The Chicago Syndicate: Vincent Gigante
Showing posts with label Vincent Gigante. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vincent Gigante. Show all posts

Monday, March 25, 2019

Anthony Comello, Suspect in Murder of Mafia Boss Frank Cali, Looking at Death Penalty from the Mob

It’s Mob Justice 101, and there are no appeals: The unsanctioned killing of a Mafia boss carries the death penalty.

The longstanding organized crime maxim is bad news for the life expectancy of Anthony Comello, the suspect jailed in the Staten Island shooting death of Gambino family head Frank (Frankie Boy) Cali.

 photo 190316-anthony-comello.jpg


“He must know his life is worth nothing,” said one-time Bonanno family associate Joe Barone. “He doesn’t have a chance in hell. It’s a matter of time. Even if the wiseguys don’t get him, he’ll get whacked by somebody looking to make a name.”

Comello, 24, remains in protective custody in a Jersey Shore jail, held without bail in the March 13 slaying of Cali outside his Staten Island home. Cali was shot 10 times in what initially appeared to be the first hit of a sitting New York mob boss since the execution of his long-ago Gambino predecessor Paul Castellano.

Veteran mob chronicler Selwyn Raab, author of the seminal Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires,” said retribution might not occur instantly. But Comello’s best-case scenario is a life spent looking over his shoulder. “Very simply, the old rules in the Mafia are you don’t let somebody get away with something like this," said Raab. “As long as the Mafia exists, he’s in danger. And it’s not just the Gambinos — anybody from any of the other families could go after him. If they get an opportunity to knock him off, they will."

Even the Cali family’s initial refusal to share security video with the NYPD was consistent with the mob’s approach to crime family business.

“That’s a big message: We’ll take care of this ourselves,” said Barone, who became an FBI informant.

The Castellano murder, orchestrated by his Gambino family successor John Gotti in December 1985, led to a trio of retaliatory killings sanctioned by Genovese family boss Vincent (The Chin) Gigante.

The Greenwich Village-based Gigante was outraged that Gotti ordered the hit without his approval. The murders were spread across five years and meant to culminate with the killing of Gotti, who instead died behind bars after his underlings were picked off.


  • Victim No. 1, dispatched by a Brooklyn car bomb, was Gambino underboss Frank DeCicco in April 1987.
  • Castellano shooter Eddie Lino became Victim No. 2 after a November 1990 traffic stop on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. Unfortunately for him, the officers involved were the infamous “Mafia Cops” — who killed the mob gunman for a $75,000 fee.
  • And finally, Victim No. 3: Bobby Borriello, the driver and bodyguard for the Dapper Don, murdered April 13, 1991, in the driveway of his Brooklyn home.


The mob doesn’t always get its man. Notorious informants like Gotti’s right-hand man Sammy (The Bull) Gravano and Henry Hill of “Goodfellas” fame bolted from the Witness Protection Program and survived for decades.



Gravano, whose testimony convicted Gotti and 36 other gangsters, walked out of an Arizona prison one year ago after serving nearly 20 years for overseeing an ecstasy ring. Hill died of natural causes in June 2012 at the age of 69, although not all are as fortunate.

Lucchese family associate Bruno Facciola was executed in August 1990, with a dead canary stuffed in his mouth as a sign that he was an informer — and a warning to other mobsters.

Thanks to Larry McShane.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10: Gangsters

If you browse around your local video store, you'll notice dozens of films about the Mafia. Witness the popularity of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, and Bugsy. Why have so many films been made about these tough-guy hooligans? Because men have a fascination with gangster culture and organized crime. But who are some of the most notorious gangsters of all time?

To make the list, gangsters must have had a significant impact on the Mob thanks to the way they did business. They must have done most of their business in America, their legacy must have stood the test of time, and they must have had a significant impact on pop culture.

Honorable Mention
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906 - 1947)

Benjamin Siegel was born in Brooklyn in 1906 and soon associated himself with fellow Jew Meyer Lansky. After running contract killings for Murder, Inc., Siegel -- who was nicknamed "Bugsy" because of his unpredictable nature -- went in cahoots with Lucky Luciano and his newly organized Syndicate. But killing for Luciano earned him enemies, and in the late '30s, he was forced to escape to Los Angeles, where he had lived glamorously with movie stars.

He then discovered the gambling laws of Nevada. "Borrowing" millions from the Syndicate, he established one of the first casino hotels in Las Vegas, the Flamingo. But the resort was losing money, and when it was discovered in 1947 that he had stolen money from his friends, he was killed.

Featured in: The best portrayals of Siegel are in Warren Beatty's Bugsy  (1991) and The Marrying Man (1991) with Armand Assante.

Number 10
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (1928 - 2005)
Born in New York in 1928, Vincent Gigante was quite a character. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and started boxing, winning 21 of 25 light-heavyweight bouts. By the time he was 17, he had turned to crime to support himself, which resulted in seven arrests before he was 25.

Gigante's first significant act as a gangster and member of the Genovese family was an attempt to kill the powerful Frank Costello, but Gigante's bullet missed the target. Nevertheless, he continued to climb the ranks within New York's Genovese organization, eventually becoming a capo and consigliere in the early '80s.

Then, when Mob boss Tony Salerno was convicted, Gigante became the main man. What makes Gigante so memorable is his 30-year ploy of acting insane. After he successfully averted prison in the late '60s by employing psychiatrists to testify to his insanity, he took it upon himself to continue the act; throughout his career, he was often seen walking around the streets of New York wearing a bathrobe. For this reason, he was nicknamed the "Oddfather" and the "Pajama King." Imprisoned for racketeering, he finally admitted in 2003 that he was not crazy.

Gigante died in prison on December 19, 2005 due to heart complications. The Gigante family and his lawyer, Flora Edwards, filed a federal lawsuit regarding the lack of health care that Vincent received while in prison. Vincent was scheduled for release in 2010.

Featured in: Gigante was a character in the made-for-TV film Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) and served as inspiration for an episode of Law & Order.

Number 9
Albert Anastasia (1903 - 1957)
Born in Tropea, Italy in 1903, Albert Anastasia was still a teenager when he came to America. Involved in the docks operations in Brooklyn, Anastasia was sent to Sing Sing Prison for 18 months for the murder of a longshoreman; the mysterious deaths of witnesses led to his early release. Albert Anastasia (aka "Lord High Executioner" and "Mad Hatter") was known as a killer, a reputation that led Joe Masseria's gang to recruit him. Anastasia was also extremely loyal to Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who had plans to rule America's crime world. Anastasia had no problem betraying Masseria -- by being one of four people sent to kill him in 1931 -- when approached by Lucky Luciano.

At this time, Anastasia started taking on hits for the Murder, Incorporated outfit in New York, and in 1944, he became the leader of the murder squad. Although Anastasia was never prosecuted for any killings, Murder, Inc. was responsible for between 400 and 700 murders. In the '50s, he became the leader of the Luciano family, but Carlo Gambino wanted the job. Though the murder is officially unsolved, many believe that Gambino had Anastasia killed in a barbershop in 1957.

Featured in: Albert Anastasia was a prominent character in Murder, Inc. (1960), a gangster film starring Peter Falk and Howard Smith (as Anastasia), as well as in The Valachi Papers (1972) and Lepke (1975).

Number 8
Joseph Bonanno (1905 - 2002)
Born in 1905, Joe Bonanno grew up in his native Sicily and became an orphan at the age of 15. He left Italy due to the fascist power of the Mussolini regime and made a brief stopover in Cuba before moving to the United States when he was 19. Joe joined the Mafia as a way to prevent Mussolini from taking over Sicily. Nicknamed "Joey Bananas," he joined forces with Salvatore Maranzano. Before Luciano killed him, Maranzano created The Commission, the ruling body over Mafia families in the entire country.

Bonanno stepped up and took over one of these families. He became powerful in New York with cheese factories, clothing businesses and funeral homes, which were a terrific way to dispose of bodies. But plans to eliminate all the rival families turned against him and Bonanno was kidnapped for 19 days until he agreed to retire. In 1965, he initiated the Banana War to settle scores, but he retired for good soon thereafter due to bad health. Never in his life was he convicted of a serious offense.

Featured in: Two cable movies have been made about the crime legend: Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage (1993) with Ben Gazzara and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) with Martin Landau.

Number 7
Dutch Schultz (1902 - 1935)
Arthur Flegenheimer, later known as Dutch Schultz, was born in the Bronx in 1902. As a teenager, he held up crap games to impress his boss and mentor, Marcel Poffo. At the age of 17, he did some time at Blackwell's Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) for theft. With prohibition in full swing in the 1920s, he realized that money was in bootlegging. A ruthless man, he would kill whenever his temper flared, which helped keep his competition in line.

He had a part in the founding of the Syndicate, but soon Luciano and Capone became his enemies. In 1933, the law wanted to shut down Schultz, so he went into hiding in New Jersey, which left his New York territory free for a takeover; Luciano seized the opportunity. Schultz made a comeback in 1935, but members of Albert Anastasia's crew killed him in a restaurant men's room before he could do any damage.

Featured in: Dustin Hoffman was memorable as Dutch Schultz in Billy Bathgate (1991), but Tim Roth was even better in Hoodlum (1997). Other movies featuring Schultz include Gangster Wars (1981), The Cotton Club (1984) and The Natural (1984).

Number 6
John Gotti (1940 - 2002)
In the wake of the great gangsters who ruled New York, John Gotti had his work cut out for him. Born in Brooklyn in 1940, he was always quick with his fists and it was his life's dream to become a wiseguy. By the age of 16, he had joined a local street gang known as the Fulton-Rockaway Boys. He quickly became their leader, stealing cars and fencing stolen goods. In the '60s, he began associating with Mafia hoods and hijacking trucks. In the early '70s, he became a capo for the Bergin crew, a part of the Gambino family. Extremely ambitious, Gotti started to deal drugs, which was forbidden by family rules.

As a result, Paul Castellano, the Boss, wished to expel Gotti from the organization. In 1985, Gotti and his guys killed Castellano outside a steakhouse and Gotti took over the Gambino family. No matter how many times the authorities tried to indict him for being the most powerful criminal in New York, the charges were always dropped. Because of this -- and the fact that he dressed well and loved media attention -- he was nicknamed "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don." He was finally convicted for murder in 1992 and died of cancer in prison in 2002.

Featured in: He was played by Anthony John Denison in the made-for-TV movie Getting Gotti (1994) and by Armand Assante in the HBO event Gotti (1996). Other TV movies featuring him include Witness to the Mob (1998) with Tom Sizemore and The Big Heist (2001).

Number 5
Meyer Lansky (1902 - 1983)

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Russia to Jewish parents in 1902, Lansky moved to New York when he was 9. He met Charles Luciano when they were just schoolboys. Luciano demanded protection money from Lansky, and when he refused to pay, the two boys fought. Impressed by Lansky's toughness, Luciano befriended the younger boy and the two remained lifelong friends. Lansky also met Bugsy Siegel when he was a teenager, and the three formed a powerful partnership. Lansky and Siegel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which became Murder, Inc.

Lansky's primary order of business was money and gambling, and he had operations in Florida, Cuba and New Orleans. He was an investor in Siegel's Las Vegas casino, and he even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland that was used for money laundering. A financial genius, he codeveloped the National Crime Syndicate and the Commission. But business is never personal, and he approved the murder of his best friend Bugsy Siegel when Siegel was unable to produce profits for the Syndicate. Even with a gambling racket in operation across the planet, Lansky never spent a day in jail.

Featured in: Not only did Richard Dreyfuss give a powerful performance in HBO's Lansky (1999), but the character of Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II (1974) was loosely based on him as well. The role was also played by Mark Rydell in Havana (1990), Patrick Dempsey in Mobsters (1991) and Ben Kingsley in Bugsy (1991).

Number 4
Frank Costello (1891 - 1973)
Francesco Castiglia was born in 1891 in Italy and moved to the United States with his family when he was 4. He changed his name to Frank Costello when he joined a street gang at age 13. After numerous petty crimes landed him in prison, he became best friends with Charlie Luciano; together, they dealt in bootlegging and gambling. Costello's strength was his position as a link between the Mob and politicians, especially the Democratic Party's Tammany Hall in New York, which enabled him and his associates to pay off certain officials.

Following Luciano's arrest, Costello became the man in charge, and he solidified and expanded the operation during this time. A power struggle between him and Vito Genovese (who served as Underboss) erupted in the '50s, and Vincent Gigante tried to kill Costello. Eventually, Costello grew tired of the gangster life and retired, but not before framing Genovese and Gigante for a drug bust. He died peacefully in 1973.

Featured in: The man was best portrayed by James Andronica in the 1981 miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, by Costas Mandylor in Mobsters (1991), by Carmine Caridi in Bugsy (1991), and by Jack Nicholson in The Departed (2006). (The author is actually incorrect about Jack Nicholson playing the real Frank Costello in The Departed. Only the character name was in common with the real Frank Costello. Nicholson's character was mostly based upon another gangster, Whitey Bulger.)

Number 3
Carlo Gambino (1902 - 1976)
Carlo Gambino came from a family that had been part of the Mafia for centuries in Italy. He started carrying out murders when he was a teenager and became a made guy in 1921 at the age of 19. With Mussolini gaining power, he immigrated to America, where his cousin Paul Castellano lived. He became a thug for different New York families until he joined Lucky Luciano's crew.

After Luciano was extradited in the '40s, Albert Anastasia took over. But Gambino thought it was his time to shine and had Anastasia killed in 1957. He appointed himself Boss of the family and reigned with an iron fist over New York until his natural death in 1976.

Featured in: Al Ruscio played him beautifully in the TNT movie Boss of Bosses(2001). Other "Gambino" appearances include the made-for-TV movies Between Love & Honor (1995), Gotti (1996) and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999).

Number 2
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano (1897 - 1962)

Salvatore Lucania was born in Sicily in 1897, but his family moved to New York nine years later. At a young age, he became a member of the Five Points gang, in which Al Capone also received his education. Five years after establishing an empire based mostly on prostitution, Luciano controlled the racket all over Manhattan. After a failed but brutal attack on his life in 1929, Luciano started planning the National Crime Syndicate, an extension of Salvatore Maranzano's Commission, with Meyer Lansky.

They eliminated the competition, and by 1935, Lucky Luciano was known as the Boss of Bosses -- not just of New York City, but of the whole country. He was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in 1936, but was let out on parole in 1946 on the condition that he be deported to Italy. He had so much power that U.S. Navy intelligence sought his help when the Allies were set to invade Italy during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1962.

Featured in: Christian Slater played him in Mobsters (1991), as did Bill Graham in Bugsy (1991) and Anthony LaPaglia in the TV film Lansky (1999).

Number 1
Al Capone (1899 - 1947)
If there ever was a gangster who earned the No. 1 spot, it is Al Capone. Alphonse Capone was born in 1899 to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, where he got his start in street gangs. He then joined the Five Points gang and became a bouncer. It was during these days that a series of facial wounds earned him the "Scarface" nickname. Capone moved to Chicago in 1919 and quickly moved up the Mafia hierarchy while working for Johnny Torrio (Capone became Torrio's protege).

It was the time of the Prohibition, and Capone ran prostitution, gambling and bootlegging rings. In 1925, at the age of 26, Capone took over after Torrio was wounded in a gang war. Known for his intelligence, flamboyance and love of public attention, Capone was also known to be very violent; his role in the orchestration of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, in which key rival gangsters were murdered, proves this. In 1931, Federal Treasury agent Eliot Ness arrested him for tax evasion.

Featured in: Many movies have been made about Capone, but the most famous are probably The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, Capone (1975) with Ben Gazzara and The Untouchables (1987) with Robert De Niro.

Thanks to Matthew Simpson

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Grandfather Clause

Some people think Phil Genovese, Jr. resembles his grandfather.

"Around the eyes, maybe," the world's newest novelist was saying the other day. Genovese has just had his first novel, "The Grandfather Clause," published by Author House.

It's the story of a legitimate New Jersey businessman who gets himself entwined in the underground world of his Mafia crime boss grandfatherThe Grandfather Clause.

Which is no stretch for the 50-something Jersey Shore resident, the grandson of Vito Genovese one of the most powerful mobsters in American history -- who controlled chunks of the gambling, loan-sharking and drug businesses of Staten Island.

Phil is far more a product of suburban America than of his grandfather's La Cosa Nostra, however. He was raised at the Shore by his mother and CPA father, usually seeing Don Vito only on Sundays when his grandfather would summon the family for dinner at his simple Atlantic Highlands home.

After graduating from Villanova University in the mid-1970s, the younger Genovese's first real job was at that stalwart of U.S. capitalism Johnson & Johnson. From there, he made a number of stops as an expert in moving cargo around the world.

Now he's with another Fortune 500 outfit, a corporation so huge it has offices in countries some of us have never heard of. He doesn't even like mentioning the company name while publicizing his book for fear of offending the higher ups.

"Separation of church and state," he explains. But there are flashbacks in his life that are undeniable.

He has a scene early in the very readable new book where the mob boss's young grandson stands on a chair to hand his grandfather ingredients for the tomato sauce that is being painstakingly prepared on the kitchen stove.

"That's a lot like it really was," he says of his childhood days before Vito Genovese was shipped off to federal prison, where he died in the late 1960s.

QUIET CONVERSATIONS

And he recalls vividly his grandfather's aging friends coming by on those Sundays for whispered conversations around cups of espresso. And of Vito's wake at the old Anderson's Funeral Home on Broad Street in Red Bank.

"The black FBI cars were parked across the street with the long camera lenses sticking out the windows," he said.

There were tales from his own father of living in Park Avenue luxury in the 1930s. "He used to see Eleanor Roosevelt on the elevator in his apartment house," said Genovese. And, maybe through some form of childhood osmosis, Phil learned something from his grandfather's business.

One lesson was that, just as in the legitimate world, in the mob, competency isn't always rewarded and messing up not always punished.

That was very much so in the case of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante.

Long before Gigante began famously roaming Greenwich Village's Carmine Street in bathrobe and slippers, he was a hit man for Don Vito. Needless to say, business was booming.

One day in May 1957, Genovese gave his underling a very important job. He was to travel uptown to the landmark Majestic Apartments on Central Park West. There, he was told he'd find one Frank Costello (real name Francesco Castiglia).

"I want him to disappear," Genovese said of his rival.

The young Gigante waited on the corner of 72nd Street until he saw Costello approaching the building's lobby door. Chin made his move, firing from close to point-blank range. He was high and wide. The bullet glanced off Costello's head, grazing him. Instead of imbedding deep into the skull of the fingered mobster, it would smack harmlessly into the marble lobby wall.

The bullet mark is still plain to see above the building entrance 50 years later.

"Botched job," Phil Genovese pointed out the other day. And one that began Don Vito's decline in organized crime.

"Chin screwed up, and what happened? He wound up eventually becoming the boss."

THE FAMILY ENDURES

The Genovese crime family didn't dry up and disappear when Don Vito died.

One of the bosses to follow Genovese was Funzi Tieri, a guy with deep Island connections who was known to be among the biggest bookmakers and loan-sharks in the country.

Once Tieri became the acting boss, you could find him almost daily at a restaurant on Third Avenue in Brooklyn.

One evening, he was met there by two Staten Island lawyers.

The older attorney, I'll call him Morty, had long handled Genovese bookmaking cases in the borough.

On this night, he'd brought a young friend along in hopes Tieri would toss some business to the new guy (who was clearly interested in climbing aboard what he saw as the Mafia gravy train).

Morty and the gangster drank wine and ate pasta and steaks and talked about old times for hours, while the younger attorney sat respectfully silent.

Late into the night, the older lawyer weaved as he was led to the car.

On the ride home to Todt Hill he told his young associate that he thought a good impression had been made.

"Kid," the conversation was remembered years later, "I think if you follow me, you're going to be OK."

The younger lawyer didn't answer.

He rolled to a stop in front of his mentor's house and hustled his rumpled associate out of the car as quickly as he could. Then he turned the car around and sped back over the Verrazano to the restaurant.

Tieri was still there when he arrived, and waved the now lone lawyer back to the table.

"What happened kid?" he wanted to know. "Where's your friend?"

"With all due respect, Mr. Tieri" the younger lawyer said, "I don't think Mort is up to doing the job for you anymore. Why don't you hire me, instead?"

And so, Tieri, who always admired a man who could focus on his own best interests, did just that.

Thanks to Cormac Gordon

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

MAFIA-PEDIA - The Government's Secret Files on Organized Crime

The government has opened an old treasure trove of information on some 800 gangland goons who wielded power during the Mafia's Golden Age - a virtual Social Register of the worst sociopaths to have packed a silenced pistol, wielded an ice pick or driven a getaway car in a sharkskin suit.

The dossiers, complete with black-and-white photos, chronicle the backgrounds of wiseguys ranging from mob bosses Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Sam Giancana and "Crazy Joe" Gallo to lesser lights like Al Capone's two-bit hoodlum brothers.

The files read like single-page snapshots of the mobsters' lives - their aliases and detailed physical descriptions, from distinguishing scars, tattoos and facial tics to styles of dress, home addresses, arrest histories and family trees - and even the names of mistresses.

Also revealed are the legitimate businesses they owned and their preferred leisure haunts - racetracks, prizefights, nightclubs and favorite restaurants - as well as an overview of the criminal status each man held within the larger Mafia firmament.

The 944 pages of material - featured in the book "Mafia: The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime,"from HarperCollins - was mined from the raw intelligence gathered by agents of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, a forerunner of today's Drug Enforcement Administration.

The cavalcade of hoods includes two men named Frank Paul Dragna, the son and nephew of one-time Los Angeles Mafia kingpin Jack Dragna.

The first Frank is known as "One Eye," the second "Two Eye," to distinguish the cousin with the glass right eye.

Entrants are listed by state, and New York, with more than 350 wiseguys, overwhelmingly leads the pack. A multitude of others resided in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan. There are groupings of gangsters from Canada, France and Italy, as well.

The index cross-references each racketeer by nickname, many of them hilarious.

There's "The Old Man" (there are, actually, three), "The Bald Head," "Hunchback Harry," "Schnozzola" (he has a large nose), "Mickey Mouse" (he has large ears), "Slim," three people dubbed "Cockeyed," as well as four "Fats" and a "Fat Artie," "Fat Freddie," "Fat Sonny" and "Fat Tony" for good measure.

There's "Big Al," "Big Frank" (two), "Big Freddy," "Big John," "Big Larry," "Big Mike" (two), "Big Nose Larry," "Big Pat," "Big Phil," "Big Sam," "Big Sol," "Big Yok" - even a "Mr. Big."

Thanks to Phillip Messing

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Mafia Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra

Mafia Prince is the first-person account of one of the most violent eras in Mafia history —“Little” Nicky Scarfo’s reign as boss of the Philly family in the 1980s—written by Scarfo’s underboss and nephew, “Crazy” Phil Leonetti.

The youngest-ever underboss at the age of 31, Leonetti was at the crux of the violent downfall of the traditional American Mafia in the 1980s when he infiltrated Atlantic City after gambling was legalized, and later turned state’s evidence against his own. His testimony directly led to the convictions of dozens of high-ranking made men including John Gotti, Vincent Gigante, and his own uncle, Nicky Scarfo—sparking the beginning of the end of La Cosa Nostra.

Just as The Godfather and Boardwalk Empire defined the early 20th century Mafia, and Wiseguy and Casino depicted the next great era through the ’70s, Mafia Prince concludes this epic genre revealing the Mafia’s violent final heyday of the 1980s— straight from the horse’s mouth.

Monday, January 03, 2011

George Barone, Mafia Hit Man Reputed to Have Killed Over 20, Dead

One of the Mafia’s most feared hit men has died at the age of 86.

George Barone is suspected of personally murdering at least 20 people during his reign of terror on New York’s mob-run waterfront. But he eventually turned ‘rat’ to put many of his old organised crime colleagues behind bars.

The gangster became an informer after his own Genovese family put a price on his head. He was one of only three members of the ultra-secretive family ever to break ‘omerta’, the mob’s traditional code of silence.

It emerged today that Barone died of natural causes on Tuesday while in witness protection. The former Second World War hero, who served with the Marines on Iwo Jima, returned to become a founder member of the Jets - the street gang later immortalised in the musical West Side Story. But in real life Barone was more about killing than choreography.

When he was quizzed over how many people he had ‘whacked’, Barone famously told prosecutors: ‘I didn’t keep a scorecard. A lot. Many.'

Infamously gruff but co-operative at the same time, Barone last year said: 'I’m 85. I don’t remember the specifics. I was in a war [referring to the Second World War]... I killed a lot of people. 'And I was in a war on the West Side of New York. A lot of people were killed on both sides.'

He worked as an enforcer for the Genoveses and was said to have been a broker when the family split New York’s docks down the middle with the rival Gambinos.

The Gambinos received Staten Island and Brooklyn; the Genoveses got New Jersey and Manhattan, he later testified.

Barone helped bring untold millions into the Genovese coffers. He even landed the son of boss Vincent 'The Chin' Gigante a lucrative industry job
.
He was a man of terrifying brutality but also a man of honour - serving a seven-year jail term in the 1980s without spilling any details of the Mafia operations. But he decided to flip in 2001 after Mob boss and one-time friend Gigante put a contract on his head. ‘I went bad,’ he said.

Barone earned a grudging respect from his federal handlers. FBI spokesman James Margolin told the New York Daily News: ‘George Barone’s criminal conduct cannot be ignored, but neither can the immense value of his expert insight and testimony.'

Barone said he was edged out of the Mob by a new generation of gangsters who tried to strip him of his union control and then plotted to kill him
.
He said: 'They’ve been trying to kill me for years now. They haven’t made it yet and they’re not going to.' And he was right.

Thanks to David Gardner

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Life in Prison for Genovese Crime Family Capo Angelo Prisco

ANGELO PRISCO, a captain in the Genovese Organized Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, was sentenced today to life in prison by United States District Judge NAOMI REICE BUCHWALD in Manhattan federal court. PRISCO was convicted on April 27, 2009, after a two-week jury trial, of murder, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, robbery, extortion, firearms offenses, arson, stolen property offenses, loansharking, and operating an illegal gambling business. According to documents filed in this case, the evidence at trial, and statements made at today's sentencing proceeding:

PRISCO was "made," or inducted, as a member of the Genovese Organized Crime Family in the late 1970s, and was later promoted to the supervisory position of captain. In his capacity as a captain, PRISCO supervised, oversaw, and profited from the criminal activities of his own crew of Genovese Family Soldiers and associates, which operated in the New York City area and in New Jersey.

On June 2, 1992, PRISCO arranged the murder of his first cousin, ANGELO SANGIUOLO. PRISCO received the order to kill SANGIUOLO from VINCENT GIGANTE, a/k/a "The Chin," who was then the boss of the Genovese Organized Crime Family. GIGANTE ordered the murder because SANGIUOLO had been stealing from another Genovese Organized Crime Family soldier, ANTHONY PALUMBO. PRISCO assigned two of his own crew members, JOHN LETO, a/k/a "Johnny Balls," and PAUL GACCIONE, a/k/a "Doc," to carry out the murder. PRISCO then devised a plan to lure SANGIUOLO to PRISCO's Bronx, New York, social club. After SANGIUOLO arrived, PRISCO told him to get into a van with LETO and GACCIONE, on the pretense that LETO and GACCIONE would help SANGIUOLO with a problem SANGIUOLO was having with another person. Inside the van, LETO shot SANGIUOLO numerous times, killing him, then left his body in the back of the van in the parking lot of a Bronx McDonald's. PRISCO then picked up LETO at the McDonald's, and went with him to dispose of the murder weapon.

PRISCO also was convicted of conspiring to commit robberies with members of his crew. In 1991 and 1992 robberies, PRISCO oversaw various crew members who carjacked and robbed at gunpoint jewelry dealers transporting large quantities of gold and other jewelry they had purchased in the Dominican Republic. PRISCO received $20,000 in cash from one robbery and a bag of gold worth about $50,000 from another robbery. PRISCO then bragged at his Bronx social club about the armed robberies, passing around a relevant newspaper article.

From 2003 to 2005, PRISCO ordered, approved, and supervised multiple violent home invasion robberies targeting individuals believed to keep cash in their homes, during which numerous victims were tied up and beaten. PRISCO had to "green light" the robberies before they could occur, and received a portion of any money stolen. PRISCO also instructed his crew members to "play dumb" if they discovered they had robbed another person tied to organized crime.

PRISCO also was convicted of committing extortion and conspiracy to commit the extortion of a Manhattan construction company owner. PRISCO and his crew first extorted the victim's company in 1997, when PETER RIZZO, an associate under PRISCO at the time, assaulted and broke a glass coffee pot over the head of the victim's business partner. Members of PRISCO's crew then pressured the victim and his business partner to drop the charges against RIZZO stemming from this 1997 assault. Seven years later, various other members of PRISCO's crew -- acting on his orders and following his advice about how to collect the money -- returned to the same construction company and threatened to cut off the victim's finger and harm the victim's family. The victim paid PRISCO and his crew a total of $50,000. Since the 1990s, PRISCO has extorted various other individuals and businesses, including the owner of a diner in the Bronx; the owner of a night club in Manhattan; and an electrical contractor in Brooklyn.

United States Attorney PREET BHARARA stated, "This conviction and the life sentence imposed today on Angelo Prisco puts an end to his decades-long career as a leader of the Genovese Organized Crime Family -- one marked by violence and intimidation. Today's sentence, and the dismantling of the defendant's mafia crew, serves as a reminder that those who pledge themselves to a life of crime will pay a high price in the end."

Mr. BHARARA praised the work of the FBI; the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation; the Orange County, New York District Attorney's Office; the Westchester County, New York District Attorney's Office; the New York State Police; the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; the New York Police Department; the United States Bureau of Prisons; the Morris County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office; and the Rockaway Township, New Jersey Police Department for their contributions.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office's Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys ELIE HONIG and LISA ZORNBERG are in charge of the prosecution.

Thanks to ATN

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What do Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. Hollywood Actor Steven Seagal Have in Common?

Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. Hollywood actor Steven Seagal.

All had one thing in common: Their names have been attached to mob captain Angelo Prisco, who today was found guilty in the murder of a cousin suspected of stealing from fellow mobsters.

After a two-week jury trial in New York City, Prisco, a Genovese crime family captain who was in charge of the New Jersey operations, was convicted in the 1992 murder of Angelo Sangiuolo in the Bronx.

Prisco, 69, who divided his time between Toms River and the Bronx and was nicknamed "The Horn," was found guilty of murder, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, robbery, extortion, firearms crimes, property theft and operating an illegal gambling business.

Prisco was at the center of headlines in 2002 when an aide to McGreevey and tough-guy actor Seagal allegedly sought to get him early parole on a 1998 arson and conspiracy conviction.

Facing a shakedown by the Gambino crime family, Seagal sought Prisco's help as a mediator, according to an FBI tape. Prisco in turn asked for the actor's assistance in helping him win parole, which he was granted in 2002, having served just four years of a 12-year sentence.

McGreevey and his aide denied the allegations, but state and federal grand juries were formed to investigate the controversial parole. No charges were ever filed, but sources at the time told The Star-Ledger parole officials told investigators the governor's office intervened to help Prisco.

Prisco received the order to kill Sangiuolo from then-boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, and assigned John "Johnny Balls" Leto and another member of his crew to carry out the killing at a Bronx social club, prosecutors said. After Prisco ordered Sangiuolo into a van, Leto shot Sangiuolo numerous times before leaving the body in the back of the van at a McDonald's, prosecutors said.

Prisco then picked up Leto at the fast food restaurant and accompanied him while Leto disposed of the gun, prosecutors said.

Prisco also was convicted of conspiring to commit robberies with crew members in 1991-92, including car-jackings and armed robberies of jewelry dealers transporting large quantities of gold bought in the Dominican Republic, prosecutors said. One robbery yielded a bag of gold worth $50,000, and Prisco bragged about the heists by passing around a newspaper article on the robberies, prosecutors said.

In 1997, in an attempt to extort $50,000 from a Manhattan construction company owner, prosecutors said Prisco sent his crew to break a glass coffeepot over the head of the owner's business partner. Later, crew members threatened to cut off the owner's finger and harm his family, prosecutors said.

Between 2003-05, Prisco "green lighted" multiple violent home robberies in which individuals thought to have cash in their homes were tied up and beaten, prosecutors said.

He faces 15 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 23.

Among his plaudits, Lev L. Dassin, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, praised law enforcement agencies in New Jersey for their contributions to the investigation and prosecution of the case, including the FBI's Newark field office, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, the Morris County prosecutor's office and Rockaway Township police.

On FBI tapes, Prisco told his driver: "Outside of you being the boss, this life sucks. And it's like a Catch-22. If you're the boss, you go to jail. This life ... it ain't what it's cracked up to be."

Thanks to Mike Frassinelli

Angelo Priso Guilty of Whacking Ordered by Vincent "The Chin" Gigante

Genovese family capo Angelo Prisco was found guilty Monday of conspiring to kill his cousin in a 1992 hit ordered by The Oddfella - Genovese boss Vincent (The Chin) Gigante.

A Manhattan Federal Court jury found Prisco, 69, responsible for the slaying of Angelo Sangiuolo, as well as a series of violent, gunpoint robberies dating to 1991. The pajama-fan Gigante gave Prisco the order to kill Sangiuolo because he suspected Sangiuolo was robbing from a Genovese soldier.

Prisco, of Toms River, N.J., recruited John Leto and another trusted member of his crew to carry out the job.

Prisco lured Sangiuolo to a Bronx social club and urged him to get inside a van with Leto, who shot Sangiuolo numerous times, prosecutors said. Prisco then picked up Leto in the parking lot of a Bronx McDonald's where they left the body in the van and drove away.

In the early 1990s, Prisco ran a robbery crew that carjacked jewelry dealers transporting gems purchased in the Dominican Republic, including a heist that netted a $50,000 bag of gold.

During 2003 and 2005, a Prisco-led crew tied up and beat robbery victims in their homes and then kicked up a portion of the proceeds to their capo, prosecutors say. Prisco counseled his charges to "play dumb" if by mistake they ripped off a fellow member of organized crime.

Prisco's 2003 parole from a New Jersey prison four years into a 12-year sentence for arson and conspiracy prompted a state-level review of Gov. James McGreevey's role in the release.

Thanks to Thomas Zambito

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Charles Carneglia Trial Goes to the Jury

The five-week-long racketeering conspiracy trial of reputed Gambino family executioner Charles Carneglia is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments this week in which the defense argued for acquittal because their client's decision to grow a beard years ago - a Mafia no-no - proved that he left the mob then.

"He had a big bushy beard. He wanted his statement to be loud and clear," said defense lawyer Curtis Farber. "The beard was an act of defiance."

Carneglia, 62, is charged with murdering five men - including a court officer and an armored car driver - along with extortion, robbery, kidnapping, pump-and-dump stock schemes and marijuana trafficking in a criminal career dating back at least three decades. If he withdrew from the mob more than five years before his February 2008 indictment, his participation in the crimes would fall outside the statute of limitations.

The defense said Carneglia, who still sports a salt-and-pepper beard, left in 2001 because he didn't like the behavior of younger mobsters and was emotionally drained. But prosecutors said the only way out of the mob is to die, citing jailhouse recordings to show he has remained involved.

Prosecutor Roger Burlingame noted testimony that Carneglia once praised mobster Vincent "Chin" Gigante for being "smart" to act like he was crazy, and said the beard was a similar ruse.

"He is trying to trick you into being the water that washes the blood of five people off of his hands," Burlingame told the jury. "Don't buy it."

The government relied heavily on testimony from more than a half-dozen mob turncoats who have cut deals, including one, John Alite, who is expected to be a key witness at the trial of John Gotti Jr. this fall. Carneglia's lawyer attacked them as unreliable "sociopaths, men who wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the face.

Thanks to John Riley

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Organized Crime Evolves with Economy and Pressure from The Feds

The Teflon Don is dead and gone. The Mustache Petes of the Mafia's old guard are mostly behind bars. And the crime rackets have gone global.

Think La Cosa Nostra is just a quaint throwback, the stuff of gangster movies? Fuggedaboudit.

Although the Mafia may not be as strong as it once was, FBI agents say organized crime is far from dead. Not only is the traditional mob still at it, but new organized crime groups also are vying for a piece of the action.

Weakened by two decades of prosecutions, the traditional Italian crime organizations plug away at what they know best: labor racketeering, infiltrating unions and construction industries, gambling and loan sharking.

"What you see in the movies about honor and code is a fallacy. That doesn't exist. It's completely about the money," said Mike Gaeta, a veteran agent who heads the FBI squad in charge of investigating the Genovese family. "As the economy evolves, they evolve."

The scams are growing in sophistication, focusing more than ever on the big money. Everyone pays the price, according to Gaeta. "There is a mob tax placed on everything from your garbage collection, food delivery, the rent that you pay," he said. "I don't know what the percentage is, but there is a premium that you pay because of the control that organized crime has on labor unions and on the contractors who are engaged in those job sites."

There are more than 3,000 Mafia members and associates in the U.S., the FBI estimates on its Web site. The presence is most pronounced around New York, southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The FBI has about 100 agents and 11 squads investigating mob activities at the New York hub.

The FBI touts its success against New York's five major Mafia families -- Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese -- as one of the bureau's biggest accomplishments in its 100-year history. Major arrests and convictions in the 1980s and 1990s crippled the mob. If they didn't get whacked first, the top dogs of the five families faced multiple prosecutions and long prison terms. Among the big names to take the perp walk as a result: John Gotti, Vincent Gigante and Joseph Massino.

The federal racketeering law passed in 1970 known as the Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, allowed agents to build stronger cases and secure stiffer sentences. It was added to the bureau's traditional crime-fighting arsenal of wiretaps, physical surveillance of targets and undercover agents.

As the years rolled by, the FBI benefited from "flipping" mob insiders like Massino, who, facing life sentences for RICO convictions, decided to violate the Mafia's code of silence -- omerta. Massino talked to avoid the death penalty for murder, becoming the Mafia's highest-ranking turncoat, and is now serving a life sentence.

Seamus McElearney, who spearheads FBI investigations against the Colombo crime family, has persuaded several mobsters to turn informant, and one case sticks out in his mind. "This individual was able to realize that he'd be going away for the rest of his life, and like anything in life, you build a rapport with someone, and you have to get over that trust factor. And he started to trust me and realize this was his best option," McElearney said, describing what it takes to persuade a witness to switch sides.

The FBI also uses forensic accounting and other sophisticated tools to penetrate the mob. "Looking at these guys from a financial point of view, because that's one of the best ways to hurt them is in the pocketbook ... ultimately led to the devastation of the family," said Supervisory Special Agent Nora Conley, who investigates the Bonanno family.

The mob adapted to investigations and convictions as layer upon layer of wiseguys-in-waiting stepped up. The Italians may still control the lion's share of illegal organized crime activity, but competitors are vying for a piece of the action.

Law enforcement officials say Asians, Russians and Albanians have established their own crime organizations in the United States. These groups are smaller and more disorganized than their Italian counterparts but pose their own danger.

Kevin Hallinan, an FBI supervisor who has worked organized crime for 18 years, said that groups of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese nationals, for example, are heavily involved in immigrant-smuggling, gambling, prostitution, counterfeiting and extortion of legitimate businesses as well as other crimes.

"Drugs are a serious problem," Hallinan said. "It's quick money. They have known transportation routes. A lot of the folks have international connections and know people at the ports, at the airports, and can get the drugs here."

He continued, "the big challenge for Asian organized crime and Albanian organized crime is having the finances to pay for a load of heroin, to pay for a load of cocaine, and then have the facilitator get it into the country, and then have the means of distribution, which the Italians have had in the past."

Russian and Albanian groups "are more like criminal enterprises than organized crime," observes agent Dennis Bolles, who heads the squad investigating them.

"Whether it is insurance fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, Medicaid fraud, securities fraud, mortgage fraud [or] multimillion-dollar scams, the Russians are very sophisticated," Bolles said. "They are very educated people. Some are former KGB. Some are former government officials -- masters degrees, PhDs -- and now they find themselves in the U.S., and they are using those brains to commit scams."

The FBI learned the hard way that foot-dragging on organized crime investigations can be costly.

In the 1930s, as Genovese family leader Lucky Luciano rose to power and brought the five families into a unified commission, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover resisted going after the mob. His inaction allowed the Mafia to become fully entrenched into American society and business.

It wasn't until the 1950s that the Mafia became a law enforcement priority. Sen. Estes Kefauver led congressional hearings on organized crime in May 1950, and the 1963 congressional testimony of Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi brought attention to a problem that long had been ignored. "From there, the program skyrocketed and became a very material priority for the FBI as criminal programs," Assistant FBI Director Mark Mershon said.
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FBI officials credit that effort and the intelligence-gathering skills learned in mob investigations for giving today's agents a foundation for future investigations, including of terrorists. "You have to understand who are the players, who are the leaders, how are they financed, how do they recruit, how do they handle their memberships," FBI Director Robert Mueller recently said as the bureau approached the 100-year mark.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Vincent "Chin" Gigante Kept Up 'Crazy Act' Even in Prison

Alone in a North Carolina prison cell, the nation's most powerful Mafia don welcomed a steady parade of guests each evening.

Small children, and dancing inmates.

Men in suits with matching hats, and women in long dresses.

A big black cat, and the original Boss: God.

It was summer 1997, and Vincent (Chin) Gigante faced a lengthy prison stint for racketeering. For the first time in decades, the former mob hit man's inspired dodge of using a demented alter ego to avoid jail had flopped and the Chin was forced to swap his ratty bathrobe and slippers for a prison jumpsuit. Wayne Dyer - Buy now and get a free gift 120x600

The Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., was a long way from the Greenwich Village streets where Gigante ruthlessly directed the fortunes of the Genovese crime family.

Within weeks of his July 26, 1997, arrival, it was obvious the mobster's change of address wouldn't mean a change in demeanor.

Federal prisoner No. 26071-037 never abandoned his off-kilter character through prison stops in Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Missouri. For the next eight years, despite failed appeals and an April 2003 guilty plea in which he confessed to the scam, Gigante continued in crackpot mode until his demise behind bars nearly two years ago.

It was a show so breathtaking in scope that even those charged with evaluating his condition conceded they were in the presence of greatness. "Mr. Gigante's case is truly fascinating," raved one staff psychiatrist in 1999. "His ability to sustain his 'crazy act' over many years ... places Gigante in the ranks of the most cunning of criminals."

A four-star review for a guy who never took an acting class.

Gigante's dedication to his craft was revealed in hundreds of pages of prison records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act filing. The documents illustrate how Gigante's "mental state" led to increased paranoia - on the part of the government.

They offer glimpses of the Chin's previously unseen droll sense of humor. And they detail his cat-and-mouse game with prison officials. "I'm not crazy, doctor," Gigante said in August 1997, shortly after arriving at Butner. Maybe. Maybe not. But 12 days later, the Chin recounted how a group of children arrived one evening to perform a musical right outside his cell.

Gigante was unfamiliar with the Strasberg method of acting, but his performance after a 1997 racketeering and murder conspiracy conviction was fueled by tremendous personal motivation: The case was on appeal, with his lawyers arguing the Chin was mentally unfit. And so prison officials - intent on capturing the mob boss in an unguarded moment - kept close watch on Gigante's demeanor, monitoring his condition in his cell, recreation areas and psychiatric clinics.

Daily reports detailed his assorted nocturnal visitors, including a black cat he insisted made sleep impossible.

When Gigante arrived at the Springfield, Mo., prison medical center in December 1997, a nurse recorded their introductory conversation: "Reason for admission (in patient's own words): 'I don't know.'"

An April 1998 prison report noted Gigante "continues to hear God talking and that he talks to Him," and that he occasionally hears "bad people talking bad things."

In early 2002, at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., Gigante sat for yet another psychiatric evaluation. "I've hurt no one in my life," he announced with a grin. "I've got nothing to fear from anyone."

Asked about his legal history, the Chin responded, "Whatever it was, I'm innocent." And later, in an extremely random observation, Gigante told a hospital staffer, "I was there once, but not any longer."

What did that mean?

"You know," the mob boss replied, a smile on his lips indicating some appreciation of the moment's absurdity. It wasn't the only time Gigante, once arrested in a bathtub while clutching an open umbrella, offered prison officials a look at the man behind the (shower) curtain.

After arriving in a Minnesota prison in March 1999, Gigante told a staff doctor there was no need for psychological testing. "No disrespect, I love you people dearly, but I don't want to talk to you," he said politely. "How will it help to do another evaluation? I still have to do my time."

Months later, when a nurse returned from a two-week vacation, the Chin greeted her warmly: "Hi, Marsha. How have you been?"

Such incidents were short intermissions in the ongoing production. By summer 1999, Gigante was refusing to shower or shave and accusing the prison staff of torture and abuse.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal in January 2000, and a new indictment two years later charged him with running the crime family from a Texas prison cell.

Undaunted, the Chin maintained his bizarre behavior. In January 2003, he informed a prison psychiatrist he was having trouble sleeping because of nightly visits from Satan.

Three months later, Gigante stood before Brooklyn Federal Judge Leo Glasser and admitted lying to doctors about his mental health. Then Gigante went back to prison and his strange ways, now nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion.

Gigante's health deteriorated after his guilty plea; the don grew frail from an assortment of physical ailments.

Mentally, his condition was unchanged. Gigante insisted he was mentally adrift, signing prison documents with a shaky "X."

In October 2005, Gigante was shipped to a special unit in the Forth Worth, Tex., federal prison, where inmates received intensive nursing care.

The final curtain was about to fall.

His prison doctor paid a Halloween visit, where a smiling Gigante offered a handshake and shared a pleasant, coherent conversation. Gigante asked about the doctor's family; the doctor explained about Gigante's new digs before heading back to the rest of the prison population.

One day later, a staff psychologist came by for a consultation. He met with a Chin who turned the other cheek.

Gigante insisted he could not remember the doctor's name despite their previous sessions. The psychologist later grudgingly hailed Gigante for the "sophistication of his malingering attempt."

Old habits, it seemed, die hard. Vincent Gigante died seven weeks later, alone in a Texas prison cell, at 5:15 a.m.

He was 77.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mob Fighting Forensic Accountant Earns FBI Promotion

The Target 12 Investigators bring you "Inside the Mafia" revealing a new threat to the New England mob.

An FBI agent who infiltrated a New York crime family and took down their powerful boss has just arrived in Providence. He's agreed to speak exclusively with Target 12 Investigator Tim White.

Jeff Sallet is the newest supervisor for the FBI in Providence. He quickly built a reputation in New York for being a tenacious investigator and for helping take down the city's last true "don".

A legendary bust that crippled the mighty Bonnano crime family. They're the notorious leaders of the five organized crime empires in New York.

Infamous Gambino boss, John Gotti, Colombo family boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Genovese leader Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Luchese boss Vittorio "Little Vic" Amuso, and boss of the Bonnano family Joseph "The Ear" Massino.

By 1997, all but one had been sent to prison. He was the "last don," and somehow, "The Ear" had successfully evaded the sting of law enforcement. Sallet says, "The reason they came up with the name "The Ear" is because he always had his ear to the ground, as Joe always knew what was going on."

In 1999 FBI agent Jeffrey Sallet and his partner Kimberly McCaffrey were assigned to infiltrate Massino's empire in an unconventional way.

The FBI calls them "forensic accountants" -- specially trained to sift through financial records and instantly recognize criminal patterns like "money laundering."

Sallet says, "I think there is nothing people fear more than an accountant with a badge."

The paper chase into Massino's massive finances led investigators down the chain to a low-level mob associate. Sallet not only convinced the mob insider to become an informant, but take on the dangerous assignment of wearing a "wire" around wiseguys.

Sallet says, "Top down our main targets were Joe Massino and Salvator Vitale. But in order to get to the top, we also had to get to the bottom and determine who were the people to get us in."

It took 4 years, but eventually the feds had their case. On January 9th, 2003, a team of federal agents knocked on Massino's door. The charges, among many: Loan-sharking and murder.

Sallet was there and in what he describes as surreal, the mob boss knew him and his partner by their first names.

Tim White asks, "Had you ever met Joe Massino before that moment?"

Sallet: "Never"

White: "So how did he know who you were?"

Sallet: "I think one of the quotes he also said is you do your homework and I do mine."

The case lead the FBI a lot in Brooklyn lot, where they recovered the bodies of three mob soldiers Massino had whacked. The last don is now in prison for life.

Sallet, has moved on, 6 months ago he came to the FBI's Providence office to run the organized crime, violent crime, gang criminal enterprises squad.

After helping take down the last don in New York, it makes sense why Sallet would be here. Sallet says, "The boss of the New England LCN is one of the only bosses, official bosses to be on the street."

Citing FBI policy, Sallet won't identify members of the Patriarca crime family. But law enforcement sources tell Target 12, the boss, is 80 year old Louis "Baby Shacks" Mannochio.

State police Major Steven O'Donnell, a veteran organized crime fighter, says Sallet's knowledge of the New York families will work here.

O'Donnell says, "you read a report about a wiseguy in Rhode Island... Its no different than reading about a wiseguy in New York, its the same type of activity just a different person."

O'Donnell says Sallet meets daily with state and Providence police. And, we've learned Sallet has made contact with the criminal side as well. Sallet won't comment, but mob insiders tell Target 12 he was spotted introducing himself to "Baby Shacks" Mannochio, letting the boss know, he's in town.

Sallet says, "I have been investigating organized crime for ten years, and what I can tell you is I have always treated everybody with the utmost respect."

Sallet's squad not only focuses on bringing down traditional wiseguys, but also with the growing national problem of violent street gangs. Sallet says their "turf wars" are a prime target for the FBI and local police.

Thanks to Tim White

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saluting the Best Mafiosa Court Room Antics

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, John Gotti, Joey “Doves” Aiuppa, Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Judge Thomas Maloney

“The Sopranos” might have ended, but the first episode of Chicago’s latest mob drama begins Tuesday.

How fitting that the official festivities will take place in the feds’ ceremonial courtroom. The Outfit is big on ceremony, beginning with the oath that “made” guys take. They also take an oath of Omerta, promising never to talk about family secrets to the big bad wolf with the menacing initials: FBI. But how many of us can keep a good secret for life? So, between the gangsters who are desirous of saving their own hides and those who have or will be pleading guilty to high crimes and non-misdemeanors, only five wiseguys are expected to actually be sitting on their ceremonial behinds when jury selection begins Tuesday.

The lawyers for La Cosa Nostra have some serious work ahead of them in the next four or five months. I’m talking about the new, outlandish stunts the hoods will need if they expect to get a mention in the Mob’s Greatest Trial Antics.

It appeared as though Frank “The German” Schweihs might offer the first memorable moment. The German, who was one of the Outfit’s most feared and proficient hitmen, according to federal authorities, is said to be terminally ill.

There was a time when Schweihs would have come to trial with the rest of them, his skin pasty white and IV tubes plugged into his veins, a sad and pathetic character worthy of great sympathy from the jury. But now, Schweihs has been “severed” from the trial, which seems to be an apt legal description for somebody who federal authorities say cut short a few dozen lives himself.

Judge James Zagel didn’t want Schweihs dying one day during the case and creating a mistrial for the others, so he allowed him time to heal … a consideration that Mr. Schweihs himself allegedly would rarely grant those who begged him for mercy.

Schweihs could have followed the script written by Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano back in the ’60s. The vicious mob enforcer would feign illness so he had to be wheeled into court on a gurney while wearing pajamas. Once, Mad Sam used a bullhorn in the courtroom so he was assured of being louder than prosecutors.

The crafty New York mafia boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante use to wear his bathrobe to court, mumble to himself and claim God was his lawyer in an effort to persuade jurors that he was deranged. It worked for many years until The Chin was eventually convicted. In 2003, two years before he died in prison, Gigante admitted it had all been an act.

The best courtroom performance by a mob lawyer was in 1986 by Bruce Cutler, who was representing John Gotti at the time. Cutler took the thick federal indictment against Gotti and stuffed it in a courtroom wastebasket. “It’s garbage,” Cutler shouted at prosecutors. “That’s where it belongs.”

Sickness and sympathy has been a favorite play by hoodlums for decades. When Chicago Outfit boss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa was on trial in Kansas City 20 years ago, Aiuppa hunched over a walker coming and going from court. Nevertheless, he managed to get in and out of a taxi and his hotel just fine.

During that same trial, Aiuppa’s vice consigliore Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone delivered a veiled threat to a Chicago news reporter while they were riding on a crowded elevator.

“How’s the wife and that new baby of yours?” Cerone asked the newsman, whose coverage he must have under appreciated. The question stunned the reporter, who certainly never had spoken to Cerone about his wife or his new daughter, Caylen Goudie.

Once, in 1983, I asked the infamous Outfit tough-guy Tony “The Ant” Spilotro a question that now seems prophetic.

“Tony, are you concerned for your personal safety?” I asked The Ant as he bailed out of Cook County jail.

Spilotro just sneered at me … a far different look than he must have displayed three years later when he and his brother were clubbed and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield.

When defrocked Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney was on trial for taking bribes to fix murder cases, the mob-connected Maloney tried his best every day to avoid TV crews staked out in front of the federal building.

Once, Maloney thought he had outsmarted news jockeys by sneaking into the federal building basement and walking up a ramp from the underground parking garage.

Not to be tricked, camera crews were waiting atop the ramp when Maloney strutted up dressed in a black trench coat and fedora. He began running across Adams Street in the Loop, pursued by TV crews until he tripped and did a belly flop onto the asphalt, staggering to his feet with a mouthful of gravel.

The finest out-of-court routine was put on by Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, who will go on trial again Tuesday. Years ago when he was free on bond, The Clown enjoyed living up to his nickname by shielding his face from photographers using a newspaper with cut-out eyeholes.

While he was a fugitive, Lombardo wrote a letter to Judge Zagel, who is hearing his case, stating that he was unfairly targeted by prosecutors who could convict “a hamburger” in federal court.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cosa Nostra is Alive and Well in New York

Friends of ours: Danny "The Lion" Leo, Vito Genovese, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, "Fat Charlie" Salzano

New Yorkers have been given a rude awakening to the continued presence of the Mafia in their midst with the arrest of Danny "the Lion" Leo, the reputed boss of the city's most powerful crime family.

Many had assumed the tide of prosperity pouring through New York had washed away the Mafia clans who once terrorised their city. Instead, it appears the mafia is very much alive.

Prosecutors say that Leo, 65, arrested on charges of loan sharking and extortion, is head of the powerful Genovese family, one of the so-called "five families" that ruled the Mafia in New York for half a century. "Two hundred or so members of this violent, ruthless criminal organisation can only commit acts of violence with the approval of the acting boss," said Eric Snyder, the assistant US attorney. "That's the type of power he holds."

Leo's indictment reads like pages from Mario Puzo's bestseller The Godfather. There are "soldiers", the hit men, "capos" or captains, and defendants with colourful nicknames. Prosecutors claim that Leo's right-hand man is "Fat Charlie" Salzano, a 26½ stone enforcer caught on wiretaps threatening to shoot his victims.

Leo has been charged with conspiring to demand $250,000 protection from a Harlem taxi company owner, with Salzano promising in the wiretap evidence that he will "turn you out" if the money is not paid.

Leo, who lives in a mansion in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York, insists he is innocent, pleading not guilty to all charges.

His supporters point to his almost unblemished criminal record: he has a single conviction, 25 years ago, for contempt of court when he refused to testify in a murder trial. But prosecutors say he is proof of the continuing existence, and prosperity, of arguably the biggest and most successful criminal organisation in history - the infamous five families.

They were first revealed to the world in evidence in a 1959 investigation. The five families had been set up before the Second World War as an arrangement whereby the city's crime gangs attempted to rationalise their organisations. Killings of justice officials were banned, a "commission" set up to regulate disputes, and the omerta, the Sicilian vow of silence, was cemented in place with a promise of execution against any member breaking it.

The Genovese family, named after its founder, Vito Genovese, was arguably the most powerful, smashing its way to the top by bringing mass heroin smuggling to the United States.

Leo is accused of taking the mantle of leader from the former Genovese boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. When Gigante died in prison two years ago many assumed that his "family" - actually a grouping of several families - would plough their money into legal enterprises and leave the gangster life to the newer, hungrier, gangs from Russia and Central America.

Leo's arrest comes a fortnight after the justice department announced a separate trial of two men accused of being from the same crime family, charged with conspiracy to murder. And New Yorkers are waiting to see if it will mark the start of a new campaign by the authorities against organised crime.

Mr Synder insists that the Mafia remains potent and that the trial will expose the hold that criminal gangs have in the US.

Thanks to Chris Stephen

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Mother's Day from the Mob

Friends of ours: Jimmy "The Gent" Burke, Al Capone, Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Vincent "The Animal" Ferrara, Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, Angelo "Buddha" Lutz, John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Robert Spinelli, Paulie Vario, Henry Hill

Each and every Mother's Day until he landed behind bars, mobster Jimmy "The Gent" Burke performed a sacrosanct ritual.

Burke, the mastermind behind the $5.8 million Lufthansa heist immortalized in Goodfellas, dropped a few C-notes on dozens of red roses from a Rockaway Boulevard florist. He then toured the homes of his jailed Luchese crime family pals, providing their mothers with a bouquet and a kiss.

He never missed a year, or a mom.

Burke's gesture was no surprise to his fellow hoodlums: Mother's Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar, when homicide took a holiday and racketeering gave way to reminiscing - often over a plate of mom's pasta and sauce.

"These guys, they do have a love for their mothers," said Joe Pistone, the FBI undercover agent who spent six Mother's Days inside the Bonanno family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. "They thought nothing of killing. But the respect for their mothers? It was amazing."

So amazing, Pistone recalled, that Bonanno member Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero once told him that the Mafia - like a suburban Jersey mall shuttered by blue laws - closed for business when Mother's Day arrived each May.

No vendettas or broken bones. Just gift baskets and boxes of candy.

"Absolutely," said mob informant Henry Hill, who described his old friend Burke's annual rite. "It's Mother's Day, you know?"

The bond between gangsters and their mothers is more sacred than the oath of omerta and more complex than anything imagined by Oedipus. Pistone watched stone murderers suddenly grow misty when discussing their moms - or her meals.

"They're not embarrassed to say how much they love their mother," said Pistone, author of the new mob memoir Unfinished Business. "I can remember guys talking about cooking: 'My mom made the best braciole.' Or 'My mother taught me how to make this sauce.' "

No surprise there: The way to a made man's heart was often through his stomach, as many mob moms knew long before their sons moved from finger paints to fingerprints.

Mob heavyweight Al Capone - a man who never needed a restaurant reservation during his Roaring 20s reign atop the Chicago underworld - preferred his mother's spaghetti with meat sauce, heavy on the cheese. (Capone's sentimentality didn't extend to other holidays. On Feb. 14, 1929, he orchestrated the submachine-gun slayings of seven rival bootleggers in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.)

Capone wasn't alone in his mismatched emotions: warm, maternal love and cold, homicidal rage. Genovese family boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante shared a Greenwich Village apartment with his ninetysomething mother, Yolanda, even as he ruthlessly directed the nation's most powerful organized crime operation during the 80s and 90s.

New England capo Vincent "The Animal" Ferrara did a 16-year prison stretch for racketeering, getting out of prison just two years ago. His first trip as a free man: a visit to see his 90-year-old mom. But gangland mother-son ties transcend more than just geography and generations; they cross ethnic lines, too.

Abe Reles, a Jewish hit man of the 30s, was known to contemporaries as "Kid Twist" for his preferred method of execution - he would wrap his thick fingers around a victim's neck for one final snap.

Despite 42 arrests (and 11 admitted murders), the "Kid" remained his mother's loving son. And he showed up at her apartment each Friday night for a traditional Sabbath meal of gefilte fish, chicken soup and boiled chicken.

One Friday, Reles showed up with a guest. The three shared a meal before the Kid's mother left for a movie. By the time the film was finished, her son - assisted by a mob associate - had bludgeoned and strangled their guest before disposing of the body.

Mrs. Reles returned to share a cup of tea and a piece of honey cake with her boy, according to Robert A. Rockaway's mob tome But He Was Good To His Mother - a history of loving Jewish sons turned heartless killers.

Those mobbed-up kids often had their affection reciprocated from mothers blinded by love to mounting evidence of their offspring's larcenous lifestyles.

Philadelphia gangster Angelo "Buddha" Lutz was arrested in 2001 on racketeering charges - and released on $150,000 bail when his mom put up her house as collateral. (She was later free to visit him in prison, where he was sentenced to serve nine years.)

Mob matriarch Victoria Gotti went even further for her son, John A. "Junior" Gotti, offering her $715,000 home up for his bail. When Junior went on trial three times in the last two years for racketeering, Victoria appeared in court each time - even as defense lawyers admitted that he once headed the Gambino crime family.

"If you're the president or a gangster, that has nothing to do with a mother's love," Pistone said. "I think that's one of the main reasons for their bond."

When authorities last year dropped the charges against Junior, the mob scion - his father was the late "Dapper Don" John Gotti - repaid his mom's devotion. Gotti spent Thanksgiving Day at Victoria's hospital bedside after she suffered a stroke.

For some, like Robert Spinelli, love of Mom complicated their chosen profession. Spinelli served as the getaway driver after his brother and a second man tried to kill the sister of mob informant "Big Pete" Chiodo, but he was stricken with guilt over the shooting.

At his 1999 sentencing, Spinelli stood with tears streaming down his face when recounting the botched hit against Patricia Capozzalo, who had just dropped her two children off at school. "She reminded me of my mother," the weepy gangster confessed before getting a 10-year jail term.

For Hill, his beloved mother provided a passport - Italian - into the Mafia back in the 1950s.

Young Henry was a mob wannabe, hanging around the taxi stand that served as the business office for Luchese capo Paulie Vario. When the mobsters discovered the kid with the Irish surname was half-Sicilian, on mother Carmela's side, he was greeted like a paisano. "Everything changed when they found out about my mother," Hill told author Nick Pileggi for the book Wiseguy, which chronicled his evolution from wiseguy to mob turncoat.

Hill, speaking from his current home somewhere on the West Coast, recalled that Jimmy Burke attached particular importance to Mother's Day because he was abandoned by his own parents at age 2. Hill also recalled how his hot-tempered pal wasn't so dewy-eyed one day later.

"He'd kiss all the mothers on Sunday," said Hill. "And then the next day, he'd kill their husbands."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bonanno's Name Bambino Godfather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"JP" Helps the Syndicate

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Albert "The Blast" Gallo, Genovese Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Crazy Joe Gallo, Larry Gallo, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Frank "Punchy" Illiano

On your "Gambino Crime Family" profile chart you list Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo as a Friend of Ours. He's actually a made member of the Genovese Family. He started with the Colombos in the crew run by his brothers--Crazy Joey and Larry Gallo. He went through the Gallo-Profaci War with them. He was supposedly a favorite of Vincent "Chin" Gigante until The Chin died this past December.

Then Albert "Al the Blast" Gallo Jr. (his full name and I don't think he uses the "Kid Blast" nickname anymore) switched allegiance to the Genovese Family in the mid-1970s after Larry died of cancer and Joey was hit in 1972 at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy. Nearly the whole crew switched to the Genoveses.

Former Gallo crew member Frank "Punchy" Illiano is now a capo in the Genovese Family and Al Gallo is a made guy in his crew (or it could be the other way around, Gallo's the capo and Illiano's the top member of his crew--reports are conflicting on exactly who the capo of the crew is).

Thanks to "JP" who emailed this information to me.

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