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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Court: 'Big John' Bologna had dual role in Adolfo 'Big Al' Bruno murder-for-hire case

When a hulking gangster from Bronx, N.Y., began appearing regularly in Springfield during summer 2002, Western Massachusetts mob investigators suspected a few things.
“Big John” Bologna was obviously sent by higher-ups in the New York-based Genovese crime family to squeeze more profits out of the region’s rackets, according to state police surveillance records.
They knew Bologna blew into town in his Cadillac each weekend and stayed at the Sheraton Springfield.
They knew Bologna was almost constantly accompanied by the region’s ranking mobsters, including the late Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and Anthony J. Arillotta, to surreptitious “walk and talks” in parking lots.
Investigators also knew Bologna frequently tucked in at the Mardi Gras strip club in downtown Springfield, wearing dark glasses and overseeing cover-charge collections to make sure higher-ups in New York were getting their due.
What they didn’t suspect was that Bologna had been an FBI informant for five years, according to records filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
In that city, a growing list of defendants are being prosecuted for the 2003 murder-for-hire plot of Bruno. The regional mob boss was gunned down in a dark parking lot that November amid a power struggle, according to witnesses.
The most recent addition as a prosecution witness is Bologna, whose guilty plea was made public just days ago by federal prosecutors who will hand over information to defense lawyers preparing for a March 8 trial.
As the trial date nears, government informants who have admitted culpability in Bruno’s murder and a litany of other crimes, now outnumber the defendants facing trial.
Just three men out of eight charged are due to face trial, although a fourth is fighting extradition. They include:
• alleged onetime Genovese crime boss Arthur “Artie” Nigro, 66, of Bronx, N.Y., accused of sanctioning the hit on Bruno, a made soldier;
• Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 44, of West Springfield; and
• his younger brother Ty Geas, 39, of Westfield.
The Geas brothers are described as former “muscle” for Arillotta, Bruno’s reputed successor; they are accused of helping hatch the plot against Bruno and recruit a gunman. All have denied the charges.
On the government informant side are:
• Arillotta, 42, who sent shock waves through the region’s organized crime underworld when he turned informant after being arrested for Bruno’s murder in March; he pleaded guilty to Bruno’s murder, an attempted murder and a litany of other crimes in July;
• Frankie A. Roche, 38, formerly of Westfield, the first to get arrested for Bruno’s murder and who, under a deal with prosecutors, admitted in federal court in Springfield that he was paid $10,000 to shoot Bruno;
• Felix Tranghese, 58, of East Longmeadow, a contemporary of Bruno and longtime made member who, investigators have said, arranged and attended meetings with New York and Massachusetts mobsters to discuss Bruno’s fate; Tranghese pleaded guilty last month to the Bruno murder and extortion under a deal with prosecutors; and
• Bologna, age unknown, a close associate of Nigro, according to investigators, whose visits to Western Massachusetts a year before Bruno’s death were apparently linked to the seedlings of the murder plot, the charges indicate.

Al Bruno Murder Case
Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno (center) talks with attorneys in the hallway of the Hampden County Superior Court during a recess in his trial for attempted murder
 
The eighth defendant in the Bruno murder, Emilio Fusco, 42, of Longmeadow, fled to his native Italy before he was arrested and is fighting extradition.
Of all the known informants in the case, only Bologna’s government service potentially overlaps with his alleged crime spree, according to court filings.
A defense motion filed by Ty Geas’ lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, stated that Bologna was an FBI informant at least since 1997 according to records she received from prosecutors.
But, prosecutors have said they do not intend to call him as a witness at trial, despite his ties to Nigro and direct knowledge of the racketeering and murder conspiracies he conceded in his guilty plea. Bologna also admitted to a 2002 shakedown of Mardi Gras owner James Santaniello, plus gambling and loan-sharking operations he ran between 2004 and 2007.
Also in 2007, Bologna was recording conversations with Nigro and in 2008 wore an FBI wire on Arillotta, whom investigators were angling to add to the Bruno indictment, law enforcement officials have said.
FBI agents in Springfield and New York have refused to comment about Bologna, so it is unclear whether he was a dormant or active government correspondent when he participated in the murder plot and extortion scheme in Western Massachusetts. Bologna’s lawyer, Andrew G. Patel, also declined comment.
Prosecutors have previously told the defense Bologna lied to his FBI handler about his dealings in Springfield and the circumstances around Bruno’s death.
Before his recent guilty plea and imprisonment, however, Bologna clearly had a knack for staying out of trouble.
In state court filings dating back to 2002 and 2003, two Massachusetts State Police officials noted they believed Bologna had been tipped off to police scrutiny. Troopers were filing paperwork to seek a judge’s permission to plant a listening device and GPS in Arillotta’s car to probe suspected extortion by Arillotta, Bologna and others.
But after weeks and weeks of regular travel to Springfield, Bologna abruptly stopped coming after local officials inquired about him to New York authorities, state police said. Police later learned that Bologna would only come as far as Hartford because he was aware of the Massachusetts investigation, according to an affidavit filed in Hampden Superior Court in 2005.
Northampton lawyer David P. Hoose, who represented Fotios Geas in U.S. District Court in Springfield before the case was transferred to New York, said he believed law enforcement there took it over, in part, so they would have more control over their witnesses.
“I think they took it, in part, to protect some of their informants,” said Hoose. He declined to specify the basis for his opinion.
Recent filings in the New York court docket indicate a reference in a federal pre-sentencing summary for Fusco (who was preparing for sentencing after a racketeering conviction in 2003) to an informal conversation Bruno had with an FBI agent in 2001 was primarily what got Bruno killed.
“The evidence at trial will show that the plot to murder Bruno began in earnest after it became known among the defendants and others that Bruno had spoken with FBI agent Cliff Hedges and confirmed that Emilio Fusco was a made member of the Genovese Organized Crime Family,” a government motion reads.
The motion refers to a single page in Fusco’s “presentence investigation report (PSR)” that cites:
• a 2001 conversation Bruno had with Michael “Cookie” Durso, a Genovese family wrecking ball after Durso turned informant; and
• passing conversation Bruno had with Hedges at a pizzeria; Bruno confirmed to Hedges that Fusco had been “made” while Bruno was in prison.
Arillotta and Tranghese are both expected to testify that events outlined in the document quickly became the prevailing argument to take Bruno out, according a recent prosecution motion.
“Tranghese took this page to New York to meet with Arthur Nigro and others. Nigro then gave Tranghese, and later Arillotta, the order to kills Bruno,” the Feb. 1 motion reads.

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/02/court_big_john_bologna_dual_role_big_al_bruno_murder_case.html

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