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Friday, September 23, 2016

Florida Governor commutes sentence of Gambino family informant

In a unique and sensational case, Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on Wednesday ended the long prison sentence of a robber-turned-mob informant whose testimony prosecutors say helped break up the Gambino crime family in Florida and New York.
The four Republican statewide elected officials commuted the sentence of Kevin Bonner, who’s serving 24 years of a state sentence at an undisclosed federal prison and is in the federal witness protection program.
Three federal prosecutors — U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III in Tampa, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York and former U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch of New York, now the U.S. Attorney General — all sent letters to Scott supporting Bonner’s release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant and retired Tampa FBI agent Charlotte Braziel urged the state to set Bonner free and put him on probation as a reward for extensive cooperation that they said helped solve a number of “cold case” murders.
“This is an exceptional case,” Braziel testified. “Mr. Trezevant and I have never sought clemency for any witness. Mr. Bonner was an exceptional witness. He earned this. … Without Mr. Bonner, we would not have been able to disband an organized crime network that operated in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
Trezevant said Bonner’s grand jury and trial testimony in Tampa a decade ago led to convictions of two Gambino crime figures, Ronnie “One-Arm” Trucchio and John Alite, who had fled to Brazil. Bonner testified that Alite was John “Junior” Gotti’s “right-hand man” in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Bonner’s volunteer attorney, Carter Andersen, read part of a letter from Bonner to state officials in which he described “guilt and frustration” for his victims, even though he said none were physically harmed.
“I am ashamed of what I’ve done to get this time,” Bonner wrote. “Yet these years, as tough and painful as they’ve been, have given me the opportunity to develop into the person I am today — a more humble, thoughtful and caring human being.”
Under Wednesday’s agreement, Bonner, 52, will soon get a new identity and a new life, thanks to the federal government and the state of Florida.
Trezevant emphasized that Bonner was not involved in any murders. The prosecutor said Bonner repeatedly robbed dry cleaning stores to support his drug habit and was serving his term in a Florida prison when he agreed in 2003 to cooperate with authorities and became the “first domino” that led to convictions of prominent mob figures.
At the time, Trezevant said, “the Gambino family [made] efforts to plant a flag in the Tampa Bay area and to use that as a base from which to spread across the state of Florida.”
“For us, Mr. Bonner was the perfect witness,” Trezevant said. “He was very bright, he was completely candid and truthful, and he has an absolute photographic memory.”
The decision to release Bonner was made by Scott and the Cabinet. Meeting as the Board of Clemency, they included Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who called the case “unprecedented” in his six years on the Cabinet.
Most requests for clemency are from everyday people who want to regain the right to vote or own a gun after having committed a crime such as drug possession or burglary.
The case of Kevin William Bonner, however, reads like the script from the mob movie “Goodfellas.”
Half-Irish and half-Italian, Bonner grew up in Queens and joined a street gang known as the “7s-n-9s” that led him to a life of crime.
In a 2009 profile in the Long Island newspaper Newsday, reporter John Riley quoted Bonner as saying he grew up in a neighborhood known as Woodhaven that was “overflowing with wiseguys.”
“Everyone was a criminal. Everyone wanted to be a hoodlum. But they seemed to have a little more money,” Bonner told the newspaper. “We didn’t have no money.”
He quit school in the eighth grade, was sent to a juvenile detention center at 16 and befriended John A. “Junior” Gotti, the mobster son of the legendary “Dapper Don,” John Gotti Sr., and an emerging member of the Gambino crime family.
Bonner’s downfall began in the mid-1980s when he became a drug addict, and moved to Florida to start life anew, Newsday reported. But he couldn’t escape his dark past. Referring to his decision to expose mob activities, Bonner told the paper: “It’s against everything I ever learned.”
Scott read off Bonner’s lengthy rap sheet — “robbery with a deadly weapon, robbery with a deadly weapon,” he repeated six times — and seemed reluctant to approve the feds’ request, noting that Bonner has battled drug addiction for many years.
“I understand I’m out on a plank here,” prosecutor Trezevant said.
Scott agreed to vote yes on two conditions: that Bonner undergo a drug test every two weeks for his first year of probation and that he pay about $3,500 in restitution and court costs.
“I get it,” Scott said. “He has probably saved lives.”
Bonner has more than five years remaining on his prison sentence. His attorney, Anderson, said Bonner wants to be able to start a new life “in a part of the country without organized crime.”
Andersen said he called Bonner in prison and gave him the good news.
“He said his family was so overwhelmed,” Andersen said. “He was just grateful.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article103220177.html

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article103220177.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feds raid Victoria Gotti's home and auto parts business of her sons

Federal agents on Wednesday raided the Long Island home of Victoria Gotti, daughter of late mob boss John Gotti, and an auto parts store in Queens run by her sons with mobbed-up ex-husband, Carmine Agnello, sources said. Agents executing a search warrant from the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office raided Gotti’s Old Westbury home and the store in Jamaica as part of an ongoing probe, sources said. The reasons for the searches were not publicly disclosed.
Gotti’s multimillion-dollar mansion features a pool with cascading water­falls, a tennis court and a four-car garage.
The auto parts store is run by Victoria’s three sons, Carmine Gotti Agnello, Frank Gotti Agnello and John Gotti Agnello.
Victoria, who married Agnello in 1984, was raised in Howard Beach, Queens, where her “Dapper Don” father ran the Gambino crime family.
The mob daughter starred in the reality television series “Growing Up Gotti” from 2004 through 2007 along with her sons. She also has published several books, including “Hot Italian Dish” in 2006.
Her ex-husband, whom she divorced in 2003, is currently awaiting trial in Cleveland on racketeering charges.
Authorities said he was involved in an alleged scheme to weigh down junked cars with sand and dirt before selling them for scrap metal.
Last month, in an earlier raid on the Gottis, authorities searched the Howard Beach home where the patriarch had lived with his family, and arrested his 23-year-old namesake grandson on drug charges.
The younger John Gotti was charged in August with illegal distribution of oxycodone and other prescription pills in Howard Beach and Ozone Park.
He allegedly was carrying a load of pills when he was pulled over in a traffic stop in Queens in July. Police said they recovered 205 oxycodone pills, 18 methadone pills, a bottle of testosterone, Xanax and marijuana.
He is awaiting a court appearance later this month.

http://nypost.com/2016/09/15/feds-raid-victoria-gottis-home-sons-auto-parts-business/

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dying Colombo captain gets 33 months in prison for extortion

A sick acting Colombo capo was sentenced Friday to more than 2 1/2 years behind bars on extortion charges — despite his lawyer begging for a no-jail term because the 71-year-old mobster only has a year left to live.
Brooklyn federal court Judge Leo Glasser was less than sympathetic toward Luca DiMatteo as he slapped him with a 33-months sentence.
“I’m not doing it to you, Mr. DiMatteo. You’re doing it to yourself. You knew what that life is … you couldn’t rid yourself of it, you couldn’t cut yourself loose,” the judge said.
DiMatteo pleaded guilty to charges that he and his nephew Lukey, a Colombo associate, extorted a local business owner for more than 10 years until his shop was forced to shutter.
The owner paid the DiMatteos $100 to $200 every two weeks, prosecutors said.
The judge did agree to temporarily let DiMatteo, who has cancer and suffers from congestive heart failure, out on $1M bail so he could seek medical attention.
He’ll have to surrender at a later date.
Defense attorney Flora Edwards asked the judge to impose a sentence of home detention with strict monitoring.
“Mr. DiMatteo is seriously ill. He has a limited life expectancy,” she said in court.
DiMatteo previously served three years in federal prison after a 2004 conviction on extortion, loansharking and gambling charges.

http://nypost.com/2016/09/09/dying-mobster-gets-33-months-in-jail-for-extortion/

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Philly mob associate pleads no contest to murder for hire charges

Ron Galati decided this afternoon to fold his cards rather than fight murder-for-hire and insurance fraud charges in Commons Pleas Court 

Already serving a 22-year federal sentence for a conviction in a different murder conspiracy case, the 65-year-old South Philadelphia auto body shop owner pleaded no contest to a series of charges tied to two separate indictments pending against him.

Galati implied that he was not guilty, but said he opted to take a deal offered by the District Attorney's Office in order to "put this away and move on."

"This is the best decision," he told Judge Daniel Anders during a protracted hearing that began shortly before 10 a.m. and did not conclude until 12:45.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Galati's sentence in the two Common Pleas Court cases will run concurrently with the federal sentence he is currently serving. In addition, the District Attorney's Office agreed to drop insurance fraud charges against Galati's wife, Vicki.

Galati's son, Ron Jr., entered a guilty plea at a separate hearing to bid rigging and fraud charges tied to what authorities said was a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scam run out of Galati's American Collision body shop in South Philadelphia.

Both Galatis are to be sentenced on Dec. 9. 

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Holtz laid out the cases against Galati during today's hearing. The plea deals were announced as jury selection was about to begin in the murder-for-hire case. But it took nearly two hours, including a closed door meeting between Galati and his attorney Trevan Borum, to finalize the agreement. 

Galati was accused to hiring two hitmen, Ronald Walker and Alvin Matthews, to murder a rival auto body shop owner and his son. Authorities said Galati believed -- correctly as it turned out -- that Joseph Rao and his son Joseph Jr. were testifying before a grand jury in an insurance fraud probe that had targeted Galati. 

Holtz said today that testimony would indicate that Galati agreed to pay Walker and Matthews $20,000 each to carry out the murders and that he wanted the two men "shot in the head."

Galati interrupted the presentation and told Anders he had never offered to pay $20,000 to have the Raos killed, adding that Joseph Rao Sr. "was the best friend you could ever have." Nevertheless, after some questioning by Anders and consultation with his lawyer, Galati agreed to the no contest plea.

He had originally offered to plead guilty, but backed away from that during the hearing. 

Walker, Matthews, another Galati associate, Jerome Johnson, and the Raos were all expected to testify for the prosecution had the case gone to trial. The would have offered the story that Holtz described in her presentation, the assistant DA said. 

The two hitmen and Johnson had all testified for the government in the federal prosecution of Galati in Camden two years ago. In that case, he was convicted of hiring the same hitmen to kill his then estranged daughter Tiffany's boyfriend, Andrew Tuono. 

Tuono survived a shooting outside his Atlantic City home in November 2013.

At that point, authorities said, the hit on the Raos had been put on hold because their auto body shop had been closed. 

Tiffany Galati, who testified for the government in the Tuono case, sat with her mother and brother during today's hearing. The young South Philadelphia row house princess has apparently reconciled with her family. She ended her relationship with Tuono shortly after the shooting.  

The insurance fraud case involved more than two million dollars in what authorities said were reimbursements paid by insurance companies in a scheme devised by Galati that included fake or staged accidents and false or inflated repair bills.

The case also involved bid rigging and doctoring repair costs for city vehicles.

In all, the District Attorney's Office said, insurance companies "issued $2.3 million in connection with fraudulent claims" and Galati's company also received "over $1.8 million from the city of Philadelphia" for vehicle repair work for which his shop was not qualified.

The insurance fraud scam included staged photos taken by Galati designed to demonstrate that vehicles had been damaged.

"Galati favored deer hits, vandalism and vehicular damage from trajectory objects because each could be categorized as a non-fault accident for which the insured would not be held liable," authorities said in announcement the indictment against Galati and dozens of others in May 2014.

Many of his co-defendants were customers who went along with the scheme. Most have pleaded guilty to related charges. Among other things, authorities said witnesses told them that 
Galati "stored deer blood, hair and carcasses in the back of his shop" and would stage fake photos using those items to support insurance claims.

"I live my life to cheat insurance companies," witness said Galati would exclaim, calling that his "mantra."

The fraud and murder-for-hire cases were investigated by Det. Robert DiFrancesco of the DA's Office and Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Romano of the Organized Crime Division of Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Galati has long been identified as an associate of South Philadelphia mob leaders Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, George Borgesi and Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi. Authorities believe, but have never been able to prove, that Galati's autobody shop was used in 1993 to outfit a stolen van used in a notorious attempted hit on the Schuykill Expressway. Then mob boss John Stanfa was targeted in that rush hour ambush in which two men fired on Stanfa's car from portholes that had been cut into the side of a van that pulled up alongside Stanfa's vehicle.

Stanfa's son Joseph was wounded in that shooting which escalated a bloody war between factions headed by Stanfa and Merlino. 

Galati has a prior insurance fraud conviction for which he served about 38 months. He was convicted of federal murder-for-hire charges in the fall of 2014.

http://www.bigtrial.net/2016/09/galati-gives-up-pleads-no-contest-for.html?m=1

Pennsylvania bans Philly mob boss Skinny Joey Merlino from all casinos in the state

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to ban reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino from all casinos in the state.
The board began proceedings against Merlino after an incident at the SugarHouse Casino in March when members of his entourage allegedly were involved in a physical altercation with other gamblers, said board spokesman Doug Harbach.
Gaming control agents on several occasions tried to serve Merlino with paperwork notifying him about the investigation and he refused to accept them, Harbach said.
"We tried to serve him at his restaurant, his home, at Harrah's, at SugarHouse," Harbach said last month.
Because Merlino is a convicted felon and allegedly involved in organized crime, Harbach said, the board decided to place him on the state casino exclusion list.
"It's a permanent ban unless he petitions the board to be removed and provides the board with ample reason why he should be removed from the list," Harbach said.
Merlino was one of more than a dozen people added Wednesday to the list, which includes cheaters, people who left children in parked cars at casinos, and underage gamblers, Harbach said.
Merlino was living in Boca Raton, Fla., until his arrest last month as part of a sweeping federal takedown of the East Coast mob.
He is free on $5 million bail while he awaits trial on racketeering charges.
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20160908_Alleged_mob_boss_Joey_Merlino_banned_from_Pennsylvania_casinos.html#

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mob widow is furious at her own kids for suing her


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The widow and children of a deceased lawyer to mobsters have settled their lawsuits against each after a sit-down with a mediator, but the family matriarch says she's ashamed of her children for suing her.

"How do you do this to a mother?" Elinor Gravante, 81, told the Daily News. "It's a terrible, terrible thing they did to me. It all has to do with greed. This is a mother's worst nightmare."

Elinor's three children — including high-powered lawyer Nicholas Gravante, Jr., a partner at the firm Boies, Schiller, & Flexner — filed a lawsuit against their mother last year in Florida over ownership of a vacation home in Connecticut and rental income from valuable properties left by her late husband, Nicholas Gravante Sr., who represented many Brooklyn gangsters in real estate transactions.

Elinor Gravante responded with a suit of her own in Brooklyn Federal Court last spring, alleging she was tricked into signing away the deed to the Connecticut home.

Informed that her son, Nicholas Jr., said he looks forward to family relations getting back to normal, Elinor said that's not how she feels.

"I want nothing to do with my three children," she said. "They went around telling people I had dementia so I went to be tested and I passed with flying colors. I play bridge with my friends, in fact I'm playing today, and most of the time I come in first."

Nicholas Jr. said the terms of the settlement are confidential, but sounded like a litigator when asked about suing his own mother.

"I have no regrets," he said. "The only way to get it resolved was to file a lawsuit. In order for it to end, it had to get worse before it got better. After 10 months of distasteful arguing, no matter how sad I was that it had reached that point, filing a lawsuit to bring this to a head was, in retrospect, the best move I could have made. It delivered a much needed wake-up call, and now, less than five months later, all disputes have been settled on terms acceptable to everyone."

Nicholas Jr. professed love for his mom, adding that they had found out that she was getting bad advice from an old friend of their father.

Elinor and her lawyer said that simply not true.

"He's (Nicholas Jr.) a spinner, he'll make you believe anything," Elinor said. "People tell me my husband must be turning in his grave."

Her lawyer Barry Kingham told The News: "Any notion that Mrs. Gravante's mind was poisoned by anyone is nonsense. She had independent legal advice from lawyers in New York and Florida throughout the dispute and its resolution."

Elinor's late husband testified as a defense witness for Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano at the then-Gambino underboss' tax evasion trial in 1988.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mob-lawyer-widow-furious-kids-suing-dad-estate-article-1.2779262