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Friday, April 18, 2014

Prosecutors and defense lawyers invoke the mafia during Scarfo trial

Nicky Scarfo Jr. in Morris County courtroom .
The meeting at a North Jersey bar was convened to set things straight. Contrary to rumors bouncing around the Philadelphia-New Jersey mob world, Pete "the Crumb" Caprio did not have a hit out on Nicodemo S. Scarfo, son of the jailed, infamous mob boss.

"If it was so, I said you would have been gone a long time ago," said Caprio to an associate in a secretly taped conversation of the meeting.

The February 2000 recording - by mob associate and government informant Philip "Philly Fay" Casale - was played for jurors and dissected by lawyers Thursday in Scarfo's FirstPlus mortgage fraud trial, well into its fourth month.

In the case, before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden, Scarfo and an associate, Salvatore Pelullo, along with lawyers and corporate partners, are charged with taking over the Texas-based FirstPlus Financial mortgage company and looting its shareholders of $12 million.

On Thursday, as a prosecution expert on the mob testified, both the prosecution and the defense invoked organized crime allegations to support their positions, and a revelation emerged about the notorious Halloween attempt on Scarfo's life 20 years ago.

The defendants are charged with racketeering, extortion, fraud, money laundering, and obstruction. Scarfo and Pelullo also face RICO charges, accused of having alleged mob ties and of extortion.

The government says the FirstPlus shakedown was a mob enterprise led by Scarfo, who it says is a made member of the Lucchese crime family.

His lawyer, Michael Riley, says the government is invoking Scarfo's incarcerated mobster father, Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, to portray the son as more involved in organized crime than he was and to make a bad business deal seem illegal.

Riley said Thursday that his client's family has been maligned for years because of the Scarfo name. One of his brothers changed his name and another tried to commit suicide.

On Thursday, jurors who had grown accustomed to hearing testimony about SEC filings and bank documents listened to FBI Special Agent Kenneth Terracciano give them a primer on mob structure and rules, and explain Scarfo's relationship to a cast of characters with nicknames such as "Joey Electric" and "Beeps."

Terracciano, with crew-cut white hair and a slight North Jersey accent, said he had worked on organized crime for about 10 of his 19 years with the FBI.

Scarfo's father ran the Philadelphia mob from 1982 until he was convicted of racketeering and eight counts of murder in 1988. Trouble came to the younger Scarfo, Terracciano said, on Halloween 1989, when a masked gunman interrupted him at dinner at Dante's & Luigi's in South Philadelphia and shot him eight times, nearly killing him.

The case has gone unsolved, but on the stand, Terracciano told jurors he believed the gunman was Joey Merlino, son of Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino and the alleged current mob boss of Philadelphia.

Terracciano said Salvatore Merlino "had a beef" with the older Scarfo at the time, stemming from an internal struggle over control of the family.

Speculation has surrounded Joey Merlino - who denies involvement and has never been charged - but no one in authority had publicly pointed the finger at him until Thursday, Riley noted.

"You told this jury and everyone else that wants to listen for the first time since 1989 that Mr. Merlino shot Mr. Scarfo?" Riley pressed Terracciano.

"He gave his opinion, he said what he said," Kugler interjected.

Following the attempt on his life, Scarfo moved to North Jersey, where his father had set him up with the Newark crew of the Lucchese family for protection, Terracciano said. "He remained in Northern Jersey and ultimately became a member," he said.

Less than 10 years later, FBI agents warned Scarfo about threats to his life, this time from Peter Caprio, whom Terracciano described as a known killer and fellow member of the family.

On Feb. 18, 2000, Caprio and Casale, who was wearing a wire, met at a diner before heading to the bar to see Scarfo. In the recording of their conversation, Caprio and Casale, along with others, are heard discussing how little they know about Scarfo, inquiring about his body type, age, line of work, and whether anyone had seen him since he was shot.

Riley highlighted the dialogue to distance Scarfo from the mobsters.

"These guys, who worked with the father for many years and knew the father when he was running the streets for the family, don't have any idea who [the younger Scarfo] is, what he looks like, what he does or how old he is," Riley said.

With the jury sent out of the room, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D'Aguanno argued that one reason the younger Scarfo was not on the mobsters' radar could have been that he was in and out of prison in the 1990s on racketeering charges - something he said should be presented to the jury. He said Riley had opened up that time frame in question.

The six other defense lawyers, otherwise mostly silent, objected one by one, starting with Barry Gross, lawyer for David Adler, a New York-based lawyer who is among the accused. Gross said allowing such testimony could taint the six defendants with no organized crime ties.

Ultimately the judge did not permit the testimony to be presented to the jurors.

Prison telephone records of conversations between the elder Scarfo and his son, played to the jury earlier in the trial, appeared to provide a stronger mob connection in the case:

"Honest to God, we're a good six to 10 months off from being able to help everybody," Scarfo tells his father, allegedly referring to crime associates, in a phone conversation from 2007.

In another jail conversation in 2007, following the dismantling of the former FirstPlus board of directors, Pelullo tells Scarfo's father, "We crushed them. . . . It was all upon your direction. . . . The only people that can [obscenity] it up now is us."

FBI searches for man connected to Gambino family home invasion murder

The feds are looking for their man.Antoine Burroughs, 25, is wanted in connection with a 2009 Ozone Park home invasion robbery gone awry.
A week after FBI agents arrested a suspect in a mob-related 4-year-old murder case in Queens, the agency has asked the public for help tracking down a second man.

Antoine Burroughs, 25, could be hiding out with relatives in the Bronx or Harlem, where he was last seen with family, law enforcement officials told the Daily News Monday.

“If anyone knows his whereabouts, we’re asking that they come forward with that information,” said Richard Frankel, special agent in the criminal division of the New York City field office. “As always, tipsters can remain anonymous.”

A grand jury indicted Burroughs on March 13 along with an accomplice, Leon Whitefield, for trying to rob pizza store owner Bartolomeo Antoniello at his Ozone Park home in September 2009. The two shot Antoniello’s son Gerardo, 29, as he attempted to protect his father, prosecutors said.
Gerardo "Jerry" Antoniello died at 29 defending his father from robbers hoping to steal the family pizza joint's cash for the night in September of 2009.

The feds apprehended Whitfield six days later, but the six-foot, one-inch Burroughs remains on the lam and should be considered armed and dangerous, said Frankel.

Family members of the fallen janitor who often helped his father at the family’s Howard Beach pizzeria Romeo’s welcomed news of the renewed search, though Gerardo’s older brother Angelo Antoniello was hesitant to speak too much in light of the pending trial at Manhattan federal court.

“Now they have the feds involved — I think that’s great,” said Antoniello, 39, who added, “We’re hoping these guys get life if they're the ones that did it.”
Francis LaCorte is convicted of arranging the 2009 robbery. He's currently serving 50 years to life for his role in the death of Gerardo Antoniello.

The 2009 robbery-gone-awry was one of three home invasions orchestrated by Gambino crime family associate Francis LaCorte, according to the FBI. LaCorte is currently serving 50 years to life for his role in the killing.

“This was a particularly brutal murder in which a son was gunned down in his own home as he bravely came to the aid of his father who was being robbed,” said Queens DA Richard Brown after LaCorte’s 2012 sentencing.

“At trial, the defendant was found guilty of not just murdering the young man but of having orchestrated, planned and carried out other home robberies at gunpoint.”

Tipsters who spot Burroughs can contact the FBI anytime at 212-384-1000.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Philadelphia mob in chaos as numerous mobsters get released from jail

For mob boss Joe Ligambi the living is easy. The 74-year-old wiseguy can be seen most days relaxing at his South Philadelphia home after two juries failed to find him guilty on federal racketeering charges. He was released after two long trials and almost three years in jail. But while he's chillin at home at 17th and Federal, trouble is brewing over who controls the local wiseguys and the ever dwindling mob dollar..

"Everybody's getting out, the pie's a little smaller, the money's not out there anymore, they might think they have devys on it and there could be some problems," said John Apeldorn, former commander of the city's Homicide unit and organized Crime Unit during the mob's hay day in the late 1980s and 1990s.

"Could something happen, I think there's a recipe there for violence absolutely," he added.

The aging Ligambi has told some he's done running the mob. Insiders say he may not be up to the task of unifying 15 to 20 made guys on the street, dividing up the ever shrinking mob gambling dollars and finding new ways to make a buck.

"Book making, numbers, all that's legal now and they've faded a little bit," Apeldorn explained. "You've got the Russian mob, the big drug people, they're actually falling down the ladder."

With gambling and the once popular video poker business fading by the day, the wiseguys have turned to new business ventures trying to make money. Like internet gambling cafes, state lottery stands, even the auto repair business and trash hauling. They've dabbled in the home improvement business, storm window replacement, flipping homes for profit, they've even tried the hardwood flooring business.

"Where do you breed these businesses, well you gotta have people out there who know what's going on. If they know what's going on, they can approach them and say we want our tribute" he added.

While none of those new ventures have proven to be big money makers yet for the mob, deciding who gets what share of the shrinking mob dollar tranlates into trouble on the horizon. There are now three mob factions on the street. Former mob boss Joey Merlino's crew, headed by acting boss Steven Mazzone, Joe Ligambi's skeleton crew of wisegyuys and members of the old Nicky Scarfo mob who are just now returning to the streets after nearly three decades behind bars.

"If you don't get somebody to step forward to consolidate all that, which is probably the biggest problem confronting them, you're gonna have a big problem," Apeldorn, who now heads the Citizens Crime Commission, predicted.

"In my opinion it will never happen," said one former wiseguy

Mob insiders like this former mob soldier, who asked us to conceal his identity, says bringing these three mob factions under one leader and sharing those shrinking mob resources is near impossible.

"It's a time bomb waiting to explode," he predicted.

"When I was at homicide, they were dropping bodies all over the place and what you don't want to do is you don't want to go back to that," Apeldon said. "If they don't get along then you have a climate for violence to happen."

"If someone steps over someone's territory or into somebody's territory, that's when we have what.., well that's where you have the big bang," he added.

"In the end, the government's gonna bury all of them," said our mob insider.

In addition to worrying about their current leadership void, shrinking finances and infighting, the wiseguys also have to be concerned about two ongoing criminal cases where two of their own could end up turning against them if they get convicted.

If that happens, who's running the mob and where the next buck is coming from will be the least of their worries. Staying out of prison will once again be their top priority.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Al Sharpton worked as secret informant to take down the Genovese crime family

Al Sharpton was a secret FBI snitch whose recorded conversations with top mobsters helped take down members of the Genovese crime family, a bombshell report claims.

While it was known that Sharpton worked with the FBI in the early 1980s, — citing new documents and extensive interviews with investigators — spelled out new details that for the first time exposed his interactions with four of the five New York City crime families.

The report released Monday said investigators from the FBI and NYPD equipped Sharpton — known as “CI (confidential informant) 7″ — with a bugged Hartmann briefcase into which unsuspecting mobsters spilled their secrets.

Dirt provided by Sharpton helped the feds secure court orders to wire two Genovese family social clubs, including former boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante’s headquarters, three cars used by the mob and more than three dozen phone lines, including Gigante’s, the report said.

Sharpton worked directly with the FBI/NYPD Organized Crime Task Force, according to the report.

The feds worked hard to shield Sharpton’s identity because the undercover work put his life at risk, the report said.

Sharpton was known to have crossed paths with underworld figures through his work in the music industry and boxing world, including with his mentor James Brown. He also had an association with boxing promoter Don King.

Sharpton, in a Post interview, did not deny that he cooperated with the FBI. But he said the report greatly exaggerated his role.

“It’s crazy. If I provided all the information they claimed I provided, I should be given a ticker-tape parade,” Sharpton said.

He insisted he did not own a briefcase with a listening device.

There’s a dispute about how Sharpton became an FBI informant.

The report said Sharpton was recorded in a meeting that involved an undercover FBI drug sting. While Sharpton did not explicitly offer to arrange a drug deal, the feds had enough to frighten the fiery activist into becoming an informant, the report said.

But Sharpton offered a different account.

He said it was he who contacted the feds after a mobster threatened him while he was acting as a concert promoter.

Later this week, Sharpton will be hosting a meeting of his National Action Network in New York at which President Obama is the featured speaker.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bonanno associate sentenced to 18 years in prison for home invasion murder

A reputed Bonanno crime associate was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the home-invasion murder of a Brooklyn man and his beloved dog — nearly twice the term he thought he’d get under a plea deal with the government.
Neil Messina, 52, found out Friday that Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto may have gone easy on some Mafia oldfellas, but is more than ready to severely punish violent mobsters.
Messina was convicted of the 1992 fatal shooting of Joseph Pistone and his German shepherd named King. Messina served as a getaway driver when two cohorts went inside looking for drug money and killed Pistone.
But the judge believed a 10-year sentence approved by the government was too light, considering there was also compelling proof that Messina had ordered the fatal shooting of another man in 1989.
In federal court, a judge can consider evidence of uncharged crimes in a sentencing decision.
“I'm a changed man today,” Messina insisted.
But Matsumoto had already viewed a video in court provided by Pistone’s family showing photos of the victim, the dog and his tombstone.
Defense lawyer Gerald McMahon said he would appeal the sentence.

Dead fugitive mobster tested positive for the AIDS virus

A federal investigator yesterday confirmed that fugitive Armond Dellacroce, son of a former top Mafia figure, tested positively for the AIDS virus after his death at Pocono Medical Center April 4.
U.S. investigator Victor Aboyski of the Eastern District of New York said Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen informed him last week of the preliminary test results and asked him to disseminate the information to people who may have had contact with Dellacroce, also known as Frank Trainer.
In a related matter, Aboyski said he plans to arrest several people within the next month in the Pocono area who aided Dellacroce before his death.
Dellacroce, the 31-year-old son of Aniello Dellacroce, the late underboss of the reputed Gambino crime family, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges in December 1985 but skipped out before his sentencing, scheduled for March 31, 1986.
He was free on $250,000 surety bail posted by his aunt and uncle, Aboyski said. He declined to name the couple.
"I was told that he tested positive for AIDS," Aboyski said. "I took it assomething serious, very serious because we can't account for his movements; we don't know how many people he came in contact with."
Aboyski said Dellacroce and some associates assumed false names and have been hiding in the Poconos for two years.
Mount Pocono Police Chief David Swiderski, who is also involved in the federal investigation, said yesterday that Allen contacted him April 12 and told him that Dellacroce carried the deadly virus.
Allen said yesterday preliminary tests indicated that Dellacroce may have been a carrier, but stressed that conclusive tests will not be completed for about two weeks.
"AIDS had nothing to do with his death," Allen said. "The preliminary test was positive for the possibility of AIDS but I can't confirm that without a second test."
He said Dellacroce died of a cerebral hemorrhage attributed to alcoholic cirrhosis. "He died as a result of alcoholism," Allen said.
Medical Center spokesman Jack Coyle said it would be a breach of patient confidentiality to comment on Dellacroce's medical record.
Aboyski said he was reprimanded by Allen for confirming that Dellacroce tested positively as a carrier of the infectious virus but said he believes the most important issue at hand is to get the information to the public.
"I wasn't going to lie," he said. "I think it's important as a health reason because (Dellacroce) was a fugitive for two years. In the community you have a dangerous individual and now he died and we find out he was infected with an infectious disease. You'd think they would want to put the word out; (Allen) wants to keep a lid on it . . . that, to me, doesn't make any sense."
Because Dellacroce may have carried the AIDS virus, Aboyski said, the investigation into the fugitive Mafia man is complicated.
"I have two problems," Aboyski said. "Finding people who helped him and finding people who may have had sexual contact with him or shared a needle with him. It's a double-edged sword."
Dellacroce pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge four days after his father died of cancer at the age of 71. The two Dellacroces and reported Mafia boss John Gotti were among 10 members of the Gambino group charged in a federal racketeering indictment in March 1985, Aboyski said. Two years later, he added, Gotti and six associates were acquitted.
"That's the real oddity," Aboyski said. "(Dellacroce) took a plea and took off."
Dellacroce, who lived at G-150 Snow Shoe condominiums on Route 196 in Mount Pocono, faced 20 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
"We knew he was in the Pocono area," Aboyski said. "We knew that after he took off and we're pretty sure he wasn't by himself."
"I mean, he had to have associates. Think who called the hospital to get him picked up by an ambulance," Aboyski added. "You don't have to be a Dick Tracy to figure this out."
Swiderski said both he and federal investigators have located Dellacroce's girlfriend. Aboyski said she may be one of the people arrested within the month but declined further comment.
Aboyski said Dellacroce was known as a heavy cocaine user, which may have contributed to his death.
"I wasn't shocked," he said. "He's just another kid that went off the deep end."

Former CEO says group led by mobsters made false accusations to seize control of his firm

In more than three hours of testimony spread over two days, the former chief executive of a mortgage company said that a group allegedly led by reputed mobsters made false accusations to seize control of his firm.
Dan Phillips, 64, was CEO of Texas-based FirstPlus Financial Group until 2007, when he and the company's board of directors relinquished control to an investment group.
That group, prosecutors said, was made up of lawyers and other individuals working under the direction of Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and alleged mob associate Salvatore Pelullo.
The two men allegedly made millions through the company unlawfully, spending the money on luxury cars and a yacht, among other things, prosecutors said.
Pelullo devised the plan, with a man named William Maxwell, to take over FirstPlus, prosecutors said.
The plan called for making false allegations and threatening a lawsuit against a board member of FirstPlus, forcing that person to use his influence and persuade the board to give up control of the company, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors cited a letter Wednesday as evidence of such allegations.
The letter was allegedly written by Jack Draper, who at one point worked with Phillips at the company. The letter accused Phillips of using the company as his "personal checkbook."
Phillips, who denied the allegation, said he believed someone other than Draper wrote the letter. That someone, Phillips alleged to jurors, was Maxwell, who authorities said was working with Pelullo and Scarfo to take over the company.
Maxwell's brother, John, became CEO of the company after the takeover, prosecutors say.
Draper "just wasn't capable of drafting a letter like this," Phillips said, citing the detail.
Phillips also recalled one of the first times he met Pelullo, to whom he was introduced by one of the Maxwell brothers, he said.
Phillips, in court, said that Pelullo accused him of being "asleep at the wheel" and told him that the takeover of FirstPlus would not be happening if Phillips was on top of things.
Phillips said that he eventually talked to company board members and that they decided to give up control of the company.
On Thursday, defense attorneys questioned the stability of FirstPlus before that moment, pointing to Phillips' affairs with coworkers as a sign of its fragility.
Mark Catanzaro, the attorney for John Maxwell, named two of the three women with whom Phillips admitted having affairs. "The third one, you can't even remember her name, correct?" Catanzaro said.
Phillips said he could not.
"Is that your idea of a professional atmosphere?" Catanzaro asked.
After being ordered by the judge to answer, Phillips replied, "It's not professional, no."
Michael Farrell, the attorney for Pelullo, repeatedly asked Phillips whether he was physically harmed by Pelullo. Each time, Phillips replied, "No."
The trial began in January and is expected to last at least through April.

Convicted trash hauler gets $3.1 million from the government

Federal authorities have agreed to pay $3.1 million to a trash hauler convicted in a price-fixing conspiracy to settle his claim that they violated their plea agreement with him by selling his companies but failing to pay him.
James Galante said in February the government was supposed to pay him $10.7 million but had only paid $7.6 million. Galante and the government have filed an agreement in which he will be paid the balance.
Galante pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and fraud charges involving trash hauling in Connecticut, and Putnam and Westchester counties. Federal prosecutors charged that Galante headed the scheme with his silent partner, Thomas Milo of Mamaroneck. Galante was sentenced in 2008 to more than seven years in prison and is expected to be released this summer.
Galante, who was raised in South Salem, had agreed as part of his plea to give up his ownership of more than 20 trash-related businesses and never participate in the industry again. The federal government took over Galante's companies after he was indicted along with 28 others in the scheme.
"We are pleased that we have been able to settle this matter," said H. James Pickerstein, Galante's attorney. "It's important that Mr. Galante get on with his life. He's looking forward to getting on with his life and he has put this phase of his life behind him."
The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the agreement, which is subject to a judge's approval. The government agreed to make the payment "to bring this obligation to conclusion and to avoid unnecessary costs and the uncertainty of future litigation," the agreement said.
Galante had agreed in plea negotiations to give up his right to the repayment of about $30 million of the $41 million in outstanding personal loans he had made to the companies, Pickerstein has said.
Galante's businesses handled nearly 80 percent of the refuse in southwestern Connecticut and prosecutors said Galante paid a quarterly $30,000 mob tax to alleged Genovese crime family boss Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello in exchange for muscle to stifle competition. Ianniello pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion and was sentenced to two years in prison. He died in 2012.
Galante admitted to trying to rig a bid for a contract to operate a transfer station, tampering with a witness, having no-show employees, accepting payroll kickbacks from employees and skimming cash from his businesses. He also admitted to violating the salary cap on his minor league hockey team, the Danbury Trashers, after prosecutors said he gave some of the players and their wives no-show jobs with his garbage companies.
The witness tampering that Galante admitted to involved directions to lie to the grand jury about providing cash on behalf of Galante and others to Ianniello's alleged bag man. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Feds drop murder charges against gangster for last murder ordered by John Gotti

He Gotti away.
(Exclusive photo) - Daniel Fama (right) leaves Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Fama, an alleged associate of the Gambino Organized Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, is charged with the 1990 murder of a suspected informant. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

Daniel Fama, a reputed mobster charged in the last hit believed ordered by the late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, saw his indictment in the slay dropped by federal prosecutors Thursday.

The feds arrested the Staten Island ex-con last year on one count of killing a law-enforcement informant.

But prosecutors admitted Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court that they don’t have enough evidence to prove Fama knew about the motive when he took part in the 1990 rub-out of Edward Garafalo, no longer making it a federal crime.

Charles Carnesi, a lawyer for Fama, said his client never should have been busted on the informant-slay rap.

“The decision made today was not based on any information that was not available to the FBI agent who made the arrest last year,” Carnesi said.
Prosecutors said they don’t have enough evidence to prove Fama knew about the motive when he took part in the 1990 rub-out of Edward Garafalo, a law-enforcement informant.

The Daily News reported in November that Fama had been released on bail after he said former Gotti underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano would testify that he didn't know the reason for the hit.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office could try the 49-year-old for the killing in state court.

But Carnesi said he considers that unlikely. Fama spent nearly 20 years in prison and is now a productive citizen, the lawyer said.

“Nobody could seriously argue that this individual is the same individual who went to jail in 1992,” he said.