Thursday, April 04, 2019

After Murder of Frank Cali, Who is Boss of the Gambino Crime Family?

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Following the death of Gambino crime boss Frank (Franky Boy) Cali, experts say his successor will have 21st Century issues to deal with.

“Whoever takes over right now is a media magnet,” said Louis Ferrante, a former mobster with the Gambino family whose crew was investigated at one time for some of the most lucrative heists in U.S. history. “Look, you and I are talking about it ... in today’s world, a lot of (mobsters) don’t wanna be bothered with that."

He said it’s possible that whoever is in line for the promotion taps someone else to be the face, while they continue to pull in money from their rackets and influence the family’s operations from the proverbial shadows.

“If I were the underboss I would probably put someone there as a front for me. I would pick someone who’s in my crew that’s close to me,” said Ferrante.

In the days following Cali’s death, a convicted Genovese mobster and a former Gambino hitman -- both turned-informants -- expressed shock over Cali’s murder considering he was known as a non-violent mob boss who ran his crime family like a corporation, according to a USA TODAY report.

Experts say the “to-do” list for whoever takes over could include dealing with Cali’s suspected killer.

Police said Anthony Comello, 24, of Eltingville, smashed into Cali’s car outside the Hilltop Terrace home, then, shot him while the reputed mobster’s wife and children were inside the house. The motive remains unclear, but every theory at this point indicates Cali was targeted by his killer.

Mob experts and law enforcement sources say it’s unlikely the murder was related to organized crime, based on the fact there was no backup car to potentially finish the job in what would have been an ill-conceived plan. And if months or years from now it turns out it was a planned hit, “It was the most brilliant mob hit in the world," said Ferrante.

Sources have described Comello as a “mob-obsessed” conspiracy theorist, while former classmates have described him as aloof in class, but at times a hot-head who got into fights. A New York Times report quoted friends who claimed he wrestled with drug addiction.

Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb has pointed to right-wing hate speech as playing a factor in the incident, while stopping short of saying his client committed the murder.

One name tossed around by law enforcement experts and Mafia historians as a possible successor to Cali is Lorenzo Mannino, a Gambino capo and member of the family’s Sicilian faction. “Mannino is a Brooklyn crew boss who is Sicilian and was heavy in to drug (trade) with Franky Boy,” said Mafia historian Scott Burnstein.

Other names mentioned include Gene Gotti, the brother of John who recently was released from prison after doing 29 years on drug charges. “If I was a member of organized crime today, Gene Gotti would be the greatest boss I could have,” said Ferrante. “He’s a man of men, within the context of that life.”

Experts say the business of La Cosa Nostra has seen better days.

In terms of the drug-trade, New York City’s streets are now dominated by Dominican gangs paying lower prices to Mexican cartels who are able to ship the drugs by land rather than by sea, said James Hunt, formerly of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who worked as an undercover agent in the famous “Pizza Connection” drug case.

That being said, Cali had deep ties with the Sicilian Mafia, which along with Colombian cartels maintain a profitable heroin trade in Europe, said Hunt, which in turn could be a selling point for Cali’s successor.

Stateside, it can get messy when it comes to drugs, said Ferrante. “If you want to get in to that game, your playing with Asians, Russians, Albanians, Colombians,” he said. “There’s only so many pieces to that pie."

A drug trade still exists for mobsters, but more so on a local level -- unlike the 80s when they’d ship in the drugs from Turkey and Sicily, then sell in bulk to mid-level dealers in Harlem, experts said. And while the days of controlling unions and waste companies are all but over, loansharking and extortion continue to provide a steady stream of income.

“They’ll never stop trying to sneak their way back in,” said Hunt. “It’s harder for them to make a living than they used to, but they’re not going to get jobs.” And where there’s reward, there remains risk.

In the months leading up to Cali’s death, an associate of the Bonanno crime family was gunned down in a McDonald’s parking lot by shooters allegedly hired by an Albanian crime outfit.

Days prior to the murder, a reputed mob enforcer in Rhode Island was shot dead in a case with ties to the Gambino family, according to multiple reports.

Thanks to Kyle Lawson.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Anti-Mafia Writer Roberto Saviano, the Author of Gomorra, Threatened with Jail by Italian Government

Roberto Saviano, the anti-mafia writer and campaigner, faces up to three years in prison after being summoned to stand trial on charges of libelling Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

Saviano – who lives under state protection following mafia death threats – has received a summons to stand trial from prosecutors in Rome following a writ for criminal libel issued last summer by Salvini. In Italy, libel at this level falls under the penal, not civil, code.

Saviano told the Observer: “I face trial for my opinions. It’s a form of extortion by Salvini, making a legal target of his critics. Salvini delivers a clear message to anyone who wants to oppose him or investigate political connections to the Mafia. I am the means by which he can communicate his intentions towards everyone else.” The news brought an outcry from literary and journalistic quarters, led by the French publisher Antoine Gallimard, and novelist Salman Rushdie, who told La Repubblica newspaper: “We writers will always stand by Roberto Saviano. We condemn this shameful attack on his rights, yet again.”

Speaking from Paris, Saviano said: “As yet no trial is fixed – justice in Italy is notoriously slow. But we expect to know the date of an initial hearing soon.”

He said that the charge was not a personal one from Salvini, but official: the writ was submitted on ministry-headed paper “and Salvini has asked to be assisted by state lawyers”. The irony is total: the same ministry has been charged with protecting Saviano with an armed escort while on Italian soil, since he was condemned by the Camorra crime syndicate of Naples for his book Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System.

The indictment has its origins in a long-standing duel across cyberspace between Saviano and Salvini, mostly over the latter’s stance on migration; Saviano has repeatedly defended the rights of migrants to land in Italy and supported sanctuary communities and projects, while Salvini has blocked Italian ports to them.

In recent years, Saviano turned to connections between Salvini’s party, La Lega – formerly the Northern League – and Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia syndicates, after the conviction of the league’s former treasurer, Francesco Belsito, for laundering money through the ‘Ndrangheta De Stefano clan, and a miasma of occult and neo-fascist interests. A book was published last month, Il libro nero della Lega – the league’s black book – by Giovanni Tizian and Stefano Vergine, detailing further alleged criminal connections.

In June last year Saviano called Salvini “Il Ministro della Mala Vita” – roughly, minister of the criminal underworld – a phrase deployed in 1910 by anti-fascist intellectual Gaetano Salvemini against the then prime minister Giovanni Giolitti. Salvini responded a month later with the writ, now actioned by prosecutors. He told the Observer: “This indicates an increasing authoritarianism. Salvini is effective prime minister, dangerously converging government and the organisms of state into one.

“The aim is to use the law to neutralise any further opposition, specifically to examine his party’s criminal connections, by menace and fear. The difference between 1910 and now is that then Salvemini was not prosecuted for his opinions, while I’m being taken to trial. The problem is that while Salvini has created consensus, his opponents are fragmented by personal and sectarian divisions.

“Support has been wonderful,” added Saviano, “in France and Mexico, where they have published my articles, Spain, Britain and the US. In Italy it’s much colder – only La Repubblica and other very few intellectuals. Other colleagues have been quieter, partly because they’re tired of me, partly because they’re scared.”

The loudest voices – apart from novelist Erri de Luca – have come from outside Italy: Spanish writers Javier Cercas and Manuel Vilas, Chilean Luis SepĂșlveda, Algerian Kamel Daoud and Americans Erica Jong and Nathan Englander. Other messages have come from British authors Irvine Welsh and Hanif Kureishi, who said: “Freedom of expression no longer exists if a person can be sued for his or her opinions.” The writ, said Kureishi, “deeply offends Italy’s reputation as a European nation of artists, writers and philosophers”. Writers’ institutions have added their condemnation.

Musician John Cale, once of the Velvet Underground, said: “Saviano’s writing is enervating and a moral alert to everyone. The niceties of Italian penal law are too tricky to go into, so I wish him good riddance for the charge.”

Mexican-American Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International, said: “Roberto Saviano has repeatedly risked his life to expose the truth about Italy’s criminal networks… and today he faces up to three years behind bars. Italy should end the use of criminal law in regard to defamation.”

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists issued an alert regarding Saviano’s case, while its programme coordinator for Europe, Gulnoza Said, insisted: “Italy should long ago have scrapped criminal defamation from its books – it has no place in a democracy. We call on Salvini to immediately drop these charges against Roberto Saviano.”

Salvini’s cabinet did not return calls for a statement, but the minister has described his initiative, mysteriously, as “a caress and a lawsuit”. The writ calls Saviano’s posts “detrimental to the honour and reputation of the undersigned and the ministry itself”.

Thanks to Ed Vulliamy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Former Acting Director Fires Back in "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump"

There is no love lost between Donald Trump and Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director (and, briefly, acting director) of the FBI.

During his campaign for president, Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. McCabe, who was in charge of investigating whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server compromised classified information and national security, had a conflict of interest. In exchange for a promise not to indict her, Mr. Trump maintained, Mrs. Clinton had directed Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to transfer $700,000 to the campaign coffers of Mr. McCabe’s wife, who was running for the Virginia state senate.

Mr. Trump continued his tweets against Andrew McCabe from the White House. Not surprisingly, Mr. McCabe believes the president is responsible for a finding by the inspector general that he “lacked candor on four separate occasions.” And for a decision by the attorney general to fire him — 26 hours before his scheduled retirement.

In “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” Mr. McCabe fires back. He devotes most of his book to a review of his career at the FBI, highlighting his role in combating the operations of Russian organized crime on American soil; investigating the Boston Marathon bombing; terrorist threats on New York City subways; the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; Mrs. Clinton’s email server; Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Greater public knowledge of FBI activities, accomplishments and the constitutional constraints under which law enforcement agents operate is urgently necessary, Mr. McCabe emphasizes. By identifying the FBI and the CIA with the “Deep State,” declaring that their leaders are corrupt, incompetent and partisan, and taking the word of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un over experts he has appointed, Mr. Trump, Mr. McCabe asserts, is doing lasting damage to the intelligence-gathering services of the United States.

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” is filled with examples, some familiar, some new, of Mr. Trump’s breaches of propriety and historical norms, lies, mean-spirited behavior and, most important, his interference with investigations, indictments and prosecutions by the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The president was upset, Mr. McCabe reveals, that James Comey was allowed to fly home from Los Angeles after he was fired as FBI director. He demanded that Mr. Comey be forbidden from entering the FBI building to clear out his office.

According to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Trump made the self-evidently unsubstantiated claim that “at least 80 percent” of FBI personnel had voted for him. He stated as well that “so many FBI people” had contacted him to say they were glad Mr. Comey was gone. Such contact, Mr. McCabe points out, would have violated White House policy. And, Mr. McCabe indicates, the president, who demands loyalty to him, asked, “Who did you vote for?”

Some readers, no doubt, will dismiss “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” as an exercise in score settling. After all, it is obvious that Mr. McCabe is not a disinterested observer. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who fired Mr. McCabe, it is worth noting, are skewered in this book as well.

That said, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” should be judged by the credibility (and, where possible, corroboration) of the analysis. And Mr. McCabe concludes with concerns (shared by many) that, in my judgment, should command the attention of readers across the political and ideological spectrum.

Donald Trump did not invent partisanship and polarization. But our country does seem more divided than it’s been for more than a century. And Mr. McCabe provides evidence to support his assertion that the president is “actively pushing” an agenda that encourages his supporters to identify themselves as “the real Americans,” stigmatize others and seek to lock them up, and accept as “facts” only information that is presented by their media outlets.

Mr. McCabe “would love to imagine a future in which we have righted the ship.” But other than endorsing traditional values — obedience to the Constitution, fairness, compassion, individual and institutional integrity, accountability, public service and diversity — he comes up empty. Perhaps we cannot begin until and unless we agree that the threat is real.

Thanks to Glenn Altschuler.

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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Century of Chicago Mob Bosses

A thumbnail history of Chicago's mob leaders. Dates are approximate.

1910
"Big Jim" Colosimo (1910 to 1920). Chicago's vice lord runs brothels and nightspots, shot dead in 1920 at his popular restaurant. Death cleared way for Capone

1920
Johnny Torrio (1920 to 1925). Reserved boss, eschews violence, retires in 1925 after a fouled-up hit leaves him barely alive.

1925
Al Capone (1925 to 1932). Made Chicago mob famous. Perhaps the most successful mob boss ever, the subject of countless books and movies, done in by the IRS for tax evasion.

1932
Frank Nitti (1932 to 1943). With help from Jake Guzik, rebuilds the Outfit after Capone's departure. Commits suicide after he's indicted in 1943.

1943
Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (1943 to 1950). Has a son who's a drug addict and decrees no Outfit member can have anything to do with narcotics trafficking.

1950
Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (1950 to 1957). Considered the most capable Outfit leader ever. Never spends significant time in jail. Always plays key role as adviser, but facing a tax case, he officially hands reins over to ...

1957
Sam "Mooney" Giancana (1957 to 1966). Attends the infamous Apalachin, N.Y., meeting that draws national attention to organized crime, draws even more focus on the Outfit with his flamboyance, shared a girlfriend with JFK, flees country for eight years, slain in 1975 at his Oak Park home.

1966
Sam "Teets" Battaglia (1966). Tough leader who is convicted in federal court same year, dies in prison.

1966
John "Jackie" Cerone (1966 to 1969). Considered one of the smartest underworld figures, a strong leader, then the feds pinch him.

1969
Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio (1969 to 1971). The mob killer is an unpopular leader, then he's convicted of bank fraud.

1971
Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa (1971 to 1986). A Cicero mobster who ran gambling and strip clubs and grows into the job, with help from Accardo, Gus Alex and, later, Cerone. He is convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

1986
Joseph Ferriola (1986 to 1989). Heads the Outfit for only a few years before succumbing to heart problems.

1989
Sam Carlisi (1989 to 1993). Protege to Aiuppa and mentor to James "Little Jimmy" Marcello. Carlisi and his crew are decimated by federal prosecutions.

1997
John "No Nose" DiFronzo (1997 to 2018). Called mob boss by Chicago Crime Commission, but other mob watchers disagree.

2018
Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis (2018 to Current?) Although not official, Solly D is considered by many mafia experts to be one the highest ranking mobster on the streets in Chicago although he has long denied these claims. It is said that his 2nd in command could be convicted mob enforcer, Albert "Albie the Falcon" Vena. Time will tell.


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