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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Judge tosses out discussion of four murders at upcoming trial of Bonanno gangster

Vincent Asaro (c.) is walked from the FBI headquarters in New York City. A judge just blocked murders carried out in the aftermath of the 1978 Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy Airport from being mentioned in Asaro’s upcoming trial.

Cue “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos.

In a bloodbath for the prosecutors, a Brooklyn judge whacked four murders carried out in the aftermath of the 1978 Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy Airport from being mentioned at the upcoming trial of Bonanno gangster Vincent Asaro.

Federal Judge Allyne Ross ruled Wednesday that references to the killings — which were gruesomely depicted in the film “Goodfellas” accompanied by the piano portion of iconic rock tune — would be unfair to Asaro who is not charged with any of those rubouts of robbery crew members.

“At some point, the collapse of relationship and murder of co-conspirators after the heist ceases to be an epilogue to the heist, and begins to tell the story of a whole new set of crimes,” Ross wrote in her decision.

From left, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci in the 1990 film “Goodfellas.” A federal Judge ruled Wednesday that references to the killings — which were gruesomely depicted in "Goodfellas" — could not be used in an upcoming trial for mobster Vincent Asaro.

Prosecutors had argued that the killing spree provided context to testimony by their star witness, Asaro's cousin Gaspare Valenti, who feared he was going to be killed, too.

Valenti was also prepared to testify about mobster Tommy DeSimone announcing to the crew in a mob hangout called Robert’s Lounge that he was “going to get straightened out,” or inducted to the mob.

Instead DeSimone, who was portrayed by Joe Pesci in an Oscar-winning role, was shot to death as retribution for killing a mobster from another crime family.

Police park next to a black van in front of 595 East 95th St. in Brooklyn on Dec. 13, 1978, as forensics experts examine the vehicle. They suspected it was used in the robbery at Kennedy Airport.

The other murders edited out of the government's script are Marty Krugman, the wig store owner who provided the crew with plans for the robbery, and inside men Joe "Buddha" Manri and Robert "Frenchy" McMahon.

Asaro is charged with one murder, which is not related to the infamous airline heist.

About 300 prospective jurors will be summoned to Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday to fill out a jury questionnaire.

Prosecutors won an important victory on another issue — the judge ruled that another mob snitch Anthony Ruggiero Jr. can testify that his late Gambino soldier father, “Fat Andy,” had helped Asaro and Lufthansa mastermind James Burke fence jewelry stolen in the robbery.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

High level Lucchese mobster is sentenced to five years for role in gambling ring

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that Matthew Madonna, a ruling boss of the New York-based Lucchese crime family, was sentenced to state prison as a result of Operation Heat, an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice that uncovered an international criminal gambling enterprise that transacted billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts.

Madonna, 79, of Seldon, N.Y., a member of the three-man ruling panel of the Lucchese crime family, was sentenced yesterday, Sept. 30, to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County.  Madonna pleaded guilty on June 17 to a charge of second-degree racketeering.  Madonna controlled the family’s gambling operations and other criminal activities from New York. A second member of the crime family’s ruling panel, Joseph DiNapoli, 80, of Scarsdale, N.Y., allegedly controlled those operations and activities with him.  Charges are pending against DiNapoli.

The former New Jersey underboss for the Lucchese crime family, Martin Taccetta, 64, of East Hanover, N.J., also was sentenced yesterday.  Judge Ahto sentenced Taccetta to eight years in state prison.  Taccetta already was serving a sentence of life in state prison plus 10 years as a result of a Division of Criminal Justice prosecution in the 1990s.  He pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering on June 17.

Four other Lucchese crime family members, including the top New Jersey capo, Ralph V. Perna, pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering on June 17 and are awaiting sentencing. Perna, 69, of East Hanover, N.J., faces a recommended sentence of eight years in prison; his sons Joseph M. Perna, 45, of Wyckoff, N.J. and John G. Perna, 38, of West Calwell, N.J., face recommended sentences of 10 years in prison; and John Mangrella, 72, of Clifton, N.J., faces a recommended sentence of eight years in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, is prosecuting the defendants for the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

“Through our far-reaching investigation into this multi-billion dollar criminal gambling enterprise, we built a racketeering case that extended to the top bosses of the Lucchese crime family in New York,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By putting Madonna in prison, we send a powerful message that we are committed to combating organized crime in the most effective way possible, which is to target the leadership ranks and disrupt the command structure of these criminal organizations.”

“Sending this New York-based mob boss to New Jersey State Prison represents another major milestone for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in its decades-long tradition of fighting organized crime,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.  “As long as these crime families maintain their corrosive presence in New Jersey, we’ll investigate them and put them behind bars.”

Judge Ahto has scheduled sentencing for Ralph Perna, Joseph Perna and John Perna for Jan. 7, 2016.  Mangrella had been scheduled for sentencing yesterday, but he is being rescheduled.

The defendants were initially charged and arrested in Operation Heat in December 2007.  The investigation uncovered an international criminal enterprise that, according to records seized, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period.  The gambling operation received and processed the wagers using password-protected websites and a Costa Rican “wire room” where bets were recorded and results tallied.

The gambling operation involved agents or “package holders,” each of whom brought in bets from a group of gamblers. The enterprise and all of its packages involved hundreds or even thousands of gamblers. Records showed that one high-rolling gambler wagered more than $2 million in a two-month period.  The illicit proceeds were divided by the package holders and the members they worked under, such as the Pernas and Tacetta, who in turn made “tribute” payments to the New York bosses, including Madonna and DiNapoli.  Collection operations at times took the form of threats or acts of violence.

The investigation also uncovered a scheme in which a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang entered into an alliance with the Lucchese crime family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.

The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved inmate Edwin B. Spears and a former corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, Michael T. Bruinton.  Spears was at East Jersey State Prison at the time of the alleged conduct.  It is charged that Edwin Spears, an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and another defendant from the Lucchese crime family, now deceased, to smuggle drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through Bruinton.  The alliance allegedly extended beyond smuggling.  In one instance, Joseph Perna sought assistance from Spears to stop an individual associated with the Bloods from extorting money from a man with ties to the Lucchese family.  The charges are pending against Spears and Bruinton.  Several other defendants were charged in that scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Romanyshyn and former Assistant Attorney General Mark Eliades presented the case to the state grand jury.  Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were lead detectives for the case, under the supervision of Chief of Detectives Paul Morris.  Sgt. Noelle Holl was the principal detective for the financial portion of the case. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also credited former Acting Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney and the following Detectives: Sgt. Audrey Young, Ho Chul Shin, Lt. Brian Bruton, Mario Estrada, Richard DaSilva, and John Delesio.  He credited the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their assistance.  He further thanked Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Detective Andrew Varga of the New York City Police Department and members of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who provided assistance.

Legendary mob buster Joseph Coffey dead at 78

Legendary NYPD Detective Sgt. Joseph Coffey, whose storybook crime-busting career spanned locking up gangsters, interviewing Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz, and dancing with First Lady Nancy Reagan, died Sunday of complications from lung cancer and heart disease.
He was 77.
“He was one of the greatest detectives in the NYPD ever,” said Jerry Schmetterer, a former Daily News police bureau chief and metropolitan editor who wrote “The Coffey Files.”
“He was a larger-than-life guy who always wanted to be involved in the biggest cases,” he said.

Coffey had detractors who thought he was a bit of a media hound, including a notorious Westies gangster who, while testifying in court, referred to the detective as “Publicity Joe.”
With his chiseled good looks and glib patter, Coffey was straight out of central casting as the tough Irish cop.
He grew up in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan and decided to be a cop at age 10, when someone shot at his truck driver and union organizer father for resisting mob pressure muscling in on his union.

Coffey is survived by his wife, Susan; sons Joseph Jr. and Steven; daughter, Kathleen Tonn, and six grandchildren. Coffey's first wife Patricia died in 1993.
A wake will be held Thursday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Ave. from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. The funeral Mass will be Friday at St. Monica’s R.C. Church on E. 79th St.

Jailed Lucchese mobster gets an additional 8 years on top of current life sentence

Convicted organized crime boss Martin Taccetta of East Hanover, who is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn his life-in-prison stint for racketeering, was sentenced Wednesday in Morristown to eight years behind bars for an unrelated racketeering case.
Taccetta, 64, joked, chuckled and tried to cajole state Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morristown to give him anywhere from three to six years punishment on the guilty plea he entered in June to racketeering.
The judge listened to Taccetta and defense lawyer Jay Surgent speak at length, but Ahto  said he would abide by the eight-year plea recommendation of state Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, largely because of Taccetta's long criminal history.
His past also includes acquittals on two murder charges, including the golf club beating death in 1984 of Toms River resident Vincent Craparotta, who allegedly refused to share profits from illegal Joker Poker video slot machines.
"I've got to give you credit, you never give up (on appealing for less time in prison)," Ahto told Taccetta, who was transported to the courthouse from state prison by a special operations team of officers.

When he pleaded guilty in June, Taccetta resolved racketeering charges that dated to 2007, when he was among at least 32 suspects charged by the Attorney General's Office in connection with an illegal sports betting and money laundering operation that authorities said brought in $2.2 billion in 15 months and relied on violent means to collect debts. The probe was called "Operation Heat."
Taccetta admitted to racketeering, which means engaging in a pattern of organized criminal conduct -- in this case, illegal gambling and money laundering.  He was supposed to be sentenced by Ahto on Sept. 3, but at that time said he was thinking of withdrawing his guilty plea. He also claimed on Sept. 3 and again on Wednesday that he originally was given a plea offer of three to five years in prison, but Romanyshyn said no such deal was ever extended to Taccetta to his knowledge.
Surgent also noted that Taccetta only participated in illegal gambling and money laundering to constitute the racketeering charge and he wanted the record to reflect that Taccetta had no role in violence or drug trafficking as some other defendants did.
Surgent even objected to the racketeering case being labeled part of organized crime, but Romanyshyn hotly replied that it was.
"He seems to be targeted by law enforcement," Surgent said of Taccetta.
Taccetta currently is serving an unrelated sentence of life plus 10 years out of Ocean County for racketeering. He must serve at least 30 years of that sentence before parole eligibility. He is attacking that conviction and sentence on multiple fronts and wanted as short a sentence as possible out of Morris County in case he is successful on the Ocean County case.
Taccetta, who authorities and an Ocean County jury found is a member of the Lucchese crime family, is awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will hear his appeal of the Ocean County conviction and told Ahto he also plans to file an appeal in state court of the "illegal" Ocean County sentence.
Taccetta's life sentence stems from his 1994 conviction for racketeering -- participating in an illegal gambling enterprise in New Jersey -- as well as extortion counts. During the same trial he was acquitted of the Craparotta murder. He was sentenced in 1994 as a  "persistent offender and professional criminal," according to court records.
Taccetta served 10 years behind bars on the Ocean County case but was released in 2005 after winning his appeal that claimed ineffective assistance of legal counsel.  The state Supreme Court in July 2009 overturned the ruling on ineffective assistance of counsel and ordered Taccetta back to prison.  Unless he wins a further appeal, he has about 14 years left to serve before he reaches his first parole eligibility date.

John Gotti's grandson has very lavish wedding

The lavish wedding of John Gotti’s grandson would have made the Dapper Don proud: Guests were shaken down for minimum gifts of $5,000 and gangsters had to stagger their appearances to avoid unlawful contact with fellow criminals, The Post has learned.

In a scene straight out of “The Godfather,” well-wishers arriving at John Agnello’s wedding last weekend deposited their envelopes in an “elegant birdcage” by the door, sources said.

With about 500 people attending the event at the swanky Oheka Castle on Long Island, the former “Growing Up Gotti” star and bride Alina Sanchez raked in $2.5 million.

That haul puts to shame the $350,000 that Agnello’s uncle, mob scion John “Junior” Gotti, pocketed at his lavish, $1,000-a-plate wedding reception at the Helmsley Palace in 1990.

Sources said Agnello and Sanchez’s around-the-clock wedding began at 5 p.m. Friday and lasted until 1 p.m. Saturday, and included a multi-course meal at midnight and breakfast at 7 a.m.

John “Junior” Gotti (left) and John Gotti

The lengthy bash allowed certain guests to come and go at intervals, much like Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar party.

But unlike the mag’s tiered invites to A-listers and wannabes, legal considerations drove the timing at the Oheka Castle, where politically connected owner Peter Melius was shot in the face during a still-unsolved ambush last year.

“Felons can’t consort together,” one source said.

“You have to stagger the felons. That’s standard mob procedure.”

Sources also said there was “enough security to guard an army.”

The groom’s father, Carmine “The Bull” Agnello, showed up with two law enforcement officers who stood guard at the doors, one source said.

Carmine Agnello

The elder Agnello had to get a judge’s approval to travel from Cleveland, where he’s awaiting trial on racketeering charges in an alleged scheme to weigh down junked cars with sand and dirt before selling them for scrap metal.

He also blew his stack when he saw ex-wife Victoria Gotti — the groom’s mom — with her boyfriend, former soap opera star Jack Scalia, and “was yelling on the grounds before the ceremony,” a source said.

Guests included John Travolta, who is set to portray the late John Gotti in a planned biopic, and his actress wife, Kelly Preston, as well as “Entourage” actor Kevin Connolly, who was recently tapped to direct the oft-delayed flick.

Also attending were “Goodfellas” actress Debi Mazar and Drena De Niro, the daughter of Robert De Niro.

A team of feds also kept watch outside the gates, according to a law enforcement source.

“We want to gather some intel on which mobsters are still hanging around,” the source said.

Sources also said that the wedding was listed under the name “Sanchez,” and that staffers at Oheka Castle had to sign confidentiality agreements.

A spokesman for Victoria Gotti said, “I think whomever is creating these stories has watched ‘The Godfather’ one too many times.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bonanno captain asks to be released from jail pending outcome of upcoming trial

Citing rickety health, the Bonanno Oldfella charged with taking part in the legendary 1978 ​JFK ​Lufthansa heist immortalized in ​the movie ​”Goodfellas” wants out of captivity pending the​ outcome of his upcoming trial in Brooklyn federal court.

Reputed Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro, 80, filed a sealed request to Judge Allyne Ross that lobbied for a release from the clink.

But a scathing retort from federal prosecutor Alicyn Cooley revealed that Asaro cited the rigors of having to travel from prison to court each d​​ay as grounds for a temporary reprieve.

Cooley did not specify what ailments Asaro​ whined about in the letter or what aspect of his daily trip to Brooklyn federal court he found intolerable.

“The defendant describes these conditions and past procedures he has undergone without specificity, but nevertheless argues that, in combination with the strain of daily transportation to the courthouse, they compel his release,” Cooley wrote.

The ancient mobster apparently suggested that he could crash at his girlfriend’s house during the trial and would be generously willing to be fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

But Cooley dismissed the desperate plea and requested that Ross keep Asaro right where he is when the trial starts on Oct. 19.
The Lufthansa heist was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob classic “Goodfellas.”

The prosecutor cited the severity of Asaro’s alleged crimes — including murder and “the infamous armed robbery of millions of dollars and jewelry from the Lufthansa Airlines terminal” in 1978 — as grounds to establish his “present dangerousness to the community.”

Asaro apparently argued that the murder rap against him for killing a suspected informant with a dog chain in 1969 is so musty that it isn’t relevant to his present threat level.

But Cooley retorted in her filing that Asaro didn’t let the onset of his golden years preclude him from mafia crimes well into his seventies.

The prosecutor stated that a freed up Asaro would be able to conduct family business from his beau’s pad at leisure and could even intimidate witnesses at the “high stakes” upcoming trial.

Ross will rule on Asaro’s Hail Mary at a later date.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Whitey Bulger's jailed girlfriend is indicted for refusing to testify before grand jury

Catherine Greig, longtime girlfriend of Whitey Bulger was captured with Bulger in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif.
The girlfriend of notorious Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger was indicted Tuesday for keeping mum about whether anyone else aided him during his 16 years on the lam.

Catherine Grieg, 64, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Massachusetts on one count of criminal contempt. She has refused to testify before a grand jury since December 2014, prosecutors said.

Grieg, who's serving an eight-year sentence for conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy to commit identity fraud, could face more prison time if convicted.

"Catherine Greig has yet again failed to do the right thing," said Joseph Bonavolonta, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston division. "Her refusal to testify has hindered the FBI's efforts to seek justice for the victims of his crimes."

The indictment comes less than a week after “Black Mass,” a movie about Bulger’s life starring Johnny Depp, was released in theaters.

Grieg was found living with Bulger -- whom her lawyer called "the love of her life" -- in a Santa Monica, Calif., apartment in 2011. The pair had been on the run since 1994 and outfitted the rent-controlled home with holes in the walls to hide 30 weapons and $800,000 in cash.

James "Whitey" Bulger is pictured shortly before he disappeared in 1995.
James "Whitey" Bulger, was convicted in a Boston federal court in August 2013 on a broad indictment that included racketeering charges in a string of murders in the 1970s and '80s.

The lovebirds posed as a married retired couple from Chicago, using false identities to make doctor appointments and pick up prescriptions, prosecutors said.

Grieg agreed to plead guilty during her trial in 2012 so she wouldn't have to testify against her man, who is now serving a life sentence in connection to 11 murders.

She wasn't always by Bulger's side though.

The mob boss initially ran off with his longtime beau Teresa Stanley, who he'd dated since the 1960s as he was seeing Grieg, the FBI said. Two months later, Bulger returned to Boston to drop off Stanley and pick up Grieg.

Bulger, who served as an FBI informant, has not yet seen the movie based off his life, his attorney said earlier this week of the 86-year-old.

“I think it’d probably be unlikely for him to see it, because he’s incarcerated and they have no cable," attorney Hank Brennan said.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gambino mobster gets life in prison for South Florida murder

A Broward County judge sentenced Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello to life in prison for the mob-connected 2001 murder of Miami Subs founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis.
Judge Ilona Holmes announced the sentencing Thursday shortly after a jury recommended that Moscatiello serve life in prison for ordering the hit on Boulis.
The nine women and three men on the jury deliberated for about three hours and 15 minutes before reaching their decision shortly after 3:30 p.m.
After Holmes announced her decision, Moscatiello turned to Boulis' nephew, Spiros Naos, who was sitting in the front row, and said, "I truly am sorry for what happened to Gus, but I assure you that I had nothing to do with it."
Naos did not respond to the comment, but he read a prepared statement outside of the courtroom.
"Although there is nothing that can fulfill the void of Gus passing, I feel that justice did unfold as it should," he said.
Assistant state attorney Brian Cavanagh was less muted in his response to Moscatiello's words.
"I wouldn't believe a word out of that convicted killer's mouth even if hell were to freeze over," Cavanagh told Local 10 News.
Moscatiello, 76, was convicted in July of murder and murder conspiracy in the fatal shooting of Boulis during a dispute over the lucrative SunCruz Casinos fleet of gambling ships. Evidence showed that Boulis was shot by a hit man hired by Moscatiello, a reputed member of New York's Gambino crime family.
On Wednesday, several of Moscatiello's family members took the stand, portraying the convicted killer as a family man.
During his retrial, one of the state's key witnesses was a man who admitted to being ordered to get rid of the gun used in the shooting.
James "Pudgy" Fiorillo told the court that he threw the gun off a Miami Beach bridge.
Witnesses said the gunman, John "J.J." Gurino, was later killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.
Fiorillo accepted a plea deal with the state, agreeing to testify against Moscatiello and Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari in exchange for pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.  He served 6 1/2 years in prison and has since been released.
Ferrari is serving a life sentence for his role in the murder.
Moscatiello did not testify in his own defense. Instead, his lawyers sought to pin the shooting on Ferrari.
"The jury has convicted him and he can't even accept the jury's verdict, so his apology was, 'I'm sorry Gus was killed, but I had nothing to do with it.' That's pretty hollow," prosecutor Gregg Rossman said.
Moscatiello's 2013 trial ended in a mistrial when his attorney became ill.
His attorneys have 30 days to appeal the sentence.