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

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Matty the Horse Cuts a Deal

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante

The ailing, aging reputed boss of the Genovese crime family pleaded guilty Thursday to helping try to infiltrate a union and thwart a federal grand jury probe.

The 86-year-old Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, his wooden cane hanging on a chair beside him, entered the plea before U.S Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis in Manhattan.

A plea agreement signed with the government called for Ianniello to be sentenced to 1-1/2 to two years in prison on the single racketeering charge. Without the deal, Ianniello would have faced up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing was set for December 14. He also agreed to forfeit up to $1 million to the government.

Ianniello was reputedly a longtime capo in the crime family and allegedly became one of its acting bosses after the 1997 racketeering conviction of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who died in prison last December. Ianniello, who lives on Long Island, is free on bail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Treanor told the judge that Ianniello participated in a conspiracy in which union officers lied to federal investigators about the involvement of organized crime in union business, among other things.

In court, Ianniello was difficult to understand as he read a statement admitting a role in efforts to corrupt a union and to prevent the union's leaders and employees from being honest with the government during a federal grand jury probe of mob activities. Ianniello's lawyer said his client's voice was affected by a stroke.

In his plea, Ianniello admitted receiving unlawful payments from a labor union and that he conspired to obstruct justice between 1990 and 2005.

Gigante had long been dubbed the "Oddfather" for bizarre behavior that included wandering the streets of Greenwich Village in nightclothes, muttering incoherently.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the Oscar goes to ... Gregory DePalma?

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Gregory DePalma, Vincent "Chin"Gigante, Joe Bonanno, Gennaro Angiulo, Stefano Maggodino, Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce
Friends of mine: Ilario Zannino

Gregory DePalma, the powerful Gambino family captain, allegedly bragged about his Academy Award-caliber performance playing a desperately ill man looking for a sentence reduction. It worked; a federal judge jailed DePalma for less than six years instead of the 13-year maximum back in 1999.

There was just one problem: The federal government was secretly taping DePalma's post-sentencing review. And now he's back in court, allegedly battling another debilitating illness as prosecutors attempt to convince another jury that DePalma is a racketeer.

The 74-year-old mobster, sitting at the defense table with an oxygen tube in his nose and his feet resting on a small stool, is the latest Mafiosi caught in a medical controversy over competency to stand trial. The government inevitably insists the defendant is a healthy candidate for prosecution; the defense is equally insistent that he is not.

"Surveillance photos will show you Gregory DePalma on the move, an energetic, active man," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Marrah said in his opening statement at the reputed mobster's trial in Manhattan.

Not so, said defense attorney John Meringolo. DePalma was "a broken-down man who has a big mouth and is living through the past," Meringolo argued.

Trying to dodge prosecution through illness _ the "Sicilian flu," as federal agents once derisively called it _ is a long-standing Mafia defense. The most famous of all was Vincent Gigante, the so-called "Oddfather" who avoided conviction for nearly three decades by publicly acting like a loon.

Gigante strolled through his Greenwich Village neighborhood in bathrobe and slippers, whether it was time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gigante avoided conviction from 1970, when he first launched the ruse, until a 1997 conviction for racketeering and murder conspiracy.

FBI agents serving Gigante with a subpoena once found him standing naked in a running shower, clutching an open umbrella.

"With some of these guys, it would be hard to tell if it's dementia or just the way they are," said mob expert Howard Abadinsky. "They're that nutty."

The majority of cases run to heart problems rather than head cases.

Joe Bonanno, one of the founding fathers of New York City's mob, was summoned to testify in 1985 at a federal prosecution of the Mafia's ruling "Commission." Then 80, he was retired and living in Arizona - where he was definitely too ill to take the witness stand, said his lawyer, William Kunstler. The stress of testifying, Kunstler insisted, was too much for the octogenarian mobster. Bonanno did 14 months for contempt, coming out of prison in 1986. He died ... 16 years later, at the ripe old age of 97. Kunstler had died seven years earlier at 76.

Ilario Zannino, an associate of New England mob underboss Gennaro Angiulo, managed to avoid prosecution - albeit temporarily - after he was hospitalized with heart problems in 1985. He died in jail 11 years later at age 74.

Buffalo boss Stefano Maggodino, following his arrest, once claimed he was too sick to get fingerprinted. At a bedside arraignment, he told the assembled authorities, "Take the gun and shoot me. That's what you want!" He survived for another five years.

Not everyone lived as long as those three. Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce was arraigned by telephone in April 1985 from his Staten Island home, where he was laid up with heart disease and cancer. Dellacroce was dead before the end of the year.

"When you start to think of the lifestyles these guys live, there's a good chance it's not going to be so healthy," said Abadinsky. "One of the things that always fascinated me is that these guys didn't die earlier."

The Gigante case, with a mob boss feigning dementia to maintain his freedom, has become part of pop culture. Junior Soprano, on the hit HBO show, went from malingering to menacing mobster this year when he shot nephew Tony in a case of mistaken identity. The long-running hit TV show "Law And Order" did an episode using the Gigante premise. And author Jimmy Breslin did an entire book, "I Don't Want to Go to Jail: A Good Novel," that parodied Gigante with a character called Fausti ("The Fist") Dellacava.

"Gigante got a lot of exercise walking around the Village," Abadinsky said of the mobster who lived to age 77. "He just said he was nuts."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mob Rat on Stand at Trial of Jersey City 'Soldier'

Friends of ours: Peter Caporino, Genovese Crime Family, Michael Crincoli, Lawrence Dentico, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, Joseph "Big Joe" Scarbrough

Eighteen years as a Mafia turncoat came to a climax yesterday when Peter Caporino took the witness stand in U.S. District Court. Jurors also heard the first of 300 conversations between reputed mobsters recorded over three years by Caporino, who wore a wire for the feds.

Caporino testified for the prosecution against reputed Genovese crime family soldier Michael Crincoli, 46, of Jersey City, who allegedly ran a loansharking and extortion business out of his deli at 944 West Side Ave. Caporino ran a bookmaking operation, also protected by the Genovese family, out of the Character Club in Hoboken.

Caporino said he'd already been working as an informant for the FBI for 15 years when he was busted by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office on gambling charges in February 2003. At that point, he said, he decided he would go from confidential informant to cooperating witness. "Cooperating witness meant I would wear a wire and testify," he said.

He said his FBI handlers gave him a recording device, disguised as a pager, that could tape up to 10 hours of conversations. Caporino's recordings resulted in 16 arrests in 2005. All save one - Crincoli - has since taken a plea deal.

Among those arrested was Lawrence Dentico, 81, of Seaside Park, one of a handful of men thought to run the Genovese crime family since Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was convicted of extortion in 1997. Dentico has pleaded guilty.

Also snared was Joseph "Big Joe" Scarbrough, 66, of West Orange, an alleged Genovese family associate accused of loansharking, illegal gambling and extortion. Scarbrough has pleaded guilty.

Jersey City Incinerator Authority Inspector Russell Fallacara, 38, of Keansburg, was picked up in the sweep and he later admitted he demanded a $100,000 payment from Nacirema Carting and Demolition of Bayonne, which had a contract with Jersey City.

Caporino said he grew up in Hoboken and graduated from Demarest High School, now Hoboken High. He worked for a trucking company before joining the Army; after his discharge, he returned to the trucking company and discovered the man who'd run the local numbers game had died. He and another worker then took it over, he said.

He eventually expanded the business to the point where he had to make a weekly tribute payment to the mob in order to continue operating. Caporino will likely be on the stand until tomorrow, when Crincoli's attorney will have a chance to cross examine him.

Thanks to Michaelangelo Conte

Monday, May 15, 2006

La Cosa Nostra Tough Guy-Turned-Witness follows the Rules

Friends of ours: Bruno Facciola, Luchesse Crime Family, Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, John Gotti, Vittorio Amuso, Paulie Vario, Henry Hill, Vic Amuso, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Colombo Crime Family, "Little Vic" Orena, Bonanno Crime Family, Anthony Spero, James Ida
Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

The killers placed the dead canary in the freezer. Later, after their work was finished, they placed the bird inside the mouth of the equally deceased Bruno Facciola.

The August 1990 mob hit followed a tip from two corrupt NYPD detectives that the Luchese family capo had turned government informant. Facciola was stabbed, shot through both eyes and shot again in the head before the bird was stuffed in his mouth. It was murder with a message: See no evil. And definitely speak no evil.

The slaying was orchestrated by one of the crime family's true believers, a diminutive thug known to fellow Mafiosi as "Little Al." Few in organized crime embraced the mob ethos more fervently than Alphonse D'Arco, a hard case from the cradle.

"I was a man when I was born," Little Al once bragged. He committed every crime except pimping and pornography, which D'Arco deemed beneath his dignity. Murder was a different story; he committed eight while rising from Luchese associate to acting boss.

Few in organized crime despised informants more than Little Al. "Rats," he'd spit, his face contorted with disgust. He did a three-year heroin rap without opening his yap. So when the word came down that Facciola was singing to the feds, D'Arco arranged for his demise. And for the canary.

Four months later, with the family in turmoil, D'Arco stepped up to become the Luchese boss. His reign abruptly ended on Aug. 21, 1991, but not in the fashion he expected: on the wrong end of a jury verdict. Or maybe a bullet. Instead, D'Arco _ disgusted by the loss of mob honor, double-crossed by men he had respected _ became what he most abhorred: a rat. And not just any rat.

He brought down mob bosses, underbosses, consiglieres. Fifteen years later, the former made man is still making inmates out of accomplices as perhaps the most devastating mob informant ever _ even better than Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who famously flipped on mob superstar John Gotti.

Alphonse D'Arco, born July 28, 1932, grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The neighborhood was heavy with heavyweight mobsters, including some of his relatives. His childhood, D'Arco once recalled, was "like being in the forest and all the trees were the dons and the organized crime guys." D'Arco walked into the woods without hesitation. He was 14 when he started hanging with the local mobsters; one year later, he dropped out of school.

Two tenets of the old-school Mafia appealed to D'Arco: Loyalty and honor. Both extended into his personal life; in 1951, during the Korean War, D'Arco volunteered for the Army, served two years and received an honorable discharge. When he returned to Brooklyn and the mob, he found a wife; they remain married to this day. The D'Arcos had five children.

In 1959, D'Arco first met future Luchese family boss Vittorio Amuso. He was soon making money for the Lucheses in a variety of ways: Hijacking. Drug dealing. Burglary. Counterfeiting. Arson. Armed robbery.

D'Arco became a made man on Aug. 23, 1982, in a ceremony held in a Bronx kitchen. "I should burn like this paper if I betray anyone in this room," D'Arco swore. D'Arco was particularly good with dates, and he always remembered this one. He remembered plenty of other things along the way. D'Arco was a guy who listened more than he spoke.

D'Arco had long ago resolved the differences between mob life and straight society. As John Q. Citizen, D'Arco would have lived by the rules. As Alphonse D'Arco, mobster, he would abide by the Mafia's code _ no questions asked. He obeyed orders and his elders, kicked money up to the bosses. And he never cooperated with law enforcement. Not even on the smallest of matters.

His capo was Paulie Vario, one of the family's most valued leaders. As the entire crew would soon discover, the erosion of mob values was under way. And it was happening in their midst.

Henry Hill was a Luchese associate and a cocaine dealer. Once arrested, Hill became the most notorious Mafia turncoat of the decade. His testimony helped put Vario away in 1984. Hill's life became fodder for the classic mob movie "GoodFellas." Vario, played by Paul Sorvino in the movie, died in a Texas prison four years later. His replacement was Alphonse D'Arco.

D'Arco's old friend Vic Amuso became the head of the family. His underboss was another pal, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a hoodlum responsible for three dozen murders.

The mob life was good for D'Arco. He had about $1 million in loan-sharking money spread around, and ran his own crew. The family hierarchy relied on him to handle important business _ labor unions, racketeering, murder.

"He was a true believer in La Cosa Nostra," said former federal prosecutor George Stamboulidis. "He grew up in the life. It was something that he wanted, and succeeded at."

D'Arco dressed in shirts with big "wiseguy collars," and lived in an apartment on Spring Street in Little Italy. The market rent was $1,200 a month; D'Arco paid $200.

He brought his son, Joe, into the family business, and considered doing the same for another son, John. When the order came down for Joe to whack a guy in California, Al unflinchingly told his son to do it. At his father's behest, Joe committed a second mob murder in New York. The son played by his father's rules.

A few months after they exposed Bruno Facciola, the two crooked detectives provided Casso with a new bit of information: the underboss and Amuso were targeted for arrest. On Jan. 9, 1991, the pair met with Little Al at a Brooklyn bar, where Amuso pronounced him acting boss of the Lucheses. Then Casso and Amuso vanished. Top of the world, Al.

During eight eye-opening months as boss, D'Arco's blind allegiance to the mob was undermined. From seclusion, Amuso and Casso started a whispering campaign against D'Arco among the Luchese faithful. A fellow mobster informed D'Arco about the betrayal; so did FBI agents.

Yet D'Arco was unconvinced until the night of Sept. 18, 1991, when he attended a meeting in a midtown Manhattan hotel room. His longtime Luchese associates appeared unnerved. A family hit man was among the group, and the vibe was ugly. D'Arco had no doubt that he was marked for death.

D'Arco managed to bolt the meeting, and reconsidered his life _ or what might be left of it. He considered going to war against the Amuso/Casso faction, handling things in the style of his Brooklyn mentors. But D'Arco had no more loyalty to the Lucheses. And he no longer viewed them as men of honor.

"So I says, `That's it,"' D'Arco explained later from the witness stand. "I washed my hands of the whole thing."

D'Arco sent most of his family to Hawaii, far from the deadly streets of New York. Accompanied by his son, D'Arco hid in his mother's Long Island home. A deal was made. On Sept. 21, 1991, Alphonse D'Arco became the most unlikely cooperating witness ever recruited. And also one of the most expensive.

The federal government spent more than $2 million to relocate the D'Arco clan. Little Al and six other families were moved from New York to parts unknown. He left behind a mob fortune; his legal net worth was about $30,000.

News of the stunning defection spread quickly through the underworld. An attorney was dispatched to the Metropolitan Correction Center to inform jailed Gambino boss John Gotti that Little Al was switching sides.

The acting boss was one of the highest-ranking mobsters to ever flip, and federal authorities took advantage. He testified more than a dozen times against his former friends and the mob's top echelon.

D'Arco was a combative and effective witness. His memory for details and dates was unshakable. He took on New York's top defense attorneys, and refused to let any put words into his mouth.

Testifying at a 1996 competency hearing for Genovese family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, D'Arco flew into a rage. "Don't break my chops," D'Arco warned defense attorney Michael Shapiro. "I'll break yours, too."

D'Arco's testimony helped convict ex-cronies Amuso and Casso; Gigante and Colombo boss "Little Vic" Orena; Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero; Genovese consigliere James Ida; and an assortment of other mobsters.

He testified before uncounted grand juries, spilling about corruption in the unions, the Garment District, the airports and the Hunts Point market. "D'Arco gave them great value for the money," said criminal defense lawyer Edward Hayes. "He testified against a lot of guys, and they got convicted. D'Arco is a lunatic, but he has a story."

Once, in a Brooklyn courtroom, D'Arco stood before a federal judge who noted they had grown up in the same nearby neighborhood. "Yeah," D'Arco replied. "And we both rose to the top of our professions."

Prosecutor Stamboulidis said D'Arco embraced his new calling as fervently as his old. "When he entered an agreement with the government, he answered all the questions with brutal honesty and thoroughness," Stamboulidis said. "A true believer does everything 100 percent. He believes 100 percent in his current position."

His reward came in November 2002, when D'Arco was sentenced at a courtroom in suburban Westchester County. Little Al appeared via closed-circuit television and received time served, which essentially meant no jail time. He was fined $50, and returned to obscurity.

While mob turncoats like Gravano and Hill went back to jail, D'Arco stayed on the right side of the law. And one of the biggest trials yet remained in his future _ one that brought him back to the day when Bruno Facciola had a canary for his last meal.

It was March 2005 when federal authorities announced the indictments of ex-NYPD detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, former police partners-turned-partners in crime. The two were charged with taking $4,000 a month from Gaspipe Casso to work as Luchese family hit men.

On occasion, they also slipped the underboss inside information. They let Casso know that Facciola was reportedly working as an informant. Casso ordered D'Arco to handle the hit.

Little Al was called again to testify. The federal RICO statute, a powerful tool that allows law enforcement to link crimes committed over decades, made D'Arco every bit as valuable in 2006 as he was 15 years before. It was a big case, and D'Arco could help bring down the "Mafia Cops."

The ex-boss, now 73, looked more grandfatherly than Godfatherly as he testified, his thick Brooklyn accent unchanged by years of life outside the city. He wore a 20-year-old suit to court, one of two now hanging in his closet.

He spent parts of two days on the stand, standing firm under withering cross-examination from Hayes and former Gotti lawyer Bruce Cutler. Caracappa and Eppolito were quickly convicted, and faced life in prison.

Alphonse D'Arco went home, where his loyalty was still appreciated. But there was a moment during his testimony where D'Arco recalled a less complicated time, when he was a young man whose belief in simple values was absolute.

The burly Cutler, his booming voice filling the courtroom, recited a litany of perks that came D'Arco's way from the Witness Protection Program: No jail time. A new identity. An attorney, free of charge. "That's another reward, yes?" Cutler asked.

"I don't see anything to be a reward," D'Arco responded without hesitation. "I'd trade it all to go back on Spring Street."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Book Club: Five Families: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Bonanno Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Lucchese Crime Family, Genovese Crime Family. John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Vincente "The Chin" Gigante, Charles "Lucky" Luciano

Selwyn Raab recently met with Gotham Gazette's Reading NYC Book Club to discuss his book Five Families: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, a history of the Mafia from its origins in Sicily to the present day. The following is an edited transcript of the event.

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Mr. Raab, your book focuses largely on the fall of the New York crime families, but the title includes the phrase "resurgence." What's going on with the Mafia in New York City right now?

SELWYN RAAB: Up until 9/11, there had been a 20-year long, concentrated attack against the Mafia, based on the Racketeer Influence Corruptions Act, popularly known as RICO. What was important about RICO was that for the first time it gave prosecutors an effective tool to go after the big shots in organized crime. At the attack's peak, there were 200 people working full time on just investigating the five Mafia families in New York -- the Gambino, the Bonano, the Colombo, the Lucchese, and the Genovese. The FBI had a specific squad following each family, and were able to bust John Gotti, Vincente "The Chin" Gigante, and other bosses, even though they didn't pull a trigger or shake anyone down themselves.

[This prosecution was coupled with a] concentrated effort to knock the Mafia out of some industries. Waste collection and construction were two immense moneymakers for them, and they've been hurt in both industries, especially commercial garbage collection. There is now some oversight by city agencies, licensing etc. The Mafia has been severely wounded in some of these big industries – but not mortally.

As soon as 9/11 occurred, terrorism justifiably became a prime concern and objective for the FBI and most police departments, including New York's. This created a reprieve – suddenly you had this tremendous diminution of people investigating the mob.

Today, the Mafia is still making money in gambling and loan sharking. The penalties for these crimes are very small, nobody goes away for a long time, and bosses are never brought up on charges. Still, this is terrific seed money to keep them going.

The Mafia is still very big on Wall Street, counterfeit credit cards, and phone scams. But a lot of the most recent action has been in the suburbs, where the theory is the local police departments don't have the expertise to stop them.

FORMING THE MAFIA

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Is there a fundamental difference between the Mafia and other types of organized crime?

SELWYN RAAB: We've always had organized crime groups – you had Irish and German gangs on the Bowery, Jewish bootleggers, the Italians, and so on. To oversimplify, prohibition changed all these gangs from street thugs to executives. The money was so big that they could expand, and when prohibition ended, they had big organizations to go into different things like labor racketeering.

But the Italians had a business genius named Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano saw the handwriting on the wall – prohibition was going to end, and what were gangs going to do for loot? He also saw the lack of a central organization. Luciano had a major convention [of Italian gangs] in Chicago in 1931, and said we can't have fights among ourselves anymore, because it's bad for business. He turned the Italian gangs into a semi-military organization based on what had been going on in Sicily, where each family had a boss, underboss, consigliere, and soldiers.

If you knocked out the leaders of the Jewish or Irish gangs, they dissolved, because there was no military setup. But Luciano set up the Mafia so that the individual is secondary to the organization; the theory was that the organization had to survive at any cost. If the boss died or was arrested, the organization replaced him, and he set up another hierarchy.

To stop disputes between families, Luciano created something called the Commission comprised of representatives from each of the five New York families. Immediately, they had more power than anyone else in the country.

Luciano also urged the Mafiosi to diversify their activities. Instead of having just gambling or loan sharking as other gangs did, they went into labor racketeering. They were a mirror image of capitalism: whatever works.

That distinction still exists today. The Mafia has such a lot going for it. The Latin Americans – Columbians and Mexicans – are into one thing: narcotics. They don't have the know-how to do these other kinds of crimes. Same thing with the Asian gangs, the Chinese. They may be involved in smuggling immigrants, or do shake down rackets on stores or restaurants in Chinatown and Queens. But they're not involved in other things.

THE IMPACT OF ORGANIZED CRIME ON NEW YORK CITY

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Why did New York City's Mafia families have such a disproportionate amount of power within the nationwide Mafia right from the beginning?

SELWYN RAAB: We can thank Benito Mussolini partly for this. The Mafia had always been very strong since it started out in Sicily in the 18th century, where people once thought of them as liberators because they fought against the foreign invaders, protecting the small farmers, peasants, and businessmen. They developed into a tyrannical organization, and they grew very powerful both politically and financially. When Benito Mussolini came into power, he saw them as a threat and started a crackdown. He rounded people up and put them in cages, sent them away for life, or killed them.

Because of this, a lot of the young Mafiosi in the 1920s emigrated to the United States, and the major place they went was New York City. They liked New York. It was very profitable. There was a big Italian American population, bigger than anywhere else. They settled into New York because they were welcomed here.

The curse of New York is that there are still five powerful Mafia families here. In the rest of the country it wasn't that hard to combat the Mafia – you just had to knock off one family and there would be no one around to fill their shoes. Here, if there is a devastating blow to one family, that vacuum can be filled by one of the others. They know if it's a good opportunity, and they'll take advantage of it.

PHILIP ANGELL: In New York City organized crime families were involved in a lot of very public rackets – the trash business, the construction business, the ready-mix concrete business. These were pretty open secrets for a long time. Do you have any sense of why this was tolerated by the political, financial, and law enforcement establishment?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, one major reason was that J. Edgar Hoover didn't want the FBI to do anything with the mob. They didn't do anything until after his death in 1972.

I started as a reporter in New York in the 1960s on the education beat. I was working for a year when there was a big scandal: schools were falling apart. I was assigned to the story and found so many connections. There were secret Mafia partners to all these construction firms that were allowing ceilings to collapse, and building shoddy buildings. There was a big investigation, and eventually the city got rid of some of the people who worked for the Board of Education and banned some of the contractors. But they never went after the Mafia.

So I started asking around: Why don't you do anything about the Mafia? "It's too hard," I was told. But the real reason was that the Mafia was paying off the politicians and the judges. Every stone you turned up in this town had to do with the Mafia. Garbage, the fish market, you name it.

Also, when you talked to mayors off the record they'd say: 'everything runs smoothly now. If you fool around with the construction industry, there will be a strike. If you do anything about trying to regulate the garbage industry, they won't pick up the garbage. If you try to do anything about the fish market, restaurants won't get any fish. Leave well enough alone. They're not bothering anybody.'

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Can you point to any industries that the Mafia ruined or ran out of town?

SELWYN RAAB: I used to speak to people in the garment center, and they said you had a choice: either you get protection from the mob, or you sign up with the union and pay the union dues. The union will let you be non-union, but you have to be hooked up with some family. In fact, the corrupt unions were getting part of the payoffs.

There were mob families running all the trucking in the garment center – the Colombos and the Luccheses. You couldn't be an independent trucker and go into the garment center. You'd have flat tires, and your drivers would be beaten up. These weren't the only reasons – there were runaway industries for cheaper labor elsewhere, too– but they added an extra inducement. Why bother?

It wasn't just the garment industry. Garbage haulers wouldn't come into New York because they knew it wasn't worth the effort. If you came in you'd be shaken down, and if you didn't pay them off there would be a strike, because they controlled the Teamsters on the garbage locals.

A lot of fish wholesalers wouldn't come into New York for many years. They would rather go to New England, or the big fish markets in Baltimore, where they wouldn't have this trouble.

PHILIP ANGELL: And the important thing to remember is that it was underwritten by violence, no matter what industry.

ROMANTICIZING THE MOB

GOTHAM GAZETTE: Why do people have such a romantic view of this?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, that's Hollywood. American entertainers have always had a vicarious love affair with criminals. They're interesting people; you're more interested in rogues than good guys. Do you want to do a story about the founder of the Red Cross or Salvation Army? No one is too interested in that.

One of my pet peeves is a movie like the Godfather, where we set up the idea that there are good Mafiosi and bad Mafiosi. Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, he's a white hat, a good guy cowboy. At one point, he's opposed to narcotics, and as a result there's an attempt on his life by the bad Mafiosi. But who wins? The good guys. They try to create this image that it's not so simple, that you can identify with them.

I don't watch the Sopranos every week, but when I do watch what I see is a soap opera not about a mob family, but a dysfunctional suburban family. If you're a middle-aged man, you can easily identify with Tony Soprano. His kids are rebelling against him, his wife is smarter than him and wants to leave him, he doesn't have the old time loyalty when he goes to the office anymore. He has all these midlife crises, even though he lives in a mini mansion, has a harem of beauties throwing themselves at him, and he's got big cars and all the money in the world. Yet he's got these crises; you can sympathize with him. You don’t see him for the most part killing people.

You get a vicarious kick out of watching these people. Look at the great lives they lead: they sleep late, they don't have to go to work, they make a lot of money, they have a lot of woman friends. It looks good.

There's one other aspect which I think is a subtext to all of this, which makes these movies popular and is why people romanticize the Mafia: they're antiestablishment. In the Godfather, they talk about how the Italian Americans couldn't get a break. They had to become a government onto themselves, because the WASP establishment wouldn't allow them to become bankers or big businessmen. You can see it also in the Sopranos. His father was a laborer. What a choice: drive a truck for a living, or could he work for the mob and make a lot of money, be comfortable, take care of your family?

GOTHAM GAZETTE: But how much of that is true?

SELWYN RAAB: Well, I've talked to a few made men. They always rationalized what they did and why they did it. But they have always been into anything that will bring them money.

Thanks to the GOTHAM GAZETTE

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today's Mafia Upholds Nickname Traditions

In size, wealth and influence, today's Cosa Nostra doesn't match the Mafia of days gone by, Mob historians Jerry Capeci and Selwyn Raab say. However, there's one area in which modern Mafiosi are upholding a proud tradition of organized crime tradition nicknames.

Here are a few recent examples of Mafia nicknames and the inspiration for them, according to Mob historians and federal court records:

"Mikey Y." — for Michael Yannotti, a convicted associate of the Gambino family. Easier than saying his last name.

"Mikey Scars" — for Michael DiLeonardo, an acknowledged Gambino family member and government witness. From scars he received in a childhood accident.

"Vinny Gorgeous" — for Vincent Basciano, an acknowledged Bonanno family member. He owned a hair salon in the Bronx, N.Y.

"Richie from the Bronx" — for Richard Martino, a convicted Gambino family member. Apparently used to distinguish him from the many other Richies involved with the Mob.

"Good Lookin' Sal" — for Salvatore Vitale, an acknowledged Bonanno family member and government witness. Court records indicate he came up with the name himself and urged underlings to use it.

"Louie Bagels" — for Louis Daidone, a convicted member of the Lucchese family. He owned a bagel shop in Queens, N.Y.

"Gaspipe" — for Anthony Casso, an acknowledged Lucchese member and government witness. Referred to his tool of choice for his work as a Mob enforcer.

"Tony Ducks" — for Anthony Corallo, convicted member of the Lucchese family. He was known for his ability to duck subpoena servers.

"Phil Lucky" — for Philip Giaccone, a convicted Gambino family member. The name was unintentionally ironic; he was assassinated by a rival.

"Kid Blast" — for Albert Gallo, a convicted member of the Gambino family. He was known for enjoying parties.

"Nicky Eye Glasses" — for Nicholas Marangello, a convicted member of the Bonanno family. His glasses were very thick.

"Jackie Nose" — for John D'Amico, a convicted Gambino family member. Self-explanatory.

"The Chin" — for Vincent Gigante, a convicted member of the Genovese family. From "Cinzini," the nickname his mother gave him.

"Patty the Pig" — for Patrick DeFilippo, accused in a federal indictment of being a member of the Bonanno family. This was the pre-diet nickname for a Bronx man who used to weigh roughly 300 pounds.

"Patty from the Bronx" — DeFilippo's post-diet nickname.

Sources: Mob historians Jerry Capeci of Ganglandnews, Selwyn Raab, author of Five Families; defense lawyer Richard Levitt; federal court papers

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Grandy Jury Indicts 32 New York Mobsters

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Liborio Bellomo, Ralph Coppola, Michael "Chunk" Londonio, John "Buster" Ardito, Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello, Gambino Crime Family, Junior Gotti

The acting boss of the city's most powerful crime family and 31 others are charged in a new indictment with racketeering crimes, including murder, extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering, authorities announced Thursday.

The indictment "delivers an absolute body blow" to the Genovese family's structure, said FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon. He said 30 people had been arrested. The 42-count indictment unsealed Thursday accuses the defendants of engaging in criminal activity for more than a decade.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia also released details about a corrupt lawyer whom he said had enabled the family's acting boss to order a murder from prison and direct other crimes. The lawyer, Peter J. Peluso, pleaded guilty last summer, admitted his role in the murder and agreed to cooperate against his client, Liborio S. Bellomo. Bellomo was charged with authorizing the 1998 murder of Ralph Coppola, a former Genovese soldier and acting capo, as part of a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy involving violent extortion, drug dealing, firearms trafficking and murder.

The arrests follow a three-year investigation into the family's activities in the Bronx, Harlem and the Westchester County suburbs north of the city.

Garcia said Peluso pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, admitting participation in numerous crimes, including extortion and obstruction of justice, as he shuttled important messages between family members, some of whom were in prison. He said he carried one message from Bellomo sanctioning Coppola's murder, Garcia said.

The prosecutor said the brazen nature of the crime family was demonstrated in December, when authorities went to arrest Michael "Chunk" Londonio. He fired shots at New York State troopers, wounding two of them, before being killed in the return fire. "I would look at the Londonio shooting as the best example we have of the public safety threat organizations like this pose," Garcia said. "It adds to an overall impression of violence, viciousness reaching the streets of our community."

The indictment and court papers related to Peluso's guilty plea were unsealed in the same Manhattan courthouse where John Gotti Jr., whose father headed the Gambino crime family, was on trial for allegedly arranged the kidnapping of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. A similar indictment last year charged members of the Gambino family with racketeering.

Others indicted by the grand jury include longtime Genovese captain John "Buster" Ardito and Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, who oversaw a large cocaine distribution network in New York, according to the indictment.

Ardito, Balsamo and others also are charged with attempting to tamper with several witnesses, including one who had his ear partially bitten off in a fight with a Genovese soldier.

The Justice Department has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty for Bellomo. There have only been three federal executions since 1977 versus more than 940 by the states in that time, Justice Department data show.

Federal agents say Bellomo is one of a string of chiefs to run the Genovese mafia family since the 1992 arrest of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who dominated the mafia for most of the 1980s and 1990s before dying in prison last year.

Last July, 20 Genovese members were indicted in New York on racketeering charges in a separate case including another reputed acting boss, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello. A month later, 14 accused Genovese family members were indicted in New Jersey.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dramatic mob trials still fill the seats

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Gambino Crime Family, Peter Gotti, Colombo Crime Family, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Lucchese Crime Family, Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea, Bonanno Crime Family, Joseph "Big Joe" Massino, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Organized crime may be on the decline, but Mafia trials are getting as much attention as ever.

In New York City alone, three upcoming federal prosecutions are targeting La Cosa Nostra, the Italian-American crime syndicate made famous by The Godfather books and films, and the HBO series The Sopranos. Defendants include John A. Gotti, son of John J. Gotti, the "Dapper Don" who died in federal prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors hope to try alleged mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 76, and 10 alleged associates later this year for conspiracy to commit at least 18 unsolved murders, some dating back more than 30 years.

The cases all have the ruthlessness, and the color, that America has come to expect from the Mob.

First, there are the names. "Vinny Bionics," "Jackie Nose," "Mikey Scars," "Louie Electric" and "Skinny Dom," are among the characters who appear in court papers filed in the New York cases.

Then, there are the details. One case features an apparent first: the boss of a New York City crime family who, court papers say, "wore a wire" to secretly record conversations that were used to bring charges against other members. In another, two former New York City police detectives are accused of accepting thousands of dollars to carry out or aid seven Mafia-related slayings.

The public and the media are sure to be watching. Last month, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for Lombardo's first court appearance. Lombardo, who got his nickname by making jokes during legal proceedings, had disappeared soon after he was indicted and was on the lam for nine months before he was captured in a Chicago suburb Jan. 13.

Mafiosi "are not as large and as powerful as they once were, but they can still draw a crowd," says Jerry Capeci, organized crime specialist for Ganglandnews.com and author and co-author of six books on the Mob. "And let's face it, (Mob trials) are a lot more colorful than, what, Enron and like that."

Defendants in all of the Mafia cases have pleaded not guilty.

In Chicago, Lombardo and his associates are charged with plotting to kill a potential grand jury witness. They're also charged in the June 1986 killings of Chicago organized crime figure Tony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael, who were beaten, then buried alive in a cornfield. The episode was fictionalized in Casino, a 1995 movie in which actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro.


MAFIA CONVICTIONS AT A GLANCE
During the past nine years, federal and local prosecutors in New York City have secured convictions and prison sentences for defendants they described as the bosses or acting bosses of all five of the city's Mafia "families."
Family Boss Conviction Sentence
Genovese Vincent "Chin" Gigante Racketeering (1997) 12 years (died in prison, 2005)
Gambino Peter Gotti Conspiracy; money laundering (2003) 9 1/2 years
Colombo Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico Racketeering (2003) 13 years
Luchese Steven "Stevie Wonder" Crea Construction bid rigging (2004) 3 to 6 years
Bonanno Joseph "Big Joe" Massino Multiple murders (2005) Life


In federal court in Brooklyn, testimony is scheduled to begin Feb. 22 in the murder, racketeering, bookmaking and extortion trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, 46. Court papers describe him as the acting head of the Bonannos, one of five Mob "families" in New York City. Since mid-January, jury selection has been going on in secret to protect potential jurors' identities, court spokesman Robert Nardoza said.

Basciano, whose nickname, Capeci says, derived from a Bronx beauty parlor Basciano once owned, is charged with killing a Mob associate and plotting two other slayings. Patrick "Patty from the Bronx" DeFilippo, 66, an alleged Bonanno capo, or crime crew chief, is accused of killing another family associate.

Both men also face gambling, loan sharking and extortion charges. The charges are based in part on secret recordings made by convicted Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, 66, in January 2005, when he and Basciano met in a detention center in New York City, court papers say.

Basciano, awaiting trial, was unaware that Massino — who was awaiting sentencing for a racketeering conviction — had agreed to work for the FBI, Basciano's attorneys say in court papers.

"That's huge," says Ronald Kessler, who has written two books on the FBI. "Getting a family leader to wear a wire is something that's never happened before. It should make for very interesting testimony."

One of the most interested parties might be DeFilippo, Basciano's co-defendant and, according to prosecutors, his fellow Bonanno family member.

Transcripts of the tapes in court papers indicate that Basciano asked Massino, the family leader, for permission to "jocko" — Mob slang for kill — DeFilippo in a dispute over money and Basciano's leadership style. "I have a problem living in the same world as this guy," Basciano said of DeFilippo, the court papers say.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the retrial of John A. Gotti in federal court in Manhattan. Gotti, 41, called "Junior" in court papers, is charged with ordering the kidnapping and non-fatal shooting of Curtis Sliwa, a New York City radio talk-show host and founder of the Guardian Angels citizen-patrol group. Sliwa was abducted by Gambino family crime members under Gotti's control in 1992, prosecutors allege, because Gotti was upset by Sliwa's criticism of his father. When Gotti was first tried in September, jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on the kidnapping and extortion and loan-sharking charges. He was found not guilty of securities fraud. His attorneys disputed prosecutors' claims that he is boss of the crime family his father once led. They said he had severed his ties with organized crime.

The younger Gotti was convicted of racketeering in 1999 and was imprisoned for six years.

This week, Judge Shira Scheindlin turned down Gotti's request that Sliwa not be allowed to criticize him on Sliwa's show during the trial. Gotti said Sliwa's comments could unfairly influence jurors.

On Feb. 21, also in federal court in Brooklyn, jury selection is scheduled to begin in the murder and racketeering trial of former New York City police detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, are charged with accepting up to $4,000 a month in the 1980s and early 1990s to give members of the Luchese crime family information on police surveillance and help them find the targets of seven family-ordered hits.

The retired detectives also are accused of fatally shooting a Mafia member who had agreed to turn over information to the government.

Jack Weinstein, the judge in the case, has asked for a larger courtroom to accommodate crowds.

"They don't get better than this," Capeci says.

Thanks to Richard Willing

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Few heads at Chin Funeral

Friends of ours: Vincent "Chin" Gigante, John Gotti, Mario Gigante, Genovese Crime Family, Frank Costello

Pallbearers carry a coffin with the body of former Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante out of St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Village after a simple service attended by few mobsters. There were no garish floral arrangements yesterday and only a few shiny limos with refrigerator-size guys. Hardly a capo showed up. Mostly, the funeral of the legendary Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante was a quiet reminder of an Old World Greenwich Village that is disappearing day by day.

Gigante, after all, was an underworld dinosaur, an old-time gangster who dodged prison for decades by shuffling unshaven about the Village in a bathrobe, muttering that Jesus was his lawyer. His final tribute reflected the fallen state of the Mafia, with hardly any mobsters seen paying their final respects at the St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan St.

It was a modest affair, nothing like the 2002 funeral for mob boss John Gotti, when 19 open-air cars packed with flowers paraded about Queens.

The attendees mainly were family and friends, including Gigante's brother, Mario, a reputed captain in the Genovese family, Gigante's wife, Olympia, and several of his children.

The service was held a few blocks down Sullivan St. from the tiny apartment where Gigante lived for years with his mother. It was presided over by another of his brothers, the Rev. Louis Gigante.

Rev. Gigante, who stood by his sibling even after Vincent had admitted the crazy act was just that, did his best to preserve the image of his brother as a man misunderstood. "The world had a different view of him through the media," he declared. "But we, his family, his friends, the people of Greenwich Village, me, his brothers, his mother and father, we all knew him as a gentle man, a man of God."

To a church three-quarters full, the priest presented the powerful gangster as a lonely throwback wedded to his rapidly changing neighborhood. "Vincent never traveled," the priest said. "He was always on Sullivan St., walking and helping others, neglecting himself."

No mention was made of Gigante's status as Godfather of the most powerful crime family in America. No one recalled that Gigante once parted the hair of mobster Frank Costello with a bullet, shouting, "This one's for you, Frank!"

Instead there was the story of a 77-year-old man dying alone in a prison somewhere in the Midwest, neglected. As the priest saw it, the government that pursued his brother for decades finally did him in. "In the eight years Vincent was in prison, I visited him 19 times. There wasn't a day he didn't suffer," said Rev. Gigante. "He did his time like a man. He was going to come home. He was dying to come home. But he couldn't. They allowed him to die."

Then the white-gloved pallbearers did their job, carrying the coffin piled high with red and white poinsettias down the aisle and into the pre-Christmas chill.

In the end, Vincent (Chin) Gigante emerged from his childhood church, carried out into a Village the old mob boss would have barely recognized.

Thanks to Greg Smith

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Remembering the PJ Don

Friends of ours: Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Genovese Crime Family, John Gotti, Paul Castellano, Gambino Crime Family. Thomas Eboli, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Phillip Lombardo, Mario Gigante

Vincent "Chin" Gigante, boss of the Genovese crime family, who was noted for walking the streets of the Village near his Sullivan St. social club dressed in pajamas and bathrobe and mumbling to himself, died in a federal prison hospital in Missouri on Dec. 19 at the age of 77. He was serving a 12-year sentence for racketeering, conspiring to kill the late John Gotti for Gotti's role in the unsanctioned killing of the Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano, and for obstructing justice by pretending - successfully for three decades - to be mad in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Gigante died of an apparent heart attack at 5:15 a.m. in the same Springfield, Mo., federal prison medical center where Gotti and other underworld bosses died.

He was a promising light-heavyweight boxer whose ring career in the 1940s was managed by Thomas Eboli, a reputed mobster. Impressed by Gigante's 21 boxing wins, the mob boss Vito Genovese took him under his wing. A doorman at The Majestic apartments on Central Park West identified Gigante as the shooter in the 1957 attempted assassination of the crime lord Frank Costello, whom Genovese was trying to supplant. Costello survived the shooting but refused to identify Gigante and the charges were dropped.

Gigante rose in the Genovese family and in 1985 became the boss, succeeding Philip Lombardo, according to a Daily News article. But Chin began his bizarre and deceptive behavior as early as 1969 when he was first hospitalized for psychiatric examination. He finally gave up the mad act in 2003 after federal investigators found prison witnesses who heard Gigante speaking very sanely on the telephone, according to a Daily News article

Gigante got his nickname because his mother called him Vincenzo (pronounced Vinchenzo). Born March 29, 1928, he was the third of five brothers. His mother moved into the Mitchell-Lama co-op at 505 LaGuardia Pl., and Gigante - who always had an apartment of his own in the South Village - frequently visited there until she died a few years ago.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who grew up in 505 LaGuardia Pl. and still lives there, said it was known that Gigante often came by the apartment of his mother, who spoke little English and was affectionately regarded in the building. "He spent quite a bit of time visiting his mother, both visiting and overnight," Gerson said. "He was a frequent, regular visitor, until he went out of town, so to speak."

Neighbors reportedly knew the building was sometimes under surveillance by federal agents and that Gigante brought associates there for meetings. The apartment is now home to a surviving brother, Reverend Louis Gigante, a retired priest, former Bronx councilmember and director of a Bronx nonprofit housing organization.

An older brother, Mario, 80, reputed to be an elder in the Genovese crime family, also survives. Vincent Gigante leaves five children that he had with his wife, Olympia, and three more children he had with another woman, Olympia Esposito.

Thanks to Albert Amateau

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Vincent "The Chin" Gigante Dies

Friends of ours: Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Genovese Crime Family

US mob boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who avoided jail for decades by wandering Manhattan streets in a ratty bathrobe and slippers as part of an elaborate feigned mental illness, has died in prison. He was 77.

Mafioso Gigante died at the US Medical Centre for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, early today, said prison spokesman Al Quintero. "The cause of death is currently unknown. He had a history of coronary disease."

Dubbed the "Oddfather" for his bizarre behaviour, the former Genovese crime family head, an ex-boxer whose lengthy string of victories over prosecutors ended with a July 1997 racketeering conviction, finally admitted his insanity ruse at an April 2003 court hearing.

After nearly a quarter-century of public craziness, Gigante calmly pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his deception. He then chatted amiably with his son, shook hands with defence lawyers and even laughed at one point.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Mafia case that matters

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Gambino Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Peter Gotti, George Barone, Lawrence Ricci
Friends of mine: Harold Daggett, Arthur Coffey

Harold Daggett, of Sparta, will likely find out in the next few days which story a federal jury in Brooklyn believes: that he is a hardworking mechanic who worked his way up the ranks of the waterfront union, or — as the U.S. government says — that he is a "longtime associate" of organized crime. If the jury opts for the latter, Daggett, a 59-year-old father of three, could be headed to prison for up to 20 years.

After hearing the case for seven weeks in U.S. District Court, jurors spent all day Thursday deliberating and will return Monday morning to continue. Lawyers in the case hope they will reach a verdict by midweek. Daggett, the assistant general organizer of the International Longshoreman's Association, was indicted last year along with fellow executive Arthur Coffey, of Florida. Both are charged with extortion conspiracy and fraud for allegedly steering lucrative union contracts to mob-controlled businesses.

It's the latest offensive aimed at rooting out Mafia corruption on the docks — something the government has been trying to do for decades, since Marlon Brando starred in the 1954 film "On the Waterfront." Only now, the goal might be in sight.

Control of the docks has historically been shared by two of the "five families" of the New York Mafia — with the Genovese family in Manhattan, New Jersey and South Florida, and the Gambino family in Brooklyn and Staten Island. With the bosses of both families, Vincent "Chin" Gigante and Peter Gotti, along with other prominent mobsters, now in prison, prosecutors have turned to the allegedly corrupt officials who did their bidding for decades. "This is a big case," a well-known mob expert said Friday. "They've got all the gangsters, (and) this is a particularly important follow-up or complement to that."

On the heels of the current criminal case, the government also has filed a civil lawsuit against the ILA seeking to have just about every current executive permanently barred from union activity. Court-appointed monitors would then oversee new union elections.

Roslynn Mauskopf, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the lawsuit "seeks — once and for all — to end mob domination of this important labor union and put its future back into the hands of the rank-and-file members it was designed to serve."

The mob expert, who agreed to be quoted in this article on the condition that his name not be used, said the outcome of the Daggett-Coffey case may determine how the government will fare in the civil case — often called a "civil RICO" after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. "Once (the feds) can convict these honchos, it'll go a long way toward establishing their civil case," the expert said. "This'll be like icing on the cake."

Coffey's defense attorney, Gerald McMahon — who in his opening statement called the case a politically-motivated attempt by the Justice Department to take over the union — said essentially the same thing. "Everybody knows that if they get a criminal conviction, it makes the civil RICO a slam dunk," McMahon said.

The core of the government's case is a meeting six years ago at a Miami Beach steakhouse between ILA president John Bowers and Genovese soldier George Barone. Coffey allegedly brought Bowers to the meeting. Bowers later recalled the encounter in a sworn deposition before the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. "You're doing a wonderful job," he said Barone told him. "We hope you stay forever. But if you ever leave, I would like to see Harold Daggett become president."

Bowers had been backing a Texas man not controlled by the Genovese family to be his successor, and Barone was there to let him know that was not a good idea, the government says. When asked by investigators how he responded, Bowers was matter-of-fact: "I am alone, one-on-one. I know of his reputation; I am not going to ask a lot of questions. I am figuring now how the hell to get out of the place."

Barone, 81, who has admitted murdering at least 10 people in his decades as a mobster, became an informant to avoid prison after a 2001 arrest, and is now the star witness for the prosecution. How reliable the jurors found Barone, and several other turncoats who testified in the trial, could be the deciding factor in their verdict.

The case may also rest on how reliable they found Daggett himself, who took the stand in his own defense during the trial's final week and denied that he even knows any mobsters — except, of course, for George Barone, who he said once held a gun to his head when he was trying to move his local out of Manhattan. "There is no mob in my local," Daggett testified.

Daggett, a third-generation dockworker who now earns almost a half-million dollars between his two jobs as the ILA assistant general organizer and president of the North Bergen local, lives in a gated mansion set back from a neighborhood of small-by-comparison three-garage homes on Green Road in Sparta. He is a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church and has been portrayed in his defense as an upstanding member of the community who fights for the rights of his laborers.

Daggett's lawyer, George Daggett — his cousin and the former Sussex County prosecutor — called the government's case an "anti-union prosecution" in his three-hour closing argument last week. "I'm pleased with the way the case went in," George Daggett said Friday. He added that he was pleased with what he saw as positive reactions, from some jurors, to his impassioned summation.

The case has had its unexpected twists. In the past two months, for instance, the number of defendants has dwindled from four to two. Or, if you will, 2 1/2.

A third ILA executive, Albert Cernadas — who also headed the union local in Port Newark — was named in a superseding indictment earlier this year but pleaded guilty a week before the trial began to a reduced conspiracy charge. Under the plea deal, he agreed to sever all ties with the union and will likely avoid significant prison time. Then, halfway through the trial, another defendant, a reputed Genovese captain named Lawrence Ricci, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Published reports cited investigative sources as saying they believed he had been killed by his fellow gangsters. However, Ricci remains merely "missing" in the eyes of the law, and he is still technically a defendant in the case. The judge in the case has instructed the jury not to draw any "negative inference" from his absence.

Thanks to BRENDAN BERLS

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Reputed Genovese family members indicted

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Matty "The Horse" Ianniello, Ciro Perrone, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante

Twenty people, including reputed members of the Genovese organized crime family, have been arrested and charged with wide-ranging racketeering counts, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan announced Thursday.

Among the arrested were Matthew Ianniello, an acting Genovese family boss nicknamed "Matty the Horse," and Ciro Perrone, a Genovese capo, said David Kelley, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

All were charged with labor racketeering, extortion, a large-scale loan-sharking operation and the operation of illegal gambling businesses, according to a statement released by Kelley's office.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of extorting a medical center that rented office space from a transit union, enforcing loans at extortionate rates of interest, and operating illegal card games.

Prosecutors said Ianniello rose to the position of an acting boss of the Genovese family after the imprisonment of longtime boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. Perrone took over Ianniello's role as capo, they said.

All defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in Manhattan federal court, said Heather Tasker of the U.S. attorney's office.

Monday, April 27, 1998

A Who's Who, and Who's Where, of Mafia Families

Although six leaders of the Genovese crime family were convicted of racketeering last year, investigators still rank the Genoveses as the nation's most potent and insulated Mafia faction. The family is said to be the largest gang, with 200 to 250 ''made,'' or inducted, members and almost 1,000 associates -- people who assist the family's underworld operations.

Joseph J. Coffey, the former commanding officer of New York State's Organized Crime Task Force and a consultant to the New Jersey and Nevada gambling commissions, described the Genovese family, with its extensive network of gambling and loan-sharking operations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as ''the Ivy League of the underworld,'' referring to its reputation among law enforcement officials as the most successful organized-crime family.

Federal and state officials have identified Dominick V. Cirillo, a longtime capo, or captain, as the acting Genovese boss. They say Mr. Cirillo, 68, of the Bronx, took over last year in the wake of the racketeering conviction and imprisonment of Vincent Gigante, 70, his predecessor.

Law enforcement analysts see the Gambino crime family as the area's second-most-powerful group. But they say its influence has been undermined by a spate of convictions of its leaders and the defection of a former underboss, Salvatore Gravano.

John J. Gotti, 57, the family boss, is serving a life sentence without parole for murder and racketeering, and his son, John A. Gotti, 34, who Federal and state officials say was appointed as the acting boss by his father six years ago, is being held without bail, awaiting trial on racketeering, fraud and extortion charges.

Investigators identify John J. D'Amico, 63, a Gambino capo with homes in Hillsdale, N.J., and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as the family's primary leader. Mr. D'Amico's prestige, the authorities say, increased after the indictment in January of the younger Mr. Gotti, and the conviction and imprisonment last year of Nicholas Corozzo, 58, another high-ranking capo.

J. Bruce Mouw, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Gambino squad, said that although the younger Gotti has the title of acting boss, the family actually has been run by a committee consisting of Mr. D'Amico, Mr. Corozzo and Peter Gotti, a capo who is John J. Gotti's brother. John J. Gotti's attempt to oversee the family from a Federal prison in Marion, Ill., floundered, Mr. Mouw asserted. ''They are in a sad state,'' he said. ''They have no real boss, no underboss and no consigliere.''

As a sign of the Gambinos' problems, law enforcement agents note that its crews -- units led by capos -- are down to 12 from a high of 21, and that active soldiers now number about 150, compared with 250 in 1986 when John J. Gotti seized power.

Although overall mobster influence appears to be declining, the authorities believe that the Bonanno family has gained strength and is approaching the Gambinos as the country's second-most-dangerous Mafia faction.

The Bonanno organization, the authorities say, has 100 active members and is the only New York family with an active boss, Joseph C. Massino, 55, of Howard Beach, Queens. And, unlike other mob families, it has no top leaders in prison or under indictment.

Murderous family disputes, turncoats and numerous convictions have severely weakened the Lucchese and Colombo crime families in the last decade, investigators say. Each group is estimated to have about 120 members and is led by acting bosses and committees. Joseph A. DeFede, 64, a capo from Howard Beach, is the temporary Lucchese chief, and Andrew Russo, 63, of Old Brookville, N.Y., who is in jail for parole violations, is the Colombo family's acting boss.

In describing the Mafia's gradual decline in the area, Robert T. Buccino of the New Jersey Attorney General's office said that in 1969, the apparent peak of the mob's influence, more than 200 Mafia capos and soldiers flourished in the state. Today, he said, the number of active New Jersey mobsters is about 20.

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

Sunday, September 03, 1995

Genoveses Surpass Gambinos as Most Powerful New York Crime Family

With John Gotti and scores of other organized-crime members behind bars, law enforcement officials say that New York's mob families are undergoing a major power realignment, elevating to the top rung of the Mafia a man who is best known for walking around his neighborhood in his pajamas.

Federal and state officials say that since Mr. Gotti, the head of the Gambino family, was convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992, the rival Genovese organization has supplanted the Gambino family as the most powerful Mafia group in New York and the nation. The shift has placed significant power in the hands of Vincent Gigante, the boss of the Genovese family and now the decisive voice on the Mafia's commission, the group that sets mobster policies and resolves disputes.

Since Mr. Gotti, 54, began serving a life sentence without parole, the officials say, he has been confined away from the general inmate population and his communications outside of prison have been closely monitored. As a result, his hold on the Gambino family has loosened and the crime organization has fallen into disarray, lacking firm leadership. The family's ranks have been whittled in the last five years to about 200 active members from 400, according to Federal and state investigators who work on organized-crime cases.

The Genovese family, on the other hand, has 300 members and a hierarchy relatively unscathed by prosecutions, making it the country's strongest Mafia force, Federal and state law enforcement officials say.

Law enforcement officials emphasize that huge amounts of money are at stake in the shift of power. Mr. Gigante's influence on the commission, the officials say, often allows the Genovese family to harvest the largest shares of revenue in mutual crime ventures with other families. On Friday, a Federal grand jury in Manhattan charged that the Genovese family took a secret bite out of the Feast of San Gennaro, one of the city's most popular street festivals. In a perjury indictment, the grand jury said that Genovese members picked vendors for the feast in lower Manhattan and siphoned off significant amounts of the rents paid for stalls.

Law enforcement officials say that the Genovese family has risen in the wake of the Gambino family's decline, allowing Genovese mobsters to take over some construction and gambling rackets previously dominated by the Gambino faction.

Federal and state officials estimate that New York's five Mafia organizations -- the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Colombo families -- annually take in billions of dollars in illicit profits. City Police Department officials estimate that Mafia groups and people who work for them reap more than $2 billion a year alone in profits from illegal bookmaking and gambling enterprises in the New York area. Salvatore Gravano, the former Gambino underboss, testified that he routinely turned over more than $1 million a year in cash to Mr. Gotti as his share of the family's plunder from extortion in the construction industry.

The Genovese family has created the largest bookmaking and loan-sharking rings in the New York area, the officials say. The family's other major rackets include shakedowns from construction companies for labor peace, control of the Fulton Fish Market and extortion of companies doing business at the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth.

As the head of the Genovese family, the 67-year-old Mr. Gigante presents an unorthodox image for a mob titan. Since the early 1980's, he has been seen strolling sober-faced and bent near his home in Greenwich Village, clad in pajamas and bathrobe and mumbling incoherently.

Federal prosecutors say that Mr. Gigante, by feigning mental illness, has managed for five years to evade trial on charges of racketeering and plotting to murder his rival, Mr. Gotti. "Gigante still remains a very powerful figure in organized crime," said Lewis D. Schiliro, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's criminal division in New York. "We are confident he is the boss of the Genovese family."

New Jersey authorities say the Genovese family has also emerged as the strongest Mafia group in that state. Robert T. Buccino, deputy chief of investigations for the state's Organized Crime Bureau, said that the Genovese family is suspected of being involved in gambling and loan-sharking rings and of extorting kickbacks for labor peace from construction, garbage-removal and trucking companies.

Overall, the authorities say that from informers and wiretaps they have noticed significant shifts in the underworld, including these:

* All five families are reinforcing their ranks in an action they call opening the books. In 1990 they stopped accepting new members because of fears that newcomers could be more vulnerable to Government pressure to become turncoats. Defections and prosecutions, however, have reduced their combined rolls to about 700 active mobsters from 1,000 in the late 1980's, and the godfathers believe it is now safe to admit carefully screened recruits.

* After four years in prison, Mr. Gotti has lost control of the Gambino family. Although he appointed his son, John Jr., 31, as acting boss, the younger Gotti's rank is meaningless, and most Gambino captains are acting on their own authority.

* The Bonanno family has revived and prospered since its boss, Joseph C. Massino, was released three years ago from prison. The family is now almost as strong as the Gambino family.

Along with the Lucchese and Colombo families, the Genovese, Gambino and Bonanno organizations have operated in the region for 60 years and have created the largest and most entrenched mobster stronghold in the country, F.B.I. officials and prosecutors say. And even though Government efforts over the last decade have helped weaken or virtually eliminate most of the 20-odd Mafia families in the country, the organizations in New York have proven more resilient, officials say.

Still, the officials say, they have achieved significant victories against the mob in New York City and its suburbs, severely wounding the Gambino, Lucchese and Colombo families through the convictions of their bosses and their top lieutenants on racketeering charges.

Additionally, prosecutions and civil suits brought since 1990 by Federal prosecutors and the Manhattan District Attorney's office have loosened the Mafia's hold over major unions. The cases disclosed that the five families had a hand in milking union pension and welfare funds and used threats of violence and work stoppages to rig contracts and to extort millions of dollars from companies in the construction, trucking, garbage-carting, garment and newspaper delivery businesses.

Federal and state officials and investigators, however, grudgingly concede that no major figure in the Genovese family has become a turncoat. "Clearly, we have not had the same impact on them as the other families," said Eric Seidel, head of the state's Organized Crime Task Force. "They have hardly been touched."

Mr. Seidel and other officials credit Mr. Gigante's organizational skills and tight security for keeping his family intact.

Mr. Gigante, whose underworld nickname is Chin, relays his orders through a handful of trusted intermediaries, officials said. Secrecy is so intense, they said, that Genovese members are forbidden to mention Mr. Gigante by name and refer to him only by touching or motioning to their chins.

"We've had some bad breaks with the Genovese family," Mr. Schiliro, the F.B.I. official, acknowledged in an interview. "Chin represents a difficult individual for us. We've had him in court a number of times without final success."

Mr. Gigante was indicted in 1990 on Federal charges of bid rigging and extortion, and in 1993 he was accused in a superseding indictment of conspiracy to murder eight organized-crime figures and of plotting to kill Mr. Gotti.

A hearing on his mental and physical ability to stand trial will be held on Sept. 11. Barry Slotnick, Mr. Gigante's lawyer, did not respond to repeated telephone calls for comment on the charges against Mr. Gigante.

As evidence of Mr. Gigante's power, law enforcement officials point to the Gambino family's acceding to his ultimate authority on the Mafia commission even though he is accused of ordering the murders of Gambino leaders. The Federal indictment against Mr. Gigante asserts that he wanted Mr. Gotti and several of his captains killed because they engineered the murder in 1985 of the previous Gambino boss, Paul Castellano.

The decline of the Gambino family, authorities say, stemmed largely from Mr. Gotti's conviction three years ago on Federal charges of murder and racketeering and the life sentence that followed. Investigators say they believe that even Mr. Gotti's most steadfast supporters in the family realize there is faint hope that his conviction will be overturned.

Mr. Gotti is being held in virtual solitary confinement in the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and officials said that his network of receiving information from New York and transmitting instructions has been shattered. Visitors can talk to him only over a monitored telephone, and his mail is inspected. "By not being in the general prison population," a Federal agent said, "it is impossible for him to keep in touch, issue orders and have control over anybody."

Mr. Gotti's son continues to collect the "tribute," a share of the family's income that is reserved for the boss, officials said. But they noted that prison sentences have reduced the number of active family crews to 10 from 22 and sharply cut the Gambino family's income.

While the Gambino family's fortunes have waned, numbers in the once nearly moribund Bonanno family seem to be surging, officials said. Since Joseph Charles Massino, the 52-year-old boss of the family, was released from prison in 1992, the family has mustered 12 active crews and is considered by prosecutors and agents to have become a formidable crime family again.

The Bonanno and the Genovese families, investigators said, are the only New York families operating with a full hierarchy of boss, underboss and consigliere, or counselor, who are not behind bars.

An indication of the importance attached to the regrouping of the Bonanno family is the F.B.I.'s assignment of Bruce Mouw, who headed the squad that dug up the evidence that convicted Mr. Gotti and his chief aides, to direct the unit investigating the Bonanno group.

The Colombo family, which has been shattered by a murderous internal war, also has a new leader. Investigators said that Andrew T. Russo, a capo, or captain, was recently promoted to acting boss by Carmine Persico Jr., the family's boss who is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder.

Federal agents said that a shaky truce exists between two Colombo factions. Mr. Russo is a cousin of Carmine Persico's, and agents believe he may be serving as a caretaker boss until Mr. Persico's son, Alphonse, is installed by his father.

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

Monday, October 21, 1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Selwyn Raab

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