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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano squares off with Brooklyn judge in tense standoff

Dodge City met Brooklyn, New York, when a formidable mob boss squared off today against a powerful federal judge.
No one dove for the saloon doors, but the clock ticked and there was a "High Noon" feel to the dramatic courthouse showdown that began when Judge Nicholas Garaufis asked former Bonanno crime family boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano if he would testify at his ongoing capital murder trial.
Instead of answering directly, Basciano stood up in Brooklyn federal court and launched into an emotional speech about information he first wants prosecutors to divulge and then complained about perceived injustices suffered while housed in solitary confinement.
Vincent 'Vinny Gorgeous' Basciano
Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano
"I can't make that decision, Judge," Basciano said. "I cannot give the court a 'yes' or 'no' answer at this time."
After the judge and the mobster clashed over the issue, the debate stopped and a tense silence followed, while attorneys and spectators watched on uncomfortably as the Old West stand-off dragged on for 40 minutes. Jurors were not present.
The mobster said he wanted the judge to force federal prosecutors to hand over more information about their claim that Basciano had plotted to kill Mafia-busting federal prosecutor Greg Andres.
A list with Andres' name was discovered in a federal detention center where Basciano was housed, and prosecutors say it was the mobster's hit list.
But Basciano insists it was a harmless list of names used for incantations in his practice of Santeria.
Garaufis struck down Basciano's request for more information about the alleged hit plot, saying that prosecutors already have turned over to defense attorneys all the information required under law.
Eventually, the judge gave Basciano a 4 p.m. deadline to make up his mind or forfeit his right to testify on his own behalf.
After the deadline passed, the judge said Basciano had lost his right to testify by default.
Then the mobster made his own declaration.
"Based on the court's denial of the motions, I will not be taking the stand," Basciano said.
A jury will decide whether Basciano should be executed by lethal injection or sentenced to life in prison after being convicted last month of ordering a mob murder.

Mobster a suspect in witness' execution

A mob goon linked to the Colombo and Lucchese crime families may be linked to the unsolved execution of a police informant on Long Island, federal prosecutors have revealed.
The allegation emerged at last week's sentencing of Robert Spatafora, 38, a garage owner who calls himself "Junior Gotti," for intimidating a witness.
Assistant US Attorney Stephen Frank told Brooklyn federal court Judge Jack Weinstein that Spatafora remained "a suspect" in the death of Peter Ghattas, a Suffolk County informant shot in the head in 2003.
The body of Ghattas, who worked in Spatafora's garage in Ronkonkoma, was found in his SUV outside the shop a week after Spatafora asked him if he was a "rat," the feds say.
Prosecutors say Spatafora was secretly recorded "repeatedly threatening" the witness "about the possibility that she would provide information about the murder of Peter Ghattas."
Spatafora got 41 months in prison.

Vinny Gorgeous faces ugly life in Colorado Supermax prison if he avoids death penalty

View of cell block at Colorado Supermax prison where Vinny Gorgeous may reside someday.
View of cell block at Colorado Supermax prison where Vinny Gorgeous may reside someday.
There's a special hell on Earth awaiting Vinny Gorgeous if a federal jury sentences him this week to life in prison instead of the death penalty.
Former Bonanno crime boss Vincent Basciano would spend the rest of his days at the super-maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo. And deep within its concrete walls, there is a place reserved for a notorious fraternity of inmates in the federal penal system - Cell Block H.
"It's the most secure, most controlled, most confined unit in the prison," said former U.S. Bureau of Prisons warden Joe Gunja. "It's designed for the worst of the worst inmates."
Lawyers for Basciano this week will argue to the same jury that convicted him of ordering the murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo that he won't be a threat to anyone at Supermax.
Basciano qualifies for the H-Unit because he has been jailed under special administrative measures for nearly five years. The U.S. attorney general imposed the SAMs after authorities found an alleged hit list drafted by Basciano with the names of a federal judge, a prosecutor and mob rats.

It's mostly terrorists who are held under those conditions, so Basciano's neighbors would be World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef; the so-called 20th hijacker on 9/11, Zacarias Moussaoui, and shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis has called the H-unit "infamous," and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Dennehy says it's "the worst section of the worst prison." Terrorist Eric Rudolph, who is serving life at Supermax for bombing the 1996 Summer Olympics, has written that inmates there are cut off from the outside world and other inmates.
Basciano would be locked down 23hours a day, shackled and escorted by at least three guards when he leaves the cell. He would have no physical contact with other inmates or visitors and severely limited communications with immediate family.
Prison spokesman Mark Collins said about 5% of the 490 inmates are held under SAMs. Inmates never see each other, he said, but can "communicate orally between cells."


Monday, May 30, 2011

Mob Killer:The Bloody Rampage of Charlie Carneglia, Mafia Hit Man

Tony DeStefano's new book, "Mob Killer:The Bloody Rampage of Charlie Carneglia, Mafia Hit Man," will be out officially on June7th from Pinnacle True Crime. It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites and in better bookstores for $6.99 (US). The 344 page mass market paperback details the fascinating and often shocking story of Charles Carneglia and how he became an important gog in the crime machine of the late John Gotti. Carneglia, brother of reputed Gambino captain John Carneglia, bloodied his hands as he tried to fit in the with Gotti's wild crew in Ozone Park, N.Y. The story of Charles is one of a strange man who could show incredible devotion to his infirm mother and then turn around and cause murder and havoc on the streets of New York. He was arrested in February 2008 and finally convicted of racketeering in 2009 which earned him a life sentence in federal prison. Charles was one of the last true believers of the mob life. He was an anachronism, the last of the loyal Mafiosi.

Mob Wives at war as vicious catfight breaks out over lunch

A vicious catfight broke out during a Sunday lunch held by the mafia princesses of Mob Wives.
The US reality TV show, which makes Jersey Shore look like tea with the queen, follows the lives of four women from Staten Island, New York who are all from notorious mob backgrounds or have mobster husbands in jail.
Brawl: The stars of Mob Wives got caught up in a vicious catfight over Sunday lunch
Brawl: The stars of Mob Wives got caught up in a vicious catfight over Sunday lunch 

Renee Graziano, Carla Facciolo, and Karen Gravano held a lunch to 'calmly talk about their issues' but it soon exploded into screaming, hair pulling and grappling on Sunday night's show.
'You wanna get up in my f***ing face,' shrieked Carla as Renee squared up to her.
Carla then pushed Renee in the face which led to a tussle on the floor.
Getting heated: Renee Graziano and Carla Facciolo had planned to talk 'calmly' about their issues
Getting heated: Renee Graziano and Carla Facciolo had planned to talk 'calmly' about their issues

'I never imagined that I would have a screaming hair-pulling match over a guy,' said Renee after the fight was over and the women had made friends again.
Renee Graziano is the daughter of Anthony 'The Little Guy' Graziano, consigliere of the infamous Bonanno crime family.
Drita D'avanzo's husband Lee is serving time for bank robbery and drug charges while Carla Facciolo, plans to divorce her husband, Joseph Ferragamo who is banged up for stock fraud.
Nasty: The women screamed and pulled each other's hair
Nasty: The women screamed and pulled each other's hair 

Karen Gravano, 38, is the daughter of Sammy 'Bull' Gravano, the notorious mobster who took down John Gotti and the Gambino crime family.
Karen recently returned to Staten Island after living with her father in the witness protection program for many years. She is currently penning a memoir, which St. Martin's Press has bought for six figures.

Uncle Joe's arrest could put Skinny Joey Merlino back in charge

Here's the big question circulating in certain circles in South Philadelphia:
With reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi in jail with several of his top associates, who's minding the store?
Who's collecting the cash?
Who's keeping the loan-shark debtors current?
Who's emptying out the video-poker machines and putting together the tally sheets?
A 50-count indictment unsealed Monday that charged Ligambi, 71, with racketeering conspiracy, extortion, and gambling was built around the economics of the mob.
And while he sits in the Federal Detention Center at Seventh and Arch Streets, that economy continues to drive business in the underworld.
That, say law enforcement and underworld sources alike, is the primary reason someone will move to fill the vacuum created by what appears to be the end of the Ligambi era.
The most logical successor, those sources say, is in a prison halfway house in Florida, playing out the last six months of a 14-year sentence for racketeering.
The more things change . . . 
Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, 49, has told friends and associates that he intends to stay in the Sunshine State after his release in September.
He is working in a tile and floor-covering store near Boca Raton and returning to the halfway house each evening. Several people who have spoken to him say he hopes to get into the restaurant business.
To date, he has shunned the spotlight, letting everyone know he is not interested in speaking to reporters.
But South Philadelphia and the limelight were once part of his lifeblood, and there are those who believe he won't be able to stay away from either.
The piles of cash that come with heading a crime family may be a bigger lure than balmy weather and palm trees.
"There are a lot of guys out on the streets right now who weren't making any money under Ligambi," said one source familiar with the situation. "They figure now it's their turn to eat. They're loyal to Joey and can't wait for him to come back."
In the short term, several underworld and law enforcement sources believe, Merlino will stay behind the scenes, influencing the future of the Philadelphia crime family from afar. Two of his top associates, Steven Mazzone and John "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini, are in position downtown.
Both were convicted with Merlino in 2001 and did jail time.
Both recently came off supervised court release and are free to move about and associate with whomever they choose. Both are experienced in the economy of the underworld.
Ciancaglini, 55, works at a news kiosk in the parking lot outside Chickie's & Pete's restaurant on Packer Avenue. He appears to be doing well. He drives an Infiniti SUV and can be found most mornings talking with customers who stop by the stand, including several mob members and associates. His wife, Kathy, who owns the kiosk, is often seen tooling around town in a Mercedes.
They live in a $350,000 townhouse not far from the newsstand.
Mazzone, 48, reportedly Merlino's choice to run the organization, worked for a time at a fitness center in South Philadelphia, but it is unclear how he currently earns a living.
Like Ciancaglini, he appears to be doing well. He drives a Nissan Pathfinder, is always impeccably dressed, and gives the impression that he doesn't have a care in the world.
Mazzone was Merlino's underboss, according to federal authorities, and helped run the family through a turbulent period that included conflicts with mob boss John Stanfa and later with ally-turned-nemesis Ralph Natale.
Ciancaglini is a veteran wiseguy, one of whose brothers was killed and another seriously wounded during the violent 1990s. His father, Joseph "Chickie" Ciancaglini, was a capo under mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo in the 1980s and is still serving time on racketeering charges.
A move by Merlino and his associates to fill the vacuum created by the arrests of Ligambi and his top guys would bring the saga of Philadelphia mob full circle. Ligambi took the top spot, authorities say, after Merlino, Mazzone, Ciancaglini, and several others were arrested in 1999 and 2000.
It also would be a bit of déjà vu, underworld style.
Merlino rose to power in 1995 after a bloody war with the Stanfa faction. The Merlino crew didn't win the war, but it took over by default after Stanfa and more than 20 of his associates were jailed in a federal racketeering indictment.
The feds have created a similar power vacuum with the arrest of Ligambi.
The question is whether Merlino, who enjoyed a high-profile run but ended up in prison the last time he was in this situation, wants to move back into the power seat.
Those who know him say he clearly would be interested in the financial benefits. But is he willing to take the risks?
Mobster-turned-informant Ron Previte offered a succinct - and, law enforcement sources say, dead-on accurate - description of Merlino during his high-flying days as South Philadelphia's celebrity gangster.
"Joey's agenda on Monday was to get to Tuesday," Previte said of Merlino's 1990s, live-for-the-moment underworld lifestyle.
Law enforcement and underworld sources wonder whether Merlino is smart enough to realize that Tuesday has come and gone.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miss the Sopranos? VH1's 'Mob Wives' are Goodfellas in high heels

Mob Wives
When: 8 p.m. Sundays.
Where: VH1.
Red hot mafia mamas (from left) Karen Gravano, Drita D'avanzo, Carla Facciolo and Renee Graziano.
Hard as it is to believe, the Diva was not always fabulous. She was once a freelancer living in a cramped flat in New York City's East Village. It was 1991, and just down the block, Tompkins Square Park was filled with homeless shanties, not couples pushing Winnebago-size strollers and sipping Starbucks. When my party line went on the fritz, I had to use a nearby pay phone along with the neighborhood drug dealers.
Waiting my turn behind an especially chatty corner boy, I saw posters on the light poles lining First Avenue. Pictured was the head of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano attached to the body of a giant rat. Sammy, "Dapper Don" John Gotti's bloody enforcer in the powerful Gambino crime family, had testified against his boss in exchange for a reduced sentence.
I never saw who papered the streets with those fliers -- I imagined a guy in a fedora and zoot suit, swearing as he shimmied up a utility pole -- but they were everywhere that year: all over Little Italy, flapping on tree trunks in Brooklyn. I even dared to tear one down as a keepsake.
Sammy's betrayal, Gotti's fall: The story was car-wreck fascinating. Later, Victoria Gotti, tanned to a crisp, appeared on the local news shaking a taloned finger at reporters covering her father's trial. "They broke the mold when they made John Gotti," she crowed. "He's the last of the Mohicans!"
What chutzpah! I thought. She's not ashamed -- she's proud. And suddenly, I wanted to know more about the daughter than her notorious daddy.
In 2004, A&E launched "Growing Up Gotti," but it slept with the fishes after three seasons. The sense of entitlement that dripped from Vicki's three sons like their hair gel didn't help. Audiences recoiled at the thought that the boys were buying Rolexes with blood money, even though Ma worked for a living.
So how do you craft a show about the domestic side of the underworld that won't make viewers say "fuhgeddaboudit"?
Jennifer Graziano, creator and executive producer of "Mob Wives," has figured it out. She is the daughter of Bonanno family big shot Anthony Graziano, who is in prison for tax evasion and racketeering.
The VH1 series centers on four women who were either raised by made men or are hitched to gangsters. Graziano calls it " 'Real Housewives' on steroids," though even that doesn't do it justice.
These Staten Island moms unleash profanity-laced tirades that would make Tony Soprano blush and drink more than Lindsay Lohan on probation. (Shots of Patron are a favorite). With diamond-studded crucifixes nestled in their cleavage and lynx pelts on their backs, they are "Goodfellas" in high heels.
Thanks to her family ties, Graziano knows what it's like to grow up mobbed up. So does her sister Renee, one of the show's breakout stars. "My sister, for me, was always born for television -- she's been dancing on tables since she was like 2 years old."
Put it this way: New Jersey "Housewife" Caroline Manzo would find herself in the trunk of a car parked at the airport if she ever tried her tough-guy act on Renee Graziano. The Mafia princess received her first fur (a white fox) at age 7, her name monogrammed in blue on its satin lining. Renee loves the luxe life and protection her connections provide. When a "jerk-awff" in a Polo shirt bothers Renee at a bar, she speed-dials "Junior," her ex-hubby, conveniently out on bail. (A fervent apology is extracted.) Still, she confesses, she doesn't want her 16-year-old son following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps because "those footsteps lead to prison."
Jennifer Graziano was working on a scripted version of "Mob Wives" when the success of the "Real Housewives" franchise convinced her that she could break into TV a lot faster going the reality route. Hollywood heavyweights Harvey Weinstein and Ben Silverman, executive producer of hits "The Biggest Loser" and "The Office," loved the concept and gave her an offer she couldn't refuse.
Finding the talent wasn't hard. "I realized I've had the cast under my nose my entire life," she says. In addition to sister Renee, she tapped longtime friend Carla Facciolo, happily dating though "technically married" to Joe, away, as she tells her kids, on an extended, multi-year business trip for stock fraud; and Drita D'avanzo, an Albanian beauty with Hulk-like anger-management issues. ("When I hit you, you're gettin' hurt. You're goin' down. You're getting stitches . . . plastic surgery. I'm not pulling your hair," she tells the camera. "An ambulance is sure to come.") Drita is keeping the home fires burning for husband Lee while he serves another two-to-four for bank robbery.
Rounding out the fierce foursome is Karen Gravano, Sammy the Bull's daughter. In one of the series' best narrative arcs, Karen, who moved to Phoenix after her dad "cooperated," returns to Staten Island to confront her critics and write a book. Fearless as a pit bull and unsparingly honest, when asked what she's looking for in a man, she responds, "He definitely has to have a good loaf of bread." And she don't mean in his pantry.
"Mob Wives" debuted in April and has averaged 1.3 million viewers per episode in its first six weeks on the air, solid numbers for a cable show with no marquee names attached. ("Sarah Palin's Alaska" premiered to 5 million viewers, then ratings dropped like a stone.) VH1 has ordered a second season, a move that will likely chafe wiseguys, who aren't big fans.
"There are definitely whispers," Graziano says. "Mostly, guys think that we should not be doing the show." Then again, it's not about them. "Exactly," Graziano says.
A friendly Sunday dinner at Renee's house.
Like "Jersey Shore," the genius of "Mob Wives" is that no feeling is left unexpressed, no slight goes unpunished. While the "Real Housewives of New York" battle one another with cold shoulders and eye rolls, the Staten Island sirens throw punches. In last week's episode, things got so heated during a Sunday dinner at Renee's, "I had to get in there and break it up -- I was the blurred figure running around," the producer laughs.
Despite the broken fingernails and bald patches, one of the take-home lessons of "Mob Wives" is the value of girlfriends. "Honestly, who's there at the end of the day?" Drita asks Renee during a "sit-down" at Buddha Lounge to resolve an especially ugly barroom spat. "The friends. Because the men . . . "
"They're behind bars," Renee finishes, then orders herself a drink called "the Crazy Mama."
Like most fem-centric pop products produced in the last two decades, from "Sex and the City" to "Bridesmaids," there is more than a little girl power in "Mob Wives." At bottom, Renee and her posse, who have largely defined themselves through the men in their lives, now find they are struggling to form new, independent identities. The questions they wrestle with are standard feminist fare with a Cosa Nostra twist: Do I continue to spend my days stuffing care packages with sausage and mozzarella to send to the federal pen? Or do I dump the goombah weighing me down?
"Their men went off to jail, and they find themselves having to fend for themselves and take care of their families alone," says Jennifer Graziano. "And that's my biggest message -- it's like, 'Women, you can do this alone. Even if you have a husband, you still don't have to be dependent upon him. If he's home or in jail -- stand up and take care of yourself.' "


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

'Mousie' the mobster ordered held without bail

Joseph C. Massimino
Joseph C. Massimino

Reputed mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino was ordered held without bail Friday on racketeering and gambling charges detailed in a 50-count indictment handed up earlier in the week.
U.S. District Court Judge Felipe Restrepo cited Massimino's lengthy record of arrests and convictions in accepting prosecutors' arguments that the 61-year-old would be a threat to the community if released.
Massimino, of South Philadelphia, has been arrested 34 times according to a detention memo filed by the prosecution, and has been convicted of federal drug trafficking and state racketeering charges.
He has spent more than 20 years of his adult life in prison.
The alleged number two man in the Philadelphia mob was the third defendant ordered held without bail pending trial. Earlier in the week, reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, 71, and alleged mob soldier Gaeton Lucibello, 58, were also denied bail.
Hearings for two others - Martin Angelina, 48, and Gary Battaglini, 50 - were continued to Tuesday after Restrepo said he wanted more details about properties family members were prepared to post as collateral in their cases.
Ligambi and the others have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, extortion and gambling offenses stemming from a 10-year investigation.
Two other key defendants, mob members George Borgesi, 47, and Damion Canalichio, 41, are expected to be arraignment sometime next month . Both are currently serving federal sentences on unrelated charges.
In another development Friday, bail was reset at $900,000 for reputed mob lieutenant Anthony Staino Jr. to conform with the value of properties family members and friends had agreed to post as collateral. Bail had originally been set at $1 million.
Staino, 53, will also be required to wear an electronic monitor and remain under house arrest at his home in Woolwich Township, Gloucester County.
Staino is one of the few defendants in the case without a criminal record. He was expected to be released before the end of the weekend.


US knew of Bulgarian PM’s alleged mafia links – WikiLeaks

Boyko Borisov, the current Prime Minister of B...Image via Wikipedia
The United States was aware of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s alleged ties to the mafia and shady businessmen before he was elected in 2009, according to a leaked diplomatic cable yesterday.
In the 2006 cable, released via WikiLeaks and a Bulgarian offshoot Balkanleaks, Washington’s ambassador to Bulgaria at the time, John Beyrle, wrote about Mr Borisov’s alleged “close social and business ties to influential mafia figures” and warned the United States must “never forget who we’re dealing with”.
The cable was written at a time when Mr Borisov was still mayor of Sofia, but harboured much bigger political ambitions.
Mr Borisov, a former bodyguard and fire-fighter, was elected Prime Minister in 2009 and is still hugely popular and widely expected to run in the upcoming presidential election in the autumn.
Back in 2006, Mr Beyrle described him as “an unpredictable individual with unbridled political ambition and an apparently bright future in Bulgarian politics.”
Nevertheless, it was precisely Mr Borisov’s ego that “may provide our greatest leverage over him – he craves international attention and particularly covets US approval,” the cable stated.
“We must continue to walk a fine line between being used by Mr Borisov’s publicity machine and alienating an exceptionally popular and seemingly pro-American politician who may emerge as Bulgaria’s next leader.”


Philly Mob Boss Ligambi denied bail as Feds reveal secret tapes and cooperators

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi was ordered held without bail Thursday after a federal prosecutor argued that he was a threat to the community and would continue to run the Philadelphia crime family if released from prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer cited Ligambi's "long history" as a member of the Philadelphia branch of La Cosa Nostra and his alleged role as boss of the organization for the last 10 years in urging U.S. District Judge Timothy R. Rice not to grant bail.
Rice agreed with the prosecution.
Ligambi, 71, handcuffed and wearing an oversize green prison jumpsuit, smiled and nodded to several relatives and friends in the sixth-floor courtroom as he was led into the detention hearing.
When Rice, known for his courteous demeanor, said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Ligambi," the silver-haired defendant casually replied, "How ya doin'?"
Ligambi and 12 others were charged in a 50-count racketeering-gambling indictment unsealed Monday. Authorities allege that he headed an organization that used fear and threats of violence to control an illegal video-machine operation and to extort bookmakers, gamblers, and loan-shark victims.
The hearing Thursday shed more light on the lengthy federal investigation into the Ligambi organization. Troyer said the government had at least seven cooperating witnesses who would identify Ligambi as Philadelphia's mob boss.
A detention motion filed by the government also pointed to surveillance and secretly recorded conversations that place Ligambi at the top of the crime family.
Ligambi's attorney, Joseph Santaguida, said friends and relatives were prepared to post property valued at $1.7 million as bail if Rice would release his client.
Santaguida described the charges as a basic gambling case and said there were no acts of violence attributed to his client or any other defendant in the case.
The veteran defense lawyer said the defendants' alleged mob ties were being used to deny them their basic rights.
"Because of who they are, the government is making the case a lot bigger than it is," he said.
A second defendant, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, 44, who was described as a high-ranking mob associate, was also denied bail during a separate hearing.
On Wednesday, reputed mob soldier Gaeton Lucibello, 58, was ordered held without bail, while Anthony Staino, 53, one of Ligambi's top associates, was released on $1 million bail and placed under house arrest. Staino is one of the only defendants without a previous arrest or conviction.
Detention hearings are scheduled Friday for alleged mobsters Martin Angelina and Joseph "Mousie" Massimino.
The detention motion filed in Ligambi's case referred to several secretly recorded conversations the FBI made during the investigation.
On one tape, codefendant Damion Canalichio threatened a loan-shark debtor, authorities said, telling him the cash he owed was "Uncle Joe's money" and adding that "everything goes back" to Ligambi.
Authorities say they also have tapes of Ligambi discussing loan-shark debts with another cooperating witness. The witness, identified as Associate #1 in court papers, is Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo, a South Philadelphia mob associate, according to investigative sources.
DiGiacomo began cooperating with the FBI and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 and recorded dozens of conversations.
Those tapes figured prominently in the state's Delco Nostra investigation into a mob-run gambling ring in Delaware County that resulted in an earlier conviction for Monacello.
Now some of those tapes are surfacing as part of the federal case against Ligambi, Monacello, and jailed mob leader George Borgesi.
Borgesi, 47, is Ligambi's nephew. Authorities have alleged that Monacello ran Borgesi's Delaware County gambling ring while the latter was serving a 14-year sentence for racketeering.
A volatile mob leader whose relationship with his uncle is said to be strained, Borgesi was scheduled to be released to a halfway house early next year, but instead will now be to brought to Philadelphia to face new federal charges that could extend his time in prison by a decade or more.
The charges against Ligambi also include an allegation that he threatened a photographer who took photos at the wedding of reputed mob leader Staino in September 2010.
Authorities subpoenaed the photos taken at the wedding reception. According to court documents, Ligambi then "made threatening statements" to the photographer in an attempt to keep him from turning those photos over to a grand jury.
Law enforcement sources say the usually camera-shy Ligambi didn't want federal investigators to have pictures of him with other members of his organization.
The wedding, a lavish affair at the Curtis Center in Philadelphia, attracted about 300 guests, according to investigators who had surveillance set up outside the center on Sixth Street near Walnut.
Mob members and associates, including a contingent of alleged wiseguys from New York and North Jersey, were reportedly in attendance.
Investigators hoped photos from the reception would show Ligambi interacting with other mob figures. That, they said, could be used as physical evidence to establish relationships that might tie into criminal charges.


Vinny Gorgeous penalty phase: Lawyers may be in hot water over alleged tip to mobsters

Bonanno gangster Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano may be sentenced to death.
Bonanno gangster Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano may be sentenced to death.
Two veteran defense lawyers who mobsters say tipped them off to the dining habits of a federal prosecutor could be in legal hot water.
Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis said Thursday he was notifying the legal disciplinary committees of allegations made by mob turncoats this week during the penalty phase of Bonanno gangster Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano's murder trial.
Basciano - having received a message that then-Bonanno boss Joseph Massino was furious at federal prosecutor Greg Andres - was ready to kill the fed, prosecutors say.
Massino, now a government witness, testified on Wednesday that he found out from lawyers David Breitbart and Murray Richman at a co-defendants' meeting that Andres frequented Campagnola restaurant on the upper East Side.
The information was passed on to Basciano, who was ready to whack the prosecutor at the trattoria, mob rat Dominick Cicale testified at the trial.
Garaufis said he was "extremely troubled" by the involvement of lawyers.
"I'm not saying or concluding that those statements made on the witness stand were accurate, but I think they require some investigation because of the inference that information was passed along by lawyers that could result in the injury or murder of a law enforcement officer," he said.
Richman, who appeared in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday to quash a subpoena seeking his testimony at Basciano's trial, said he wasn't worried.
"It doesn't concern me," Richman told reporters about the judge's comments, "because I didn't do anything wrong."
Richman said he was summoned before a federal grand jury in 2006 about the Campagnola discussion.

Massino admits failing two lie detector tests with the FBI

It was an unexpected moment in the death penalty phase of Vincent Basciano's case when former boss Joseph Massino blurted out that he had failed two lie detector tests with the FBI.  That fact had been known for years but by court order wasn't supposed to be brought out on cross examination by the defense.  But as reported in Newsday, Massino suddenly mentioned it as a way of justifying why he decided to secretly tape Basciano while both were in jail.  It was on that tape that Basciano made comments which indicated he had earlier spoken to Massino about wanting to hit a prosecutor.  Massino in testimony said Basciano first mentioned the idea about a month earlier out of anger for the way prosecutor Greg Andres was treating mob wives. But on tape Basciano demurred, saying that it was a bad idea and to forget about it.  Prosecutor Andres was never harmed.  Basciano faces the death penalty after being convicted for killing mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.  The death penalty phase will continue after the Memorial Day weekend.


Suspected mobster returned to RI

A suspected mobster arrested earlier this month in Las Vegas is back in Rhode Island to face charges in connection with an alleged gambling ring.
State police said officers traveled to Las Vegas Wednesday and took custody of Alfred "Chippy" Scivola, a reputed longtime member of the Patriarca crime family. He was brought back to Rhode Island, arraigned at the Lincoln State Police barracks, and released on $25,000 with surety.
Scivola and over 20 other suspects were arrested earlier this month following a lengthy investigation into an alleged sports betting ring based in Johnston . State police said the operation involved some "made" members of the Patriarca crime family, including Scivola, Edward Lato, and Frank "Bobo" Marrapese.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

VH1 orders second season of widely succesful Mob Wives

VH1's Mob Wives
U.S. cable network VH1 has greenlit new autumn seasons of factual series Mob Wives (pictured) and Love & Hip Hop, and is bringing back its Pop Up Video series after a 10-year hiatus.

The second season orders come after Mob Wives averaged 1.3 million total viewers for its premiere episodes during its first five weeks on the air, while Love & Hip Hop averaged more than a million viewers per premiere episode, according to the network.
The former, which looks at women struggling to raise families while their husbands and fathers do time for alleged mob-related activities, will return for 12 new episodes. The latter looks at women connected to the world of hip-hop, and gets 10 new hour-long installments.
“Both Mob Wives and Love & Hip Hop are smash hits for VH1, generating strong buzz and viewership for months now,” said Jeff Olde, executive VP of original programming and production at VH1. “Our viewers have connected passionately with these women and their unique, authentic stories in the realms of pop culture and music.”
The network is also bringing back Pop Up Video, one of its most iconic series, after 10 years. The network has ordered 60 episodes of the format featuring current videos, some new graphics and the pop-up “bubbles” containing details and insights.
The series will also integrate interactive elements including user polling and user-generated pop-up content that will be reflected in the show. New popped music videos will also be available for viewing and sharing on VH1.com as they air on TV.
Pop Up Video has stood the test of time, ranking as one of the most iconic series in recent television history,” said VH1 president Tom Calderone. “For years, people have practically begged, ‘Please bring back Pop Up Video’ – it’s a show and format that now evokes nostalgia for VH1′s young adult audience.”

Philly mob used reputation and threats of violence to secure gambling racket

Anthony Staino Jr. can be released on bail.
Anthony Staino Jr. can be released on bail.

They didn't break legs, because they didn't have to.
They lived off the reputation of the organization and the gangsters who came before them.
And they made a lot of money.
That was the picture of the Philadelphia mob painted by federal prosecutors Wednesday at bail hearings for two top members of the crime family arrested Monday in a racketeering-gambling case.
"If the threats work, then the violence doesn't have to occur," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer, one of the prosecutors in the case who argued that the defendants should be denied bail.
Authorities allege that threats of violence allowed reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his top associates to forcibly take over a lucrative video poker machine business and to extort gamblers, bookmakers, and loanshark customers for more than a decade.
Ligambi, 71, is the lead defendant in the racketeering indictment, which was unsealed Monday. He and two other associates have bail hearings Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy R. Rice accepted some of the prosecution's arguments.
Rice ordered that Anthony Staino Jr., who prosecutors said boasted on tape of being a "member of the board of directors" and the "chief financial officer" for the mob family, could be released on $1 million bail after six family members and friends agreed to post their homes and other properties as collateral.
Rice pointed out that Staino, 53, has no prior convictions. He also noted that while Staino was charged with making threats, he was not charged with carrying out any acts of violence, a point made repeatedly by Gregory Pagano, Staino's attorney.
The judge also appeared to be impressed by the willingness of those who knew Staino to literally put their homes at risk.
Staino, who lives in Woolwich Township, Gloucester County, will be on an electronic monitor and under strict home confinement that, with a few exceptions, amounts to 24-hour house arrest.
Gaeton Lucibello, 58, identified by authorities as a mob soldier, was denied bail and will remain in jail pending trial.
Rice said Lucibello's long association with organized crime and his two prior convictions for weapons offenses justified the bail denial.
Prosecutors are expected to make many of the same arguments at the bail hearings scheduled Thursday for Ligambi, reputed mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, and mob associate Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello.
The indictment charges Ligambi with heading an organization that used fear and threats of violence to fuel an extortion and gambling racket that generated a steady stream of cash for the organization.
Prosecutors offered a more detailed account of one of those extortions Wednesday, expanding on an allegation in the 50-count indictment that Ligambi, Staino, and Massimino took over a highly lucrative video poker machine business from two men who had inherited it from their father.
"They made them an offer they couldn't refuse," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor.
While the indictment does not provide specifics, comments made in open court and information from other sources indicate that the mob took over the business once owned by Anthony "Tony Machines" Milicia, a legendary video machine distributor.
Milicia, who lived in Somerdale, became a millionaire through the poker machine business, often financing bar and restaurant purchases for individuals who paid off the loans in part by allowing Milicia to place his machines in their establishments.
Milicia, who died of natural causes several years ago, was an extortion target of mob bosses Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and John Stanfa, but managed to avoid their advances.
In 1996, however, after balking at attempts by mob leaders Ralph Natale and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, Milicia was gunned down outside of Bonnie's Capistrano Bar at 13th and Dickinson Streets in South Philadelphia.
He survived that hit and eventually agreed to make tribute payments to the Natale-Merlino organizaton.
Ironically, the current indictment alleges that in May 2001, while Merlino and several of his associates were on trial for racketeering charges that included the extortion and attempted murder of Milicia, Ligambi, Staino, and Massimino muscled their way into the business that was then owned by his sons.
During that trial, Natale, who had become a government witness, testified about how lucrative the poker machine business was.
"Poker machines make more money . . . than even selling drugs," said Natale, who among other things was a convicted methamphetamine trafficker.
An operation like Milicia's, he said, with 50 or 60 machines, would generate profits of about $20,000 a week.
"They're in almost every bar in South Philadelphia," Natale said. "The profit on these machines is enormous."
Anthony Milicia, one of the sons, declined to comment when contacted by phone Wednesday.
"It's dredging up old history, I don't want to talk about it," he said before hanging up.
Both Labor and Troyer said during Wednesday's bail hearings that the takeover of that busines was an example of Ligambi and his associates using the reputation of the mob to intimidate and instill fear.
The indictment alleges that in May 2001, the FBI seized 34 video poker machines that were part of Ligambi's operation.
A short time later, the indictment alleges, "Ligambi, Massimino, and Staino approached the operators of another illegal electronic gambling device business and forced those operators to relinquish their illegal business for a fee that undervalued their business."
Before Wednesday's hearing, Pagano, the lawyer for Staino, said the business was purchased for $70,000. He described it as a legitimate transaction.
But investigators and other sources said the Milicia network of machines generated more than $70,000 in a month and that the value of the business was substantially more than what Ligambi and the others paid.
The transaction took place, Troyer said, after an intermediary approached Milicia's sons and told them "three men wanted to purchase their machines."
The intermediary, the prosecutor said, told them that these were "dangerous men."
Prosecutors said during Wednesday's hearing that Milicia's heirs, aware that their father had been shot and nearly killed, made the deal out of fear.
"If the threats work, then the violence doesn't have to occur," Troyer said.


Strauss-Kahn Lawyer Brafman Defended Rappers, Mobsters, Michael Jackson

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s criminal defense is in good hands, if a convicted racketeer is to be believed.
When attorney Benjamin Brafman won the acquittal of rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs on gun and bribery charges in 2001, he got praise from another client, Carmine Agnello, the former son-in- law of convicted Gambino crime boss John J. Gotti.
“Ben Brafman: Congratulations on the acquittal in People v. Combs,” Agnello said in an ad in the New York Law Journal after Combs was cleared of all charges stemming from a shooting in a Manhattan nightclub. Agnello, who hired Brafman to defend him on unrelated federal racketeering charges, later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Brafman, 62, now defending Strauss-Kahn against charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a Manhattan hotel maid, has spent much of the past 30 years representing high- profile defendants in cases that make headlines. His client list has included pop star Michael Jackson, Gambino crime family underboss Salvatore “Sammy Bull” Gravano, Genovese crime boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante, former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress and rapper Jay-Z.

‘Trifecta of Media’

“I could not think of a better case for Ben to be in,” said Mark Geragos, who with Brafman defended Jackson against child-molestation charges. “When I first read the story and heard it was in New York, I thought it was right up his alley.”
Geragos said he learned the New York lawyer had been retained by Strauss-Kahn minutes after sending him an e-mail saying he would be perfect for the case. Geragos said the two have remained friends since they were first introduced by the late civil rights and defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran,
“For a case like this you have the trifecta of media, politics and scandal and he’s extremely adept at all three,” Geragos said of Brafman. “He’s a guy who understands the needs of the media, both in terms of the story itself and getting your client’s side out.”
Brafman’s fans include former prosecutors who have battled him in the courtroom.
“He’s as smart and tough as they come. A real fighter,” said Alan Vinegrad, the former U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who prosecuted a client of Brafman’s in the 1990s, a rabbinical student charged with helping a rabbi kidnap a teenage boy.

Good Fit

Brafman is a good fit for the Strauss-Kahn case because he can both try cases and work out plea deals, former prosecutors said.
Benton Campbell, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn from 2007 to 2010, said Brafman is a formidable advocate when negotiating on behalf of a client.
“Ben has absolute credibility and when he talks to you and tells you about the case and can point out its shortcomings,” Campbell said, “that’s something you’re going to listen to.”
“As a result, the conversations are much more direct, productive and effective,” said Campbell, now a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP in New York
Brafman, a native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, also connects with juries, said Nelson Boxer, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
“To me, that’s what distinguishes him from the others who have the personality and fire in the courtroom,” said Boxer, now a partner at Alston Bird LLP. “He’s a very effective advocate, strong on the law and really smart. Not everybody has all three.”

State Courts

Murray Richman, a New York lawyer who successfully defended Combs’s co-defendant, Anthony “Wolf” Jones, said Brafman will bring an intensity to defending Strauss-Kahn.
“He knows what it takes to put a case together,” said Richman, who has known Brafman for more than 30 years. “He really is also a product of the state court system and knows the lay of the land. He’s on top of the heap.”
While three prosecution witnesses testified seeing Combs with a gun during his trial, Brafman honed in during cross- examination on the inconsistencies in their stories. He also highlighted their motives to lie, citing the multimillion-dollar lawsuits they filed against his client.
Richman also said Brafman will find and exploit any weakness in the people’s case.
“This is a 62-year-old man with a young woman, there are defensible issues here, and it’s much too early to say what will or won’t occur,” Richman said.

‘Fully Exonerated’

Brafman said yesterday in a statement that he continues to believe “Mr. Strauss-Kahn will be fully exonerated.” Brafman declined to comment for this story.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Brafman put himself through Brooklyn College by waiting tables at resorts in the Catskills, doing stand-up comedy when he wasn’t busing tables, he has said. He obtained a law degree from Ohio Northern University and obtained a master of laws degree from New York University School of Law.
After law school, Brafman worked at the criminal defense firm run by former New York City Police Commissioner Robert McGuire and was then hired by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, where he worked from 1976 to 1979 in the rackets bureau.
In a courthouse where sharp elbows wear $100 suits, Brafman favors tailored Polo Ralph Lauren pinstriped suits and a Jacob & Co. watch given him by a former client. During Combs’s trial, Brafman’s store of choice was Robert Talbott on Madison Avenue.

Courtroom Fashion

“Don’t you want to ask me about my tie? That’s T-A-L-B-O- T-T” Brafman quipped during the Combs trial, growing impatient with reporters’ daily queries about what Combs and Cochran were wearing to court.
In the elevator after a contentious hearing in the rabbi case in Brooklyn, Brafman looked upward and sighed, “Oy, I should have listened to my mother and gone to medical school.”
A former boss remembers Brafman as an eager prosecutor willing to take the worst cases.
“Back then Ben was exactly like he is today, except I don’t think he got his suits at Paul Stuart like he does now,” said Austin Campriello, who was Brafman’s bureau chief at the District Attorney’s office in the 1970s. “I could give him any type of case and he never said no.”
“He was very people savvy, he had a keen sense of human beings and was completely unafraid in court,” Campriello said. “A lot of people think of him as only a trial lawyer, but he’s also very adept at working out plea deals. And he’s also pretty well liked by the bench and by his colleagues.”

Jury Appeal

Campriello said Brafman cares about his clients, which juries sense.
“Most people can see through phonies,” he said. “If he goes to trial, the jury is going to like him, they’re going to think he’s funny and telling them a straight story. And that’s why he wins.”
Brafman and his wife Lynda, a librarian, have two children and 12 grandchildren and live on New York’s Long Island.
One of his earliest headline-grabbing victories came in 1990, when he defended James Patino, accused in the racially motivated killing of Yusuf Hawkins, a black 16-year-old, in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. Of the seven youths originally charged with Hawkins’ murder, Patino was one of three defendants acquitted of all charges.

Gambino Underboss

He represented Gravano, the underboss of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, until Gravano agreed to cooperate in 1991.
In 1998, Brafman defended Peter Gatien, the then-owner of two New York City nightclubs charged by the U.S. with authorizing and financing drug dealing at his clubs. Gatien was the only one of 30 people charged in the case to win acquittal.
That trial proved to have some bruising moments. Eric Friedberg, a prosecutor in the case, said in court papers that Brafman was making “improper,” “inflammatory” and “scurrilous” statements which could taint the jury and damage the credibility of their witnesses. U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, who presided over the case, imposed a gag order on Brafman and the prosecution.
During the Gatien case, Brafman’s relentless cross- examination elicited tears from a prosecution witness, Michael Caruso.
Zachary Carter, the former Brooklyn U.S. Attorney whose office prosecuted Gatien, didn’t return a call seeking comment. Friedberg, who now operates the security firm Stroz Friedberg LLC, which is managing Strauss-Kahn’s house arrest, declined to comment about Brafman or the Gatien case. Morgenthau, whose office prosecuted Combs, declined to comment.

‘Ruthlessly Self-Serving’

One client, Mehdi Gabayzadeh, the former chief executive of American Tissue Inc., fired Brafman after he suggested pleading guilty. Gabayzadeh was convicted of fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gabayzadeh sued Brafman from his Fort Dix, New Jersey, prison cell, claiming Brafman fraudulently overbilled him after getting paid more than $1 million in fees. He called Brafman “ruthlessly self-serving.”
U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty dismissed the case on May 11, saying it was without merit. Brafman declined to comment when Crotty issued the ruling.
Richman said that Brafman, an Orthodox Jew, remains grounded regardless of his success.
“I remember when we finished Puffy’s trial very late, it was 9:30 on a Friday night,” Richman said. “Everyone was celebrating, but you know what Ben did? He walked all the way to a synagogue to pray.”
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 2526/11, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County (Manhattan).