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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Feds say Vernace tied to mob weddings and wakes

John GottiReputed Suffern mobster Bartolomeo Vernace was a regular at the Ravenite social club, "Dapper Don" John Gotti's notorious Gambino family headquarters in Queens.
And federal prosecutors say Vernace was so entrenched in the Mafia that he was seen at more than 20 mob weddings and wakes — including Gotti's own in 2002 — and ran his own string of Queens cafes.
Reputed to have a seat on the Gambino three-member ruling panel, the 61-year-old Vernace also had a share of Gotti's Teflon: He beat a double-murder charge in the 1981 deaths of two men gunned down at the Shamrock Bar in Queens.
Vernace is now charged with those killings again, this time in federal court as one of 127 defendants arrested this week in one of the most sweeping organized-crime roundups in FBI history.
Also charged with racketeering, conspiracy to murder, illegal gambling, extortion and illegal use of a firearm, Vernace was among seven defendants from the Lower Hudson Valley.
They include New Rochelle resident Neil Messina, charged with killing a man during a 1992 break-in robbery, and Yonkers resident Daniel Cilenti, a reputed Genovese family member who was released early from a labor-racketeering sentence in 1998 due to failing health.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the arrests "an important and encouraging step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra's operations."
The sweep struck all of New York's major crime families, including the entire leadership of the Colombo family, netting Richard "Nerves" Fusco, a Yonkers resident alleged to be the reputed crime family's consigliere.
Fusco, 74, also has the distinction of being pictured in one of organized crime's most famous photos: a shot of Frank Sinatra, Carlo Gambino and several alleged mobsters in the 1970s at the now-defunct Westchester Premier Theater in Greenburgh
According to prosecutors, Vernace has been atop the Gambino family since 2008, serving on a ruling panel that took over when other mob bosses were jailed.
As early as 1989 he was at Gotti's Ravenite social club, and attended the funeral of Gotti's father in 1992. Last year, he was on the guest list for the wedding of a Gambino family captain's daughter.
In what prosecutors called "a measure of Vernace's stature," several reputed high-ranking mobsters attended his own sister's wake in 2006, including alleged acting underboss Domenico Cefalu and alleged Gambino consigliere Joseph Corrozzo.
"Vernace is one of the leaders of the Gambino crime family and he has been involved in acts of violence, including murder," federal prosecutors said in documents released this week.
"He thus falls within the 'small but identifiable group of particularly dangerous defendants as to whom neither the imposition of stringent release conditions nor the prospect of revocation of release can reasonably assure the safety of the community," prosecutors wrote.
Vernace, nicknamed "Pepe" and "Bobby Glasses," had been arrested by New York City police Nov. 22, 1998, and charged in the deaths of John D'Agnese and Richard Godkin at the Shamrock Bar on Jamaica Avenue. Records show that Vernace was released on bail in the case two months later, until he was tried in state court and acquitted in November 2002.
Prosecutors charge that while on bail Vernace ran illegal gambling and loansharking operations, including out of cafes he ran in Queens. The slayings are now among the federal charges unsealed Thursday in federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
More than 700 federal and local law enforcement personnel took part in the sweep.



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