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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Judge allows government to read Bonanno boss's emails

A mafia boss can’t expect his jailhouse emails to be protected from the prying eyes of authorities — even if the communiques are to and from his lawyer, a Brooklyn federal judge has ruled.

Reputed Bonanno crime family boss Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore and his lawyer, Steve Zissou, had argued that the monitoring of their web-based conversations violated his right to counsel — even though jailhouse rules clearly spell out that inmates’ emails are subject to review.

Judge Allyne Ross had temporarily blocked federal investigators from checking DiFiore’s emails while she considered the argument, but ruled in favor of the government last week.

Ross found that DiFiore had other opportunities to privately communicate with his attorney and that the email snooping did not “unreasonably interfere” with his ability to defend himself in court.

She said that inmates know that they are waiving their confidentiality when using the prison email function.

Ross did concede in her decision that the federal Bureau of Prisons should consider some form of protected e-mail forum for inmates and their attorneys to facilitate communication.

“Certainly, it would be a welcome development for BOP to improve TRULINCS (the jail computer system) so that attorney-client communications could be easily separated from other emails and subject to protection,” the judge wrote.

DiFiore is charged with participating in an extortion scheme with co-codefendant Vincent Asaro, the infamous Bonanno capo charged with the 1978 Lufthansa Airlines heist depicted in the film “Goodfellas.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Longtime Detroit mob boss dead at 87

Reputed Detroit mob boss Jack W. Tocco, who was convicted of racketeering in 1998 in a federal crackdown on organized crime, has died. He was 87.

Tocco, who said he fought his entire life to clear his name, died Monday at home in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, according to Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements. A cause of death wasn't released.

Tocco, whose family had a linen business, grew up in suburban Detroit and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. He was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion in 1998. He served nearly three years behind bars in the case and paid $950,000 to the government.

Attorney James Bellanca Jr., whose firm represents Tocco, said he learned of Tocco's death from his family. In an email, he said Tocco lived his life "under the scrutiny of the government and the subject of public accusation." He said Tocco tried to clear his name.

"Individuals familiar with his conviction in 1998 believe it was based more on the reputation that had been created for him than any evidence of wrongdoing presented against him at trial," Bellanca said. "He served his sentence quietly and with the same dignity he lived his life."

A federal jury in 1998 convicted Tocco of taking part in a 30-year racketeering conspiracy that included loan-sharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice and attempts to gain hidden interests in Nevada casinos. The FBI labeled him the Detroit crime family's boss in an organizational chart released in 1990.

Tocco was included in a 1996 indictment targeting alleged organized crime figures in Detroit. At a news conference about the case at the time, FBI Special Agent Joseph Martinolich Jr., who headed the Detroit office, said: "Here in Detroit, we believe we've driven a stake through the heart of La Cosa Nostra."

Tocco initially was sentenced to one year and a day, but that sentence was later invalidated by the appeals court after the government argued the penalty was too lenient. In 2000, a federal judge in Detroit imposed a new sentence of 34 months.

Tocco, who completed his 34-month sentence, that year thanked relatives and friends for their support and criticized former associates who testified against him.

"All my adult life, I've been fighting to clear my name," he said at a court hearing. "And I will continue that fight to clear my name until the time I die."

Bonanno captain Nicky Mouth rejects plea deal

A reputed Bonanno capo facing trial for peddling illegal Viagra, says he’s not willing to do a stiff prison term.

Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Santora turned down a plea deal for 7-to-21 years prison Wednesday in exchange for copping to a top count of enterprise corruption. The offer shaves about a year off the minimum term he’d face if convicted at trial on that charge.

Santora and eight associates were busted last August for a variety of mob staple rackets. They each face a maximum of 25 years behind bars for their alleged roles in criminal activities including loansharking and drug dealing — for illegally selling prescription erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis — as well as perjury and possession of firearms.

Santora, 71, who inspired the character played by the late Bruno Kirby in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco,” didn’t like the deal, said his defense lawyer Michael Alber.

“There’s absolutely no way he’s taking that disposition. He’s not involved in enterprise corruption,” he said. “The prosecution is seeking to link people some who don’t even recognize each other except when they come to court.”

From left: Vito Badamo, Ernest Aiello, Anthony Santoro and Nicholas Santora in court.Photo: David McGlynn

Prosecutors also offered Anthony “Skinny” Santoro 9-to-18 years behind bars, the longest term after Santora, which his lawyer also said he wouldn’t accept.

“It’s ridiculous, it was a non-violent gambling offense,” said Santoro’s attorney Tim Parlatore.

The frail-looking Santora has remained behind bars since Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson set bond at $1 million.

Turncoat Philadelphia underboss urges his mobster cousin to cooperate

Defense attorneys for Nicodemo S. Scarfo said repeatedly during his federal fraud trial that Scarfo, 49, was targeted for prosecution because of the reputation and notoriety of his father, jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo.

The jury, of course, saw it differently, convicting the younger Scarfo of all 25 counts he faced in the looting of FirstPlus Financial, a Texas mortgage company.

But now another voice has weighed in in Scarfo's defense. It's not a defense of what he did, but rather an explanation for how he ended up where he did. And it's also a plea for some consideration from Judge Robert Kugler when he sentences Scarfo in October.

The younger Scarfo never had a chance, said his cousin, mobster-turned-government witness Philip Leonetti.

"He's really not a gangster," Leonetti, 61, said in a telephone interview with Bigtrial this week. "His father had him under his spell...I used to tell him, 'Nicky, get away from these guys.' And when he was talking to me, he would agree' But then he would talk to his father and..."

The words trail off, but the point is clear. Leonetti, the one-time underboss of the Scarfo crime family, followed his cousin's trial from afar.

He has been living in another part of the country with a new identity since his release from prison in the early 1990s. Considered one of the best mob witnesses to ever take the stand, Leonetti testified at nearly a dozen trials following his own conviction, along with his uncle and a dozen others, in a 1988 racketeering-murder case.

"I was very good at doing some bad things," Leonetti said of his life in the mob and under his uncle's influence, "but it's not who I was."

Leonetti's decision to cooperate sent shockwaves through the underworld. Among other things, his defection was a major factor in the decision of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the Gambino crime family underboss, to flip and help the government convict mob boss John Gotti a few years laterr.

Gravano, however, couldn't stop being Sammy the Bull and after his release from prison returned to drug dealing. He ended up back in jail. Leonetti on the other hand has carved out a new and better life for himself and his family, far removed from the underworld where he was once a major player.

Life, he says, has been good.

He wishes his younger cousin had the chance to experience it.

"There is so much more to see and enjoy," he said. "Those guys in South Philly don't appreciate or understand that. They would say that I'm the sucker now because I'm living a normal life. But I was the sucker back then when I was in the mob."

Cynics of course, and there are many, say Leonetti's motives were financial and based on self-preservation. For years sources have said that the government allowed him and his mother Nancy, Scarfo's sister, to take more than $1 million with them into the Witness Security Program. The money had been stashed in a hidden safe in Scarfo's apartment on Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City.

"Sure, his life is good," said one mob source. "My life would be good too if I had a million dollars to rebuild it. Give me a break!"

Leonetti rolls with the criticism, saying there are more important things to focus on. He said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to change his life. He doesn't regret his decision to cooperate and testify for the government and he said he would urge his cousin to do the same. The problem, however, is that Nicodemo S. Scarfo, even if he had the inclination, may not have enough information to make a deal.

"Anything he could do to help himself, he should do," Leonetti said. "That's what I would tell him. I would tell him to cooperate and save as much of his life as he can. Don't be a sucker."

And don't, he added, worry about what your father is thinking.

"My uncle is an evil guy," said Leonetti, who confessed to his own involvement in 10 murders while 
a member of the Scarfo crime family. "He's no fuckin' good. You don't know how evil he is."

That's the message, Leonetti said, that he would like to convey to the judge before he passes judgment on his cousin.

"I wish they had called me as a witness," he said. "I would have told the jury."

But unless you've lived it, he added, it's difficult to understand. Both he and the younger Scarfo grew up under the dark shadow cast by Little Nicky, a psychopathic mob boss who was considered one of the most violent mob leaders in America during the period from 1980 through 1989 when he controlled the Philadelphia mob. The elder Scarfo, 84, is serving a 55-year sentence for racketeering and murder. His earliest parole date is 2033. He will likely die in prison.

"Nicky was a kid then," Leonetti said of his cousin during the violent 1980s. "He didn't want to get involved. But his father would badger him. A couple of times I remember him crying because his father wanted him to do something. My uncle destroyed his whole family."

Leonetti, who wrote a book Mafia Prince that detailed much of his life in the mob and that blistered his uncle, said he tried to do right by his cousin, but couldn't overcome the influence of the jailed mob boss. (The book was recently released in paperback.)

After he was released from prison -- Leonetti's 45-year sentence was reduced to five years, five months and five days because of his cooperation -- he would occasionally visit Atlantic City, checking in with his grandmother and his cousin.

"He didn't care that I had cooperated," Leonetti said of the younger Scarfo. "I told him then he should come away with me. He could have been with me right now. Instead, he listened to his father."

Back then, in an interview, Leonetti had predicted that "my uncle is going to get my cousin killed or indicted."

The younger Scarfo had already survived a mob hit in 1989 in Dante & Luigi's restaurant in South
Philadelphia. The Halloween night shooting left him with seven bullet holes in his body, but he miraculously survived.

"He told me he knew it was Joey Merlino who shot him," Leonetti said. "Maybe he could use that to help himself now."

Merlino has always denied that allegation, which surfaced again during the FirstPlus trial when a government expert witness said that federal authorities believe Merlino, now 51, was the shooter that night. No one has ever been charged but the statute of limitation has long since expired in that assault and it's unlikely Scarfo could use that information to help himself, even if he chose to do so.

Scarfo has two prior convictions for mob-related gambling and racketeering. He is also under indictment in Morris County in a massive mob sports betting case tied to the leaders of the Lucchese crime family. The younger Scarfo became a member of the Luchese organization after he was shot and had to flee the Philadelphia - South Jersey area in 1989.

His father, in prison with Lucchese mob boss Vittoro "Vic" Amuso, arranged to have his son formally initiated into the crime family as an insurance policy against possible future attacks.

But that didn't stop Scarfo from being targeted in a different way, Leonetti said, by members of the Philadelphia mob after he opened a restaurant, Amici, in Ventnor, around 1996.

ey Merlino sent guys down there to demand money," Leonetti said. "That's when I told him to get away from those guys, to get out of there. He didn't listen."

Some things never change. Gambling, loansharking and extortion have long been the financial lifeblood of the Philadelphia crime family and with several mobsters who were convicted with him and his uncle in 1988 now back on the streets, Leonetti says those activities will continue. 

"Look, if Joey Punge (Joseph Pungitore) wants to run a bookmaking operation, let him," Leonetti said of one of his former co-defendants now back on the street. "It's not hurting anybody."

The problem, Leonetti said, is when other organized crime figures try to muscle in on someone else's action. Mobsters like Merlino and George Borgesi, who was recently released from prison, have a reputation for demanding and grabbing. Some of the veteran wiseguys from Leonetti's era, guys like Phil Narducci for example, won't stand for those kind of guzzling or strong-arming tactics, he said.

"Somebody'll get killed," Leonetti said. "They should just let everybody go about their business, everyone make their own money and be honest with one another."

It's a life Leonetti remembers, but has no desire to relive. When he does pop into Atlantic
City, he said, he enjoys walking on the Boardwalk.  "I think back to the days when I'd be walking with Saul Kane and talking with him," he said.

Kane, a mob associate who was known as the "Meyer Lansky" of Atlantic City, died in prison where he was serving a sentence for drug dealing. In his obituary Kane had family members list Leonetti as one of his survivors, a clear sign that he had a different view than the elder Scarfo of Leonetti's defection.

"But when I leave Atlantic City, I'm happy to go back to the life I now live," Leonetti added.

South Philadelphia wiseguys are myopic mobsters, he said, who don't see the world beyond Ninth Street. For many, Atlantic City and the Poconos define the edges of their universe. There is, says Leonetti, so much more to the world and so much more to life.

He is just sorry that his cousin will probably never get to experience it.

Leonetti said the only things he knows about the FirstPlus fraud case and Scarfo's co-defendant Salvatore Pelullo are what he's read. He said he knew Pelullo's older brother Artie, but not Salvatore.

"What were they thinking, buying a yacht and a Bentley?" Leonetti asked. "That's not smart."

The government charged that Scarfo and Pelullo had secretly taken control of FirstPlus in 2007 and then used bogus consulting contracts and phony business deals to siphon $12 million out of the company.

The money was used to support a lavish lifestyle that included their purchase of a $850,000 yacht. Pelullo also bought a $217,000 Bentley Continental and Scarfo and his wife Lisa bought a $715,000 home near Atlantic City. All of that and more, including jewelry Scarfo bought for his wife, has been forfeited to the government as part of the verdict in the case.

Now Scarfo is looking at a sentencing guideline range of 30 years to life when he appears before Judge Kugler in October.

Leonetti said he intends to write a letter in support of his cousin, asking the judge to show some leniency. Leonetti said he is one of the few people who truly understands what happened to Nicky Scarfo Jr.

"He wasted his whole life with his father," said Leonetti. "My uncle destroyed people."

Especially those close to him, he added. Mark Scarfo, the youngest of the mob boss's three sons, tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in 1988. He was just 17 years old. He remained comatose and was cared for by his mother and his brother Nicky for the rest of his life. Mark Scarfo died earlier this year during the FirstPlus trial.

The attempted suicide and the elder Scarfo's reaction to it say all you need to know about the mob boss, Leonetti said. His uncle was embarrassed by the incident. "He said if he came out of it (the coma), he was gonna send him away," Leonetti said.

Another source recalled that at the time Scarfo Sr. was on trial with Leonetti and a dozen other mobsters for racketeering. When the source offered Scarfo his condolences, the source said Scarfo brush him off and said of his comatose son, "He's soft."

That, Leonetti said this week, was his uncle -- mean, evil and self-absorbed.

His cousin, Leonetti said again, never had a chance.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stallone considers playing notorious Colombo mobster Greg Scarpa in new movie
Sylvester Stallone has played heroes such as John Rambo and Rocky Balboa, but now he’s considering playing a villain — Greg Scarpa, the mob hitman known as “the Grim Reaper.”
The screenplay by Nick Pileggi, who wrote “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” will gloss over Scarpa’s involvement in 20 murders, and focus on his career as a T.E., a top echelon informant for the FBI, who secretly solved the “Mississippi Burning” case.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — under intense pressure to find the bodies of three civil rights workers and bring their killers to justice — brought in the capo for the Colombo family in 1964.
Scarpa quickly kidnapped a member of the Ku Klux Klan and tortured him for two days.
“He pistol-whipped him, pulled his fingernails out, and finally put a gun in his mouth,” said a source familiar with the story. “He gave him a pen and paper, and said, ‘Either the location of the bodies, or your brains will be on this paper.’”
Scarpa got the information he wanted.
Pileggi told me, “It’s a fabulous story. Stallone is interested. He likes the script.”
Irwin Winkler, of “Rocky” fame, would produce with Avi Lerner, who produced “The Expendables” and its sequels.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Broke Mob Wife has brother pay $20k of her restitution tab

Alicia DiMichele is due to plead guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court next month for stealing union funds.
She’s gone from “Mob Wives” to being one Broke Girl.

Sexy ex-reality TV star Alicia DiMichele agreed to pay $40,000 restitution to Teamsters Local 282 for embezzling funds when she handled the books for her mobster husband's trucking company — but her brother had to step in Tuesday to write the first check.

“The years of litigation with her husband in jail have taken a toll on her family and her financial stability,” said DiMichele's lawyer Steve Zissou.

“She was fortunate to have her brother ready and willing to help out when necessary.”

Her brother Anthony ponied up the $20,000 due as initial payment for the restitution.

DiMichele, 40, is married to Colombo enforcer Edward "Tall Guy" Garofalo, Jr., who is serving time for murder conspiracy.

She resigned from “Mob Wives” earlier this year but still owns the Addiction Boutique in Cherry Hill, N.J.

DiMichele withdrew her guilty plea after the union demanded $2.8 million in restitution, but with a settlement reached she will plead guilty for a second time next month in Brooklyn Federal Court. She faces up to six months behind bars.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Turncoat Bonanno captain asks judge to show leniency for son of Vinny Gorgeous

Ex-Bonanno capo asks judge to show leniency for mobster’s son
The same murderous mobster-turned-rat who helped get Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano sent away for life has asked a federal judge to show leniency to the Bonanno boss’ drug-dealing son, claiming the 28-year-old could become “the next John Gotti” if sent to prison.

Ex-Bonanno capo Dominick Cicale, 46, wrote Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan a July 3 letter saying he believes the jurist’s decision days earlier to sentence Joseph Basciano to six months in jail for running a marijuana enterprise with his two brothers would only lead him down the “path” to becoming a lifetime wiseguy.

“Everyone [in jail] will be watching, guiding and grooming him out of respect for Vincent Sr.’s stature and status,” Cicale wrote. “This good young man will walk out of federal prison feeling that he is the next John Gotti.”

Sullivan had actually cut Joseph a break, considering he faced up to two years in prison under his plea deal.

Cicale said he still recalls Joseph as the “smart college boy” he once knew before providing the “government with the nail in the coffin to convict” Papa Basciano, who is serving two lifetime sentences for murders.

Cicale had faced two life terms for the same murders the elder Basciano was convicted of, but Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis gave him a break for the “extraordinary assistance” he provided the feds, and Cicale was released in 2013 after spending nearly eight years behind bars.

Joseph Basciano and his brothers, Vincent Jr. and Stephen, were busted last September.

Alicia from Mob Wives plans to plead guilty to embezzlement

Former ‘Mob Wives’ star will plead guilty to embezzlement
Former “Mob Wives” star Alicia DiMichele will plead guilty to an embezzlement rap next month after finally hammering out a restitution deal.

DiMichele was busted along with her hubby, Colombo enforcer Edward “Tall Guy” Garofalo, for skimming union pension funds from the defunct New Jersey trucking company they once ran.

She had earlier backed out of a plea deal when the union demanded $2.8 million in payback from the scheme.

But the two sides have since agreed to have her pay far less — just $40,000 — and she will cop to the crime on Aug. 14.

She faces up to six months in prison.

DiMichele, 40, who made $8,000 per episode during her run on the VH1 show, resigned from the cast during her lengthy court wrangle.

Prosecutors had argued that she was making plenty of money on the show and shouldn’t have groaned about the restitution demands.

Garofalo pleaded guilty to a murder-conspiracy rap and was sentenced to seven years in prison last December in Brooklyn federal court.