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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Jailed Gambino mobster uses turncoat Gambino underboss in bid for freedom

An 86-year-old reputed Gambino wiseguy doing time for a murder he insists he didn’t commit is trying to get his conviction tossed — with a little help from Mafia turncoat Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.
Frank “Frankie Loc” Locascio, a Gambino underboss during the reign of “Dapper Don” John Gotti, filed papers in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday to overturn his conviction for the 1990 slaying of purported mobster Louis DiBono in a World Trade Center parking garage.
Included in Locascio’s papers is a signed statement from Gravano, in which the infamous La Cosa Nostra snitch said that he neglected to tell prosecutors that Locascio was not involved with DiBono’s murder while testifying at trial.
Gravano’s statement came to light in November 2018 and on Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Manhattan issued an order allowing the statement to be admitted as new evidence in Locascio’s case.
“Frank Locascio had no role in the planning of, nor did he participate in any way in the murder or conspiracy to murder Louis DiBono,” The Bull’s statement reads.
In fact, the mob rat claims, Locascio tried to save DiBono’s life.
Gotti wanted DiBono dead because he kept failing to show up to meetings with Gotti. But in a recorded conversation from 1989, Locascio can be heard trying to calm Gotti down, assuring the skipper that DiBono would fork over $50,000 to make up for his absenteeism, the court papers state.
“Shortly after this conversation, Gotti told me that he strongly resented Locascio’s suggestion that he take the money and forget about killing DiBono,” Gravano’s statement reads.
Gravano said that Locascio’s failed attempt to spare DiBono’s life cost him his number-two spot in the Gambino crime family — Gravano said he was bumped up to underboss and Locascio was demoted to “acting consigliere.”
Both the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn and Locascio’s lawyer declined to comment on the filing.
Gotti died in 2003 in a Missouri prison.
Gravano confessed to being involved with 19 murders as part of his deal with the feds. He did a 15-year prison stint for dealing ecstasy and was released in 2017.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Young man accused of killing Gambino family boss rants about conspiracies in court

The Q-Anon conspiracy theorist accused of killing a Mafia kingpin ranted wildly in court on Friday about an alleged CIA program called “Operation Mockingbird” and possessing evidence of global crime syndicates.
Anthony Comello, 25, said during a hearing on Staten Island that he has evidence stored on his phone of worldwide human-trafficking and drug-smuggling rings.
“I just want to say there is a lot on my phone and a lot of data about drug smuggling, human sex trafficking all over the country,” Comello said.
“I have everything from Australia to Ukraine to Italy to … Russia,” he continued.
Comello launched into the bizarre screed after his lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, asked Staten Island Supreme Court Justice William Garnett if his client could speak in court.
“Good luck, Wanda. Operation Mockingbird,” Comello said to Assistant District Attorney Wanda DeOliveira.
Operation Mockingbird was an alleged CIA program that used journalists to spread propaganda.
Comello — who is pursuing an insanity defense — is accused of killing the 53-year-old Francesco “Frank Boy” Cali in a brazen assassination in front of the purported Gambino boss’s house in Todt Hill.
Comello, who once appeared in court with symbols associated with the far-right “Q-Anon” conspiracy inked on his palm, allegedly confessed to the hit on Cali after his arrest.
But Comello’s possible motives for allegedly putting 11 rounds into the Gambino boss have been scattershot.
Following his arrest, law enforcement sources said that Comello allegedly killed Cali because the Mafia don wouldn’t let Comello date his daughter.
But in a court appearance in July, Comello’s lawyer said that his client was rubbing out someone he thought was a “prominent member of the ‘deep state’” — and that he pulled the trigger after failing to pull off a ‘citizen’s arrest.’
Garnett has ordered Comello to be interviewed by a psychiatrist on Monday — but Gottlieb said Comello is declining to comply with the order.
Cali’s death sent shockwaves through La Cosa Nostra — and touched off a brief whodunit for police, who initially suspected that the assassination was part of an intra-Mob struggle between Americans and Sicilians.
Federal agents allegedly picked up chatter on wiretaps put up on a few Gambino soldiers as part of a separate criminal investigation into the family that the don’s death could allow them to move up in the ranks.
In an intercepted conversation between Gambino soldiers Vincent Fiore and James Ciaccia, Fiore said Cali’s death “a good thing” because they both reported to a capo power whose star might rise within the family, court papers say.
Comello is due back in court on April 20.


Turncoat Lucchese family solder busted for fraud schemes in Arizona

A former Mafia soldier in Arizona who orchestrated the nationwide collapse of two star-powered country restaurant chains has been indicted on federal fraud charges.
Frank Capri, who was behind the financial failure of Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts-branded restaurants from Hawaii to Florida, was arrested Wednesday.
The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office announced that Capri, 52, his mother, Debbie Corvo, 68, and an unnamed third person were indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 28 on 16 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Capri is the focus of an ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic that began in 2015. The Republic exposed Capri as an ex-mobster who was given a new identity through the Federal Witness Protection Program and used it to bilk developers out of millions of dollars.
Capri, whose real name is Frank Gioia Jr., was a former soldier in New York's notorious Lucchese crime family. He flipped to become a government witness in the 1990s. He moved to Arizona in the early 2000s, where he made a name for himself as a real estate and restaurant developer. 
Capri could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. 

Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts eatery failures

The Republic documented how Capri's restaurant career was built on failures. He is known for the epic collapse of a nationwide chain of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants, which went under in 2015 amid allegations of fraud and theft. 
Capri or his companies negotiated deals to build Toby Keith restaurants with mall owners and developers throughout the United States, then took tens of millions of dollars meant to pay for construction and walked away, The Republic reported.
Capri's company, Boomtown Entertainment, built 20 Toby Keith restaurants beginning in 2009 and announced plans to build 20 more that never opened. It closed 19 restaurants in about 18 months. Even as restaurants went under, Capri was announcing plans to open new ones that never got built.
By 2017, judges in cities across the country ordered him or his companies to pay at least $65 million in civil judgments. It is unclear how many judgments were paid or settled.
Capri's mother, Corvo, was involved in Boomtown.
A 2007 report prepared by private investigators in a Maricopa County case documented Capri's entry into the Federal Witness Protection Program along with his father, mother, sister and brother-in-law.
Capri also was behind the financial ruin of 19 Rascal Flatts restaurant projects. Capri's name does not appear on corporate documents tied to the Rascal Flatts restaurants. But working from behind the scenes, he oversaw hiring, firing, employee payments, permits, construction schedules and collection of development fees, The Republic found.
The restaurants were operated by Tawny Costa, Capri's longtime girlfriend and the mother of two of his children.

Girlfriend admits fronting businesses

Costa admitted in March to serving as Capri's front for the Rascal Flatts projects.
In a series of texts to The Republic, Costa said Capri and a business partner set up and secretly ran Rascal Flatts restaurant projects in her name. She said Capri manipulated her into putting her name on corporation and business records for restaurants.
Costa was one of two managers listed on corporation filings for RF Restaurants, the Las Vegas-based company that owned and operated the restaurant projects. 
Secretly recorded audiotapes of Capri's phone calls provided a vivid picture of his role. In the profanity-laced recordings obtained by The Republic, Capri threatens and intimidates developers in an attempt to squeeze cash out of the Rascal Flatts projects.
Money meant to pay for construction went directly to Capri and Costa, the audiotapes, text messages and interviews showed.
Developers paid millions to lure RF Restaurants to malls. They offered up-front cash to offset construction costs in exchange for signing long-term leases. They got vacant buildings, incomplete projects and lawsuits. 
Only one Rascal Flatts restaurant, in Stamford, Connecticut, opened in 2017. It closed a year later. 
Developers in Stamford accused RF Restaurants of failing to pay more than $1.1 million in rent. Lawsuits followed the shutdown of RF Restaurants' projects in Pittsburgh, Gainesville, Florida, and Hollywood, California. 
Projects in other cities fell behind schedule and collapsed.
Between them, Capri and Costa have orchestrated the failure of 63 restaurant projects since 2013 that either closed after opening, were left unfinished or never started; 39 under Capri and 24 under Costa's name, according to a Republic tally.
Their business strategy appeared to evolve in 2019 from nationwide chains of celebrity-themed eateries to individual restaurants and bars. The Republic in December documented Costa's plans for a new restaurant in the Arcadia area of Phoenix.

Mafia turncoat to businessman

Gioia was a third-generation mobster. Mafia historians call him one of the most important government witnesses ever to testify against the mob.
The Republic in 2017 documented Gioia's transition to Capri, from gangster to witness to businessman.
His cooperation with law enforcement led to the conviction of more than 70 Mafia figures in the 1990s and 2000s. He helped clear several unsolved murders, including the shooting of an off-duty police officer.
Gioia became a "made man" in 1991 and has testified about his past as a murderer, drug dealer, gun runner, arsonist, loan shark, stickup artist and enforcer.
Gioia was arrested in 1993 on federal drug charges. He was facing 30 years to life in prison when he got word the mob was plotting to kill his father. He contacted the FBI, told agents he was willing to talk and signed a deal to cooperate with the government.
Capri maintains stories about his past are "false and defamatory" but has offered no proof to support his claims. In a 2017 letter, he denied pocketing development money and described the Toby Keith closures as nothing "other than the product of a business failure."

Feds mum on mob ties 

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for years have declined to answer questions about Capri or the trail of financial destruction that followed him out of the Witness Protection Program. 
But the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office in 2019 launched a criminal case against Capri's former lawyer at Boomtown. 
Gregory McClure took a plea deal after being indicted on charges he stole $1.3 million from the company.
As part of a cooperative agreement, McClure was charged with a single count of money laundering, and authorities agreed not to prosecute him for any other offenses related to Boomtown.
His sentencing date was repeatedly pushed back last year and is now scheduled for sometime in March, court documents show. 
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not name McClure or Costa in its announcement on Wednesday.
A copy of the indictment was not immediately available.
Capri's trial is currently scheduled for April 7.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Drita from Mob Wives and her husband make list of top tax deliquents in New York State

“Mob Wife” Drita D’Avanzo and her husband Lee appear on a list of the state’s worst tax delinquents, the Advance learned Thursday.
Dating back to 2016, the pair owes a little over $8,200. Individually and as the representative for Just Me Cosmetics Corp., Drita D’Avanzo owes nearly $670,000, according to a list of the state’s top 250 tax delinquents
Their alleged tax delinquency comes in the wake of the D’Avanzos’ December arrest following a raid on their Pleasant Plains home.
Both face charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a firearm and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
New Jersey authorities also arrested Lee earlier this month as the result of a year-long investigation that busted 24 people in a ring that allegedly distributed marijuana and infused THC into popular candies.
A number listed for the D’Avanzos had been disconnected Thursday.
The couple with alleged ties to organized crime joined 10 other tax delinquents from Staten Island on the state’s list. None of them cracked the top 10 of the list.
The arrests aren’t the couple’s first contact with law enforcement.
The husband has served prison stints on numerous federal convictions.
Lee was one of four suspects arrested in “Operation Turkeyshoot" after they were caught trying to break into the vault of a bank in New Springville in 2008.
Drita, who shot to fame with her role on the controversial show “Mob Wives,” was raised in the Todt Hill Houses and drew acclaim for her prowess as a high-school soccer player.
Drita appeared on the show from 2011 to 2016.
"Four Staten Island women are headed for prime time as VH1 prepares to launch its 10-episode ‘Mob Wives,’” read an Advance article which previewed the series in 2011.
"Ever wonder what it’s like to be married to an alleged mobster who’s in jail? Or what it’s like to live in witness protection in Arizona because of your dad? Staten Island is once again headed for national fame as Karen Gravano, Drita D’Avanzo, Renee Graziano and Carla Facciolo are headed for the small screen,” the Advance reported.
She used her celebrity status to promote various businesses and social ventures. In 2013, Drita opened a storefront in West Brighton to promote her Just Me Cosmetics line.
She was arrested in February of 2016, when she was accused of punching a woman at the victim’s home in Tottenville. She was charged with misdemeanor assault, but prosecutors ultimately dropped the case.
The list excludes taxpayers who have filed for bankruptcy, set up an installment payment agreement with the state, or have requested a review.


Peter Gotti set to die in prison as judge rejects plea for early release

Peter Gotti will die behind bars because he’s not sick enough to warrant early release, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Manhattan federal court judge Colleen McMahon issued the decree following multiple requests from lawyers for the ex-Gambino boss that he be sprung from jail early due to illness.
“I have no doubt whatever that Gotti — who has the burden of showing that ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’ to reduce his sentence exist — has established that he suffers from a plethora of serious, debilitating, and progressive medical conditions,” McMahon wrote. “However, he has not shown that he has a terminal illness or a serious physical or medical condition that has substantially diminished his ability to provide self-care within the environment of a correctional facility.”
“Many of Gotti’s claimed conditions are heart or lung conditions, which, according to the BOP, are adequately treated and monitored,” the jurist’s ruling read.
Lawyers for the 80-year-old have repeatedly insisted he’s on his deathbed, suffering from an enlarged prostate, gastric reflux and early onset dementia. So far, he’s served 17 years of a 25-year sentence for racketeering.
McMahon also sided with prosecutors that Gotti continued to pose a danger to the community, despite claims from his lawyers that the sickly wiseguy was incapable of violence and is a changed man.
“Gotti headed one of the most vicious and violent organized crime organizations in New York for a period of years,” MacMahon wrote. “I reject the notion that Gotti is no longer a threat to the community. The danger posed by a Gambino Family leader like Gotti is not that he will personally engage in acts of violence, but that he can command others to do so.”
A lawyer for Gotti did not immediately return a message.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Firm linked to the Gambino crime family helped build affordable housing in The Bronx

The taxpayer-subsidized 11-story Creston Apartments in The Bronx is among the latest entries in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature push to build or preserve 300,000 affordable apartments.
For a contractor federal prosecutors say is a front for the mob, it was just another job.
CWC Contracting Co. counts Creston Apartments as one of a dozen big projects featured on its website, listing it as a “newly constructed building in the Mount Hope neighborhood.” According to Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donohue, CWC is controlled by the Gambino crime family.
An indictment unsealed Dec. 5 names alleged Gambino capo Andrew Campos as “the principal” of CWC — and charges that an accused mob soldier, Vincent Fiore, has an ownership interest and is a CWC “project manager.” The indictment also describes alleged soldier Richard Martino as having an “ownership interest” in the Mount Vernon-based company.

Construction Racket Alleged

In court papers, prosecutors say the accused gangsters paid CWC employees some if not all of their wages in cash to avoid getting hit for payroll taxes, and bribed their way on to several New York construction sites, then siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars through inflated billing.
Alleged Gambino family members Andrew Campos (right) and Richard Martino (left) with imprisoned mobster Frank Locascio (center), according to photos entered as evidence.
Alleged Gambino family members Andrew Campos (right) and Richard Martino (left) with imprisoned mobster Frank Locascio (center), according to photos entered as evidence.
Campos’ attorney, Henry Mazurek, declined comment. Fiore’s attorney, Lawrence DiGiansante, did not return calls. Martino’s attorney, Maurice Sercarz, stated, “As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Martino’s connection to CWC is tenuous at best.”
As THE CITY reported in early December, one of the sites CWC worked on was an ultra-luxury condo and hotel now under construction alongside the High Line in Chelsea, where a half-penthouse is on the market for $25 million. The indictment does not specify whether the alleged illegal activity occurred at the Creston Avenue site.
The Creston apartments are on the other end of the financial spectrum from the High Line tower. The project created 114 units set aside for low- and moderate-income tenants and was built by developer Schur Management with general contractor MacQuesten Companies. CWC was brought in as a carpentry subcontractor.
When the development was announced by the developer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in August 2015, Schur Management promised the building would include a “study center for children to do homework with desks and computers,” and a “large outdoor landscaped recreation area.”
The building was supposed to open in summer 2017 but fell way behind schedule. It finally opened to tenants last March.
Resident Jessica Liriano recently pointed to an empty room next to a “Study Room” sign, then walked a few feet to point to a vacant brick patio. That, she said, was the “landscaped recreation area” promised when she signed her lease for a two-bedroom at $1,500 a month.
The "large outdoor landscaped recreation area” at 2030 Creston Ave. promised by developer Schur Management.
The “large outdoor landscaped recreation area” at 2030 Creston Ave. promised by developer Schur Management.
“I love the building, but I just feel it’s false pretenses,” she said. “They’re going to make you think you’re in a nice luxury place, but once you make the commitment to rent, you’re stuck here. They disregard our voices because they’re not going to do anything about it.”
And last summer and into the fall, the building’s two elevators repeatedly broke down, sometimes for days at a time. Records show four times tenants filed complaints to the city Buildings Department, including this one on Sept. 15: “2 elevators are always going out of service and there’s 11 floors in the building including elders with wheelchairs and walkers.”

The Mayor’s Mission

Creston is among dozens of subsidized developments that de Blasio cites in touting his program to combat the dwindling supply of affordable living space in a city that’s experienced a growing disparity between the rich and the poor and a diminishing middle class.
It counts toward his pledge to build or preserve 300,000 affordable units by 2026 — five years after his second and final term expires. To date, the mayor says the city has built or preserved 135,000 units since he arrived at City Hall six years ago.
As with all the projects in de Blasio’s affordable housing program, Creston was financed with significant taxpayer help.
Developer Schur Management applied for financing for the $44.2 million project under the Extremely Low and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) program. The firm got $16.3 million in direct city subsidy, with most of the rest backed by tax credits and tax-exempt bonds.
In a news release, the firm’s president, Billy Schur, noted the project was part of the city’s affordable housing campaign, adding that he decided to build on a vacant lot he owned “after seeing the many new affordable buildings projects that have been developed in the borough as well as the strong commitment of (Bronx) Borough President Diaz Jr. and Mayor de Blasio.”

Beset With Issues

From the start, records show Creston was plagued with problems, beginning with issues regarding the underpinning of the building’s foundation. Construction ultimately fell months behind schedule, and the building didn’t begin renting up until March — a year and a half past due.
During the delay, city records show inspectors issued 41 code violations, including several for dangerous conditions that resulted in four injured workers. As of last week, all but one have been resolved.
Inspectors charged that laborers on upper floors were working without safety harnesses, that openings in top floors had no fall protection and that scaffolding did not meet safety code requirements.
A wire snapped and hit a worker in the head, records show. A worker removing a hoist fell eight feet on to his back and had to be hospitalized, buildings department records state.
The records do not spell out who these workers worked for, but prosecutors allege that CWC employees bribed an OSHA-certified job safety instructor to falsely report to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that several CWC employees had taken and passed job site safety training tests when they hadn’t.
The lobby of 2030 Creston Ave. in The Bronx last month.
The lobby of 2030 Creston Ave. in The Bronx last month.
The prosecutors do not spell out which projects these employeesworkers worked on and what DOL was doing to find out how many CWC employees had the bogus safety certifications. Last week a DOL spokesperson said the agency “can neither confirm nor deny an investigation.”
The building’s general contractor, MacQuesten, was cited repeatedly for multiple violations — sometimes for the same problem that wasn’t fixed after the first citation, records show.
Ultimately, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development put the company on “heightened monitoring” due to its nonresponsiveness to address multiple problems at the site — including “incomplete fall protection, incomplete scaffolding, non-operational hoists, and systems not being built as per plans,” HPD officials said in an email to THE CITY.
The developer, Schur Management, and the general contractor, MacQuesten, did not return several calls seeking comment. Calls to CWC went unanswered.


Additional charges for husband of Mob Wives star in massive New Jersey drug bust

Officials arrested the husband of Staten Island “Mob Wives” star Drita D’Avanzo in connection to a major drug bust that took place in New Jersey, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office announced on Tuesday.
Lee D’Avanzo, 52, was arrested and charged in connection to “Operation on the Ropes,” a year-long investigation that busted a total of 24 people in a ring that allegedly distributed marijuana and infused THC into popular candies, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.
D’Avanzo, of Pleasant Plains, was charged with fourth degree conspiracy to possess marijuana and fourth degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams, Gramiccioni said in a press release.
It is not clear what role exactly D’Avanzo played in the scheme.
During the operation, prosecutors discovered a distribution network of THC-infused candies like Nerds Rope and Sour Patch, Gramiccioni said.
“The network operators used regular candy to further their scheme, buying hundreds of boxes of product from wholesalers before transporting it to a processing facility where they would unwrap the individual pieces of candy, lay it out on trays and then spray the candy with a concentrated formula of THC distillate,'' Gramiccioni said. "Once the THC dried on the candy it was repackaged as an illegal marijuana edibles product for distribution across New Jersey.”
The operation took place in a warehouse on Park Avenue in Manalapan Township, N.J.
“The packaging on this THC laced ‘candy’ is almost indistinguishable from regular drug store candy," Monmouth County Chief of Detectives John G. McCabe said. “Your kids may be getting high right before your eyes if you are not paying close attention.”
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office gave credit to multiple law enforcement offices on Tuesday including the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD’s 123rd Precinct.
D’Avanzo was arrested on Dec. 20 after the NYPD raided his home at 226 Woodvale Ave.
When police entered the home then, detectives found two loaded firearms, one inside a bedroom and one in the kitchen, according to the criminal complaint.
NYPD detectives found hydrocodone, a pain killer, and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, in the couple’s bedroom, the complaint states.
Detectives also found “two scales, ziplock bags used for the purpose of unlawfully packaging a narcotic drug, a sum of United States currency and multiple cellular phones” inside the home, the complaint alleges.
Police recovered “a large quantity of marijuana” in the basement and in a kitchen cabinet that was accessible to their 12-year-old daughter, according to the complaint.
After the December arrest, D’Avanzo faced charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm and endangering the welfare of a child.
It is not yet clear if the raid and the New Jersey arrest are connected.
D’Avanzo has served prison stints on numerous federal and state convictions.
He was arrested in “Operation Turkeyshoot," when four suspects were allegedly caught trying to break into the vault of a bank in New Springville in 2008. The evidence indicated that Lee and other suspects attempted to gain access by drilling through the walls of a neighboring building, according to Advance archives and documents previously filed in court by federal prosecutors.
Lee was on federal probation at the time for similar crimes and he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 36 months to five years in state prison.
In 2003, Lee was sentenced to 62 months in federal prison on a conviction of racketeering for multiple robberies, marijuana distribution, loansharking and money laundering.
In that case, he was identified by prosecutors in court documents as a member of the “New Springville Boys, a racketeering enterprise with connections to the Bonanno organized crime family.”


Inside the raid of Mob Wives star and her husband busted on drug charges

Loaded firearms and marijuana were staple ingredients in the kitchen cabinets of former “Mob Wives” star Drita D’Avanzo and her husband, Lee, prosecutors allege.
The husband and wife stood side by side just like any other couple when they appeared for their arraignment in Criminal Court in St. George on Friday afternoon, after the NYPD allegedly found weapons and drugs in their Pleasant Plains home during a raid Thursday night.
Drita rose to national fame when VH1′s launched “Mob Wives” in April of 2011. Her husband’s extensive criminal history and reputed ties to the mob were a central theme of the show.
After giving a brief nod to a man in the back of the courtroom, Lee D’Avanzo, 50, faced Judge Ann Thompson. His lawyer, James Foccaro Jr., stood on his left side.
His wife, Drita, 43, stood quietly between him and her lawyer, John J. Rapawy.
When police entered their home at 226 Woodvale Ave. at around 6 p.m. Thursday, detectives found two loaded firearms, one inside their bedroom and one in the kitchen, according to the criminal complaint.
NYPD detectives found hydrocodone, a pain killer, and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, in the couple’s bedroom, the complaint states.
Detectives also found “two scales, ziplock bags used for the purpose of unlawfully packaging a narcotic drug, a sum of United States currency and multiple cellular phones” inside the home, the complaint alleges.
Police recovered “a large quantity of marijuana” in the basement and in a kitchen cabinet that was accessible to their 12-year-old daughter, according to the complaint.
The raid happened after the NYPD received community tips and concerns about activities at that location, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
Thompson set bail for Lee D’Avanzo, who had a fugitive warrant in New Jersey, at $100,000 and at $15,000 for his wife.
They are both facing charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child.
The judge also issued a limited order of protection against both of them for an individual that was not named in court.
They will be both back in court on Jan. 31.
The husband has served prison stints on numerous federal and state convictions.
He was arrested in “Operation Turkeyshoot," when four suspects were allegedly caught trying to break into the vault of a bank in New Springville in 2008. The evidence indicated that Lee and other suspects attempted to gain access by drilling through the walls of a neighboring building, according to Advance archives and documents previously filed in court by federal prosecutors.
Lee was on federal probation at the time for similar crimes and he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 36 months to five years in state prison.
In 2003, Lee was sentenced to 62 months in federal prison on a conviction of racketeering for multiple robberies, marijuana distribution, loansharking and money laundering.
In that case, he was identified by prosecutors in court documents as a member of the “New Springville Boys, a racketeering enterprise with connections to the Bonanno organized crime family.”
Drita’s own “Mob Wives” biographical page posted on the VH1 website when she was starring in the show detailed her husband’s alleged ties to organized crime.
Her bio described Lee as “the leader of a Bonanno and Colombo crime family farm team."
While her husband is serving time in prison, she is “left alone raising two young girls,” the bio says.
"Drita, who comes from a strict Albanian household, defied her parents and married someone outside the community — an Italian."
Drita, who lived for a time in the Todt Hill Houses, “was raised in the projects of Staten Island after her family settled there from Albania,” according to her bio.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Former Mob Wives star and husband arrested for drug and weapons charges


A former member “Mob Wives” star is now ironically in trouble with the law.
Police searched Drita D’Avanzo’s Staten Island home and now she and her husband are facing a slew of charges.
The explosive reality star of VH1’s “Mob Wives” ran out of a Staten Island courthouse Friday afternoon after she was arraigned on drug and weapons charges, along with her husband Lee.
The couple was arrested at their Pleasant Plains home on Staten Island Thursday night after the NYPD conducted a search and found two loaded guns, a large quantity of marijuana and assorted pills – including painkillers, anxiety meds, and a scale to weigh the drugs.
Investigators say the bust took place after community members called the police with concerns about activity at the home.
Most neighbors did not want to comment Friday, but one father says he’s seen the show with his wife and daughter.
“Run into them in the stores here… nothing real special.” Alan Fried said.
D’Avanzo works as a makeup artist, but her husband Lee has never been featured on the show. He’s mostly been locked up for robberies.
The 43-year-old’s show bio describes her husband as “the leader of a Bonanno and Colombo crime farm team.”
The couple has two young daughters.
The reality star-turned-suspect was granted a $15,000 bail. Her husband will remain in custody. None of the other “Mob Wives” from the show were in court to support her.
An unnamed person also has an order of protection against the couple.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Strip club raid fuels talk of Buffalo mafia resurgence

Last month, federal prosecutors indicted former DEA agent Joseph Bongiovanni for allegedly accepting bribes from criminals with ties to what they called “Italian organized crime.”
Last week, the feds followed up with a raid at Pharaoh’s Gentleman’s Club in Cheektowaga. The strip club is operated by Peter Gerace, who is related to the Todaro family that the FBI accused decades ago of running the Buffalo mob (the Todaros denied the charges).
But documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show these recent developments are part of a wider federal investigation into the possible re-emergence of organized crime in Buffalo.
And they’ve left many to wonder: is the Buffalo Mafia actually dead? Or has it somehow come back to life?
“I would have trouble believing that there is an organized crime family in Buffalo,” said Lee Coppola, an expert on the Buffalo Mafia who broke stories on organized crime as a former Buffalo News and WKBW-TV reporter.
During his reporting, Coppola once knocked on the door of Stefano Magaddino, the now-deceased crime boss from Niagara County who wielded immense power in the underworld as head of the Buffalo mob.
“He’s been ancient history for 40 years,” Coppola said in a recent interview.
The organization Magaddino once ran died a slow death, Coppola said, hastened by a loss of revenue, crime figures who no longer practiced a code of silence and federal prosecution like the probe in the 1990s that purged crime figures from the ranks of Laborers Local 210.
Coppola said prosecutors may be grasping in their attempts to connect current criminal activity to the old crime syndicate. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney J.P. Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment.
“What happens a lot of times is that there are criminal elements, people who commit crimes or people who are investigated for crimes,” he said. “And if they happen to have a last name that ends in a vowel, the tendency is to say, ‘Oh, there's a criminal crime family, La Cosa Nostra,’ the mafia is thriving and growing. I have trouble believing that.”
Attorney Joel Daniels, who represents Gerace, said, “there are no mafia ties” to his client. Attorney Paul Cambria, who represents Bongiovanni, said last month that the mafia references in Bongiovanni’s indictment make for sensational headlines but are not grounded in fact.
But former Hamilton, Ont., police officer Paul Manning said any reports of the mob’s extinction are inaccurate.
“That's just not true,” Manning said. “There's definitely a presence.”
He acknowledged the Buffalo crime family was weakened in the 1990s and 2000s, but said recent gangland-style killings in Canada show they are starting to become active again.
The Buffalo gangsters now are “nothing more than a satellite family to control Ontario and parts of Montreal,” Manning said.
New York City crime families, he said, are using Buffalo underworld figures to fight a “proxy war” in Canada because they are hoping to tap into the 9 million people in the country’s “Golden Horseshoe” region.
“You've got a reemergence because there's so much profit to be made north of the Border,” Manning said.
Manning has direct knowledge of mafia efforts to infiltrate law enforcement. As a police officer, he went undercover in the mob, an experience that nearly cost him his life . He said he was betrayed by crooked Hamilton officers and nearly killed by a mob hit. He is now suing the Hamilton government.
The allegations against Bongiovanni, the former DEA agent, follow the same pattern, and the I-Team has learned that Bongiovanni is not the only police officer suspected of breaking the law.
“It also confirms that we do have a problem with law enforcement working for the other side,” Manning said.


Chicago mobster indicted for defrauding Social Security

A Chicago mobster once sent to prison as a result of the FBI’s landmark Family Secrets case has been indicted for stealing $44,000 in Social Security funds, court records show.
Michael Marcello, 68, of Wood Dale, allegedly once helped run the Chicago mob while his older brother, James Marcello, was in prison. He also took the witness stand in 2009 in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, who was charged with leaking details about the Family Secrets investigation to the mob.
Now, he faces a one-page indictment alleging that he stole $44,623 from the Social Security Administration between September 2017 and May 2019. The document offers no further details.
His lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.
Marcello, the half-brother of Chicago mob boss James Marcello, was sentenced in March 2008 to 8 ½ years in prison— the first to be sentenced in the Family Secrets case. He once ran a lucrative video poker machine operation in the western suburbs and carried out his half-brother’s orders while James Marcello was in prison, authorities have said. He admitted his role in the mob in a 2007 plea agreement.
He also worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as a truck driver from 1986 to 1995.
In April 2009, Michael Marcello took the witness stand in the trial of Ambrose, who leaked key details to the mob about Nicholas Calabrese, the hitman who became a crucial government witness in the Family Secrets case.
Marcello testified that John “Pudgy” Matassa had funneled sensitive information to him — information he thought Matassa had obtained from a former Chicago cop and family friend of Ambrose.
Just this year, Matassa admitted to an embezzlement scheme stemming from his job as the secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly gave him six months in prison.
But before the judge sentenced him, Matassa complained that, “the only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.”

Monday, December 16, 2019

Judge forces jailed Colombo mobster to give $250K legal settlement to crime victims

That’s the way the ping-pong ball bounces.
One-time Colombo crime family street boss Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli’s $250,000 settlement for a table tennis tumble while behind bars should go for restitution to a fur store and a bank robbed by the gangster and his crew back in the ’90s, a Brooklyn Federal Court judge ruled.
“In this case, once defendant’s settlement is finalized, he will have immediate access to (the money),” wrote Judge Brian M. Cogan last week in his ruling against the notorious Gioeli. “... His financial circumstances have seismically shifted, and he now has the financial means to make immediate court-ordered restitution.”
Gioeli is on the hook for a $360,000 payback to a Chemical Bank branch and a business called Furs by Mina, with Cogan ruling that Gioeli “personally profited from these robberies ... (he) was the undisputed leader of the pack (and) ... the other perpetrators were his direct subordinates within the Mafia hierarchy, acting pursuant to his orders.”
According to court papers, the settlement money is currently sitting in an interest-bearing account under the supervision of Federal Court Judge Kiyo Matsumoto.
Gioeli’s lawyer Jennifer Louis-Jeune asked for a extended deadline of Dec. 20 to respond to Cogan’s decision ordering the defendant to show cause why the new money should not accelerate the 67-year-old mobster’s payback process.
Goeli is less than halfway through an 18 1/2-year prison sentence following his racketeering conviction. The restitution was part of his sentence, with the initial payback set at $25 every three months while in custody and 10% of his gross monthly weekend while on supervised release.
But in August 2013, the ping-pong playing inmate skidded in a puddle near the showers inside the Manhattan Detention Center, with Gioeli’s slip-and-fall leaving him with a broken kneecap and a 30-day hospital stay.
He sued the federal Bureau of Prisons for $10 million, eventually agreeing to a quarter-million dollar settlement.
The fur business robbery in 1992 netted 150 fur coats worth an estimated $900,000, while the 1995 bank heist netted roughly $210,000, according to court documents. Goeli, a tough guy described by racketeering trial witnesses as a cold-blooded assassin, was ordered to pay the full amount to Chemical Bank and $150,000 to Furs by Mina.
As of two months ago, Tommy Shots had ponied up just $450 in restitution — leaving an outstanding balance of $359,550.
Cogan denied Goeli’s motion to vacate or modify the payback, and ordered the imprisoned Mafioso to show cause why his six-figure windfall “should not accelerate defendant’s restitution payments, based on a material change in his economic circumstances.”


DeCavalcante crime family associates charged with drug distribution

Two alleged associates from the Elizabeth-based DeCavalcante crime family of La Cosa Nostra were recently charged with possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute. One of them has also been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Residents of Toms River, New Jersey— Mario Galli III, 27, and Jason Vella, 37, are charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. In addition to the drug possession charge, Galli is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Drugs and firearm recovered

Search warrants were executed on the residences of the alleged associate members by investigators from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office on September 19, 2019. Investigators claimed that during the search of their residences, cocaine in excess of 150 was seized along with other drug-related implements such as baking soda, grinders, digital scales, glassine envelopes, and a money counter. Cash amounting to $2,295 was also recovered they said.
Authorities also said that the search at Galli's residence resulted in the recovery of a FEG 9mm Model PGK-9HP gun loaded with 12 rounds of ammunition. This find is particularly important as Galli was on supervised release from a 2016 federal conviction at the time of the weapon's recovery. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in excess of 500 grams for the aforementioned crime.

The penalty that they could face if convicted

20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine is the maximum penalty for the charge of charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and both could face this penalty if convicted. In Galli's case, he could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The second count that he has been charged with— possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, must be served consecutively to any sentence on the drug count and a $250,000 fine. The investigation and filing of charges was attributed to the FBI's Organized Crime Task Force in Newark and investigators from Ocean County Prosecutor's Office by the US Attorney's office.


Gambino family looted towers going up near the High Line in Manhattan

They’ll stand as shining symbols of affluence next to The High Line: two towers known as The XI, housing a hotel and 234 condos going for up to $25 million, rising to take their place in the city skyline.
The Chelsea buildings, according to the developer’s website, will be “unmatched in Manhattan and unparalleled in the world.” They’ll feature “groundbreaking amenities” and “mesmerizing views of the Hudson River and New York City skyline on all sides.”
The XI, a recipient of nearly $1.5 million in tax breaks, also may already have achieved another sort of distinction: serving as a kind of ATM for the Gambino crime family, according to federal prosecutors.
The Mafia family once controlled by the late John Gotti skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from The XI and other Manhattan projects by buying off a top executive of the firm behind the condo complex, prosecutors charged.
That executive, identified by prosecutors as John Simonlacaj, 50, is a managing director of the HFZ Capital Group, a Manhattan real estate developer that’s built multiple luxury residential and hotels across the city. Simonlacaj oversaw construction of The XI for HFZ, which purchased the Chelsea property in 2015, according to court papers.
On Friday, Simonlacaj surrendered and entered a not guilty plea in Brooklyn Federal Court to federal charges of wire fraud conspiracy and tax fraud. He was released after posting $250,000 bail.
Simonlacaj is the cousin of Mark “Chippy” Kocaj, 49, one of 10 alleged mobsters busted Thursday in Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue’s major crackdown on the Gambino clan, once notorious for its control of New York’s construction industry.
Prosecutors say that Kocaj, reputed Gambino capo Andrew Campos and alleged crime family soldier Vincent Fiore operated a Mount Vernon carpentry firm, CWC Contracting, which was hired to work on multiple city projects, including The XI.
To get the inside track with HFZ Capital, between June 2018 and June of this year, CWC allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to “multiple employees” of HFZ Capital, prosecutors charged. Sometimes it was in cash, but sometimes it was “in-kind benefits” to the employees, according to court papers.

Free Home Work Alleged

With Simonlacaj, CWC provided free labor and materials to perform “extensive” renovations on his home in upscale Scarsdale, according to court papers. The cost of the work was covered by inflated invoices to HFZ, the indictment alleges.
In court papers, prosecutors charged that the Gambino family “is thriving, earning millions of dollars through various forms of fraud, bribery, money laundering and extortion, particularly in the construction industry.”
CWC got jobs by bribing employees of numerous construction companies and real estate developers, prosecutors alleged. One of those outfits is listed in the indictment as Construction Company 1, identified by other public records as HFZ Capital.
To get their hooks into HFZ, prosecutors say, the mob bribed Simonlacaj, who handled several projects for HFZ and is listed as the owner’s representative on The XI in city Building Department records.
The XI, which is still under construction, abuts The High Line, the popular park built on an abandoned railway that runs through Chelsea up to the recently opened Hudson Yards. It’s considered one of the hottest real estate locations in the city, with luxury residences adjoining the park selling for hefty sums.
The XI is one of these high-end properties, a pair of leaning towers that will include a Six Senses Hotel and condos ranging from $2.8 million for one-bedrooms to $25 million for a half-floor penthouse. The developer benefited from $1.49 million in tax credits for cleaning up a toxic brownfield at the site, according to state records.
Prosecutors say that Fiore is heard talking about how CWC would get work with HFZ, noting that Kocaj is Simonlacaj’s cousin  — “but keep it to yourself,” he states.
“There’s things we can do with Chippy there,” Fiore allegedly said. “He whispers what he needs to whisper and we get things done.”

‘Chippy Knows’

Both Kocaj and Fiore were recorded by the FBI boasting about their violent escapades, according to prosecutors.
In one recorded conversation, Kocaj went off about a fight he had in a diner where he “stabbed the kid, I don’t know, 1,000 times with a fork,” according to prosecutors. Fiore allegedly threatened to send members of the Latin Kings gang to assault individuals who had hit his son.
Discussing eight days of work owed to a laborer for his work at Simonlacaj’s home, Fiore — who refers to Simonlacaj as John Si — was heard on the feds’ wire stating, “Put that against 76 11,” listing the address of The XI at 76 11th Ave, near 18th Street.
“Chippy knows about that as well. That’s John Si’s house.”
Through CWC, the Gambino family allegedly siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from HFZ by getting Simonlacaj and other unnamed HFZ employees to approve inflated “change orders” that jacked up the cost from the original proposed scope of work on several projects, prosecutors say.
On Friday, Christophe Lagrange, an executive at HFZ, said he was not aware of the charges filed against Simonlacaj and said he hadn’t seen him at work all day. He declined further comment.
At the time of THE CITY’s call to Lagrange, Simonlacaj was entering his not-guilty plea. On his way out of Brooklyn Federal Court, he declined to speak to a reporter for THE CITY.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Lawyer claims former Gambino boss Peter Gotti is near death and seeks compassionate release

Peter Gotti is at death’s door, according to his lawyer.
The claim came as attorneys for the former Gambino boss continue their efforts to get the 80-year-old client sprung from prison early on compassionate release.
“We are truly afraid he is dying now, he feels he is,” James Craven wrote in court papers Tuesday. “As his lawyer, I am afraid this will all become moot soon if nothing is done.”
Gotti, who suffers from an enlarged prostate, gastric reflux and early-onset dementia, is 17 years into his 25-year sentence for racketeering.
Craven — who previously said even Stevie Wonder could see that Gotti has repented for his crimes — notes in his Tuesday court papers that death rates at Gotti’s North Carolina prison are “at an all time high.”
“We pray Peter Gotti won’t be next on that list, but these cases are very sad and very real. Peter Gotti has a loving home to go too, with his daughter in Howard Beach, New York. He has served over 80% of his sentence and is dying. May he get there in time,” the motion reads.
A judge has yet to rule on the request.


Actor from The Sopranos is cooking private meals at home of fans

Joseph Gannascoli — who played Vito Spatafore on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and is now an in-demand Italian chef — has begun cooking private meals for fans in their homes.
Gannascoli, who’s done guest spots at various restaurants, told Page Six the private dinners are for 12 to 50 guests and that he usually does an antipasto and two different pasta dishes.
Besides prepping the food, he also poses for pics, does “Sopranos” trivia and a Q&A, and tells behind-the-scenes tales about the HBO hit.
“I’m usually at their house about 10 hours. People say it’s been the greatest party they’ve been to!” Gannascoli quipped of his “Sopranos” meals.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Italian mafia ready to embrace gay members

Even the Italian mob has started flying the rainbow flag.
A star prosecutor in Italy has revealed the mafia is now open to gay men — and even has a drag queen in their midst.
“The mafia have evolved along with society,” Nicola Gratteri, an anti-mafia investigator in Calabria, told the Times of London. “Gays can be accepted now, even as foot soldiers, so long as they don’t parade it in public.”
The inspector claims to have intercepted “passionate” letters between a crime boss and a young lieutenant, and has eavesdropped on phone conversations revealing many mafia foot soldiers enjoy transvestite bars. The scion of one crime family is living as a drag queen under the name “Lady Godiva,” the prosecutor found.
Previously, mobsters risked being murdered if they were even suspected of being gay.
Homosexuality is still taboo among older bosses.
“It undermines their image of themselves as tough, virile guys,” Gratteri said of the previously homophobic underworld.
In 1992, New Jersey mob boss John “Johnny Boy” D’Amato, head of the DeCavalcante family, was shot dead by one of his own soldiers after it emerged he was homosexual.