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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Feds say Gambinos set Mercedes on fire while trying to collect a debt

Talk about your childish Gambinos.
Three men tied to the notorious “organized” crime family torched a car to intimidate a businessman, but botched the job when one member of the thick-headed trio caught fire and was captured on tape scurrying away, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Peter Tuccio, Jonathan Gurino and Gino Gabrielli chased down the businessman in Dec. 2015 after seeing him leave a Howard Beach smoke shop, eventually confronting him outside a pizza parlor, a newly unsealed indictment revealed.
Tuccio then allegedly asked the man about a Gambino capo he owed money to and made mention of his Mercedes.
Later that night, the man watched his car burn. But his home security camera also captured the blaze.
The footage revealed Gabrielli dousing the Mercedes with liquid, the car bursting into flames and Gabrielli sprinting from the scene with his leg aflame.
The pants-on-fire perp and Tuccio were later captured on surveillance video walking into Jamaica Hospital, according to prosecutors.
Gabrielli pleaded guilty to arson in August 2016. Tuccio and Gurino were indicted Friday.
“Organized crime families have long relied on extortion and threats of violence in exchange for so-called ‘protection,’” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney. “As alleged, the defendants set a man's car on fire to send a message, but now they are the ones feeling the heat.”
Friday’s indictment charges Tuccio and Gurino, both 25, with arson, arson conspiracy, extortion, extortion conspiracy and using fire to commit a felony.
The far-from-dynamic duo were both released on $700,000 bond and placed under house arrest with their parents agreeing to put their houses on the line for their release.
(L to R) Joseph Merlino, Peter Tuccio walk together.
(L to R) Joseph Merlino, Peter Tuccio walk together.
Tuccio, who dutifully attended every day of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino’s racketeering trial earlier this year, wore all black to the arraignment .
Gurino, his head hung low, wore a grey tracksuit with blue stripes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Moore said at the hearing that a witness to the fire reported finding a dead rat on her car.
She requested Judge Steven Tiscione remand the two men, contending they’re a flight risk and pose a danger to the community.
Tiscione acknowledged that while it was “certainly a crime of violence,” nobody was physically injured in the fire.
Both Tuccio and Gurino deny the charges. Each faces a 15-year mandatory sentence if convicted.


Another Bloods gang member busted in murder of Bonanno associate

A gangster known as “Taliban” was busted for his role in the October execution of a veteran Mafia associate at a McDonald’s drive-thru — and a botched hit three months earlier on his son, authorities said Friday.
Herman "Taliban" Blanco, 33, of the Bronx, was arraigned Friday afternoon in Brooklyn Federal Court over his role in the Oct. 4 killing of Sylvester "Sally Daz" Zottola and the attempted slaying of Salvatore Zottola — a hit ordered in an effort to “lure out” the father, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The 71-year-old old victim, a longtime organized crime figure in the Bronx, was waiting for a cup of coffee at the fast-food restaurant when he was shot repeatedly by a gunman who fled on foot. Zottola was died at the scene.
Brooklyn gangbanger Bushawn "Shelz" Shelton, 34, was arrested last month for his alleged role in the two Zottola shootings. The complaint against Blanco was filed by an FBI agent assigned to a squad investigating Balkan and Middle Eastern organized crime.
A cooperating federal witness told authorities that Blanco approached him in the spring of this year offering cash for the killing of “John Doe #1,” the six-page complaint recounted.
“Shelton later informed the (witness) … that the purpose of killing John Doe #1 was to lure out Zottola,” the complaint alleged.
Son Salvatore Zottola, 41, though not identified by name in court papers, survived a July 11 murder attempt outside his waterfront home in the Bronx.
Court papers identified the elder Zottola as a Lucchese family associate with ties to now-imprisoned ex-Bonanno family boss Vincent "Vinnie Gorgeous" Basciano.
Authorities said telephone records indicated Blanco and Shelton shared frequent cell phone chats between March and October 2018.
And the cooperating witness in the case actually went with the two suspects to pick up a gun before driving to Salvatore Zottola’s home to lie in wait for the target. The would-be victim never appeared that day, the complaint said.
His father similarly escaped death in multiple threatening incidents over the last year, including a December 2017 attack inside his Bronx apartment where three masked invaders stabbed Sylvester Zottola repeatedly in the neck and chest.
Shelton’s wife Takeisha, in court papers filed Tuesday, sought to quash a subpoena seeking her to testify against her husband.
“As the law … makes clear, Ms. Shelton cannot be compelled to offer evidence against her husband in a criminal proceeding,” wrote her attorney Florian Miedel.
Prosecutors suggested, without identifying another suspect, that they might ask Ms. Shelton to testify against another target of the probe.
Blanco, described by prosecutors as a known Bloods member, is being held without bail.
He is also on parole for an assault and burglary conviction. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Gerdes said Blanco was released from prison last year after serving 12 years.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Genovese associate prime suspect in murder of Whitey Bulger

An ex-Mafia hitman who’s being eyed as the prime suspect in the fatal beatdown of James “Whitey” Bulger can guarantee his status as a boss behind bars — if he really was behind the infamous Boston gangster’s death.
Fotios “Freddy” Geas is suspected of rubbing out Bulger, 89, on Tuesday morning — hours after the aging mobster was transferred to Hazelton federal penitentiary in West Virginia.
“He’s a rich man now. He’ll run any prison he’s in,” a law enforcement source told MassLive.com.
Geas, 51, is serving a life sentence at Hazelton for the 2003 murders of one-time mob boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and associate Gary Westerman.
The former West Springfield, Massachusetts, resident has not disputed his role in the death of Bulger, according to the Boston Globe.
A law enforcement source said the wheelchair-bound Bulger was “badly beaten” by a group of inmates, including one who used a padlock wrapped in a sock. He was found unresponsive in his cell just after 8 a.m.
As the boss of the lucrative and violent Winter Hill Gang, Bulger cemented his crew’s position as the most powerful in Boston by secretly serving as an informant for the FBI from the mid-1970s through the ‘90s. The deal protected him from prosecution while he gleaned key information about sting operations and rival gangsters.
Geas has an open hatred for “rats” — making Bulger a prime target.
“He has great disdain for informants,” Daniel D. Kelly, a lawyer who represented both Geas and his younger brother Ty Geas in several criminal cases, told MassLive.com. “I’m not saying Freddy did this just because the media says so, I’m just telling you what I know about him.”
“Freddy is a dying breed,” added Kelly, who’s pals with Geas and frequently exchanges emails with him.
Geas has led a life of crime, with a rap sheet dating back to his teens. He and his brother Ty were convicted of killing Bruno, a Genovese capo, “cowboy style” in 2003.
Geas hired the hitman in Bruno’s murder — but shot Westerman twice in the head himself after luring him to a home in Agawam for a purported home invasion.
The Geas brothers served as hitmen for Anthony Arillotta, who became a made man in the Mafia in 2003 but then flipped by becoming an FBI informant after he and the two men were charged in Bruno’s murder.
Arillotta wound up serving 99 months in exchange for his testimony against the brothers and others and has since entered witness protection.
Geas wasn’t swayed one bit by Arillotta’s cooperation, despite knowing he was facing a life sentence, according to Kelly.
“Freddy is a man’s man,” the attorney said. “After Anthony Arillotta flipped, there was a back channel for Freddy to try to persuade him to cooperate too. He didn’t even blink an eye. He didn’t flinch. He just said no.”
The lawyer said he chatted with Geas just a few days before Bulger’s death — but only discussed typical Boston topics.
“The Patriots,” said Kelly. “We talk about sports and weather, like everyone else.”


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is murdered in prison

Notorious Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was murdered Tuesday inside a West Virginia federal prison, with a Mafia-linked inmate reportedly suspected in the slaying.
The Boston Globe reported the alleged mob hit on Bulger and the detail on the suspect as federal officials confirmed the death of the one-time organized crime kingpin. The 89-year-old Irish-American gangster was only transferred one day earlier to the high-security prison in Hazelton, W. Va.
“At approximately 8:20 a.m., inmate James Bulger was found unresponsive,” read a brief statement from the Bureau of Prisons. “Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Mr. Bulger was subsequently pronounced dead by the Preston County Medical Examiner. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified and an investigation has been initiated.”
No other details were provided surrounding his sudden, shocking and violent demise. Bulger, previously held in Florida, was convicted of 11 murders himself during his bloody reign as crime boss in his hometown of Boston.
Hazelton is home to about 1,300 inmates.
The lingering animosity between Bulger and New England’s Italian organized crime operations stems from his former positions as both head of Boston’s powerful Irish mob, the Winter Hill Gang, and his simultaneous work as informant for a local FBI agent. Most of his tips steered investigators toward the Italians, clearing the way for the blood-thirsty Bulger’s group to grab hold of the city’s illegal operations from gambling to drugs.
The corrupt relationship between the fed and the felon became the movie “Black Mass,” with Johnny Depp — hair slicked back and sunglasses perched on his nose — playing Bulger. The feds, in return for Bulger’s inside information, turned a blind eye to the brutal boss’ criminal activities.
He bolted Boston in 1995 after a warning from Agent John Connolly, who wound up behind bars over his crooked relationship with the gangster.
This file June 23, 2011, booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James "Whitey" Bulger.
This file June 23, 2011, booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James "Whitey" Bulger.
Bulger spent 16 years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after going on the lam, fleeing his hometown as the feds closed in. He was busted in 2011 in California and convicted two years later for an assortment of crimes including the homicides.
Three former Bulger associated turned rat on their old boss, who was convicted of the killings, extortion, and money-laundering on a long-awaited day of reckoning for the relatives of his victims.
His sentence at age 84: Two consecutive life terms — plus five years.
His legend only grew as Bulger evaded arrest after his disappearance, with endless reported sightings around the U.S. and the world. One tipster insisted spying Bulger inside a Boston movie theater in 2006, watching the Martin Scorsese movie “The Departed” — where Jack Nicholson played a mob boss based on the fugitive son of South Boston.
Bulger was behind only 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden for much of his time on the FBI’s list of fugitive criminals.
Bulger became a lingering embarrassment to the feds as he remained on the run, with a $2 million reward posted for information on the globe-trotting gangster. Prior to his arrest, the last confirmed Bulger sighting came in London in 2002.
He was finally busted with his long-time girlfriend Catherine Grieg in their Santa Monica, Calif., apartment — a $1,145-a-month, rent-controlled residence near the beach. Agents searching their home recovered more than $800,000 in cash and more than 30 guns, stuffed inside the walls.
Bulger’s kid brother, William Bulger, followed a different path than Whitey: He became one of the Massachusetts’ most powerful politicians, leading the state Senate for 17 years.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Another NYC mafia murder in Brooklyn

The killer struck in classic mob style: : one bullet to the head and a second shot as the coup de grace.
An elderly man with ties to organized crime got shot twice in the back of the head in a suspected wiseguy rubout in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon, police sources told The Post.
They said Vincent Zito, 77, died inside his Sheepshead Bay home on Emmons Avenue near Batchelder Street at about 3:15 p.m.
Zito’s grandson, who lives in the house, came home from school and found his grandfather’s body lying face up in the living room with a handgun next to him, according to a handyman who worked for the victim.
Cops said a pistol was recovered at the scene.
Howard Stewart, 43, said he came to the house Saturday morning to paint the grandson’s room — and was shocked when a cop answered the boy’s door.
Zito’s son Joe then broke the news.
“I said, ‘Joe what happened?’” Stewart told The Post. “He started shaking his head. I said, ‘What happened?’ He said he got two shots in the head.”
Police said there was no sign of a forced entry.
Stewart speculated that the killer must have been someone Zito knew.
“Two shots to the head? Man, it’s a setup,” he said. “There was no break-in. It’s someone he knew.”
Though police believe there is a Mafia connection to the hit, it’s unclear with what family Zito might have been affiliated, sources said.
Zito had an older brother, Anthony Zito, 82, who has ties to the Lucchese clan and was jailed in 1971 for extortion, according to a published report.
Zito himself was arrested for loan sharking in the past, it said.
Still, Stewart remembered Zito as a kind-hearted old man known as “Pop” to his family.
“He would give you everything,” Stewart said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. I don’t know why someone would want to hurt him.”
But not everyone shared the admiration.
A neighbor remembered him as a “snake,” who sold him a can of gasoline for $100 while the man was trying to help clear water during Hurricane Sandy. .
“I was so mad at him,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be named. “I was pumping water for all the neighborhood. He sold me gas, $100 [for a gallon].”
The man said Zito was known in the neighborhood as a schemer. “He is not a good guy,” the neighbor said.
Stewart added that he thinks Zito’s home-security system will help cops track down the shooter.
“There are two cameras outside and one inside, so they might see who knocked on the door,” he said. “They might capture something.”
The cameras on the house were visible from the street on Saturday, with one positioned so that it would capture footage of anyone entering or leaving the front of the house.
A second camera was trained on a door at the back of the house.
There’s also an ADT alarm system sticker at the bottom of the front door.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

High ranking Bloods gang member arrested for murder of Bonanno associate

When investigators found $45,000 in cash inside the Brooklyn apartment of a man they suspected might be linked to last week’s killing of a reputed mobster, the man’s grandmother offered an explanation.
The money had turned up in the last week, she told investigators, and it came from her grandson’s T-shirt business.
Federal prosecutors had a different theory: The man, Bushawn Shelton, 34, was a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang, and had taken part in a plot to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola, a father and son who were reputed to be associates of the Bonanno crime family.
On Thursday, Mr. Shelton, who is known as “Shelz,” was arrested and charged in United States District Court in Brooklyn with federal conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and brandishing a firearm.

A law enforcement source confirmed Mr. Shelton is suspected in connection with the murder of Sylvester Zottola, 71, who was gunned down outside a Bronx McDonald’s last week, even though he was not specifically charged with that crime. Mr. Zottola’s son, Salvatore, 41, also barely escaped a botched attempt on his life earlier this year.
Prosecutors said the search executed at Mr. Shelton’s home earlier on Thursday not only uncovered the $45,000 in bills but also loaded firearms.
The charges against Mr. Shelton signaled a break for investigators in a frustrating case, though it still left many questions unanswered. For nearly a year, Mr. Zottola and his son had been hunted by shadowy assassins on the streets of the Bronx. It was a pursuit law enforcement officials suspected stemmed from the pair’s well-documented connections to New York’s organized crime families.
A criminal complaint said Mr. Shelton was part of a murder-for-hire plot targeting the Zottolas over a nearly five-month period ending with a botched July 11 assassination attempt against the younger Zottola outside of the family’s compound in the Throgs Neck neighborhood. Neither Zottola is named in the complaint, but a law enforcement official confirmed the anonymous John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 cited in the document refer to them.
Mr. Shelton is accused of paying another man to try to kill the pair and providing him with getaway drivers and firearms to carry out the plot. But the hired hitman was arrested, pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators against Mr. Shelton, the complaint said.
Who initially hired Mr. Shelton, and why they wanted the Zottolas dead, remains a mystery. Court documents make no mention of a motive. Sworn testimony indicates the case was investigated by the F.B.I.’s Balkan and Middle Eastern organized crime squad, bolstering theories that the Zottolas may have somehow crossed an Albanian organized crime group.
For years, the Zottolas fostered close ties to the Luchese and Bonanno crime families, providing and maintaining electronic gambling machines for mob-controlled hubs in New Jersey.
The elder Mr. Zottola had a particularly close relationship with Vincent J. Basciano, who led the Bonanno crime family in the early 2000s before being convicted of racketeering and murder. At the turn of the millennium, Sylvester Zottola allowed Mr. Basciano’s girlfriend, Debra Kalb, to live at his compound in the Bronx, according to court transcripts.
But the elder Mr. Zottola’s ties to organized crime extended beyond the Bonanno family. He had a long history with the Lucheses, according to an investigator who handles Mafia inquiries but was not involved in the murder case, and an F.B.I. report that summarizes the agency’s debriefing of a high-ranking Bonanno crime family figure.
The investigator said Mr. Zottola also had ties to the Genovese crime family: He had grown up with Pasquale Falcetti, a soldier from the Genovese family’s East Harlem crew who was known as “The Clubber.”
Mr. Shelton is expected to appear in court for a detention hearing on Friday.


Philadelphia boss Skinny Joey Merlino sentenced to two years in prison

The reputed head of the Philadelphia mob was slapped with a maximum sentence of two years for illegal gambling Wednesday during a raucous proceeding in which one of his supporters loudly called the judge “a rat bastard.”
Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino pleaded guilty in April to a single count of running an illegal gambling business after a jury deadlocked on more serious racketeering charges.
Judge Richard Sullivan said that after sitting through the trial he had no reservations giving Merlino the maximum sentence.
“I certainly would have given you more than 24 (months), this is not a bad deal,” Sullivan said, crediting Merlino’s attorneys.

But the sentence didn’t go well with one of Merlino’s supporters in the audience, who complained that Sullivan’s lengthy rundown of the accused mobster’s past was “all for show.”
“It’s all bullsh--,” the man said. “Rat bastard.”
Sullivan then spoke to the man directly.
“Do you want to take over? Is there something you want to say?” Sullivan said. “It’s unfortunate people here think they can take over the proceeding.”
The judge then asked his deputy to call the court marshals, but the man left before they arrived. He declined comment while smoking a cigarette outside the courthouse.
Merlino’s attorney, Edwin Jacobs, had argued that Merlino was roped into an alleged racket involving pain cream by a gangland snitch, John "Junior" Rubeo.
During the proceeding, Sullivan said the trial had showed that Merlino was “a player” — but had not shown that he was the head of the Philly mob.
As Merlino left the courthouse smoking a cigarette, another of his supporters called reporters “vultures” and told them to “get a real job.”
Prosecutors had alleged Merlino returned to his life of crime after he finished a prison sentence in 2011 for racketeering and moved to Boca Raton, Fla.
Merlino, meanwhile, said he agreed with the commander-in-chief’s attitude about cooperating witnesses.
“President Trump was right. They need to outlaw the flippers,” Merlino said with a chuckle.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bonanno gangster fatally shot at Bronx McDonald's drive thru

A reputed mobster — whose son was injured during an attempted hit job three months ago — was blasted to death at a McDonald’s drive thru in the Bronx on Thursday, sources said.
Sylvester Zottola, 71, a Bonanno crime family associate, was shot in the head and chest and shoulder while sitting in his car outside the fast food restaurant at Webster Avenue and Belmont Street at around 4:45 p.m., according to law enforcement sources.
Sylvester had been roughed up three times in the past year. His son, 41-year-old Salvatore Zottola, was injured when a gunman opened fire on him outside his Bronx home on July 11.
The July shooting was captured on surveillance video, but the younger Zottola did not cooperate with authorities and no arrests were made, sources said.
Investigators believe the attack on Salvatore was intended to be a message to his father, who received his own share of attempted assaults.
In September 2017, the elder Zottola was walking near his Bronx home when an assailant clubbed him over the head, sources said.
Two months later, a gun-wielding thug tried unsuccessfully to force Sylvester Zottola into a car at Meagher Avenue and the Throgs Neck Expressway, sources added.
The most vicious run-in came on a late December night when Sylvester Zottola walked in on three burglars ransacking his home.
One burglar pulled a knife and stabbed Zottola in the neck, putting him in critical condition in Jacobi Medical Center.
No arrests had been made Thursday evening in Zottola’s slaying.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Five Families of today are keeping quiet

Meet the new mob — same as the old mob.
Thirty-three years after John Gotti carried out his audacious hit on crime boss Paul Castellano, which flouted Mafia rules and brought a wave of devastating prosecutions under the Dapper Don’s brash reign, New York’s five crime families have reverted to their old-guard ways.
They’re keeping quiet.
No more press conferences or TV appearances. No more weekly meetings with capos at favorite restaurants or social clubs. No more shootouts between warring factions. No more wire rooms for taking wagers.
Instead, gangsters try to keep their heads down and earn as they’ve done for decades, with drug dealing, loan-sharking, running strip clubs and protection rackets and skimming from union construction jobs, cops and prosecutors say. Bookmaking is still a lively trade, but most of it is done online using offshore accounts, not at smoke-filled gambling dens.
Crimefighters say the new old way is aimed at avoiding police scrutiny and preventing turncoats from selling out their fellow wiseguys.
“Everybody’s a rat,” said an ex-NYPD detective who continues to track mob business. “You can’t trust anybody anymore.”
Lieutenants and soldiers avoid gathering in groups so as to be less vulnerable to the wiretap or surveillance photo. And with suspicion permeating all activity, families have turned to veteran, low-profile leaders, including geezer gangsters Carmine Persico, 85, and John “Sonny” Franzese, 101, who hated Gotti’s gabby flamboyance. All these years later, those two are calling the shots for the Colombos, albeit from jail in Persico’s case. (Franzese got sprung last year.)
This more careful approach to La Cosa Nostra — this thing of ours — has the Mafia looking to bounce back.
There’s no clearer sign of the times than the leadership change in the Gambino family, which was once dominated by John Gotti’s outsized exuberance. The late Gotti’s jailed brother Peter remained in charge till 2015, but they have a new boss in Frank Cali, who according to one law-enforcement source is the exact opposite of the Teflon Don because “no one ever sees him.”
Cali, 53, who lives in Staten Island and has deep ties to Sicilian wiseguys, infused the family with “zips” — hoodlums from the old country — and bulked up its heroin and OxyContin business. But he avoids regular sitdowns with his capos, a tradition John Gotti embraced, preferring to communicate less frequently with a select few of his top people.
Even the recently released Gene Gotti, John’s 71-year-old brother, who spent 29 years in jail for heroin dealing after the feds caught him blabbing on tape, may have trouble challenging Cali’s rule. “He is everything over there,” said a gangster in Italy who was recorded raving about Cali’s standing in New York, the feds said.
He’s also kept his nose relatively clean. Cali has just one criminal conviction: a federal extortion charge in 2008 involving an attempt to shake down a trucker working at a proposed NASCAR race track in Staten Island. Though hit with 80 counts that also netted 62 other alleged hoods and associates, Cali did just 16 months in prison.
“The Gambinos are running smoothly — gambling, pills, construction unions, etcetera,” one law-enforcement official told The Post. “The last thing they want is someone to put them back in the papers and on TV.”
Secrecy is key to the success of the Genoveses, the biggest and most powerful of New York’s five families.
They engage in the same activities as others — loan-sharking, extortion — but it’s common for their soldiers to not even know the full names of the bosses they work for or other criminal associates, experts say.
Being extra careful, however, isn’t always enough.
In January, the feds busted Joseph “Joe C” Cammarano Jr., the boss of the ultra-cautious Bonanno family, on charges of murder conspiracy, extortion, drug dealing and loan-sharking. The 58-year-old godfather, a Navy vet whose underboss dad died in jail, had taken the reins of the operation three years ago, vowing to revive the organization.
He and his crew of cronies, including Pete Rose’s former bookie, constantly fretted over rats in their ranks, prosecutors said, following a tide of turncoat testimony over the years, starting with FBI mole Joe Pistone, aka “Donnie Brasco,” and ultimately including boss Joseph Massino.
The Luccheses also got hit last May, when current boss Steven “Wonder Boy” Crea got busted on racketeering and murder charges, along with 17 other family members or associates, including Crea’s son, Steven Crea Jr.
Despite those takedowns, there’s still plenty of money to be made among the bent-nose set. Strict regulations that went into effect following the mortgage meltdown provided a nice boost to the business of street loans — fast cash at an exorbitant rate.
“Things are tight with banks these days, so if you’re running a business and need a loan, you might be willing to pay the 3 percent weekly vig,” said the former NYPD detective, referring to the usurious interest that mob lenders charge.
Gambling continues to rake it in.
“The Internet is an important tool for the business and a lot of them use it for Internet gambling,” mob author Selwyn Raab told Rolling Stone.
“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 … It’s big, it’s a lot of money.
And if you’re putting up a Manhattan skyscraper, chances are some of your construction budget finds its way into mobsters’ pockets.
That’s because Mafia honchos retain influence in the trade unions, which allows them to finagle deals in which builders pay union rates for jobs that then go to non-union workers, who are willing to take less. Wiseguys pocket the difference. They also tack on extras to every bag of concrete purchased for the project.
It helps that law-enforcement’s top priority is terrorism, not the Mafia. Following 9/11, the combined organized-crime fighting forces of the FBI and NYPD in New York went from 300 or 400 agents, down to 20 or 30, according to Raab. “When you don’t have the personnel, you’re not going to have the indictments or convictions,” he said.
Even so, old-time wiseguys lament that much of the culture of La Cosa Nostra sleeps with the fishes.
There’s very little communication among the five families, for example. Previously, when an associate or aspiring gangster was proposed for official membership, all the families had to give their OK. “Now they’re not passing the lists around to each other,” said one source. “The Colombos just made about half a dozen guys but they didn’t tell the other families.”
Many of those coming into the life aren’t of the same sturdy stuff as during the Mafia’s heyday, insiders say.
“They had to lower their standards when making people,” said another law-enforcement source, noting that fewer people are joining the mob — and many are leaving it.
They’ve also disappeared from neighborhoods that loved their lore.
“Little Italy, where you used to have all the social clubs, is nothing more than a collection of restaurants,” said Raab. “Same thing in Bensonhurst [Brooklyn]. They no longer live there and don’t have to operate there.”
And there’s less violence. If a lesson can be learned from Gotti’s bloody run or the ruinous Colombo internal war of the 1980s, it’s that murder is bad for business. Nor is there much threat of retribution, should one get caught and turn state’s evidence against former associates.
Gene Gotti went down in part because of the cooperation of Lewis Kasman, John’s former trusted aide, who sat for an interview with this reporter in Florida in 2012. Kasman feared for his life but was not in witness protection.
The same goes for Chris Paciello, a close associate of the Bonannos and Gambinos, who was responsible for putting away 70 top wiseguys, including Bonanno boss Massino, according to his lawyer, Ben Brafman. Paciello, who’s dated Madonna and Sofia Vergara, is hardly in hiding. He runs a nightclub in Miami’s South Beach.
And the most infamous mob rat of all, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, the homicidal underboss whose testimony put former best friend John Gotti in jail, is alive and well. And free as a bird.
Even with all the changes in the Mafia, some things remain the same.
“They’re still part of the fabric of New York City,” said a law-enforcement source. “They’re never going to go away.”