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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Daughter very happy 100 year old Colombo mobster was released from prison


It was family reunion 100 years in the making — and worth the wait.

The daughter of century-old ex-Colombo family underboss John "Sonny" Franzese was thrilled Saturday as her oft-jailed dad enjoyed his first full day of freedom in eight years.

“I’m very delighted that he’s home,” said Loraine Scorsone after the venerable gangster — sprung from prison Friday — spent the night with family at her Brooklyn home.

Her brother Michael, who accompanied their dad on the ride down from the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Mass., agreed the family patriarch’s presence was a welcome addition.

“Dad enjoyed a nice, quiet and well-earned night at home,” Michael said Saturday via email. “The day was a bit overwhelming for him, I’m sure.

John "Sonny" Franzese arrives at a relative's home in Brooklyn after his Friday release from federal prison.

“He has four remaining children, several grandchildren and a bunch of great-grandkids who want to know him, love him and give him some happiness in his remaining years. He deserves it.”

All told, Sonny Franzese spent more than four decades of his life behind bars.

He arrived at the two-family Greenpoint home on Friday night and went inside without saying a word. He was greeted with hugs after his latest prison stint, and there was no sign of him Saturday.

Franzese, a native of Naples, Italy, was the oldest inmate in the federal system following what he hopes was his final arrest. The made man, already in his 90s, was convicted of shaking down a pair of Manhattan strip clubs.

Missing from the long-awaited get-together was Sonny’s namesake son John Jr., who became an informant and testified against his dad in 2010.

“He took the stand, swore to tell the truth and then lied through his teeth to save his own skin,” said Michael, who followed his father into the Colombos before walking away from organized crime.

Michael Franzese — once ranked by Forbes magazine as No. 18 on its list of the 50 most powerful American Mafiosi — became a born-again Christian, father of seven and motivational speaker.

The frail Sonny, who used a walker to get inside from a white Range Rover, flashed a smile Friday evening as he headed inside.

Franzese was first arrested in 1938.

Franzese, who turned 100 on Feb. 6, wore a gray sweatshirt with matching sweatpants.

He was a contemporary of the crime family’s namesake Joe Colombo, and reportedly rubbed elbows with Frank Sinatra at the old Copacabana nightclub.

Franzese joined the Colombos in the 1930s, taking his first arrest in 1938 for assault. He was jailed a half-dozen times over the years on parole violations.

But mob lore has long held that Sonny was convicted in 1967 for a bank robbery that he did not commit. Michael, in his email, insisted that was true.

“My father was framed 50 years ago,” he said. “He was no bank robber, and I’ll take that to my grave. My father and I have had our disagreements. Obviously, I walked away from a life that he continued to honor.

“But we love one another to this day.”


Friday, June 23, 2017

Man with links to Gambino crime family is charged with murder

john gotti
A man whose father and grandfather served as Gambino crime family associates was charged with killing a 50-year-old man over a drug deal, police said Wednesday.

Robert Sasso, 35, whose family members were previously linked with aiding the Gambino family in illegal activity, has once again been faced with charges involving murder. He killed Richard Brown in July 2016 and has been charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon. According to police officials, Sasso shot Brown approximately at 11:55 p.m. because Brown owed Sasso money for a drug transaction. The alleged murder occurred in Flushing, Queens.

Sasso’s father, Robert Sasso Jr., was faced with gun trafficking charges in 1994 and served three years in jail. In 1992, his grandfather, Robert Sasso, resigned as head of the most influential union in New York’s construction industry and was accused of helping John Gotti, then the boss of the Gambino crime family, extract payments from contractors. According to court officials who presented the claims, Sasso did not admit to any of the allegations.

In 1968, organized crime was defined as “the unlawful activities of the members of a highly organized, disciplined association engaged in supplying illegal goods and services, including but not limited to gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, narcotics, labor racketeering and other unlawful activities of such organizations” by the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act.

When organized crime in the United States began in the 1970s, it was mostly a domestic issue, with crime families each securing a territory and maintaining their dealings within that territory. Oftentimes, the allies of crime families were their rival crime families.

The Gambino crime family, founded in 1910, spanned from New York to California in its dealings. John Gotti, the man whom both Sasso’s father and grandfather were convicted for helping, became the boss of the family after the 1985 murder of Paul Castellano. Gotti became known as “The Teflon Don” because he was tried three times in federal and state courts, but was acquitted each time. He was sentenced to life in jail with no parole in 1992 after one of his associates betrayed him by testifying against the Gambino family. After Gotti went to prison, he continued to rule the family until his death in 2002.

Some of the dealings the Gambino crime family participated in were racketeering, fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and murder.

In 2014, Sasso was charged for shooting and almost killing his childhood friend Dean Oku. The tattooed Sasso was smoking marijuana with Oku in Whitestone, Queens on Aug. 29, 2014. At around 2 a.m., he shot Oku in the abdomen, left leg and left arm.

Two days before the shooting, Sasso was charged with punching his girlfriend and pushing her out of a car on Astoria Blvd. In 2010, Sasso was suspected of ordering a failed hit on a construction supervisor who fired him. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2001 on drug charges. Sasso reportedly convinced his “associate” Anthony Manco to shoot his construction supervisor Louis Lamburini. After the shooting, they drove away in a getaway car. This appeared to be Sasso’s only attempt at involving outside help in his attempted crime.

Sasso, who has mostly acted alone, has not achieved the criminal status of his father and grandfather, who were both linked to the Gambino family.

Almost one year after Brown’s murder, Sasso was arrested Tuesday for his previous arrests, including ones for burglary and tampering with a witness. His arraignment is pending at Queens Criminal Court.


100 year old legendary Colombo family underboss is released from federa prison

Sonny Franzese, the mob underboss who reigned over the Colombo crime family’s Long Island rackets in the ’60s from his Roslyn home with ferocity and guile, was released from a U.S. lockup Friday at age 100, the oldest inmate in the federal prison system.

Franzese, whose given name is John, left the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, in a wheelchair just before noon.

He was picked up by two men in a white Land Rover. He was dressed in a gray sweatshirt and appeared noticeably thinner than in the past.

Franzese said nothing when a reporter asked him if he was Sonny Franzese.

His son Michael Franzese of California confirmed, however, that it was his father after receiving a picture taken at the scene. The elder Franzese was planning to go to his daughter’s home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

The embodiment of the Mafia’s tattered code of omerta, Franzese spent 35 years of a 50-year sentence for bank robbery behind bars.

“He’s one of a kind,” said Robert Lewicki, a retired FBI agent who persuaded Sonny’s son John Jr. Franzese to wear a wire against the mob in 2005. “There’s never been a guy like Sonny. There will never be another guy like Sonny, the last of a dying breed.”

In his prime, according to news accounts, Franzese had a financial interest in restaurants, topless bars, clubs, several record labels and even the classic porn film “Deep Throat.” He favored the traditional mob methods of making money — loan sharking and extortion.

And although law enforcement authorities believe Franzese committed or ordered the murders of up to 50 people, Lewicki is not the only former FBI agent who has a grudging respect for him.

“I think it’s amazing that he stood up,” said Bernard Welsh, a former FBI agent who arrested Franzese several times on parole violations. “He never gave anybody up.”

Franzese defied criminal stereotypes by living quietly on Long Island, adhering to a disciplined work schedule and maintaining a stable family life, his son Michael said. He was the subject of a December 1965 Newsday profile headlined “The Hood in Our Neighborhood” by former Investigations Editor Bob Greene, who called Franzese “a prototype of the rising young executive.”

But a year later, he was embroiled in three separate investigations for heinous crimes: accused of ordering the murder of a one-eyed mob gunman turned informant, Ernie “The Hawk” Rupolo, who was found in Jamaica Bay with a weighted rope around his neck and a chain around his legs; charged with masterminding the home-invasion robbery of an Oceanside jukebox executive, in which the man’s teenage sons were handcuffed to a pipe in the cellar; and conspiring with four hoods to rob banks from Utah to Massachusetts.

The cases generated a steady stream of headlines and photos starting in the fall of 1966. Franzese’s reputation for brutality was so great that when a Newsday photographer snapped a dramatic picture of Franzese being escorted out of the Nassau County courthouse by policemen carrying shotguns, the picture appeared in print without crediting the photographer.

Franzese was acquitted in the murder and home-invasion cases but convicted in April 1967 in the bank-robbery conspiracy — a crime his family maintains he didn’t commit.

“My father was who he was in my former life, but he was no bank robber,” said Michael Franzese, himself once a Colombo capo who made his own headlines when he left the crime family and lived to talk about it. “He was absolutely framed.”

For former FBI agent Lewicki, whether he conspired to rob banks may be irrelevant.

“It’s an absolute certainty that he committed numerous other crimes, including violent crimes, murder, etcetera,” he said. “He got away with a lot, but he was convicted of something he may or may not have done. It’s also true he’s got bodies under his belt.”

In an extraordinary move, then-federal Judge Jacob Mishler sentenced Franzese to 50 years in prison, with no minimum term. With that hanging over his head, prosecutors offered to get his time reduced if he talked.

He didn’t.

“That’s unusual today,” Welsh said. “You look at all these bosses, they have rolled over, every one of them.”

Michael Franzese recalled that when Mishler sentenced his father, Sonny Franzese declared, “You watch. I’m gonna do the whole 50.”

Despite his lack of cooperation, Franzese managed to get paroled at least six times, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. But each time, he ended up back in prison — typically for associating with other felons. He last got sent back in 2010 when, at the age of 93 and in a wheelchair, he was found to have been shaking down the Hustler and Penthouse strip clubs in Manhattan and a pizzeria in Albertson.

He did his time, and is now facing life on the outside as a centenarian, having outlived virtually everyone else in the case that cost him a third of his life. Three of his co-defendants, his attorney and the judge who sentenced him in the bank-robbery case are all dead.


Man linked to cocaine trafficking out of Queens pizzeria is sentenced to 20 years


The last member of a Queens clan busted for importing $1 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. ​through their mom-and-pop pizzeria was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday.

Angelo Gigliotti will now join his mother, Eleanora, and father, Gregorio, behind bars for his role in the family drug-trafficking business.

Given the 36-year-old’s criminal history, he had faced anywhere between 20 years and life in prison for his part in the scheme.

Angelo’s wife, Brooke, sniveled in the gallery throughout the proceeding, at times her squeaks louder than Brooklyn Federal Court Justice Raymond Dearie’s statements to the parties.

The father-of-two was so distraught he was nearly unable to speak, instead turning to point at his wife, eyes brimming with tears, as he mumbled “it’s tough, that’s all.”
“Your honor has seen this trial from beginning to end,” defense attorney Gerald McMahon reminded Dearie Thursday. “So your honor has a flavor for the facts of the case, and all of its nuances, as well as insight into the family and all of their foibles.”

“I do believe 20 years is excessive,” Judge Dearie admitted before handing down the steep sentence–which he was obligated to dispense under federal guidelines. “But you’re here by your own hand.
Cucino a Modo Mio pizzeria

“Perhaps I’m the Pollyanna in the crowd, perhaps the family has foibles,” Dearie continued, “But this family also has loyalty.”

“You’ve got to get away from the fast-track,” the jurist told Angelo before nodding to the packed pews. “Because the people in the back deserve it.”

Gregorio Gigliotti–an alleged associate of the Genovese crime family– was previously sentenced to 18 years behind bars, while Eleanora was given 7.

The trio were variously convicted on a slew of charges, including drug dealing, importing and conspiracy, for funneling an estimated 120 kilos of Costa Rican cocaine through their Corona Italian eatery, Cucino a Modo Mio.

The drugs were secreted inside the the flaps of Yucca boxes, prosecutors said. Drug money, guns, ammunition and record books detailing their illicit transactions were also discovered in the restaurant’s back-office.

Angelo has previous convictions for gang assault and marijuana distribution, which contributed to the lofty sentence.

His wife declined comment as she left court.


Court restores Colombo mobster's 40 year sentence


A federal appeals court has reinstated the full 40-year sentence of a convicted mobster who passed along a tip leading to the recovery of explosives stashed away in the one-time home of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

In 2016, Colombo solider Gregory Scarpa Jr. saw his sentence shaved down to a 30-year term by Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman, who said Scarpa deserved credit for the valuable information.

On Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Korman and kept the 65-year-old wiseguy's full sentence intact. The appeals court said it agreed with Brooklyn federal prosecutors who said they had justifiable reasons why they didn't want to seek a sentence reduction for Scarpa — including his failing a lie detector test in connection to the Nichols information.

Fire personnel gather at the base of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City Thursday, April 20, 1995. Scarpa passed along a tip about explosives in the former home of one of the conspirators in the bombing.

Scarpa was convicted in 1999 for racketeering and other offenses. Scarpa said he got the information about the explosives from Nichols, serving a life sentence, when they were housed near each other in 2005 in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

Scarpa's lawyer, Georgia Hinde, declined to comment Thursday on the ruling.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Five men who admitted roles in Montreal mafia murders are sentenced

Five men who pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy charges involving the murders of two of ‎the Rizzuto organization’s rivals received sentences on Wednesday that left them with prison terms ranging between four and 11 years.

Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer agreed with the sentence recommendations presented to him last week after the five — Édrick Antoine, 29, Olivier Gay, 34, Stanley Minuty, 33, Kevin Tate, 33, and Léonard Faustin Étienne, 37 — admitted they were part of a conspiracy to kill Gaetan Gosselin, 70, who was shot in front of his home in Saint-Léonard on Jan. 22, 2013.

Gay also admitted he was part of a conspiracy to kill Vincenzo Scuderi, 49, who was shot nine days later.

Gosselin was a longtime friend of Raynald Desjardins, a former close associate of Vito Rizzuto who apparently was unwilling to cede the power he had established within the Montreal Mafia while Rizzuto was incarcerated in the U.S. Gosselin was also a business partner of Desjardins. At the time, police sources speculated Gosselin was killed to send a message to Desjardins while he was detained and awaiting a possible trial for the murder of Mafioso Salvatore Montagna.

Project Clemenza, an RCMP investigation into drug trafficking, revealed that Scuderi took orders from Giuseppe "Ponytail" De Vito while De Vito was behind bars for cocaine smuggling. De Vito despised the Rizzuto organization and died of cyanide poisoning inside a federal penitentiary months after Scuderi was killed.

Vito Rizzuto was the head of the Montreal Mafia for decades before he died of natural causes in December 2013.

The five men who pleaded guilty last week are alleged to have ties to a Montreal street gang called Unit 44.

Gaetan Gosselin, 70, was shot in front of his home in St-Léonard on Jan. 22, 2013. Montreal courthouse

Gay was left with the longest sentence of the five because of his role in both murders. ‎His overall sentence is 18 years, but with time served factored in he was left with a prison term of 11 years and 10 months.

Minuty was sentenced to an overall sentence of 16 years because there was evidence he was the person who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Gosselin. Minuty was left with a prison term of nearly 10 years to serve starting on Wednesday.

Étienne received an overall sentence of nine years because the evidence related to him was the weakest in the investigation of Gosselin’s murder. He was left with a prison term of four years and five months.

Tate’s sentence — an overall prison term of 15 years — takes into account that he has already been convicted in connection with a homicide in the past. He killed a friend of his by accident during a fight in a bar in Laval more than a decade ago. He was convicted of manslaughter in that case. As of Wednesday, he was left with a prison term of eight years and 10 months.

Antoine was also sentenced to an overall prison term of 15 years, and, like Tate, he has eight years and 10 months left to serve.


Mobster who spent 33 years in prison for murder he didnt commit is dead at 83

for Metro - 02limone - (070110 Woburn, MA) Peter J. Limone, 76, of Medford pleads no contest to gaming charges at Middlesex Superior Court Thursday morning. Limone was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to wear a GPS bracelet and told him to stay away from his reputed mafia associates. Thursday, July 01, 2010. (Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald) Library Tag 07022010 National/Foreign
Peter J. Limone spent 33 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, then became a local legend after winning his freedom and a $101.7 million judgment against the FBI for framing him and three other men.

A fighter to the end, Mr. Limone, 83, died Monday after a five-year battle with cancer.

“The guy was the epitome of what stand-up guys are,” said attorney Anthony Cardinale, who knew Mr. Limone for years and often crossed paths with him in Boston’s North End. “He was a guy who took it on the chin, did the best he could with his family, did his time like a man, and didn’t come out with a chip on his shoulder. He maintained dignity throughout the process. He was an icon.”

Mr. Limone was raised in Boston’s West End and lived much of his life in Medford. He was only in his 30s when he was sent to prison, leaving his wife, Olympia, to raise their four young children alone. By his own account, the years he spent behind bars were difficult.

“It was a hard road,” Mr. Limone said after a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the FBI was responsible for framing Mr. Limone and three others for the 1965 slaying of Edward “Teddy” Deegan in Chelsea. “They could never give me back what I lost. All the money in the world couldn’t give me 33 years.”

US District Judge Nancy Gertner found the FBI deliberately withheld evidence that Mr. Limone, Joseph Salvati, Louis Greco, and Henry Tameleo were innocent, then covered up the injustice for decades as the men grew old behind bars, and Greco and Tameleo died.

The discovery of secret FBI files that were never turned over during the men’s 1968 trial prompted a state judge to overturn Mr. Limone’s conviction in 2001 and set him free.

The documents showed the FBI knew that the key witness in the case, notorious hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, may have falsely implicated the four men while protecting one of Deegan’s true killers, Vincent “Jimmy” Flemmi, who was an FBI informant.

At the time, the FBI had a national mandate to target La Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia. Mr. Limone was a reputed leader in the Boston mob, and Tameleo was the reputed consigliere of the New England Mafia.

Initially, Mr. Limone, Greco, and Tameleo were sentenced to die in the electric chair, then their sentences were reduced to life in prison after the death penalty was abolished in Massachusetts in 1970.

During the 2007 civil trial, Mr. Limone’s wife testified that she was a stay-at-home mother with children ages 1, 4, 7, and 8 when her husband was arrested for Deegan’s slaying. She sewed drapes and cleaned homes to support her family. Her children also testified, recounting frequent trips to prison, where they would be frisked before entering and frightened by the sound of heavy metal doors clanging.

Mr. Limone’s share of the $101.7 million judgment awarded to the four men and their families was $26 million.

After his release from prison, Mr. Limone embraced family life and loved spending time with his wife, four children, and 10 grandchildren, according to several friends.

“He was a good man,” said Bernie Cherbitsky, a car dealership manager and longtime friend of Mr. Limone and his son. “He loved his family.”

Attorney Victor Garo, who represented Salvati during the civil trial against the government, said he often bumped into Mr. Limone on weekends at a popular doughnut shop in Medford center, where Mr. Limone would frequently buy four dozen doughnuts at a time and drop them off to friends or at a local senior center.

“I always saw him treat people with respect and kindness,” Garo said.

Yet a year after his legal victory, Mr. Limone was back in court facing charges that he operated a ring that raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling profits.

Stephen Johnson, a retired Massachusetts State Police detective lieutenant, said Mr. Limone was alleged to be the acting boss of the New England Mafia in 2008 when he and another trooper approached him at a charity event with a warrant that allowed them to search him and his Medford home for possible evidence of gambling, loan sharking, and extortion.

“He acted like a complete gentleman,” said Johnson, recounting that Mr. Limone was surprised, but remained cordial. “He was very pleasant.”

Later, Mr. Limone pleaded no contest to state charges of extortion, organizing a gambling syndicate, and loan sharking, and was placed on probation for five years.

Cardinale said Mr. Limone remained upbeat, even after spending time on death row, and was just happy to be back home with his family.

“Never once did I hear him complain about what happened to him,” he said. “Here was a guy who could maintain his dignity and his respect, knowing every day of those 33 years that the FBI had framed him.”


Flashy mob boss Skinny Joey Merlino wants trial moved to Philadelphia

Accused Philly mob boss Joey “Skinny Joey” Merlino wants to stay close to the cheesesteaks.
Merlino filed papers in Manhattan federal court Monday requesting that his racketeering trial be moved from Manhattan to his hometown Philadelphia.
Merlino, known for his flashy clothes and cars, says the basis for the request rests with the feds who, in a criminal complaint, accused him of being the boss of the “Philly Mob.”
Merlino, 55, is one of the last defendants left from a massive roundup of 46 wiseguys from four out of the five major crime families, including reputed Genovese capo and Arthur Avenue restaurateur Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello.


Notorious Sicilian mafia boss to get compassionate release from prison

A ​ruthless Sicilian mob boss ​known as “The Beast” — who once ordered a hit on Rudy Giuliani and had a 13-year-old boy dissolved in acid — ​could soon be sprung from an Italian prison so he can “die with dignity.”
Politicians, prosecutors and cops have been fuming since Italy’s supreme court said on Monday that ​Salvatore “The Beast” Riina (inset) ​— who suffers from cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease ​— should be freed.
Riina, 86, has “the right to die with dignity,” the justices said.
The final decision on Riina’s freedom will come from the parole board in Bologna, near Parma, where the gang boss is locked up.
Chief Mafia prosecutor Fran​​co Roberti said Riina still poses a threat to society.
“We have evidence to prove this theory [that Riina is harmless] wrong and show that Riina is still the head of La Cosa Nostra,” Roberti told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
For years, Riina was also known as the Sicilian Mafia’s “Boss of all Bosses.”
Riina was finally busted in 1993 and is now serving 12 concurrent life sentences.
But from behind bars, he notoriously ordered the murder of ​the youngster, who was strangled ​before his body ​was ​dissolved in a vat of acid in 1996.
The cowardly hit — one of some 150 murders to which Riina has been linked — was in retaliation for the boy’s dad​ having ratted out the mob boss​.
Riina also once ordered the murder of then-US Attorney Giuliani in the 1980s, associates have said.
Riina went as far as sending an assassin to the United States to murder the future mayor because of Giuliani’s friendship with crusading Italian judge Giovanni Falcone.
But Riina changed his mind, fearing US attacks on the Sicilian mob.
Falcone, and another courageous anti-Mafia judge, Paolo Borsellino, were killed on Riina’s orders in 1992.
Salvatore Borsellino, the slain judge’s brother, was outraged that Italy’s high court could give Riina the benefit of the doubt.
“The court should have remembered that the person before them is the same one who blew to bits servants of the state and ordered that a little boy be dissolved in acid,” he said.


Genovese mobster pleads guilty to federal gambling charge

Alex Conigliaro, seen in this 2005 photo, a reputed member of the Genovese organized crime family, has pleaded guilty to conducting an illegal gambling business. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)
A reputed member of the Genovese organized crime family from Staten Island, who was among 46 alleged wise guys arrested and charged with racketeering and other crimes, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of conducting an illegal gambling business.
Manhattan federal prosecutors announced the arrests and charges against Alex Conigliaro, 56, and his co-defendants in August of last year.
The defendants, federal officials said then, were alleged leaders, members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia Organized Crime Families of La Cosa Nostra ("LCN"). They allegedly operated in various East Coast locations, from Massachusetts to Florida.
Conigliaro was accused of trying to extort a victim in February 2012.
The man was working as a bookmaker and had accounts with a co-defendant John "Tugboat" Tognino, who worked under Conigliaro, alleged authorities.
Conigliaro had suspected the victim was allowing professional bettors to place wagers, and as a result, Conigliaro was on the hook for about $400,000 to the winning bettors, federal officials alleged.
A Genovese capo summoned the man to a Bronx restaurant. There, Conigliaro, the capo, and another alleged mobster confronted the man in a small room in the basement, threatening and intimidating him, alleged authorities.
Conigliraro ultimately refused to pay the money he owed, officials said.
In pleading guilty to conducting an illegal gambling business, Conigliaro admitted to supervising and financing an illegal bookmaking and sports-betting operation between 2011 and 2014, court records show.
The business involved at least five people, remained in continuous operation for more than 30 days and pulled in $2,000 in a single day, said court papers.
Conigliaro will be sentenced Oct. 26 in Manhattan federal court.
The sentencing range is eight to 14 months behind bars, according to court papers; however, the judge is not bound to it.
In view of the reduced charges and Conigliaro's compliance with his bail conditions, a judge recently authorized the removal of the defendant's electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and lifted a curfew against him, court records said.
Conigliaro previously beat extortion and illegal gambling charges in an unrelated case.
In 2004, a Manhattan federal court jury acquitted him of running an illegal gambling business with the help of five others, which raked in gross revenues of $2,000 in a single day, Advance records show.
Conigliaro's lawyer in the current case could not immediately be reached for comment.


Mafia rat accidentally erases evidence on his phone against Philadelphia mob boss

Exported.; TO SEND;
A ham-fisted mob informant erased one year’s worth of recordings when he reset his phone — undermining the case against former Philly crime boss Joseph Merlino, court papers claim.

The unidentified informant turned over extensive audio and video recordings to the feds as part of their long-running investigation into gambling, arson and extortion activities.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office hit Merlino, 55, and 45 alleged New York wiseguys with racketeering charges last August.

Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino talks to reporters Thursday, Feb. 20, 1997, outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia.

Prosecutors planned to use the recordings against Merlino, Manhattan Federal Court documents filed Monday indicate.

But Merlino’s lawyers say audio and video recordings and all texts from the informant’s phone are unavailable, making it impossible to determine how much material existed and to authenticate it.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Notorious Rochester hit man dies in prison

Joseph John Sullivan
Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan, a hit man whose very nickname spoke of his violent tendencies, died in a New York prison Friday at the age of 78.

While Sullivan made his reputation as a contract hit man in New York City, he was responsible for a notorious Rochester mob killing — the fatal shooting in December 1981 of John Fiorino at the Blue Gardenia restaurant — that led to his imprisonment. He was serving three life sentences when he died.

Sullivan also once escaped from the maximum-security Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County, the only inmate to ever do so.

How many homicides Sullivan committed during his life is an unanswered question, though police and prosecutors have suspected that he was responsible for more than 20. As a 1982 Democrat and Chronicle article noted, "A trail of death has seemed to follow Joseph John Sullivan."

His victims, the article said, "have died a variety of ways: slashings, stabbings, shootings."

There is no question, however, that Sullivan fatally shot Fiorino at the Irondequoit restaurant in 1981. Two local mobsters, Thomas Taylor and Thomas Torpey, hired Sullivan for the killing.

Taylor and Sullivan had earlier served time together in the Attica prison.

Fiorino was a Teamsters vice president ensconced in mob circles. There are varying stories as to the motivation for his murder — either a belief that Fiorino was a snitch, a fear that he could bring mob factions together and take control, or retribution for his efforts to elicit payments from local organized crime figures.

In the late 1970s, Rochester witnessed an organized crime war, complete with bombings and shootings, between what were known as the A Team and B Team. Taylor and Torpey were bodyguards for the charismatic and popular Salvatore "Sammy G" Gingello, a mob leader who was killed in a car bombing in April 1978.

Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan, a hired hit man responsible for a notorious Rochester mob hit, has died in prison. Sullivan, 78, was serving three life sentences.

Taylor and Torpey then tried to build their own controlling mob unit, which police and the press labeled the C Team. According to retired FBI Special Agent William Dillon, an investigator during the mob era, Fiorino wanted to pull the battling contingents together.

"He was the one who was attempting to be the peacemaker," Dillon said. " ... He felt a kinship with Tommy Taylor and Tommy Torpey. He was the one who apparently was the most accessible to the C Team and the one that, we felt from our information at the time, who was most feared by the C team because he was the one who could be most like Sammy (Gingello)."

Fiorino also once clashed with Torpey after Torpey refused to make payments to higher-ups in mob circles from a gambling operation that Torpey ran.

Once Taylor and Torpey hired Sullivan, bringing him from his hometown of New York City for the killing, they faced a problem: Making sure Sullivan knew exactly who Fiorino was. They enlisted a minor player in mob circles, Louis DiGiulio, to accompany Sullivan and ID Fiorino.
'A stone-cold contract killer'

On a snowy December night in 1981, DiGiulio drove Sullivan in a peach-colored Cadillac to the Blue Gardenia, a restaurant on Empire Boulevard that was popular with the mob associates who lived on the east side. The pair waited in the parking lot for just a few minutes before Fiorino pulled in in his Lincoln Continental.

"That's him," DiGiulio told Sullivan. Sullivan stepped out of the car and shot Fiorino in the head with a shotgun.

Only blocks away, an Irondequoit policeman, Michael DiGiovanni, was on patrol. He'd only been on the force three years and had not yet heard of the nearby homicide when he saw the Cadillac speed out of the restaurant's parking lot.

He pulled behind the car, which ran a red light and then began swerving. DiGiullio lost control of the car, and it came to rest off the road.

DiGiovanni, now a lieutenant with the Irondequoit police, says he thought he'd witnessed a drunk driving accident, but that changed when the driver jumped from the car and ran. The moments that followed are still fresh in his mind today. He remembers making eye contact with Sullivan as he emerged from the passenger door with a long gun in his hands.

"I kicked open my car door and as I came out he was firing at me," he said. "I counted three [shots]."

As the blasts shattered the windshield of his patrol car, DiGiovanni said he fired two or three quick shots from his own revolver before moving to close the distance between him and Sullivan.

"I popped the rest of the rounds out and I saw him lurch forward so I knew I hit him," DiGiovanni said. "I went down, reloaded my gun, came back up, and he was gone."

Once other police and sheriff deputies arrived, they tracked DiGiulio by the footprints he'd left in the snow. The tracks led to a school on Helendale Road. "We caught him in the bushes," DiGiovanni said.

Sullivan had disappeared into the night, but DiGiovanni's traffic stop helped provide clues to the Fiorino murder and other crimes. In the trunk were the proceeds of a bank robbery in Utica and evidence which later linked Sullivan to a homicide on Long Island.

DiGiovanni knows it was almost happenstance that he crossed paths with Sullivan that night. If he'd lingered a few minutes longer at dinner, or if the getaway driver had turned right rather than left, Sullivan might have escaped without police ever knowing he'd been in town.

Once in custody, DiGiulio told police of the hit man who'd been hired to murder Fiorino. Sullivan's reputation was well-known to the FBI and others in law enforcement.

"He was believed to be a stone-cold contract killer," Dillon said.

Two months after the homicide, police received a tip: Sullivan was back in Rochester, and he was looking for remaining payment for the killing.

Hugh Higgins, who had headed the FBI Office in Rochester and had moved to Eastman Kodak Co.'s security office, received the call, Dillon said.

Higgins "answered the phone and had an anonymous male caller say Sullivan was in 'such-and-such a room' at the (Denonville Inn) motel" in Penfield.

"We got somebody out there right way and we were able to establish the car in front of that particular room was from King's County," Dillon said. Agents staked out the room and arrested Sullivan as he was loading suitcases into the car.

Sullivan was later convicted of the Fiorino murder and two others. He was in Fishkill Correctional Facility in Dutchess County when he died Friday. He was not scheduled to be paroled until 2061, when he would have been 122 years old.

"He was remorseful," said Manhattan-based author T.J. English, who interviewed Sullivan several times in prison and who wrote the definitive history of the Irish organized crime, The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob. "He knew that the things he had done were wrong. He knew he was going to be in prison for the rest of his life, and rightfully so."

Joseph John Sullivan
Escape from Attica

Sullivan's father was a decorated New York City police detective, who died when Sullivan was 11 years old. With a domineering mother who struggled with the loss of her husband, Sullivan fell into criminal circles. He amassed a laundry list of crimes — from petit larcenies to armed robberies — before reaching adulthood.

In 1967 he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the killing of a father of eight children in a Queens tavern. Four years later, he pulled off his escape from Attica.

Sullivan managed to bury himself beneath a pile of empty flour bags that were in the back of a truck leaving the prison. He was found six weeks later in Greenwich Village and returned to prison. He was paroled in 1975.

Over the next seven years, Sullivan built his reputation as a contract killer.

"His feeling was that somewhere early in life he became a professional gangster and a professional killer," English said. "He took a certain pride in his work. He was expected to do it in a certain manner that it wouldn’t be traced back to anybody.

"He was an old-school tough guy. He had a gravelly voice. He sounded like something out of an old Jimmy Cagney movie."

Sullivan was known for a vigorous workout regimen with hundreds of push-ups daily that kept him fit in prison. But he was stricken with a cancer that required the removal of a lung, English said.

Sullivan and his family have been featured in television documentaries. His wife, Gail Sullivan, has promoted a book she and her husband wrote, Tears and Tiers: The Life and Times of Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan.

The couple has two adult sons.

"Sullivan was able to create some semblance of a normal life the 30 years he was in prison," English said. The sons "turned out to be terrific kids."

"I thought there was something almost heroic about it, the way he was able to create a nuclear family, a decent family."


Skinny Joey Merlino prepares to beat the feds at upcoming trial

He’s dodged bombs
And ducked bullets.
In the 1990s, two mob bosses and a South Philadelphia drug kingpin targeted him for assassination.
They’re dead or in jail.

He’s still standing … these days more often than not on a golf course in Florida.
Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino is a survivor.
And it looks as if he’s about to walk away from his latest problem with federal authorities. The conventional wisdom is that Merlino will beat the apparently flawed federal racketeering charge pending against him in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
“We got them right where we want them,” the 55-year-old mob leader has said to friends and associates.
It’s a line the charismatic mobster has used throughout his checkered career while doing battle with federal prosecutors and the FBI.
“He’s an eternal optimist,” says a former mobster who was aligned with the anti-Merlino faction of the South Philadelphia mob in the 1990s. “In that world, it’s important to be smart. But it’s better to be lucky. Joey has always had good luck.”
Maybe not always.


He’s won and lost battles with the feds, was wounded in a drive-by shooting that left one of his best friends dead and has spent about half of his adult life in jail or on probation. But he beat murder charges in two trials that could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life. And he’s clearly ahead of the game in the racketeering case that was announced with great fanfare last August by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). That case, with Merlino and two Genovese crime family capos listed as the lead defendants, has fizzled as more details about the questionable and at times ill-advised investigation have surfaced.
Two FBI agents are targets of an internal investigation into the way a key cooperating witness was supervised, according to numerous reports coming out of New York. The Justice Department probe has been referred to obliquely by federal prosecutors in documents filed in the Southern District of New York and in more detail in a letter to the judge that, like several other documents, has been filed under seal. More important, federal prosecutors have offered plea deals to every defendant in the case, offering to drop the most serious charge – conspiracy to commit racketeering – in exchange for guilty pleas and lighter jail sentences for charges like extortion and gambling.
Lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. has represented Joey Merlino in two major federal trials.

To date, 39 of the 46 defendants in that case have taken the government up on its offer. Several others are said to be close to reaching agreements. But Merlino says he’s going to trial.
His lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., won’t comment, but said he’s busy reviewing the “voluminous” material gathered by the government, including hundreds of secretly recorded conversations by controversial cooperating witness John “JR” Rubeo.
Jacobs, who has represented Merlino in two major federal trials, is a master at analyzing tapes and using government recorded conversations to his advantage. If this case goes to trial, Jacobs will have more than a working knowledge of every word Rubeo uttered in conversations with Merlino and will know the context and setting of those conversations as well as, or better than, any prosecutor or FBI agent.
While declining to discuss strategy or plea offers, Jacobs noted in a phone conversation last week that prominent New York defense attorney John C. Meringolo (who once represented John Gotti Jr.) has signed on as Merlino’s co-counsel. That could be another indication Merlino intends to fight the case in court, or simply a way to solidify Merlino’s position in a legal game of chicken he is playing with federal prosecutors.
“The discovery (evidence turned over to the defense by the prosecution) is voluminous,” Jacobs said. “Mr. Meringolo will be assisting me with that … And besides, I think he knows where all the good restaurants are.”
Merlino's, the mobster's namesake restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, closed in May 2016.


If Merlino is the only holdout – a real possibility given the way the current case is unfolding – the government may be hard-pressed to go to trial. That’s why Merlino’s current position makes sense. The feds could come back with an even better offer than the two years in jail Merlino has reportedly turned down. Or prosecutors could decide “in the interest of justice” to drop the charges against Skinny Joey.
The case against Merlino is built in large part on tapes made by Rubeo, a former Genovese crime family associate who began cooperating after being arrested on drug dealing charges about five years ago.
Rubeo made tapes in New York and helped authorities get listening devices into an Arthur Avenue restaurant in the Bronx, Rigoletto’s, owned by mob capo Pasquale Parrello. Tapes from the restaurant helped make the case against the 72-year-old mob leader who has agreed to take a government deal. He recently agreed to plead guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.
“It’s embarrassing. [The Southern District of] New York runs wild. They ignore the rules with impunity.” – Former Philadelphia federal prosecutor
He’s apparently facing a prison term of about six years. Many of the other defendants who have agreed to plead out are looking at even less time. The discount offers are indicative of how far that case has fallen since the indictment was unsealed back in August and federal prosecutors identified Parrello, Merlino and Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio (another Genovese capo) as leaders of an “East Coast LCN Enterprise.”
Tapes made by Rubeo and by an undercover FBI agent Rubeo had introduced to the organization were the keys to the indictment. But subsequent reports have indicated that long-established law enforcement protocols were ignored when Rubeo moved from New York to Florida sometime in 2015 and began taping Merlino.
The South Philadelphia born and bred Merlino moved to Boca Raton after serving 12 years of a 14-year sentence following his conviction on racketeering charges in federal court in Philadelphia in 2001.
Rubeo became a close associate of Merlino’s in Florida, but federal authorities in New York kept the investigation to themselves, never informing colleagues in Miami or Tampa of the investigation even though Tampa had targeted two other Merlino associates in a major medical insurance fraud probe that New York grafted onto its case.
Six of the eight defendants in the Tampa case have already pleaded guilty, admitting their roles in what the government alleges was a $157 million insurance fraud scheme built around bogus prescriptions for compound pain cream. Were Merlino in the Tampa case, he might not be in a position to walk away.
South Philadelphia born and bred, 'Skinny Joey' Merlino moved to Boca Raton, Florida after serving 12 years of a 14-year sentence on federal racketeering conviction. He lives on a residential street situated between the ocean and the intracoastal waterway, according to reports.


Philadelphia authorities were also kept in the dark about the New York investigation, even though federal prosecutors in their “East Coast LCN Enterprise” indictment identified Merlino as the boss of the Philadelphia crime family. Evidence in the case included conversations Rubeo recorded in New York and at the Jersey Shore with Merlino and other Philadelphia mobsters.
Yet neither the FBI nor federal prosecutors in Philadelphia were given so much as a heads-up about the probe until the indictment was announced. (Preet Bharara, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, helped make that announcement but was fired on March 11 by President Donald Trump, after refusing to resign.)
“It’s embarrassing,” said one former Philadelphia federal prosecutor. “New York runs wild. They ignore the rules with impunity.”
Federal authorities up and down the East Coast refer to the Southern District of New York as “the sovereign district of New York” because of Manhattan’s superior attitude.
“I loved hanging out with him. I liked him. I had fun with him.” – Federal cooperating witness John "J.R." Rubeo, on Merlino
“This goes all the way back to Rudy Giuliani,” said another former Philadelphia prosecutor. Giuliani was appointed the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1983 and used prosecution of the mob to launch a political career.
The pending case is not the district’s – nor the FBI’s – finest hour.
In fact, Rubeo was complaining about the way he was handled and about prosecutors failing to follow up on potentially more damaging evidence as the case went public. His rocky relationship with his FBI handlers and federal prosecutors would surely be an issue if he were to take the stand.
Among other things, mob reporter Jerry Capeci, in his highly read Gangland News column, has reported that when Rubeo left Florida and went into hiding shortly before the indictment was announced he was still driving a car leased by one of the other defendants in that case.
Federal authorities either overlooked or did not realize the situation until the defendant canceled the insurance and lease on the car and Rubeo was pulled over by local police in the city where he was living and cited for motor vehicle violations.
The car, which reportedly was equipped with a GPS tracking system, could have been used by the mob to locate Rubeo. It has since been returned to the New York area.
The case against 'Skinny Joey' Merlino, seen here in a 1997 file photo, is built in large part on tapes made by John 'J.R.' Rubeo, a former Genovese crime family associate who began cooperating with federal authorities after being arrested on drug dealing charges about five years ago.


Rubeo’s criminal background, his alleged drug trafficking and his dealings with Merlino would also come under intense scrutiny in any cross-examination conducted by Jacobs, another reason the feds might not like to take Merlino to trial.
Among other things, sources have said that Merlino interceded and may have saved Rubeo’s life when Florida-based members of the Bonanno crime family wanted to kill him. The Bonannos believed Rubeo had stolen more than $50,000 from a mob-run bookmaking operation based in Costa Rica.
Clearly Rubeo and Merlino were friends. Sources say when he was living in Florida, Rubeo was a constant companion of the Philadelphia mob boss. Rubeo, in his 40s, had spent most of his adult life around gangsters and was drawn to their world.
“I loved hanging out with him,” Rubeo has said of Merlino. “I liked him. I had fun with him.”
In an aside that would resonate with Merlino associates in South Philadelphia, Rubeo joked about Skinny Joey constantly crying poor.
“He would call on the phone and I knew what he wanted,” he said, imitating Merlino, “'Cugine, let’s have dinner’ and you could tell by his voice that he needed money .... And no matter what you gave him, he’d say, 'That’s it?’”
From his experience around wiseguys, Rubeo said it was common for mobsters take advantage of and use associates to make money. Most just grab what they want, but Merlino, he said, was different: he liked to have a good time.
“He made you feel like a king while he took your money.”


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Legendary Colombo family underboss and oldest federal inmate to be released on June 25

100-year-old mob boss going free, oldest federal inmate
The nation's oldest federal prisoner is about to go free.

100-year-old Colombo crime family underboss John Franzese is scheduled for release on June 25.

"Sonny," as he is known in New York gangland circles, is at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts finishing up an 8-year sentence for racketeering.

Federal Medical Center Devens, where John Franzese, 100, will be released June 25.

Franzese's attorneys ignored calls and emails from the ABC7 I-Team concerning his impending release, his health and his future plans into his next century.

However, the one-time mob brute may not be overly aware of his change in surroundings anyway. He is said to be blind, deaf, and in need of a wheelchair. That also means he is unlikely to return to his high post atop one of New York's most feared Mafia families.

In addition to being the oldest guy in the clink, Franzese is also the oldest Mafiosi ever locked up. By comparison, Chicago Outfit bosses currently behind bars are spring chickens. Mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo holds the current title at 88 and is in for life.

Underboss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello is 73, also on a federal life sentence.

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo in his younger days.

When Franzese is cut loose, there will be no other centenarian behind bars in the federal system. The next-oldest inmate is Salvatore Sparacio, 95, according to Justin Long, spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington.

At 95, Salvatore "Shotsie" Sparacio will soon be the oldest federal prisoner in U.S.

Sparacio is also a mob boss, but from Philadelphia. He is scheduled for release before reaching age 100, so Franzese's record will remain intact for now.

Franzese was born in Naples, Italy in 1917. That was the year the U.S. entered World War 1 and the U.S. president was Woodrow Wilson. Al Capone hadn't even moved to Chicago yet.
John "Sonny" Franzese is suspected in so many murders he couldn't keep track of all of them, according to investigators.

But the Franzese family saga is not one for the Hallmark Channel.

It is a long-life story laced with bank robberies and murders, payoffs and cover-ups; all the favorite tools and techniques of organized crime. The FBI once labeled him as "super-Dillinger," after the Depression-era gangster John Dillinger who was cut down by federal agents outside Chicago's Biograph Theatre.

In 1942 he was released from the U.S. Army because of "homicidal tendencies" according to federal investigators. Evidence in one of his criminal trials suggested he may have murdered as many as 50 people during his career as a Mafia enforcer.

Investigators say he would paint the tips of his fingers with nail polish to avoid leaving prints at crime scenes.

New York mobologists say that Franzese tried to keep track of his homicidal conquests but there were so many he lost count. Once he was overheard on FBI tapes discussing the chopping up of victims in a backyard kiddie pool and then drying out the pieces in his microwave.

John Franzese during his 2010 racketeering trial.

Franzese's own son and namesake testified against him at his last trial in 2010. John Franzese, Jr. appeared for the government and helped to convince jurors that his father was not the ailing old man who appeared in court. Once during his son's testimony Sonny Franzese appeared to fall asleep-prompting some to refer to him as the "Nodfather."

Colombo Mafia family underboss John "Sonny" Franzese (left) and his son John, Jr. (right) in FBI surveillance photo.

A year ago, when the geriatric mobster wanted early release from prison on "compassionate" grounds, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn found no such mercy. Authorities ignored his hand-written note claiming he had "little time left in my life" and that he wanted to spend it with his eight children, 18 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Franzese was made to finish his sentence for shaking down strip clubs and a pizzeria.

The most stunning fact about Franzese may simply be that he has survived so many decades in mobdom, considering that he possesses so many underworld secrets.

Many of his much younger counterparts have preceded him in death, at the hands of other gangsters. From Joey Gallo, Paul Castellano, Albert Anastasia and Carmine Galante in New York to more than 1100 mob murder victims in Chicago since 1919. And of course John Gotti who died in prison of poor health at age 61.


Friday, June 9, 2017

More FBI documents related to deceased turncoat Springfield gangster surface