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Monday, September 1, 2014

Man sentenced for robbing Gambino associate's home

A Connecticut man who prosecutors say claimed he had ties to the Patriarca crime family, was sentenced Wednesday for his role in a brazen home invasion on the home of a known mob associate.
Gennaro Miele, 62, of Niantic, Conn., was sentenced in Providence federal court to 41 months for the March 2010 robbery.
Court documents show the victim was 78-year-old Nicola Melia of Stamford, Conn., who prosecutors identified as “associate of the Gambino crime family.”
Miele pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., also ordered him to serve one year supervised release.
According to court documents Miele and two other men – Napoleon Andrade of Central Falls and Stephen Conti of Swansea, Mass. – drove to Melia’s home and posed as deliverymen. Andrade “football tackled” Melia who was then bound and blindfolded, according to court documents. The trio made off with roughly $216,000 in jewerly and cash.
Investigators said the men targeted Melia because of an ongoing dispute over a loan-sharking debt.
Prosecutors said as the home invasion was coming to an end “oddly, Melia related that he asked the robbers to leave him a few dollars so he could get a Starbucks coffee and they did so.”
It took three years and an unrelated drug case by Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to snare the men for the home invasion.
Andrade was picked up in a wiretapped conversation telling an informant: “Oh look, look, so I went with the Italians the other day, I did two home invasions, for 400 grand, right?”
“Yo the last dude I tied up a 77 year old man,” Andrade said on the wiretap. “I felt like [expletive] after.”
After their arrests, prosecutor said Miele attempted to intimidate one of his cohorts, accusing Conti of cooperating with investigators.
Conti was, and had a hidden recording device on him at the time.
“You’re not even supposed to talk to God, nobody … that’s the way you’re supposed to do it.” Miele said in the recording according to court documents. “That’s it … You understand? So we stay on the same page, that’s, that’s why, talk about rats.”
Investigators said Miele boasted he was an associate of the Patriarca crime family but that the claim appeared to be “overstated.”
One of his co-defendants said Miele was chosen for the job because of the ties he claimed to organized crime.
Federal prosecutor Gerard Sullivan from the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office handled the case against Miele.
In 2011 Andrade was sentenced to 10 years for an unrelated drug trafficking case, which was enhanced by 63 months for the home invasion.
Conti has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for the home invasion and will be sentenced on September 26.
Melia – the victim of the home invasion – is currently serving five years in prison for extortion and possession of a firearm.

Judge sentences son of Vinny Gorgeous to over three years in federal prison

Stephen Basciano was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison for his role in a marijuana ring.
He said he didn’t want to “walk down the same path” as his father, but the son of mob boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano is now following him to federal prison.
Manhattan Federal Court Judge Richard Sullivan sentenced Stephen Basciano, 30, to three and a half years in a federal lockup on Friday for his role in operating a large-scale marijuana ring.
“This went on for years,” Sullivan said of the criminal enterprise. “This wasn’t just one shot.”
Basciano had pleaded for mercy from the judge in a handwritten letter earlier this week, assuring him that he’d learned from his mistakes, and saying he wanted to marry his girlfriend and move on with his life.
Basciano’s father once ran the Bonanno family, and is now serving two life sentences at the Supermax prison in Colorado. His son insisted he wasn’t a chip off the old block.
“Your Honor, I’m a good kid with a big heart that made a horrible decision, and this is not what I want for my life,” he wrote.
Vincent Basciano, a former Bonanno family boss, is serving two life-sentences in a federal prison.  
Vincent Basciano, a former Bonanno family boss, is serving two life-sentences in a federal prison.
In a courtroom packed with friends and family on Friday, he told the judge, “I just want to let you know this will never happen again. I’ll never risk my freedom again,” he said. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
Basciano’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, had urged Sullivan to give his client less than the 37-to-46-month sentence called for by federal sentencing guidelines, but the judge said he would not, given the seriousness of the crime.
He instead sentenced him to 42 months, and urged Basciano to make good on his words about walking the straight and narrow. “This is no way to live,” Sullivan said.
Two of Basciano’s brothers were also arrested in the drug scheme. One, Joseph, who was less involved, was sentenced to six months in jail last month. The other, Vincent Jr., is expected to be sentenced later this year.

Government hopes Philadelphia mob associate starts cooperating

Andrew Tuono's new girlfriend came with a warning.

Dating Tiffany Galati, daughter of an auto mechanic with long-held ties to the Philadelphia mob, would one day get him killed, friends advised.

That prediction nearly proved prescient last year, with an attack that left Tuono alive, but with three bullets in his gut - and his girlfriend's father accused of ordering the hit.

Now, the details of that attempt on Tuono's life, sketched in government court filings this month, offer the latest account of one facet of Ronald Galati's deepening legal morass. As additional allegations ranging from witness intimidation to insurance fraud have piled up against him, a portrait of the 63-year-old auto-shop owner has emerged.

Friends and law enforcement sources describe Galati as a mob hanger-on, eager to cozy up to Mafia dons and trade quips from Goodfellas, his favorite film.

Court documents suggest that visitors to his South Philadelphia garage were as likely to find him welcoming mobsters back from prison with jobs as they were to discover him staging bogus car-wreck scenes to defraud insurance companies - complete with deer, duck, and dog carcasses he kept stored in a back room.

And though no "made man" himself, Galati's recent legal problems have authorities salivating. Longtime friendships with current and former Philadelphia mob bosses like Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and Joseph Ligambi make Galati a valuable target to turn.

Now that he faces three separate cases - the Tuono charges in Camden and counts related to insurance fraud and witness intimidation in Philadelphia - officials wonder whether Galati finally has incentive to cooperate.

Federal prosecutors in Camden have not specified what drove Galati's desire to see Tuono dead. But, they say, he made little effort to hide his animosity.

"I will kill him myself. I will strangle him. I will poke his eyes out," Galati is quoted in recent court filings as once telling an employee. "I am going to stab him right in the forehead with this thing." He was wielding an ice pick at the time.

Galati has denied any involvement in the Nov. 30 hit. His daughter, 33, and Tuono, 35, did not return calls for comment.

Court filings suggest Galati's attorney, Anthony Voci, will argue at trial that Tuono was in over his head with gambling debts and drugs - vices that brought the attackers to his doorstep.

Voci did not return multiple e-mails or calls for comment. But he has previously said his client had no interest in snitching.

"My client is not cooperating with city, state, or federal law enforcement agencies," Voci said in May. "He has not considered it."

Galati's garage - American Collision & Auto Center, near 20th and McKean Streets - first attracted law enforcement attention in the '90s as a way station for wiseguys looking for jobs on their way out of lockup.

Merlino briefly worked there after his release from prison in 1992. And at various points, investigators say, Ligambi's wife, son, and nephews have all held jobs there.

When Ligambi himself was locked up in 2011 facing federal racketeering conspiracy charges, Galati sent money to his prison-commissary account through handoffs to mob associates outside the garage. And when the mob boss was finally released after a mistrial in January, American Collision was one of his first stops, according to court filings.

Friends describe Galati as infatuated with the gangster lifestyle.

"He saw Goodfellas too many times," said one. "Him and some of the guys used to sit around the shop quoting lines to each other."

As his pals pursued loan-sharking and gambling rackets, Galati developed a lucrative scam of his own.

In 1995, he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison on federal racketeering and fraud charges. Prosecutors alleged at the time that he ran his auto-body shop as a criminal enterprise, ordering workers to steal and vandalize cars - sometimes of his own customers - to generate more business and increase insurance claims.

Testifying at Ligambi's trial last year, mob turncoat Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello described work he and Ligambi's nephew, George Borgesi, did for Galati as kids.

Galati would copy his customers' car keys and hand them off to Borgesi, so that he could later steal the cars off city streets and wreck them, Monacello said.

"People would take their cars back to Ron," he testified. "Ron Galati would give [Borgesi] a cut in cash."

Even back then, Galati withstood attempts by federal investigators to entice him to rat on his friends.

Investigators have long believed that a van used in a 1993 rush-hour ambush of mob boss John Stanfa on the Schuylkill Expressway had been altered at Galati's shop prior to the attack.

Police later found the vehicle abandoned with two makeshift portholes cut in its side, used by gunmen to strafe Stanfa's car. The attack came at the height of Stanfa's war with Merlino for control of the Philadelphia mob.

Some saw Galati's '90s insurance-fraud prosecution as an attempt to persuade him to give up those behind the Schuylkill Expressway attack. But if he knew anything, the mechanic kept his mouth shut. No one was ever charged with the ambush.

After his release from prison, Galati appeared to go legitimate and transferred the garage into his son's name. The shop even landed a city contract worth $1.2 million over three years to repair police vehicles.

But Philadelphia prosecutors now say Galati quickly returned to old habits.

In May, District Attorney Seth Williams unveiled a 69-count indictment accusing him and 40 others, including Ligambi's son, in a "staggering amount of insurance fraud" that cost the insurance companies about $2.3 million over the last four years.

Prosecutors say Galati staged dozens of bogus car wrecks using all manner of props, including frozen deer, geese, and dog carcasses stored in American Collision's back offices, weeds pulled from the river banks at Penrose Avenue, and chunks of metal and concrete. Photos of the bloody tableaux he allegedly created were sent to at least three insurance firms to beef up his clients' claims.

"I live my life to cheat insurance companies. My high every day is to cheat insurance companies," Galati would often say, according to one of the grand jury witnesses quoted in the presentment against him.

It was through that scheme, federal investigators say, that Galati met Jerome Johnson, Alvin Matthews, and Ronald Walker and managed to turn a potential decade-or-less insurance-fraud sentence into the string of attempted-murder allegations he now faces.

Philadelphia police arrested Galati in December for allegedly hiring the trio to kill rival auto-body shop owner Joseph Rao Sr. and his son, Joseph Jr., who he believed were testifying against him.

The would-be assassins are now cooperating with authorities. They told investigators they went so far as to scope out their targets' garage and obtain a weapon to use in the planned attack, before Galati called it off in favor of a new target - Tuono.

Prosecutors say Galati gave Johnson, Walker, and Matthews several addresses for properties owned by his daughter's boyfriend and sent them to a house near Broad and Snyder Streets in November while they searched for their prey.

Walker and Matthews eventually caught up with Tuono days after Thanksgiving outside a house in Atlantic City.

Three shots rang out. Tuono fell. Tiffany Galati was by his side, but was unhurt.

Prosecutors say her father had given his hitmen one specific instruction before they set out: If there was a woman with Tuono, she was not to be harmed.

But now it appears Tiffany Galati may not share her father's ability to stay quiet. According to recent court filings, she is talking to the FBI.

Once the subject of the warning to Tuono, she now could become a key government witness in the case against her father.

He is set for trial in Camden later this year.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tattoed grandson of Gambino associate wanted for Queens shooting

Robert Sasso, 33, allegedly shot his victim four times during a spat on a Whitestone shoreline.
This mafioso's gone from fedoras to facial tattoos.
The inked-up grandson of a former Gambino family associate is wanted following a near-fatal shooting in Queens.
Robert Sasso, 33, allegedly shot his 39-year-old victim four times during a spat on a Whitestone shoreline near Boulevard St. at 2 a.m. Friday, police said. Paramedics took the victim to New York Hospital Queens, where he was listed in critical condition.
Sasso, who has tattoos on his face and neck, was accused of ordering a hit, ultimately botched, on a construction supervisor who fired him last year — but he was never charged.
He comes from a long line of mob convicts. His father did three years on gun trafficking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Son of Vinny Gorgeous tells judge he has no plans to go into the mob

Mobster’s son says he won’t follow dad into ‘family’ business
A jailed son of Bonanno crime boss Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano says he has no plans to follow his dad into the “family” business.
“I love my father with all my heart, and my heart bleeds for him [for] what he is going though, but I do not have plans to chose the life he lived or walk down the same path he did,” Stephen Basciano, 30, recently insisted in a two-page handwritten letter from his cell at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center to Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan.
Stephen Basciano is scheduled to be sentenced by Sullivan on Friday for running a mini-marijuana enterprise with his two brothers.
He is facing 46 to 57 months in prison under a plea deal with the feds, but his lawyer, Joshua Dratel, has asked Sullivan for a sentence “well below” that amount.
“The choice I made by selling marijuana made my mother so upset that she hasn’t spoken to me since my arrest [in September 2013],” Stephen bemoaned to the judge in his missive.
He added that his bust did little to boost his girlfriend’s mother’s opinion of him, either, adding that his gal pal cries “herself to sleep at night.”
He makes it a point of referring to Sullivan as a “very popular judge” who “must have heard it all.”
But Basciano also notes his father’s arrest eight years ago “turned my world upside down,” adding “he was my best friend.”
Stephen says he had to shut down a body shop he co-owned shortly after his dad headed to the Big House because it was not doing well.
Vincent Basciano, 54 — who owned the “Hello Gorgeous’’ hair salon in The Bronx — is serving two life sentences for mob murders.
Over the next few years, Stephen said, he worked various blue-collar jobs before making “one of the worst decisions” of his life by agreeing to sell pot.
He says he once thought marijuana “wasn’t a serious drug” but has “learned the hard way … it’s still illegal.”
Stephen, along with brothers Vincent Jr., 32, and Joseph, 28, pleaded guilty earlier this year to running the ring, which the feds say involved hundreds of pounds of pot being brought from California to New York for distribution between August 2009 and April 2013.
After the brothers’ arrest, only Stephen remained in custody.
Prosecutors argued he should be denied bail because he has a long history of violence that includes being taped by a government witness bragging about having a gun with a silencer for years and having no problem “shooting people in the leg.”
Last month, Joseph Basciano became the first of the three brothers to be sentenced. Facing two years in jail, Sullivan cut him a break by giving him only six months in prison.
He also gave him fatherly advice, saying, “Go out there and get a real job. Pay taxes and do all the things ordinary people do.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Businessman with mob ties indicted in fraud scheme

A federal grand jury indicted a Glen Rock man with reputed mob ties and a disbarred attorney from Westchester on charges of conning 15 victims out of $3 million by pretending to broker deals on a pizzeria in the Bahamas, a casino in Atlantic City and the “flipping” of a chunk of real estate in Matawan, among other bogus ventures that authorities said drained victims’ life savings.

Paul Mancuso, 46, and 52-year-old Pasquale “Pat” Stiso of West Harrison, N.Y., were up to their necks in hock with bookies — including a $500,000 debt that Macuso still hasn’t paid, the indictment alleges.

Instead of funding the purported projects, Mancuso and Stiso used the money for personal expenses and financing their involvement in illegal gambling pursuits,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said, adding that the victims “lost all of their investments or life savings in Mancuso’s schemes.”

Mancuso reputedly has ties to Genovese captain Joseph “The Eagle” Gatto (above, right) of Paterson, who died in April 2010.

Authorities said Mancuso participated in a gambling ring headed by Gatto that took $300,000 a week in illegal wagers from tens of thousands of customers nationwide.

Gatto’s father and brother, legendary North Jersey Genovese gangster Louis “Streaky” Gatto and Louis Gatto Jr., both died while serving federal prison sentences.

Mancuso also was associated with Frank Lagano of Tenafly, 71, who was shot dead in April 2007 outside a Middlesex diner he co-owned, in a gangland-style hit that has yet to be solved.

A source connected to the case said authorities seized $269,000 from Lagano’s home and deposit box after he was arrested as part of what was billed as one of the largest gambling busts in state history, dubbed “Operation Jersey Boys.”

Beginning in 2009, Mancuso held himself out as a real estate investor, broker, and/or developer, as well as a “hard money” lender and broker of other various purported investments, according to a complaint on file in federal court.

Federal agents say he conned “substantial investments for various projects that, in fact, either did not exist at all, or in which [he] had no actual involvement.”

Stiso, meanwhile, “held himself out as an individual who was working with Mancuso on various purported projects,” the complaint says.

Authorities have indicated that others were involved in the alleged schemes — though they haven’t said how many and to what degree they may be cooperating with the investigation that led to this morning’s arrests.

“Most, if not all, of Mancuso’s victims lost all or substantially all of the money they invested with him and his co-conspirators,” the complaint says. “Many of Mancuso’s victims have lost all or substantially all of their life savings in his various schemes to defraud.”

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, the IRS, and investigators in his office with making the case, presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa M. Colone of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bonanno associate dodges life sentence for massive pot smuggling ring

City pot kingpin dodges life behind bars
A Bonanno crime family associate who helped run one of the city’s biggest pot rings dodged a life sentence, instead landing 11 years behind bars during sentencing Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

John “Big Man” Venizelos, 35, who plead guilty last year to marijuana trafficking charges, was one of the biggest New York customers of French Canadian alleged drug kingpin Jimmy “Cosmo” Cournoyer.

During his bust in 2013, federal agents seized more than $150,000 in drug proceeds, narcotics, encrypted blackberry devices and multiple guns, including a handgun that was stolen from a law-enforcement officer.

Venizelos also got into trouble for witness tampering last year after prosecutors say he sent encrypted Blackberry messages to a colleague explaining that Cournoyer bankrolled a “murder fund” for hits against informants.

“No question, I sold pot. … Now that I’m clean and sober for the first time, I see the mistakes I made,” Venizelos said in court, wearing his signature horn-rimmed glasses, as about 20 friends and family looked on.

Before sentencing, Judge Raymond Dearie offered a stern warning, telling Venizelos that if he was ever arrested again, “God only knows what’s going to fall on you.

“You have some shady friends, got to make some new friends,” Dearie told him.

United States Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement, “Venizelos used violence and intimidation to protect his position as a major narcotics distributor.

“[His] conviction underscores our commitment to prosecuting drug offenders who flood our communities with narcotics, especially when those individuals have chosen a life of organized crime.

Cournoyer is awaiting sentencing. His alleged operation ran on alliances with the Bonanno family, Hell’s Angels, Montreal mafia and the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.

Gambino tied CEO threatened wholesaler over unpaid debt

He doesn’t want to end up sleeping with the fishes!

A Florida seafood wholesaler told cops the CEO of Western Beef — who has family ties to the New York mob — threatened him over an unpaid debt and secretly attached a GPS tracker to his car, The Post has learned.

Michael Grieco, 52, who formerly owned Delray Beach-based Sutton Foods Inc., says in a police report that Peter Castellana refused to pay a $121,000 debt and started singing, “Be careful,” during a meeting at Western Beef’s Queens office.

Castellana’s father is a reputed Gambino soldier and cousin of late Mafia boss Paul Castellano — who was infamously gunned down execution-style on the orders of John Gotti outside Sparks Steakhouse in December 1985.

“You start to get a little freaky about going out to your driveway and getting in your car,” Grieco told The Post. “Someone could run up to your window and say goodbye. I don’t want to be found dead in my driveway.”

Grieco said his first meeting with Castellana occurred at the Ridgewood, Queens office of Western Beef last May 12 — a month after he said he was forced to sell Sutton Foods because he couldn’t collect the debt.

Castellana, Grieco says, told him to “get the f–k out” and refused to pay the $121,000 bill for a seafood mix.

After Grieco returned Delray Beach, two mysterious men slapped a GPS tracker to the undercarriage of his car, the police report states.

“They threatened my life and all of a sudden I got a tracker under my car. I was in fear for my life,” Grieco said.

Grieco returned to New York to confront Castellana, but he never made it past Western Beef’s head of security, the report states. The security head cryptically said “things were heating up and actions needed to be taken,” according to the report.

On Aug. 4 in Florida, Grieco was slapped on the head by an unidentified assailant, who snarled, “Be careful. You know who is looking for you,” before running off, the report said.

Delray Beach police are investigating Grieco’s allegations.

Benjamin Petrofsky, general counsel for Western Beef, said: “We can’t comment due to an open investigation with local and federal authorities.”