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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mafia Events of 2009


Jan 15 - Former FBI Agent John J. Connolly, 68, is sentenced in a Miami Florida courtroom to serve 40 years in prison. He was convicted of second-degree murder, a charge resulting from his information-sharing with Massachusetts underworld informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "Rifleman" Flemmi.

Jan 26 - Paul "the Indian" Schiro, 71, is sentenced to 20 years in prison for racketeering offenses. He was convicted in the 2007 Family Secrets case in Chicago.

Jan 28 - Chicago Outfit leader Frank Calabrese Sr., 72, is sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and participation in seven racketeering murders. He was convicted in the 2007 Family Secrets case.


Feb 02 - Chicago Outfit leader Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 79, is sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and a racketeering murder. He was convicted in the 2007 Family Secrets case.

Feb 04 - A 38-count federal indictment is unsealed against a dozen alleged members of the Genovese Crime Family. One of those charged with racketeering and related crimes is former Genovese acting boss Daniel Leo, who is already held in federal custody on other charges.

Feb 05 - Chicago Outfit boss James Marcello, 65, is sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and racketeering-related murders. He was convicted in the 2007 Family Secrets case.

Feb 11 - Federal prosecutors unseal racketeering and murder indictments against Gambino Crime Family acting boss John "Jackie Nose" D'Amico and crime family associate Joseph Watts.

Feb 12 - Six alleged members of the Garrison NY-based "Delmonico crew" of the Genovese Crime Family are charged with racketeering.

Feb 19 - The Scranton Times newspaper chain files court documents charging that two judges involved in a $3.5 million defamation verdict against the company had links to regional crime boss William D'Elia.

Feb 23 - Recent underworld turncoat John Alite, an old friend of John A. "Junior Gotti," takes the witness stand in Brooklyn Federal Court to testify against accused Gambino Crime Family racketeer Charles Carneglia.

Feb 27 - Colombo Crime Family acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, 55, is sentenced to life in prison for ordering the 1999 murder of underworld rival William "Wild Bill" Cutolo. With both Persico and his father in prison, authorities believe there will be a leadership change in the Colombo organization.


Mar 06 - "Mafia Cops" Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are sentenced to life in prison for their cooperation with the leadership of the Lucchese Crime Family in New York. After a 2006 federal conviction, the trial judge ruled that the statute of limitations had run out. An appeals court reinstated the conviction.

Mar 12 - Former police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle, 64, is sentenced to 12 years in prison for racketeering-related offenses. He was convicted in the 2007 Family Secrets case in Chicago.

Mar 17 - Gambino Crime Family soldier Charles Carneglia is convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court of racketeering and murders. Prosecutors say he disposed of some of his murder victims by dissolving their bodies in barrels of acid.

Mar 26 - Nicholas Calabrese, 66, is sentenced to 12 years in prison for racketeering and racketeering-related murders. Calabrese admitted to committing 14 gangland murders. He won the lenient sentence by cooperating in the Family Secrets investigation in Chicago and by testifying against his brother Frank Calabrese Sr. and other Chicago Outfit leaders.


Apr 06 - Salvatore "the Ironworker" Montagna, 39-year-old reputed acting boss of the Bonanno Crime Family, is arrested by FBI and immigration agents as he leaves his steel business in Brooklyn. U.S. authorities plan to deport him to his native Canada. (He is also a citizen of Italy, as his family moved him there during childhood.) Authorities say he led the Bonanno organization since 2006 when former bosses Joey Massino and Vincent Basciano were successfully prosecuted.

Apr 06 - A federal judge orders four convicted Chicago racketeers - Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello and Paul Schiro - to pay about $20 million in fines and $4.3 million in restitution to the families of 14 men killed by the Chicago Outfit.

Apr 08 - Anthony "the Saint" St. Laurent, a leading figure in the New England Crime Family, is indicted in Providence for planning to murder New England capodecina Robert DeLuca Sr.

Apr 17 - Nicholas "Little Nicky" Corozzo, 69, is sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison for the 1996 racketeering-related murder of Lucchese Crime Family associate Robert Arena. Authorities believe Corozzo may have been poised to take over leadership of the crime family.

Apr 27 - Angelo Prisco, New Jersey-based capodecina in the Genovese Crime Family, is convicted in Manhattan Federal Court of murder, racketeering, robbery, extortion and other offenses.

Apr 28 - Former Deputy U.S. Marshal John T. Ambrose is convicted of stealing and leaking witness information related to Family Secrets Case witness Nicholas Calabrese.


May 03 - Donato "Danny" Angiulo, 86-year-old brother of former New England Mafia underboss Jerry Angiulo, dies in the Boston area of natural causes. Authorities say Danny Angiulo once served as capodecina in the crime family.

May 17 - Alfonso "Pizza Man" Tornabene, 86, dies of natural causes. Federal authorities say Tornabene served as a senior member of the Chicago Outfit and helped run the organization during the imprisonment of James Marcello between 1992 and 2003.

May 21 - A federal indictment names 11 Floridians as members of a crew affiliated with the Bonanno Crime Family.

May 23 - U.S. officials deport Rosario Gambino, 67, to Italy. Gambino, a cousin of former crime family boss Carlo Gambino, was linked to Pizza Connection heroin and cocaine smuggling rackets in the 1970s and 1980s.


Jul 01 - Carmen "Cheese Man" DiNunzio, reputed leader of the New England Mafia's Boston branch, pleads guilty to bribery charges related to the Boston area's "Big Dig" highway construction project.

Jul ?? - Burton Kaplan, former New York racketeer and key witness in the Mafia Cops trial, dies of natural causes at age 75.


Aug 18 - The Genovese Crime Family's New Jersey crew leader Angelo Prisco, 69, is sentenced to life in prison for cooperating in the murder of Angelo Sangiuolo and for conducting a series of home invasion robberies.

Aug 29 - Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo, 90-year-old former underboss of the New England Crime Family, dies of kidney failure at Massachusetts General Hospital.


Sep 17 - Gambino Crime Family soldier Charles Carneglia is sentenced to life in prison for a racketeering and murder conviction.

Sep 21 - John A. "Junior" Gotti's fourth racketeering trial in the past five years opens in New York.

Sep 24 - The New England Crime Family's Boston-based underboss, Carmen "Cheese Man" DiNunzio, is sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty of bribery charges.


Oct 01 - Two sets of raids on the Lucchese Crime Family of New York resulted in 29 arrests. Among those arrested on state enterprise corruption, bribery and other charges were two reputed members of the organization's leadership panel, Joseph DiNapoli, 74, of the Bronx, and Matthew Madonna, 73, of Selden.

Oct 07 - Fifteen alleged leaders, members and associates of the Bonanno Crime Family are rounded up by the FBI. Federal prosecutors say one of those arrested, Joseph "Sammy" Sammartino, 55, of North Arlington NJ, has been a member of the Bonanno ruling panel.

Oct 27 - Anthony "Todo" Anastasio, 80, is convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court of racketeering and extortion charges. Anastasio is the nephew of legendary Gambino Crime Family boss Albert Anastasia.


Nov 05 - New England media report a shift in leadership of the regional Mafia. The Boston area faction increases in importance as Bostonian Peter Limone reportedly replaces Providence-based Luigi Manocchio.

Nov 20 - Gambino Crime Family capodecina Gregory DePalma of Scarsdale NY dies at age 78 at the Butner Federal Medical Prison in North Carolina.


Dec 01 - For the fourth time in five years, a federal racketeering case against John A. "Junior" Gotti ends with a hung jury.

Dec 17 - A 66-year-old Somerville Massachusetts man, Ralph F. DeLeo, is indicted as the "street boss" of the New York-based Colombo Crime Family. He is charged with commanding an interstate crew engaged in narcotics trafficking, extortion and loan sharking.

Dec 21 - Two Gambino Crime Family associates, Letterio DeCarlo, 47, and Thomas Dono, 34, plead guilty to conspiring in the April 28, 1998, murder of suspected Gambino turncoat Frank Hydell. The men also admitted participating in an illegal gambling business in the late 1990s.

Dec 28 - Nick Rizzuto Jr., son of reputed Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto (serving time in a U.S. prison), is shot to death outside a Montreal-area construction company.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reputed Mafia boss may attend slain son's funeral

At Nick Rizzuto's wedding in 1995, RCMP and Laval police officers were so shutter-happy the guests might have taken them for official wedding photographers.
Now that the reputed Canadian Godfather's eldest son is about to be buried, all eyes — and lenses — will be focused on his funeral.
Gunned down Monday outside a real-estate developer's office in Montreal, no date has yet been set for Nick Rizzuto Jr.'s funeral.
Vito Rizzuto, the slain man's father, though previously known as the Teflon Don, is currently serving a 10-year sentence in the United States for racketeering, related to three murders that occurred in the 1980s. His sentence will end in 2012.
It will be up to the prison warden of a Colorado jail to decide whether he will be able to attend his son's funeral in the coming days. Rizzuto can request permission to leave the jail and cross the border, and if granted would have to pay for whatever travel expenses that would entail, as well as pass all security measures, said U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce.
Ponce could not comment on whether the elder Rizzuto has made such a request, however.
Whether Rizzuto's grandfather and namesake, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., will attend the funeral is also a matter of speculation.
He is the only one of six Mafia leaders arrested in Montreal in 2006 and sentenced for gangsterism-related charges who is not behind bars, but must obey the conditions of his probation — including not to associate with known criminals.
Whoever is able to attend the funeral will likely be under close scrutiny by both police and criminal elements assessing the strength of the once very powerful crime syndicate.
Adrian Humphreys, author of The Sixth Family — a Rizzuto biography — and an organized crime reporter for the National Post, expects the funeral to be a large affair with people coming from across Canada, the United States and Italy to pay their respects.
"The funeral will be a terribly sad affair featuring a large and loving family weeping for a young father cut down early in life," Humphreys said Wednesday. "It will also be seen as an occasion for criminal associates of all stripes to pay respects to a family who have dominated the criminal landscape of Canada for decades. Police will also be watching closely. Investigators look for signs of who is showing their respect to whom and who avoids whom."
Not since the murder of crime boss Paolo Violi in 1978 has someone as prominent as the son of the reputed head of the Mafia been the target of an assassination. Indeed, it was Violi's assassination that solidified the hegemony of the Rizzuto clan in Montreal.
Having immigrated to Montreal from Sicily in 1954 — when Vito was eight — Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. was a so-called "man of honour" among other Mafiosi until Violi was shot in the back of the head while having dinner at a restaurant.
Both Nicolo Sr. and Vito were out of the country when the killing occurred, but three men associated with the Rizzutos were later convicted of Violi's murder.
After the murder of three Mafia captains in New York — for which Vito Rizzuto was arrested in 2004 and pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2007 — Vito became known as the Godfather of the Canadian Mafia.
Nicolo Sr. and Vito both moved into palatial homes in the north end of Montreal that came to be known as "Mafia row" as other family members followed suit.
But with Vito Rizzuto now behind bars, Nick Jr. has been said by police to be looking after the Rizzutos' financial dealings and allegedly acting as the point of contact between the Mafia and other criminal factions in Montreal.
He had no criminal convictions however, other than for impaired driving.
According to Humphreys, Nick Jr., as the eldest son of the reputed Godfather and the namesake of the family's patriarch: "was a tremendously powerful symbolic target. However, police did not believe he was next in line to lead the Rizzuto criminal organization. He was not the crowned prince."
Nick Jr. was revealed by construction company proprietor Tony Magi to have been involved with the real estate business of late.
Magi was the victim of an attempted murder last year.
Nick Rizzuto Jr. was 42 when he was shot dead just after noon on Monday not far from the offices of FTM
 Construction, owned by Magi.

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Man selling ring is Maced by mob thug: Cops

A man who tried to sell an engagement ring through Craigslist ended up getting sprayed with Mace and robbed by his supposed buyer -- a Mafia associate who helped pull off a daring armored-car heist in the '80s, authorities said.
Gerald DeGerolamo, 65, responded to the ad for an engagement ring posted by David Cushman and the two agreed to meet Dec. 26 in front of 125 Christopher St., law-enforcement sources said.
Once Cushman took out the ring, DeGerolamo sprayed him in the face with Mace, grabbed the ring and ran.
A passer-by saw the suspect and flagged down a cop, who arrested DeGerolamo on charge of second-degree robbery. The ring was recovered and returned to Cushman.
DeGerolamo, who has a long federal rap sheet, is an associate of the Luchese crime family, FBI sources told The Post.
In 1989, he and two accomplices, including his son Jimmy, stole $3 million from an armored-car company. In 1991, he was convicted on 17 counts related to the robbery and sentenced to eight years in prison.
The following year, however, he escaped from a federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., officials said.
He did not remain on the lam for long.
In 1993, he and two associates tried to pull off a "Trojan horse scheme" at another armored-car company.
The plan was to hide an accomplice in a crate, supposedly filled with priceless artwork, and have it delivered by armored car to the company's vault.
Once inside, the very short associate he enlisted for the job was to grab as much cash as he could and hide with it inside the crate, said Ken Maxwell, the special agent in charge of the case.
But DeGerolamo and his partner did not know that the FBI was already on their trail. When agents entered the vault, the thief was buried in so much money they could not find him at first, Maxwell said.
DeGerolamo was convicted once again and released on Halloween 2003, authorities said.
It's unclear what DeGerolamo has been up to since his 2003 release, but his recent exploits, such as the engagement-ring theft, pale in comparison to his earlier work, one law-enforcement source said.
"He went from the creative to the mundane," the source said.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nick Rizzuto Jr. Murdered in Montreal

Nick Rizzuto Jr., son of reputed mob boss Vito Rizzuto, was shot dead this afternoon in the Notre-Dame-de-GrĂ¢ce district as reported by Marcos Townsend for The Montreal Gazette:
Rizzuto Jr., 42, was hit by at least one bullet at the corner of Upper Lachine Rd. and Wilson Ave. at about 12:10 p.m., Montreal police Constable Olivier Lapointe said. Rizzuto Jr.'s body was found sprawled alongside a black Mercedes parked behind a three-storey apartment block located at the corner of Upper Lachine Rd. and Wilson Ave. * * * What does seem clear is that Rizzuto Jr. was shot by a single assailant [described by one witness as a black male] who fled west along Upper Lachine Rd. and then south along Melrose. One witness told reporters she heard at least six gunshots and then the sound of tires from a vehicle screeching away from the scene.
Rizzuto was shot near the offices of FTM Construction, owned by Antonio Magi with whom the mob scion had a business relationship, which was raided last month.  At this point investigators have no idea who is behind Rizzuto's murder other than running through the usual suspects -- street gangs, motorcycle clubs, Calabrian Mafia or Sicilian Mafia -- although it no doubt is a blow to his father as reported by Aaron Derfel and James Mennie for The Montreal Gazette:
Pierre De Champlain, a retired intelligence analyst with the RCMP and an expert in Italian organized crime, said Rizzuto's death sends a chilling signal. "My God, it's really a severe blow for Vito Rizzuto – there's no doubt about that. "It's clear that this is a signal that’s being sent to his father, Vito Rizzuto, who is incarcerated in the United States. For a Mafia head to see his son getting murdered is a bad sign."
Nick Rizzuto Jr., a real estate developer, "was believed to be handling the financial aspects of his father’s business while Vito Rizzuto was in prison in the U.S., where he continues to serve a 10-year sentence for a racketeering conviction involving the 1981 killings of three Mafia captains" -- Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone, Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera  -- from the Bonanno crime family in New York City as reported by Paul Cherry and James Mennie for The Montreal Gazette.
Regardless of who was responsible for Nick Rizzuto Jr.'s murder -- whether involving a power play or a personal vendetta -- retaliation is expected as reported by CBC News:
"This is an unprecedented challenge to the Rizzuto crime family," said Antonio Nicaso, the author of several books on the Mafia. "Since [the 1970s] they were in charge of criminal activity in Montreal — without any challenge to their authority." "There will be, for sure, a retaliation," Nicaso said. "The son — the eldest son — of Vito Rizzuto was killed. This is not just an ordinary member of the family."
More coverage:
CBC News:  Video
CTV News:  Video

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Junior Gotti Celebrates Xmas without any Jurors from latest trial

None of the jurors took up John A. (Junior) Gotti Jr.'s invitation to Christmas dinner.
But the recently freed son of the Teflon Don was in a merry mood anyway and celebrated the day with family and friends.
"I had no way of contacting them [the jurors]," said Gotti outside his Oyster Bay, L.I., mansion Friday afternoon as he returned from some last-minute Christmas shopping.
The jurors, who were not identified, deadlocked over murder and racketeering charges against Gotti, triggering a mistrial on Dec. 1 that enabled him to be home for the holidays.
"Come to my house for Christmas," an exuberant Gotti said moments after the verdict was announced at his fourth trial in five years.
The previous three trials also ended with hung juries.
"I didn't hear from anybody," the second-generation Gambino boss said Friday, as he and a friend pulled two large Christmas wreaths off the top of his car.
"C'mon, not today, it's Christmas," Gotti told a Daily News reporter who was asking questions. Then Gotti and his friend hung the wreaths on Gotti's fence.
"I'm going to cook Christmas dinner," said Gotti, disappearing inside. Gotti spent 16 months in prison awaiting trial, much of the time in solitary confinement.

Trial Update: Vincent Basciano Speaks

Well, sort of. In a letter to a document to a Brooklyn federal judge, Bonanno captain Vincent Basciano vigorously denied that a list of names he wrote a few years ago in jail was a "hit list" as the government claims. The list was discussed in King of The Godfathers on page 307 and relates to Basciano's upcoming federal trial. In his declaration sent to the court, Basciano said he never intended the list to be used to hurt anyone or to use as a way of getting the judge in case, Nicholas Garaufis, recused. (Garaufis's name was one of five on the list, as is that of prosecutor Greg Andres). "I never intended to harm or cause harm to come to anyone named on any alleged 'hit list,'" said Basciano. Instead "As I have previously indicated, lists of names were to be used as a "santeria' list only, as part of a religious ceremony," he said. Basciano also said if there is ever a hearing about the list that he would take the stand and testify about how the list came about. As noted in the book, Basciano has said the list was for Santeria, to get good karma at his 2007 retrial.  It is unclear if the government will try to use the list at Basciano's still to be scheduled capital trial, which may occur in 2010. 


Friday, December 25, 2009

Junior Gotti Invites Memebrs of Hung Jury to Xmas Dinner

God rest ye, merry goodfella.
Recently acquitted John A. (Junior) Gotti, home for his first Christmas since 2007, plans a holiday feast with his family - and any jurors interested in breaking bread with the ex-Gambino boss.
"I'm cooking dinner here," Gotti, 45, said Thursday as he pulled into the driveway of his Oyster Bay, L.I., estate.
The 12 jurors from his latest mistrial were all invited for a Christmas meal with Gotti, wife Kim and their six kids at the family's $1.7 million mansion.
"My door's open if they want to come," said Gotti, who remains free on $2 million bail. "But we don't even know who they are. It was an anonymous jury."
Gotti said he was spending Christmas Eve with his sisters - Angel and former reality show star Victoria.
A Manhattan federal jury deadlocked on racketeering and murder charges against Gotti, freeing the second-generation gangster for the holidays.
Gotti assumed control of the Gambino crime family after his late father, John Sr., was jailed for life on a 1992 conviction. The elder Gotti died behind bars a decade later.
Junior was locked up from August 2008, when a new indictment was returned, until the jury's Dec. 1 verdict. He climbed into a white BMW for the triumphant ride home after posting bail.
The panel deliberated for 11 contentious days before finally throwing in the towel after Gotti spent the Thanksgiving weekend in federal lockup.
Afterward, they denounced the government's mob turncoat witnesses as liars and declared the feds should stop their legal pursuit of the Teflon Son.
Gotti, who had faced life in prison if convicted, hailed the jury as "the most courageous people I've met in my life" after the trial ended.
It was the fourth mistrial in five years for Gotti, who insisted at every racketeering trial that he quit the Gambino family a decade ago.
The U.S. attorney has yet to announce a decision on retrying Gotti for a staggering fifth time, although sources told the Daily News another trial was unlikely.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Poll Results: Which Family Is Currently The Strongest?

The following are the results of the poll: 70 total votes

Genovese Crime Family: 43 votes - 61%
Gambino Crime Family: 15 votes - 21%
Colombo Crime Family: 6 votes - 8%
Lucchese Crime Family: 4 votes - 5%
Bonanno Crime Family: 2 votes - 2%

No Surprise here as the FBI describes the Genovese as "the Rolls Royce of the American Mafia." Surprising is the war-plagued Colombo Family is third on the list. The Bonanno's were literally decimated especially after Massino flipped and have a long way to go to rebuild.

Make sure to vote in our new poll!!!
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Grandson of Luchese crime capo - Joseph Cutaia - faces rap in robbery try

A Mafia scion has been charged in the violent attempted robbery of a Brooklyn businessman and is a suspect in five other armed heists, officials said Wednesday.
Joseph Cutaia - grandson of Luchese crime capo Domenico Cutaia and son of reputed soldier Salvatore Cutaia - was remanded after a bail hearing in Brooklyn Federal Court yesterday.
"Every victim we have interviewed has expressed extreme fear of Mr. Cutaia. They're petrified," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Nash said.
Cutaia, 30, was charged with taking part in a botched Nov. 11 stickup of a man who owns an appliance store on Nostrand Ave.
An accomplice, Nicholas Bernardo, is accused of taking several shots at the victim and his wife, who was standing at the front door of their Bensonhurst home, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors said Cutaia is a suspect in other robberies in the city and Putnam County, including one in which the victim was tied up for 40 hours.
Cutaia, who was married last month, faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted. He mouthed, "Love you" to his wife, Alicia, who wept on a courthouse bench after the hearing.
He showed no ill effects from being shot in the leg Dec. 1 in Staten Island under mysterious circumstances. Defense lawyer Seth Ginsberg declined comment on the shooting.
But in court papers, he said the bullet is still lodged in Cutaia's leg and he is looking for a surgeon to remove it.
Magistrate Robert Levy rejected a proposal to release Cutaia on a $1 million bond secured by the Staten Island home of his grandmother and his mother-in-law's home in New Jersey.
He concluded Cutaia is a danger to the community - even though Ginsberg argued the government's case is built on the word of an informer who admitted renting a van used in the robbery.
Meanwhile, Cutaia's grandfather Domenico Cutaia is scheduled to surrender next month to begin serving three years for bank fraud.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alleged mob henchmen plead not guilty to charges

Two reputed wiseguys federal prosecutors say were part of an advance team for the New York Colombo crime family trying to encroach on Boston’s enfeebled Mafia pleaded not guilty yesterday to racketeering charges.
Franklin Goldman, 66, of Randolph and Edmond Kulesza, 56, of Somerville are alleged to have been members of a local crew run by co-defendant Ralph DeLeo, 66, of Somerville - a reputed made man and “street boss” of the Colombos.
The Colombos are one of five organized crime families in New York that make up La Cosa Nostra.
The DeLeo crew was apparently well prepared to enforce its will. From a building in Watertown, investigators seized 11 firearms, silencers, countless rounds of ammunition, masks and patches from assorted law enforcement agencies, according to federal court papers.
Prosecutors allege Goldman and Kulesza “were expected to commit criminal acts, including acts of violence,” on DeLeo’s orders.
Goldman, who is in custody, appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler yesterday with tinted eyeglasses and a blond ponytail. His attorney, Edward P. Ryan Jr., told Bowler that Goldman suffers from a heart condition.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office alleges Goldman arranged drug deals on DeLeo’s behalf and extorted debt collections, with the hulking, leather-jacketed Kulesza acting as the enterprise’s “muscle.”
Kulesza, who Goldman acknowledged with a somber hello as he walked into Bowler’s courtroom in handcuffs, is free on $50,000 bond, but is not allowed to leave his home between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arkansas man’s ties to Mafia is surprising to neighbor

A Cabot man was indicted Thursday in Massachusetts for his alleged involvement in organized crime.

In addition to drug trafficking, George Wiley Thompson, 64, allegedly supplied guns to the Mafia’s Colombo Family, according to the Thursday indictment. He was arrested a month ago on other federal charges that came out of a gambling and public-corruption investigation in North Little Rock.

U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said Friday that this is Arkansas’ first case with ties to one of the big crime families.

One Cabot resident who asked not to be identified said he was very surprised to learn that a man with alleged Mafia connections had been living in the Oak Meadows neighborhood.

Some of the houses in his middle-income neighborhood look a little iffy, so it would be easy to imagine that drug dealers might live in a few of them, he said.

But the house where Thompson lived was unremarkable – not the biggest or smallest in the neighborhood – with a relatively well-tended yard. Although he never saw Thompson during evening walks with his wife, the man said he saw Thompson’s cats.

“This totally exceeds anything I might have expected about my neighbors,” he said.

“I guess I’m just shocked,” Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said about the alleged Mafia connection.

“I don’t know how long he’d lived here. But apparently all his business was out of town. I guess he came here so he could fly under the radar.”

Williams said that for the most part all he knew about Thompson was that his house looked a little strange. It was a new house in an older subdivision that was built so close to the street that he had no room for a front porch. Also, at one time he had large dish-shaped antennas on the roof like ones once used to receive satellite signals for television. After the news broke about his alleged bookmaking operation, some wondered if the antennas might have been related to gambling in some way, the mayor said.

But as for Thompson, the mayor reiterated, “I guess he came here to fly under the radar because that’s sure what he did.”

The latest indictment alleges that Thompson was a member of the Deleo Crew, named for alleged Colombo Family street boss Ralph Francis Deleo, 64, of Somerville, Mass.
Deleo was added earlier this month to the federal indictment in Arkansas against Thompson for possessing with intent to distribute more than 500 grams (more than one pound) of cocaine, conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and using a telephone to facilitate a felony drug transaction.

The Deleo Crew allegedly engaged in the importation, trafficking and distribution of narcotics and controlled substances including cocaine and marijuana, extortion, loan sharking, and interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering, mainly in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Rhode Island, New York and Florida.

Thompson fled to Thailand after federal law enforcement officers searched his home in Cabot on May 12. Officers found 147 firearms, five silencers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition. The Thursday indictment alleges that Deleo made it possible for Thompson to remain out of the country by arranging the shipment of his prescription medicines.

Also named in the indictment were Edmond Kulesza, 56, of Somerville, Mass., and Franklin M. Goldman, 66, of Randolf, Mass.

The indictment alleges that Goldman’s job in the organization included setting up illegal narcotics deals as well as engaging in extortion and extortionate collection of debt while Kulesza served as an enforcer or “muscle” for the illegal enterprise.
Thompson and Deleo have both pleaded not-guilty to the charges in Arkansas and their trial is set to start Jan. 4.

Two former North Little Rock aldermen, Cary Gaines, 63, and Samuel Gaylon Baggett, 58, have also pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes involving Thompson. Their trial is set for Jan. 26.

Gaines allegedly attempted to fix bids on city projects to pay gambling debts owed to Thompson. Baggett, a gun dealer, is charged with illegally selling weapons to Thompson, who is already a convicted felon.

Cherith Beck, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arkansas’ Eastern District, said Friday that investigators began to suspect that Thompson had Mafia connections early in the investigation and contacted investigators in Massachusetts.
Gaines and Baggett were not included in the investigation into organized crime and they are not incarcerated while they wait for trial, she said.

The unnamed contractor who allegedly would have received the city contracts has not been arrested. Beck said the investigation is ongoing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Hoey, who is prosecuting the cases against Thompson, Deleo, Gaines and Baggett in Arkansas, was in Boston Thursday for the news conference, called to announce the charges against the alleged mobsters. She praised all those involved in the investigations that led to the arrests.


Gambino associates admit role in mob murder

Two associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, Letterio Decarlo and Thomas Dono, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to participating in a conspiracy that resulted in the murder Frank Hydell on April 28, 1998. The defendants also admitted to their participation in a conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business in the late 1990s.

One of the goals of the Gambino Organized Crime Family was to protect its members and associates from detection and prosecution by law enforcement, by intimidating and seeking reprisal against individuals who provided testimony or other information to law enforcement. As associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, DeCarlo and Dono committed various crimes, including murder, assault, robbery, burglary, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.

DeCarlo and Dono agreed with others to murder Hydell in order to maintain and increase their standing as associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family. Hydell was murdered to prevent him from providing information to law enforcement about ongoing criminal activities of the defendants and other Gambino Organized Crime Family members and associates, including the January 1997 beating and murder of Frank Parasole.

DeCarlo, 47, and Dono, 34, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. Each count also carries a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on March 22


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Phillip Carlo, True Crime Author, Fights Lou Gehrig's Disease

FOR nearly a year starting in July 2004, Philip Carlo traveled some 50 times to the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and sat knee to knee with Richard Kuklinski, interviewing him about the more than 200 victims he claimed to have shot, knifed, bludgeoned, poisoned or fed to giant rats.

Mr. Carlo, perhaps the dean of true-crime horror writers and the sometime muse of Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro, was drawn to Mr. Kuklinski, a coldly detached Mafia killer known as the Iceman, for a book now heading to the big screen starring Mr. Rourke.

“I could kill you,” the subject reminded the author at one of the jailhouse sit-downs.

“I’m not that easy to kill,” Mr. Carlo ventured. “I’m fast.”

Mr. Kuklinski brought down a huge fist, stopping just short of the writer’s knee. “I just broke your leg,” he said. “You’re not that fast.”

Mr. Carlo, a bullet-domed Brooklynite who grew up surrounded by criminal intrigue, has built his career profiling serial killers, psychopathic crime lords, Mafia hit men and sexual predators. His “Night Stalker” (1996) featured Richard Ramirez, the satanic mass murderer whose rampage of rape and killing terrorized Los Angeles in 1984 and 1985. Next was Mr. Kuklinski, a Gambino family associate who killed for the first time at age 13. Then, last year, came “Gaspipe,” about Anthony Casso, the sadistic ex-boss of the Luchese family. And in September Mr. Carlo published “The Butcher,” about Thomas Pitera, known as Tommy Karate, a Bonanno family hit man who relished chopping people up.

“He works on the dark side,” said Tony Danza, another actor friend of Mr. Carlo.

Mr. Carlo, 60, matches immersion-reporting with authentic street cred. He grew up in Bensonhurst, which he has called a graduate school for the Mafia; Mr. Casso, the subject of nonfiction book No. 3, was once a neighbor. The combination has earned him respect among fellow crime writers like Nicholas Pileggi, whose books became the Scorsese films “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” “I just grab everything he writes,” Mr. Pileggi said of Mr. Carlo.

But after 28 years of stalking killers, the tables have turned on Mr. Carlo. Death is now stalking him.

Nearly five years ago, he was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the almost invariably fatal motor neuron disease that felled Lou Gehrig, the jazz bassist Charles Mingus and Morrie Schwartz, the teacher in Mitch Albom’s best seller “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Stephen W. Hawking, the British physicist who has lived almost 40 years with the condition, is a notable exception.

“The worst disease of modern times has got me by the throat,” said Mr. Carlo, who uses a motorized wheelchair and breathes through a hose that forces pressurized air into his lungs. “I can’t brush my own teeth. I can’t feed myself.”

But he continues to work on a new book, a memoir, writing the words in his head and dictating them to an assistant at a laptop. “I have a deadline,” he said. “My own death.”

“PICK me up at the corner,” shouted Mr. Carlo one day in late October, hitting his wheelchair accelerator and whizzing down the sidewalk near his Upper West Side brownstone. When he reached West End Avenue, his white Chevrolet van was waiting at the curb cut.

Mr. Carlo’s wife, Laura, a slim blond woman of 35, hopped out, opened the rear doors and unfolded a ramp.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Ready,” he said, propelling the chair inside. Ms. Carlo strapped him in and slid behind the wheel.

“I’m the chauffeur,” said Ms. Carlo cheerily. “I’m driving Miss Daisy.”

The two met in August 2006, through the Mafia, of course. Mr. Carlo was doing a radio show and mentioned that one of his childhood friends, Manny Garofalo, had a brother, Eddie, who had been killed on orders of the Gambino underboss Salvatore Gravano, known as Sammy the Bull.

Someone listening called Manny, and the two Brooklyn buddies reunited, along with Manny’s niece, Eddie’s daughter, Laura Garofalo.

Love bloomed. Mr. Carlo, whose A.L.S. had been diagnosed 10 months earlier, did not at first tell her the truth about why he was limping. “He told me it was a torn kneecap,” she recalled. But that October he broke the news. “This is what I have,” he said, “but don’t look it up.”

She eventually did. “The first thing I read is that it’s fatal,” Ms. Carlo said. She learned everything she could about the disease, but stuck around anyhow. By late 2007, Mr. Carlo was in and out of a wheelchair. That December, they were married by the city clerk.

Heading downtown in the van for lunch, Mr. Carlo took the breathing tube out of his mouth to speak. “To sleep, I have to wear a mask,” he said. “I look like an octopus. It’s not very good for my love life.”

But he sleeps dreamlessly, sometimes waking up confused. “I don’t know where I am,” he said. “There’s this blond girl standing over me. I ask who she is and she says, ‘I’m your worst nightmare.’ ” He guffawed.

“Laura, make your turn,” he commanded.

“I’m going to pull in front, Phil,” she said, cheerfully resigned to his back-seat driving.

At the restaurant, Beppe, on East 22nd Street, Valerie Estess was waiting. As chronicled in a documentary broadcast on HBO in 2004, Ms. Estess’s sister Jenifer died from A.L.S. at age 40, after six years fighting the disease. Valerie Estess and another sister, Meredith, have raised $53 million for Project A.L.S., a nonprofit group Jenifer founded to finance research.

“In all honesty, I’m counting on Valerie to save me,” Mr. Carlo said.

“No pressure,” she said. “Sorry I missed the book party. He’s writing them faster than we can read them.”

A latecomer arrived — Mr. Carlo’s amanuensis, Kelsey Osgood, 25, a Columbia graduate from Brooklyn who has assisted him on two previous books. When he is writing, they often work side by side from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. At the restaurant, she flipped open a MacBook laptop as soon as she sat down at the table, ready to take notes.

“She can type faster than I can talk,” Mr. Carlo said. “She’s staring at me, waiting for another sentence, and I’m rummaging around my memory, almost like I’m talking to myself.”

THE urge to write, Mr. Carlo said, came on him abruptly in the late 1970’s when he was in his 20s and owned an apartment-rental business on Central Park West. He was healthy then, addicted to biking and running seven miles a day.

“I wanted to write about crime,” he said. “I felt I had a personal innate understanding.”

In Bensonhurst, Mr. Carlo’s father imported and exported bristle for brushes — “a legitimate guy,” Mr. Carlo said — but mobsters were everywhere. It was the kind of place where Mary’s, a neighborhood restaurant, would shut down when Carlo Gambino came to dine. Where, as a boy, Phil Carlo would pass mob soldiers milling outside their window-darkened social clubs, and went to school with baby mobsters who were picked up by fathers dressed in sharp silk suits. At 13, he often saw Paul Castellano, the mobster gunned down in 1985 on orders from John J. Gotti, working in his family’s butcher shop; later, Mr. Carlo dated Mr. Castellano’s granddaughter.

After Mr. Casso, then a rising enforcer for the Genovese family, married and moved in next door to the Carlos, the two families grew close, sharing Sunday dinners and vacations. Mr. Carlo’s sister, Doreen, became the Cassos’ favorite baby sitter.

“We knew Anthony was connected, but in that neighborhood it was not an oddity — it was almost the norm,” Mr. Carlo recalled. “I grew up thinking that being in the mob was a good thing — you got respect.”

That changed when he was about 15 and saw a buddy shot to death on the street after he had assaulted a Colombo captain. “There was a thick snake of blood,” Mr. Carlo recalled, with writerly vividness. “It looked like his lifeblood was crawling out of him.”

Suddenly the underworld did not seem so romantic. Mr. Carlo was in a gang, the 24th Avenue Boys, and one day in a rumble he was shot in the head, somehow escaping with little more than a scar over his left eye.

Dyslexic, with a checkered high school record (he would later spend a year in community college), he found solace in reading, sliding his fingers slowly over the words. He grew his hair long and moved to Manhattan, supporting himself, he acknowledged ruefully, by selling marijuana. He graduated to real estate and, in 1976, bought his brownstone in the West 80s, between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, for $80,000.

Then he began to write. Rather than rely on the shock value of his story lines, Mr. Carlo sought to infuse his prose with soul. As he put it: “A lot of what occurs in writing is between the lines. It is not the lines.”

He got the idea for his first book when he was hospitalized at Bellevue with an infection and a woman was murdered there. He spun it into a thriller about a killer loose in the wards. He collected 125 rejection letters and shelved it forever.

Disillusioned, he decamped for Europe, where, in Amsterdam, he said he was shocked to see children performing sex shows in shop windows as police officers stood by. He studied the sex trafficking of children and, in a sidewalk cafe in Ibiza, scrawled out another novel, this time about the kidnapping of a American girl in Pompeii by a child pornography ring. After 10 rejections, Dutton published it as “Stolen Flower” in 1986. Universal optioned the book for Mr. De Niro, and the two men spent weeks scouting movie locations. Five scripts later, the project languished. But Mr. Carlo became a frequent television guest and lecturer on the sex trade.

After Mr. Ramirez, the Night Stalker, was convicted in 1989 of 43 crimes, including 13 murders, Mr. Carlo wrote him on death row, seeking material for a novel about a serial killer. A correspondence blossomed, and the novel turned into nonfiction. Mr. Carlo’s 1996 chronicle of Mr. Ramirez’s troubled early life and brutal crimes drew strong reviews — Publishers Weekly called it “exceptionally well-told” — and has gone through 23 printings.

Then in December 2001, after seeing an HBO documentary about Mr. Kuklinski, Mr. Carlo embarked on 240 hours of interviews with him at the prison in Trenton. Mr. Kuklinski recounted his many deadly assignments, including, Mr. Carlo later wrote, participating in the murders of Mr. Castellano, Carmine Galante and the Teamsters president James R. Hoffa.

“I met a gentle giant who gleefully killed people,” Mr. Carlo said. “He turned out to be a severely abused child. He saw his brother beaten to death by his father. I knew I had hit gold.”

But while he seeks to find the humanity in even the most monstrous of men, Mr. Carlo does not shy from recounting the gruesome details. In “The Night Stalker,” he tells how Mr. Ramirez suffered from undiagnosed epilepsy as a boy and fell under the sway of a disturbed cousin — but also recreates a ghastly scene in which Mr. Ramirez tried to cut out a woman’s heart and then removed her eyes, saving them in a jewelry box. In “The Ice Man,” Mr. Kuklinski warns his beloved eldest daughter that she, too, might become his victim: “You’ll be the hardest to kill, you understand?”

Mr. Carlo’s literary agent, Matt Bialer, recalled his client’s immediate excitement on meeting the Iceman. “He said, ‘Does anyone realize what a monster he is?’ ”

Mr. Kuklinski died in prison in 2006 without seeing the book. Barbara Kuklinski, his widow, who suffered her own abuse at her husband’s hands, said he came to deeply trust Mr. Carlo, as did she. “He never lies to you,” she said.

ON his path to success, Mr. Carlo has hit some bumps. While writing “The Night Stalker” in 1994, he encountered a deliveryman leaving menus in his building in defiance of a no-menu sign. A fistfight ensued, and Mr. Carlo ended up convicted of misdemeanor assault and spent 60 days in Rikers Island. “It was a crazy, ridiculous incident,” he said.

The year before, he was fixing a second-floor window in his brownstone when he tumbled out, shattering bones in both feet.

And after “Gaspipe” came out, its protagonist, Mr. Casso, who is serving multiple life sentences in prison, added Mr. Carlo to his enemies list, claiming the author owed him money from the book. Mr. Carlo said he never agreed to split profits with the mobster and was not intimidated. “I got A.L.S.,” he said. “What are they going to do to me?”

The grim sentence announced itself without warning on a winter afternoon in 2005. “I was coming back from an interview with the Iceman,” Mr. Carlo recalled. “I was walking through Penn Station. My left foot was flapping. I thought I had strained myself from running. I stopped for a day or two, but it didn’t help.”

He consulted a chiropractor, to no effect. That summer on Mykonos, the Greek island where he had gone to write, he tried to run his usual seven miles but had to stop, winded. Back in New York in the fall, a doctor ordered tests and then delivered the brutal verdict: “It could be cancer of the spine. If it is, you’re lucky, because the other thing we can’t treat.”

As Mr. Carlo recalled it, “I thought to myself, ‘If I’m lucky if I have cancer, this is bad.’ ”

The diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease followed shortly. Mr. Carlo was devastated. He cried a lot. Then, he said, “I made up my mind to stand up, not lie down.”

One of his doctors, Raymond P. Onders, a surgeon at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, was struck by his resolve. “He was barely able to walk, and he’d ride his bike and fall down and nearly kill himself,” Dr. Onders said.

Chasing every hope of a miracle, the Carlos traveled to Italy last year to obtain Iplex, a scarce experimental drug some think may help A.L.S. sufferers. They could not get any, but Mr. Carlo was later accepted as one of a handful of people in the United States approved for a Food and Drug Administration trial of the drug. It has not helped much so far, he said. Now, unable to stand the cold, he spends winters in South Beach, Fla. He is there now with his wife and Ms. Osgood, so he can work on his latest book.

“My next one is a doozy,” Mr. Carlo said. “It’s about how I got the Iceman to talk, juxtaposed against coming down with A.L.S. and suddenly having the grim reaper stalking me.” He is calling it “The Killer Within.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Judge slaps Michael 'Mikey Cigars' Coppola with 16 years in prison racketeering

A longtime Genovese gangster full of holiday spirit will be hanging his Christmas stocking in jail for the next 16 years.

Reputed capo Michael (Mikey Cigars) Coppola was hit with a harsh sentence for racketeering after his yuletide greetings apparently didn't sway the judge.

"Merry Christmas," Coppola, 63, said to the jurist about to sentence him for extortion on the waterfront. "I have a good family. I've been surrounded by good friends all my life and I have a good lawyer - bless his soul."

The judge didn't show much mercy in issuing the sentence - though he did give Coppola a small break by not factoring in a mountain of evidence he committed a murder because the jury acquitted him of that charge.

He did return the holiday cheer, however.

"And I mean this sincerely, Merry Christmas to you and your family," Brooklyn Federal Judge John Gleeson said.

Coppola wasn't in the mood for pleasantries by the time Gleeson reminded him of his right to appeal the sentence.

"I certainly am," he shot back.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Vincent Basciano Trail Update

Lawyers for Vincent Basciano have asked the court to permit him increased visits at the Brooklyn MDC. In a letter to Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Basciano's lawyers are asking that he be allowed a visit with the mother of his youngest son Anthony every other week and that his family be allowed visits on alternate weeks. As an alternate, it was also suggested that he have a visit for two hours with the child's mother, Debra Kalb, once a month. Basciano’s visits with his family are critical to the development of Basciano’s mitigation case, if there is ever consideration for the death penalty in his upcoming trial, noted in "King Of The Godfathers." Specifically, Basciano’s ability to parent from prison is mitigation that a jury would be permitted to consider in deciding whether to impose the death penalty, the lawyers noted. Garaufis has yet to announce a ruling.


Mob Prosecutions Low Priority For White House

Law enforcement veteran Jim Kouri reports for the Examiner that the Obama Administration is giving a pass to organized crime groups which represent increasing security threats to the United States:

There is a feeling that permeates throughout the law enforcement community that organized crime gangs are getting a free ride during the Obama Administration. While most of the focus of federal law enforcement is on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber crime, federal police agencies must still contend with more traditional anti-crime operations including emerging organized crime gangs. "I may sound cynical, but I believe because [President Barack Obama] is from Chicago -- a city noted for it's history of organized crime -- he may be used to what's known as 'the Chicago way' and the casual relationship between organized crime and politicians in the Windy City," said a detective-investigator from the New York County District Attorney's Office who requested anonymity.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Colombo Boss Ralph DeLeo handpicked by predecessor to lead Family

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that Ralph F. Deleo, a reputed "street boss" of the Colombo crime family, has been indicted in Boston, MA with Franklin M. Goldman, Edmond Kulesza, and George Wylie Thompson on federal racketeering charges:

The Indictment alleges that Deleo, who was the "street boss" of the Colombo Family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), directed and controlled the operations of the Deleo Crew, which included but was not limited to Deleo, Goldman, Kulesza and Thompson. According to the indictment, members and associates of the Deleo Crew engaged in the importation, trafficking and distribution of narcotics and controlled substances, including cocaine and marijuana; extortion; loan sharking; and interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering. It is alleged that the Deleo Crew operated principally in the areas of Massachusetts, Arkansas, Rhode Island, New York and Florida.

Martin Finucane and Shelley Murphy report for The Boston Globe: "'What we're seeing here is the Colombo family has grabbed a foothold in this area,' Warren Bamford, the special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said at a news conference at the US Attorney's office."

UPDATE: John Marzulli from the Daily News reports:

Law enforcement sources told the Daily News DeLeo has no ties to New York City, but met Colombo chieftain Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico in prison in the 1990s and apparently made a strong impression. After DeLeo was sprung from jail around 1997, he was inducted into the crime family. He got the top job in mid-2008 after acting boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli was arrested on multiple murder charges, sources said. DeLeo "was handpicked by Allie," said a source, adding the family figured the New England wiseguy would not be on the New York feds' radar.

DeLeo has a history as reported by Shelley Murphy for The Boston Globe:

DeLeo was serving a 25- to 40-year sentence in the state prison at Walpole for kidnapping and armed robbery when he escaped in 1977 while being treated at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain. While living as a fugitive in Ohio, he was captured in a bank robbery case and struck a deal with prosecutors. He confessed that he was the triggerman who fatally shot a Columbus doctor, Walter Bond, on Oct. 31, 1977, at the behest of another doctor. He later testified against the other doctor. DeLeo was sentenced to 15 years to life for the slaying, but in 1991, Governor Richard F. Celeste of Ohio, on his way out of office, granted DeLeo clemency for his Ohio crimes. Returned to Massachusetts, DeLeo then finished his earlier sentence and was released in 1997.

Thompson also is facing charges in Arkansas pursuant to an earlier indictment as reported by Roger Susanin for KATV:

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office began looking into alleged illegal activities involving Thompson. That investigation led to two indictments against him and the seizure of close to 150 illegal guns, 80,000 rounds of ammunition and five illegal silencers. * * * Thompson is also implicated in criminal activity involving two North Little Rock politicians. Former Alderman Cary Gaines resigned shortly after he was charged with conspiring with Thompson to rig bids on city projects, and current Alderman Sam Baggett is charged with providing guns to Thompson, a convicted felon. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, and neither man was named in Thursday's indictments against Thompson.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Goodfellas' mobster is arrested in metro-east

The former mobster who inspired "Goodfellas" was arrested Sunday in Fairview Heights because he had "one too many" drinks in a hotel lobby, he said.
Henry P. Hill, 66, of Topanga, Calif., was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in the Drury Inn Hotel, 12 Ludwig Drive in Fairview Heights.
"I got a summons for being intoxicated; it wasn't my first one," Hill said. "I broke the law and I got arrested.
"I don't drink every day," he added. "Sometimes I have one too many. I know I shouldn't drink this much, but they give you free drinks. I had a few and it got pretty foggy after that. The lady I was with doesn't drink, so I had six drinks and I ended up at the county jail."
Police were notified about 9:09 p.m. Sunday of a disturbance in the lobby of the hotel.
"Apparently I got loud and beligerent in the lobby, but there was no one there except me and the girl in the lobby, so now I owe her an apology," Hill said. "I will personally go down and apologize to her."
Sgt. Steve Evans could not immediately provide more information on the nature of the disturbance, and said more details may be released today.
Hill was taken to the St. Clair County Jail, and has since been arraigned and released in lieu of $1,000 bail.
Hill said Drury Inn representatives "politely asked if (he) could switch hotels." He is staying at another Fairview Heights hotel.
Hill is scheduled for three appearances at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club, 5420 Bunkum Road in Washington Park, where he is showcasing his artwork and meeting with fans from 10 p.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday.
Hill said he is touring to help pay for tuition for his 20-year-old son at a college in Tallahassee, Fla.
Hill's involvement with the Lucchese family and his role as an FBI informant was documented in his book "Wiseguy," which led to the "Goodfellas" movie. Actor Ray Liotta played Hill in the 1990 film.


Gambino linked Gambling ringleader goes to prison

A man who claimed he was a member of the mafia and ran a large-scale illegal gambling and loan-sharking operation in Denver that contributed to two suicides was sentenced Monday to 16 years in prison.
“There was some gambling and I like money, but I never forced anyone to gamble,” Jeffrey Castardi said before his sentencing on one felony charge of violating Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act.
The bald 49-year-old wore jet-black eye glasses, a yellow jail jumpsuit and had a small tattoo on his right forearm as he stood before Jefferson County District Judge Philip McNulty.
Just minutes earlier, prosecutors had reminded the judge that Castardi had bragged that he’d been a bookie for the Gambino crime family on the East Coast for most of his adult life. Still, Castardi tells the judge he’s sorry and is capable of feeling remorse.
“I do owe some apologies to some people, I am sorry for a lot of things and I will deal with that,” he said.
Despite the last-minute plea from Castardi, McNulty held nothing back in his sentencing.
“It was you. The Gin Rummy Club and Jeff Castardi were one and the same,” McNulty said. “This case is remarkable for the number of people whose lives were ruined, destroyed or ended because they had the misfortune of meeting you. You are a master of getting people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”
Castardi and his partners started the Gin Rummy Club on 2380 S. Broadway in Denver in July 2003. Investigators with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Gaming unit and the Denver Police Department shut it down in April 2008 and indicted Castardi and other members of his criminal enterprise with money laundering, tax evasion, theft and running an illegal gambling and bookmaking business.
Witnesses said the amount of money that ran through the club was “staggering;” somewhere in the millions of dollars, according to investigators.
The indictment says gamblers played Texas Hold ‘em poker games and the house took a cut, or a rake, of the winnings. Many gamblers fell deep into debt and took loans from Castardi, at the illegal rate of 40 percent interest, according to investigators.
In court Monday, Colorado First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro argued Castardi ruined many people’s lives and contributed to the suicide of player Eric Cox and investor Jeremy Fowler.
“Castardi’s been conning, he’s been grifting, he’s been cheating people and is a harm to this state,” Shapiro said. “He was the pulse, the brains, the purpose of the club that existed.”
The widow of Eric Cox spoke before the court on Monday. Cox, who stole $46,000 from his wife to pay off some of his gambling debts, killed himself Jan. 22, 2008.
“He took his life because of shame and financial ruin that came from gambling at the club,” Cox’s widow, Cathy Lopez, said. “Gambling is not a victimless crime.”
Lopez says Cox was a generous man who fought for the rights of the homeless and others.
Castardi and his associates had been texting Cox in the days leading up to his suicide asking when they could collect their money, according to Shapiro. Hours after Cox was dead, a new text on his cell phone from Castardi and his associates read, “How do you look in the mirror?”
Investor Jeremy Fowler also killed himself in June 2007 after owing the business money.
Several other members of the Gin Rummy Club have been convicted and were mostly given probation sentences for various gambling-related crimes. Castardi will serve 16 years in the Department of Corrections, five years parole and may have to pay restitution to victims.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Reputed Lucchese Family Underboss summoned to court in Newark

Martin Taccetta, a reputed former underboss of the Lucchese crime family’s New Jersey faction, has been summoned to a Newark courtroom next week to possibly resolve the charges pending against him in a mob case that has resulted in the convictions of 19 others.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler signed an order last week directing the warden of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, where Taccetta is currently incarcerated, to have him brought before the judge for a plea hearing on Tuesday.
But Taccetta apparently has not signed off on a plea deal.
“All I can tell you is that there were plea negotiations and its Mr. Taccetta’s position at this point that he’s not going to plea guilty of anything,” his attorney, Maria Noto, said Thursday. “He maintains his innocence.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald D. Wigler, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment Thursday on the negotiations or the scheduled plea hearing.
Taccetta, 58, of East Hanover, was among 23 reputed members and associates of the Gambino and Lucchese crime families indicted in May 2008 on charges of engaging in what the FBI called a “veritable smorgasbord of criminal activity” – illegal gambling, loan-sharking, extortion, identity theft, fraud and labor racketeering.
The defendants were accused of shaking down lunch truck operators, putting mobsters in no-show jobs, using union muscle to collect bribes to allow non-union workers on construction sites and raking in hefty profits from bettors who wagered more than $1 million a month.
The mob also allegedly targeted a Lowe’s home improvement store in Paterson, where conspirators bought high-ticket power tools and appliances by switching bar code labels from less expensive items and attempted to steal the identities of patrons who applied for Lowe’s credit cards.
Taccetta was charged in only three of the 30 counts in the indictment. He was accused of conspiring to use extortion to collect a loan from an unidentified debtor. He also charged with conspiring with the lead defendant, Andrew Merola, and others to demand and receive about $20,000 in unlawful labor payments to allow non-union labor on a construction project at a Morristown BMW dealership in 2007.
Merola, 42, of East Hanover, is among the defendants still in the case. He is identified in the indictment as one of the Gambino crime family’s highest ranking members in New Jersey and is accused of overseeing a mob crew that profited from gambling, loan-sharking, extortion and labor racketeering.
Also awaiting trial are Edward Deak, 45, of Secaucus, an alleged “gambling agent” charged with one count of operating an illegal gambling business, and Kyle Ragusa, 42, of East Hanover, an alleged associate and member of Merola’s crew, charged with racketeering, operating a gambling business, loan-sharking and wire-fraud.
Taccetta had been under house arrest until July when the New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated his sentence of life plus 10 years in prison in a 1993 state case in which Taccetta was convicted of racketeering and extortion but acquitted of murder in the golf-club beating death of an Ocean County businessman.
Noto said the reinstated life sentence was “the reason I was in negotiations at all, but at this point there is no plea agreement.”


Murder charge is dismissed against reputed N.J. mob boss

A Superior Court judge today dismissed the murder charge against a reputed mob boss accused of gunning down a man 32 years ago in a Bridgewater motel parking lot.
Michael Coppola, 63, was accused of shooting John “Johnny Cokes” Lardiere, 68, of Maplewood multiple times outside the Red Bull Inn on April 10, 1977.
He wasn’t linked to the crime until 1996, when a mob turncoat told investigators that Coppola had bragged about the killing during a party in the 1980s. The informant told investigators Coppola was formally inducted into the Genovese crime family upon completion of the homicide, court papers say.
Coppola disappeared after he was ordered to provide a DNA sample and remained at large until his 2007 capture in New York City.
Defense attorney Thomas Cammarata filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in 2008, accusing the state Attorney General’s office of taking too long to seek an indictment, denying his client’s rights to due process and a speedy trial.
Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong initially denied the motion May 6. He gave the state 120 days to go before a grand jury, or else he would be inclined to grant a dismissal.

Following through on that ruling, Cammarata filed another motion, and Armstrong granted the request following a hearing in Somerville. That does not stop the state from continuing its investigation or presenting the matter to a grand jury in the future, Armstrong said.
“The state and the defense are fully aware that there is no statute of limitations on a charge of murder,” Armstrong said.
Coppola is currently serving a 42-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a fugitive charge last year. In July, he was tried in federal court and was found guilty of conspiracy to violate RICO, but the alleged murder “was not proven” as one of the acts of racketeering. He is to be sentenced Dec. 18.
“As far as we’re concerned, he’s not guilty of the charge,” Cammarata said regarding the murder allegation.
When he first denied the motion in May, Armstrong said length of the delay was not unreasonable given the legitimate reasons, including the ongoing investigation into the overall crime operation.
“Defendant did not assert his right to a speedy trial until after he was apprehended following an 11-year stint as a fugitive,” he said in court papers.
At the hearing, Cammarata said the state’s delay was tactical. They wanted to wait for the outcome of the federal trial, giving them a distinct advantage.
There are 1,875 pages of transcripts that Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn says he needs to review, but, the defense says, only about 250 are relevant.
“Two years and nine months is simply too long,” he said. Giving the state more time to investigate means his client’s rights to due process and a speedy trial continue to be violated. “The state of New Jersey’s investigators can’t do a better job than the FBI,” he said.
Romanyshyn said Cammarata was being disingenuous when he said there are only 200 or so relevant pages within the transcript.
“I would be remiss if I simply rushed into another case, subjecting Mr. Coppola to another trial, without taking the time to assess that case,” he said.
“I need to do my job the best way I know how without regard to whether the defense thinks there is some sort of ulterior motive,” he insisted.


Bernie Madoff, the $19 Billion Con, Makes New Friends Behind Bars

Bernard L. Madoff's life of country clubs and luxury homes ended when federal agents arrested him at his Manhattan penthouse apartment exactly one year ago. But he is adjusting to his new life behind rows of gleaming silver razor wire in this small Southern town. Inmate No. 61727-054 shares an unlocked cell at the medium-security prison at Butner Federal Correctional Complex with a younger man named Frank. He wears khaki prison garb and has been spotted walking on an outdoor track. He plays bocce, chess and checkers. He scrubs pots and pans in the prison kitchen.

The architect of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history has served about five months of his 150-year prison sentence. WSJ's Dionne Searcey discusses Bernie Madoff's life in lockup.
The 71-year-old Mr. Madoff also is salvaging something that disappeared in the outside world the moment his fraud was exposed: respect. "To every con artist, he is the godfather, the don," says an inmate interviewed earlier this week.
Mr. Madoff has served about five months of a 150-year prison sentence for pulling off the largest Ponzi scheme ever. Losses suffered by Madoff customers are estimated at $19.4 billion.
"All things considered, he's OK," says Ira Sorkin, Mr. Madoff's lawyer. "He still suffers deeply for what he did."
A description of Mr. Madoff's prison life has emerged from interviews with current and former inmates at Butner and various lawyers, including some who have met with him in prison.
Officially, Mr. Madoff is just another inmate in a federal prison that houses men convicted of crimes including embezzlement, bank robbery, espionage and drug dealing. Nancy Fineman, who represented investors in a suit against his wife, Ruth Madoff, interviewed him this summer. She says he mentioned chatting with fellow inmates such as reputed Colombo crime-family boss Carmine Persico and Jonathan Pollard, an American imprisoned after admitting to spying for Israel more than two decades ago. Other high-profile inmates at Butner include former Rite Aid Corp. vice chairman Franklin C. Brown, who was convicted of crimes tied to accounting irregularities at the drugstore chain.
Prison spokeswoman Denise Simmons declined to comment on Mr. Madoff's life behind bars other than to say that all inmates are treated fairly. Several people in Butner (pop. 6,169) who run businesses frequented by correctional officers say guards have been told they'll lose their jobs if they talk to the media about Mr. Madoff. Mr. Sorkin declined a request to interview Mr. Madoff.
Ex-convict K.C. White says he sketched Bernie Madoff in Butner prison.
Butner Federal Correctional Complex has typical features of prison life, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Inmates rise at 6 a.m. and report for mandatory work duty by 7:30 a.m. An August prison log reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows that he worked in a maintenance job at Butner at that time. Inmates are paid between 12 cents and $1.15 an hour, depending on the job, which could include groundskeeper, plumber or kitchen crew.
Lights are turned off at 11 p.m. There are gangs and a thriving black market for smuggled luxuries, a current inmate says, such as liquor, shrimp, chicken and cigarettes, which can fetch $10 apiece. Inmates can manufacture military clothing, take Spanish classes and learn heating and air-conditioning repair. Internet access is strictly forbidden, so inmates rely on the word-of-mouth prison rumor mill called "inmate.com."
The informal code of prisoner conduct is strict: Mind your own business. Don't try to find out anyone's inmate number because it could be used to determine a prisoner's criminal record, which is considered private. Don't walk uninvited into another inmate's "cube," or cell. Don't wake anyone who is sleeping. Don't change the TV channel when someone else is watching.
Shortly after arriving at Butner in July, Mr. Madoff told Ms. Fineman and her law partner that he was fending off inmates who wanted to make a buck off his notoriety. "People wanted his signature because they wanted to sell it on eBay, so he wouldn't sign anything," she says.
Back then, Mr. Madoff was sleeping in the bottom bunk and exercising every night by walking around the track. He didn't express interest in attending religious services, but told the two lawyers that he liked the food and people he had met in prison.
"To me, it was all like he was on stage," Ms. Fineman says, comparing the interview to a performance. "He was well-spoken and you could tell he thought about what he was going to say. He's just used to being in command and telling his story."
Some of Mr. Madoff's fellow inmates suspect he has money hidden somewhere and try to cozy up to him in hopes of learning its location. But correctional officers keep a close watch on Mr. Madoff and don't allow groups to crowd around him.
"He looks like the rest of us doing time," says the inmate who asked not to be identified. "He just acts like a normal guy."
Prison officials won't say who has visited Mr. Madoff, though one inmate says Ruth has made the 500-mile trip from New York.
Associated Press
Bernie Madoff arrives at Manhattan federal court in March. A year after he was arrested at his Manhattan penthouse, he is adjusting to prison life at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina
Kenneth Calvin "K.C." White, whose prison sentence in Butner for bank robbery overlapped with Mr. Madoff's for several weeks this summer, says he met him in the line where inmates await medication.
Mr. White is an artist who painted several murals throughout the prison. Mr. Madoff struck up a conversation, saying: "You're the guy who does all the pictures around here," Mr. White recalls.
According to Mr. White, Mr. Madoff chatted about the fraud's aftermath, claiming he "carried" employees at Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC for more than two decades, yet wound up with an astronomical prison sentence. "I guess he felt they turned their back on him," Mr. White says.
Still, Mr. Madoff seemed proud, walking around the prison with his head held high. "He carried on like he'd been doing time for years," Mr. White says.
Mr. Madoff asked Mr. White to paint his portrait, so the bank robber drew a fast sketch in the prison paint shop where Mr. Madoff worked at the time, according to Mr. White.
Mr. Madoff told Mr. White he didn't want to be depicted in his prison khakis, Mr. White says, so he drew him in a suit and tie.
Harlene Horowitz, who lost her Brentwood, Calif., home and other assets in Mr. Madoff's Ponzi scheme, says she thinks he should be in a tiny cell and barred from human contact.
"For someone who lived so high, he can't be happy in his surroundings," she says.


Mob Kin Convicted in Drunken Crash

Like father, like roach.
The son of drug-dealing mob hit man Anthony (Tony Roach) Rampino was convicted Thursday of endangering the lives of his seven passengers in a drunken, 100-mph drive down the Long Island Expressway.
A Queens Supreme Court jury found Anthony Rampino, 35, guilty of reckless endangerment, driving while intoxicated, vehicular assault and other charges.
One of six women sitting in the backseat of Rampino's 2002 Chrysler convertible was thrown across three lanes of traffic when the car hit two medians near Flushing Meadows-Corona Park July 25, 2006, Queens prosecutors said. She needed reconstructive surgery on her knees.
"It is a miracle that he did not cause the death of any of his passengers or other motorists on the road that night," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Rampino, of Ozone Park, fled the crash and was caught by an off-duty police officer who chased him into the park, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors said the women pleaded with Rampino to slow down as he wove in and out of traffic. Instead, he raised the volume on the radio, they said.
Rampino's 70-year-old father is serving a 25 years-to-life term for a 1987 heroin trafficking conviction. In May, the longtime associate of the late John (Dapper Don) Gotti and the Gambino crime family lost a bid to get sprung from prison early.

Judge Reverses Jury

A federal judge has overturned a verdict against Benny DiCostanzo after the jury convicted him and co-defendants Anthony "Toto" Anastasio, a reputed Gambino soldier, and David Benedict in a racketeering trial last October as reported by Jeff Harrell for the Staten Island Advance:
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan confirmed the 45-year-old Oakwood scrap metal dealer's mob denials by granting a motion reversing the guilty verdict on one count of conspiracy to extortion. "The evidence presented by the government is insufficient to establish … Benedetto DiCostanzo's guilt under any count of the indictment, even when viewed in the light most favorable to the government," Judge Cogan wrote in his decision. "There was no evidence that could establish, or even create an inference, that DiCostanzo played a role in the extortion charged in the indictment," the judge noted.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Judge Excuses Taxes for Genovese/Gambino Linked Club

A New York administrative law judge has ruled that "the estate of a businessman held to be responsible for taxes on a once-prosperous Manhattan strip club does not have to pay more than $4 million in back taxes because the club became so thoroughly infested by organized crime that it was unmanageable" as reported by Joel Stashenko for the New York Law Journal:
While the late Frank A. Marchello was properly held by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance as being a responsible officer for the V.I.P. Club, Administrative Law Judge Winifred M. Maloney concluded that Marchello was thwarted, through no fault of his own, in carrying out his corporate duties by mob influence that one federal prosecutor said had "bled the club dry" financially. The same was true of Steve Aslan, a man Marchello hired to manage the club at 20 West 20th St.
Both the Gambino and Genovese crime families allegedly had their hands in the pot during the time period at issue:
Gambino crime family figures Salvatore "Fat Sal" Scala and Thomas "Monk" Sassano muscled their way into club operations and began collecting "protection payments" ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 every two weeks from Aslan and co-manager Jon Vargo, the decision said. * * * To compound matters, Judge Maloney's determination indicated that Vargo was also making payments of about $5,000 a week to the Genovese crime family and that, over time, Vargo took more than $1 million out of the club to pay gambling debts he had incurred with Genovese bookies. * * * In all, Judge Maloney calculated that at least $4 million was siphoned from the club through extortion and other payments related to organized crime between the club's opening in 1996 and 2002, when it collapsed financially.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sports betting magnate James Giordano goes to jail

Last Wednesday, a former bookmaker named James Giordano pleaded guilty to promoting gambling in New York. The 55-year-old Pinecrest resident was indicted in 2006 for running a sports betting website in the Caribbean that took millions of dollars in bets from dozens of U.S.-based bookies and gamblers.
It was all part of an epic battle over the legality of Internet gambling. That struggle has seen the United States on the losing end of an international trade war with tiny countries such as Antigua and Costa Rica and vast trade markets such as the European Union.
The government allows betting on horses, dogs, slots, and poker across South Florida, but it has been nailing offshore gambling mavens such as Giordano. The crackdown has come even though the Nevada Legislature in 2007 legalized Internet gambling within its borders.
"It's hypocritical," Giordano tells New Times. "If you want to bet the [New York] Giants, you have to fly to Vegas."
Giordano — who spoke at length for the first time about his life — began his gambling career at a New York-area grocery store, where he watched a produce manager take bets from employees and then hand off the cash to a small Italian fellow. He remembers taking the produce manager aside. "I told him: 'You gather bets... it seems to me if you eliminate the phone call, you can keep the money.'"
Soon he began his own little bookmaking operation, first with the produce manager and later on his own. Then he worked for 11 years with a partner. "It just became a business," he says. "We never looked at it as being something terrible... We kept it clean."
He was nevertheless arrested for promoting gambling in Suffolk County in 1991. He avoided jail time but paid a fine and started up again. By the mid-'90s, he had about 600 customers during football season. He rented an unmarked space in an office building and used a phone system that rolled calls over so no one got a busy signal. "I always had an affinity for numbers," Giordano says. "If you're going from here to there, I'll be able to tell you how many red cars you'll see. I'll give you odds that you might actually be willing to bet on."
In 1996, he got popped again and paid a fine. It was then he had the idea to launch an offshore Internet company.
At the time, there were very few online gambling sites and only a handful that had been started by Americans. A lawyer told him the act of taking bets across national boundaries might be illegal but there was a huge gray area, so Giordano moved himself and his wife, Priscilla, to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, which had legalized sports betting. He found a partner, obtained a license through the government of the Netherlands Antilles, and in November 1997 opened a sports betting business.
The initial site was a "cash post-up business." Gamblers would deposit an amount of money and bet against that cash reserve. It was tough to sign up bettors, so by 2000, the site had evolved into PlayWithAl.com.
Who was Al? Why, none other than Pompano Beach firebrand, pornographer, and Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein, who wanted to add an Internet gambling button to his website. "Goldstein was a genius, so beyond eccentric that I don't know what the next word would be," Giordano says.
About two dozen bookies who used his service included a former pro baseball scout and a former maitre d' with supposed connections to the Genovese crime family. Giordano employed Priscilla and their daughter, Melissa.
Eventually, Giordano says, he was making $12,000 to $40,000 a week, serving somewhere between 600 and 2,000 gamblers in each seven-day period. At one point, he had to fend off a group of Russian computer hackers that made a practice of breaking into servers and holding them for ransom.
In 2003, Giordano and his wife moved to a million-dollar Pinecrest home surrounded by a cream-colored wall, a green patinaed gate, and 12-foot columns. The couple opened a small office nearby and hired college students to act as customer service and marketing representatives. The computer servers remained in St. Maarten.
Back in New York, though, authorities began an investigation in 2004, when an undercover detective working another case overheard a man who reputedly had ties to the Lucchese crime family discussing payment of a gambling debt related to Giordano's website.
Soon, authorities obtained a search warrant and hacked into computer servers in St. Maarten and Costa Rica, where he'd expanded. They mirrored the transactions of dozens of bettors. In March 2005, local police showed up at Giordano's office after receiving a report that one of the employees had sexually assaulted a woman. They noticed brochures and other documents that suggested they had come across a gambling operation, and called the FBI.
Agents arrived the next day with a search warrant and seized the computers and paper records.
But there was no bust, at least not immediately. All wagering had been done online and offshore. "We instructed [our employees] never to take a bet," Giordano says. "They didn't even know how to take a bet. It was strictly customer service."
So authorities gathered further evidence — and the Bush administration pushed through a law that effectively banned Internet gambling. In November 2006, a series of search warrants were served in New York, Las Vegas, and Florida. Authorities arrested Giordano, his wife and daughter, and 24 other people. (Giordano was taken during a predawn raid at his Pinecrest mansion.) Three companies were also charged. One was Digital Solutions S.A., a computer company that assisted in the development of the website and the Internet security measures. It was located at 6045 SW 45th St. in Davie.
The federal raid in Florida seized Giordano's house, $288,000 in cash, and $50,000 in gambling chips from the Bellagio. Authorities also froze Swiss bank accounts.
Authorities in New York, who led the investigation, claimed Giordano's company, PlayWithAl, booked more than $3.3 billion in sports wagers over 28 months. (Giordano says the numbers were preposterous.)
Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown described the case as the first to charge a web designer and an offshore Internet company with involvement in a criminal enterprise. He accused the company of laundering "untold millions" through casinos, shell corporations, and bank accounts in Central America, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. "Internet gambling is a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry that for too long has operated with impunity," he declared.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, meanwhile, described the venture as "the largest illegal gambling operation we have ever encountered." He claimed law enforcement had "smashed" it.
One of the lawyers Giordano hired was Sandy Becher, who had been involved in one of the early Internet gaming companies. That firm, SDB Global, based in Panama, was indicted by the feds in 1998 and eventually paid $1.2 million in fines.
Becher and others on the legal team eventually persuaded authorities to settle for less jail time than they had wanted. The Miami lawyer says of Giordano's business: "We had done everything to be transparent. We paid taxes; we declared our earnings. And I think at the end of the day, the government realized there were legal hurdles to their case."
Eventually, Giordano pleaded guilty to promoting gambling and accepted a sentence that would put him in Rikers for five months. He agreed to surrender slightly over $1 million and waived his right to get back $1 million more. His 26 codefendants gave up more than a million total. Some of them received jail time.
Even though Giordano had already served ten months behind bars, he and his lawyers regard the plea agreement as a victory. He kept his house. He did not have to go to state prison.
So, if his case was so strong, why did Giordano plead guilty? He explains he was worried he wouldn't get a fair shake in Queens County. "They got a judge to allow them to search computers in a foreign country," he says. "They illegally obtained the information, and a judge upheld them. Am I going to wait to go to trial, lose, appeal, and spend another $100,000-plus? This is the problem I was facing. So, I made a reasonable deal. I had put my family through enough."
Now an effort to legalize Internet gambling is afoot. U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced this past May the latest version of a bill he's been pushing for years. By the end of July, the bill had dozens of cosponsors in Congress. The Frank bill would not allow sports betting but appears to allow all other kinds of wagering.
By the time Giordano left for his jail stint, the bill had garnered 63 cosponsors.
Meanwhile, the Treasury Department has agreed to postpone enforcement of a the Bush-era Internet gambling law for six months.
If Frank is successful, major overseas firms will enter the U.S. market at once, and more than likely, the big American casino companies will be right behind them. "The switch is waiting to be flipped," Becher says.
So, will Giordano return to the Internet gambling business after he's released from Rikers? No, he says. "I'm out of it, looking for something else to do."