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

Sunday, November 27, 2022

New book tells the story of turncoat Sicilian hitman Luigi the Zip

 Hitman “Luigi the Zip" Ronsisvalle had dirt on everything from the French Connection to the Vatican Bank scam before disappearing into witness protection.

During his two decades as Brooklyn’s top mob-busting homicide prosecutor, Michael Vecchione dealt with all manner of wiseguys, but none was less impressive than Luigi the Zip.

Short, overweight, disheveled and speaking in broken English, Sicilian import Luigi Ronsisvalle — dubbed “the human bowling ball” by Vecchione for being as wide as he was tall — embodied his Zip moniker, a slur American gangsters used for their overseas brethren, whom they regarded as backwater yokels. No one, it seemed, took Luigi seriously.

“He was just a schlub,” says Vecchione of the focus of his new book, “Homicide Is My Business” (Camino Books), out now.

“He was never sharp in the way he dressed. He was never able to carry on conversations. He was just a guy who knew how to do what they wanted him to do, which was kill people.”

Vecchione, who penned two previous books involving his career as a crime fighter after he left the Brooklyn DA’s office in 2013, got to know Ronsisvalle in a series of meetings at his cramped office in Downtown Brooklyn in the early 1980s, where they chatted while the turncoat munched on veal parmesan sandwiches and sipped Budweiser from a can. 

His demeanor might have been underwhelming. But Luigi the Zip — a heroin trafficker and hitman with 13 confirmed kills who flipped in 1979 — played a role in virtually every big Mafia event of his day, a kind of underworld Forrest Gump. “He was a colorful character who turned up in all these different places,” says Vecchione.

Ronsisvalle had intel on the French Connection heroin trade, made famous by the hit film starring Gene Hackman, and the Pizza Connection smugglers, which pumped some $1.6 billion worth of heroin into the US between 1975 and 1984, the drugs tucked into dough for pizzerias. He knew key details about the murder of mob boss Carmine Galante and the schemes of an Italian banker suspected of stealing a fortune from the Vatican.

Over the course of their meetings, the mobster regaled the prosecutor with details of his various hits and his own personal code: pay your debts, treat workers with respect, leave the working man alone, and go after only those who deserve it. “A man of honor kills to help people,” he explained to Vecchione.

His first slaying in the US was a freebie — and a chance for Ronsisvalle to get noticed by the bosses. A heavy gambler, he frequented a poker den on Knickerbocker Avenue, where he was dealing blackjack one night in 1968 when he overheard a group of Bonanno mafiosi “talking about someone they all knew who needed to be whacked,” writes Vecchione. The man in question was someone from the neighborhood who had been pimping out a young Italian girl from a well-liked family. 

“This called for the death penalty, no questions asked,” Ronsisvalle told him. “This girl is a widow, recent, and the motherf—er who everyone seemed to like so much was taking advantage of her situation.”

“I stop dealing cards and tell the wiseguys, ‘I take the job.’”

Ronsisvalle proudly recounted to Vecchione how he did it — staking out the mark’s house near Knickerbocker Avenue, following him on foot, learning his routine. He bought an old .38 revolver from a street hustler, and test-fired the weapon in an isolated spot along the Belt Parkway. 

Then, at 6 a.m. one morning, just as the pimp was leaving his house for work, “I sneak up behind him and shoot him in the head two times. He go right down. I know he dead. He get what he deserve.” The shooter casually strolled off, then split for Atlantic City. 

It was the same formula Ronsisvalle had used in Italy, where he was a respected assassin — and would employ again in the US. He meticulously researched his victim’s movements, stayed calm after the killing, and justified to himself that the dead man had it coming.

Alas, Ronsisvalle’s dream of becoming a made member of the Bonnano family never happened — according to Vecchione, he was never truly appreciated by those he worked for, and remained tainted by his pedigree. 

“He was encouraged to come to Brooklyn from Sicily by Carmine Galante and Joe Bonanno. They needed a hitman and bodyguards. They figured that when the other families got wind of the fact that they had this big narcotics business going — and were not sharing with them — there was going to be trouble,” says Vecchione. 

“They started to import people like him to come to the United States to be their watchmen and to take care of business if a war broke out. But he was not what they were looking for as far as someone who moved up to become a made man. He was just a zip.”

Ronsisvalle was disillusioned by what he perceived, ironically, as the mob’s lack of morals. He was outraged by the antics of notorious mobster Michele “The Shark” Sindona, a corrupt Sicilian-born banker, murderer and Gambino associate suspected of defrauding the Vatican Bank of an estimated $100 million to cover his loses when his Franklin National Bank on Long Island went under in 1974. Sindona, desperate to duck jail, asked Ronsisvalle to kill a US federal prosecutor, John Kenny of the Southern District in Manhattan, and a lawyer in Milan — for $100,000. He refused. Sindona was later convicted in the US and Italy and killed himself by ingesting poison.

Meanwhile, Ronsisvalle had also grown tired of all the drug dealing by mobsters who were supposed to be duty-bound not to traffic narcotics. 

Nothing in the American mob business resembled the code of honor back home, he felt. This drove his decision to flip.

He was eventually convicted in a 1976 slaying and was sentenced to just just five years in jail before being whisked off into federal witness protection. In 1985, he became the star witness at the President’s Commission on Organized Crime under Ronald Reagan. “I grew up in Sicily, since age 10, 11, 12, like a kid, American kid falls in love with baseball, I fell in love with Mafia,” he told rapt panelists.

Vecchione said he was told that Ronsisvalle had commited suicide while in witness protection, but he was unable to confirm this, and never got any details.

“I believe it,” he said. “But I guess it’s possible he’s still alive.” 


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Judge sends elderly Chicago mobster to 4 months in prison for stealing Social Security money

In this artist sketch, alleged mobsters Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, from left, Frank Calabrese Sr. and James Marcello sit in court on June 19, 2007, as jury selection begins in the city's biggest organized crime trial in years.

A Chicago mobster who previously spent time behind bars as a result of the landmark Family Secrets case was sentenced at a hearing Monday to 4 months in prison for stealing nearly $23,000 in Social Security funds.

Michael Marcello, 71, of Wood Dale, pleaded guilty in January to felony theft of government funds. Judge Jorge Alonso noted that sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 8 and 14 months, but Marcello’s attorney objected and instead suggested 4 to 10 months would be appropriate. 

The judge agreed with Marcello’s attorneys, saying that although Marcello’s crimes were “outrageous” they weren’t sophisticated enough to fall under the guidelines.

Prosecutors alleged that in April of 2016 Marcello began providing false wage and tax information to the Social Security administration to artificially inflate his Social Security earnings. He falsely claimed that he worked jobs that he never held and received income that he didn’t earn.

When Marcello applied for benefits in February of 2017, he lied again about his retirement income, prosecutors said. On his claimant form, Marcello stated he worked for bankrupt or defunct companies like Lehman Brothers and ITT Technical Institute to make it harder for the government to track.

Prosecutors also accused Marcello of providing false tax information to the IRS to hide the theft.

Before sentencing, Marcello’s attorney said her client was ashamed and embarrassed about his conduct, adding that he has already paid back everything that he stole. She asked the judge to consider his age and recent medical troubles when considering a sentence.

“I ask this court to show mercy on me as I walk through my life’s final miles,” Marcello told the judge. “I am very truly sorry. I made terrible choices.”

It wasn’t the first time Marcello made his case before a federal court. Marcello, the half-brother of Chicago mob boss James Marcello, was sentenced in March 2008 to 8 ½ years in prison — the first to be sentenced in the Family Secrets case. He once ran a lucrative video poker machine operation in the western suburbs and carried out his half-brother’s orders while James Marcello was in prison, authorities have said. He admitted his role in the mob in a 2007 plea agreement.

Prosecutors on Monday told the judge to consider that despite his previous conviction, Marcello still chose to commit another crime when he was released.

Marcello also took the witness stand in 2009 in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, who was charged with leaking details about the Family Secrets investigation to the mob.

Marcello also worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as a truck driver from 1986 to 1995.

The judge ordered Marcello to surrender to the bureau of prisons on Jan. 23, 2023. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Colombo Soldier sentenced to 38 years in prison for five murders says he is rehabilitated and seeks early release

The leader of a Mafia death squad says he’s a changed man and wants an early release from prison — but the feds say he’s changed for the worse by becoming a “made” man in the Colombo crime family while serving his time.

Vito Guzzo, who is serving a 38-year sentence for five murders in the 1990s, describes himself in a court filing as “completely rehabilitated” and someone who “has matured from a rash young man pursuing a lawless lifestyle, to a reflective, empathetic middle-aged adult.”

He’s seeking compassionate release under the First Step Act criminal justice reform bill, which was signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018.

Federal prosecutors contend that his claims of rehabilitation aren’t worth much, especially as “multiple government sources” say he was inducted into the Colombo crime family within the past decade while he was locked up at the federal prison in Danbury, Conn.

“In joining a notoriously violent criminal enterprise as a made member, Guzzo swore to a lifelong commitment to commit crime to advance the interests of the crime family,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James McDonald wrote in a filing this month.

“He promised, among other things, to follow the directions of superiors in the crime family, including to commit murder when instructed,” McDonald wrote. “In view of the demonstrated history of violence by Guzzo, there can be little question that he would follow such instruction if given upon his release.”

Guzzo, who copped to the five murders as part of a 1998 guilty plea, was the leader of the “Giannini Crew” — a team of mobsters from several Cosa Nostra families who used the former Caffe Giannini in Ridgewood as their home base.

In January 1992, the now 57-year-old mob killer and his crew lured pot dealers John Ruisi and Steven Pagnozzi to a Queens social club, forced them to their knees and demanded they reveal where they stashed their drugs and cash.

The duo didn’t tell Guzzo what he wanted to know, so he shot Ruisi in the head, while another crew member, Anthony Tabbita, did the same to Pagnozzi, the feds said. Guzzo and company put both victims in a car and torched it, and one of the men may have still been alive as they burned, prosecutors said.

In August 1992, he lured Gambino associate Ralph Campione Sciulla to the basement of his accomplice Fabio Bartolotta’s home, then fatally shot Sciulla in the head.

Sciulla died for not giving the Giannini crew a cut of his drug dealing and fraud money. His partially decomposed body was found in the trunk of a car in Jericho, L.I.

A few months later, in November 1992, Guzzo orchestrated the shooting of Colombo associates Vincent Ricciardo, Anthony Mesi and Paul Schiava as they drove to a capo’s wake, the feds said.

Guzzo suspected that Ricciardo had killed his father in upstate New York in 1987, and he made sure to take part in the ambush. A U-Haul truck pulled in front of Mesi’s car in Maspeth, while a second car boxed him in from behind, the feds said. Guzzo and another shooter donned Halloween monster masks and raked the car with gunfire, killing Mesi and badly wounding Ricciardo and Schiava.

And in October 1996, Guzzo and Tabbita murdered Genovese crime family associate John Borelli, who was dating Guzzo’s ex-girlfriend.

They followed Borelli to his ex’s home in Maspeth, and descended on the couple as they sat in a car.

Guzzo carried a shotgun, Tabitta two handguns. Together, they opened fire into the car, killing Borelli, the feds allege.

Federal prosecutors also linked Guzzo’s crew to several other murder plots and robberies, as well as the beating of a man he thought was cooperating with law enforcement.

In his request for release, Guzzo refers to himself as “elderly” even though he’s 57, describing his serious injuries from two shootings in 1990 and 1996, which left him with the loss of sight in one eye and the removal of part of his left lung. He also said he fears continued exposure to COVID-19 in prison will kill him.

“The evidence of [Guzzo’s] rehabilitation cannot be disputed. [Guzzo] has taken approximately 132 classes,” Guzzo wrote, in a request which will be reviewed by Judge Margo Brodie. “And he is still taking classes. He only has a couple minor infractions over his 25 years of incarceration. He also saved an inmate’s life who attempted to commit suicide while housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.”

McDonald countered, though, that he was cited for fighting as recently as 2015. “The most recent conduct, in April 2015, concerned a fight between members of Italian organized crime and Albanian organized crime,” the prosecutor wrote.

Guzzo’s lawyer, Sanford Talkin, declined comment for this story.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Former NYC buildings commissioner spent $40K at mafia linked restaurants

Former Buildings Commissioner and onetime political candidate Eric Ulrich spent nearly $40,000 in campaign funds at several food businesses with past reported links to mobsters, a review of records shows.

Ulrich resigned this week when it surfaced he is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after having racked up unpaid debts at mob-controlled gambling parlors.

Ulrich has not been charged by prosecutors, who have declined to comment on the case.

The authorities’ probe into possible illegal gambling has been under way for at least a year, and the former councilman was not the initial target of investigators, who were focused on organized crime, sources have said.

But “[Ulrich] owed a lot of money to a lot of people — a lot of big people,” a Queens source said.

When Ulrich was futilely running for city public advocate in 2019, his campaign spent a total of thousands of dollars at several businesses previously tied to the mob.

He raised just $159,000 for his campaign but received more than $595,000 in matching funds from the Big Apple’s generous public financing system — meaning that tax dollars were likely among the sources of money spent in these establishments. 

Historically, all three establishments have had ties to the Gambino crime family.

Campaign finance records show that Urlich spent $19,192 to hold his Election Night party at Russo’s on the Bay in Queens, where the public figure lives.

Mafia informants Michael DiLeonardo and Anthony Rotondo both testified in the 2000s that the Gambino family received money from the popular establishment — with DiLeonardo pegging the amount at $1 per visitor.

Ulrich’s campaign spent another $14,167 at Villa Russo — an old favorite of former Gambino boss John Gotti — and listed the expense as related to fundraising.

Ulrich’s failed public advocate bid also spent more than $5,000 at Aldo’s, a Howard Beach pizzeria, for a fundraising event and “campaign food.”

The grandson of Aldo’s owner Aldo Calore was once busted by cops for torching a Mercedes-Benz driven by the owner of a competing pizza shop in a feud over $1,300 in catering business and caught himself on fire in the process.

The dumbfella, Gino Gabrielli, told cops at the time he had burned himself cooking chicken. 

His bail bond was signed by his sister, who dated John Gotti Jr. at the time. 

The New York Times first reported that Manhattan prosecutors were eying the pizza joint, which is now owned by Anthony and Joe Livreri, as part of the probe that has ensnared Ulrich.

Ulrich, Russo’s on the Bay and Villa Russo did not respond to requests for comment. 

The city’s Campaign Finance Board, which is tasked with policing political spending, told The Post in a statement Friday, “The Campaign Finance Board’s audits ensure that the public trust placed in our agency is honored by candidates.

“Our reviews make sure public funds go to qualified candidates who spend the money for qualified campaign purposes.”


Thursday, November 3, 2022

NYC building commissioner resigns after his phone is seized in a criminal gambling investigation

New York City’s building commissioner resigned Thursday after it was revealed that he was under investigation and had turned his cellphone over as part of a criminal gambling probe.

Eric Ulrich, 37, tendered his resignation to avoid “unnecessary distraction for the Adams administration,” said Fabien Levy, a rep for Mayor Eric Adams.

“We have accepted his resignation, appreciate him taking this step, and wish him well,” Levy said. “We have no further knowledge of any investigation and, out of respect for his and his family’s privacy, have nothing further to add.”

First Deputy Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik will serve as acting commissioner and no services will be affected, Levy added.

The resignation comes after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized Ulrich’s phone on Tuesday, and questioned him for more than two hours, sources previously told The Post.

Ulrich, a Republican served from 2009 until he was term limited out last year, hasn’t been charged with a crime. He had served as commissioner since he was appointed to that $243,171-a-year role by Adams in May.

He drew the attention of authorities who were conducting an organized crime investigation and had possibly racked up debts in backroom Ozone Park card games with reputed mob associates, sources previously told The Post.

As a city councilman, Ulrich once wrote a letter to a federal judge asking for leniency for “personal friend” and reputed Bonanno family associate Robert Pisani, who had pleaded guilty to a RICO conspiracy charge.

“Mr. Pisani is a kind person, devoted family man and a selfless individual,” Ulrich wrote on behalf of Pisani in a 2018 letter printed on his official City Council letterhead.

When Ulrich’s 3-year-old daughter was hospitalized with an injury from a “shopping cart accident,” Pisani sent the nurses bagels and food, the letter claimed.

“I found about his kind deed after the fact,” Ulrich wrote to Judge Dora Irizarry. “When I insisted on paying for the food, he told me to donate the money to charity. He really is a good guy.”

It’s not clear if that letter is part of the investigation.

Ulrich reported gambling winnings on his ethics disclosures as a city councilman totaling between $5,000 and $47,999 in 2016 and 2017. He reported the same range in winnings from the New York State Lottery for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, disclosures show.

In 2021, Ulrich announced he was battling alcoholism and looking to get sober.

“The COVID pandemic has affected people in different ways,” Ulrich said at the time. “What used to be mainly a social activity, and a way to cope with stress, and a way to cope with stress, has now become far too frequent and self-destructive.”

Ulrich’s resignation comes just one day after the mayor said he had no plans to remove the him from his post in the city’s Department of Buildings.

“Eric is still the commissioner there,” Adams said. “Number 2, this is really so early for us to be saying we should, we should, we should… The DA’s office is going to do their review, that review will determine how we move forward.”

Adams said the administration “had no idea” about the probe until reporters began calling around on Monday asking about it.

Adams’ chief counsel Brendan McGuire said Ulrich passed a background check required of senior leaders before he was appointed.

Ulrich did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. Neither he nor the DA office have commented on the investigation.


85 year old Chicago mobster moved to halfway house after serving time for murder

The last major "Family Secrets" mobster is out of federal prison.

At age 85, Paul "the Indian" Schiro has now moved to a halfway house.

He had been locked up Butler Federal Penitentiary in North Carolina and, as the I-Team first reported, he said he wanted out because the jailhouse was a breeding ground for COVID bugs.

Schiro was put away after being among those convicted in the government's "Operation Family Secrets" mob murder trial.

In 1986, he murdered Arizona businessman Emil Vaci, whom Outfit bosses had feared was cooperating with law enforcement in a casino death case.

But, Vaci's daughter told Judge John Blakey that, "We are the victims, not Paul Schiro because of his failing health and COVID-19."

"This is an 85 year old. He's probably, unless he is broke -- maybe he is -- he's probably looking for a quiet retired life," said John Binder, who is a Chicago mob historian and author. "Again, if they think he is not of any great use to them, they may well just let him move on a retire."

The judge said Schiro needed to stay in prison "to provide just punishment" for his role in "the cold-blooded murder of an individual thought to be a potential witness" against the infamous racketeering enterprise to which Schiro belonged.

Schiro has now finished his prison sentence and has been assigned by authorities to a halfway house in Phoenix, Arizona.

He will finish up his time there and will be fully free next April, just as he is pushing 90.

"Either your life ends or they let you go and say, 'Okay, Paulie,' you know, 'You're not good any more, you're sick --you can go retire. We really don't need ya,'" Binder said.

Schiro may be the last man to carry a family secret out of prison, but he's not the last Family Secret man in prison.

That blue ribbon goes to Outfit boss Jimmy "The Man" Marcello, who will remain locked up in America's supermax Colorado prison until the day he dies. He is serving a life sentence for being a top operator of the Outfit.

Other top mob bosses who went away in the Family Secrets trial died in prison. And for all of them, at least at the end, crime paid with taxpayer meals and a pint-sized mattress. 


Federal judge orders release of aging Colombo Captain convicted of ordering murders during bloody civil war

Two convicted killers — together with mob capo Anthony Russo, who ordered murders in the course of the bloody Colombo crime household civil warfare — are being released from jail by a federal decide.

Russo and Paul Moore, a drug trafficker who fatally shot a rival, got diminished sentences Wednesday by Judge Frederic Block below the First Step Act.

The felons utilized for compassionate launch below the prison justice reform invoice, which was signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018.

Block famous that Russo and Moore have been mannequin prisoners, and that they have been punished with life sentences for exercising their proper to trial.

“I am letting two murderers sentenced to life out of prison,” Block wrote Wednesday. “But I have painstakingly endeavored to explain why it is the appropriate thing to do under the First Step Act.”

The two males will be sprung instantly, however Block minimize each their jail phrases to 35 years.

That means Russo, 70, nonetheless owes six years of his sentence, whereas Moore, 56, has about three years to go, although each may probably get credit score for good time.

Russo and two others have been convicted in 1994 of conspiring to homicide John Minerva and Michael Imbergamo in the course of the battle between Colombo boss Victor Orena and Alphonse Persico — the son of jailed Colombo head Carmine “The Snake” Persico. A dozen killings have been linked to the bloody battle.

Russo served as a captain below Orena, however when the warfare broke out in 1991, he sided with Persico. On March 25, 1992, Russo’s subordinates stalked Minerva and Imbergamo — who sided with Orena — to a restaurant Minerva owned on Long Island, and shot them dead as they walked to their vehicles.

In his memo, Block praised the First Step Act, which has led to the discount of greater than 4,000 jail sentences. Russo and Moore’s instances “reflect the broad range of issues” that Block believes judges ought to take a look at whereas weighing compassionate launch requests,” he wrote.

“The Act was a remarkable piece of bipartisan legislation by an otherwise divided Congress and reflected the realization by lawyers on both sides of the aisle that sentencing reform of the judicial system was sorely needed,” Block stated.

Block, 88, has served on the federal bench since his appointment by President Clinton in 1994.

Prior to that, on the retrial within the slaying of a Hasidic man in the course of the 1991 Crown Heights riot, Block requested a Black witness to outline the slang time period “‘chillin’ for somebody who is not a brother.”

He has a repute for taking pictures from the hip, and was ripped on the front page of the Daily News in 2007 with the headline “Judge Blockhead” after he ridiculed prosecutors for looking for the dying penalty towards a drug kingpin throughout a racketeering homicide trial.

Russo “has clearly demonstrated that he has achieved extraordinary rehabilitation” when he utilized for compassionate launch in April and pointed to his well being issues and his danger of catching COVID-19, Block wrote.

He additionally contends that Russo shouldn’t be penalized for selecting to go to trial.

“Russo exercised his constitutional right to trial. Of Russo’s 14 co-defendants, seven went to trial. Six received mandatory life sentences under the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines. The seventh was acquitted,” he wrote. “In contrast, the remaining co-defendants received sentences ranging from time-served, equating to approximately four years, to 270 months.”

Those different defendants have been accused of actions “no less violent or destructive than those who received life sentences,” he stated.

Federal prosecutors opposed Russo’s early launch, arguing that he confirmed a “disregard for the law and human life,” and that he may nonetheless grow to be a participant within the Colombo crime household.

“Russo rose through the ranks to serve as a captain of the Colombo crime family, a position from which he gave direction to the ‘made men’ who reported to him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Lash wrote to the decide. “His risk he poses (even at an advanced age) comes from the influence he has over others in the enterprise.”

The decide made comparable arguments about Moore, a Jamaican immigrant who served as an enforcer for drug boss Eric Vassell, and was tasked with increasing his gang’s affect from Brooklyn to Texas. Moore and an confederate shot and killed a rival drug vendor in 1991, and he shot one of his personal gang members within the leg to self-discipline him for disrespecting Vassell, Block wrote.

“Like Russo, Moore has also been the victim of sentencing disparities. Only Moore and one of his 46 co-defendants are serving life sentences,” Block stated. “Eric Vassell, who accepted a plea deal, murdered two people and ordered the murders of several others. He is scheduled to be released from prison in December after serving approximately 25 years.”

Moore, who utilized for compassionate launch final November, has agreed not to combat deportation after he’s freed.

A spokesman for Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Breon Peace declined remark.

Lawyers for Russo and Moore didn’t return messages looking for remark.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

NYC building commissioner being probed for gambling with mobsters


New York City’s building commissioner is under investigation as part of a gambling probe, and he may have racked up debts during card games with mob associates and helped award contracts as payback, law-enforcement sources told The Post on Tuesday.  

Department of Buildings chief Eric Ulrich, a former city councilman, was served a search warrant by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office outside his home in Queens in the morning, according to sources.

Investigators seized Ulrich’s cell phone during the search, sources said.

Investigators are focusing on gambling that Ulrich allegedly participated in in back rooms in Ozone Park, Queens, apparently before he joined Mayor Eric Adams’ administration this year.

Ulrich has not responded to requests for comment from The Post. DA spokeswoman Danielle Filson declined comment.

Adams didn’t take questions from reporters as he arrived at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our administration has no knowledge of any type of investigation,” Adams rep Fabien Levy said. “If an investigation were to be conducted, we would expect any member of this administration to cooperate fully.”

Ulrich, a Republican, served on the council from 2009 until he was term-limited out at the end of 2021. This year, he joined the Adams administration first as a senior adviser to the mayor before he was bumped up to this spring to his $243,171-a-year gig as commissioner.

While still a councilman, Ulrich reported gambling winnings on his city ethics disclosures of between $5,000 and $47,999 in 2016 and 2017. He reported the same range in winnings from the New York State Lottery for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, disclosures show.

In 2021, Ulrich said in a Facebook post that he was battling alcoholism and looking to get sober.

“The COVID pandemic has affected people in different ways,” Ulrich said at the time. “What used to be mainly a social activity, and a way to cope with stress, and a way to cope with stress, has now become far too frequent and self-destructive.”


Monday, October 24, 2022

Bronx priest and brother of deceased Genovese Boss dies at 90

The Bronx priest whose brother was oddball Genovese crime-family boss Vincent “The Chin’’ Gigante has died at age 90. 

The Rev. Louis Gigante, who once headed up the South East Bronx Community Organization and served as a city councilman in the 1970s, was known for his vociferous defense of his Mafioso brother.

Louis Gigante, who died last week, was described by The Post in 1975 as a “priest who plays power politics instead of bingo.”

At the time, he told The Post his old-school party-machine politics were “a question of power.

“People have to eat,” Louis said.

Born the youngest of five boys to immigrant Italian parents, Gigante grew up with his family in Greenwich Village. His older brothers went on to become mobsters, with Vinnie rising through the ranks of the Genovese crime family to lead the organization for decades.

The mumbling, pajama-wearing, Greenwich Village-walking don died in prison in 2005 after his conviction on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to kill rival mob boss John Gotti.

Presiding over his brother’s funeral Mass, Louis Gigante said Vinnie “lived a Christian life and was a good man.”

Louis Gigante defended his brother during his trial — at which the mob boss would often appear confused — telling reporters that “The Chin” had suffered from a degenerative brain condition since the ’70s.

When a Mafia turncoat told the feds that Louis Gigante himself was a made man — testimony the informant later denied at trial — the priest was dismissive.

“Not a bad movie, but even Hollywood doesn’t go that far,” Louis quipped to the Post in 1997.

As head of SEBCO, Louis Gigante was instrumental in the revitalization of one of the most impoverished sections of The Bronx, bringing relative safety and stability to a neighborhood that had literally been in ruins.

But his success there caught the eye of government investigators in the 1990s, who suspected the involvement of Genovese-connected contractors in SEBCO’s rebuilding efforts. No charges were ever filed against Louis Gigante or his organization.

Louis made headlines in the 1980s as well — when he used $25,000 of his own money to bail out one of the so-called “Central Park Five,” a group of teenagers arrested, falsely convicted and ultimately exonerated for the brutal rape of a Manhattan jogger.

“Everyone who’s so filled with anger about these suspects should ask themselves, ‘what if this were my son, wouldn’t I want him helped?’ ” the priest said at the time.

He also ended up in the news last year when he was slapped with lawsuits accusing him of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy in the 1970s and a 10-year-old girl in the 1960s. He did not comment on the two suits at the time. Both lawsuits were still pending at the time of his death, the New York Times said.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Son is convicted of ordering murder of his mobster father over his real estate empire

Someone kept trying to kill Sylvester Zottola, month after month.

The first attack came in September 2017, when a man approached Mr. Zottola, whom the authorities described as a Mafia associate, outside his Bronx home and knocked him down with a punch in the face.

That November, someone tried to shoot Mr. Zottola as he drove on the Throggs Neck Expressway. Two days after Christmas, men lurking inside his home stabbed him in the neck. In the summer of 2018, a man walked up on the sidewalk, pointed a pistol at him and pulled the trigger only for the weapon to misfire.

Finally, that fall, an attacker succeeded in killing Mr. Zottola, 71, shooting him repeatedly as he sat in his S.U.V. at a McDonald’s drive-through on Webster Avenue.

On Wednesday, a jury in Brooklyn convicted Anthony Zottola, his 44-year-old son, of conspiracy, murder-for-hire, shooting his brother, Salvatore Zottola, and murdering his father.

Prosecutors had told jurors that Anthony Zottola planned to kill his brother and father so he could control a family real estate business worth millions of dollars. He was accused of working with a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang who hired a “network of hit men.”

Himen Ross, who was accused of firing the fatal shots, was convicted on Wednesday, along with Anthony Zottola. They face life sentences, prosecutors said.

Alfred Lopez, who prosecutors said was Mr. Ross’s getaway driver, was acquitted. Several other men had pleaded guilty to participating in the plot. Among them was a senior Bloods member, Bushawn Shelton.

After Wednesday’s verdict, Anthony Zottola’s wife exited the courtroom weeping. In a hallway, Salvatore Zottola said his father was a good man.

“He didn’t deserve this,” Salvatore Zottola added. “None of us did.”

Evidence presented by prosecutors during an eight-week trial in Federal District Court included surveillance camera footage of shootings, hundreds of text messages among conspirators and testimony from a hired killer who described bumbling assassination attempts.

That witness, Ron Cabey, testified that in addition to trying to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola, who was shot in 2018, he contemplated murdering Mr. Shelton, whom he suspected of withholding information from him, and two getaway drivers whom he deemed overly talkative.

In the end, Mr. Cabey’s decision to talk broke the case. He was arrested in the summer of 2018 after a police officer saw him disposing of a gun and he eventually told investigators about the murder plots. That led to the arrest of Mr. Shelton and the discovery of text messages he had exchanged with Anthony Zottola.

Prosecutors said the two often used code. They referred to Sylvester Zottola as “the actor” and to murder attempts as “scenes.”

On the day that Sylvester Zottola escaped the attempted expressway shooting, Mr. Shelton wrote to Anthony Zottola, saying: “The actor wanted to do his own stunts and throw it in reverse in the middle of shooting a scene and drive in the opposite direction.”

Mr. Zottola replied that he was “changing the location of the last scene” adding: “We going to film in his dressing room.” Hours before the attack on Sylvester Zottola in his home, Anthony Zottola wrote: “I get keys to dressing room.”

The Zottola family had lived for decades in the Bronx, with generations sharing homes in the Pelham Bay neighborhood and in Locust Point, a quiet enclave facing the Long Island Sound. Sylvester Zottola built several large brick houses there with mottos carved into their facades, including “Our walls are built thick. Our love for each other is thicker.”

“He wanted us to live together,” Salvatore Zottola testified. “It was his dream.”

A prosecutor in court said that Mr. Zottola “had ties to the Mafia,” and he reputedly was associated with the Bonanno crime family. Salvatore Zottola testified that, although his father was friendly with mobsters, he was not a “made member” of La Cosa Nostra.

His father’s income came from providing pool tables, jukeboxes and poker machines to bars and restaurants, Salvatore Zottola said, and from about 30 properties in the Bronx that yielded roughly $1.5 million a year in rental income.

Salvatore Zottola’s wife, Katie Zottola, testified that Anthony Zottola had told her he had a buyer who would pay $27 million for those properties. But, she added, the elder Mr. Zottola had vetoed the sale.

 “Anthony believed his father and his brother were in his way,” a prosecutor, Devon Lash, told jurors during her opening statement. “He decided to kill them both.”

Defense lawyers said Anthony Zottola had not conspired to kill his father and brother. Instead, they said, he had been taken advantage of by a group of criminals with whom he had cultivated a relationship because he felt he needed protection against the Mafia.

“That is something he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life,” one of his lawyers, Ilana Haramati, told jurors.

Perhaps the most riveting evidence in the trial came from Mr. Cabey, who testified that Mr. Shelton offered him separate fees of $10,000 to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola.

Mr. Cabey testified that he set out several times to kill one or both, but was hindered by poor planning and blunders.

Once Mr. Shelton berated a getaway driver who had risked drawing unwanted attention by smoking strong-smelling marijuana while parked at night on a quiet residential street near Salvatore Zottola’s Locust Point home, Mr. Cabey said.

Mr. Cabey also testified that a brown van used as a getaway vehicle often had engine trouble. On another night, parked near Salvatore Zottola’s home, he and a driver had to call Mr. Shelton and ask for a jump start.

One day in June 2018, Mr. Cabey stalked Sylvester Zottola through the streets of Pelham Bay, then walked toward him pointing a pistol, an episode that was partly captured on video.

“As I’m brandishing the firearm, I’m pulling the trigger and the trigger was just not firing,” Mr. Cabey testified.

Mr. Cabey fled as Mr. Zottola fired his own pistol back at him. When the police arrived, they arrested Mr. Zottola for criminal possession of a firearm. Mr. Cabey was arrested later that day by officers in Manhattan who saw him throwing away a gun but did not know about the incident in the Bronx.

In July, a man shot Salvatore Zottola as he emerged from a van he had parked outside his home, striking him in the chest, the back and the head.

“Didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would,” he testified. “The first shot, when it hit me, it was more of just a push back to the van. When I got shot in the back, that hurt. Then when I got shot in the head, that was the last shot I remember.”

Still in jail after his arrest in June, Mr. Cabey saw a television news report on the shooting and recognized the neighborhood he had been staking out. Soon after that, he testified, he learned from a criminal associate who had helped introduce him to Mr. Shelton that he was to have received $25,000 for each murder he committed, while Mr. Shelton had promised him only $10,000.

By that time, Mr. Cabey said, Mr. Shelton had stopped communicating with him. And the television report made him realize that he was participating in a plot guaranteed to draw public attention. Within months, Mr. Cabey began cooperating with investigators and pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire.

That came too late to stop the death of Sylvester Zottola. He was on the phone with his girlfriend while waiting in the McDonald’s drive-through for a cup of coffee when, prosecutors said, Mr. Ross ran up and shot him.

Salvatore Zottola testified that after the shooting, he spoke on the phone with his brother: “He said that Margaret, my father’s girlfriend, was on the phone with my dad and she heard a bunch of bangs, and he never answered the phone again.”

According to text messages introduced as evidence, Mr. Ross wrote “Done” to Mr. Shelton four minutes after the shooting. Four minutes after that, Mr. Shelton sent a message to Anthony Zottola saying: “Can we party today or tomorrow.”

Anthony Zottola replied that it was his son’s birthday, adding that he was taking him to his favorite place — McDonald’s.

“Hey it’s like your birthday today as well lol,” replied Mr. Shelton.


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Gambino associate receives 40 year sentence for killing mobster pal over $750K

Arraignment of Anthony Pandrella

A reputed Gambino associate who killed his elderly mobster pal after stealing $750,000 in loansharking cash will spend the next 40 years behind bars.

Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Margo Brodie handed down the sentence to Anthony Pandrella, 63, on Wednesday, but not before the wiseguy had to face his victim’s devastated son and daughter one more time.

“He doesn’t deserve another day outside prison,” seethed victim Vincent Zito’s son, Joseph. “I hope you live a long time behind bars.”

Pandrella was close to the 78-year-old victim’s family — Zito referred to him as his “right-hand man,” and the family saw Pandrella as an uncle, someone who came to their house most days, and who promised to take care of the family if anything ever happened to their patriarch.

They never thought that Pandrella would shoot Zito on Oct. 26, 2018, leaving the victim’s body in his family’s Sheepshead Bay home, where his 11-year-old grandson would find it.

The killing stemmed from a fight over stolen cash. Pandrella agreed to hold on to $750,000 from Zito’s loanshark business because Zito was worried he was under investigation. But when Zito asked for the money back, Pandrella said it had vanished from his basement.

Enraged, Zito threatened to kill Pandrella over dinner at Battista, a restaurant in Brooklyn, just weeks before the slaying, so Pandrella acted first — then sat with the grief-stricken family the night of the murder.

Pandrella was convicted at trial in June.

“All for greed, the defendant ruthlessly executed his longtime friend after being welcomed into his home,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Pandrella’s cold-blooded crime has cost him dearly with the loss of his freedom for decades.”

Zito’s family has struggled to stay close without their patriarch. “He was the ones that brought us close. He was the walls and the glue,” his daughter, Samantha Zito, told the court Wednesday.

Since the killing, she’s had to upend her life in New Mexico and move back to her father’s Brooklyn house, living under the same roof where she grew up and where he was murdered, to keep the property from falling into disrepair.

“The love and energy that once filled it are gone,” she said.

Pandrella, who is hospitalized and uses a wheelchair, suffers from gangrene and diabetes. “Anything far beyond the 10-year statutory minimum is going to be a death sentence,” said his lawyer, James Froccaro.

Despite his failing health, prosecutors asked Judge Brodie to sentence Pandrella to life behind bars, saying that the sentence would a send a message about the “heinous” nature of the crime.

Even though they were hoping Pandrella would get life, Zito’s children said they were satisfied justice was done.

“In essence, 40 years? Sixty-three years old? You tell me what it is,” Joseph Zito said. “But just the satisfaction of hearing ‘life.’ A life for a life, in my mind.”


Friday, September 30, 2022

Feds seek life sentence for Gambino associate for killing elderly Lucchese loanshark over $750K

Vincent Zito was gunned down in his Brooklyn home in 2018.Vincent Zito was gunned down in his Brooklyn home in 2018.

A Gambino associate who murdered his elderly mobster pal over $750,000 in stolen loansharking proceeds should spend the rest of his life behind bars, federal prosecutors argued Thursday.

Anthony Pandrella, 63, killed Vincent Zito, 78, in Zito’s home in 2018, before the Lucchese loanshark had the chance to whack him first over the missing money. Pandrella was convicted at trial in Brooklyn Federal Court in June.

Prosecutors called the case “worse than even most premeditated murders” in a sentencing memo filed Thursday.

“The murder of the defendant’s frail, elderly friend was callous, cold-blooded and motivated by greed. The defendant knew the victim’s family, which had welcomed him into their home; he knew the anguish this murder would cause — and he did it anyway, for money,” wrote assistant U.S. attorneys. M. Kristin Mace and Matthew R. Galeotti.

The sordid saga began when Pandrella agreed to hold on to $750,000 from Zito’s loanshark business because Zito was worried he was under investigation.

But when Zito asked for his money back, Pandrella said it had mysteriously vanished from his basement.

An angry Zito threatened to kill Pandrella over dinner at Battista, a restaurant in Brooklyn, just weeks before the Oct. 26, 2018 killing, prosecutors said.

The morning of the murder, Pandrella told Zito he was ready to pay up and went to his friend’s Sheepshead Bay home. But instead of bringing the cash, he pumped a bullet in the back of Zito’s head. He then stole the victim’s expensive watches and fled.

That night, Pandrella returned to Zito’s home to sit with his grieving friends and relatives — and to find out what he could about the murder investigation.

Federal prosecutors said Pandrella can’t use a tough upbringing as an excuse for his actions.

“The defendant had an average, middle-class life with no extraordinary hardship. The defendant simply believed he could get away with murder, and he tried to (do) just that,” they wrote.

Pandrella’s lawyer, James Froccaro, asked Judge Margo Brodie to take into account his “myriad serious health issues,” including chronic heart disease, diabetes and a debilitating gangrene condition.

His sentencing is set for Oct. 5.


Genovese associate linked to disgraced Bronx politician pleads guilty to racketeering


A mobster whose relationship with disgraced Bronx County Clerk Luis Diaz led to the pol’s conviction earlier this year pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Thursday to an unrelated racketeering conspiracy. 

Genovese associate Thomas Poli admitted to Judge John Koeltl that he threatened people who didn’t pay their gambling debts as part of a Bronx-based bookkeeping operation run by the crime family.

“I just yelled at people and threatened them,” the wiseguy told the judge. 

Poli, who was previously convicted and sentenced in 2019 on a separate criminal charge, got some help from Diaz —  a former state assemblyman — in his attempt to prove he’d satisfied the conditions of his plea in that case.

He asked Diaz, who had deep ties to the Bronx Democratic Party establishment, to submit a letter to the court falsely claiming that he’d performed volunteer work for a now-defunct homeless services provider.

Diaz, 69, in July pleaded guilty to defrauding the Bronx state court by telling a judge that Poli had fulfilled a community service requirement in exchange for cash.

Poli was arrested in August with five other Genovese mobsters – including his own son and two caporegimes – for the scheme, which included extortion and illegal gambling, according to the indictment against them.

If the case went to trial, prosecutors would show Poli’s son, Michael, headed the illegal gambling operation and used his father to collect debts, Assistant US Attorney Celia Cohen said at Thursday’s plea hearing. 

Poli, who was represented by attorney John Meringolo, told the judge that on one occasion he went to Pennsylvania to threaten someone who hadn’t paid their debt to the operation. 

Diaz was suspended in October 2020 from his $200,000-a-year job as the county clerk amid an investigation by Attorney General Letitia James into the bribery. 

The disgraced pol pleaded guilty to one count of offering a false instrument and is now barred from ever holding public office in New York. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Newly released FBI files reveal Frank Cali's rise from Soldier to Boss of the Gambino family

A trove of long-hidden FBI files shed light on how slain Gambino boss Frank “Franky Boy” Cali ascended from a family soldier in the 1990s to head of the powerful crime syndicate until his shocking killing in 2019.

The heavily redacted files, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, offer to date perhaps the most revealing look into Cali’s rise to power — as the mafia kingpin was known as a “ghost” who kept an extremely low profile to avoid federal prosecution.

Cali — who was gunned down outside his Staten Island mansion at 53 — was arrested just once in a 2008 extortion conspiracy, despite years of being eyed by the FBI and surveilled by agents in Brooklyn, a testament to his ability to stay off the radar.

After he was shot dead by an apparent QAnon devotee in the Todt Hill neighborhood, one law enforcement official told the New York Times that Cali was the polar opposite of flashy Gambino boss, John “Dapper Don” Gotti. 

“He’s basically a ghost,” the official said. 

But according to the FBI files, Cali fell on the bureau’s radar in the spring of 1996, when he was about 30 years old, for helping to skipper a phone card fraud scheme for the Gambinos from a Park Avenue office building. 

By November of that year, FBI agents in New York believed several Gambinos were involved in the “production and distribution of telephone travel cards” — and that they committed a number of federal crimes as part of the scheme, including money laundering, income tax violation, mail fraud and wire fraud. 

“It goes without saying that the telephone card industry is one of the most important sources of illegal income for the Gambino LCN Family,” one FBI official wrote. 

At the time, Cali was listed in the FBI file as a “proposed soldier” for the Gambino family — and the feds believed he had not yet been “made,” or taken a blood oath of loyalty to the syndicate he would later lead. 

In October 1997, FBI special agents in New York contacted the bureau’s Atlanta field office to appraise them of an apparent $94 million phone card “bust-out scheme” led by the Gambinos that targeted Georgia-based Worldcom. 

“The method was to sell as many phone cards as possible on the street by charging the best price per country and offering the best discount to the distributors,” one of the FBI reports states. “[Redacted] paid Worldcom only a small percentage of his outstanding balance throughout the ten-month scheme.” 

It adds: “Gambino members such as [redacted] Frank Cali and others lined their pockets with millions in cash from the aforementioned scheme.”

Cali, along with Gambino members John D’Amico and Joseph Watts, allegedly created a company called CNC to distribute the phone cards, flooding the market with the cards that would later be billed by Worldcom.

“Due to the flood of cards, the debt owed to Worldcom grew exponentially. In the beginning, CNC paid their debt and was considered trustworthy by Worldcom. However, CNC did not continue to pay their debt,” a March 7, 1997, FBI document states. 

Around that time, the feds appeared to take an increased interest in Cali, according to the documents.

They began tailing him in Brooklyn, photographing him with associates on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, and interviewing confidential sources about the Gambino soldier. 

In one October 1997 report, an FBI agent recorded doing a “spot check” on a location on 18th Avenue between 72nd and 75th Streets in Bensonhurst, according to the files. The agent recorded an unidentified mark walking with Cali before entering the “Point After Sports Bar and Grill.”

In July of that year, an agent drew up a report titled, “Surveillance of Frank Cali on 18th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY,” which included photographs of Cali and several other people as they visited Tony’s Luncheonette in the neighborhood. 

The FBI also listed him as a “recently made member in the Gambino Family” in a March 1997 communication. 

A federal grand jury related to Cali was convened in 1998 in the Eastern District of New York, but charges against him were never brought, the documents show.

Federal charges for a phone card scam were later filed against John Gotti Jr., the reputed leader of the Gambino family at the time, but later dropped by prosecutors. 

“I was a victim. I lost a lot of money on that deal,” Junior told The Post at the time. 

After his one arrest in 2008, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn highlighted Cali’s involvement in the phone card scheme in arguing he be locked up pending trial. 

At a detention hearing, prosecutor Joey Lipton told the judge Cali — who had risen to the rank of captain at the time — had been a successful criminal because of his ability to hide from the spotlight. 

“Cali, like other members of the family, has sworn a blood oath to the organization to commit criminal activity,” Lipton said. “Cali has been successful in fulfilling that oath, in large part because he’s been careful.”

Lipton also alleged Cali had significant ties to mafia members in Italy, telling the judge that a number of people in his crew at the time had been born in the old country.

Lipton said investigators recorded two Italian mafiosos speaking about Cali in Palermo.

“He’s everything over there,” one of the Italian made men said to the other, Lipton said at the hearing.

In the 2008 case, Cali pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

After his release, he continued his meteoric rise in the family, reportedly rising to the boss in 2015 after the acting don Domenico Cefalu stepped down. 

Cali’s hidden image exploded into international headlines when he was shot and killed outside of his home in March 2019. 

The alleged gunman, Anthony Comello, an apparent QAnon conspiracy theorist, lured Cali outside of his home in Todt Hill on March 13, 2019 by crashing into the mobster’s parked car, police said at the time.

After a brief conversation between the two, Comello allegedly shot Cali multiple times in the chest, fatally wounding him.

After a number of bizarre court appearances – including one where he scrawled the letter “Q” on his hand – Comello was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial in 2020.

A spokesperson for the Staten Island District Attorney’s office said in an email Wednesday that they could not provide any information about the case.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

John Gotti's grandson to make professional boxing debut

These hits will be perfectly legal.

The grandson of fabled New York mob boss John Gotti is pivoting from the octagon to the squared circle.

John Gotti III, 29, who went 5-1 as a mixed martial arts fighter, is set to make his professional boxing debut Oct. 1 on home turf — the 1,000-seat Paramount in Huntington, LI.

The brawler from Oyster Bay — son of John “Junior” Gotti — will be fighting in a four-round light heavyweight bout against an opponent not yet announced.

“He’s rough and tough. He’s got great fighting instinct,” promoter Joe DeGuardia told the Post.

DeGuardia said the 6-foot tall Gotti will fight at a ripped 175 pounds for the bout, part of “Rockin’ Fights 43.” The promoter believes young John has the skillset to make the transition from MMA to boxing — and whack his ring opponent.

“In boxing, you have to measure an opponent a little more [than MMA]. You have to set up your punches. … It’s very much a mind game as it is a physical game,” DeGuardia said.

Junior Gotti could not be reached for comment. But he previously told The Post he and young John bonded by watching boxing and MMA. The Gotti family has tried to stay “under the radar” throughout the pugilist’s career, according to another promoter.


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

While testifying on the stand in federal court witness declares he is not a rat

A star witness for the prosecution declared “I’m not a rat” from the witness stand in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday.

Ron Cabey who is testifying as part of a cooperation agreement with the feds in the murder-for-hire case against Anthony Zottola maintained that he wasn’t a snitch.

“I’m not a rat,” Cabey, 32, said. “I’m a cooperator.” 

On Tuesday, Cabey told jurors how he tried – and failed – at least six times to rub out Mafia-associate Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola, 71, and his other son, Salvatore, 45. 

Prosecutors allege Anthony hired a Bloods gang leader to orchestrate his father’s hit and the attempted murder of older brother Salvatore in an effort to seize control of the family’s $45 million Bronx real estate empire.

Anthony, 44, is on trial with two co-defendants, Alfred Lopez and Himen Ross, who were allegedly hired by the Bloods to take out Sylvester at a Bronx McDonald’s drive thru in 2018. 

Cabey declared he was not a “rat” while responding to a series of sharp questions from defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio about an alleged interaction he had with Ross in a holding cell at the Brooklyn courthouse.

During a break in the trial Tuesday, Cabey and Ross allegedly hurled insults and threats at one another when they were placed near each other in the back room. 

“Suck my d–k. I’ll f–k your baby mother when I’m out. Your daughter could suck my d–k too,” Cabey yelled at Ross, he testified. 

“You claimed he called you a rat,” Macedonio, who represents Ross, asked. “You are a rat, right?” 

“I’m not a rat,” Cabey said. “I’m a cooperator,”  

On Wednesday, Cabey explained in detail his lengthy criminal career, which included a plot to kidnap a young child and taking part in too many armed robberies to count while working as part of a Harlem stick-up crew. 

During his time in the crew – and in the failed Zottola “mission” – Cabey said his co-conspirators provided him with “homework” about the marks, or identifying details he could use to carry out the crimes. 

He later claimed on the stand that he wanted to find a job after his prison term – and floated the idea of working with children when he gets out. 

Macedonio jumped on that line.

“Do you plan to kidnap those children?” she asked. “Are you going to help them with their homework, sir? Are you going to teach them what homework is, sir?” 

Cabey is in prison and is detained in a jail that houses cooperating witnesses. He said he is testifying in the hope to earn a letter from prosecutors for a lenient sentence. 

Salvatore and Anthony’s sister, Debbie Zottola, said Cabey should spend the rest of his life in prison. 

“He is a disgusting monster. He should never be allowed back on the streets again,” she said.


Lucchese mobsters busted for running 15 year old online illegal gambling ring

Five men face federal charges for allegedly running an illegal gambling ring for over 15 years with the protection of the Lucchese crime family, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Lucchese crime family soldier Anthony Villani, 57, of Elmsford, and associates Louis “Tooch” Tucci, Jr., 59, of Tuckahoe, Dennis Filizzola, 58, of Cortland Manor, and James “Quick” Coumoutsos, 59, of the Bronx, were arrested at their residences in the New York for allegedly overseeing and operating a large-scale illegal, online gambling business under the protection of the Lucchese organized crime family. They are due to be arraigned before the federal court in Brooklyn on Sept. 14.

A fifth defendant, 44-year-old bookmaker Michael “Platinum” Praino, was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida. Though he is a Bronx resident, Praino will make his initial appearance in federal court in West Palm Beach on Sept. 15.

“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Lucchese crime family,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace. “These charges illustrate this Office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York.” 

According to court documents, Villani allegedly oversaw a large-scale illegal gambling business called Rhino Sports, which was in business from at least 2004 through December 2020. During this time, the business was allegedly hosted online using offshore servers in Costa Rica and employed local bookmakers to pay and collect winnings in cash.  

Records from the Rhino Sports website allegedly indicated that Villani’s gambling operation regularly took bets from between 400 and 1,300 bettors each week, most of whom were based in New York City and the metropolitan area, and the bookmakers allegedly regularly included members and associates of the Lucchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families.

Charges say that Villani allegedly employed Tucci and Filizzola as runners to assist in operating the business and received over $1 million annually from the business. Law enforcement searches in December 2020 allegedly uncovered $407,000 in cash from one of Villani’s residences, as well as brass knuckles and gambling ledgers.

Villani has been charged with racketeering in connection with the alleged participation in various criminal schemes, including illegal gambling, money laundering and attempted extortion. Regarding the money laundering charge, Villani and Filizzola allegedly used gambling proceeds to U.S. Postal Service money orders disguised as rent payments to a property owned by Villani. For the extortion charge, Villani allegedly attempted to extort an individual identified as John Doe between April and October 2020, telling him “I’m telling you right now, you don’t get this money – [expletive] run away.” 

“Members of the mafia are not giving up the tried and true methods of criminal behavior, even in the face of the burgeoning world of legal gambling. As we allege, a Lucchese soldier and other family members ran an illegal gambling operation and offered their clientele the same twisted customer service: do what they say or face terrifying consequences. One thing these criminals can bet on – the FBI will continue our pursuit,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll.


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Bumbling hitman testifies about multiple murder attempts on mob associate


They’re not Murder Inc. 

A bumbling would-be assassin described a series of botched hits against a New York mob associate during testimony in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday.

The failed triggerman, Ron Cabey, took the stand as a cooperating witness in the murder-for-hire case against Anthony Zottola, who is accused of enlisting two Bloods gang member to kill his dad Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola.

Cabey told jurors he agreed to kill the elder Zottola — — a reputed associate of the Bonanno and Lucchese crime families — for $10,000, touching off a series of bloopers that culminated with his arrest in 2018.

The family patriarch was ultimately fatally shot by another crook on Oct. 4, 2018 while waiting for a cup of takeout coffee at a drive-thru McDonald’s restaurant window in The Bronx.

But Cabey had tried — and failed — to rub out Sally Daz and his older son, Salvatore Zottola, at least six times, with four separate getaway drivers, earlier in 2018, he testified.

The stoolie told jurors he got roped into the murder plot through a meeting with a Bloods gang leader named Bushawn Shelton soon after he was released from jail in a separate case.  

Noting he “wasn’t comfortable with his driving skills,” Cabey said he requested Shelton hook him up with a getaway driver and a pistol to carry out the murders in The Bronx. 

In one would-be attempt on Salvatore, Cabey met with a driver – a Bloods gang member named “Dot” – in Brooklyn to set up for the shooting and wipe down the gun he planned to use, he testified. 

When the pair walked out of the Dot’s Bedford-Stuyvesant house, they were immediately noticed and pursued by undercover police officers in a car, he testified. 

Cabey threw his gun under a parked car and ran off — but Dot was arrested by the cops, he told jurors. Dot beat the case at the grand jury stage, Cabey said on the stand. 

In a second attempt with Dot, the pair loaded into a “horrible tan van” that was “a piece of junk” and drove to the Locust Point neighborhood where Salvatore lived. 

Shelton planned to meet them there to give Cabey a hunting knife – and the blundering duo smoked pot in the van as they waited for the Bloods gangbanger. 

A stoned Cabey then set off to kill Salvatore – but got spooked away when he thought someone at the house noticed him enter the wrong combination on a keypad to get into the home. 

In a final June 12, 2018 attempt, Cabey rode with defendant Himen Ross to one of Sylvester Zottola’s properties in the Bronx and finally got family patriarch in his gun sights. 

As he approached Sylvester on the street, the aging mobster shouted, “don’t come any closer!” Cabey told jurors. 

Sylvester then pulled his own pistol and fired at least one shot at Cabey, he said. Cabey tried to return fire, but his gun jammed, he testified. 

Police arrested Cabey later that day when they tried to pull over the car he and Ross were driving in, he said. 

Prosecutors allege the plot to kill Sally Daz was hatched by his son, Anthony, who wanted control over his father’s sprawling real estate empire. 

Anthony’s brother Salvatore Zotolla survived a brazen, daylight hit attempt outside of his house in Locust Point. 


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Older brother testifies against younger brother accused of ordering murder of mobster dad

The Cain and Abel of the Mafia’s “Five Families” faced off in court Wednesday as the eldest son of a slain mobster testified against his younger brother — who‘s accused of orchestrating the 2018 hit on their dad.

Black sheep Anthony Zottola, 44, also allegedly enlisted Bloods gang members to take out his older brother Salvatore Zottola, 45, who described in chilling detail how he was repeatedly shot outside their family’s waterfront residential compound in The Bronx.

Salvatore said he stopped counting after the fifth shot, but believed he may have been struck by seven rounds during the July 11, 2018, assassination attempt.

One bullet even grazed his head but miraculously didn’t penetrate his skull.

“It was like, lights out,” Salvatore told jurors in Brooklyn federal court.

The incident took place less than three months before family patriarch Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola was fatally shot while waiting for a cup of takeout coffee at a drive-thru McDonald’s restaurant window in The Bronx.

Prosecutors allege that Anthony paid a Bloods gang member, Bushawn “Shelz” Shelton, $200,000 to rub out his 71-year-old dad so he could seize control of the older man’s $45 million real estate empire.

His slaying was initially suspected to have been mob-related because Sally Daz — a reputed associate of the Bonanno and Lucchese crime families — was suspected of operating a string of illegal “Joker Poker” gambling machines.

His sons repeatedly stole glances at each other throughout Salvatore’s testimony Wednesday, with Anthony looking impassively at his brother while taking notes at the defense table.

But they never appeared to lock eyes.

Salvatore — who was granted immunity after invoking the Fifth Amendment when called to the witness stand Tuesday — testified that he was knocked to the ground by a shot to his chest that was fired by a man in a car with a New Jersey license plate.

“I tried standing. I fell to the curb. I couldn’t run. Rolling was the best thing I could do,” he said.

A friend and a relative who witnessed the attack “started yelling and screaming at me,” he said.

“They told me to stay down.”

Salvatore said he drifted “in and out of consciousness” but remembered telling the witnesses to take $1,200 stashed in his sock so the attackers wouldn’t get it.

He also asked them to pass along what he feared would be his final message.

“I said, ‘Tell my wife and my kids and my father that I love them,’” he testified.

Following the attack, Salvatore said, Anthony “never came” to visit him in the hospital.

“He said he had to go to a soccer game with his kids,” Salvatore said.

At some point afterward, Salvatore said, he asked Anthony if he knew anything about the origin of the violence directed toward him.

Anthony answered that “he didn’t know where it was coming from, either,” Salvatore said.

The attack on Salvatore was caught on surveillance video that showed him getting shot in a drive-by shooting that took place as he stepped out of a minivan.

Salvatore tried to crawl to safety behind the minivan but the shooter got out of the car and circled around, repeatedly firing as he chased Salvatore, who rolled around in the street.

Prosecutors didn’t show the video during Salvatore’s direct testimony, which concluded late Wednesday afternoon, and it was unclear if it would be entered into evidence later in the trial.

The attack took place in front of a fortified compound of homes dubbed “Zottola’s Court” next to the Locust Point Yacht Club.

In an ironic twist, plaques hanging on the homes there said, “Our foundation is built from love — our strength keeps us together” and “Our walls are built thick — our love for each is thicker.”

Another Zottola sibling, teacher Debbie Zottola, took notes in the courtroom gallery during Salvatore’s testimony and repeatedly broke down in tears.

“This is a traumatizing experience. We were a very, very close family — my brothers, my father and I,” she said outside court.

“We were an indestructible team. I love both of my brothers and will forever treasure what we have as a family.”

A total of 10 men were charged with murder for hire conspiracy in the case, with most, including Shelton, having previously pleaded guilty.

Anthony and his co-defendants faced the possibility of the death penalty in the alleged plot until Attorney General Merrick Garland “authorized and directed” prosecutors to not seek capital punishment in December.

Following that move, Anthony — who was ordered locked up following his June 18, 2019 arrest — sought to be released to electronically monitored house arrest on a $4 million bond secured by seven properties.

The bond was to be signed by Anthony, as well as his wife, sister and brother-in-law, mother-in-law, wife’s uncle and “lifelong friends,” according to court papers.

But Judge Raymond Dearie rejected the request, writing, “While the circumstances have changed for the better for Mr. Zottola, as counsel strongly argues, the realistic prospect of a sentence of life without parole following conviction after trial makes it impossible to alter the Court’s earlier findings and order.”


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Feds say son ordered his mobster dad murdered so he can take over his real estate empire

The man accused of having his mob-associate dad rubbed out at a Bronx McDonald’s drive-through was hoping to take over his father’s $45 million real estate empire, federal prosecutors charged Tuesday. 

Anthony Zottola planned to seize control of some 90 properties throughout the borough after the 2018 drive-through assassination of dad, Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola. 

“The defendant wanted that control,” Assistant US Attorney Devon Lash told jurors Tuesday at the start of his trial in Brooklyn federal court. 

Prosecutors also painted the younger Zottola as a callous fiend — who cracked jokes with his buddies just minutes after hearing that his $200,000 murder for hire plot has been successful.

According to text messages, Zottola made a quip to Bushawn Shelton, an alleged Bloods member who earlier pleaded guilty to helping in the murder plot, Lash said.

“Can we party today or tomorrow,” Shelton texted the younger Zottola after the hit.

“Tomorrow. It’s my little man’s bday. I’m taking him to his favorite place, McDonald’s. Then to a movie. LOL like I eat that stuff,” Anthony replied with apparent sarcasm.

Shelton allegedly texted back that it was like his “birthday” that day, Lash said. 

The younger Zottola is on trial with two other alleged co-conspirators, Himan Ross and Alfred Lopez, who were allegedly hired by Shelton to kill the 71-year-old Sally Daz for $200,000 as he was getting Mickey D’s coffee. 

The elder Zottola ran two businesses in the Bronx, an illegal poker machine vending operation and the sprawling real estate business, where the majority of his income came from. 

The real estate business drew more than $1 million per year in rental income and was worth a total of about $45 million, Salvatore Zottola, Sally Daz’s eldest son testified. 

In her opening statement, Lash told jurors that the elder Zottola was “hunted” in the year leading up to his murder at the fast food joint in the Claremont section of the borough. 

In a series of botched hits, would-be assassins stabbed and beat the elder Zottola, but the mob associate, who paid dues to both the Lucchese and Bonanno families, survived each attempt. 

In another attempted whacking, Salvatore Zottola – Sally Daz’s eldest son and Anthony’s older brother – was ambushed by gunmen outside of his home in the Bronx and shot numerous times. 

In three separate opening statements, attorneys for each of the defendants repeatedly told jurors that there were holes in the prosecution’s case that were so great they could not convict the trio of alleged murderers.

“Not guilty!” attorney John Burke, who is representing Lopez, exclaimed to jurors at the beginning of his spiel. 

All three of the defense attorneys argued cooperating witnesses that the prosecutors intend to call are not credible – and members of a violent street gang who will lie to get a lenient sentence.


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Compassionate release request denied for ailing former Acting Colombo Boss


Alzheimer’s-stricken ex-Colombo crime family boss Victor Orena’s latest appeal for compassionate release was shot down by a federal appeals court.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in its 11-page decision, found no grounds for freeing the mob veteran once involved in a bloody internal battle for control of the crime family. Orena, who turned 88 this month, is serving a mandatory life sentence for federal racketeering and murder convictions tied to the Mafia war.

“We have considered Orena’s remaining arguments and find in them no basis for reversal,” the decision concluded. “The district court’s order denying compassionate release is confirmed.”

His lawyer previously said Orena was confined to a wheelchair and battling dementia that left the former gangster convinced he was the president of the United States. The ailing mobster was behind bars in the Federal Medical Center Devers in Massachusetts.

Orena headed one of two warring factions for control of the Colombo family in the early 1990s, taking on supporters of imprisoned family boss Carmine Persico in a bloody fight in which 12 people were killed and another 28 injured, authorities said.

The lethal conflict ended with Orena’s Brooklyn Federal Court conviction three days before Christmas 1992, when he was slapped with three life sentences plus 85 years in federal prison. The mobster is patriarch to a large extended family, with five sons and 20 grandkids.

Messages left with his attorney and one of his sons for comment on the decision were not returned Wednesday.

Orena’s compassionate release motion dates to July 2021, an appeal that was rejected when a judge ruled his “undeniably serious” medical problems did not outweigh the factors favoring his continued imprisonment.

The 2nd Circuit echoed the lower court rejection of Orena’s argument that his life sentence created a disparity with the jail terms given to other organized crime defendants, noting most of the cases cited involved mobsters turned cooperating witnesses.


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Inmates knew Whitey Bulger was coming to their prison before he was murdered

Inmates at the West Virginia prison where James “Whitey” Bulger was battered to death were tipped off that he was coming — allowing Mafia hitmen to corner the known snitch just six minutes after his cell was unlocked on his first morning there, according to a startling new timeline.

Hours before the once-feared Boston gang leader arrived at USP Hazelton on Oct. 29, 2018, accused lookout Sean McKinnon bragged about it in a call to his mom, according to new court testimony.

“You should know the name . . . Whitey Bulger,” he allegedly bragged in the call recorded by prison officials, according to the Boston Globe.

“Oh Jesus … Stay away from him please,” McKinnon’s mom, Cheryl Prevost, reportedly replied about Bulger, saying she hoped the murderous mob boss would be kept away from other inmates.

“Ah, I can’t,” said McKinnon said, detailing how his cellmate was “a henchman for a mob family out of New York and Boston” — and that everyone in their unit knew Bulger, 89, was coming.

That call was at 3:30 p.m., five hours before Bulger arrived at the troubled prison that is widely known as “Misery Mountain,” according to a new, detailed timeline provided at a 70-minute Florida court hearing Monday that ended with McKinnon back behind bars.

Despite being a known FBI “snitch,” Bulger had answered “no” when asked if there were any reasons he should be kept out of the general population, according to an intake screening form he signed.

He was escorted in his wheelchair to cell 132 soon after 8:30 p.m., according to the Globe’s timeline. It was not clear if other prisoners saw him that night.

However, at 5 a.m. the next morning, McKinnon had a meeting with his cellmate, Mafia hitman Fotios “Freddy” Geas, as well as another inmate, Paul DeCologero, whose uncle heads a Massachusetts’ organized crime gang.

All the unit’s cell doors were opened at 6 a.m., allowing inmates to walk free.

Just six minutes later, Geas and DeCologero were filmed entering Bulger’s cell, where they stayed for at least seven minutes, the court testimony said.

They left at 6:13 a.m., but prison authorities did not discover the brutally beaten body of their high-profile new arrival for nearly two hours, Monday’s hearing was told.

Geas and DeCologero readily admitted to another inmate that they were the killers, Assistant US Attorney Hannah Nowalk told the hearing.

DeCologero “told him that Bulger was a snitch … Pauly said as soon as they saw Bulger come into the unit, they planned to kill him,” Nowalk said.

They “used a belt with a lock attached to it and beat Mr. Bulger to death.” the prosecutor said.

Officials have yet to explain how the inmates knew of Bulger’s arrival, nor why the known FBI informant was put in general population.

McKinnon is accused of being the hitmen’s lookout. He had been on supervised release when he was arrested last week in Florida on charges including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He is charged separately with making false statements to a federal agent.

An attorney for McKinnon insisted that his call to his mom just showed he knew Bulger was coming, not that he was connected to his murder.

“The fact that his roommate was a henchman has nothing to do with him. He didn’t select his roommate,” defense attorney Christine Bird insisted.

The call to his mom “doesn’t really tell the Court that he was involved in the conspiracy” because “the entire unit was alerted that Whitey Bulger was coming,” Bird insisted.

Judge Philip Lammens ordered McKinnon to remain locked up until trial, calling him a risk of flight and danger to the community.

Geas and DeCologero were charged in West Virginia federal court with aiding and abetting first-degree murder, along with assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Geas faces a separate charge of murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence. Both were already behind bars.

Gea is a convicted Mafia hitman. He and his brother were sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for their roles in several violent crimes, including the 2003 killing of Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno, a Genovese crime family boss in Springfield, Massachusetts.

DeCologero was in his uncle’s organized crime gang. He was convicted of buying heroin that was used to try to kill a teenage girl his uncle wanted dead because he feared she would betray the crew to police.

The heroin didn’t kill her, so another man broke her neck, dismembered her and buried her remains in the woods, court records say.

Bulger, who ran the largely Irish mob in Boston in the 1970s and ’80s, served as an FBI informant who ratted on his gang’s main rival, according to the bureau. He later became one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives.