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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Chicago outfit soldier pleads guilty to beating up businessman

Reputed Outfit soldier Robert Panozzo pleaded guilty Wednesday to threatening and beating a suburban businessman he claimed owed him $100,000 and then hiring a goon to torch the debtor’s car and house when he wouldn’t pay.
“This is serious. I want my money,” Robert Panozzo Sr. allegedly told the victim in 2005 before embarking on a four-year effort to collect the juice-loan debt.
Panozzo, a reputed member of the Outfit’s Grand Avenue crew, entered his guilty plea to one count of extortion conspiracy in the federal courthouse in Rockford.
His plea agreement calls for up to 14 years in prison, but Panozzo’s attorneys have disputed prosecutors’ calculation of the sentencing guidelines and are free to ask U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard for a lesser sentence.
Whatever time Panozzo receives in the extortion case will be served concurrently with his 18-year prison term handed down earlier this year for his conviction in a sweeping racketeering conspiracy brought in Cook County court.
In that case, Panozzo and longtime associate Paul Koroluk admitted to heading a crew that participated in wide-ranging crimes, including home invasions, armed robberies, burglaries, insurance fraud and prostitution.
Panozzo, Koroluk and several other members of the crew were arrested in 2014 during the attempted robbery of a drug stash house on Chicago’s Southeast Side. That turned out to be a law enforcement ruse, however.
Panozzo was a longtime soldier for Albert “Little Guy” Vena, the reputed Grand Avenue boss, according to prosecution testimony at a mob-related trial in 2014.
Panozzo’s 17-page plea agreement entered Wednesday does not call on him to cooperate in any other investigations.
According to the document, Panozzo loaned the McHenry County businessman — identified only as Victim 1 — $40,000 in 2005 and then followed up with “additional loans.”
At a meeting at a restaurant in Palatine in 2006, the businessman handed Panozzo an envelope with $25,000 in cash, according to the agreement. He believed that was his final payment, but Panozzo let him know he still owed $100,000 in interest on the loans.
That October, after the victim had not paid, Panozzo and his associate, Joseph Abbott, confronted the businessman at work and beat him, causing “injuries and contusions to Victim 1′s head,” the plea agreement said.
Panozzo was later sentenced to prison for a burglary conviction and couldn’t collect on the debt. Once he was released in 2008, though, Panozzo began calling Victim 1 demanding repayment, the plea agreement said.
In February 2009, Panozzo paid Abbott $1,000 to set fire to a Dodge Caravan that was parked in the victim’s driveway, according to the agreement. Two months later, Abbott “used an incendiary device” to set fire to the victim’s garage and several nearby trash cans, the plea said.
Panozzo acknowledged in the plea agreement that he paid Abbott about $4,000 or $5,000 to “blow up” the victim’s residence.
Abbott has pleaded guilty to extortion and is awaiting sentencing, court records show.
Raised in the old Italian American enclave known as “the Patch” on the Near West Side, Panozzo and Koroluk have criminal histories that stretch back decades, court records show.
In 2006 they were both sentenced to seven years in prison for a string of burglaries targeting tony north suburban homes that netted millions of dollars in jewelry and other luxury items. Police at the time described the burglars as some of the most sophisticated they’d ever seen, from disabling state-of-the-art alarm systems to cutting phone lines.
Panozzo and Koroluk were arrested in a dramatic sting in 2014 after the two posed as cops to rob what they thought was a cartel stash house on the Southeast Side. They kicked in the door and grabbed stacks of drugs — only to be arrested by Chicago police and federal agents who had wired the house for audio and video surveillance and watched from above with an FBI spy plane. Koroluk wore a police star dangling from his neck, authorities said.
Prosecutors allege the crew participated in several other elaborate schemes targeting drug dealers, many of which involved tracking their targets with GPS to find where they stashed their narcotics.
Koroluk was also sentenced to 18 years in prison. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mobster's son ordered his murder at McDonald's drive thru in the Bronx

A wiseguy’s son paid more than $200,000 to have his dad whacked in a McDonald’s drive-thru in The Bronx — and also ordered a botched hit on his own brother, federal authorities in Brooklyn said Tuesday.
Anthony Zottola Sr. , 41, potentially faces a death sentence for the alleged patricide of reputed Bonanno crime family associate Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola, 71, who was gunned down while waiting for a take-out cup of coffee last year.
Anthony’s stunning indictment followed the arrests of several reputed Bloods street gang members, including ex-con Bushawn “Shelz” Shelton, who Anthony is accused of hiring to organize the Oct. 4 rub-out.
Court papers say that Anthony began scheming against his dad more than a year before the assassination, which capped a “series of violent attacks and attempts on his life” and that of Anthony’s older brother.
Salvatore Zottola, 42, was shot and critically wounded outside the family’s sprawling waterfront compound in Locust Point on July 11, during what the feds have previously described as an attempt to “lure out” his dad.
Anthony was charged with murder-for-hire conspiracy, unlawful use and possession of firearms and causing death through use of a firearm.
Prosecutors allege that text messages Anthony sent Shelton, 35, are proof of his “position at the helm of this sinister plot.”
One particularly chilling text shows the two men communicating in movie-style code on Nov. 26, 2017, about 45 minutes after Sylvester narrowly escaped death when his car was forced over by a dark van and a man in a mask got out and pointed a gun at him, the feds said.
Authorities later found the van, with the mask inside, and used DNA testing to tie it to Shelton, court papers say.
In one message, Shelton wrote, “The star stormed off the set and I think it spooked him,” prompting Anthony to allegedly write back, “That is why we need to get to the final secen (sic) before The star doesn’t come back,” the feds said.
“I need this bad…because I can see the film taking a twist,” Anthony allegedly added.
“Today was supposed to be the end until the actor wanted to do his own stunts and throw it in reverse in the middle of shooting a scene and drive in the opposite direction,” Shelton allegedly wrote.
“Ok. But we can still do the end I hope,” Anthony allegedly replied.
Prosecutors didn’t reveal a motive but law-enforcement sources said Anthony wanted control of his dad’s illegal gambling operation, which involved “Joker Poker” video games.
“It looks like it was over the family business — the Joker Poker machines — and the son was looking to take over,” a source said.
A source also described Sally Daz as “a stubborn old guy who wouldn’t give up his business.”
Before zeroing in on Anthony, investigators suspected that the old man had been targeted by rival Albanian gangsters.
Sources said Sylvester Zottola was formerly associated with Bonanno boss Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, who’s serving a life sentence for the 2004 murder of renegade underling Randolph Pizzolo.
Following Basciano’s 2011 conviction, sources said, Sylvester began reporting to acting Bonanno boss Joseph “Joe C” Cammarano, who beat the rap in an extortion and racketeering case earlier this year.
Neither Anthony nor Salvatore Zottola are known to have mob ties, and they’re believed to have been “just living off the father,” a source said.
Cammarano’s acquittal came after a defense lawyer memorably told jurors not to convict him just for looking like he “stepped out of a central casting in a mob movie.”
Salvatore Zottola was among the spectators who watched as Anthony, and accused accomplices Jason “Stacks” Cummings, 31, Alfred “Aloe” Lopez, 36 and Julian “Bizzy” Snipe, 32, pleaded not guilty.
A neighbor in Locust Point expressed shock over Zottola’s arrest and likened it to a classic mob movie.
“I know it happened in ‘Godfather II’, but I still don’t believe it,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “I never liked that part where he had his brother shot in the boat.”
Sylvester was killed inside an Acura SUV that was boxed in by other vehicles outside the McDonald’s at Webster Avenue and Belmont Street.
Court papers say the shooter, who wore a hooded sweatshirt, opened fire through one of the SUV’s windows, then hopped into a waiting car driven by Lopez.
Evidence tying Anthony to the slaying includes communications with Shelton before and after the hit, with Anthony sending a coded text assuring payment that said “I have the cases of water in a day or so.”
A photo shot a day after the hit and recovered from one of Shelton’s cell phones shows “a cardboard box of bottled water, as well as over $200,000 in banded currency,” court papers say.
Two days later, Anthony sent Shelton a text that said, “All good. Did you drink the water. Was it the right one.”
“Definitely was the right one thanks I was able to water the plants and get some of them squared away,” Shelton said.
Anthony’s wife burst into sobs as Judge Roanne Mann refused to release him on their Larchmont home, saying: “He was not the one who fired the weapon but he was the one who called the shots.”
Zottola wiped away tears as he was led out of the courtroom and the brother he’s accused of trying to have whacked broke down in sobs in the hallway.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Lucchese family used Staten Island to conduct secret mafia initiation rituals

The Lucchese crime family established a strong presence on Staten Island over the years, with the Mafia clan holding a clandestine initiation ritual here and numerous members of its so-called Brooklyn crew operating on the borough, a mob snitch said last week.
During detailed testimony in Manhattan federal court, John Pennisi, a family member turned FBI informant, explained to prosecutors how many of the family’s members migrated to Staten Island from Brooklyn, establishing a stronghold here.
“We were the Brooklyn faction of the Lucchese family, but we operated out of Staten Island,” said Pennisi, 49, according to a transcript of his testimony obtained by the Advance.
Pennisi testified during the trial of family soldier Eugene "Boobsie" Castelle, 59, of Annadale, who was charged in a massive bust involving several mob families early last year.
During his testimony, Pennisi explained how about seven or eight people were part of each crew.
Crews were spread all over the New York City area, including two in the Bronx, two on Long Island and one in Manhattan.
Each crew was run by a captain, Pennisi explained.
“There was no real Staten Island crew,” said Pennisi. “Although we were in Staten Island, we were the Brooklyn part of that family.”
“If you live on Staten Island why are you considered Brooklyn?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten, of the Southern District of New York.
The answer was simple.
“Because everybody from Staten Island came from Brooklyn,” Pennisi testified.
Pennisi said that, at the time, he was living on Long Island and traveled to Staten Island for family business.
“It’s just wherever they put you," he said. "It doesn’t mean that you have to come from Brooklyn.”
His testimony didn’t specify exactly where the crew was operating, but the New York Post reported it was mostly based in Tottenville.
Pennisi, himself, lived on Staten Island for a short time after getting out of prison in 2007.
He started cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation sometime after October 2018, when he walked into the Bureau’s office to share his “concerns and basically crimes that [he] committed,” he said under oath.
He has been sharing information about the inside operations of the Mafia family since then.
Pennisi said he became a member of the Lucchese family in 2013, during a secret initiation ceremony at a house on Staten Island on his wife’s birthday.
Matty Madonna, the acting boss of the Lucchese family, presided over the ceremony, he said.
In the darkness of a basement, Pennisi sat in front of a table.
“There was a gun, a knife, there was a picture of a saint, an ashtray, a lighter, and like a diabetic pin, needle to check your blood,” said Pennisi.
Madonna, from the Bronx, asked Pennisi what his trigger finger was and shortly after, John "Big John" Castellucci, a Staten Island resident and crew captain, who was sitting next to him, poked his finger with the needle, according to his testimony.
“They took the saint, and they poured blood drops onto the saint, and then he said to me we're going to light the saint on fire, and you're going to put your hands out and you're going to move the paper of the saint back and forth in your hands and repeat after me,” said Pennisi.
“Matty [Madonna] said if I was ever to betray any member of the family, that my soul would burn like the saint is burning,” he said.
He did not specify where on Staten Island the ritual took place.
The feds have struck back hard against the family in recent years.
Both Madonna and Castellucci were among those charged in a massive Lucchese bust in 2017, which included several Staten Islanders. Madonna was 81 at the time and Castellucci 57.
After a two-week trial, Castelle was found guilty on one count of attempted extortion and one count of illegal gambling on Friday.
He remains out on bail after his brother put up his New Brighton home in January of 2018, according to court documents.
Pennisi is currently under FBI protection.
(Both court filings and officials from the U.S. attorney’s office spell the family name as “Luchese.” Many outlets, however, spell the family name as “Lucchese.”)


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Lucchese soldier found guilty in illegal gambling case

A reputed mobster called “Boobsie” gambled in Manhattan court Friday — and lost.
Eugene Castelle, an alleged foot soldier for the Luchese crime family, had turned down a plea deal from the government that would have likely got him between eight and 14 months in prison on raps including illegal gambling and racketeering.
Castelle decided instead to fight his case before a jury and was convicted.
He now faces a sentence of between 30 to 40 months in prison, according to guidelines.
He was allowed to walk free on a $1 million bond.
Castelle was rounded up in 2016 with five other defendants for running an illegal sports-gambling website.
Castelle’s lawyer, Gerald McMahon, said his client was convicted for something that’s becoming increasingly legal in New York — the only difference, he said, is that Castelle was doing it with an “Italian veneer.
“Is gambling still a crime in America?” said. “Do we need to put him in jail for gambling? Come on.”
Castelle was prosecuted alongside Bonnano bosses Joe “Joe C” Cammarano and John “Porky” Zancioccio, who fared better in their trials earlier this year and were able to walk free after a jury acquitted them of racketeering charges.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Former Bonanno consigliere linked to Mob Wives stars dies at age 78

Reputed Bonanno crime family consigliere Anthony Graziano, whose daughter Renee starred on the reality show “Mob Wives,” has died at age 78.
The passing of the Staten Island-born gangster known as “T.G.” was announced Saturday by Renee in a heartfelt Instagram posting. Her sister Jennifer was the creator of the popular VH-1 program that reportedly caused problems for the Graziano patriarch with his organized crime colleagues.
“I can’t believe you’re gone, life will never be the same without you,” wrote Renee. “My hero, my protector, my rock, my dad and the best man in the world ... We sure are gonna miss you ... rest in peace Daddy.”
Graziano, owner of a seventh-grade education, became a well-respected gangster and top family earner who moved up through the Bonanno ranks to capo and then consigliere under boss Joseph "Big Joey" Massino — who eventually flipped and became a federal witness.
In contrast, Graziano’s reputation among his fellow Mafiosi was sterling. A co-defendant, once asked if Graziano could ever turn on his mob compatriots, ridiculed the idea: “Are you nuts? That man is a man and a half.”
Graziano was famously ratted out by his son-in-law Hector Pagan, who wore a wire in a case that stuck Graziano with a 19-month prison sentence in 2012.
He previously did time for a 1990 conviction for tax evasion, and served another prison term for a 2002 racketeering conviction.
Graziano’s disdain for his daughters’ television careers led him to stop speaking with them for a period of time until fences were mended. And there were reports that the daughters’ involvement in the reality show led his fellow mobsters to take away many of the father’s organized crime responsibilities.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Philly mobster pleads guilty and asks judge to be sent to jail immediately

A reputed Philadelphia mobster has pleaded guilty to extorting a man who took out a loan from him, and asked the judge to send him to prison right away.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that after a bit of confusion, it was determined Philip Narducci could surrender Monday and begin earning credit toward the prison term of 12 months and one day he agreed to serve in a deal with prosecutors.
Narducci is no stranger to serious allegations. A former member of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo's crew, he spent decades in federal prison after he was convicted in 1988 on racketeering charges. He also was convicted of participating in the 1985 gangland hit on bookmaker Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso, but was later acquitted in that case.
Lawyer Brian McMonagle says 56-year-old Narducci is eager to return to the restaurant he runs called Chick's — named after his father, purported mob captain Frank "Chickie" Narducci Sr.


Mob lawyer gets time served for helping put Vinny Gorgeous away for life

A former mob lawyer who turned canary against Bonanno crime family boss Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano was sentenced Friday to time served — three days — by the same judge Basciano once tried to have killed.
Defendant Thomas Lee cried and hugged his attorney after Brooklyn federal court Justice Nicholas Garaufis handed down the sentence.
“Good luck, and have a good life,” Garaufis told Lee, nearly 14 years after the defendant took the stand against Basciano to finger him for racketeering, including acts of murder, murder conspiracy, and solicitation of murder.
Lee admitted to abusing his power as a lawyer to pass messages from acting boss Basciano to the family’s incarcerated official head, Joseph Massino, in 2004 regarding a murder plot.
“I don’t blame my upbringing, I don’t blame my neighborhood, I don’t blame my father’s drug addiction,” Lee told the court Friday, referencing his mob-tinged childhood in The Bronx. “The most important thing is that I’ve broken the cycle.
“The self-inflicted wounds are the worst,” the 51-year-old said. “And the difficulty is, the story I injected myself into is folk, it’s created.”
Lee spent three days in jail, just long enough to be arraigned, in 2005 before being set free on $2 million bond and heading straight into the federal Witness Protection Program, where he remains.
While he had faced between 121 to 151 months behind bars following his guilty plea to a charge of racketeering, prosecutors went to bat for him in a letter to Garaufis, given his testimony at multiple trials.
The judge Friday thanked prosecutor Amy Busa for the submission, which he described as “all these many years later, bringing back these memories I had hoped to forget.”
Garaufis was named on a 2006 hand-written hit-list Basciano passed off behind bars while he was awaiting retrial, after a jury deadlocked on his first trial.
Basciano was eventually convicted on racketeering charges, including acts of murder and murder conspiracy, and is serving life in prison.
Lee declined to comment through his lawyer, Joel Cohen, though the attorney lauded the sentence.
“I think he earned the sentence he got,” Cohen said.