Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Judge dismisses wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Whitey Bulger

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the administrator of James "Whitey)"Bulger’s estate, who had argued that prison officials placed the notorious Boston mob boss in harm’s way when they transferred him to a violent federal prison in West Virginia where he was beaten to death in 2018.

In dismissing the lawsuit brought by Mr. Bulger’s nephew, the judge, John Preston Bailey of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, ruled that Congress had given courts little power to intervene in prison housing decisions or to allow prisoners to sue prison officers for damages.

The federal Bureau of Prisons “must provide for the protection, safekeeping, and care of inmates, but this does not guarantee a risk-free environment,” Judge Bailey wrote in the decision, dated Jan. 12. “Decisions about how to safeguard prisoners are generally discretionary.”

Mr. Bulger, who terrorized South Boston for decades, had been serving two life terms for his role in 11 murders when he was killed on Oct. 30, 2018, less than 12 hours after he had been transferred to the Hazelton prison in Bruceton Mills, W.Va., from a prison in Florida.

Cameras caught video images of at least two inmates as they rolled Mr. Bulger, 89, who was in a wheelchair, into a corner, out of the cameras’ view, where he was pummeled with a padlock stuffed inside a sock, law enforcement officials said.

In 2018, a prison official identified one of the suspects as Fotios "Freddy" Geas, a Mafia hit man from West Springfield, Mass., who was serving a life sentence for the killing of a leader of the Genovese crime family.

But more than three years later, no one has been charged in Mr. Bulger’s death. The investigation is “still active and ongoing,” according to Stacy Bishop, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the dismissal of the lawsuit. A bureau spokesman also declined to provide information about the investigation, citing the need to protect security as well as privacy concerns.

Henry Brennan, a lawyer for the estate, said he would immediately appeal the decision.

“We have repeatedly been told nothing about the so-called ongoing investigation or the facts and circumstances that led to this death,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview. “The Bulger family and the public deserve to know the truth about how and why James Bulger’s death was permitted.”

Mr. Bulger, who was accused of playing a role in the killings of 19 people, had spent 16 years on the run until the authorities found him in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., with an arsenal of weapons and $822,000 in cash in the walls of his apartment.

Before being transferred to Hazelton, he had spent several years at Coleman II, a federal prison in Central Florida that was known for housing inmates in need of extra protection. In early 2018, Mr. Bulger had clashed with a medical worker at that prison and was placed in solitary confinement.

At about that time, Mr. Bulger, who had several heart attacks in prison, was expecting to be moved to a medical facility, according to a lawyer for his estate.

Instead, according to The Boston Globe, his medical classification was suddenly lowered by prison authorities, which would have indicated that his health had improved, and which might have made possible the transfer to Hazelton.

In October 2020, William M. Bulger Jr., who is Mr. Bulger’s nephew and the administrator of his estate, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, arguing that his uncle had been “subjected to a risk of certain death or serious bodily injury by the intentional or deliberately indifferent actions” of prison officials.

The lawsuit, which sought $200 million in damages, argued that Mr. Bulger’s “reputation as a mob turncoat and killer of women” had guaranteed that he would have “no shortage of enemies” in the prison system.

The lawsuit described the Hazelton prison as continually understaffed and volatile, with a history of violence, and said that prison officials had “openly admitted” that the prison had a “gang-run” yard. It said the prison was known colloquially as “Misery Mountain.”

The prison “was not an appropriate placement of James Bulger, Jr. and was, in fact, recognized as so inappropriate, the appearance is that he was deliberately sent to his death by” prison officials, the lawsuit said.

The suit infuriated relatives of Mr. Bulger’s victims, who said that it rekindled the pain they had been living with for decades.

Mr. Brennan said that although the lawsuit had sought $200 million in damages, there were numerous liens and judgments on the estate, meaning that any money recovered would have gone to pay outstanding judgments to the families of Mr. Bulger’s victims, and to the Department of Justice.

In his decision dismissing the suit, Judge Bailey said Congress had been “conspicuously vocal” about preventing courts from intervening in prison housing decisions and “conspicuously silent” about allowing prisoners to obtain damages from prison officers.

“Through its frequent legislation in the areas of prison housing and prisoner litigation, Congress had many opportunities to create a damages remedy for situations where a housing decision leads to injury,” Judge Bailey wrote. “But it did not do so. Instead, it has repeatedly limited judicial authority to review B.O.P. housing decisions and to entertain claims brought by prisoners.”


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Genovese associate Johnny Pizza indicted for running illegal sports betting and loan sharking ring

He wanted the dough.

Reputed Genovese crime family associate John “Johnny Pizza” Porcello was indicted in Brooklyn federal court this week for running an illegal sports betting ring and overseeing a loan sharking racket, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

Porcello, 59, raked in the cheese with co-defendant Ronald Seebeck, 56, in the loansharking scheme from September 2016 through August 2021, federal prosecutors charged.

The pair also ran a sports gambling ring of at least five people from 2020 through 2021 that produced more than $2,000 in profits on a given day, the indictment states.

Porcello, of Yonkers, and Seebeck, of Tuckahoe, both pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in Brooklyn federal court and were released on bond, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office said.

If convicted, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the loan sharking charge and five years for the gambling ring.

Porcello, who previously owned a pizzeria in the Bronx, was busted by the feds in 2011 as part of what was billed at the time as the largest mob bust in US history.

The pizzaman was rounded up with 13 fellow wiseguys connected to the Genovese family that year, including several mobsters in the family’s leadership.

Porcello copped to one loan sharking conspiracy count and was sentenced to 13 months in prison, according to court records.

Attorneys for Porcello and Seebeck did not immediately return request for comment.


Friday, January 14, 2022

New podcast set to explore the vicious Roy DeMeo crew from the Gambino crime family


Dominick Montiglio, who was at the center of one of the most vicious mafia crews in history, is telling his mob story.

Montiglio is telling the story of his involvement in the notorious DeMeo Crew, part of the Gambino crime family who became some of New York’s most dangerous hitmen, in eight-part audio series Mafia Tapes from Investigation Discovery (ID).

After spending years trying to escape his birthright and returning from serving in Vietnam, Dominick Montiglio finally succumbs and joins his family’s “business”— the American Cosa Nostra. His job? Keep an eye on the DeMeo Crew. When things go south, Dominick must choose between his oath of loyalty to the Mafia and his own survival.

Mafia Tapes is hosted by Celia Aniskovich, who has worked on TV series including Netflix’s How to Fix a Drug Scandal and Fear City: New York vs the Mafia as well as HBO’s Max’s Beanie Mania as well as launching her own Spy Affair podcast – about alleged Russian spy Maria Butina for Wondery.

In the series, Aniskovich dives into a set of cassette tapes of Dominick’s life’s story: his life working with the infamous DeMeo crew, his crimes, his arrest, and his choice to testify against the mob. But are the tapes the whole story? Now, Aniskovich searches for the truth about human nature and family ties, all wrapped up in Dominick Montiglio telling of his life.

The twist? Montiglio died suddenly during the making of the podcast, days after suffering a stroke.

The series launches on January 17 with episodes released weekly.

Mafia Tapes is produced for ID by Gigantic Pictures, which has produced series such as Netflix’s Sons of Sam and A&E’s The Killing Season. Brian Devine, Brooke Devine, Jason Orans, and Joshua Zeman as executive producers. Ron Simon is executive producer for ID.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Son of Gambino Captain pleads guilty in Long Island Rail Road overtime fraud case


The son of a murderous Queens mobster pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in an MTA overtime scheme that netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Frank Pizzonia, son of reputed Gambino captain Dominick “Skinny Dom” Pizzonia, copped to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in Manhattan federal court for his role in the overtime scheme. 

At the plea hearing, Pizzonia said he conspired with his other defendants to falsify timesheets in 2018 and 2019 to jack up overtime payments he and others received from the MTA. 

“I was not present on the job site,” Pizzonia said of the fraudulent timesheets he submitted to the state agency. 

He received payment for the “work” through a direct deposit he had set up with the MTA, he added. 

Pizzonia, who was hired by the MTA in 1988 and worked as a track worker for the LIRR, schemed with “overtime king” Thomas Caputo and three others “by repeatedly covering for one another’s absences from work,” according to the indictment against them. 

In 2018, Pizzonia raked in a total of $305,477. Caputo, his co-defendant, netted $461,000 that year, making him the agency’s top earner. 

The five defendants will have to pay restitution of more than $100,000 as part of their sentences for the scheme. 

Pizzonia, 54, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 4. His attorney, Joseph Corozzo, did not return a request for comment.  

The elder Pizzonia served a 15-year prison sentence for plotting the murder of a couple who allegedly robbed his social club in 1992. He was sprung from prison in 2019.

After his son’s arrest on the LIRR caper in February 2021, Skinny Dom answered the door at his house in Queens and told a Post reporter asking to speak with his son to “Fuhgeddaboudit!”


Renee Graziano from Mob Wives is grateful to be alive after recent DUI arrest


Renee Graziano is “grateful to be alive” after crashing her car into a parked SUV on Staten Island.

The “Mob Wives” star, who was arrested for DUI, addressed the accident on Instagram Wednesday after she was released from police custody and immediately clarified that “no one was involved in the accident but me no one was touched, or injured.”

“I was taken to the hospital as a precaution, there I was tested, & treated, grateful to be alive!!” she captioned a photo of her and her late father, Anthony Graziano, adding that she did “bang” her head but sustained no other injuries.

Renee, 52, also acknowledged that while under the care of physicians she took “whatever test without hesitation” and was released with “no charges.”

“I was treated respectfully and kindly, so I have the utmost respect for the SI PD, EMT, FF, nurses and drs who helped me,” she added.

The reality star, who publicly has struggled with substance abuse issues, ended her message by asking for privacy as she focuses on her recovery and maintained that “no one was hurt” in the accident. She also warned her followers of black ice on the road, noting, “yeah that’s a real thing too.”

Page Six reported that Renee was arrested Tuesday night after crashing her car into an unoccupied 2020 Jeep Wrangler on Staten Island.

Sources told Page Six that Graziano — who informed police she had taken Adderall earlier in the day — was allegedly “wobbly on her legs” and had “slurred speech” and glassy eyes.

“Officers, when they went to speak to the driver of the vehicle, she displayed physical characteristics consistent with being under the influence and was subsequently taken into custody,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told Page Six.

“She was charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired.”

Renee rose to fame when she starred on “Mob Wives” as the daughter of Anthony, who was a consigliere of the Bonanno crime family.


New fingerprint technology reveals role of Patriarca associate in unsolved gangland slaying


One of the men who authorities say killed Howard Ferrini in 1991 will never be brought to justice because the killer himself was the victim of an infamous gangland slaying.

The Bristol County District Attorney’s office has identified Patriarca crime family associate Kevin Hanrahan as one of Ferrini’s killers after the FBI employed new fingerprint technology.

Ferrini’s body was found in the trunk of his blue Cadillac at Logan International Airport on Aug. 21, 1991. A bag was wrapped around his head and he had injuries consistent with being beat with a hammer (the medical examiner’s office determined the victim ultimately died of asphyxiation).

At Ferrini’s Berkley, Mass., home, police found evidence of a violent beating: the killers attempted to clean up the blood and a hammer was missing from Ferrini’s toolbox.

At the time, investigators found a fingerprint on the bag around Ferrini’s head, but it wasn’t until advanced FBI technology some 30 years later were they able to identify who they belonged to.

Hanrahan was a ruthless enforcer of the Patriarca crime family with a penchant for violence. His demise was as violent as his lifestyle: he was shot three times to the head as he walked out of a Federal Hill restaurant in 1992.

Former mob capo Robert “Bobby” DeLuca admitted to helping plan the hit on Hanrahan, but the actual gunman has never been identified. DeLuca was released from prison last year after a federal judge in Boston ruled his health was at heightened risk during the pandemic and he was deemed not a threat the community.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said while they are pleased they were able to identify Hanrahan in the Ferrini case, they don’t think he acted alone.

“We suspect another person, or others, because of the nature of the crime scene, the size of Mr. Ferrini and putting the body in the car and driving the Cadillac to Logan airport,” he said.

Quinn said this major development in the Ferrini case is part of his office’s renewed effort to reexamine unsolved cases in Bristol County.

“You have to take the time to go through all of these cases to reexamine the evidence because something might stand out that didn’t before,” Quinn said.

Ferrini’s daughter Kelly was just 18 when she heard on the news the unidentified body at Logan was her father’s. 

“He was a great father,” she said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday he took me out. ‘Spoiled brat’ is what everyone called me.”

The development in her father’s murder has her reliving those years and trying to piece together why her dad was the target of Hanrahan and others. Ferrini was an avid gambler, who was found with $6,000 in cash in his pocket when his body was discovered. At the time, Hanrahan and mob associate Gordon O’Brien were shaking down area bookmakers. Quinn declined to speculate on a motive.

Kelly Ferrini also wonders if a failed kidnapping of a Rhode Island bookie may be behind her father’s slaying.

O’Brien was arrested in 1990 and accused of plotting with others to kidnap bookmaker Blaise Marfeo. Howard Ferrini’s home was raided in an effort to locate O’Brien at the time, but Kelly insisted her father would never have cooperated with police on any investigation.

“He and O’Brien were friends,” she said, recalling meeting O’Brien multiple times at her father’s Taunton pub. “It’s just so confusing.”

Quinn declined to say if O’Brien is another suspect in Ferrini’s murder. O’Brien died in 2008.

“My father didn’t do the greatest things in his life,” Kelly Ferrini said. “But he was the greatest father to me, and I do think somebody should pay for it.”


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Longtime Patriarca family Captain dead at 78

William “Blackjack” DelSanto, a retired capo in the Patriarca crime family, has died.

DelSanto, 78, had been in poor health and suffered a series of strokes in the past year, according to sources. He died on Sunday.

Living in Cranston at the time of his death, DelSanto was originally from Federal Hill and was a throwback to the days when La Cosa Nostra was a significant force in New England. Law enforcement sources say DelSanto became a made member of the mob in the 1970s, when Raymond L.S. Patriarca was the boss.

DelSanto made headlines in the 1980s when he was fired from his job as a sidewalk inspector for the city of Providence, charged with being a “no-show” worker. Police arrested DelSanto after watching him on Federal Hill during working hours. But the charges were later dropped for lack of speedy trial and an arbitrator awarded him more than $200,000 for back pay and interest.

DelSanto — who went by “Billy” — was on law enforcement’s radar screen for years as a significant player in organized crime, but investigators considered him retired from the mob for more than a decade.


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Mob Wives star arrested after car crash on Staten Island for driving under the influence


 “Mob Wives” star Renee Graziano was arrested on charges of operating a motor vehicle while impaired — after she crashed her car into a parked SUV in Staten Island Tuesday night.

A spokesperson from the NYPD confirmed to Page Six that Graziano, 52, was driving a 2020 Nissan Murano when she allegedly lost control and collided with an unoccupied 2020 Jeep Wrangler at the intersection of Arden Avenue and Arthur Kill Road around 10:35 p.m.

Sources told Page Six that Graziano — who informed police she had taken Adderall earlier in the day — was allegedly “wobbly on her legs” and had “slurred speech” and glassy eyes.

“Officers, when they went to speak to the driver of the vehicle, she displayed physical characteristics consistent with being under the influence and was subsequently taken into custody,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told Page Six.

“She was charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired.”

We’re told Graziano is awaiting arraignment in Staten Island criminal court.

A rep for the reality star did not immediately return Page Six’s request for comment.

The VH1 star has previously struggled with substance abuse and depression over the years and sought treatment for the latter in 2017.

“Renee is doing great,” a source told Page Six after she left rehab in December of that year.

Graziano rose to fame when she starred on “Mob Wives” as the daughter of Anthony Graziano, who was a consigliere of the Bonanno crime family.

She was previously married to Hector Pagan Jr., who was also a former associate of one of the “Five Families” that dominated organized crime activities in New York City.

The show was created by Graziano’s sister Jennifer, and it aired for six seasons from 2011 to 2016.

The series originally starred Drita D’Avanzo, Carla Facciolo and Karen Gravano alongside Graziano. Karen Gravano, the late Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, Love Majewski, Alicia DiMichele Garofalo and Natalie Guercio also joined throughout the series.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Genovese mobsters hope President Trump's First Step act will release them from prison


A pair of mobsters who conspired to kill Gambino crime boss John Gotti are trying to get sprung — and their fates are inextricably tied to the Trump family.

Louis Manna, 92, and Richard DeSciscio, 79, have been behind bars since being sentenced to 80 and 75 years respectively in 1989 for racketeering and murder conspiracy. Manna had been the consigliere of the Genovese crime family.

The mobsters are now hoping the First Step Act, former President Trump’s landmark criminal justice reform bill, will be their ticket to securing a compassionate early release. The law allows for certain prisoners to be granted early release from federal penitentiaries in an effort to reduce the prison population.

In an ironic twist, both men were put away by presiding Federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry — the former president’s older sister — who called the jury’s guilty verdict “courageous” and said the evidence “fairly shrieked of the defendants’ guilt.”

Lawyers for the elderly dons hope the justice system has softened since then.

“Former President Trump’s expansion of the First Step Act was one of his great actions toward criminal justice reform that not only recognizes the importance of a tough-on-crime stance, but also the importance of rehabilitation and reward for good behavior and positive change,” DeSciscio attorney Marco Laracca told The Post.

Laracca said his client was in ill health, citing a past bout with prostate cancer.

Manna’s attorney Jeremy Iandolo — who followed in the long tradition of mob lawyers by denying the existence of La Cosa Nostra — insisted his wheelchair-bound client was no threat to anyone and also deserved compassionate release.

“There is no [alleged] Italian American mobster who has been released under the First Step Act. And this case would set precedent,” Iandolo said. He angrily cited the case of Eddie Cox, 86, who was released earlier this year. Cox — a white man who improbably led the “Black Mafia” of Kansas City during the 1960s and 70s — was linked to 17 murders, the Kansas City Star reported. 

So far, things haven’t gone their way. Last month Senior U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan again denied release to Manna stating, “His numerous crimes were extremely serious and heinous.”

Iandolo said he plans an appeal. DeSciscio’s case before the same judge is pending.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Friday, December 17, 2021

Monday, December 6, 2021

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Federal judge denies request to release 91 year old former Genovese Consigliere for plotting to murder Gambino Boss John Gotti


A 91-year-old mobster convicted of putting a hit on John Gotti was denied release from prison by a federal judge.

Louis “Bobby” Manna, a former consigliere of the Genovese crime family, has been imprisoned for more than three decades, following his 1989 conviction for ordering the failed Gotti assassination, and orchestrating the murder of organized-crime figure Irwin “Fat Man” Schiff, NJ.com reported.

After learning of the planned Gotti hit through a wiretap at one of Manna’s hangouts, a restaurant in Hoboken, the FBI warned the Dapper Don, then-boss of the Gambino crime family.

Manna’s attorney, Jeremy Iandolo, argued in an Oct. 20 motion that Manna — who is in poor health — had “paid his debt to society.”

But Judge Peter G. Sheridan rejected the request Nov. 16.

“He was a leader of the Genovese crime family, a role he performed through violence and intimidation,” Sheridan ruled. “His numerous crimes were extremely serious and heinous.”

Manna is serving a sentence of 80 years.

In 1989, following Manna’s conviction, Samuel Alito Jr. — then an assistant U.S. attorney, today a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court — said: “Bobby Manna is the third-ranking figure in the Genovese crime family, which has been the leading force in organized crime in this state for decades through its stranglehold on the unions,” according to the Bergen Record.

He’s behind bars at the Federal Medical Center, Rochester, Minn.

His release date is Nov. 7, 2054 — when Manna would be 124.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Former Colombo Consigliere facing additional healthcare fraud scheme charges in New Jersey

Two Florida men have been indicted for their roles in durable medical equipment and compound medication schemes involving kickbacks and fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Thomas Farese, 79, of Delray Beach, Florida, and Domenic J. Gatto Jr., 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, are charged in an 11-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to transact in criminal proceeds, transacting in criminal proceeds, and conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Farese and Gatto played key roles in a scheme to defraud health care benefit programs by offering, paying, soliciting, and receiving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment (DME) without regard to medical necessity, namely orthotic braces. Farese, Gatto, and their conspirators had financial interests in multiple DME companies that paid kickbacks to suppliers of DME orders, in exchange for DME orders. The suppliers, in turn, used telemedicine companies to obtain DME orders without regard to medical necessity. The DME companies owned by Farese and Gatto subsequently fraudulently billed Medicare, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, and other health care benefit programs for the DME orders. The defendants concealed their ownership of the DME companies by using straw owners who were falsely reported to Medicare as the owners of the companies. Gatto also brokered a kickback relationship whereby he received an illegal kickback each time specific DME suppliers provided DME orders to the DME companies controlled by him and his conspirators. Gatto and his conspirators then laundered the proceeds of the scheme through several layers of bank accounts under their control.

Gatto and his conspirators entered into a related kickback scheme involving prescriptions for compounded medications. They agreed that suppliers of compounded medications would receive kickbacks in exchange for submitting the orders to the pharmacies with whom Gatto and his conspirators had relationships. Gatto also agreed with others that he would receive kickbacks from those pharmacies for the compounded medication orders submitted by those suppliers. The compounding pharmacies then billed Medicare for the compounded medication orders.

The defendants caused losses to Medicare, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA of approximately $25 million.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to transact in criminal proceeds, and transacting in criminal proceeds are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison per count. The charge of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison.  he maximum fine for each count is $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greatest.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Scott J. Lampert; the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty; and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri, with the ongoing investigations.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean M. Sherman of the Opioid Abuse Prevention & Enforcement Unit in Newark, Ryan L. O’Neill of the Health Care Fraud Unit in Newark, Senior Trial Counsel Barbara Ward of the Asset Recovery & Money Laundering Unit in Newark, and Trial Attorney Darren Halverson of the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Lawyer for 91 year old Genovese Consigliere covicted of John Gotti murder conspiracy requests compassionate release

 Louis Manna

The 91-year-old incarcerated mobster, whose been behind bars for more than 30 years after being convicted as a leader of the Genovese crime family and who put out a hit on John Gotti, is making another push to be released from federal prison.

In an emergency motion filed last month seeking compassionate release for Louis “Bobby” Manna, his attorney argued that the aging mobster is slowly dying in a Minnesota medical prison and deserves to spend the rest of his life with his family in Hudson County.

Manna has a “litany of health issues,” Jeremy Iandolo, Manna’s attorney, said during a hearing before a federal judge Thursday, including hypertension and Parkinson’s disease. He can no longer take more than a step or two on his own, the attorney said.

“After 33 years (in prison), the man has paid his debt to society,” said Iandolo, of Brooklyn.

Manna previously applied for compassionate release last year — a motion that was opposed by prosecutors and eventually denied by senior U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan.

Manna is in the midst of an 80-year prison sentence after being convicted in 1989 in New Jersey federal court for his role as the consigliere of the Genovese crime family, as well as placing a hit on mob boss John Gotti and his brother, Gene Gotti, and orchestrating the murder of a crime family associate. Also known as “The Thin Guy,” Manna was seen as one of the most experienced and powerful mob leaders in the country at the time, prosecutors said.

“Manna was a leader in the Genovese family, a street boss, who accomplished (La Cosa Nostra) goals through violence and intimidation,” Judge Sheridan wrote last year when he denied Manna’s motion for compassionate release. “Despite the fact that he is considered ‘frail’ and has some medical issues, the nature of his life as a career criminal and his leadership in the Genovese family outweigh his age and medical issues.”

Sheridan heard arguments Thursday on the latest motion and said he would have a ruling in a week or two.

Manna, who turns 92 in less than a month, was on the telephone for the court hearing Thursday. When asked if he wanted to address the court, Manna struggled to speak and said he would let his attorney speak for him.

Iandolo’s argument for Manna’s release centered around his deteriorating health, but also recent prisoners with similar circumstances to Manna who were freed by federal judges under compassionate release.

The attorney pointed to Eddie David Cox, an 86-year-old former Kansas City mob leader who was released from prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic after more than three decades in prison. Cox was also serving an 80-year sentence.

Iandolo also noted that William Underwood, the leader of a 1970s Harlem heroin trafficking gang who was serving a life sentence, was released by a judge in January. Criminal justice advocates had been pushing for the release of the 67-year-old.

“Why are only Italian Americans getting denied?” Iandolo asked after the hearing Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Ramey told the judge he should stick with his ruling last year in denying Manna compassionate release.

Prosecutors, who have acknowledged that Manna is no longer a threat to society, previously argued that he should remain incarcerated as a deterrence to others. They have remained steadfast that he should serve the sentence he was given, which was to “spend the remainder of his natural life in prison,” prosecutors wrote last year.

Federal authorities once described Manna as “dangerous and evil” and touted his conviction as being a “tremendous blow to organized crime in New Jersey.”

Louis Manna

A breakdown of the Genovese crime family faction in New Jersey in the 1980s, according to the FBI.

During the three-and-a-half month trial in the late 1980s, prosecutors outlined Manna’s role in overseeing gambling, loansharking, and labor racketeering in the region. When federal authorities were able to bug an Italian restaurant in Hoboken, they learned Manna was using his power to take out his enemies.

They learned that he had ordered the 1987 hit on Irwin “The Fat Man” Schiff at a Manhattan restaurant. Manna and other Genovese figures believed Schiff was going to expose their criminal enterprise and would no longer run a more than $25 million money laundering operation for the crime family, according to court documents.

But Manna was planning something even more drastic. Authorities heard Manna select the individuals who were to participate in the “big hit” on Gotti, according to court documents.

“Well we are stuck behind Gotti,” Manna said. “Let’s hit the (expletive).”

A subordinate of Manna’s made it clear: “The f---in’' godfather ain’t getting’ home,” he said, according to court documents.

But federal authorities quickly foiled the plot when they alerted Gotti to the hit, and Manna was then charged in 1988 with crimes that would put him behind bars for decades to come.

Even in custody, Manna was so feared that the court used an anonymous jury, the first time ever in federal court in New Jersey at the time, due to the fear of retaliation for the jurors, according to news reports at the time.

But more than 30 years later, Iandolo has repeatedly argued that Manna is no longer a threat to society and deserves to be released as “his life is nearing the end.”

Iandolo said Manna would live with his stepson in Bayonne if the judge grants his release.

“(He wants to) have the rest of his time to spend with his children, grandchildren and any family that is still alive,” the attorney said.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Feds stay mum three years after the murder of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger

FILE - In this June 30, 2011 file photo, James "Whitey" Bulger, right, is escorted from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to a waiting vehicle at an airport in Plymouth, Mass., after attending hearings in federal court in Boston. Three years after he was bludgeoned to death in a West Virginia prison, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger. Bulger was 89 when he was fatally beaten in October 2018. (Stuart Cahill/The Boston Herald via AP, File)

He was one of the most infamous criminals ever to be killed behind bars. And investigators narrowed in on suspects immediately after his shocking slaying in a West Virginia prison.

Yet three years later, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger. Questions such as why the well-known FBI informant was put in the troubled lockup’s general population alongside other New England gangsters — instead of more protective housing — remain unanswered.

Federal officials will say only that his death remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the lack of answers has only fueled rumors and spurred claims by Bulger’s family that the frail 89-year-old was “deliberately sent to his death” at the penitentiary nicknamed “Misery Mountain.”

“This was really a dereliction of duty,” said Joe Rojas, a union representative for the correctional staff at the Florida prison where Bulger was held before being transferred to USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. “There’s no way he should have been put in that institution.”

Some of the families of Bulger’s victims, however, feel differently.

Steven Davis said holding someone accountable in the killing of the man accused of strangling to death his 26-year-old sister, Debra Davis, in 1981 doesn’t change anything for him and other families.

“He had what was coming to him and it didn’t come soon enough,” the 64-year-old Boston-area resident said. “He’s where he should have been a long time ago — in the dirt.”

Bulger was found dead on Oct. 30, 2018, hours after arriving at Hazelton from the Coleman prison in Florida, where he was serving a life sentence for participating in 11 killings. The ruthless gangster who spent 16 years on the lam before being captured in 2011 was assaulted and died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to his death certificate.

Federal officials have never officially publicly identified any suspects and have said only that they are investigating his death as a homicide.

But shortly after the killing, a former federal investigator and a law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity because of the ongoing probe identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

Geas, a Mafia hitman serving life behind bars for his role in the killing of a Genovese crime family boss and other violent crimes, has been in a restricted unit at the West Virginia prison since Bulger’s killing even though no charges have been filed, said his lawyer, Daniel Kelly.

Kelly says Geas hasn’t been provided regular reviews to see if he can be released from the unit but has petitioned to be returned to the general prison population, where he’d enjoy more freedoms, including the ability to call his family more often.

“He’s remaining positive and upbeat, but it’s a punitive measure,” Kelly said. “It’s a prison within a prison.”

DeCologero, meanwhile, was moved earlier this year to another high-security penitentiary in Virginia. A member of a Massachusetts gang led by his uncle, DeCologero was convicted in 2006 of racketeering and witness tampering for a number of crimes and is scheduled to be released in 2026.

Brian Kelly, one of the federal prosecutors in Bulger’s 2013 murder trial in Boston, said the delays may indicate prison officials don’t have any witnesses or video evidence to support charges.

“In a prison environment they are going to have a tough time finding any witnesses to testify as to who did it,” said Kelly, now a defense attorney.

A spokesperson for the federal prosecutors’ office in West Virginia that’s investigating Bulger’s killing along with the FBI confirmed this month that the investigation remains open. The spokesperson, Stacy Bishop, refused to answer further questions, saying doing so could jeopardize the probe.

Bulger’s transfer to Hazelton — where workers had already been sounding the alarm about violence and understaffing — and placement within the general population despite his notoriety was widely criticized by observers after his killing.

A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press in 2018 that Bulger had been transferred to Hazelton because of disciplinary issues. Months before he was moved, Bulger threatened an assistant supervisor at Coleman, telling her “your day of reckoning is coming,” and received 30 days in disciplinary detention.

Some answers may come in a federal lawsuit filed in West Virginia by Bulger’s family. A trial has been set for February in the case, where prison system officials are accused of failing to protect Bulger from other inmates.

The lawsuit — filed on the two-year anniversary of his killing against the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the former Hazelton warden and others — says prison system officials were well aware that Bulger had been labeled a “snitch” and that his life was at heightened risk behind bars. Bulger strongly denied ever being an informant.

“USP Hazelton by all accounts was not an appropriate placement of James Bulger and was, in fact, recognized as so inappropriate, the appearance is that he was deliberately sent to his death” by the defendants, the lawsuit says.

The family is seeking damages for Bulger’s physical and emotional pain and suffering, as well as for wrongful death. Lawyers representing the family declined to comment and calls to William Bulger, a former Massachusetts Senate president and president of the University of Massachusetts who administers his late brother’s estate, went unreturned this week.

Justice Department lawyers urged the judge in court documents filed this month to dismiss the claim, saying Bulger’s family “cannot allege that BOP skipped some mandatory, procedural directive” in transferring him to Hazelton or putting him in the general population.

Attorneys for the individual defendants said in another legal filing that the lawsuit “makes no mention of Bulger objecting to his transfer” or “ever requesting protective custody or expressing concern for his safety” upon arriving at Hazelton.

Justice Department lawyers pointed to a declaration from an executive assistant at Hazelton that says staff interviewed Bulger the night of his arrival and reviewed other records to determine if there were non-medical reasons for keeping Bulger out of the general population.

An intake screening form signed by Bulger that was filed in court says that he was asked such questions as: “Do you know of any reason that you should not be placed in general population?” and “have you assisted law enforcement agents in any way?” Both questions were marked “NO.”


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Aging Colombo Boss posts $10M bail while another is denied compassionate release

Andrew “Mush” Russo in 1996.

The wheels of justice spun in different directions Wednesday for a pair of octogenarian Colombo crime family bosses.

Current leader Andrew “Mush” Russo, charged in a lucrative and long-running mob union shakedown, won his freedom with a $10 million bond while his long-imprisoned Colombo predecessor Victor “Little Vic” Orena was denied compassionate release despite his fast-deteriorating health in separate Brooklyn Federal Court rulings.

Russo, 87, secured his home detention from Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak in part with properties worth $7 million, although his earliest taste of freedom would be Thursday once the paperwork is complete and a prosecution doctor conducts an evaluation, officials said. Pollak found Russo posed no threat to the community due to his health issues, including some form of dementia.

“If they want to get some more doctors to reach the same conclusion, they’re certainly welcome to do that,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. “He’s also been shackled by both ankles to a bed 24 hours a day and the government told the judge that Andrew was receiving ‘excellent around the clock care.’

“That didn’t fly either.”

Mobster Victor Orena leaving 26 Federal Plaza with FBI agents.

Orena, the family boss during a bloody internal family war where 15 people died in the early ‘90s, was kept behind bars by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Eric Komitee despite the 87-year-old gangster’s myriad health woes — including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, glaucoma and heart problems.

Orena will remain inside the Federal Medical Center Devers in Massachusetts after the judge’s 10-page Wednesday decision.

“A strain of cases ... has emerged in which the offenders’ criminal history is so long, and their victims so numerous, that even serious health conditions do not suffice to merit relief,” the judge wrote. “This case falls squarely in that category.”

One of the those slain during the mob war was an innocent 17-year-old shot six times while working behind the counter of a Bay Ridge bagel shop.

The Orena faction battled forces loyal to then-jailed Colombo boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, with Russo moving into the top spot after Persico’s death in 2019. Orena’s attorney, in a hearing earlier this month, said the deranged ex-boss was now convinced that he was president of the United States.

Russo, under terms of his release, would remain under home detention, GPS monitoring, phone monitoring and a ban on contact with his 13 co-defendants or anyone else affiliated with La Cosa Nostra.

Prosecutors were permitted to have one of their doctors evaluate Russo in hopes the judge will reverse her decision. In court papers opposing his release, the feds cited Russo’s appearance last year at a gathering of the family hierarchy and his hosting of a meeting with two Colombo co-defendants this past March in his Long Island home.

“Releasing the defendant on the terms proposed by defense counsel would return him to his home, from where he carried out much of charged conduct, and give him the full resources of the Colombo crime family,” prosecutors argued in court papers.

In the Orena case, his history of failing health fell far short of swaying Komitee.

“I have considered Orena’s arguments ... (and) I am left with the inescapable conclusion that any sentence short of the life term imposed ... would insufficiently reflect the seriousness of the offense conduct here and fail to provide just punishment,” he wrote.

Orena’s son Andrew said the family’s attorney would appeal the decision, while acknowledging his sickly father was running out of time.

“Yes, he’s in bad shape,” said Andrew Orena. “So we’re forced to do it this way. So we’ll see. We have to push.”

Komitee described Vic Orena as “a singular figure in the annals of the Colombo family” — which traces its roots to the legendary boss Joe Colombo.

“He rose to a leadership role, becoming acting boss in 1988, and his efforts to cling to power triggered a bloody war,” the judge wrote. “Orena oversaw a campaign of violence that resulted in a swath of death and serious injury.”

And he noted the difference between Orena and other mobsters granted shorter sentences despite their roles in organized crime violence, including Colombo capo Greg Scarpa and Bonanno family boss Joseph “Big Joe” Massino.

“These cases generally involved high-ranking defendants who elected to cooperate with the government, at serious risk to themselves,” Komitee found.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

The FBI is loving all these new mafia podasts

To join the Mafia, one must take an oath of omertà, the code of silence that’s meant to keep information about business dealings within the family. Breaking it is a crime punishable by death, but, these days, a lot of mafiosi are speaking pretty freely. Take Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the Gambino family underboss in the late eighties, who was involved in at least nineteen murders during his tenure as John Gotti’s right-hand man. He now makes an honest living podcasting from the Phoenix suburbs, where he relocated after spending seventeen and a half years at a supermax prison. In an unhurried Bensonhurst accent, Gravano, now seventy-six years old, recounts his biggest hits (such as the one carried on the Mob boss Paul Castellano, Gotti’s predecessor), and his own infamous breach of omertà: the 1992 court testimony that sent Gotti to prison for life.

Back in New York City, another ex-hit man who worked for Gotti, John Alite, blends tales of his “six murders, more than eight shootings, and dozens of baseball battings” with inspirational advice for youth on his “Mafia Truths” podcast. Meanwhile, Jimmy Calandra, a notorious enforcer for the Bonanno family—reportedly the most brutal of the Five Families who controlled organized crime in New York—insults various “fat rat scumbags” and “stone-cold losers” on his YouTube series, “A Bath Avenue Story.” Those in search of cleaner fare might check out “The Sit Down with Michael Franzese,” an interview show in which the Colombo capo turned Orange County motivational speaker chats with celebrities and offers movie reviews and life-style tips to his viewers. (No. 1: “Fly under the radar.”)

The growing glut of Mob content, with its mix of graphic violence, relationship drama, and aspirational wealth, has carved out a natural niche for itself in our reality-TV and true-crime landscape. Gravano’s podcast, launched last year, boasts more than four hundred thousand subscribers; Franzese’s “Sit Downs” sometimes garner more than a million views each—roughly equal to the number of opening-weekend streams received by the “Many Saints of Newark” (which, according to Franzese, made Italian Americans “look like degenerates”). But the genre has drawn, alongside the usual true-crime obsessives, a more surprising set of devotees: F.B.I. agents, looking for a deeper understanding of some of the biggest cases of their careers.

“I spend hours and hours listening to these wise guys,” the retired special agent Bill Fleisher told me, the other day. Fleisher, who lives in New Jersey, spent most of the nineteen-seventies working on organized-crime squads in New York, Boston, and Detroit. “I could talk to them, I could polygraph them, I knew how they operated—but I could never get in their heads,” he said. “That’s why I like these podcasts. I’m beginning, like a shrink, to understand their thinking.”

Most of the mobsters sharing their stories today have cooperated with authorities in the past and now have legal immunity that allows them to speak openly about their crimes (those to which they have confessed, anyway). In the process of telling those stories, they often reveal answers to questions that have stumped law enforcement for years. “Instead of us going into prison and interviewing Sammy the Bull—how convenient, he starts his own podcast,” James R. Fitzgerald, a former F.B.I. profiler and another dedicated listener, said, from his house in Maryland. “If you watch and listen to enough of them, you can pick up on the trajectory of where they’re going, and maybe even solve some of those old crimes.”

The other afternoon, Fitzgerald, Fleisher, and I gathered on Zoom to watch a YouTube video of Sammy the Bull’s podcast “Our Thing,” a reference to the Cosa Nostra. Neither agent had met Gravano personally, but, having tracked his and his family’s dealings so closely, they both felt like they knew him as well as an old friend. In the clip’s opening animation, a bull charges through a concrete wall before Gravano appears, seated in a leather chair, in a recording studio outfitted with a fireplace, a neon bull glowing above the mantel. On the walls are framed portraits of the crime bosses Al Capone and Charles (Lucky) Luciano, and the actor James Cagney, known for his iconic portrayals of gangsters onscreen. Our host, small and wiry, is dressed in a white T-shirt and slacks.

“I’m glad to see Sammy in more traditional garb,” Fitzgerald said. “Back in the late eighties, early nineties, when I was dealing with these guys, the Adidas running suits or sweatsuits were the big uniform of the day.” (To be fair, in the video, Gravano was still wearing a pinky ring and gold chain.)

The podcast is focussed on one of the biggest investigations in F.B.I. history: the 1989 murder of an undercover D.E.A. agent by a low-level Mafia associate. “This is one of those pretty heavy stories that I really shouldn’t talk about,” Gravano begins. He starts by describing the associate: “There was a guy named Gus Farace. . . . Real tough guy, big guy, steroid freak, big ,huge fuckin’ body, arms, fairly good-lookin’ guy.” (“He was played by Tony Danza in the made-for-TV movie,” Fitzgerald pointed out.) Gravano explains that Farace had met the undercover D.E.A. agent, Everett Hatcher, on a Staten Island overpass to sell him some cocaine. But something unsettled Farace. “He started thinking this guy may have been an undercover, not cop, but an undercover informant,” Gravano says. “They must have had words in the car, and he shot and killed him.”

Farace went on the lam and the F.B.I. cracked down on every family in the Cosa Nostra, raiding their clubs and gambling rings, arresting parolees for any minor infraction, in an effort to extract information about Farace’s whereabouts. “Everyone in this game knew the rules had been changed,” Fitzgerald explained. “We don’t kill them. They don’t kill us.” Farace, who wasn’t even a made guy, had “violated rule No. 1,” so the Mafia “knew it was hard times ahead for them.”

According to Gravano, one day, the F.B.I. knocked on his door, and ordered him to track down Farace: “ ‘Sammy, we want you to tell John Gotti that we want this guy found, and we don’t care how.’ The way they said it,” Gravano continues, “I just had to ask the question: ‘Are you asking me to kill him?’ ”

“ ‘No, no, Sammy,’ ” the agent supposedly responded. “ ‘No, we’re not going there. We don’t give a fuck how he’s found.’ ”

Gravano didn’t buy it. (Or, maybe he didn’t want to buy it.) “There would be nothing better for me to do for the government than to kill somebody for them,” he tells his audience. “That would give me a license to do whatever the fuck I felt like doing.” He goes on, “They checked themselves right away. But that was the message.”

Fitzgerald interrupted: “We honestly didn’t want that,” he said. “We wanted to put this guy on trial, and maybe even to flip him and get information.”

“But it tells you how Sammy’s mind works,” Fleisher added. “As a wise guy, a lot of his orders, given and taken, are done by nods, innuendo, double-entendres.” If a boss describes a guy as “ ‘always smiling,’ that could be a message to go knock his teeth out.”

In any case, the two sides had certainly entered “a very strange situation,” Fitzgerald said. “The F.B.I. and the Mob are both looking for Gus, and who’s gonna get him first?” The Mob, it turned out. Nine months after the Hatcher murder, Farace was found, shot dead, in the streets. “The moral of the story is, this kid did not belong to us in the Mafia,” Gravano concludes. “If you like this story, press Like, subscribe.”

After the episode ended, I asked the agents what they would ask Sammy if they had the chance. Fitzgerald said he’d ask him why he flipped on Gotti: “You violated the most sacred code of all, omertà,” he said. “What did one F.B.I. agent say to you to convince you to give it all up?”

A few days later, I called Gravano up to ask him why he broke with omertà back in the day, and why he’s still spilling Mafia secrets now. “I want my children and grandchildren to know my truth—good, bad, and ugly,” he said. Plus, “it’s a good way to earn.” As for flipping on Gotti, “We were brothers,” he told me. “I killed for him. I rigged trials.” But when Gotti got caught on tape implicating Gravano in multiple murders, that was the end. Gotti told Sammy that he’d have to do the time so that Gotti could go free. “I walked from that meeting and said, ‘Fuck John, fuck the Mafia,’ and I quit.”

“The agents Frank [Spero] and Matty [Tricorico] who were assigned to me, they were always around me,” Gravano said. At Christmas, he would bring coffee and cookies to their car while they staked out his house. “I trusted them. I liked them.” So when he needed to talk, he turned to the agents, who were more than happy to listen. They still are.


Feds say recorded prison phone calls show Colombo Underboss is conducting mafia business from jail

Benjamin "The Claw" Castellazzo

Within days of being arrested at a New Jersey nursing home, federal authorities accused the octogenarian underboss of the Colombo crime family of still conducting mob business inside a New York jail.

In three recorded phone calls from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo, 84, told a woman to have a member of his family pass a message to other members of the Colombo crime family at a Brooklyn garage reportedly used for mob business, asked associates for money and directed a family member to remove items from his apartment and discard of his cell phone, federal authorities wrote in a detention memo.

The Brooklyn garage is where authorities said Castellazzo, a Manahawkin resident, often did business with other members of the Colombo crime family as they engaged in a conspiracy to take control of a New York City-based labor union.

Castellazzo has been indicted on a number of charges related to his role as the “number two” of the crime family, including racketeering, extortion and money laundering conspiracies, conspiracy to steal and embezzle health benefit funds, and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, among other charges, officials said.

Prosecutors used the phone calls to argue that Castellazzo should be held without bail. They said the calls show Castellazzo continues to associate with Colombo crime family members and that as the underboss, he still has the means to orchestrate mob business, despite his age and numerous health conditions.

“In short, the defendant has the capabilities to direct (and clearly has directed) others to take actions for him,” prosecutors wrote in arguing for his detention throughout the case.

A judge ultimately ruled last week to deny Castellazzo bail, citing his lengthy criminal history and his continued association with Colombo members.

“He’s continuing to affiliate with other individuals who are charged with serious crimes that arise out of that meeting,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara said at the bail hearing.

Bulsara said he was particularly troubled by Castellazzo’s demand that a family member discard his cell phone and other items. He called it “highly problematic.”

Prosecutors detailed the call in their detention memo:

Castellazzo: Did you find what you had to find? ... No, but what I’m saying, did you?

Family member: Yea, that I took yea.

Castellazzo: Oh, okay, all right that’s what I’m talking about, ha, all right, okay.

Family member: Yea, yea, they, ha, like I said, yup, I got it.

Castellazzo: . . . with my cellphone, when you get it, just throw it away

Prosecutors also said the other two calls detailed his continued involvement with the Colombo crime family.

Castellazzo’s attorney argued the phone calls were relatively standard after someone is arrested.

“Give it to [name], tell him to get in touch with my friend [name], okay? And for him, to tell somebody in the garage, he’ll know what I’m talking about, to send me money, they gotta do it through western union...and tell him, to ah, did he do everything that I told him to do?,” Castellazzo could be heard saying in the phone call on Sept. 17, three days after he was arrested.

In another call, he also directed another woman female to meet with the same member of the Colombo crime family on his behalf, according to the recorded phone calls.

Castellazzo’s attorney Jennifer Louis-Jeune said nearly all of her clients call family or friends and ask for money on their commissary after being arrested.

Though prosecutors said, “it’s not what’s being said, it’s who he’s communicating with and what he’s asking for.”

Louis-Jeune downplayed the recorded phone calls.

“As far as the phone calls that the government cites to, the government’s interpretation of these calls is just that. It’s the government’s interpretation. And I think that these calls could be easily explained in other ways,” she said, adding that Castellazzo knew they would be recorded.

She also argued that Castellazzo should be released on strict bail conditions, citing his age, lack of financial means to flee and lack of proper medical care at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a jail notorious for troubling conditions.

Castellazzo has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1959, when he was sentenced to a four-to-eight-year prison sentence following a conviction for grand larceny after he was involved in a theft, with others, of a tractor trailer truck containing carpeting, according to court documents.

More convictions and prison terms would follow and by 2002, federal authorities identified Castellazzo as a captain of the Colombo crime family. After serving yet another prison term, court documents in 2008 named him as the underboss. He was last released from federal prison in 2015.

While the judge considering bail in Castellazzo’s latests charges agreed that conditions at the Brooklyn detention center are “horrific, horrendous, despicable, untenable,” he ordered him to remain jailed noting that Castellazzo is not the ordinary 84-year-old his attorney was making him out to be.

“Getting rid of a cell phone, directing the people meet up at a certain place, do certain things, it’s not clear at all that it has the kind of innocent characteristics that you would suggest,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara said of Castellazzo.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021

Powerful Colombo Captain who claimed he ran Staten Island is sentenced to six years in prison


A reputed Colombo crime family captain who authorities said was a ruthless force on Staten Island during his reign will be spending more time behind bars than he hoped after he was dished a nearly-six-year prison sentence in Brooklyn federal court Thursday.

Joseph Amato Sr., 62, a Colts Neck, N.J., resident who earlier this year pleaded guilty to shaking down two people and stalking his then-girlfriend with a GPS tracking device on the borough, was given minimal sympathy by federal Judge Brian M. Cogan, who called the defendant’s attributes “almost as bad as they can possibly be.”
Garbed in a blue shirt and green pants, Amato mostly sat quiet in court as his lawyer, Scott E. Leemon, fervently argued the conditions at the Brooklyn federal jail where his client has been for the past two years are “barbaric.”

Those conditions, Leemon contended, should warrant a more lenient sentence of 63 months — the bottom of the suggested federal guidelines for the crimes considered in the court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes argued Amato, who previously served time in prison for his association with organized crime, “doesn’t hesitate to use violence to get what he wants” and has made a series of decisions that has warranted his reputation as a “fearsome mobster.”

“In virtually all of those choices, he has put the goals of the Colombo crime family at the top,” said Geddes.

Prosecutors said Amato “is never going to leave the mafia” and pointed to his willingness to involve his own son, Joseph Amato Jr., in criminal activities as evidence of his dedication to the criminal organization.
Amato Jr. previously pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to extort a loan borrower. The two were among 20 suspects, including 17 borough residents, indicted in Brooklyn federal court in October 2019.

While the two parties could not come to an agreement on the proposed sentencing guidelines for the case (the government believed the sentencing range should be between 70 and 80 months while Leemon calculated it to be between 63 and 78 months), Cogan, who has the right to depart from those suggestions, said the guidelines mattered “very little” in his decision.
Cogan said he considered parting upward past the range of 70 months, noting, “I’ve got to say, there’s a lot of reasons to do it.” However, the conditions at the federal prison ultimately factored into his final verdict, he said.
And while Leemon mentioned Amato Sr.’s “productive” time in prison, which included working and feeding other inmates, Cogan said, “those things pale in comparison to the life he chose for himself.”
Additionally, as prosecutors noted, the stalking charge Amato Sr. pleaded guilty to was not included in the proposed guidelines.
The alleged Colombo captain, who tracked his then-girlfriend in 2015 and 2016 by placing a GPS tracking device in her car, regularly retrieving and recharging it to reposition it on the vehicle, once emailed the woman, “This is my Island, not yours,” referencing Staten Island. “I have eyes all over,” he said.
Excluding that charge from the guidelines, Cogan said, gave Amato Sr. “a real break.” And while the capo took responsibility for the crimes, the federal judge said he had no belief the defendant was capable of believing his crimes were inherently wrong.
“Everything about him suggests incorrigibility,” Cogan said at the sentencing.

In addition to the five-year-and-10-month sentence, Cogan ordered one year of supervised release that included no contact with any members of organized crime groups.
That point drew a line of contention from the defense lawyer, Leemon, who requested the man’s son be excluded from that restriction.
Prosecutors opposed lifting that rule, citing the pair’s actions together, while Leemon suggested Amato Jr. “changed” his life around.
Ultimately, Cogan determined the two could only engage in monitored conversations with a third party present.
In addition, Amato Sr. must forfeit just over $60,000, the court said.
While he has a right to appeal, Leemon said his client will “probably not” file that paperwork.