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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mobster Made Campaign Contributions

Cover of "The Soprano State: New Jersey's...A reputed organized crime associate made political campaign contributions to Assemblyman Joe Cryan, whose legislative partner, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, wants to disband the commission created to drive the mob out of the waterfront in the Port of New York-New Jersey.
At least one alleged organized crime figure arrested by federal authorities as part of a nationwide round up was repeatedly among Cryan’s campaign contributors, Albert Cernadas Sr. of Union.
Cryan accepted $750 from Cernadas Sr. in 2004 and another $150 in 2005, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Cernadas Sr. is a former president of International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) Local 1235, which from 2001 to 2009, gave $18,725 to New Jersey politicians.
The alleged mobster’s son, Albert Cernadas Jr., is the first assistant to Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow and a friend of Jon Deutsch, who obtained a Waterfront Commission job through political influence and was later fired for inappropriate conduct.
As the agency’s General Counsel, Deutsch leaked information to Cernadas Jr. concerning an investigation and fashioned a scheme to allow a convicted felon to operate a business in violation of the Waterfront Commission Act.
After Deutsch was fired, Lesniak introduced a controversial bill to remove the docks from the oversight of the Waterfront Commission and give that authority instead to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Thomas Leonardis, the president of ILA Local 1235 and one of those indicted last week, testified in support of Lesniak’s bill last fall. Leonardis called the Waterfront Commission one of the biggest obstacles to growth in the port business and said it had “outdone its usefulness.”
On Jan. 10, three people were indicted on charges of loansharking and money laundering following a Waterfront Commission investigation into the shakedown of longshoremen on Newark and Elizabeth piers.
Then on Jan. 20, nearly 800 FBI and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers pulled off the biggest one-day Mafia roundup in history, bringing in 127 suspected members and associates from all five of New York’s Mafia families as well as New Jersey’s DeCavalcante family pursuant to 16 indictments in four federal jurisdictions.
Among the 18 New Jerseyans arrested and indicted were six from the legislative district represented by Lesniak and Cryan: Cernadas Sr., 75; Anthony Alfano, 76, of Union; Stephen Depiro, 55, of Kenilworth; Tonino Colantonio, 32, of Kenilworth; John Hartmann, 41, of Kenilworth, and Guiseppe Pugliese, 32, of Kenilworth.
Five years ago Cernadas Sr. was sentenced to only two years probation after pleading guilty to funneling thousands of dollars in union funds to a pharmaceutical company controlled by organized crime.
In that case U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser received from the NJ political establishment “292 letters asking for leniency” as reported by Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure in their book The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption.
“Our battle against organized crime enterprises is far from over,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Members and associates of La Cosa Nostra are among the most dangerous criminals in our country.”


Investigation Discovery Examines a Colombo Hitman

Upcoming logo for the relaunch as Investigatio...The motive in murder-for-hire plots may vary from case to case, but for the hired hit man it's always business as usual. Plunge into the sinister undertaking of contract killings in NOTHING PERSONAL, Investigation Discovery's new series about mafia disloyalties, romantic infidelities, stale friendships and the trio of characters at their center: the conniving "client," the professional murderer, and the victim who never saw it coming. NOTHING PERSONAL premieres as a six-part series on Wednesday, March 9 at 10 PM ET on Investigation Discovery.

Each one-hour episode is hosted by true crime aficionado Steve Schirripa, whose mobster character Bobby Baccalieri was famously whacked on The Sopranos. Schirripa, who grew up on the fringes of the mob, had schoolmates who became hit men or, unfortunately, succumbed to the work of hit men. Seamlessly woven into the presentation of each story, Schirripa's commentary exposes viewers to an insider's view of the business of crime. Why did the victims have contracts on their lives? Who wanted them dead? And how did the hit men carry out their gruesome assignments? ID's audiences will meet the key players in each story and experience every side of the tale before learning how their relationships fatefully resulted in murder-for-hNEW YORK - APRIL 21:  Actor Steve Schirripa at...ire.

"With the addition of Steve Schirripa as NOTHING PERSONAL's charismatic host, ID continues to strengthen its roster of well recognized and credible on-air talent presenting the network's dynamic storytelling," said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of Investigation Discovery. "In fact, NOTHING PERSONAL is one of nine new series we are launching in the first quarter of 2011, all of which are expanding the scope of programming for ID, America's fastest growing network."

The premiere episode of NOTHING PERSONAL tells the story of Larry 'Champagne' Carrozza. With a penchant for expensive bubbly, Carrozza is a flashy young gangster who, after years of service to the Colombo crime family, thinks it's high time he gets promoted. However, it doesn't help his situation when Carrozza starts dating the beautiful daughter of one of the bosses. Eager to prove his loyalty, Carrozza joins notorious hit man 'Big Sal' Miciotta for a routine errand in Brooklyn. The ambitious 30-year-old figures the family is finally taking him seriously. They are. But they don't see him as an asset – they consider him a liability. Featuring an exclusive interview with 'Big Sal,' this episode of NOTHING PERSONAL reveals how the hit was conducted, as told by Miciotta himself, the man who pulled the trigger. Unraveling a story of adultery, drugs, and high-power crime, this is the story of why Champagne got popped.

NOTHING PERSONAL also covers romantic relationships that go bad, leaving one partner on the wrong end of a deadly plot. One of the more bizarre is the story of Mary Ellen Samuels, who hires a hit man to take out her husband. However, when her hit man starts stepping out of line, she doesn't go to the local business bureau; she hires another hit man to snuff out the first one. Ripe with twists and turns, each episode of NOTHING PERSONAL traces the motivation and planning, which leads people to resorting to murder-for-hire.

NOTHING PERSONAL is a Cineflix (NP) Inc. Production for Investigation Discovery with Simon Lloyd and Steve Schirripa as executive producers. For Investigation Discovery, Diana Sperrazza is executive producer, Sara Kozak is vice president of production and Henry Schleiff is president and general manager.


The brutal rise and bloody fall of the Colombos

Summary This is a mugshot of former Colombo cr...Joe Colombo The future of the Colombo crime family -- an 83-year-old operation that once ruled New York's waterfront and has been the most bloodthirsty of the city's five Mafia families -- rests with two little-known brothers-in-law who secretly recorded their bosses for months.
Tommy McLaughlin and Peter Tagliavia were exactly the kind of up-and-coming associates needed to retool the once-proud Colombos: young, tough, prison-tested and ambitious. Each had survived shootouts during the family's brutal internal war in the 1990s, which decimated the clan. Each was considered a stand-up guy.
Instead, they and a third turncoat, Frankie "Blue Eyes" Sparaco, have helped bring down the entire leadership of the Colombos, including former street boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, who was busted last year and faces murder and racketeering charges, and the man who took over that role, Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo.
McLaughlin, 41, is Gioeli's nephew and provided particularly damaging evidence, having flipped after getting out of jail following a 14-year stint, only to face life when hit with fresh murder charges.
"He didn't want to go back to prison, not after doing all that time behind bars with nothing to show for it," a source told mob chronicler Jerry Capeci, who broke the story of McLaughlin's cooperation on GanglandNews.com.
On Jan. 20, as the feds launched the biggest one-day arrest of gangsters ever, McLaughlin and Tagliavia were being whisked off to safety -- a potential kill shot to the battered Colombos, whose underboss Benjamin "The Claw" Castellazzo, and consigliere Richard "Ritchie Nerves" Fusco, also got locked up. All told, 34 members were busted, including four captains and eight soldiers.
The arrests left the family with less than half the made members it had just five years ago, perhaps as few as 40 to 50 full-fledged wiseguys walking the streets. That makes it by far the smallest of the five crime families -- and probably smaller than even New Jersey's equally ravaged DeCavalcante clan.
"They did it to themselves," one law-enforcement source said, noting that a parade of well-placed informants systemically sold out their fellow mobsters since 2005.
Joseph Profaci, New York Mafia boss, at Crime ...    The Colombos can still draw on veteran mafiosi like longtime boss Carmine Persico, who continues to call the shots from jail, but there's just one Persico relative who is not in prison or dead, Danny Persico, a minor figure who lives on Long Island.
Everyone else is six feet under or locked up.
"There's nobody left," said a veteran investigator. "The old-timers are too old and too tired. There are still big moneymakers who bring in tons of cash, but they're not combatants. They are not involved in homicides. To run things, you need somebody who has two sides to him."
If this is, in fact, a requiem for the Colombos, they leave behind a brutal legacy, filled with the most colorful characters in gangland lore, a legendary band that inspired fictional depictions ranging from "On the Waterfront" to "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."
Among its notable goodfellas were Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo, who terrorized foes with a mountain lion he kept in his Red Hook basement; William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, a stone-cold hit man who donned a Santa outfit each Christmas and bounced sick kids on his knee; and Gregory "Grim Reaper" Scarpa, of whom Brooklyn prosecutor Michael Vecchione said, "There's nobody like him in the history of the mob."
Scarpa, a violent thug who rose to the rank of capo, had a special relationship with the FBI, which enlisted his help to solve the "Mississippi Burning" murders of two civil-rights workers in 1964 -- and allegedly looked the other way while he committed crimes. In exchange, he secretly served as informant for 35 years.
Ironically, this thing of theirs started with a legitimate business.
THE Colombos, the last Cosa Nostra family to be formally organized when they came together in 1928, were started not by a Colombo but rather by import entrepreneur Giuseppe "Joe" Profaci, a Sicilian-born Brooklynite whose company Carmela Mia was once the largest distributor of olive oil and tomato sauce in the United States. His nickname was "The Olive Oil King."
But he was also known for less savory contributions: gambling, extortion, hijacking, prostitution, protection rackets and a new specialty, squeezing labor unions, a reliable and ongoing source of income from the time Profaci became a charter member of the mob's ruling commission in 1931.
Profaci, who lived in a mansion on a sprawling spread in Bensonhurst, eagerly embraced the drug trade, importing heroin through hollow wax oranges. He battled the IRS his entire life and attended the infamous Apalachin Conference, busted up by New York state troopers in 1957, but he never did time.
Among his domain was South Brooklyn's waterfront, a collection of bustling docks where tough guys who could have been contenders often worked for the family collecting debts or snatching cargo.
The only real challenge he faced came in 1960, when hotheaded soldier "Crazy Joe" Gallo, his two brothers, and ally Carmine Persico kidnapped Profaci's handpicked successor -- his brother-in-law Joseph Magliocco -- and a supporter, Joseph Colombo, in retaliation for being denied a bookmaking racket.
Colombo crime familyCarmine Persico The hostages were all let go after intense negotiations, during which the boss quietly convinced Persico to switch sides and join him.
When Profaci died from liver cancer in 1962, he had ruled for more than three decades -- though he was despised by much of the family, for forcing every last one of them to pay him a tithe and murdering those who complained.
Magliocco then took over, but not for long. He was forced out by the commission for plotting with Joe Bonanno to kill rival bosses Tommy Lucchese and Carlo Gambino.
The ill-fated scheme came to light after Magliocco ordered Colombo to do the hits and Colombo promptly told his targets instead of offing them. The deposed boss died of a heart attack in 1963, and the other families supported Colombo as the new family leader.
They would regret it.
The family took his name, and Colombo became the Mafia's first media star, raging at the FBI after agents arrested his son in 1970. He turned the beef into a crusade, organizing marches in front of the bureau's headquarters and casting its crackdown as an affront to Italian-American civil rights.
The attention brought increased FBI scrutiny, infuriating Gambino and other bosses. At a rally in Columbus Circle in 1971, an assassin pumped three bullets into Colombo's head, rendering him "vegetabled" in Crazy Joe's words. He clung to life until 1978 but never regained consciousness.
The shooting thrust the family into a rudderless era as a succession of bosses and acting bosses assumed and relinquished the throne. The strongest of them was Persico, who exacted revenge on Gallo soon after his old rival got out of prison.
Crazy Joe was celebrating his birthday at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy in 1972 when gunmen opened fire on the party. The rubout became one of the most notorious in Mafia history.
But Persico -- nicknamed "The Snake" because he once crawled out from under a car to rub out a rival -- could not slither away from investigators and was sentenced to 100 years in 1986. He would remain boss but planned to pass day-to-day management to his son, Alphonse "Little Allie Boy," who was due to get out of jail two years later. In the meantime, capo Vic Orena got the job on an interim basis.
Persico's best-laid plans went belly-up. When Allie Boy got out, Orena refused to step down -- and a brutal and bloody war ensued.
The battle wouldn't end for two more years, during which 12 people were killed, including two innocent bystanders. Many were injured and scores of mobsters went to jail. The Persico faction eventually prevailed but at a huge cost to the family.
"I don't think they've ever recovered," said Brooklyn prosecutor Vecchione, who handled many of the cases against the Colombos. "There have been factions in other families, but nothing to this extent. The number of murders and the mayhem was unprecedented."
The episode's central character was Scarpa, who did the most shooting and once bragged, "I love the smell of gunpowder."
"The guy thought he was James Bond," marveled Vecchione. "He told his kids he worked for the government."
Scarpa and his common-law wife, Linda Schiro, worked together and shared a longtime ménage-à-trois affair with former delivery boy Larry Mazza, whom Scarpa turned into a valuable hit man.
His FBI handler, Lindley DeVecchio, was indicted in 2006 for allegedly helping Scarpa carry out four gangland killings, but the Brooklyn DA's office dropped the case when tapes emerged in which Schiro contradicted herself.
WHAT will happen to them now?
Following the crackdown headed by a 10-agent FBI team headed by veteran Colombo squad supervisor Seamus McLearney, rumors of the family's demise might not be exaggerated. There has long been talk of carving up the clan and spreading its members to the other four families.
Certainly, there are valuable pieces left.
The Colombos continue to exert control over the cement and concrete workers union, Local 6A. "You can't put a dollar figure on that," said one law-enforcement source. "And there's a lot of loan-sharking, which is extremely profitable."
But there's always a chance they'll scurry away to rob another day. There are some capable captains -- namely, Ralph Lombardo and William Russo, the son of jailed boss Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo.
There's a telling sign of how even when law enforcement thinks it has the mob cracked, there are still mysteries. Investigators don't know how Russo, now 76, got his nickname.
"There's nobody old enough to know," said one.


City's five families lacking qualified candidates if charges against goodfellas is any indication

In the words of Colombo boss Andrew (Mush) Russo, a goodfella must have brains, be willing to do jail time and be capable of violence.
If the charges against dozens of gangsters arrested by the feds in last week's mob sweep are any indication, the city's five families are sorely lacking qualified candidates.
Russo's crime family is infested with deeply connected rats who are poised to testify against the Colombos' last three acting bosses and a gaggle of other gangsters in order to avoid long jail terms.
Scott Fappiano, meanwhile, falls short in the brains department.
A reputed Colombo associate, Fappiano was a free man until last week, thanks to the Innocence Project, which won his release after 21 years for his wrongful conviction on raping a cop's wife.
Fappiano had already collected $2 million from a state settlement and could pocket at least another $10 million if he wins a pending federal lawsuit.
But court papers show Fappiano was willing to risk it all and use his lawsuit as cover while he seeks help in collecting money from a deadbeat.
"If I do it, I might go to jail. ... It gets to the point where he may have to get his f------ leg broken. ... I'll make sure I'm in court somewhere or doing a deposition," Fappiano was secretly taped saying.
Genovese associate Peter Pace, Jr. showed he was willing to use violence - only it was against his defenseless mother-in-law, not another hardened criminal.
"I tried to throw her off the roof back in 1988," he told an informant, according to court papers. "She was a f------ junkie. So I brought her up to the f------ roof, it was six stories, I hung her off the side of the f------ roof."
Gambino soldier Joseph (Joe Dogs) Lombardi seemed leery about turning to violence.
Lombardi, who walks with a cane, was so desperate to collect a $30,000 debt, he posed as a house-hunter to stalk the extortion victim.
Lombardi made an appointment with the Realtor showing the victim's home, gave a fake name and telephone number and asked the seller to call him, court papers state.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Gambino associate Anthony Scibelli remains astounded that anyone would doubt the crime family's ability to turn violent.
Speaking to an informant wearing a wire, Scibelli sputtered: "Are you kidding me? You don't see the newspapers every day? What do they think, that this is make-believe?"


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why does it cost $2m to put up a $1m building in New York? The Mafia

Until last week, not many people in America had ever heard of Vincenzo Frogiero. But thanks to an FBI indictment, Mr Frogiero has now been immortalised across America by his mobster moniker, 'Vinny Carwash'.
An alleged member of the New York City Gambino crime family, Vinny Carwash was just one of 124 suspected Mafia members rounded up across the north-east US in the biggest one-day mob bust in American history.
Now awaiting trial on racketeering charges, Frogiero is incarcerated in Brooklyn with fellow wise guys whose nicknames seem straight out of a Hollywood casting call for The Sopranos: Johnny Bandana, Junior Lollipops, Johnny Pizza, Jack the Whack and Tony Bagels.
In a pre-dawn raid last week, federal agents in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island swooped on the homes of over 100 alleged mobsters and arrested them on charges that include murder, loan sharking, extortion and labour racketeering.
Among those rounded up were leading members of the five Italian-American families affiliated with 'La Cosa Nostra' -- the Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, Bonnano and Lucchese families. Those arrested included family bosses, underbosses, consiglieri, hit men, soldiers and associates.
By far the biggest coup for the Feds was the arrest of 83-year-old Luigi 'Baby Shacks' Manocchio, the former boss of New England's Patriarca crime family and a 60-year-old Mafia veteran.
"It is a reminder that the Mafia is alive and well and that we ignore organised crime at our own peril," Professor Jay Albanese, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Weekend Review.
The details contained in the FBI indictments read like plots straight from The Godfather or Goodfellas but federal authorities were quick to point out that, amusing nicknames aside, the Mafia in America today still poses a deadly and persistent threat.
"The notion that today's mob families are more genteel and less violent than in the past is put to lie by the charges contained in the indictments," said Janice Fedarcyk of the FBI's New York field office. "Even more of a myth is the notion that the mob is a thing of the past, that La Cosa Nostra is a shadow of its former self."
Ever since the birth of the American Mafia in the early 1930s, the north-east corridor between New York and Boston has remained the beating heart of the mob enterprise.
Despite a federal crackdown since the 1980s that has weakened the Mafia through mass arrests and stiffer sentences, La Cosa Nostra -- or 'our thing' -- has continued to prosper in the past decade.
This is partly due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which saw the FBI divert resources and manpower away from the Mafia for the fight against al-Qa'ida and other terrorist threats.
Membership of the mob is still exclusively reserved for those of Italian extraction. Loyal members who meet the approval of their bosses have the opportunity to become 'made men' -- the highest honour that allows captains to shield themselves from direct criminal activity by having their legions of loyal soldiers do all the dirty work.
The lifestyle is fraught, dangerous and at times boring. "They are street people. They live on the street. They work on the street," said Jay Albanese. "They don't get up until late and they hang out at the restaurant all day just thinking of scams to make money."
"There is paranoia. There is distrust," he said. "You have bad guys killing each other because they don't trust each other. They say they have this blood loyalty and yet they turn each other in. It is really a cut-throat sort of an existence."
Just like Mafia bosses of old -- 'Scarface' Al Capone and his successor, Tony Arrcado aka 'Joe Batters' -- today's Mafioso are quick to dole out nicknames, but these aliases serve an important purpose when trying to confuse federal authorities who are inevitably tracking their movements by electronic surveillance.
"The nicknames serve a very utilitarian purpose," Professor Howard Abadinsky of St John's University told the Irish Independent.
"It does confuse law enforcement and it does make it -- from a legal point of view -- very hard to specifically identify these individuals for prosecution purposes."
In recent years, federal authorities have boasted that the Mafia's grasp over New York institutions including labour unions, the waterfront, the Fulton fish market and the garment district has waned.
Experts point out that the organisation has been severely weakened through aggressive public prosecutions, a lack of recruitment opportunities and a declining sense of loyalty among the new guard. The FBI has also been successful at recruiting mob turncoats who are brave enough to disregard the Mafia's ancient vow of silence -- the omerta.
"In the old days you might be much more willing to do time for the group," said Prof Albanese. "People are more individual focused and out for their own profit now, and they're just not as willing to sacrifice for their group."
But despite these setbacks, the Mafia's unique ability to infiltrate business in America and to claim a piece of the action remains unrivalled among other organised crime groups, experts say.
Mobsters in New Jersey, New England and Rhode Island continue to profit from the "bread and butter" staples of Mafia enterprises: operating sports bookmakers, strip clubs, loan-sharking, and gambling operations.
Crime families such as the Genovese exert a tight control over New York's ports, using threats and violence to extort money from shippers and obstruct the flow of commerce. They control several key shipping and construction unions, charging kickbacks to unload ships and paying associates for "no show" jobs.
"If you didn't pay, your fish would sit there on the dock and rot," said Albanese. "It wouldn't be moved. If you didn't pay, you would be excluded from the [fish] market."
In a throwback to the kind of extortion and racketeering portrayed in On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, the FBI indictments allege that members of the Genovese even tried to extort Christmastime payments from port workers in New York.
"To be shaking down waterfront workers in the 21st century really seems a throwback to the 1940s or 1950s," said Abadinsky. "You don't make a lot of money by shaking down longshoreman."
And the mob's ability to control key unions has also had a dramatic effect on New York's construction industry and property development.
"People have asked, 'Why does it cost $2m to build a $1m building in New York?'" said Albanese. "Well ... if you were going to pour cement in NYC you had to get union people to do it and you have the mob controlling the unions, so kickbacks had to be paid."
Mafia experts have praised last week's operation but point out that the impact may be short-lived. Exactly two years ago a similar mass arrest of mobsters took place across the northeast but many of them received light prison sentences and soon returned to the streets.
Experts predict that with the top leadership gone, the remaining families will face immediate and perhaps brutal leadership contests. In addition, other organised crime groups -- Russians, Albanians, Asians and Mexicans -- are waiting in the wings, eager to turn a profit on abandoned Mafioso turf.
"For the day to day operations of a crime family, you don't require the boss and the shop management to be there," said Abadinsky. "The people have their assignments and they will carry them out. In the meantime, these people will be replaced."
In time, Vinny Carwash -- and his pals, Meatball, Mush, Hootie and Johnny Bandana -- may well be back on the streets. But if not, there will always be a new crop of eager soldiers to take their places.
"The removal of the current crop of Mafia barons will probably engender a new generation of mobsters," wrote Selwyn Raab in the New York Times. "There have always been, and always will be, ambitious, greedy, wise guys who are willing to risk long prison sentences for the power and riches glittering before them.
"The Mafia is wounded, but not fatally," he said.


New witness in 1981 mob slays at Queens bar

The feds have a new witness to a 30-year-old mob double-murder that will help them make the case against a top Gambino crime-family boss, prosecutors said yesterday.
Bartolomeo Vernace, a Gambino capo who is one of three made men sitting on the crime family's ruling panel, has been charged as one of the trigger-men in the 1981 Queens bar rubout where one victim was shot point-blank in the face and another in the chest.
"There is an eyewitness to the crime that identified the defendant as the shooter," Assistant US Attorney Evan Norris said in Brooklyn federal court.
Bartolomeo Vernace
Bartolomeo Vernace

Vernace, 61, was acquitted in a 2002 state-court trial of the murders of John D'Agnese and Richard Godkin in the Shamrock Bar on Jamaica Avenue after an argument arose over a drink spilled on a wiseguy's gal pal.
A Gambino associate who was involved in the dispute left the bar and later picked up Vernace and a third accomplice, prosecutors say.
The three allegedly returned and opened fire on D'Agnese and Godkin, who owned the bar.
The US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn also says it has two informants who will testify that Gambino member Frank Riccardi implicated himself in the shooting shortly after leaving the bar.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Murder, extortion? No, Waterfront Commission probing theft of $2 dollar bottle of iced tea, sausage

A suspect swiped a $2 bottle of iced tea and used it to wash down a stolen piece of sausage.
A suspect swiped a $2 bottle of iced tea and used it to wash down a stolen piece of sausage.
On the mobbed-up docks of Bayonne, the six-month probe was known as Operation Missing Link.
Its target: A suspect who swiped a $2 bottle of iced tea and used it to wash down a stolen 50-cent piece of sausage - the lost link that left a bad taste in everybody's mouth, sources told the Daily News.
An investigation of the penny-ante heist was ordered by the Waterfront Commission, the agency charged with policing the docks for mob corruption, drug smuggling and other major crimes, the sources said.
The investigation included scores of interviews over countless hours dating to last August, sources said - even though the victim was reluctant to press charges.
"It's like Capt. Queeg and the strawberries," said New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a harsh critic of the bistate commission.
"It's a $2.50 ongoing investigation."
One of the sources was more blunt: "The whole investigation is bull----. It's a waste of manpower, money and resources."
Waterfront Commission General Counsel Phoebe Soriel, while declining to address specifics, said the case was more complex than it appeared.
"While the commission does not comment on pending investigations, it takes any theft in the port seriously - especially theft involving extortion," she said without going into detail.
The reported value of the stolen goods - a handful of change - is a microfraction of the $200 billion that moves annually through the ports of New York and New Jersey.
The overkill began when the commission received an anonymous tip that someone filched the drink and the sausage from a food truck catering to dock workers.
According to two sources, the case was quickly wrapped up: The thief confessed to the crime, and the victim said an arrest was unnecessary.
The victim "didn't want to see him behind bars...just wanted him to stop," one source said.
But top commission officials, convinced its investigators mishandled the case, ordered a second probe with every possible witness reinterviewed, the sources said.
Investigators from the 58-year-old agency returned to the docks and conducted about 80 second interviews, all the while cranking out piles of paperwork, the sources said.
The commission was blasted in August 2009 - one year before the sausage investigation was launched - as home to corrupt execs barely better than the waterfront's notorious mobsters.
Officials were accused in a damning 60-page report of misusing Homeland Security money, keeping a convicted crook in business and surfing the Internet for porn.
The iced-tea-and-sausage probe - which has yet to wrap up - is considered an embarrassment among investigators and dock workers.
"They snicker about it," one of the sources said.


Al Bruno murder trial: Ty Geas gets an iPod; judge says both brothers need more library time to research defense

A federal judge presiding over an organized crime murder and racketeering case involving two Western Massachusetts defendants threatened on Tuesday to release the men pending trial unless the U.S. Bureau of Prisons boosts their allotment of research time to help prepare their own defenses.
Fotios "Freddy" and Ty Geas, brothers and reputed mob enforcers accused in the 2003 murders of one-time regional organized-crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno and low-level associate Gary D. Westerman, are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan beginning March 8.
The Geases and former alleged New York Genovese crime family leader Arthur "Artie" Nigro are accused of hatching the Bruno murder plots plus a litany of other crimes, including shake-downs of businesses from Massachusetts to Florida and New York, drug trafficking and beat-downs of rivals. While the Geases were charged in the Westerman murder, Nigro was not.
Charged with a series of crimes through a string of indictments over 2009 and 2010, the brothers pleaded innocent to a new set of charges brought Jan. 20, which tacked on an additional, thwarted murder plot against East Longmeadow, Mass., restaurant manager Guiseppe Manzi and the robbery of a drug dealer of $100,000 in drugs at gunpoint in 2002.
The case originated in the state court, Hampden Superior Court, in Springfield, Mass., where Bruno's admitted shooter, Frankie Roche was first charged until he turned informant for the federal government. It was ultimately transferred to federal court in Springfield until New York authorities seized control of it last year.

Al Bruno Murder Case 
Defense lawyers for the Geas brothers, who witnesses say acted as "the muscle" for Bruno's reputed successor, Anthony J. Arillotta, of Springfield, complained during Tuesday’s court hearing to the judge about limitations which Bureau of Prisons officials place on pretrial defendants needing to access computer files for research to bolster their defense strategies.
Arillotta was charged in the case before turning on his co-defendants. He is expected to be one of the prosecution's prime witnesses against the Geases and Nigro at trial. Filings by the government indicate Arillotta is expected to testify about crimes he, the Geases, Roche and others plotted after they first met in state prison during the early 1990s.
Bruno, the longtime Genovese leader in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, was gunned down on the eve of his 58th birthday on Nov. 23, 2003. Roche told the FBI that Fotios Geas paid him $10,000 to ambush Bruno amid a power struggle to pave the way for new, younger leadership. The alleged murder-for-hire was a classic mob hit approved by Nigro and other New York-based gangsters, according to witnesses.
Roche pleaded guilty in federal court in 2008 in exchange for a shot at a significantly shorter prison term. He and Arillotta are cued up to describe to jurors a violent spree that peaked around 2003 with the murders of Bruno and Westerman.
Westerman disappeared in 2003, just weeks before Bruno was shot. Investigators did not turn up his remains until April, shortly after Arillotta turned informant and led law enforcement officials to a wooded lot in Agawam, Mass. According to court filings, Arillotta and Fotios Geas lured him there under the guise of committing a robbery, shot him and buried him in an 8-foot grave.
Westernman had been a Massachusetts State Police informant since 1996, according to prosecutors. Consequently, the Geases face a special charge of murder to obstruct justice.
However, defense lawyers in court filings quarrel with the government's portrayal of the alleged motive for Westerman's killing. Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Ty Geas, in a recent filing characterizes Westerman, 48, as a "cokehead and drug dealer" who angered Arillotta by marrying Arillotta's significantly younger sister-in-law and allegedly roping her into various unseemly activities.

In the same filing, Sternheim also notes that government witness John Bologna, a New York gangster on loan from the Gambino crime family, was an FBI informant since 1997 but nonetheless traveled to Springfield in 2003 and played some role in plotting the hit on Bruno. Sternheim contends prosecutors report that Bologna lied to his FBI handler about the circumstances around Bruno's death. Not surprisingly, the government does not intend to call Bologna as a witness at trial, according to the defense lawyer.
Emilio Fusco, a convicted loan shark from Longmeadow, Mass., also has been charged in the case, but fled to Italy before he was charged and is fighting extradition. A sixth defendant, Felix Tranghese, of East Longmeadow, Mass., was indicted but also has entered into a cooperation with federal prosecutors and is expected to testify at trial, according to court records.
What is becoming clear is that, between all the defendants and government witnesses, testimony will include a tangle of former allies who allegedly carried out murder, extortion, assault, robbery and double-crosses. Statements suggest that the laundry list of crimes was part and parcel of their given industry, but talking to law enforcement was perhaps the single unforgivable breach.
To that end, defense lawyers are fighting hard to minimize evidence of Westerman or Bruno getting killed for cozying up to law enforcement. While an FBI agent submitted one report regarding a 2002 conversation he had with Bruno about Bruno's assessment of the organized crime landscape at the time, the extent of his relationship with authorities remains unclear.
On the issue of the defendants’ access to documents they need to review, Sternheim on Tuesday told judge Kevin Castel that a Manhattan correctional facility has only sporadically allowed her client two hours per week over four months to pore over thousands of pages and hundreds of hours of audio recordings, all of it potential evidence offered by prosecutors.
Castel said he will sign an order increasing the time to 12.5 hours a week, or to consider letting the defendants out of prison pending trial.
"The alternative to that is to release the defendants from custody before trial so they can participate in their own defense," Castel said.
Prosecutors countered that they will work with the Bureau of Prisons on the concession, and added that they purchased an iPod so Ty Geas can listen to audio recordings in his cell at the Manhattan Detention Center.
Castel scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Feb. 22. The trial is expected to last approximately a month.


'Baby Shacks' moved to Miami prison

The reputed former boss of the Patriarca crime family has been transferred to a federal prison in Miami Florida, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Broward County Sheriff's office handed Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, 83, over to U.S. Marshals on January 20th at 1:30 p.m., according to a sheriff's spokesperson. The transfer happened the day after Manocchio was arrested.
Target 12 has learned, Manocchio was alone when he was arrested by members of the New England organized crime task force. Spokesperson for the Boston office of the FBI, Special Agent Greg Comcowich said Manocchio was arrested at Ft. Lauderdale airport. He said Manocchio was getting ready to board a flight back to Providence.
The Bureau of Prisons website shows Manocchio is now being housed at the Federal Detention Center in Miami Florida . The prison is "primarily a facility which houses U.S. Marshal prisoners, both male and female," according to an online handbook.
The detention center is only a temporary home for Manocchio who will have to return to Rhode Island to face federal conspiracy and extortion charges. Rhode Island U.S. Marshal Steven O'Donnell said Manocchio will be flown in a government jet from Florida sometime in early February. He will most likely land in New York and then be driven to Rhode Island by U.S. Marshals.
Most federal detainees awaiting trial in Rhode Island are housed at the Wyatt Detention center in Central Falls, but it is unclear if that is where Manocchio will stay.
Manocchio was charged with conspiracy and extortion for allegedly accepting protection payments from the Satin Doll and Cadillac Lounge strip clubs since as far back as 1993, according to documents unsealed last week. The charges said one of the payments was $2,900 paid in cash.
Also arrested as part of the sweep was Thomas Iafrate, 69, a manager with the Cadillac Lounge on Charles Street and other adult-entertainment businesses, according to court documents.
Iafrate was charged with conspiracy and extortion. Authorities described Iafrate as a bookkeeper for both Cadillac Lounge and the Satin Doll and said he was responsible for setting aside, collecting and delivering payments to Manocchio for those two clubs and others.
Iafrate pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment last week. He has been ordered to stay away from the Cadillac Lounge and other strip clubs as well as a list of known members of New England organized crime.
Manocchio's arrest was part of a massive national sweep into organized crime - described by authorities as the largest Mafia roundup in FBI history. It targeted seven Mafia families in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
In all, more than 120 people were arrested including at least 91 members and associates of organized crime.

Feds appeal judge's ruling to free high-ranking mobster charged with killing men over spilled drink

Federal prosecutors are appealing a magistrate judge's decision Thursday to free on bail a high-ranking Gambino gangster charged with killing two men over a spilled drink.
Brooklyn Magistrate Ramon Reyes ruled that the government did not meet its burden to show reputed capo Bartolomeo "Bobby" Vernace is a danger to the community.
"The hard evidence of his role in crimes of violence from the end of 2007 to now is problematic," Reyes said.
Vernace, 61, is charged with gunning down Richard Godkin and John D'Agnese in the Shamrock Bar they operated in Woodhaven, Queens in 1981.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted the senselessness of the killings when he announced the arrests last week of more than 100 organized crime figures including Vernace.
Defense lawyer Gerald Shargel called the evidence stale and ridiculed a photo taken after the raid of a social club allegedly controlled by Vernace showing a "Go Jets" banner and half-eaten pizza.
Pointing to Vernace's family members in the spectator gallery, Shargel asked the magistrate: "Do they look like mobsters?"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris asked for a stay of the $5 million bail so he can re-argue his case before U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes.

Ex-mob boss 'Vinny Gorgeous' complains of frightful conditions in his jail cell

Vincent Basciano, also known as 'Vinny Gorgeous,' is complaining about his prison conditions.
Vincent Basciano, also known as 'Vinny Gorgeous,' is complaining about his prison conditions.

Former Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano says conditions are frightful in the terrorist wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.
Water is leaking all over the place on the high-security floor where he is caged 23-hours-a-day along with terrorist defendants, making his personal effects soggy.
Basciano's defense lawyer asked Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis to do something about extreme moisture and cold temperature in the jail as the gangster gears up for his racketeering and murder trial next month.
"Cold and moist," Garaufis informed prosecutors in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday.
"We'll look into it," Assistant U.S. Attorney Taryn Merkl replied, jotting notes on a pad.
Basciano has been held under jail conditions usually reserved for the most dangerous terrorists for more than four years since the feds seized an alleged hit list he wrote containing the names of Garaufis, a federal prosecutor and Bonanno turncoats who testified against him.
Basciano denies it was a hit list, insisting the names were supposed to be forwarded to a Santeria priest who could put a positive spell on his criminal case.
If convicted of ordering mob associate Randolph Pizzolo's murder, Basciano could face the death penalty. Jury selection begins next month.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gotti, Travolta meet over dinner about upcoming mob biopic

John “Junior” Gotti had a California-style sit down with actor John Travolta – and he made him an offer he can’t refuse – as the two broke bread at an Italian restaurant.
Gotti met with Travolta Wednesday night in an effort to get the “Grease” actor to play his dad, John “Dapper Don” Gotti, for a movie about the “Teflon Don,” a nickname he earned for his ability to evade prosecution.
. John "Junior" Gotti having dinner at Amici Trettoria with John Travolta.Travolta is in talks to play Gotti's father, John "Daper Don" Gotti Sr.

John "Junior" Gotti having dinner at Amici Trettoria with John Travolta.
Gotti called Travolta a "tremendous actor” – saying he was "totally confident" the actor would nail the part playing his dad, one of the New York’s most-feared mob dons until he died in 2002 in federal prison.
The two were joined at the popular eatery Amici in Santa Monica by the movie's director Nick Cassavetes and executive producer Marc Fiore, TMZ.com reported.
. John "Junior" Gotti having dinner at Amici Trettoria with John Travolta.Travolta is in talks to play Gotti's father, John "Daper Don" Gotti Sr.

Junior Gotti and Travolta even exchanged mob-style hugs and kisses as they exited the restaurant.
Sources close to the project told TMZ that Travolta is in “serious negotiations” to play the role, but he hasn't signed a contract.
The film -- titled “Gotti” -- will recount of tale of three generations of the Gambino crime family mobsters, which John Gotti headed after the murder of Paul Castellano.
. John "Junior" Gotti having dinner at Amici Trettoria with John Travolta.Travolta is in talks to play Gotti's father, John "Daper Don" Gotti Sr.
Travolta is in talks to play Gotti's father, John "Daper Don" Gotti Sr.
TMZ reported that actor James Franco, who will co-host the Academy Awards next month, is being eyed to play Junior in the mob biopic.
The elder Gotti was convicted of 13 murders in 1992, along with conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, extortion and tax evasion. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Gotti died from throat cancer in June 2002 at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

Feds: Age didn’t deter mobster suspect Daniel Cilenti, 83

When most of his octogenarian compatriots might have long retired, 83-year-old Daniel Cilenti was still hard at work.

Too hard, federal prosecutors say.
Cilenti, prosecutors say, has been a Genovese family soldier since the Truman administration, and was accused of shaking down a construction industry figure, forcing him to pony up if he wanted any work in the metro area.
The Yonkers man was among the oldest of the 127 reputed mob members and associates charged last week in a historic crackdown by federal authorities.
Cilenti told a man who turned out to be a mob informant that he was formally inducted into the Genovese family in 1947 — the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball and Perry Como's "Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba" topped the Billboard charts.
"Now that's real old, old school," said Jack Garcia, the retired FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in Westchester County several years ago and helped bring down the entire hierarchy of that organization. "Guys like that never want to hear the word 'retirement.' "
Cilenti's arrest record goes back to 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record and President John F. Kennedy took office.
Cilenti, whose nickname according to federal authorities is "Uncle Danny," pleaded not guilty to racketeering and extortion charges in federal court in Brooklyn. He was released on $1 million bond.
His lawyer, Joel Cohen, did not return calls.
"Cilenti has thus, by his own account, been a member of this notoriously violent and dangerous criminal enterprise for more than six decades," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank wrote in court papers that revealed Cilenti's alleged mob membership.
His first conviction was in 1961 in the Bronx for possessing bookmaking records. He was arrested two more times in the next four years for the same crime, but both cases were dismissed.
He was charged again in 1975, this time in a gambling conspiracy case filed by federal prosecutors. But they dropped the prosecution.
In 1988, he pleaded guilty in federal court in New Jersey in a racketeering case that authorities said was a plot to extort $450,000 from a victim.
He received probation but was eventually jailed after twice violating that probation — including once for associating with known criminals, prosecutors said.
His next arrest came in 1994. That time he pleaded guilty to loansharking charges and was sentenced in 1998 to 30 months in prison.
He was released early from prison in 2000 at the age of 73 by the Federal Bureau of Prisons due, in part, to failing health caused by diabetes and heart disease.
"These guys know how to work the system," said Garcia, who worked his way into the inner circle of Gregory DePalma, another aging mobster who lightened his prison load due to poor health. "They're healthy as can be until it's time to appear in court. Then they look like death warmed over."
Five years later, Cilenti was charged in another major Genovese case, this time along with reputed one-time acting boss of the family Mathew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello.
Those charges stemmed from a plot to derail a federal probe into the family, including its alleged hooks into a school bus drivers' union.
Cilenti pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and in 2007 received a sentence of probation that included electronic monitoring.
But just two hours after receiving the electronic ankle bracelet Nov. 15, 2007, in his Yonkers home, Cilenti was on the phone to his probation officer, complaining of pain and swelling in his legs.
A probation officer noted in court papers that Cilenti had stents in both legs and the bracelet was causing protrusions.
A federal judge ordered the ankle bracelet removed Dec. 17, 2007.
That same day Cilenti met with the construction industry executive he was extorting and discussed how he and another defendant, Peter Pace of Patterson, would arrange for trucking work for the victim if he paid them a kickback, prosecutors said.
Cilenti told the victim the job would go to him rather than a competitor, according to a partial transcript of a recording.
"I don't care, even if his prices are lower than yours. Understand?" Cilenti said, according to the transcript. "But we gotta know what we're doing."
Cilenti faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
But prison terms don't faze hard-core old-time mobsters, Garcia said.
"It's part of the life. Prison's like a spa to them," he said. "They're in it for life."


Feds Mob Takedown Includes Union Crooks

There are few things quite like a mass arrest to serve as a reminder of the Mafia’s continuing presence in American life. The mob roundup last Thursday morning, the largest in U.S. history, at once underscores the large dent that the Justice Department has been making in organized crime and how deeply entrenched so many organized crime operations have been. Some 800 FBI agents, U.S. marshals, state police and New York City cops fanned out and arrested nearly 120 wise guys and associates named in an 82-page, 16-count indictment for acts of murder, racketeering, money-laundering, loan-sharking, extortion and other offenses going back three decades. The takedown includes crime soldiers from each of New York’s “Five Families,” plus the DeCavalcante (Northern New Jersey) and Patriarca (New England) families. A number of the arrestees were heavily involved in labor corruption.
The operation was as swift as it was efficient. Most of the arrests had been made by 8 A.M., with most suspects being held at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn, N.Y. until their arraignment in Brooklyn federal court. By the end of the day, 119 of the 127 persons named in the indictments were arrested. Another five already were in prison for separate offenses, while three more were at large. Nearly three dozen arrestees were full-fledged members of New York’s Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese crime families; indeed, the entire leadership of the Colombos and two top Gambinos were taken into custody. But good news shouldn’t instill false public confidence, caution federal agents. “Arresting and convicting the hierarchies of the five families several times over has not eradicated the problem,” remarked Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI office. It is “a myth,” she emphasized, to call the mob a thing of the past.
The bust, the result of years of investigation, is even bigger than the one three years ago, known as Operation Old Bridge, that arrested more than 60 Gambino crime family members and associates, virtually all of whom eventually pleaded guilty (the operation also netted a couple dozen arrests in Italy, in cooperation with that country’s authorities). Federal prosecutors and agents worked in tandem to conduct electronic surveillance and develop key witnesses, especially Bonanno soldier Salvatore Vitale, who until his 2003 arrest and eventual guilty plea had a hand in 11 murders; his testimony helped put away more than 50 mobsters and associates. The latest batch of arrestees included individuals possessed of little compunction about using violence to protect their flow of funds or exaggerated sense of honor. Attorney General Eric Holder, who traveled to Brooklyn to announce the arrests, said: “Many of them (mobsters) are lethal. Time and again they have shown a willingness to kill.” Similarly, Bruce Mouw, the former FBI agent who led the probe of now-deceased Gambino boss John Gotti back in the Eighties, also noted, “(Y)ou still have five families [in New York], you have captains, you have crews; they still control a lot of labor unions, they still control a lot of the construction industry, different companies; still commit crimes; and according to the indictments, they still kill people.”
Control over labor unions remains on the radar screen. Dozens of unions in the New York City and New England can be said to have some connection with one or more of the latest arrestees. A complete flow chart and accompanying discussion would be worthy of a monograph. What follows, then, is a summary of the most flagrantly mobbed-up unions, each likely familiar to regular readers of Union Corruption Update.
Cement and Concrete Workers Local 6A. An affiliate of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local 6A for many years has operated as a Colombo crime family branch office. And the branch managers are the Scopos. Patriarch Ralph Scopo was a Colombo made man who ran the union for years until his 1986 conviction based on evidence gathered by the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. His sons, Joseph and Ralph Jr., inherited the family business. Joseph served as president of Local 6A until his 1993 murder, part of a bloody Colombo civil war between members loyal to acting boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena and those loyal to imprisoned boss Carmine “Junior” Persico (the Persico faction – what was left of it – prevailed). Reputed Colombo street boss Anthony Russo was charged last Thursday in that killing.
Ralph Scopo Jr. has proven himself something less than a model of virtue. He pleaded guilty in 2005 to extortion, managing to avoid prison by convincing the judge he had only two years to live. He must have had an excellent medical plan because he’s still alive. Federal prosecutors allege Scopo handed out jobs to cronies and took a cut from Local 6 benefit funds. In addition, back in the late Eighties he created the so-called “coffee boy” scheme in which the crime family would receive cash kickbacks from lunch orders taken at union work sites. Scopo the Younger wasn’t above using muscle to make his point. In 2007, for example, when he learned that a Ground Zero reconstruction site foreman had complained about the union being under mob control, he had a chat with the foreman, bringing along Colombo capo Dino Calabro and his own son Ralph III for good measure. After the “discussion,” Ralph Jr. admitted to Calabro that he brought along his son just in case the foreman “needed to be physically assaulted.” Ralph Scopo III, not among those arrested last week, is now president of Local 6A, although the union since last December has operated under LIUNA trusteeship.
Teamsters Local 282. Though under federal receivership for more than 15 years, the arrests last week of Gambino crime family soldier William Scotto and an associate, trucking industry executive Anthony Licata, brought home just how deep the Lake Success, L.I.-based union had been in hock to the Gambinos. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282 represents roughly 4,000 truckers and related workers in New York City and Long Island who deliver concrete and building materials to construction sites. It also has a long pedigree of Mafia involvement. John O’Rourke, union president during 1931-65, was a close associate of Lucchese crime bosses Johnny Dioguardi and Anthony “Ducks’ Corallo. Later on, the Gambino family asserted control during the successive Local 282 reigns of John Cody (1976-84) and Robert Sasso (1984-92), both of whom ended up in federal prison on racketeering charges. Frank DeCicco, a Gambino made man, delivered payoffs from union bosses to crime bosses until he died in a 1986 car bombing; Genovese and Lucchese enforcers, enraged that Gotti had seized power the previous year by whacking Gambino boss Paul Castellano, had done the deed.
With Gotti at the helm, Local 282 became more of a Gambino profit center than ever. Aided by underboss Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, Local 282 funneled about $1.2 million a year to mob coffers. Here is how a federal circuit court summarized the process in 2000, in its rejection of the appeal of former President Sasso and four other defendants:
At the pertinent times, the individual defendants were officers of Local 282. Between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, by means of threats of physical, economic and financial harm, including work stoppages, the individual defendants unlawfully obtained cash payments from representatives of companies whose employees were members or were eligible to be members of Local 282. Such companies were assured of lax enforcement of their agreements with Local 282 or were allowed to operate in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement without experiencing labor unrest.
Gravano, whose eventual flipping for the prosecution was crucial in securing Gotti’s conviction in 1992, long had been a ruthless enforcer for Gotti, committing or ordering 19 murders, any number related to Local 282 business. The corruption didn’t end with Gotti’s conviction or Gravano’s subsequent move to Arizona. Federal prosecutors filed a civil RICO suit, winning in 1995 an agreement with the local and the parent Teamsters under an agreement for court-supervised monitoring. More than 50 local officials and shop stewards thus far have been forced from their posts due to links to organized crime. Evidence of corruption continues in fits and starts. One of the defendants in the 2008 Justice Department Gambino takedown was Staten Island, N.Y. trucking executive Joseph Spinnato, who allegedly skimmed scheduled Local 282 health and pension fund contributions by underreporting hours worked. The arrests of Scotto and Licata last week served notice of additional unfinished business.
Longshoremen Local 1235. For decades, the Genovese crime family ran the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1235, which represents port employees working the docks in Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The arrest of former local President Vincent Aulisi on conspiracy and extortion charges last Thursday was an appropriate coda. According to prosecutors, Aulisi, now 78, and several Genovese associates forced port workers to hand over thousands of dollars in “tribute payments” each year around Christmas bonus time. The ILA Local 1235 extortion racket had gone on for at least three decades until federal prosecutors dismantled it.
This was not the only problem area. In September 2005, then-President Albert Cernadas pleaded guilty to benefit fraud; two months earlier he settled a civil racketeering suit against him in Brooklyn federal court whose defendants had included ILA International President John Bowers. Another alleged co-conspirator in the criminal case, Genovese capo Lawrence Ricci, a witness during the fall 2005 criminal trial, suddenly went missing for weeks – until he turned up dead in the trunk of a parked car at a New Jersey diner. Another Genovese mobster, Michael “Mikey Cigars” Coppola, had spent more than a decade on the run rather than face a trial for the 1977 murder of fellow mobster John “Johnny Cokes” Lardiere. Captured in August 2008, he pleaded guilty to fugitive charges and is serving a 42-month sentence. A federal grand jury in Brooklyn, meanwhile, indicted him for racketeering related to ILA Local 1235 business deals and the Lardiere murder. He went on trial in July 2009. While found not guilty of murder, he was convicted of extortion and flight charges, and in December of that year was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
This is not a comprehensive guide to mob-union links. In the world of organized crime, the dots have a way of connecting in unexpected places. That’s why this latest round of arrests probably won’t be the last. If the recent past is any guide, many arrestees will plead guilty. In exchange for a lighter sentence, some will provide information of use in prosecuting additional suspects. Nobody is suggesting this should become a witch hunt or that the accused should be denied due process. But if evidence is sufficient to convict, defendants should pay a price regardless of how many years ago their offenses took place. Mafia financial rackets, enforced with murderous violence, has corrupted a whole range of American institutions. Labor unions are among them.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

John Travolta reportedly will play John Gotti in film on mob boss - and James Franco may play Jr.

John Travolta will play the role of John Gotti in an upcoming film on the legendary mob boss, TMZ.com reported Tuesday.
Marty Ingels, the producer of the film based on Gotti's life, told the gossip site that Travolta will play the lead role.

Travolta - dining with Ingels at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles on Monday night - was more coy, refusing to discuss the role.
Sources told TMZ.com that James Franco has been approached to play John A. (Junior) Gotti in the film, which will be directed by Nick Cassavetes.
John Gotti, known as the Dapper Don, died in prison in 2002 after running the Gambino crime family until 1992, when he was convicted on murder charges.


Brother of slain man says he was target of botched hit

The brother of a man gunned down in an alleged botched mob hit at a Bronx tavern took the stand yesterday to bolster prosecutors’ claims that he was the intended target of the bloody 1999 murder.
Thomas Brown, 46, testified that he was embroiled in a nasty feud with accused trigger man Joseph Meldish when, cops claim, Meldish burst into Frenchy’s Tavern in Throggs Neck and gunned down Brown’s brother, Joey, in a hail of bullets.
Prosecutors charge that the 54-year-old Meldish — a reputed member of the Purple Gang, a drug-dealing group tied to the Genovese, Lucchese and Bonanno crime families — had meant to wipe out Thomas Brown in the attack.
On the stand in Bronx Supreme court, Brown said he got on Meldish’s bad side over his refusal to give Meldish a loan.
Meldish later broke into Brown’s home, but Brown — an admitted cocaine dealer — didn’t turn him in to cops, Brown testified.
"I didn’t want any problems with him — nobody wanted any problems with him," Brown said.
During testimony, prosecutor Christine Scaccia showed a photo from the 1990s that showed Brown sitting alongside his brothers, Joey and John, in tuxedos.
The similarities between the fair skinned, light-eyed, brown-haired brothers is striking.
Brown — who noted that he was two inches taller than Joey — said Meldish had never seen him and his brother together.
Cops previously have said they think Meldish and his accomplice, Kimberly Hanzlick, 45, meant to retaliate against Thomas Brown after Meldish was arrested on robbery charges.
Joey Brown’s wife, Eileen, testified earlier in the week that she was standing with her husband at a bistro table seconds before the ambush.
"I saw a man standing there with a gun pulled out, saying, ‘This is for you, motherfu-ker," she tearfully recalled.
Jurors were shown a graphic video of the 35-year-old Brown’s bullet-ridden body sprawled on the bar floor, with blood pouring from his face.
On cross examination, Meldish’s lawyer, Murray Richman, tried to establish a link between Joey Brown, the mob and a man Richman identified as "Bobby the Weasel."
"Didn’t you tell [FBI] agents that your brother killed Bobby and helped dispose of the body?" Richman asked Brown.
"I said I heard a rumor," Brown said. "I didn’t say he killed somebody

Gambino soldier shook down midtown real estate firm: Feds

This is an FBI mugshot of Anellio Dellacroce, ...Deceased Gambino Underboss Neil DellacroceA Gambino crime family soldier charged with shaking down a Manhattan real estate investment firm was released Wednesday on $2 million bail.
Anthony Scibelli was indicted last week on racketeering and extortion charges for allegedly using force or fear to extort money from the owners of Sitt Asset Management, according to a court document, referring to the firm headquartered in Midtown at One Penn Plaza.
Sitt has developed multi-million dollar commercial properties at tony addresses in Times Square, the Fashion District, and the Meatpacking District, and sold an office building at 180 Madison Ave. in 2008 for $146 million.
The indictment, which grew out of a probe by the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, did not refer by name to the victim of the extortion.
The firm’s Web site says it is run collectively by Eddie, Ralph, David, and Jack Sitt - grandsons of the company’s founder.
A phone call requesting comment from the firm was not immediately returned.
In addition to Scibelli, Gambino associate Anthony "Tony O" O’Donnell, was charged with shaking down the real estate investment firm.
The shakedown occurred between March and May 2007, the indictment says.
Scibelli is also charged with extorting a company that was providing cement for the construction of the Liberty View Harbor development in Jersey City, NJ in 2006 and 2007.
He was arrested last week by FBI agents in the largest single-day operation against organized crime in US history, with a total of 127 reputed wiseguys charged.
Scibelli, who has prior arrests on extortion charges, reportedly owns a construction firm.
His attorney, Gerald Shargel, said Scibelli had committed no wrongdoing and will fight the charges.
Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann in Brooklyn federal court ordered that Scibelli be released on the $2 million bond pending trial.
Also today, the FBI announced the surrender of the final fugitive from the record round-up, reputed Gambino crime-family soldier Joseph "Joe Dogs" Lombardi, who was allegedly caught on tape shaking down a construction worker for $30,000.

Reputed mob hit man Joseph Meldisch walked up, swore & fired away, widow testifies

The widow of a Bronx man killed by an accused "ice-hearted" mob hit man gave chilling testimony Tuesday of the gunman's evil act.
"He walked up to us, pointed the gun and said, 'This is for you, motherf----r,'" Eileen Brown tearfully told jurors in the trial of reputed mob "button man" Joseph Meldisch, 54. "My husband threw me out of the way, and the man started firing shots at him."
Meldisch, wearing a ski mask and sweat suit, carried out the assassination in Frenchy's bar on E. Tremont Ave. in Throgs Neck in March 1999, pumping nine shots into city tunnel digger Joseph Brown, 35, prosecutors said.
After Meldisch fled, "I was trying to wake him up, but he was gone," Brown, a former paralegal with the Bronx district attorney's office, said of Joseph Brown's bullet-riddled body.
Law enforcement sources said Meldisch was longtime muscle for the Purple Gang, an independent crew originally affiliated with the Luchese mob, and later with the Genovese and Bonanno crime families.
Police believe the former heroin addict carried out roughly 70 contract killings before cops nailed him for Brown's murder in 2007, sources said. The killing was a case of mistaken identity, cops said. Meldisch was actually after Brown's brother Thomas, who got him busted for robbery.
"This guy was as ice-hearted as they come, so he didn't think twice about killing someone who looked similar," said a law enforcement source.
Also on trial is Kimberly Hanzlik, 45, who is charged with murder for allegedly helping Meldisch carry out the killing.

'Godfather' star James Caan, Furio from 'The Sopranos' go to bat for Colombo crime boss

Cover of "The Godfather (Widescreen Editi...A letter of support from "Godfather" actor James Caan - and a cameo appearance by Furio from "The Sopranos" - couldn't persuade a judge Tuesday to release a Colombo crime boss on bail.
Lawyers for Andrew (Mush) Russo proposed a bail package valued at more than $4 million and confinement to the gangster's Long Island home.
Caan, whose son Scott is the gangster's godson, has gone to bat for Russo before, even getting slapped with a subpoena from the FBI more than 20 years ago.
"I've known Andrew since 1972 and in all that time I have known him only as an unbelievable father, grandfather, great-grandfather and as good a friend as any person could ask for," wrote Caan, who played the role of Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather."
At one point, Russo, 76, waved his pinkie at actor Federico Castelluccio, who played Furio, the mobster who had a crush on Tony Soprano's wife. Castelluccio was sitting in the spectator section.
FBI agent Scott Curtis testified that Russo became the crime family's street boss last March after he completed supervised release for his last conviction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes also played a secret tape recording in which Russo is introduced to fellow gangsters as the family's "representante" or "boss," to the sound of applause.
A Colombo mob big, trying to rebuild his already-decimated organization before the feds pummeled his network last week, made straying members an offer they couldn't refuse: Come back -- or else, authorities charged yesterday.
Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo, the coldblooded acting street boss of the Colombos, had been "reaching out" to wayward members since March "to get them to pledge their commitment to come back into the family," Assistant US Attorney Liz Geddes said at a bail hearing for the alleged killer in Brooklyn federal court.
'There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see this man where he belongs and where he is needed the most — with his family.' - James Caan, in a letter to the judge on behalf of his longtime pal, Colombo boss Andrew Russo
'There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see this man where he belongs and where he is needed the most — with his family.' - James Caan, in a letter to the judge on behalf of his longtime pal, Colombo boss Andrew Russo

Russo allegedly made it clear he wouldn't take no for an answer. Anyone who didn't heed the call to come back into the family fold "would be placed on his list of enemies," which would then be circulated among the four other New York crime families, Geddes said.

Russo's 1999 racketeering trial had its own theatrics - some called it a soap opera - that featured star witness testimony from Russo's mistress, a sexy lawyer who said he called her "the best thing since sliced bread."
She testified in that trial how they hung out at Elaine's, and the jury watched a home video of the couple dancing the cha-cha.
Calling Russo "a danger to the community," Magistrate Cheryl Pollak denied him bail Tuesday.
A group of hearing-impaired people also showed up to support Russo. One woman said Russo used to defend a group of deaf children in the neighborhood who were picked on.
Before Russo was taken away, a family member carried his great-granddaughter, wearing a pink dress, into the courtroom so he could wave goodbye.


Why the Mafia Still Matters

On the same day that federal officials launched their mega-Mafia rollout last week, a handsome silver-haired businessman named Joseph Watts stood before a judge in Manhattan to plead guilty to his own mob crimes.
Despite the "biggest-mob-case-ever" and "Mafia crippled" headlines, there were some not unreasonable gripes about the media carnival staged by Attorney General Eric Holder: Much of the 16 indictments is repackaged crimes, including chump change like construction coffee-wagon shakedowns and electronics-store heists. There's also a high geezer quotient to the biggest names among the 127 defendants: The former boss of New England's mob family is 83; the feds picked him up in the same place everyone else goes to retire—Fort Lauderdale. A top figure in John Gotti's Gambino crime family was charged with what Holder correctly called "senseless murder"—a pair of barroom killings over a spilled drink in 1981. Unmentioned was that Bartolomeo "Bobby Glasses" Vernace, 61, beat that same murder rap in state court back in 2002.
But there's a bigger point to Holder's full-scale federal blast. The intent is to send a message to the mob—a wake-up call as loud as Gotti's old "Put a rocket in his pocket" orders for those who crossed him. The message is that, despite major distractions like terrorism and Mexican drug cartels, the feds aren't forgetting that the American Mafia—no matter how many TV gag lines and blogging giggles about nicknames—remains a real and potent threat. And if you have any doubts about how real it is, you don't have to look any further than Joe Watts.
Standing before federal judge Colleen McMahon, Watts admitted to helping plot the 1989 murder of a Staten Island newspaper-editor-turned-mob-real-estate-developer named Freddy Weiss. The confession is expected to cost him 13 years. That's about all Watts, 69, has left.
Watts isn't an official member of Cosa Nostra. He doesn't have enough Italian in him to qualify. In fact, his pals call him "the German." But what he lacks in bloodlines he has more than made up for in mob success. He ran a very profitable construction-materials company in New Jersey. It was considered must-stop shopping for lumber and nails for contractors under the mob's thumb. His loan-shark business—high-priced loans to those in need—brought in some $30,000 a week, according to a roly-poly Gambino defector named Dominic "Fat Dom" Borghese, who for years picked up the cash for him. Fat Dom figured he delivered about $11 million to his boss.
Watts was also a born entrepreneur. In 2007, he launched his own high-energy drink, calling it "American Blast." Pumped full of vitamins and caffeine, it was marketed in red, white, and blue containers. Fat Joe—the rapper, not the gangster—performed at the launch party.
He lived well. In 2001, Ganglandnews.com reported that Watts had a splendid $6 million spread on the west Florida coast. It was guarded by high walls and enough security cameras to make locals whisper. Prosecutors said the cautious man kept the property under the names of front men. One of them was the owner of an exclusive Art Deco antiques gallery on Madison Avenue. Joe Watts traveled in classy circles.
But he wasn't above getting his hands dirty. The Weiss killing is just one of 11 hits Watts allegedly helped handle for his Gambino family superiors. Actually, his own efforts to kill Weiss were a flop. A day before the assassination, he'd waited with a gun in his hand for the ex-newsman to arrive at a pal's garage. He even had a grave dug. But Weiss never showed. A day later, a New Jersey crew—the real Tony Soprano wing, the DeCavalcante family—caught Weiss coming out of an apartment near the Staten Island Mall. Weiss died because Gotti was worried he was turning informer. He was wrong. The feds later said Weiss wasn't cooperating. Not that it mattered. In gangland, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Here's where it gets a little personal. In February 1989, Freddy Weiss spent a lot of time trying to persuade me and Jack Newfield not to report in the Daily News that vacant land he held near the Staten Island Expressway was being used by mobsters as a dump site for toxic chemicals and medical waste. Weiss was a fast-talking charmer. A former city editor at the Staten Island Advance, he was the type who thought he could walk between the raindrops and not get wet. He was so sure he could head off a bad story that he brought his business partners, a pair of major mob garbage carters named Anthony Vulpis and Angelo Paccione, right into the newsroom to meet with us and our editor, Art Browne. Weiss introduced them as "legitimate businessmen." "Ask them anything you want," he said. "Do you know Jimmy Brown Failla?" we asked, referring to the veteran Gambino captain who handled the mob's garbage empire. The carters glared at Weiss, mumbled about having to be someplace, and walked out. A few months later, Weiss was dead.
That's how real this mob business gets sometimes. And despite the massive legal firepower unleashed last week, it's not likely to close up shop anytime soon. At the press conference, Holder underscored that staying power. He pointed out that the next day—January 21—was the 50th anniversary of the installation as attorney general of Robert F. Kennedy, the first to focus on the mob menace. "They have a framework that lets them survive," says Selwyn Raab, the great former Times reporter whose Five Families is the best recent Mafia book. "There's always someone waiting in the wings, willing to risk long prison sentences, because of the power and riches glittering before them."