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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lawyers wrangle at final pretrial hearing for Fotios Gaes, Ty Gaes and Arthur Nigro, accused in Al Bruno murder

When they weren’t serving prison time, local defendants in an upcoming mob murder trial essentially crafted a long-term business around robbing drug dealers, extorting business owners, roughing up rivals and taking out suspected informants, according to federal prosecutors.

Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 44, of West Springfield, and his brother, Ty Geas, 39, of Westfield, appeared along with co-defendant Arthur “Artie” Nigro, the onetime alleged boss of the New York-based Genovese crime family, at their final pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday.

The hearing lasted nearly three hours and was scheduled for lawyers to wrangle over which evidence U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel will allow a jury to hear in the final stretch of pretrial maneuverings, a prelude to what is expected to be a month-long trial starting with jury selection on March 8.

The brothers and Nigro are accused in the 2003 murder-for-hire plot against Western Massachusetts Genovese crime boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and a litany of other mob-related activity.

While the case will be tried in New York, the most egregious accusations in the sweeping racketeering indictment generate from a violent spree that played out in Greater Springfield in 2003, according to law enforcement officials.

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. 
Bruno and police informant Gary D. Westerman were murdered by Bruno’s reputed successor, Anthony J. Arillotta, of Springfield, and his cohorts, according to witnesses. The regime change in local rackets also fueled a spate of extortion, loan-sharking and illegal gambling rings in the Pioneer Valley and beyond, according to the charges and arguments in court.

Over objections by defense lawyers, Castel will allow jurors to hear about the Geas brothers’ lengthy prison histories, prior alleged plots to kill Westerman, a pattern of tractor-trailer truck heists, hold-ups of drug dealers, myriad other thwarted murder plots, paid beatings of adversaries and shake-downs of strip club, bar and restaurant owners dating back to the 1990s.

While defense lawyers argued any evidence of alleged misbehavior not included in the indictment will create a pile-on that will infect the trial, prosecutors countered that the government should be able to present to the jury a rich history of criminal bonding among the players.

Under that theory, prosecutors also will put on evidence of an alleged trip Arillotta and Nigro took through the Bronx in 2003, looking to greet mob associate Anthony DiFranco with a lead pipe. While they didn’t find him that day, prosecutors said, it represented the flavor of their partnership.

“This is how Nigro operated in the Genovese family - through assaults. That’s how one gets a reputation in the Genovese family,“ Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D. Lanpher told Castel, adding that the beating was carried out later.

Bruno was gunned down in a dark parking lot on Nov. 23, 2003 in what prosecutors say was a classic gangland murder-for-hire. Admitted shooter Frankie A. Roche, 39, pleaded guilty in 2008 to shooting Bruno, 58, six times for $10,000 at the behest of Arillotta and the Freddy Geas, whom he had met and befriended in state prison.

Arillotta pleaded guilty over the summer to killing Bruno and Westerman, in addition to admitting other charges, under a plea deal with prosecutors. He told investigators he and the Geases lured Westerman, 48, to a wooded lot in Agawam, shot him twice and buried him in an eight-foot grave because they correctly believed Westerman was a state police informant. Westerman also was Arillotta’s brother-in-law.

Arillotta is scheduled for sentencing on March 11 and is expected to receive a reduced sentence for his testimony in the upcoming trial and other matters. He will be among the government’s star witnesses, along with Roche and East Longmeadow gangster Felix Tranghese, who also was charged in the Bruno murder in July and turned informant shortly after.

The jury also will hear testimony about an alleged beating of Tranghese by Freddy Geas in 2006. Lanpher told Castel it was delivered after Nigro ordered Tranghese, 58, be “put on the shelf“ and was accompanied by the message: “This is from your friend in New York.“

Castel has not ruled on a motion by the government to impanel an anonymous jury. Prosecutors argued they must protect members from jury tampering and protect cooperating witnesses in the case. A defense lawyer for Freddy Geas said it will create unnecessary fear among the panel.

“This is a run-of-the-mill murder case. The fact that this has mob allegations has nothing to do with anything,“ attorney Frederick H. Cohn told Castel, adding that none of the defense lawyers has the reputation of being “in-house counsel for the mob.“



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