounce of methamphetamine to Corso for $900, for which he's facing major time in jail.

It gets worse.

Because Louie Eppolito failed to report chunks of money on his tax returns, which Fran Eppolito co-signed, she is also facing an income tax evasion rap. Not only is Louie Eppolito a dirty cop, say the feds, but he's also dragging his wife and son into prison with him. Real men don't do that. That's definitely not part of The Code. And there was more.

In the afternoon, Fran watched an attractive woman named Cabrini Cama, who took the witness stand for the prosecution, admit she began a six-year "relationship" with Eppolito in 1983, and confirmed that Eppolito met with Burton Kaplan, the prosecution's star witness, in her Brooklyn apartment.

For causing his wife so much public shame, for getting her and his son jammed up with the law, Louie Eppolito owes it to his family to end this charade and do the time for his crimes.

I asked one of the feds associated with this case if Eppolito could still come clean, fess up and tell the truth, in exchange for a promise of no jail time for his wife and son. "The time to do that was really before the trial started," the fed said. "But, hey, our door is open."

All through his book "Mafia Cop" Louis Eppolito writes about the hard-knock lessons he learned from his brutal Mafioso father, Ralph (Fat the Gangster) Eppolito, who often beat him with his fists, two-by-fours, even loaves of Italian bread across the face at the dinner table. All this was supposed to teach young Louie to be a "man."

Louie Eppolito was raised by wolves and therefore acted like a wild animal out there on the street wearing the uniform and badge of the NYPD, beating prisoners, killing people, laughing as cops gave roof leapers "diving scores" as they plunged to their deaths, according to the book.

Ha-ha-ha. But sit ringside at this trial and you know that Eppolito and Caracappa are so far behind on rounds that they need a lottery punch knockout to win. That could come only if the judge's jury charge is so narrow on the statute of limitations aspect of the case that the jury doesn't believe the 2004 drug bust set up by Eppolito in Vegas constitutes evidence of a continuing criminal enterprise under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.

But that's one scary roll of the dice. Especially because there's a strong possibility that if Eppolito and Caracappa are cleared on the statute of limitations technicality in Federal Court, the State of New York could charge them for murder, on which there is no statute of limitations.

In his "Mafia Cop" dedication to Fran, Eppolito writes, "To my wife, Frances, who has put up with me for the past 20 years. Her great love and understanding of me will always be a mystery waiting to be solved."


Thanks to Denis Hamill

Man Says "Mafia Cops" Ordered Him to Dig Grave

Friends of mine: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of ours: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa, Frank Santoro

A tow truck driver testified Tuesday that he was forced to dig the grave of a jeweler who was allegedly kidnapped and killed in 1986 by two New York City detectives moonlighting as hit men for the mob.

A gangster involved in the Brooklyn slaying "told me that I had to help bury the dead man," Peter Franzone said at the federal trial of the former detectives, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. "He said if I told anybody, he'd kill me and my family."

The 56-year-old witness said he kept quiet for 19 years because he was convinced no one would believe that police were mixed up with the mob, and because he feared Eppolito might put him in his own grave. "I was afraid of Louie Eppolito," he said.

Franzone broke his silence last year under questioning by federal authorities reinvestigating the slaying of Israel Greenwald, a Diamond District jeweler who ran afoul of the Luchese crime family.

Authorities allege Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were involved in the killings of Greenwald and seven other victims between 1986 and 1990 while on the payroll both of the NYPD and Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. Prosecutors said the detectives committed killings for up to $65,000 a hit.

Greenwald was killed in 1986 after being pulled over by Eppolito and Caracappa and taken to a parking garage managed by Franzone, prosecutors said.

On the witness stand Tuesday, the tow truck driver told jurors he had seen a man in a pinstriped suit and a yarmulke being led inside a one-car garage by a Luchese associate, Frank Santoro, and a man fitting the description of Caracappa. Eppolito -- whom he had previously met -- was waiting in a car outside, he said.

Franzone said about 20 minutes later, the garage door opened, and Santoro and the other man emerged without Greenwald. The other man left with Eppolito, and then Santoro took Franzone into the garage, showed him the victim's body and ordered him to dig a 5-foot grave in the garage, the witness testified.

The body was dumped in the hole, and covered with cement. Santoro himself was killed the next year.

Greenwald's body was discovered last April after Franzone told investigators where to find it. Authorities said the jeweler had been shot in the head.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

'Mafia cops' trial has new sidebar

Woman says she was financially ruined after paying defendant to write script about her life that hasn't sold

Whatever Jane McCormick did in Las Vegas during her wild days as a party girl (and the way she remembers things, she did a lot) certainly hasn't stayed there.

A brassy blonde who bears a resemblance to actress Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," McCormick, 65, is one of the most unusual spectators to show up at the "Mafia Cops" trial in Brooklyn federal court. She also hasn't been quiet about the $45,000 beef she has with one of the defendants, ex-NYPD detective Louis Eppolito, 57, who is on trial for racketeering, along with his former partner, Stephen Caracappa, 64.

McCormick, who is living on Social Security disability in Minnesota, said the money she paid Eppolito in 2002 represented a fee to write a film script about her life.

She paid him to write about her life? Isn't it usually the other way around? "I was stupid," McCormick now says in retrospect.

Actually, trial testimony showed that Eppolito, who got a taste for the movie business by doing bit roles in films such as "GoodFellas," regularly peddled the idea of raising money by getting fees from people to write scripts for them.

Seventy-five thousand dollars was the standard Eppolito pitch, said witness Stephen Corso. In McCormick's case, she said that when she balked at that price tag, Eppolito knocked it down to $45,000, an amount that McCormick raised through a bank loan and $10,000 cash advance from her credit card.

"He filled my head with delusion," McCormick said.

They way she tells it, there was a lot of material for a racy film. According to McCormick, she spent time as a prostitute in the 1960s in Las Vegas and was arm candy for the likes of Frank Sinatra. She caroused with the Rat Pack and knew mobsters. Silicone breast injections eventually led to a mastectomy. After quitting life on the Vegas Strip, she wound up in the Midwest, running a cleaning service.

McCormick said Eppolito told her that she could earn $130,000 to $160,000 from the sale of her script to Hollywood. He didn't guarantee it, but said it was 99.9 percent certain, McCormick recalled.

The script hasn't sold, she said, and the crush of the bank loan and credit card payments forced her to file for bankruptcy and to lose her business. She flew to New York for the first week of the trial, which began March 13, and listened with rapt attention. McCormick also said she confronted Eppolito and berated him outside court for promising her the moon.

"I wrote it four times for her," Eppolito told Newsday about the McCormick script. "It didn't go fast enough for her."

The federal judge in the "Mafia Cops" trial, Jack B. Weinstein, was an officer in the Navy during World War II and runs his courtroom on a brisk schedule that leaves reporters, lawyers and spectators feeling like they are on a forced march. What was expected to be a six-to-10-week trial could be over in four.

So punishing has been the 55-minute to 60-minute lunch period Weinstein enforces that defense attorney Bruce Cutler, who is representing Eppolito, one day asked for 10 more minutes. Weinstein, 85, who seems to thrive on the rapid trial pace, relented with a smile. Weinstein does allow mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks during which the jurors are served drinks and snacks. During those 10- or 15-minute breaks, Weinstein has been spotted at the courthouse snack bar getting a bag of nuts for his own pick-me-up.

Speaking of lunch, the two defendants spend their hour differently. Eppolito delights news photographers by walking outside the courthouse to the Park Plaza diner just across Cadman Plaza Park. His wife, Fran, is always with him. He likes pastrami on rye with mustard. By contrast, Caracappa seems to take his repast inside the new Brooklyn federal court building and never ventures outside during the noon hour.

Judge Weinstein referred last week to a ticking time bomb in the "Mafia Cops" case: a nettlesome statute of limitations problem. Simply put, there is the possibility that the racketeering conspiracy charged in the case might prove to be outside the five-year statute of limitations. Prosecutors contend that a 2004 drug charge that is also part of the case solves that problem. They also maintain that a continuous coverup by Eppolito and Caracappa brings the case well within the limitation date of March 9, 2000.

However, Weinstein is allowing defense attorneys in the case to propose a charge to the jury on the statute of limitations defense. Bettina Schein, who is co-counsel for Eppolito, said that is expected to be filed today. Rae Koshetz, co-counsel for Caracappa, said she expects to reveal today whether her client will take the stand. Cutler has already said Eppolito won't testify.

Thanks to Anthony M. DeStefano

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