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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grandson of Colombo family boss The Snake is arrested

Someone get this Mafia prince a pair of glasses.
The namesake grandson of notorious Colombo crime family boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico — who recently underwent eye surgery — started a gang attack when he mistook a complete stranger for someone he knew, law enforcement sources told The Post.
The young and optically challenged Persico, 25, punched the victim in the face outside a Brooklyn bar, ironically telling him, “You look familiar,” sources said.
Three Persico pals joined in the early Thanksgiving beating, which left the victim with a broken jaw and a stab wound to the abdomen, according to court papers.
While fleeing, Persico dropped his keys, which were scooped up by a Good Samaritan who had tried in vain to stop the attack outside the Kettle Black bar in Bay Ridge, sources said.
Cops used an electronic key to unlock a black 2015 Chrysler 200 parked nearby, then traced the car to the mob scion.
He was charged with a slew of crimes, including first-degree assault and second-degree gang assault. Three alleged accomplices remain at large.
Persico was freed on $5,000 bond following an arraignment at which his Legal Aid lawyer said he was planning to join the US Navy once he fully recovered from laser surgery to improve his vision, sources said.
Persico’s namesake grandfather is serving 100 years in the slammer for his 1986 conviction in the landmark Mafia “Commission” case.
Uncle Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico is serving a life sentence for ordering the murder of a mob rival, while another uncle, Michael, is awaiting sentencing for loansharking.
Hid dad, middle son Lawrence, did time for a no-show union job, but was recently spotted delivering pizzas in Brooklyn.
Victim Charles Pickering — who spent three days in the hospital — said he only learned of Persico’s infamous pedigree from a grand jury notice and the internet.
“I never met him before in my life,” said Pickering, 22, who spoke through a wired jaw. He said he was outside the bar with pals when Persico approached and borrowed his lighter.
“I got my lighter back already and he was like, ‘Oh, you look familiar,’ so I turn around and all of a sudden he just hits me,” Pickering said.
Despite Persico’s notorious pedigree, Pickering said he wasn’t afraid of further violence, repeatedly noting: “It’s the 21st century.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bail hearing for Genovese associate is once again postponed

A courtroom showdown over an accused mobster's pretrial release has been postponed in Massachusetts as the defendant remains marooned in a New York City prison.
Ralph Santaniello, 49, of Longmeadow, has been held behind bars since his arrest on Aug. 4 along with four other men with reputed Mafia ties. Santaniello faces charges in connection with extortion, loansharking and illegal gaming schemes and investigators say a government witness reported that Santaniello threatened to behead him if the witness did not agree to pay thousands of dollars in kickbacks from his towing business.
Santaniello slapped him in the face, according to the witness, only identified in court records and during hearings as "Victim One."
Also arrested in August were were Giovanni "Johnny Cal" Calabrese, 53; and Gerald Daniele, 51, both of Longmeadow; Francesco "Frank" Depergola, 60, of Springfield; and Richard Valentini, 51, of East Longmeadow. All pleaded not guilty to the charges at their arraignments. And, all but Santaniello, won pretrial release and are out on bail.
Santaniello and Depergola also face RICO conspiracy charges in federal court in Manhattan in connection with an $30,000 extortionate loan to an unnamed witness at a Chicopee pizza shop at the behest of New York Genovese crime family capo Eugene "Rooster" O'Nofrio, 74. O'Nofrio had a long history of negotiating with Greater Springfield-based gangsters, according to law enforcement sources.

Federal indictment: Local reputed mobsters threatened to behead tow company operator
Five members of the "Springfield Crew" associated with the New York-based Genovese Crime family were arrested in an early morning sweep.
The unnamed witness in the Chicopee meeting appears to be an undercover federal agent posing as a mobster, a la "Donnie Brasco", aka Joseph Pistone, an FBI agent who posed as a mobster in New York City for six years.
The New York charge - where Santaniello and Depergola are bit players at best - is the root of why Santaniello has been stuck in a Brooklyn prison since early September. He was transferred there by the U.S. Marshals Office that month for a routine arraignment and hasn't returned.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson questioned lawyers and marshals during hearing in August, to ensure Santaniello wouldn't get stranded in the prison system. But, it appears he has.
A second bail hearing scheduled before U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman in Worcester for Nov. 18 has been indefinitely postponed, according to the court docket.
Despite the magistrate judge's specific inquiry, the reason for the delay in Santaniello's transfer is unclear as yet.
In terms of the underlying debate of Santaniello's pretrial release, lawyers have already made their positions clear in court filings.
Daniel D. Kelly, a lawyer for Santaniello, has argued prosecutors have overstated his client's role in the organized crime world and that there are simple measures to assure his client's safe pretrial release.
"He is not alleged to have a membership in the LCN (La Cosa Nostra) but rather was noted as an associate," Kelly's motion challenging Santaniello's continued pretrial detention reads.
An FBI agent previously testified in court that Santaniello and Depergola were teed up for sanctioning, or "being made," which carries significant benefits in the mob world, but the Genovese crime family had shut down membership.
"Currently the books are closed with the Genovese crime family. Therefore no one is being made," Agent Robert Zanolli testified in August.
Prior to the Santaniello hearing that was scheduled before U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman on Nov. 18, Assistant U.S. Attorneys filed a motion to oppose his release.
The opposition motion notes that Santaniello towed the classic Mob line of threats and violence, providing highlights of recorded conversations with Victim One.
"He also threatened Victim One, telling him that this was his 'last warning,' but
that he was 'going to be nice' before I [Santaniello] blow up again.' When Victim One equivocated about whether he would pay, the Defendant said 'See, when you
talk like that you're going to get your f***ing head cracked.' Unbeknownst to the
Defendant, this entire confrontation was recorded by law enforcement, who were hiding on the premises," read the government's response.
A notation on Santaniello's court docket indicates the delay in his case is "indefinite" because he is not in the state.
Kelly calls the delay "inexplicable."
A magistrate judge previously ruled Santaniello should be held pending trial because he exhibited a "casual brutality" toward the tow company owner and appeared to be a leader in the Springfield faction of the Genovese crime family.

Jailed mobster writes second book while awaiting appeal

Paul “Doc” Gaccione is a former Lyndhurst resident, author and convicted murderer currently housed at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY.
A reputed mobster, Gaccione was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life in 2012 of second degree murder in connection to a gangland hit 24 years ago.
He has appealed his conviction and while hoping for release, he penned his second book, “The Godfather of Souls.”
The e-book version published in late July, and a paper version was scheduled for release sometime in October. It comes on the heels of his first book, “Beyond the Beyond My Journey to Destiny" –- a memoir of his childhood in Lyndhurst, spending time in jail due to a drug conviction, and an inexplicable spiritual connection. Both books are published by Arizona-based Brighton Publishing.
“The Godfather of Souls” chronicles Gaccione’s time in prison and how he mentored a young black man who was serving a 13-year prison sentence in the neighboring cell.
During his incarceration, Gaccione said much of his time has been devoted to writing, but he also makes an effort to mentor many inmates, especially youths.
In “The Godfather of Souls,” Gaccione said he began teaching the young man, Puna, how to read and write cursive and was very impressed with Puna’s intellect and ability to learn quickly.
“This really interested me because I’m a strong believer that most people are influences and become a product of their environment,” Gaccione said.
The book takes readers on a journey through Gaccione’s relationship with Puna and how he did what he could to be a positive influence on the young man’s life.
“What makes this author and ‘The Godfather of Souls’ so special, so unique, is that we have a glimpse into the man himself, in his own words,” Donald McGuire, acquisitions editor for Brighton Publishing, said. “This is very rare and in this case, it happens to also be an incredible story.”
Gaccione believes he was led to Brighton Publishing due to destiny, McGuire said. Gaccione had been in a bookstore with his girlfriend looking at publishers’ names when she picked up a book published by Brighton and told Gaccione that is who would publish his book. Soon after, Gaccione sent a paper manuscript to Brighton Publishing.
“We don’t take paper manuscripts,” McGuire said, stating the company typically will tell the mailman to return the package to the sender. “The regular mailman was off that day and the package was so large that it wouldn’t fit in the mailbox.”
The mailman entered Brighton Publishing’s building through a door that was normally locked. He found the publisher, who was on the phone, and placed the package on her desk before leaving.
“Had she not been on the phone, she would have looked at the submission and said to return it to the sender,” McGuire said. “When she realized she had a paper submission, she called me to pick it up and that’s how it started.”
Gaccione believes this series of events was fate. McGuire, on the other hand, chalks it up to a series of coincidences. Coincidences such as just like McGuire being a retired detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and then helping an alleged mobster publish his books, he said.
Despite his conviction, Gaccione maintains his innocence and cites in a letter to the South Bergenite that he had ineffective counsel when convicted. He is currently waiting the result of his appeal.
Gaccione was accused of being the driver in a mob-related hit over 20 years ago in the Bronx. In April 2010, Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson accused Gaccione of being the driver of a van that was used in a hit on 32-year-old Angelo Sangiuolo, who was killed for allegedly robbing the Genovese crime family gambling operations. The victim’s cousin was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for orchestrating the hit.
“I had ineffective counsel by not putting on a defense where I could have proved with my many witnesses, without any doubt, my innocence,” Gaccione says in a letter written to the South Bergenite. Gaccione claims that because of the $1 million bail his “soul mate” and children provided, he was unable to hire a lawyer and was assigned to Michael Torres, a court appointed attorney. Gaccione contends the prosecution’s case was not based on anything other than eyewitness accounts of John Leto and John Mamone.
“The entire trial was the prosecution’s case being allegations without absolutely anything to back up their claims,” Gaccione wrote.
Leto, the alleged triggerman, later pleaded guilty and cooperated with federal authorities, according to published reports. Leto had told police Gaccione was manning the vehicle. Mamone alleges Gaccione told him about the hit after picking him up from JFK Airport.
“Despite there being no evidence to support either one of their allegations, one might say ‘Well, why would they lie?’” Gaccione asked in his letter, stating the two men were caught with a shipload of marijuana. “Their testimony would give them their freedom.”
Gaccione is not eligible for parole until September 2031 and his earliest release date is Jan. 29, 2032.

Montreal Mafia War

Until police found Rocco Sollecito’s corpse in his bullet-riddled luxury SUV a few hundred meters from police headquarters in Laval, just north of Montreal, he was likely the highest-ranking mafioso still standing in Canada. But the grisly discovery on May 28 was just the latest in a string of gangland slayings in the city, where the Italian mafia has struggled to fill a power vacuum caused by years of internal struggle and police busts.

A once-unified network of Italian mobsters, street gangs, bikers, and corrupt city officials has decayed and crumbled in the last decade. Violence has flared as a result, and the stack of bodies is growing higher.

It’s a historic low point for the Montreal mafia, long considered by authorities to be the strongest organized crime group in Canada.

It’s unclear exactly which organization is behind the current spate of violence, but, as one mafia expert told VICE News: “That group, whoever it is, appears to be much stronger.”
Leadership Woes

On the wiretap recording, Francesco del Balso’s voice is calm.

“I want my fucking money today or Lorenzo said he’s gonna grab you, he’s gonna fucking turn you into a pretzel. And don’t fuck with him, bro.

“Listen to me, go get 112 dimes and save yourself a beating of your life.”

This is how the Montreal mafia’s version of a collections agency works.
Police search Rocco Sollecito's SUV in Laval, where his body was found.

At the time of the recording, Del Balso was a notorious bookmaker and high-ranking member of Montreal’s infamous Rizzuto crime family. The Lorenzo on the tape was presumably Lorenzo Giordano, a close associate of Del Balso and the capo considered to be the de facto leader of the family for a time.

The Rizzuto family is an organization so powerful during the rule of former leader Vito Rizzuto that it often drew comparisons to the fabled “Five Families” that controlled New York during the city’s mafia heyday. The FBI still considers the Rizzuto syndicate to be a wing of the New York-based Bonanno crime family.

The Rizzutos have been the only game in town for years. But now, experts say, the family is weak and awaiting a strongman to either take it over or replace it by force. The dons of the family have had a hard time staying alive.

One of the biggest blows to the organization was Operation Colisée, a 2006 law enforcement operation that spanned three years and resulted in the arrests of Del Balso, Giordano, Sollecito, and a host of other Rizzuto allies. Convictions for drug trafficking, extortion, and bookmaking put them behind bars.

The mobsters were eventually released from prison, and, one by one, they each wound up dead. Sollecito is just the most recent. The killings started not long after Rizzuto’s confession in 2007 that he was involved in the murder of three rival mobsters. Vito died of natural causes in 2013, making him one of the few in the family to die peacefully.
Vito Rizzuto, pictured bottom left, at a stag party. Juan Ramon Fernandez, bottom right, was killed in Sicily in 2013 in an ambush.

In December 2009, gunmen killed Vito’s son Nicolo Rizzuto, Jr. in broad daylight on a sidewalk in Montreal’s west end. The following year, a sniper perched in a tree shot and kill his grandfather, Nick Sr., while he sat at his kitchen table.

Next was Paolo Renda, brother-in-law to Vito and once believed to be his most trusted consigliere. He mysteriously disappeared in 2010, while the organization was trying to figure out new leadership. His wife found his car with the windows rolled down and the keys in the ignition, but no sign of her husband.

Police figure that the one trying to broker the new leadership for the family was Salvatore “The Iron Worker” Montagna, a one-time leader of the New York-based Bonanno family, who was deported back to Montreal in 2009.

In 2011, he was gunned down in a residential neighborhood on Montreal’s north shore — but his would-be assassins were sloppy. He survived and jumped into the freezing Assomption River, washing up a few minutes later on a small island, where police found him bleeding to death in the snow.

Seven men ultimately pled guilty to conspiring to kill Montagna. One of them, Raynald Desjardins, was a right-hand man to Rizzuto and the target for more than one murder plot.

In March 2016, months after Giordano’s release from prison to a halfway house, police in Laval responded to a report of gunshots outside a gym near the highway. They found him sitting in his car, sporting multiple fresh bullet holes.

The murders have even spread internationally. Two Canadian mobsters were whacked in a 2013 ambush in Sicily, apparently on orders from Montreal.

Virtually the only high-ranking figures in the organization who aren’t dead are in jail.

Police figure, most recently, leadership of the family was split between Sollecito’s son, Stefano, and Montreal lawyer Leonardo Rizzuto, Vito’s second son. Canadian authorities arrested both men late last year.


For years, the three disparate wings of the organized crime world had been largely at peace. That was one of Vito Rizzuto legacies. Despite some opposition, he struck a deal between the bikers and the street gangs around one of the largest sources of income for Montreal’s criminal underworld: selling cocaine. The agreement kept the peace, and made everyone money. The bikers moved product, and the street gangs sold it. The mafia managed the whole operation.

“The Rizzuto crime family was involved in the importation level, the Hells Angels working on the distribution level, the street gangs on the selling level,” said Antonio Nicaso, author of several books on Canada’s Cosa Nostra. “Everyone was happy with that.”
Maurice "Mom" Boucher greets fellows Hells Angels at a boxing match in 1998.

But with Vito gone, things fell apart.

“In the Montreal mafia, the leader needs to be someone who can build trust between different clans, who has influence like Vito Rizzuto had, who can be a negotiator. Lorenzo Giordano did not have these qualities,” said Pierre de Champlain, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) analyst and author who has written extensively on Montreal organized crime.

Nicaso agreed. He said that Giordano was more of a blunt instrument: “[He was one of the people] on the streets, dealing with the violent aspects of the organization.”

Under Giordano’s weak leadership, and during the periods of uncertainty that preceded and followed his reign, internal factions formed and battled for higher footholds in the mafia hierarchy, racking up a significant death toll in the process. While the mafia tried to keep its own house in order, the other wings of the enterprise fell to infighting.

“I think what we’re seeing is the gradual elimination of what was left of the Rizzuto family and obviously an attempt by some group to take over. That group, whoever it is, appears to be much stronger.”

Chenier Dupuy, the head of the Bo-Gars street gang, was killed in a mall parking lot in 2012, reportedly because he had fought back against attempts by the Hells Angels to centralize some drug running. His lieutenant was killed a few hours later. Ducarme Joseph, the reputed leader of the city’s 67s gang, one-time rivals of the Bo-Gars, was shot dead in the street in 2014.

Maurice “Mom” Boucher, meanwhile, was recently charged with plotting a murder from within his jail cell. Boucher, a Hells Angels boss in Quebec, has been in prison for the past decade on two first-degree murder convictions.

Police allege that Boucher, his daughter, and his former right-hand man all conspired to whack Raynald Desjardins — the one who pled guilty to plotting the murder of “The Iron Worker.”

The operations that netted Boucher were the same that scooped up Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito, as well as Gregory Wooley, a Hells Angels member who reportedly unified the north-end gangs — a move that Dupuy and Sévère Paul reportedly opposed.

On the other end of the business, a provincial inquiry linked the Rizzutos to an intricate, and lucrative, bid-rigging scheme in the province’s construction industry. Repeated corruption investigations, culminating in a province-wide inquiry into the industry, brought down two successive Montreal mayors and implicated a host of provincial and municipal politicians, engineering firms, and bureaucrats. Investigators found that the industry and city government colluded to inflate the price of public construction and engineering work in exchange for political contributions. Mafia-linked figures kept the whole thing running smoothly and punished anyone who tried to break from the system.
RCMP surveillance video, shown at a provincial corruption inquiry into Quebec's construction industry, allegedly shows Nick Rizzuto Sr., right, exchanging tens of thousands of dollars with Nicolo Milioto, left, former head of a local construction company.

Losing that scheme was definitely bad for business. When business is bad, things tend to go south.

Since 2009, there have been roughly 25 mafia-linked murders in Montreal, according to a report by Le Journal de Montréal. While that might be a small figure in American terms, it represents a significant chunk of the homicides in the city, which sees, on average, just 45 homicides a year.

In 2012 alone, organized crime were responsible for 18 of the city’s 35 homicides, according to the city’s police department.

‘Someone Always Takes Over’

It remains unclear who exactly is poised to wind up on top of the Rizzuto family.

“They constantly replace themselves,” said Marcel Danis, a professor who teaches a course on organized crime at Concordia University who also works as a criminal defense attorney, and has represented members of various crime factions. “They’re quite strong and we can see by the most recent police arrests, there’s still an alliance between the Hells [Angels] and the mafia.”

Those positions rarely stay vacant for long and the competition can be fierce.

“I think what we’re seeing is the gradual elimination of what was left of the Rizzuto family and obviously an attempt by some group to take over,” said Danis. “That group, whoever it is, appears to be much stronger.”

“The Rizzuto crime family is facing a challenge,” added Nicaso. “There are people in the organization probably trying to make a move. There are other organizations trying to muscle in and to position them in a different criminal landscape.”

But now, with increased scrutiny from authorities and higher-ups like Giordano being released from prison, more players are competing for a smaller pie.
The Rizzutos leave the funeral of Nicolo Rizzuto Jr.. Leonardo Rizzuto, centre, is said to have taken over the crime family after his father's death.

“There are people coming out of jail and there are people outside of jail,” said Nicaso. “The people outside of jail won’t allow the people coming from jail to lead the organization.”

But ambition and drug money might not be the only motivations in the violent internal strife. Another, simpler, motive may be a factor in some of these killings: revenge.

According to Danis, the single sniper shot that took out Nick Rizzuto Sr. in his home indicates that the powerful Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta — pushed out of Montreal in the ’80s in a violent turf war — was looking to make a comeback. Rizzuto’s death, at home in front of his wife, closely resembles how the Rizzutos took out a Calabrian figure during their rise to prominence, Danis said.

“There’s a parallel there,” the organized crime expert said. “And whoever shot Rizzuto was a professional killer. The gun was in the woods in the back of the house. He’d have to be a super shot to do that. When you look at who might have killed him, you come to the conclusion it was not a street gang, it was not the Hells [Angels].”

The deaths of Montagna, the Rizzutos, and many others connected to the organized crime scene in Montreal point to one thing: A proper, old-fashioned mob war. But all wars have an end. And when this one does, the most likely outcome is that the biggest mafia in Canada will have a new top boss.

“Somebody always takes over,” said Danis. “Always.”

Is the American mafia making a comeback?

When Selwyn Raab first published his 765-page jeremiad Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, the year was 2005 and the Mob was, in Raab's words, "a crushed colossus." Decades of indictments brought under the RICO law had vanquished even the most fearsome mobsters; Bonanno crime boss Joseph Massino had just flipped sides for the Feds the year before, and two years prior to that, John "The Teflon Don" Gotti had died a lonely death in a Missouri prison hospital far from the streets of New York.

The book, which drew from Raab's four-decade career investigating the Mob for the metropolitan desk of The New York Times, has since been hailed as the definitive account on all things Cosa Nostra, complete with painstakingly detailed family trees and whole appendixes dedicated to things like "Mafia Boss Succession." (Raab later became a consultant for AMC's 10-part series The Making of the Mob, among others.) Yet despite the prevailing belief that the Mob had been defeated – and the fact that Raab himself had spent nearly 700 pages illustrating the elaborate terms of this crushing defeat – he devoted the last 20 pages to the likelihood of the "resurgence" referred to in its lengthy subtitle.

"This [was] a stretch," chalked up to "an apparent attempt to buoy [the book's] relevance," decided Bryan Burrough in the Times' original 2005 review. Most in New York would've agreed with him. But Raab, in all his expertise, had the foresight that many at this time did not. He believed the September 11th attacks four years earlier had so dramatically shifted the priority of the FBI's New York bureau – the largest in the nation – from organized crime to homeland security, that the mafia would be poised for a comeback.

"The Mob was on the ropes and really needed only one or two more crushing blows before the FBI could really turn these people into old street gangs," says Raab. "That changed after 9/11."

He was right. Even fictional mobsters like Tony Soprano got a reprieve when the FBI agent who had tailed him for five seasons, Dwight Harris, was reassigned to an anti-terrorism case in Pakistan after September 11th — and was kept from his original pursuit of the mob boss even after returning to the U.S. ("That job you got now must be depressing," Tony's nephew Christopher tells Harris. "How goes the war on terror anyway?")

And so the mafia has been able to gain ground and even resurface from time to time for the kind of public spectacle that once was commonplace. In 2011, the bureau made the largest bust in U.S. history, arresting 127 people (more than 30 of them "made men") on charges ranging from narcotics trafficking and extortion to murder, proving the families are still out there. And just this summer, the Feds busted an operation coined the "East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise" which produced 46 arrests and saw an elaborate crime ring, led by an ex-Philadelphia Mob boss, extending from Massachusetts all the way down to south Florida.

Ten years have passed since Raab, now 82, published his legendary tome. This year, he decided it was time to give Five Families an update for the modern age with an anniversary addition that clues readers in on recent developments. Rolling Stone talked to Raab to hear what the Bonanno, Genovese, Gambino, Colombo and Lucchese families are up to in 2016.

What made you want to revisit this book?

Just the survival of these guys, it's amazing. They have more than nine lives, especially in New York. It was obvious that a lot had changed over 10 years and that the book needed updating. Everyone is always writing obituaries on these guys, especially after Gotti was convicted, but they're always wrong.

Just how big a factor was 9/11 in helping these guys survive?

A major, major factor. Priorities for law enforcement are always shifting, but until 9/11, they were doing so well. The FBI also had the buildup of expertise by having people who really knew what they were doing, so in terms of shift emphasis, there's no question it was a reprieve. There were two major interests or priorities for the New York bureau since the beginning of the Cold War: one was counterespionage, the other was organized crime. But all that changed after 9/11. As an example, combined FBI, New York Police and some other organized crime task forces in the New York area went from 300 or 400 agents, down to 20 or 30. When you don't have the personnel, you're not going to have the indictments or convictions.

Will the FBI's focus ever shift back to the Mafia?

I'm no soothsayer, but it's certainly not a priority now. The scare today, justifiably, is from terrorism, not from the Mafia. You can see that in politics, in the election, and every time there's another attack like San Bernardino or the recent bombing in New York – but when you leave [Mafia members] alone, they recoup. And that's always been the problem. They have an organizational framework such that makes it so it doesn't matter if you take out the leader. It's not like drugs or even bank robberies where if you take out the leader, the operation is gone. They're all replaceable. Somebody moves in to continue the operation – and I thought that this East Coast cooperative, where they were working from Massachusetts all the way down to Florida, was pretty good evidence of that — and the Mafia is still effective and still making inroads.

You write that the Mob has become a "perennial favorite theme for the entertainment industry." How has this helped them in the modern age?

There are an immense amount of mafia groupies. There's a perverse aspect to this because it gets kids and young people interested in this feeling that [Mafia members] lives are glamorous and a way of beating the system. Hollywood and TV don't dismiss them as venal or pernicious. I think for very vulnerable people you get this vicarious kick that there's something to this life. Part of it comes from this anti-establishment thing. John Gotti personified this, that by being anti-establishment, anti-government you could somehow succeed in life and be envied. Look at Gotti's grandson's wedding last year; he collected two million dollars and the place was swamped with people giving him gifts. [The entertainment industry] turns these people into icons and interesting characters who are anti-society. It doesn't make them look like they're token bad guys.

A great example was Sammy "The Bull" Gravano; when he saw The Godfather he was in his late teens and he said it made him feel proud to be an Italian and to join the Mafia. And that movie is repeated endlessly. What The Godfather also does is establish that there is good mafia and bad mafia by essentially showing a white hat mafia that was opposed to the introduction of narcotics, which was a total lie and mischaracterization. But the point was there were still Mafiosi who were doing good work, and that there were traditions that were virtuous. This helps them.

What role has the Internet played in the resurgence of the Mob?

You have to remember one thing — historically the Mafia is a carbon copy, or a mirror of American capitalism. The Internet is an important tool for the business and a lot of them use it for Internet gambling. And why not? People aren't going to bookies the way they used to, they couldn't compete by just having some old fashioned bookmaking with some guy with a telephone, and now that you can do it on the internet, they're taking it over. It's big, it's a lot of money, and a lot that is transacted offshore so it's easy to do and you don't have to worry about it. They're modern, they know what works. I thought one of the funny things about that East Coast cooperative, when they were caught, they were selling Viagra because there's a big market for it — anything that works. Look, they're not brilliant business people, they've never been for the most part; all they do is adapt or steal ideas, but one of their effective messages is that they can break your knee caps.

You write that in order to "counter defections," newer Mafiosi have "initiated savage relations including murdering relatives of traitors." What can you tell us about that?

The long established rule was that anyone who was a civilian — not implicated in mafia activities — was immune. One of the reasons that's changed is because of these so called "Zips." That's a nickname for Sicilian newcomers who are not members of the Sicilian mafia but recent immigrants, and they've pretty much taken over the Gambino family. And one of their effective methods [in the old country] was that if you became a rat or you in any way betrayed the Italian or Sicilian mafia, it wasn't just you, but anybody in your family could be victimized. The Americans have now also taken that over and spread the word. You can't pinpoint this practice down to one year, but "recently" would be the best way of describing when it began. But the point is, very simply: it's a method to prevent people from becoming informers and betraying the Mafia. There's stuff on tapes in which they talk about it – "If my kids have to suffer, why shouldn't the rat's kids have to suffer?" Stuff like that. It's an effective tool, and again, they're still getting reinforcements, they're shipping more blood over from Sicily and Southern Italy.

What does it mean now that the Mafia, for the most part, live in the suburbs and not the inner cities?

It's demographics. Most of the old Italian-American neighborhoods no longer exist, so mafia members, like everybody else, are now living in the suburbs. And there's money to be made there. Besides that, the law enforcement there traditionally was never looked upon as a major threat, so it's easier for them. And now that they've moved there, that's where they want to operate. The market for traditional mafia bread and butter ideas – gambling, drugs, extortion – is there too, and so is the constituency. Little Italy, where you used to have all the social clubs, is nothing more than a collection of restaurants. Same thing in Bensonhurst [Brooklyn]. They no longer live there and don't have to operate there.

But the big threat with the Mafia moving into the suburbs is that you need to make sure they never get so large again that they have political influence. That is the scariest aspect. They get the money, and then they get the influence. They can fix elections. They get lawyers. They get judges. They were so influential in politics and the court system and with that influence they could fix elections. Even as well into the latter part of the 20th century. It is going to be hard for them [to ever return that level of influence]. It took the Mafia years in American to learn how to do that. They didn't start off with political clout, but they did develop it later on – there's no question about that.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Feds say Russian mobster's toys were really guns

Handout sent to John Marzulli
She's a gangster’s babe in toyland.

A federal prosecutor argued Friday that reputed Russian racketeer Leonid Gershman should not be released on bail because he is prone to violence and talks in code about his access to guns.

In court in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs noted a wiretapped conversation in which Gershman, speaking to his girlfriend Lorena, referred to a gun hidden in his apartment as a “toy.”

Gershman’s lawyer Michael Fineman claimed his client was actually talking about a sex toy.

Gershman was trying to direct Lorena — last name not disclosed — to a pile of cash stashed in the same hiding spot where he keeps his “toy.”

But in another wiretapped conversation with a criminal associate, Gershman ranted that he needed a “toy by Sunday” to deal with a gambler caught cheating at his high-stakes poker game.

“Toy” is often a street slang term for handgun.

A woman identified only as Lorena, leaves Federal Court in Brooklyn after a bail hearing for reputed Russian mobster Leonid Gershman.

Gershman whispered in Fineman’s ear and the mobster’s legal mouthpiece tried to shoot down the gun theory.

“It’s embarrassing, but the toy he is referring to was one of an intimate nature, not a weapon,” Fineman said with a straight face.

But Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes shot back with an even better line.

“Is that the same toy as the one he ‘needed by Sunday ASAP?’ ” the judge asked.

“I find this issue of a toy ... a toy is a gun.”

Gershman, 33, is charged in a federal indictment of participating in extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling and drug trafficking for a crime syndicate based in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

Lorena was reluctant to back up her boyfriend’s sex toy claim.

He’s also the alleged go-between for the Brooklyn syndicate and high-ranking members of the Russian Mafia known as “thieves in law” in Eastern Europe, according to Jacobs.

Outside court on Friday, Lorena was reluctant to back up her boyfriend’s sex toy claim.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” she told the Daily News.

No guns were seized by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who searched Gershman’s apartment, but a collection of knives and swords were found. Two large guns are tattooed on his chest.

Gershman, who was born in Moldova and raised in Israel, told the feds he earns $600 a month selling sunglasses and sneakers.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Son of powerful Los Angeles mob boss is dead at 70

Anthony Brooklier, a prominent Los Angeles attorney who went from defending his father, a powerful mob boss, to representing celebrities, corrupt businessmen, drug kingpins and the Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss, died Tuesday. He was 70.

Brooklier died of suicide at his Century City residence, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

His death stunned the Southern California legal community, with lawyers, prosecutors and court staff sharing tributes of the seasoned litigator. It came about one year after Brooklier’s son, also named Anthony Brooklier, killed himself in San Bernardino County, authorities confirmed. Both died of hanging.

Donald B. Marks, Brooklier’s law partner of about 40 years, declined to discuss the circumstances of his death but acknowledged that Brooklier had been pained by the loss of his son.

“It had a very substantial impact on him,” Marks said in a telephone interview. “It was very hard for him to cope.”

As a young lawyer, Brooklier drew attention when he left his post as a deputy state attorney general to represent his father, Mafia boss Dominic Brooklier, who eventually faced two federal racketeering indictments as part of a massive crackdown on organized crime.

In the second case, the elder Brooklier was convicted of racketeering and extortion, but he and other reputed mobsters were acquitted of the 1977 murder of underworld informant Frank “The Bomp” Bompensiero.

At the 1981 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., Brooklier made an emotional plea on his father’s behalf.

“There are things in his past he shouldn’t be proud of, and I’m not proud of,” Brooklier said, later sobbing in open court. “But he’s always provided for his family. Whatever sentence he does, he’ll be missed every day.”

The elder Brooklier died behind bars, but his son’s impassioned, well-prepared defense helped establish his reputation as an attorney of choice for those facing prosecution.

He met Marks while defending organized crime figures in the 1970s, and they founded the Century City firm Marks & Brooklier, which remains a highly respected criminal defense firm.

The duo took on a range of high-profile cases. Brooklier — a tall man with well-coiffed hair — melded a polished, charming manner with aggressive advocacy.

“He had a very effective way of communicating with jurors, witnesses and judges,” Marks said. “It was quite understated, but it was based on preparation and skill.”

Brooklier represented national Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr. when he was charged with running a gang that snagged drugs from the U.S. Air Force, and fashion designer Anand Jon, who was convicted of sexually assaulting seven girls and young women.

During the attempted murder trial of Timothy McDonald, an associate of rapper Marion “Suge” Knight, Brooklier accused a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy of lying on the witness stand. Jurors deadlocked in deliberations and the judge eventually declared a mistrial.

Brooklier negotiated a plea deal that kept McDonald out of jail, and he later remarked to The Times: “Trials are always risky. The potential loss here was devastating — it’s life in prison versus take a plea deal and go home today.

While defending Fleiss, who admitted to running a prostitution ring for the rich and famous, Brooklier urged the court to compare the gravity of the charge to other, more serious crimes.

"Your Honor, no one was hurt in this case, no one was coerced, and no one operated under duress," Brooklier said. All Fleiss did, he argued, was arrange for "consensual sex between consenting adults."

Brooklier found himself on the other side of the law in 1998, when he pleaded guilty to failing to file federal income tax returns.

The offenses were misdemeanors and the judge opted not to send him to prison. The California State Bar allowed him to keep his law license after a six-month suspension.

In more recent years, he defended a businessman caught trying to hire someone to kill his wife and a Calabasas man who was convicted of murdering an El Camino Real High School student.

“It didn’t matter who our client was,” Marks said. “We did everything we could within our function as criminal defense attorneys.”

Anthony Phillip Brooklier was born April 7, 1946, in Lynwood and grew up in Orange County. After school, Brooklier washed cars at his father’s used-car dealership in Maywood.

As a child, he said he recognized that his father, who eventually became the Godfather for all of Southern California, wasn’t like other people’s fathers.

“My father could walk into a place, and for whatever reason, the room would stop,” Brooklier told The Times in 1989. “It was as if every eye was on him.”

He graduated from Savanna High School in Anaheim in 1964 and got a congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. But during his first year, his father was listed in a national report on Mafia activities as a ranking member of the mob in L.A.

A commander summoned Brooklier and informed that him he would probably not have a successful career in the military.

Brooklier completed his undergraduate studies in 1968 at Loyola Marymount University. He earned his law degree in 1971 from UCLA after resolving to pursue a career that would defend his family.

"I wanted to put myself in a position to help my father," he told The Times. "Because I sensed when I was a kid what was going to happen. It's a thing all kids live with, you know — your parents will get divorced, they'll get hurt, they'll die. But that wasn't my fear…. I was so taken about what my father told me happened to him when he was a kid [in prison], I was so emotional about that, that I ... was never going to let it happen again."

Brooklier is survived by his wife, television journalist Pat LaLama, and several adult children.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Colombo gangster gets 5 years in prison for shaking down tattoo parlor for $100K

Lukey DiMatteo, (c.) reputed Colombo mobster, leaves Brooklyn Federal Court after being released on furlough to go visit his cancer stricken infant daughter in April.
A remorseless Colombo mobster was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for shaking down a Brooklyn tattoo parlor.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Lukey DiMatteo extorted $150 per week from the owner of the unidentified business since the mid-1990s up until his arrest in June 2015.

His uncle, capo Luca DiMatteo, was also involved in the scheme.

“He’d use that man’s business as a personal piggy bank,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Allon Lifshitz. "They'd walk in, take cash and walk out."

The illegal withdrawals were captured on surveillance video, Lifshitz added.

Lukey DiMatteo, 47, appeared anxious to get the sentencing over, and offered not a word of contrition to Federal Judge Leo Glasser.

"I'd just like to get home for my kids as soon as possible," DiMatteo snapped.

Although the DiMatteos allegedly pocketed more than $100,000 from the victim over the years, he was ordered to pay the government $75,000 in criminal forfeiture, according to the plea agreement. The victim did not seek restitution.

"I know it's hard for you to cut yourself loose from ‘the life,’” Glasser said, referring to the Mafia. “Good luck to you.”

DiMatteo's Uncle Luca, who suffers from several life threatening illnesses, was sentenced earlier this year to 33 months behind bars.