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Monday, March 2, 2015

New York Assembly Speaker accepted campaign cash from Bonanno gangster

The state’s newly minted Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, accepted cash from a mobster convicted of racketeering and steered thousands more to a man who did time for manslaughter, records show.
Between 2003 and 2008, more than $2,800 flowed into the Bronx Democrat’s campaign coffers from Tri-State Employment Services and its top executives, including reputed Bonanno associate Neil Messina, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison last April in connection with a 1992 home-invasion murder.
Heastie also directed at least $250,000 to the Bronx Business Alliance. The now-defunct non-profit’s head, John Bonizio, was convicted of manslaughter in 1982 for bludgeoning a man to death with a baseball bat. Bonizio also made a plea deal after being indicted in the same year for trying to bribe an NYPD detective.
“Associations like these seriously undermine his attempts to show that the Assembly Democrats have turned the page,” a Democratic operative said of Heastie.
“As someone who is totally undefined in the public eye, this is a troubling first impression.”
Heastie took over as Assembly speaker last month amid corruption charges against former Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Silver was arrested by the FBI in January for allegedly accepting nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks dating back to at least 2000.
Since 2000, Heastie has represented the northeast Bronx neighborhoods of Edenwald, Wakefield and Baychester, and currently serves as chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, a post he eventually plans to give up.
Heastie said through a spokesman he did not know of Bonizio’s brutal crime, which was reported in newspaper accounts in 1989, or of Messina’s reputed ties to the Bonanno family.
“These contributions were made years ago, before the accusations, and [Heastie] will be donating them to charity,” spokesman Michael Whyland said. “The Speaker has no input regarding the makeup of the [Bronx Business Alliance] board.”
Heastie did not receive campaign contributions from Bonizio, state financial-disclosure records show. But Bonizio hasn’t been quiet when it comes to political money. He’s shoveled campaign cash to Mayor de Blasio, and to Council members Ritchie Torres and Annabel Palma, according to city campaign-finance records.
Bonizio told The Post he’s paid his debt to society and hasn’t done anything wrong for the last 35 years.
Messina went to federal prison last year for racketeering in connection with the 1992 home invasion death of a Brooklyn man. He served as president of a key division of Tri-State, which failed to disclose to the city and state that he’d been charged. The city recently announced it was cancelling a $10 million contract with Tri-State.
The downtown Manhattan firm did not return calls.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Additional charges expected against Bonanno captain charged in Lufthansa heist case

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Prosecutors plan to hit the Bonanno gangster charged in the infamous Lufthansa airport heist with new charges in a superseding indictment.

Reputed capo Vincent Asaro, 79, looked gaunt and shivered uncontrollably as his lawyer argued for a postponement of the racketeering trial scheduled for July in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri did not disclose the nature of the two additional counts he will be facing, but they must be of some vintage because she said the evidence is contained on cassette tapes and must be converted to modern media.

Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino and Joe Pesci starred in 'Goodfellas', 1990, about the Kennedy Airport heist.

Asaro is expected to be hit with two additional charges.

The feds have a lineup of rats including ex-Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, ex-underboss Salvatore Vitale and Asaro's cousin Gaspar Valenti to link him to the $6 million Kennedy Airport robbery carried out in 1978 and immortalized in the film "Goodfellas."

Asaro is also charged with the gangland murder of mob associate Paul Katz which was carried out as a favor to Lucchese mobster James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, who was portrayed by actor Robert DeNiro in "Goodfellas." Asaro's son Jerome pleaded guilty last year to digging up Katz's remains and moving the evidence from the basement of a Queens house owned by Burke in the 1980s.

Outside court, defense lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio said her client has a litany of medical problems but attributed the shivering to him simply feeling cold in the courtroom.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Federal court rejects Lucchese mobster's appeal
A reputed underboss in the Lucchese crime family serving a life sentence had his appeal dismissed by a federal court Thursday.

Martin R. Taccetta, 63, was originally convicted in state Superior Court of racketeering and theft charges in 1993, in a case surrounding the 1984 golf-club beating death of Ocean County businessman Vincent "Jimmy Sinatra" Craparotta.

Taccetta was acquitted on the murder charge against him, but convicted on the other counts. Since the first-degree racketeering charge involved violent crimes, a judge sentenced him to life in prison under state law.

Maintaining he had no part in the murder, Taccetta appealed the sentence for more than a decade, saying his attorney gave him bad advice on how long his prison sentence could be of convicted.

Taccetta was released from prison in December 2005, when a Superior Court judge ordered that he was entitled to a new trial. He was sent back to prison after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against him in 2009.

On Thursday, the federal judges said Taccetta, who was challenging the constitutionality of his sentence, should continue serving that sentence.

"Taccetta has... failed to show that any constitutional tension created by the New Jersey Supreme Court's opinion violated clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court," the federal judges wrote in their opinion.

Taccetta, of East Hanover, was reputedly part of the Lucchese crime family's New Jersey branch.

At the time, the charges against Taccetta were part of the longest trial in American history, according to reports of the time. The subject became a 1995 book called "The Boys from New Jersey," by former Star-Ledger reporter Robert Rudolph.

Attorneys for Taccetta could not be reached today by phone.

Steven Yomtov, the deputy attorney general who handled the federal appeal, said Taccetta could potentially file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this result was gratifying, he said.

"I believe the Third Circuit reached the correct decision," Yomtov said.

Taccetta has been serving his life sentence at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton since July 2009, a corrections spokeswoman confirmed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Junior Gotti says he lied to the feds and he is not a rat

John (Junior) Gotti says of his 2005 sitdown with the feds: 'No one got indicted. No one suffered but me.'

John "Junior" Gotti wants to make one thing perfectly clear — he’s not a rat.

In a sitdown with the Daily News, the mob scion and his lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman gave their most detailed explanation to date of Gotti’s stunning decision to sit down with federal prosecutors in 2005 for a proffer session where he discussed crimes of his own — and of other mobsters in the Gambino crime family.

But he insists the “rat” label is unfair, because he intentionally provided bad information to the feds he felt sick talking to.

“No one got indicted,” said Gotti, who recently published a memoir titled “Shadow of My Father.”

“No one suffered but me.”

Gotti acknowledged that his old-school father, the late Gambino boss John Gotti, would never have approved of the legal strategy. But Junior said he was in a bad place at the time.

He was facing trial on racketeering and stock fraud charges that could put him away for 100 years if he were convicted. Gotti was furious over the indictment because he thought federal prosecutors had given him coverage on those alleged charges from a prior plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Gotti said he planned to give the feds information that was either useless or out-and-out false, and refused to ever testify against anyone. He hoped that prosecutors would give him a sweetheart plea deal while he would get two of his archenemies, reputed capo Daniel Marino and associate Joseph "Joe the German" Watts, jammed up with the feds.

The plan made no sense to anyone except Gotti — and got him excoriated as a “rat” by his ex-underling John Alite.

Joseph "Joe the German" Watts was an archenemy of Gotti.

Alite cut a deal to get out of prison and somehow got ahold of the five-page summary of Gotti’s blabbing, and published the secret FBI report in his memoir, “Gotti’s Rules.”

“I gave (prosecutors) inaccurate information,” Gotti insisted. “I’m not proud of this. To this day it still bothers me. I will never, ever, ever be a cooperator. I made a mistake. Just the fact that I was in the room with them (feds) made me physically sick. I gamed them and gamed myself.

Just the fact that I was in the room with them (feds) made me physically sick. I gamed them and gamed myself.

“That was 45 minutes I’m still paying for. Not one person was incarcerated. I never even offered to be debriefed, I refused to ever testify and I even walked in with my own script of notes to just give them information on a handful of useless subjects and false information.”

Lichtman said he was initially against the idea of his client meeting with prosecutors but came around when he was able to work out unique ground rules: Gotti would not discuss the pending charges in the indictment and would only talk about subjects of his own choosing.

Gotti speaks to the press from his home in 2009.

“The information he wanted to provide was useless as it was either beyond the statute of limitations, insignificant state crimes or, as I learned afterward, actually filled with falsehoods,” Lichtman told The News.

“It was an utter scam in the sense that it was not a real proffer — it was a ‘meet and greet’ with our providing some token good faith with this information. What he did, I learned later, was putting people into crimes who were already dead.”

Lichtman was referring to Gotti’s recounting of the 2003 murder of Danny Silva in a Queens bar.

Gotti claimed among those involved in the melee was Joey Curio — but Gotti said he knew full well that Curio wasn’t there because he had been slain three years earlier.

“It was an utter and complete farce,” Lichtman said of the proffer.

“I didn’t know he was going to lie, but we were clear with each other that he was going to give them bulls — that couldn’t go anywhere. In the end, he felt that by just going in as a Gotti for a proffer he might be able to hurt his enemies. It was a crazy idea and once we refused to go back for another debriefing that was the end of it and we mercifully could start and finish trial preparation.”

Gotti can’t be prosecuted for providing the feds with phony info, because the statute of limitations has run out.

Two former federal prosecutors who attended the session declined to comment on Gotti’s assertions.

Gotti, who turned 51 on Valentine’s Day, also gave The News his first public explanation of his mysterious stabbing outside a Long Island drugstore in 2013.

He said he was wounded breaking up a fight between two crackheads he knew — and has no regrets.

“If I had to do it all over again I would,” Gotti said.

Gotti was stabbed in the parking lot of a CVS drugstore in Syosset in 2013.

Daniel Marino was another mob foe.

Gotti refused to cooperate with Nassau County cops and prosecutors investigating the Nov. 10, 2013, stabbing in the parking lot of a CVS drugstore in Syosset.

Adding to the mystery, there were no witnesses, no surveillance video cameras at the parking lot, and cops found no bloodstains.

Gotti said he was home watching the Sunday night football game between the Saints and the Cowboys when “someone I’ve known my whole life called and said he had a problem at the CVS parking lot in Syosset just 2 miles from my house and asked for my help.”

“I got to the parking lot and two guys were fighting. I knew both of them,” he said, adding that they were “crackheads.”

“I tried to break up the fight and one of them pulled out a knife, swung it wildly, and the knife caught me in my lower abdomen,” he said. “The second cut missed my heart and caught the back of my stomach, about 4 inches deep.”

Gotti drove himself to Syosset Hospital, where he underwent surgery. While he was recovering in the hospital, he used the alias “Critical Kane” for privacy, he said.

“The one person who got me involved apologized for it, but I still don’t know which of the two stabbed me,” Gotti said.

Gotti explained that he did not meet with authorities because the stabbing was “a complete and total accident.” His wife, though, took a dimmer view of his rush to be a good Samaritan.

“The way my wife looks at it, ‘After all, you’ve been through, to be laying dead in a parking lot?’ ” Gotti said.

Who is in charge of the Philadelphia crime family?

"Skinny Joey" Merlino (right) is serving a four-month prison sentence in Miami on a parole violation. He says Philly isn´t in his postprison plans. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
WHO'S really in charge of the Philly mob?

For the past few years, the answer might've depended on where you looked or whom you asked.

Prosecutors. FBI agents. Street word. Underworld informants. Beat cops. Wiretapped conversations. Gamblers. Defense attorneys who will look you in the eye and swear that the Mafia ain't real.

Some say Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, 75, still runs the show. The low-key acting boss returned to Packer Park a year ago after spending 32 months in federal custody through two racketeering trials on a 2011 indictment. He survived both trials. Survival is Ligambi's strong suit.

Others say that 1990s-era boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino is the ultimate shot-caller and continues to exert influence from Florida - when he's not posing for Instagram photos on the beach or schmoozing with diners at his swanky Italian restaurant in Boca Raton.

Or maybe Merlino, 52, currently on a four-month "vacation" at a Miami prison, delegated power to his South Philadelphia allies because the terms of his probation had barred him from associating with known felons.

Now, a new picture of the Philly mob hierarchy is emerging. Law-enforcement officials believe that the crime family's current boss is actually more of a committee - a three-headed mobster, if you will - consisting of Steve Mazzone, John "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini and Philip Narducci.

Ligambi, wary of getting indicted again and dying in jail, is said to be semiretired, serving in a capacity similar to consigliere, or high-ranking adviser.

It's a somewhat unusual, and possibly volatile, power-sharing arrangement. These triumvirates don't usually end well. Check your Roman history.

Who are these guys?

Mazzone and Ciancaglini are both Merlino allies who were convicted of racketeering alongside Merlino in 2001.

Mazzone, 50, was released from prison in 2009. He said at a probation-violation hearing the following year that he had been working as a trainer in a South Philly gym. He reputedly served as underboss to Merlino in the 1990s.

Ciancaglini, 59, a former soldier in Merlino's crew, more recently ran a newsstand on Packer Avenue outside Chickie's & Pete's. Ciancaglini and Merlino were spotted together in June at Havana Nights Cigar Bar & Lounge, in Boca Raton.

Narducci, 52, is more complicated. He's a former member of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo's crew who has spent half his life in prison and has been described by both law-enforcement and underworld sources as a cold-blooded gangster unlikely to take orders from Merlino or his associates.

"He's a stone killer. He's a real tough guy and won't put up with any s---," said Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, Scarfo's nephew who served as his underboss in the 1980s.

Scarfo ordered the 1982 murder of Narducci's father, mob captain Frank "Chickie" Narducci Sr., in response to the father's role in the nail-bomb hit of mob boss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa.

Philip Narducci somehow took it all in stride, Leonetti said.

"We did kill his father and we told him that. We told him that's what happens and he understood it," Leonetti said of Narducci.

Narducci even went to work for Scarfo. Or, as one law-enforcement official recently put it, "He killed guys for the guy that killed his father."

Narducci, whose family runs Philip's Steaks (damn good cheesesteak, by the way) on West Passyunk Avenue, was convicted in the 1985 mob hit of bookmaker Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso. That conviction later was overturned, but he stayed in prison until 2012 following his 1989 conviction on separate federal charges.

At his sentencing that year, federal prosecutors said that Narducci shot Joseph Salerno Sr., the father of a murder witness, in 1982; helped kill mob associate Salvatore Tamburrino in front of his mother in 1983, and took part in the beating of an extortion victim who refused to pay up, among other crimes.

U.S. District Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen handed Narducci the maximum 40-year sentence. "The picture that I get is that of a violent person," Antwerpen said.

Narducci did not respond to requests for comment, but mob lawyer Joseph Santaguida, who has represented the family in the past, insisted last week that Narducci has not returned to his old ways.

"It's a disgrace what they're saying. Something about three people running the mob," Santaguida said. "He just got married. He's got a good business. He doesn't need any of that. He's not involved in anything."

"If you believe that, you believe in Santa Claus. I got a bridge to sell you," said Stephen LaPenta, a retired Philadelphia police lieutenant and former organized-crime investigator in New Jersey. "Sons follow in their fathers' footsteps in 'this thing of theirs,' La Cosa Nostra."

Leonetti, author of Mafia Prince, a book about his life in the mob, said he also doubts that Narducci has gone legit after 25 years in prison. His book includes a passage about how Narducci, at age 19, shot Salerno Sr. in the neck when he opened the door of his Wildwood Crest hotel.

"I think after doing all that time he feels he's owed something, that money on the street," Leonetti said of Narducci. "He's part of the family. He kept his mouth shut."

David Fritchey, chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, declined to comment on the apparent shift in mob leadership.

Tough road ahead

It's no secret that the Philadelphia mob isn't raking in stacks of cash as in the glory days, but law-enforcement officials say it remains a viable criminal organization that generates illegal revenue through bookmaking, loan-sharking and good-old shakedowns.

"They're still in business," a law-enforcement official said. "They haven't gone straight."

But with members of Scarfo's crew and Merlino's crew both rejoining the ranks, more gangsters could be fighting for less cash, setting up possible clashes between those factions - and even within them.

LaPenta said that returning members might make trouble if they overreach or feel slighted. Most of them, he said, "have the intellectual capacity of an agave plant."

Ligambi's nephew, onetime consigliere George Borgesi, 51, was released last year after doing 14 years in prison and beating the latest indictment. Marty Angelina, 52, a mob soldier who allegedly tried to muscle in on Borgesi's gambling and loan-sharking turf while Borgesi was jailed, is in a halfway house and will be out soon.

That could be a problem. Both were convicted alongside Merlino in 2001, but both are also notorious hotheads.

Some law-enforcement officials believe that Borgesi might have been behind Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello's unsuccessful attempt in 2008 to hire someone to have Angelina "beat up really bad" - a conversation that was picked up by an informant wearing a body wire. Monacello, who later become a government witness, was handling Borgesi's mob business while Borgesi was incarcerated.

"That's going to be interesting," a law-enforcement official said of the Borgesi-Angelina situation.

Then there are Narducci and the old-school Scarfo soldiers like Joe "Joey Punge" Pungitore. Some of them have a bad history with Merlino.

"Joey Pungitore hates Merlino. He hates his guts," Leonetti said. "Merlino robbed Pungitore's house while his mother was asleep on the couch. All her jewelry was gone. Pungitore told me that himself."

In less than three months, Merlino will exit the federal detention center in Miami and be beyond the government's reach for the first time since 1999. No probation officer, no restrictions on where he can travel or with whom he can associate.

"We won't know where Merlino is laying his head after he gets released. He can walk out of prison and walk into a car and where he goes no one knows," a law-enforcement official said. "He'll be back, without a doubt."

An ex-associate of the Philadelphia mob who spoke with the Daily News on the condition of anonymity (for obvious reasons) said he fully expects Merlino to get back into the game, even if the playing field in Philadelphia has shrunk.

"It's kind of like a sickness. You can have everything in the world going for you, but for some reason everyone wants to keep coming back here, where they know everyone and everyone knows them," the former associate said. "Who the hell wants to come back here? It don't make sense."

Merlino, who was slapped with the latest four-month prison term after he was caught associating with Ciancaglini in June, has insisted that he's focused solely on working as the maitre d' at the new Florida restaurant bearing his family name. They serve dishes inspired by his mother, Rita.

He says he has no plans to return to Philly.

"I need a vacation after working so hard at the best restaurant in Florida, Merlino's Restaurant," he texted last month before reporting to the Miami prison.

There are also rumors that the feds are trying to build a new case against Merlino, but it's unclear how far along the investigation is, or whether it will result in an indictment.

When a federal prosecutor recently claimed that Merlino is still an active mafioso, Merlino responded: "The guy's mental."

People have been saying for years that the Philly mob is dead or dying. The question now is whether the next boss proves to be a doctor or an undertaker.

"I think it's kind of seen its day and gone. Nobody is lighting the world on fire. I don't see anyone with a significant amount of money," the former mob associate said.

"Not bigger than U.S. Steel," he said, chuckling at the quote from "The Godfather: Part II."

"That's for sure."

Firm under investigation for employing Bonanno gangster

The city and state are investigating a government contractor for allegedly failing to disclose that a convicted Bonanno family racketeer and accused murderer had held a top position in the company.

The Post reported on Tuesday that Tri-State Employment Services landed $45 million in government contracts since 1996.

But in 2012, company officials filled out government papers without revealing that Neil Messina — busted in connection with a fatal 1992 Brooklyn home invasion the year before — had served as a division president from 1997 to 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He was sentenced in 2014 sentenced to an 18-year-prison term.

“The city is reviewing the contracts,” mayoral spokesman Phil Walzak said Tuesday.

The company, which provides temporary worker and consulting services, currently has a contract with the city’s Department of Social Services worth $10.3 million.

There is also another open contract with the state Office of General Services for $300,000.

“We will be asking the state Inspector General and other appropriate law enforcement officials to review the facts in this situation,” said Heather Groll, a spokeswoman from the state agency. “No money has been paid on this contract, and ‎we will ask the state Comptroller’s office to stop any outstanding payments until this matter is cleared up.”

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli blamed the Cuomo administration for the embarrassment.

“The governor removed our review from centralized contracts like this in 2012,” said DiNapoli spokeswoman Kate Gurnett. “We argued against that. As a result, we never reviewed this 2012 contract.”

But Tri-State brass never mentioned Messina’s charges from the year before when they filed state vendor responsibility forms in February 2012. City vendor questionnaires also included no mention of Messina, a source said.

Tri-State president Robert Cassera did not return calls over two days.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Firm failed to disclose that murderous Bonanno family gangster was on payroll

Firm with gov‘t contracts ‘hired’ accused killer, mobster
A Manhattan firm that has received more than $45 million in city and state contracts had an accused killer and Bonanno family mobster working as the president of a key division — but failed to reveal his criminal past on state disclosure forms, sources told The Post.

Neil Messina, 52, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison last April for his role in a botched 1992 home invasion robbery that left a man and his German shepherd dead.

But Tri-State Employment Services — which provides temps, consultants and other business services to a host of city and state agencies — never mentioned his January 2011 arrest on a murder charge when it filed vendor responsibility forms with the state comptroller in February 2012.

The forms require prospective contractors to disclose whether any of their officials were under investigation or had been charged with any crimes over the previous five years.

Susan Kennedy, Tri-State’s VP of Government Sales, answered “no” and provided no information about Messina’s widely publicized arrest.

“Everybody knew who he was,” said one source with knowledge of the company’s inner workings. “It certainly raised some eyebrows.”

Potential penalties could include contract termination, according to the state comptroller’s Web site.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Messina served as president of the company’s “professional employer organization” division from 1997 to 2011.

The feds described him as an associate of the Bonanno crime family.

Tri-State has raked in the $45 million for scores of contracts awarded since 1996, including a $10.3 million deal with the city’s Department of Social Services to assign temporary workers, a $49,000 contract with the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation for consulting work, and a $300,000 contract with the state Office of General Services for administrative services.

A spokesperson for general services said, “If true, the contract will be terminated immediately.”

In a deal with Brooklyn federal prosecutors, Messina, wound up pleading guilty to racketeering charges in the 1992 Brooklyn home invasion and murder of Joseph Pistone and his beloved dog, King.

Pistone was killed during the robbery when two Messina accomplices searched for cash they thought was hidden in the house.

Messina, who said he was only the getaway driver, was one of nearly 100 wiseguys rounded up by the feds in January 2011.

Tri-State founder and president Robert Cassera, did not return calls for comment and didn’t respond to messages left at his office.

Gerald McMahon, Messina’s lawyer in the Pistone case, declined to comment.