Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Friday, January 6, 2017
A key figure in the colorful bygone era of organized crime – a world filled with federal accusations of embezzling, loansharking and plenty of violence – has died.
Leonard F. Falzone, once described by a federal judge as a complex "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" character, died Saturday in his Amherst home. He was 81.
A longtime top official of Laborers Local 210, Falzone was a polarizing figure in the federal government's war against racketeering, loansharking and organized crime.
A tall, powerfully built man, he inspired loyalty from most of his associates while fending off federal agents' efforts to link him to local organized crime for 25 years, starting around 1970.
To some, Falzone was a “puppy dog,” a loving family man with a contagious laugh who helped keep kids out of trouble and still sent Valentine’s Day hearts to his four sisters in their adult years.
But he had another side, as a key figure in the notorious Laborers Local 210, a man closely watched and followed by the FBI for decades and finally convicted on racketeering charges in 1994.
“There is a dark side to you, Mr. Falzone,” the judge told him at his January 1995 sentencing. “The court does not question that you are a caring, loyal father and husband... But you’re a complex man, almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Federal agents and prosecutors devoted great resources -- and a couple decades -- trying to implicate him in several violent acts, but they never succeeded. His lone conviction, on the racketeering charges, led to a five-year prison sentence.
Falzone had passed from public view more than 20 years before he died. His thick Buffalo News file contains not a single story after 1996.
"He served out his retirement years going to his grandchildren's sporting events and being with his family," said an attorney who represented him for decades. That attorney and another person quoted in this story agreed to talk only if they weren't named.
His trial and conviction
More than two decades ago, the Falzone name became a symbol for the government's battle against organized crime.
"The vestiges of what once was an infamous era of organized crime are dissipating with the deaths of people like Leonard Falzone," said one former reporter who covered organized crime. "You can't deny the fact that he was a reputed insider in the Buffalo organized-crime family."
Born on Jan. 26, 1935 in Buffalo, one of seven children whose parents were Sicilian immigrants, Falzone began working at a young age to help support his family. He later worked with Laborers Local 210 for 20 years, starting as a laborer in the early 1970s before becoming a business agent and then pension-fund administrator for the well-known union.
Long considered a Teflon man in the federal government’s investigation of organized crime, Falzone was found guilty in July 1994 of supervising a loansharking ring that lent thousands of dollars to tapped-out gambling addicts at illegal interest rates, according to old Buffalo News reports.
At his trial, prosecutors played numerous FBI taped conversations of Falzone discussing loansharking operations with a longtime friend who became an FBI informer.
Newspaper accounts of those tapes show a lot of tough talk and expletive-laced threats.
Jurors deliberated for more than a week before convicting him of felony racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.
Falzone’s defense attorneys claimed that the case was manufactured by over-zealous FBI agents working with lying, self-serving witnesses, especially the FBI informant and former close friend who agreed to testify against him.
“Leonard is not a saint,” one defense attorney told the court. “He has associated with people [like the informant] all his life. The fact that he has associated with [such people] doesn’t make him guilty of a crime.”
Courtroom observers described Falzone – with his impeccably cut double-breasted suits, fine leather shoes, wavy mane of silver hair and dark, bushy eyebrows – as a man with the distinguished air of a senator or a CEO.
His supporters believed the government created a myth about Falzone. With his strong facial features, his outgoing personality and loud voice, he looked like a Hollywood creation of an organized-crime figure. And that myth, they claimed, was supported by shady informants and unsubstantiated accusations by the government about him being a street thug.
"Instead, he worked in a suit and tie for 20 years as an administrator in a [Local 210] office, working alongside lawyers, accountants and insurance professionals," said his longtime attorney.
Strong support for him
Before Falzone's sentencing in January 1995, 46 longtime friends and family members sent letters to the judge, requesting leniency for him. The letter writers included two Buffalo Common Council members, three local lawyers and other prominent professionals and businessmen.
The two Council members, who had known Falzone for decades, both ended their letters with the same sentence: "I have never observed anything of a threatening nature."
The letters depicted Falzone as a trustworthy union official, a good friend, a loving family man and a warm, caring husband and father who posed no danger to the community. Relatives called him a “big puppy dog” and a devoted brother who, as a boy, helped nurse his brother back from a severely broken leg that had threatened his ability to walk again.
Federal prosecutors, though, painted another portrait of the man, claiming his loansharking enterprise preyed on vulnerable people, including chronic gamblers and drug addicts.
“Despite his love for his family, he engaged in this criminal activity,” one prosecutor told the court. “He dishonored this family.”
The judge sentenced Falzone to five years and one month in federal prison.
Federal investigators and prosecutors may have been frustrated in their belief that Falzone was guilty of more than the racketeering charges.
"But the government never charged him with any assaults," his former attorney said. "They never charged him with any homicides. They never charged him with witness intimidation. They never had enough proof to bring those charges in their decades of surveillance and investigation of him."
Following his death, family members described Falzone as a man with a passion for life, who loved music, history, classic films, travel, food, wine and cooking. Relatives recalled him standing on the dance floor, singing to his grandchildren and “sharing his contagious laughter and thirst for new experiences.”
Survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Lorraine Lecompte; three daughters, Francesca, Rosanna Hagg and Lisa; two sons, Salvatore and Leonard; two sisters, Lena Herod and Rose; one brother, Frank; and 12 grandchildren.
Records show the couple, who live in Syosset, New York, bought unit 1505 at the newly completed tower at 18555 Collins Avenue.
Romanello Ferdinand’s father, Patrick Romanello — known as Patty Muscles — alleged to be an associate of the Bonanno crime family, was found guilty of joining a murder conspiracy and sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to the New York Times. In 2005, when he was awaiting trial for allegedly participating in the 1983 killing of city Deputy Commissioner Enrico Mazzeo and the 1990 killing of mob associate Louis Tuzzio, a judge allowed him out of jail for 17 hours to attend Romanello Ferdinand’s wedding, the Times reported. That was a year after he was allowed out for 48 hours to attend her older sister’s wedding, according to the New York Daily News.
In recent years, Romanello Ferdinand and her husband ran into financial trouble with a former company he co-founded, Liquid Holdings Group, Bloomberg reported. According to a settlement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the couple and their companies, LT World Limited LLC, Ferdinand Holdings LLC and Ferdinand Trading LLC, agreed in September 2014 to repay UBS Bank USA a $2.3 million loan, based on a repayment schedule that would bring the balance to zero by July 2015.
Brian Ferdinand’s current occupation is CEO at Vacation Rentals LLC, according to his LinkedIn page.
Dezer Development, led by Gil Dezer, completed Porsche Design Tower toward the end of last year. The 132-unit, 60-story building is known for its “Dezervator,” a patented car elevator that takes residents up to their units, in their cars. Amenities include balcony plunge pools, and racing and gold simulators.
Records have revealed other buyers at the tower, including Russian Chingiz Askerov, who owns commercial and residential real estate in Moscow like the Domodedova Shopping Mall and paid $5 million for unit 1605; Mexican billionaire Carlos Peralta Quintero, who paid $6.54 million for unit 1101; Colorado Rockies player Carlos “CarGo” Gonzalez, Brazilian media mogul Edir Macedo, known as “the Bishop” and Russian businessman Igor Yakovlev. The tower has an estimated $840 million sellout. At least 62 unit closings have been recorded in Miami-Dade County records so far.
- Bonanno crime family selects jailed gangster Michael Mancuso as new boss
- 92nd Street Y executive linked to mafia pump and dump stock scheme
- Staten Island family who snitched on Bonannos awaits sentencing
- Jailed Colombo associate conspires to oust Karen Gravano from new season of Mob Wives
- New charges unveiled against Nicky Mouth and the Bonanno crime family
- Three sons of jailed Bonanno mobster Vinny Gorgeous busted for weed trafficking
- Turncoat mobster says government should spring Big Joey from prison for his cooperation
- Feds hope to reward Colombo captain for his cooperation
- Aging Colombo soldier's bail is revoked after being spotted inside an illegal gambling club
- Boannno associate is thrown back in jail after latest bust
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
A retired judge says he agreed to help a suspected mobster awaiting trial only because he likes the food at his Bronx restaurant.
Anthony Fiorella, his sister and his brother-in-law have been regulars at Pasquale’s Rigoletto for several years, he said.
Someone at the Arthur Ave. eatery approached Fiorella several months ago and asked whether he would be willing to help Pasquale "Patsy" Parrello — after whom the restaurant is named — with his case, the judge told the Daily News on Tuesday.
Lawyers for Parrello, who is charged in a massive racketeering conspiracy, had pushed for his release on $2 million bond shortly after his arrest last August.
They argued the community backed the 72-year-old restaurateur and that many, including Fiorella, were willing to guarantee the bond — but asked the federal judge presiding over the case to keep the supporters’ identities under wraps.
While Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Sullivan wound up denying the suspected Genovese capo’s petition on Oct. 31, he only recently decided to unseal the document naming the supporters.
Fiorella was among them, listed as a potential guarantor for the whopping bond. Fiorella started on Brooklyn Housing Court in 1988, and then worked in Bronx Housing Court from 2011 until his retirement in 2013.
Retired Judge Anthony Fiorella is a regular at Pasquale's Rigoletto.
Fiorella doesn’t recall many specifics about the request, except that “there’s never been a bail discussion while we were there (at the restaurant).”
Fiorella wasn’t familiar with Parrello’s lawyers’ pitch — saying at one point, “I never made any representation that I’d be able to pay any money.”
Nevertheless, the 79-year-old former judge said his relationship with Parrello was limited to brief interactions at the Italian restaurant.
“It’s strictly, ‘Hello, how are you?’ when I was in there,” he said.
“I agreed to try to help him out in some way if he needed help,” Fiorella explained, adding, “The only thing I can say is we’ve been going there for several years and how it happened, I can’t recall.”
Fiorella did, however, know a lot about the food served there.
“The food has always been good,” Fiorella said. “The restaurant is very nice, the people are all great. The employees they have a good attitude and they are very helpful.”
Asked if his decision to help stemmed from the fare, Fiorella enthusiastically said “sure” — and named the veal scallopini as one of his favorite plates.
Fiorella said he didn’t know what Parrello is on the hook for or the status of the case. While Fiorella and his family dined at Pasquale’s Rigoletto this past Saturday — when he ordered chicken Francese — there wasn’t any talk of the criminal proceeding, he said.
Parrello’s lawyers declined to comment on the documents.
Fiorella, who lives on the Upper East Side, said he doesn’t think there’s a problem with offering support to Parrello, even though he had worked in the courts.
“This is after the fact in the sense that I’m retired from the bench,” he said.
Fiorella was raised in East Harlem when there was a lot of mob activity — and it didn’t affect him, he said.
“Growing up in that area, the family knew a few mobsters,” he said. “But that didn’t mean we subscribed to it.”
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year's Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.
"The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we're going to get rid of Obamacare," Trump can be heard saying as an exuberant Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.
Cinque's Sunday appearance with Trump might raise some eyebrows.
Beyond a 1989 felony conviction for possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork, Cinque "used to be friends with John Gotti," according to a New York Magazine profile from 1995.
Cinque was also "shot three times and left for dead" in a 1980 incident that authorities described as "a hit," according to the profile.
Further, Saturday's Mar-a-Lago party was far from the first time Cinque cheered on Trump.
An Associated Press report from this spring showed that the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, a company owned and operated by Cinque, has awarded more than a dozen of Trump's golf courses, hotels, casinos and private clubs with so-called "Star Diamond" awards "of true excellence in hospitality."
The same report also found that about half of the roughly 30 people listed as "trustees" to the company are Trump friends or business associates.
Trump, meanwhile, was listed on the company's website as its "ambassador extraordinaire," and he even appeared in a 2009 tribute video to Cinque in which he said, "There's nobody like him. He's a special guy."
But when asked by reporters about Cinque in May, Trump denied knowing anything about him or his criminal past.
"If a guy's going to give you an award, you take it," the President-elect said at the time. "You don't tend to look up his whole life story."
The Trump transition team did not immediately return a request for comment on how the President-elect knows Cinque or why they appeared together Saturday.
While alongside Cinque, Trump brought up the terror attack that rocked Turkey, suggesting that the bloodbath necessitates a Mexican border wall.
While standing alongside Cinque, Trump also took a moment to address the terror attack that left scores of nightclub revelers in Istanbul dead over the weekend — and how the bloodbath somehow necessitates a Mexican border wall.
“We will build a wall, you know that. We will build a wall,” the President-elect told the raucous crowd.
“And speaking of walls,” he continued. “In Turkey tonight — has anybody heard? Big disaster took place in Turkey tonight. Many, many, many people killed…It’s a horror show. So we’re going to get things running properly.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack, which left at least 39 people dead and dozens more wounded, calling the lone gunman who carried out the massacre a “heroic soldier of the caliphate.” The suspect had yet to be named and located by Turkish authorities early Tuesday.
The President-elect made building a wall along the country’s southern border one of his main campaign talking points, frequently promising his supporters that it will be a “great” and “beautiful” wall.
But his pledge to construct a border barrier has gone under several renditions, with the President-elect admitting in November that it might actually end up “part wall, part fence.”
Sunday, December 25, 2016
A high-ranking mob enforcer from Queens told a gambler who owed his boss money he was saved by the color of his skin.
Federal prosecutors say alleged Genovese family soldier Israel "Buddy" Torres, 66, bragged about using racist language to threaten a man over a $30,000 debt owed to a mob capo, recently filed court papers reveal.
“Come up two days, you better have the f---in’ money. If you don’t, you know what’s gonna f---in’ happen,” the tough guy allegedly said during a secretly taped 2011 conversation.
“You’re f---in’ white,” Torres allegedly continued. “If you were a f---in’ n-----, you’d be dead now.”
Cops collared Torres in August along with nearly 40 other alleged wiseguys from the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia crime families.
The group ran a massive gambling and loansharking racket spanning from Massachusetts to South Florida, according to a federal complaint released by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.
The alleged La Cosa Nosta members, playing different roles in the sports gambling operations, used websites to keep track of wagers and proceeds, prosecutors said.
Several of the men are accused of running an illegal operation in Yonkers that took horse bets and staged poker and dice tournaments.
“The mob remains a scourge to this city and around the country,” Bharara said in a statement. “Today’s Mafia is fully diversified in its boundless search for illegal profits.”
Torres has been unsuccessfully pushing for bail since his arrest.
Authorities contend he is a career criminal and enforcer for Pasquale "Patsy" Parrello, “a made and high-ranking member of the Genovese crime family,” who does his dirty dealings out of his Arthur Ave. restaurant in the Bronx, Pasquale’s Rigoletto.
“Now you’re responsible for it,” Torres claims he told the debtor who owed money to Parrello. “So use your f---in’ head because you’re not gonna see me again. Somebody will see you, it ain’t gonna be me.”
Torres is charged with racketeering, conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering. He faces 40 years behind bars if convicted.
Raynald Desjardins, the prominent Quebec mobster who once boasted about keeping his mouth shut and serving his time in jail, has been sentenced to another stint in penitentiary, a 14-year sentence in connection with the murder of Salvatore Montagna, a one-time boss of the Bonanno crime family who had tried to take over the Montreal Mafia.