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

Monday, June 27, 2011

'Sopranos' kin ripped off Mafia gambling dens

There was a time when robbing Mafia card games in New York might have seemed like an idiotic career choice.
But times have changed -- and the mob isn't what it used to be.
Just ask Katosh Pantoliano, a cousin of Joe Pantoliano -- the actor who played gangster Ralph Cifaretto in "The Sopranos."
Katosh Pantoliano, a 32-year-old ex-con who's served nine years in prison, ran a tough -- but not mob-connected -- crew that specialized in knocking over illegal gambling clubs in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The gang would burst in on the backroom games with guns drawn -- often posing as cops and wearing raid jackets identifying them as officers.
ROLLED: Katosh Pantoliano (inset) robbed games like those 'Sopranos' actor cousin Joe frequented on TV (above).
ROLLED: Katosh Pantoliano (inset) robbed games like those "Sopranos" actor cousin Joe frequented on TV (above).
Ironically, Joe Pantoliano's character on "The Sopranos" gave aspiring wiseguy Jackie Aprile Jr. the idea to rob a mob-run card game. That eventually led to Aprile's demise on the HBO show.
Katosh recently pleaded guilty to robbery and gun charges in Brooklyn federal court in the gambling-club heists and faces 10 years at his upcoming sentencing, said prosecutor Celia Cohen.
But if his crime spree had happened a few years earlier, he likely would have faced the death penalty -- meted out by the Mafia.
Back in the early 1990s, married couple Thomas and Rosemarie Uva toted an Uzi submachine gun and staged robberies of social clubs run by crime families.
The pair -- dubbed a modern "Bonnie and Clyde" -- eventually died a bloody death in a 1992 mob hit.
Several former mobsters-turned-informants for the government claimed Gambino boss John Gotti ordered the rubout.
A Gambino capo, Dominick Pizzonia, was convicted of racketeering for conspiring to murder the Uvas.
But the "Bonnie and Clyde" hit created big problems for organized crime.
"They were the trailblazers of 'The Gang That Wasn't Afraid of the Mob,' but their murders brought a lot of law-enforcement heat. That has a chilling effect on mob retribution," said Ephraim Savitt, a former assistant US attorney who prosecuted many wiseguys -- including Gene Gotti, the Dapper Don's brother.
Also, wiseguys today are less likely to see murder as the remedy because too many of their colleagues have turned rat.
"At this point, not only can organized-crime members not trust their underlings -- they can't even trust their bosses," said Savitt, who now represents many high-profile gangsters as a defense attorney.
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