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

Monday, October 31, 2011

More mob associates turning down promotions to "made" men

It’s an honor they can live without.
Becoming a “made” member of one of the city’s five crime families was once the goal of every ambitious mobster -- and an offer definitely not to be refused -- but those days are gone, authorities told The Post.
With rats lurking around every corner and aggressive feds breathing down wiseguys’ necks, many lower-ranking Mafiosi have been doing what was once unthinkable -- saying “no thanks’’ to the title.
Low-level associates may earn less, but there’s also a better chance they’ll stay out of prison.
They believe that becoming a made man or soldier makes them a bigger target for the FBI, experts say.
Joseph Petillo -
Joseph Petillo

“Getting your ‘button’ is like putting an ‘X’ on your back. You’re basically on the radar,” a law-enforcement source said.
A Brooklyn federal prosecutor just last week detailed how Joseph Petillo -- “a longtime and very well-respected associate” of the Colombo crime family -- recently decided to pass on an offer to be made.
“The Colombo family believed, based on Mr. Petillo’s prior history, that he would be a valuable member of the Colombo family. The Colombo family sought his membership,” Assistant US Attorney Liz Geddes told a federal judge.
But in the end, Petillo “turned down an offer of membership,” Geddes said.
Other criminals have made similar decisions -- among them Gambino, Bonanno and other Colombo crime-family associates, sources say.
Some modern mobsters have other reasons.
One Gambino associate declined an offer because “he didn’t want to put the crime family before his own family,” a source said, referring to the mob’s oath of allegiance, which calls for members to do just that.
Some mob associates who run lucrative illicit businesses also believe they can make more money if they aren’t made, because members have to “kick up” a larger percentage of their earnings to the family’s leadership, experts said.
By remaining an associate, “you’re more independent, you’re more on your own,” a defense lawyer explained.
Such decisions are a far cry from the heyday of the New York mob in the 1970s, when turning down an offer to become a made man was tantamount to signing your own death warrant.
“Years ago, it would be like disobeying orders -- literally from the boss,” an attorney said.
Today, in certain circumstances, the mob leadership appears to understand and accept the reasoning behind turning down promotions.
When Colombo associate Francis “B.F.” Guerra declined an offer from the Colombos, he had the heft and standing within the mob community to make such a decision without repercussions, FBI Agent Scott Curtis testified recently.
“Everybody knows his reputation and all the criminal activities he’s done in the past. He doesn’t need a title to carry that reputation around,” Curtis said.
“It depends who they were and their reputation.’’
Other experts say the decision to remain an associate is a clever move that might help a mobster sidestep charges under the feds’ powerful racketeering, or RICO, statutes, which require prosecutors to prove membership in a criminal enterprise.
John Meringolo, a New York Law School professor, said that in the eyes of the Justice Department, “a ‘soldier’ is automatically involved in the RICO conspiracy.”
Proving an associate was involved in a RICO conspiracy can be more challenging, he said.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Outlaws biker sentenced to 60 years for pipe bomb attack as member of mob crew

The hulking biker stood before a federal judge, his thick forearms crossed behind him and turned up just enough to reveal a hint of tattoos with ominous messages such as "GFOD" — God Forgives, Outlaws Don't.
This is also stamped on Mark Polchan's arm: "1%er," which law enforcement officers say is a boast that Polchan is among the 1 percent of bikers who live a criminal lifestyle.
On Friday, a federal judge sentenced the reputed officer of the Outlaws motorcycle gang to 60 years in federal prison.
Prosecutors said Polchan was part of a reputed Outfit crew that resorted to stabbings, shootings and even a pipe-bomb attack to protect its illegal gambling and robbery operations.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman called Polchan's actions nothing short of "terrorizing to the rest of us."
Polchan's attorney, Damon Cheronis, argued for a 35-year sentence, the minimum possible for a bombing in Berwyn in 2003, saying that was long enough for the married father of three to send a message of deterrence.
Guzman disagreed, saying the violence spawned by Polchan and the crew required an even stronger signal to anyone who might think of trying something similar.
Last December a federal jury convicted Polchan, 44, as well as reputed mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno and three others of running a lucrative illegal video poker racket, pulling off a string of armed robberies and planting a pipe bomb in front of a rival business cutting into their gambling turf.
Prosecutors allege the ring netted more than $1.2 million in jewelry that was then fenced at a Cicero pawn shop owned by Polchan. Polchan also helped authorize the robberies, prosecutors said.
Polchan was paid to plan the bombing outside C & S Coin Operated Amusements, a video poker business targeted by Sarno to protect his illegal gaming operations. No one was injured, but the late-night blast blew out windows and caused extensive damage.
Sarno faces sentencing next month.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu, who prosecuted the case, said Polchan's pawn shop was the "epicenter" of the crew's criminal schemes. Authorities bugged the shop, hiding three microphones and a video camera there.
Bhachu said Polchan showed a complete disregard for the law, referring to officers as "… suckers."
"That's what his attitude is about federal law enforcement and the law," the prosecutor said.
Guzman noted Polchan's upbringing — by all appearances a positive one — as well as the countless letters of support he received on his behalf.
"He was not abandoned. He was not abused. He was not mistreated," Guzman said. "Why we find ourselves here today is really difficult to comprehend."
Polchan, whose family sat stone-faced in the courtroom, offered little insight. He shook his head often during the sentencing and when Guzman invited him to speak, he said he was "overwhelmed" by what he had heard and declined to deliver his prepared remarks.
"I can't do it," he said.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall of the Rhode Island mob and the new boss of the Patriarca family

Not all that long ago, a visitor could casually stroll down Atwells Avenue in Providence, known as "Federal Hill," and take in the sites, sounds and delicious aromas of this well-known Italian-heritage neighborhood, that is lined with bakeries, fine Italian restaurants, delicatessens and street corners that double as social clubs where neighbors take in the sun, sip cappuccinos and share the latest gossip.There was Louie "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, the one-time boss of the powerful Patriarca crime family, talking with friends on the sidewalk in front of his apartment, an unassuming place above a laundromat.
And a few blocks north on Atwells Avenue, the visitor could see made Mafia members Edward "Eddie" Lato, and Alfred "Chippy" Schivola, sitting on a bench just outside of their favorite deli, talking about the beautiful weather, or concocting a mob-backed scheme to make some illegal dough.
Another few blocks north, and there's Robert "Bobby" Deluca, a real life Capo, having lunch at a popular Italian eatery.
But today, this same visitor would be hard pressed to see a "made guy." They're gone. Most likely for good, according to federal, state and local law enforcement officials.
The headquarters of the New England La Cosa Nostra, locally known as the Patriarca crime Family was, for decades located in Providence, Rhode Island.
But with the federal indictment this year of the last remaining former boss of the Patriarca Family, Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, and the disappearance of Robert "Bobby" Deluca, a capo who is rumored to be cooperating with law enforcement, the executive branch of the New England Mafia has re-located its offices to Boston, according to an NBC 10 I-Team investigation.
In fact, there are only eight "made" members of La Cosa Nostra residing in Rhode Island, according to law enforcement sources.
The "made" guys on the street are Joseph Ruggiero, who's never been arrested, Raymond "Junior" Patriarca, the son of the late boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca, Rudolf "Rudy" Sciarra, in his 80s and in poor health, Pasquale Galea, Vito DeLuca , William "Blackjack" Delsanto, Joseph Achille and Robert "Bobby" Deluca.
Among the remaining mafia crew, only one or two are thought to be actively engaged in making money the old Mafia way; stealing it.
"It's pretty decimated," said Col. Steven O'Donnell, superintendent of Rhode Island State Police. "The really intriguing part of it now is the boss and underboss, we allege, are both out of Boston."
The Rhode Island State Police, Providence police and the FBI, conducted a large-scale investigation over the past few years using wiretaps and informants, into the alleged extortion of the owners of several popular strip clubs in Providence.
For more than 10 years, the former boss of the Patriarca family and other "made" guys allegedly collected extortion payments from the Foxy Lady strip club, the Satin Doll Gentlemen's Club, the Cadillac Lounge and Club Desire. In its heyday, the payments amounted to a "protection racket" - money paid to the mob in exchange for operating their businesses without fear of getting their places ransacked, or customers roughed up.
But the old school bosses like Anthony "The Saint" St. Laurent, Frank "Bo Bo" Marrapese are in prison. And the cases pending against Manacchio, Schivola and Edward Lato are presumably strong with much of the evidence captured on secret audio recordings.
In fact, over the past 20 years, federal and local law enforcement agencies in New York and New England have put dozens of mafia members behind bars.
In the past, old school Mafiosi lead their lives of crime by the iron-clad promise of Omerta - basically keeping one's mafia membership secret. But ever since the assassination of Gambino Boss Paul "Big Paul" Costellano in front of Sparks Steak House in New York City, the concept of Omerta has become almost meaningless. Dozens of "made guys" have entered the federal witness protection program where they willingly testified against their bosses and let the public in on their secret lives of murder, mayhem and the mob.
The new boss of the Patriarca crime family is, according to law enforcement authorities, Anthony DiNunzio of Boston. He's the brother of the former boss, who took over from Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manacchio of Providence, Carmine "The Big Cheese" DiNunzio, who is in prison.
And the new boss, is being tracked carefully by Rhode Island State Police, Providence police and the Providence office of the FBI.
"I don't think it's a stretch to believe that Boston or perhaps New York could send in a boss and work with younger associates in Providence that are left from the Patriarca family," said Michael Correa, who heads up the intelligence bureau of the Providence Police Department.
O'Donnell said whatever is left of the Patriarca Family in Rhode Island, it's without any leadership.
"For the Rhode Island guys, it's just a message that they don't have a big structure anymore," he said.
Law enforcement officials in Rhode Island feel there is now a void, an opportunity for Mafia families in Boston and New York to move into Rhode Island, and take up where the jailed or indicted Rhode Island La Cosa Nostra members left off.
Providence has more strip clubs, and adult entertainment venues than any other capital city in New England.
Strip clubs, adult bookstores and prostitution creates fertile ground for illegal money making, a mob specialty.
Rhode Island's Attorney General agrees that the traditional Patriarca Crime Family in Rhode Island is close to being out of business. But Peter Kilmartin, a former cop in Pawtucket, says investigators have to remain vigilant.
"I would never count them out only because the center of the Patriarca Family moved from Rhode Island to Boston," Kilmartin said. "If they saw an opportunity here, there's no doubt in my mind they would take it."
Just last week, lawyers for Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manacchio asked a federal judge to let their client out on bail, pending his trial on extortion charges. It's doubtful the request, Manacchio's second since his indictment, will be granted.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reputed Outfit mobster pleads guilty to McCormick Place bid rigging

“The Chin” has migraines.
It’s no wonder why Rudolph “Rudy The Chin” Fratto, 67, a reputed Chicago mobster, takes medicine for the crippling headaches.
Just a few months after he was released from prison for tax evasion, he pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Chicago to another crime — mail fraud for taking part in a scheme to rig bids for forklift contracts for trade shows at McCormick Place.
Fratto won one contract but couldn’t produce any forklifts, so the scheme made no money.
Still, Fratto is likely going to be sentenced to prison, from 18 to 24 months in February.
Despite all this stress, Fratto has been migraine-free recently, he told a federal judge Thursday afternoon.
“But you haven’t had a migraine in the last few days?” U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber asked.
“No, remarkably,” Fratto said.
In January 2005, Fratto met a consultant to a general contractor who set up trade shows at McCormick Place. The consultant was in debt to a Chicago attorney and mobsters in Cleveland after they invested in the consultant’s business, which failed.
Fratto offered to help the consultant with the debt but also wanted inside information on the forklift bids.
Fratto was unaware that the consultant was already cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording conversations with him and others.
As it became clear to Fratto in 2008 that the feds were investigating him over bid rigging, he expressed confidence that he wouldn’t get caught, as long as everyone kept their mouths shut. Fratto worried out loud that the FBI could be bugging his phone but mentioned he was using payphones. He told the consultant to take the 5th Amendment if he was questioned before a federal grand jury.
“The only thing they could say is that we rigged the bid,” Fratto predicted.
“How they gonna prove that?”
Outside court Thursday, the usually chatty Fratto, who once referred to himself as a “reputed good guy,” had no comment.


The South Philly mob has faded away but it still casts a long shadow just ask George Martorano

"I copyrighted this thing called The Cheesesteak Theater," George Martorano tells me during a conversation frequently interrupted by a succinct and monotone recording: "This call is from a federal prison."
"I write the plays," George continues. "They buy a ticket and get a free cheesesteak."
I'm speaking on a borrowed BlackBerry, and George gets only 300 minutes on the phone each month, so I make plans to follow up later by email. The phone gets passed down an eager line of family, neighbors and former schoolmates from St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, most catching a smoke break on the sidewalk outside La Locanda Restaurant, which is tucked into a strip mall so indistinguishable from its neighbors that I drove past it twice down a highway in the South Jersey suburb of Voorhees.
Inside, a well-dressed crowd is gathered for a fundraiser to support George, who is serving a sentence of life without parole for drug trafficking. Although subject to the brutal uniformity of a Florida federal prison, he has remained a committed Philadelphian — and become a prolific author and playwright. He is the son of mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano, but he was never accused of a violent crime and, by all accounts, was never a member of the mob. Now 60, George has been inside a prison cell since age 32, when he pled guilty to trafficking heroin, cocaine, methaqualone and marijuana. His supporters contend he received his harsh sentence as punishment for his father's sins, and for refusing to tell prosecutors things, back in an era of rampant gangland bloodletting, that he says he did not know.
George now teaches writing to fellow prisoners and counsels those on suicide watch. The dinner fundraiser is for George's legal defense and also for an organization to promote literacy that he founded. Men in Hawaiian shirts with smoothly gelled hair chat with women with dyed-black hair, curled. Stephen Ritrovato, whose business card identifies him as a "vocalist/personality," has donated his time to sing lounge anthems, Sinatra included, over a synthesized beat. The South Philly accents have stuck despite a neighborhood diaspora that stretches from South Jersey to South Florida.
A large photograph of George, dressed in his dull-olive prison uniform, is displayed at the front of the busy restaurant. In a more recent photo on the program's cover, George looks older, with grayer hair and a face creased with wrinkles. Friends tell stories to animate the still images: George down the Shore, in the neighborhood, at school. George exists in many points of memory. But not here.
"He's serving this time for things in Philadelphia that George had nothing to do with," says John Flahive, one of George's brothers-in-law. "I hope you focus on who George is today. All of that Philadelphia shit, that doesn't have anything to do with it."
No one here wants to dwell on the Philly underworld. When my questions stray toward the Mafia, faces tense up: Please don't write a Mafia story. And yet that world casts an inescapably long shadow. Even the walls of the restaurant, which has donated the fundraiser's food, are lined with posters for The Godfather and other mob films — a reference to Italian-American pop culture that strikes me as curious but which most guests don't seem to notice.
"If I believed for one second," says Flahive, "that if George were out today that he would do anything ..."
"He's his own man," interjects Deborah Scarpa, a Miami transplant from South Jersey and a dedicated "Free George" activist. "And his own story."
George's elderly mother, Evelyn, does not care for storytelling. "I don't talk to no reporters," she says, turning away, but not before recounting that she once threw Inquirer mob reporter George Anastasia out of a restaurant (an incident Anastasia does not recall). And even Anastasia sympathizes with George's plight.
"Long John Martorano was a major player in the underworld, and made a lot of money in the underworld doing things that were illegal," says Anastasia, the undisputed dean of Philly mob watchers. "Whether it was loan sharking, extortion, illegal gambling or drug dealing. He paid a price for that, and so did members of his family."
After years of dead-end appeals, George's supporters are eager to tell the story of a man whom one of his lawyers, Ted Simon, believes to be "the longest-serving first-time offender for a nonviolent federal offense in the U.S." While they seek to win over the court of public opinion, his lawyers have the much tougher job of winning over a three-judge panel on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. This will probably be the last attempt to set George free.
To make his final push for freedom, George retained new and rather high-powered attorneys in 2010. Simon is a Philadelphia lawyer who represented Amanda Knox, the American student convicted and then this month acquitted on appeal for a salacious murder in Italy. Miami lawyer Roy Black has defended Rush Limbaugh against drug charges, Kelsey Grammer against statutory rape accusations, and represented William Kennedy Smith in his notorious 1991 rape trial.
This star legal team is pursuing what they say are two brand-new arguments, which rest on complicated points of sentencing law. But to understand George's case, and to understand George, one must dig into the equally murky South Philadelphia of the early 1980s, a bloody period in an underworld that stretched from Oregon Avenue to Atlantic City and South Florida.

PERIOD PIECE: George in 1980, in a photo supplied by his family.
The stable and insular world of the South Philly mob unraveled the night of March 21, 1980, when a man with a 12-gauge shotgun walked up to a parked car at 934 Snyder Ave. and blasted a hole into the side of Angelo Bruno's head. Bruno, known as the "Gentle Don," ruled a mob that put a premium on discretion and used violence sparingly. Bruno's day job was as a commissioned salesman for Raymond Martorano's vending business. Though Bruno reported an income of $50,000, according to Anastasia, he died a millionaire. Nearly a year later, on March 15, 1981, a bomb ripped through the porch of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, killing Bruno's successor and creating a chaotic power vacuum.
Seizing the opportunity was a man named Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, who took control. Scarfo loved the spotlight and flaunted his riches, keeping a photograph of Al Capone — whose flamboyant style was diametrically opposed to Bruno's — hanging in his office. The angry man whom Bruno had sidelined to Atlantic City in 1964 went on to unleash a wave of terror that lasted from 1981 until his 1987 arrest, and later conviction, for murder and other charges.
Scarfo took the close ties that bound the South Philly mob together like family and remade them into a noose. Twenty-one mob murders took place from 1980 to 1985, full of jealous double crosses and betrayals. Scarfo's penchant for brutality and unbridled greed left the organization wide open to government informants who would have failed to penetrate the Bruno mob.
It was during this period that George's father, Raymond, a convicted drug dealer long suspected to be a mob associate, became a made member after allegedly orchestrating the murder of roofers' union president John McCullough. The conviction was overturned 15 years later due to prosecutorial misconduct.
With his father behind bars for drug charges, George and his partners worked together to fly a planeload of marijuana from Jamaica to Florida. But when he pulled a Winnebago full of pot into a Philadelphia garage in late 1982, George and a number of accomplices were arrested. One of his partners, it turned out, was a federal agent.
George was represented at his 1984 trial by Bobby Simone, a second-generation Italian-American born in South Philly. Simone was the lead attorney for whichever local don happened to be in charge. But he became Scarfo's close friend, and more (he was later sentenced to four years for racketeering, accused of being the Philly mob's "unofficial consigliere").
That George was a drug dealer was not, by and large, in dispute, so Simone advised him to strike a deal and plead guilty. Simone, says George, told him that he would face 10 years. Maximum. It turned out to be a plea without a bargain: Judge John B. Hannum sentenced George to the maximum of life without parole.
"The fact is that George 'Cowboy' Martorano was a major drug dealer. So was his father. But what I don't get is why he got a life sentence when he pled guilty," says Anastasia. "Why it played out that way, only two people can tell you: Bobby Simone and Judge Hannum. And they're both dead."
The circumstances of George's case were incredibly bizarre: After George pled guilty but before he was sentenced, Hannum took to the stand in a neighboring courtroom as a character witness for the very same Bobby Simone, who faced charges of income tax evasion.
This is how George explains it all in an email: "First Simone says he had a private deal with Judge Hannum for 10 years. Then when the bad press came out of Simone and Hannum [regarding being a character witness] ... then Simone rush[ed] to see me, saying 10 wouldn't look good, and ... that it would have to be 15. But he was playing me along with the OK from Nicky Scarfo. Right before the sentencing day, Simone came to see me late one night asking for $150,000 for Hannum, to assure me the 15 years."
In appeals throughout the '80s and '90s, George's attorneys used Hannum to make their case, arguing that the judge had sold George down the river to protect himself from accusations that he had struck a secret deal with Simone.
There is much in the way of speculation, says Anastasia, including that Hannum "didn't know what was going on" or "the conspiracy theory is, and I don't buy into it, this was Scarfo getting back at Martorano through Simone. But that's a real stretch."
Rumors swirl around this case. Over time, they have hardened into layers of uncertainty and suspicion.

CHILD 'HOOD: The South Philly block where George Martorano grew up is now home to trendy businesses.
The streets of South Philly that now summon hipsters were then a war zone. And George, says another brother-in-law who asked not to be identified by name, was, if not quite an innocent bystander, taken down in the metaphorical crossfire.
"It was just a racketeering mob," he says. "Wasn't no death, wasn't no shooting. But when Scarfo became a boss, he was a serial killer." Scarfo's sadism makes it tempting to romanticize Bruno's mob, and makes it easy to imagine that Bruno would not have allowed George to fall through the cracks. Regardless, George's sentence is as difficult to explain as it is harsh. And the reason for the sentence, much like the shadowy underworld that George was born into, has long since passed into history.
The violent, bloody mob of that time is gone. Consider alleged mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, who was indicted this May alongside a dozen associates. The charges? Gambling and loan sharking. Not a single murder charge. The storefront at Camac and Moore where Scarfo's soldiers carried out an 18-month war against Harry "The Hunchback" Riccobene abuts a now-gentrifying Passyunk Avenue corridor, profiled in the The New York Times travel section, that features artisan gelato and a Doggy Style pet boutique. Big Ralph's Saloon, owned by mob associate Big Ralph Costobile, is now the craft-beer bar Pub on Passyunk East, or POPE. The corner of Ninth and Christian, where Salvatore Testa, the assassinated son of assassinated mob boss Phil Testa, had a clubhouse, is squarely in the middle of an evermore Mexicanized Italian Market.
Aggressive federal prosecution has decimated the mob, which lives on more as a marketing device than criminal threat, although sports bookmaking, video poker machines and loan sharking continue. Meanwhile, gangs from Russia, Mexico, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central America — and terrorists — control the lucrative global black market in drugs and weapons. American consumers, however, are eager to make the mysterious la cosa nostra ("that thing of ours") a thing of theirs.
George's cousin, celebrity chef Steve Martorano, is one of the country's most successful promoters of kitsch Italian-American culture. Steve owns Café Martoranos in Florida and Vegas and recently released a book of recipes and old neighborhood reminiscences titled Yo Cuz!. In his book, Steve describes himself as "the son of a part-time loan shark [who] took one of Philadelphia's most notorious names and made it into its most delicious." He deejays music while screening mob classics for celebrities like Luducris and Mo'Nique — both of whom wrote introductions to his book.
"The Mafia has almost become like a brand now, like Versace or Dolce & Gabbana," says Anastasia, a few weeks before I see a press release announcing "Mob Wives Star Karen Gravano to Grace Cover of Mob Candy Magazine." "It's almost a shell of what it used to be," Anastasia continues. "Part of it is that the best and the brightest are lawyers and doctors. So you're really scraping the bottom of the barrels with these guys. It's really part of the assimilation story. Two Supreme Court justices are Italian-Americans. There are no more barriers."
That drive to be seen as American can take on a sharp edge, as with Joey Vento, the conservative and recently deceased founder of Geno's cheesesteaks who sparked a national uproar over his "This is America, when ordering, 'Speak English'" sign. His father was James "Jimmy Steaks" Vento, a mob associate convicted of murder, and his brother, a drug dealer who Scarfo tried to force to pay a "street tax," got locked up, too. Joey encouraged his brother to pay Scarfo. But more than anything, he wanted him out of the game.
"Get out, and get a fuckin' job," Joey Vento told his brother, according to a recorded conversation over a prison phone reported by the Inquirer in 1987. "And stop all this bullshit. That's the proper move. But evidently you don't want to hear that. ... But I say, don't put me in the middle of it. I'm just trying to sell fuckin' steaks."
When I met George's brother-in-law for a beer, he suggested we drink not at some old Italian South Philly haunt, but at a new German beer hall, where he gushed over the business acumen of the venue's owners. At the fundraiser, he had told me that one day Americans will have interbred to the extent that our offspring will be racially indistinguishable — and that, he said, would be fine. "If you move to Argentina, you're not an Italian-Argentinean. You're Argentinean. Only in America are you Italian-American."
So much for the tight-knit, Italians-only creed depicted in The Sopranos — the world that still follows George and tethers him to a cell in Florida.
George last saw Philly earlier this year, when he was transported for his trial. "I looked at it out the window for seven months, but never got to set foot in my city," he tells me, now looking forward to his appeal later this fall. "I hadn't been in Philly since the '80s, and the city changed. All I could see was the skyline."
But the old neighborhood days refuse to disappear completely. Back in 1998, 15 years after George's arrest, his 23-year-old son, Raymond, was arrested trying to unload more than 400 pounds of marijuana from a truck into a South Philly garage. According to an Inquirer report at the time, the assistant U.S. attorney asked the judge to hold Raymond without bail, in part because of his family history.
A judge dismissed the case, but Raymond was later killed in a 2001 motorcycle wreck, soon after George's wife died of cancer. In 2002, just a little over two years after his release from prison, Raymond "Long John" Martorano was shot to death in his Lincoln Town Car.
"I don't know," muses Anastasia. "Things are so fractured down there in South Philly. There isn't anybody prominent. There aren't any names. When Long John was shot and killed, there were rumblings that he was trying to put something together. But I don't think there's anything there. It is the end of an era. He's from that period of Angelo Bruno and Nicky Scarfo. Those guys are either in the their 80s or dead."
He continues, "That way of life is over for most of them. There's no upside. You end up dead or in jail. You look at the Martorano family, it underscores that. Dead or in jail. Was it worth it?"
For his part, George busies himself with ambitions of joining a literary world he never knew but hopes to find upon his release. "On this day September, 20, 2011, I have been in prison 15,242,400 minutes. I have been in 254,040 hours," George writes in an email. "I know now I must believe I have been chosen to endure, change and carve out some of my own history upon the grey stone of prisons. Yet as it looks me in the face the facts of it, the fact that the cell door still will not open. I have let the steel door witness all of the good I can bring, all of the words I can write, all of the tears I can cry."
George initially suggested a story of old world intrigue and omertà. But as we spoke over the past months, our conversation drifted to questions having more to do with the boarded-up row homes of black North Philly than with the changing South Philly neighborhood where he grew up: Why does America lock up so many people, for such a long time, over drugs?
"What I've seen in Philly is the federalization of the poor and minorities," George says. "These kids from North Philly, Southwest Philly, with 9, 10 grams of crack. What about the rich kids in Malibu? Why don't they lock them up?"
That George's concerns transcend his personal injustice is remarkable, having come from a city divided into neighborhoods where racial difference was the key to both identity and political outlook. After all, the mural of former Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo, hated by poor blacks and lionized by working-class whites, now overlooks an Italian Market that's half Mexican.
George, like South Philly, has changed. A closed neighborhood tied to the old world is increasingly scattered, along with its loyalties. During his early days behind bars, George shared a cell with John Gotti. By 2003, he was keeping different company, and was elected community connections chairman, and later vice president, of his prison's NAACP chapter.
"Yes, I was the only white member," says George, who did not seem to understand my curiosity. Within the prison, he explains, "I see the same suffering of all."


The ultimate collapse of the Rizzuto crime family

Co-author André Noël plots the victories, setbacks and ultimate collapse of the Rizzuto crime dynasty in his best-selling book Mafia Inc. Count André Noël among those likely relieved at Jean Charest’s reversal last weekend. After years of delay, the Premier finally announced a public inquiry into the scandal-ridden, Mafia-soaked construction industry—only to have his announcement mocked by even casual observers as laughably toothless. He retreated last Sunday, saying the commission would have full powers of sub­poena and others if requested.
Noël, co-author with fellow veteran La Presse reporter André Cédilot of Mafia Inc., knows how powerful a fully independent commission can be.
“The CECO Commission (the Commission d’enquête sur le crime organisé, held in the mid-1970s) had a huge impact,” he says. “A lot of information was published. It was a big blow against the Mafia and precipitated the fall of [fellow Montreal Mob bosses] Vic Cotroni and Paolo Violi.”
With the Montreal mob’s influence soon to be in the news, a good place for anyone to start boning up would be Mafia Inc. Last year, the French-language version shot to the top of the Quebec best-seller list. Now available in English with a new epilogue, it provides an inside look at the Montreal Mafia’s power, influence and dysfunction.
It’s the last point that will be new to many readers. After all, this is a city whose connection to New York’s Bonanno family stretches back decades. But with the 2004 arrest of Vito Rizzuto on murder charges (movie-fied in Donnie Brasco) and subsequent deportation to the U.S., and the murders of those closest to him, including his father, brother-in-law and son, the Rizzuto era in Montreal appears to be over. (Indeed, last Monday evening, suspected Rizzuto family associate Lorenzo Lopresti was gunned down at his Ville St-Laurent condo.) Which is not to say the Mafia is down and out.
N1 rizutto1 How the mob became a mess
- MAKE WAY FOR THE SICILIANS: Paolo Violi, Jan. 22, 1978 -
FAMILY FEUDS “The Italian Mafia is still in control” of Montreal crime, says Noël. “But it is divided, not unified.”
According to the authors, there are four key players vying for ultimate power now that the Rizzutos are out of the way. One is Salvatore “Sal the Iron Worker” Montagna, the 40-year-old Montreal-born act­ing boss of the Bonanno family, who was deported back to Canada from New York in 2009. Another is Raynald Desjardins, a long-time associate of Vito Rizzuto’s and convicted cocaine smuggler—and who sur­vived an assassination attempt last month.
But without Rizzuto at the helm, says Noël, the various factions are likely to descend further into internecine conflict. He shares that belief with none other than Vito Rizzuto himself, who claimed to be the only one able to keep the peace in a volatile environment. Dapper, circumspect and smart enough to keep his hands clean, Rizzuto was probably the most able mob boss the city has ever seen.
“He was a real leader,” says Noël. “He keeps his cool, is respectful, thinks before he acts. He was a better leader than Paolo Violi, who was much more impulsive.” Violi was murdered by a shotgun blast to the head in 1978, clearing the way for the Sicilian faction, led by Vito’s father Nicolò.
Besides the heroin, cocaine and hashish they smuggled, Mafia Inc. describes the mob’s close relationship with the construction industry, with video lottery terminal distributors, with car dealerships, with politicians at all levels of government and any number of restaurant, real estate and other seemingly legitimate businesses. The scope of organized crime’s influence in so many sectors of the economy is flabbergasting, as is the array of vowel-heavy names that pop up in the book. “People shouldn’t try to remember all the names,” he says. The amount of details included was to give the readers a chance to understand in broad strokes the Mafia’s reach.
Noël has a fairly simple answer to why the Mafia’s influence is so strong in Montreal: this is where the Mafia is. It’s been here since the 1930s, when Charlie “Lucky” Luciano’s Commission of Five Families (for the record: Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese) awarded Montreal to the Bonannos. “Rizzuto always said he was a Bonanno soldier, that he killed under orders from the Bonannos,” says Noël.
“The Mafia is very involved in every city in North America,” he says. The construction industry is the easiest way in because “it’s very easy to use cash. Workers want to be paid in cash, suppliers want customers to pay in cash to avoid sales tax and drug traffickers are looking to launder money.”
Writing about the mob always brings its own risks, but Noël says that he was only intimidated by goons once. “I’m more afraid of the street gangs or the Hells Angels,” he says. “[Mafia] people are bright. They know reporters are doing their job, and if they do their job correctly, they’ll respect that. Respect is a very important value for them.”


US mafia boss arrested at Rome clinic

Mugshot of Italian mobster Rosario GambinoImage via Wikipedia Italian police on Thursday arrested Italian-American mafia boss Rosario Gambino at a Rome clinic where he was being treated.

Police swooped on the 69-year-old Gambino after a Palermo appeals court issued an arrest warrant after his recent release from prison in the northern city of Parma.

Gambino, who is part of the crime family of the same name, worked with his brother to set up an international heroin cartel.

He was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 1983 after being found guilty of selling heroin to undercover police officers in the US as part of an investigation known as Pizza Connection.

At the time their drug operation was accused of importing $600 million worth of heroin into the US every year.

Following an Italian investigation led by the late magistrate Giovanni Falcone in 1985, Gambino was sentenced in absentia in Italy.

Gambino was born as the middle son of Tommaso Gambino in Palermo in 1942. He and his brothers Giuseppe and Giovanni Gambino moved to the United States in 1962.

They are distant relatives of the notorious American crime boss Carlo Gambino who headed one of the major families of the Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra in the US for many years.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Five NYPD officers arrested in sting operation for smuggling illegal guns, contraband

NYPD officer William Masso (l.), 47, leaves court after his arraignment Tuesday night.

A rogue Brooklyn cop running a crew of NYPD henchmen-for-hire smuggled guns through the city for a lousy $6,000, the feds said Tuesday. Officer William Masso is part of a dirty dozen accused of bringing weapons, slot machines and cigarettes across state lines to fill their pockets.
During a sting operation last year, he allegedly eyeballed three M-16 rifles, handguns with defaced serial numbers and a shotgun.
After showing the illegal firearms to two cronies, he drove the cache from a New Jersey warehouse, across the Verrazano Bridge and on to Long Island, the feds say.
For this shocking sellout of his badge, he received the not-so-princely sum of $6,000 - and his fellow cops got even less for the caper, court papers say.
The FBI made the guns inoperable before the sting, but Masso and his moonlighting miscreants didn't know that, officials said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly speaks as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (l.) hosts a news conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mayor Bloomberg said the allegations were "deplorable" but didn't diminish the work of honest cops who have fought to get guns off the street.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he was most disturbed by the charge that Masso "actually saw what he must have certainly believed were functioning guns. It was a betrayal of the highest order of an officer's oath."
Masso, 47, and his lawbreaking lawmen shattered that oath over and over, also smuggling slot machines, cigarettes and clothing, the feds charge. They held clandestine meetings in hotel rooms and parking lots, filled car trunks with cases of illegal smokes, and broke into trucks, court papers say.
They did so at the behest of an FBI informant who was introduced to Masso while looking for someone to fix traffic tickets. A source said Masso's name surfaced on a wiretap in the summons scandal that has rocked the Police Department.
Masso was disciplined by the NYPD in 1998 for sending a letter to then-Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder pleading for leniency in sentencing his cousin, Alphonse Malangone. A Genovese crime family soldier, Malangone faced up to 25 years and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for racketeering.
In this latest mark against him, the 18-year veteran told the informant he used to sell bootleg cigarettes from an Indian reservation and agreed to help him with similar schemes, court .papers say.
Masso, who worked the midnight tour at the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, recruited fellow cops and buddies to assist the informant and undercover agents posing as criminals, the feds say.
In secret recordings, Masso bragged about being a twisted headhunter, court papers say. "I'm getting a good army set up here," he said on one tape.
"You want a guy who beat the s--t out of somebody who bothers him. We got that. We got cops with vests and guns," he promised on another tape.
The 12 co-defendants - who face up to five years in prison on the top charge - were ordered freed on $100,000 bail each.
Masso, who has to wear an electronic monitoring device, will plead not guilty. "He's coming back and he's fighting the charges," lawyer Joe Mure said.
Those arrested with Masso Tuesday include 68th Precinct cops Eddie Goris and John Mahoney, Brooklyn South Task Force Officer Ali Oklu and 71st Precinct cop Gary Ortiz.
Also arrested were Joseph Trischitta and Marco Venezia, who were 68th cops while allegedly involved in the plots but have since retired, and Richard Melnik, also a retired cop.
Ex-sanitation cop Anthony Santiago, New Jersey correction officer David Kanwisher and Santiago pals Michael Gee and Eric Gomer were also busted.
Four more officers named in the complaint but not charged have been placed on modified duty pending an NYPD probe.
The informant was an illegal immigrant who received money and help staying in the U.S. in exchange for his work with the FBI. He introduced Masso and others to undercover agents who were posing as criminals.
None of the items transported across state lines were actually stolen, but transcripts of secret recordings show the defendants were told they were.
In one episode last May, members of the group allegedly went to Virginia to break into tractor-trailers outside a warehouse.
They bought bolt cutters, snipped the locks and made off with 200-plus cases of cigarettes worth $500,000.
Masso's team got $92,000 for that job, the feds say. All told, they allegedly pocketed more than $170,000 - though Masso whined they were underpaid.
"They're risking a lot for a little," he said at one point.
At the cops' homes, relatives and neighbors expressed disbelief. Ortiz'relatives in Brighton Beach said the charges must be a misunderstanding.
"He loves being a cop," said Tommy Rodenzo, 19, who dates the cop's niece. "He says there is no better reward than to help people."

Bonanno soldier Mike the Butcher cuts plea deal

The bumbling Bonanno crime family soldier who filled a Rolodex with phone numbers of his colorfully named mobster pals — including their ranks in the Mafia hierarchy — pleaded guilty yesterday to shaking down one of his loanshark clients.
Michael “Mike the Butcher” Virtuoso, who owns Graham Avenue Meats & Deli in Williamsburg, was at a routine hearing in Brooklyn federal court when he made his surprise decision to cop a plea to the single extortion conspiracy count.
His defense attorney, Joseph DiBenedetto, said Virtuoso now faces 2 1/2 years in prison under the terms of the plea deal when he is sentenced on Jan. 27.
Among the Rolodex entries agents found were handscrawled references to “Capo Lucchese” and the names “Johnny Sideburns Cerello” and “Glenn the Wheel Guadagno.”

Lorenzo Lopresti killed in suspected Mob hit

A gangland-style slaying Monday evening on the balcony of a St. Laurent condo took the life of Lorenzo Lopresti, the Quebec coroner's office confirmed.
The latest killing took place while an apparent struggle for power remains under way within the Montreal Mafia.
It claimed the son of Joe Lopresti – who was killed in what appeared to be an organized-crime hit in spring 1992.
"A body with that name arrived at the Montreal morgue overnight and an autopsy is taking place today," Geneviève Guilbault, spokesperson for the coroner's office, said Tuesday morning of Lorenzo Lopresti.
"Because this involves a murder investigation," she added, "I have to refer you to police to obtain further information."
Police public-relations officials wouldn’t formally confirm that the Lopresti son was the man killed.
One source within the force informally did.
“Investigators are saying this could be related to organized crime” was the furthest Montreal police Constable Dany Richer would venture.
The crime scene is located in a seven-storey building near the corner of Côte Vertu Blvd. and Hocquart St., where the name Lopresti appears on one of the mailboxes.
About 8:20 p.m. Monday, several people called 911 to report gunshots.
Police arrived to find Lopresti on the balcony of a ground-floor unit.
According to Constable Daniel Lacoursière, he had suffered at least one gunshot wound.
Lopresti was pronounced dead at the scene.
A woman on the premises was taken to hospital to be treated for nervous shock.
The major crimes division is running the investigation.
This was the 31st homicide in the Montreal this year.
At the corresponding date last year, there had been 33.
In late April 1992, a body found in Montreal’s east end was identified as that of Joe Lopresti, 44, a suspected Montreal mobster alleged to have been linked to the powerful New York City crime family headed by John Gotti, Montreal police said then.
His murder was one of 76 recorded for Montreal Island that year.
The body of Lopresti senior was found wrapped in plastic and a canvas sheet beside railway tracks at 54th Ave. and Henri Bourassa Blvd. E., in the Rivière des Prairies district.
The older Lopresti was shot in the head at close range.
A small-calibre firearm was used.
The victim wasn’t carrying any identification papers, homicide investigators said at the time.
The late-model red Porche he had been driving was found, abandoned, near a Décarie Blvd. restaurant.
Police said they considered Joe Lopresti the right-hand man of Vito Rizzuto, reputed boss of the Montreal Mafia, who is currently jailed in the United States.
Vito Rizzuto and his late father, Nicolo Rizzuto, were investigated – but never charged – in the slayings of of Montreal organized-crime "godfather" Paolo Violi in 1978 and Violi's brother, Rocco, in 1980.
Last Nov. 10, Nicolo Rizzuto was fatally shot while inside his luxury home on Antoine Berthelet St., in the northwest Montreal district of Saraguay. The elder Rizzuto was 86.
The street – often referred to by police as "Mafia Row" – is where Joe Lopresti was also living when he left for a meeting in late April 1992, never to return.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Sopranos" actor Federico Castelluci turned to Colombo family's street boss after restaurant business failed

When this “Sopranos” actor got into a jam, he didn’t call Tony -- he went straight to the Colombos.
Federico Castelluccio, a k a imported-from-Italy mob enforcer Furio Giunta on the HBO series “The Sopranos,” turned to the real crime family’s acting street boss to help him recoup his investment in a failed New Jersey restaurant -- run by none other than the first cousin of on-screen mafioso Joe Pesci, sources told The Post.
The friendship between Castelluccio, an actor and respected painter, and reputed Colombo boss Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo, a self-professed art lover, began years earlier. They met while Russo was doing time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, Orange County, and the actor had come to visit an inmate.
‘MOB’ SCENE: Federico Castelluccio (above), who played Furio Giunta on “The Sopranos,” was involved in a failed New Jersey restaurant with Joe Pesci’s cousin Gino Pesci. The fiasco drove him to seek money from Andrew Russo, sources say.
‘MOB’ SCENE: Federico Castelluccio (above), who played Furio Giunta on “The Sopranos,” was involved in a failed New Jersey restaurant with Joe Pesci’s cousin Gino Pesci. The fiasco drove him to seek money from Andrew Russo, sources say.
Then, a few years ago, Castelluccio -- a native of Italy who grew up in Paterson -- invested $50,000 in a plan to open a tony restaurant.
The moving force behind the project was Gino Pesci, a restaurateur and the cousin of “GoodFellas’’ actor Joe Pesci.
“It was just an awesome concept,” Gino Pesci told The Post of his “fast-casual” eatery in New Brunswick.
But the restaurant, Attilio’s Pasta Kitchen, which opened in 2002, failed and folded two years later.
After the business failure, Pesci acknowledged that he and Castelluccio “drifted apart.”
“Federico is an incredible artist, but he’s not a businessman. Maybe that’s why he took it harder than the rest,” Pesci said.
Their distance may have widened when Pesci went on a spending spree after the restaurant was shuttered, records show.
In 2006 and 2007, he paid $35,000 to buy 18 acres in the Adirondacks, records show.
Pesci then spent thousands more building a cabin, garage and shed amid the pine trees there.
In 2008, more large expenditures followed. He moved his other surviving restaurant into a different building in North Jersey, gutted it and undertook a massive renovation, records show.
Castelluccio was furious that the restaurateur appeared to be living the good life when he felt that Pesci still owed him $50,000 for the failed eatery investment, several sources told The Post.
That’s when he turned to the Colombo crime family to help him get the money back, the sources said.
Russo and another high-level Colombo mobster allegedly plotted last fall how to collect the actor’s money from Pesci, sources said. But before they could put a plan in motion, they were busted by FBI agents in a mass sweep involving that alleged plot and other crimes in January.
Castelluccio showed up at Russo’s bail hearing in Brooklyn.
At the time, he told The Post, “I’m just here to show support for a friend.”
Castelluccio declined to be interviewed for this article, only releasing a carefully worded statement saying:
“Gino Pesci has never owed me any money, and therefore, it is hard to imagine why anyone would even think about asking him for anything on my behalf. It never happened. And anyone who claims that it did happen is simply not telling the truth.”
Brooklyn federal prosecutors indicted Andrew Russo and the other Colombo mobster on charges of conspiring to commit extortion for the alleged plot against Pesci, according to court documents and several sources.
Castelluccio has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Russo is currently in a federal detention center awaiting trial. His lawyer, George Galgano, flatly denied that his client was involved in a plot to shake down Pesci.
Joe Pesci -- whom Gino said he sees about once a year -- did not return a call for comment.

Feds want maximum sentence for Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno

Story Image
Reputed mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. Trial is set to begin Wednesday for Sarno and several of his alleged cohorts on racketeering charges. 
The Chicago mob’s “Large Guy” could take a big fall — if federal prosecutors get their way.
Prosecutors are providing a detailed look at reputed Cicero mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno’s ties to organized crime in a new court filing as they ask a federal judge to sentence Sarno to the maximum possible prison sentence — 25 years behind bars.
Sarno was convicted in December of racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling and is set to be sentenced Friday in federal court in Chicago. The conviction is Sarno’s third for mob crimes — and one that could put him in prison until his 70s.
Federal prosecutor Amar-jeet S. Bhachu describes Sarno as a career criminal who began his Outfit work in 1975. Prosecutors write “it is obvious that he does not care about the law.
“His interest today still lies with taking what he wants for himself and other members of organized crime . . .”
Sarno was convicted at trial with four other men in which prosecutors described a slew of crimes, including a bombing of a Berwyn company in competition with the mob’s video poker business along with a burglary ring that targeted jewelry stores.
Sarno ordered the bombing of the Berwyn business and controlled the burglary ring, prosecutors said.
Sarno began running the Outfit’s Cicero crew after the disappearance of mobster Anthony Zizzo in 2006, who is presumed to have been murdered, although his body has never been found.
Sarno, who at his biggest has tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds, has several mob nicknames, including “Big Mike,” “Large” and “Fat Ass.” When he was a free man, Sarno often was seen with his close friend, Salvatore Cataudella, convicted in a juice loan case. The pair was dubbed “Mutt and Jeff.”
They were referred to by the nicknames in a secretly recorded conversation between Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother Michael Marcello in 2003.
An attorney for Sarno could not be reached Sunday, but a former lawyer for him has disputed the characterization of Sarno by federal prosecutors and the FBI’s informants.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

A brush with the law: Mobster turns to painting while in jail for haunted mansion murder

Maggio began painting while serving time in the witness protection section of the prison.
Maggio began painting while serving time in the witness protection section of the prison.
Some of the mob rat's paintings are displayed in a prison waiting room.
Some of the mob rat's paintings are displayed in a prison waiting room. 
He's the mobster turned Michelangelo.
A Bonanno turncoat who traded in his brass knuckles for a paint brush and palette was sentenced yesterday to time served for the murder of a mob associate inside a supposedly haunted mansion in Staten Island.
Michael Maggio has served nearly six years in prison for the gangland killing of Robert McKelvey, who was strangled, dismembered and incinerated at the spooky Kreischer Mansion.
While Maggio was providing information to the FBI to dismantle the crew of Bonanno soldier Gino Galestro, he began painting landscapes and portraits in the witness protection section of prison.
Defense lawyer Marc Agnifilo said the paintings are displayed in the waiting room of the prison, and he provided copies of the artwork for Judge Allyne Ross to review in Brooklyn Federal Court.
"I thought, more eloquently than anything I could say, the paintings show there's good in him," Agnifilo said. "A gentleness, a humility more than I could say."
Agnifilo said Maggio sends paintings to his young children regularly, but he has been cut off from contact with them because their mother is Galestro's sister-in-law.
"Do they get the painting or is it thrown in the garbage?" Agnifilo said, adding that Maggio has no way of knowing.
Even Maggio's father - who stabbed his wife to death when the defendant was a boy - refused to even write a letter to the judge because a cousin, Staten Island restaurateur Frank Fresca, was believed to have been rubbed out because Maggio is a rat.
Maggio testified at the trial of Bonanno associate Joseph Young, who carried out McKelvey's killing. A crew of young wanna-bes who chopped up the victim's body and fed the pieces into an old incinerator at the mansion also pleaded guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Dennehy acknowledged Maggio's assistance in what was essentially a missing person case until he stepped forward.
Maggio wept as he told the judge: "I'm sorry for the life I was living. I'm sorry for everything."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Out on bail for murder charge, reputed Lyndhurst mobster pens book

Last week, sitting in the Lyndhurst office of his close friend/publicist/legal adviser Michael O'Gorman, Paul "Doc" Gaccione has a wide smile on his face when discussing his e-book that was recently published by Brighton Publishing and made available at online stores like Barnes and Noble and Amazon. He is just as candid about how the federal government has labeled him.
Lyndhurst resident Paul Gaccione has authored a book that looks back on his life in and out of the headlines as well as dives deep into the spiritual connection he says he has with the forces of life after death. A reputed mobster, Gaccione is out on $1 million bail for a charge of second degree murder in connection to a gangland hit 19 years ago.
Lyndhurst resident Paul Gaccione has authored a book that looks back on his life in and out of the headlines as well as dives deep into the spiritual connection he says he has with the forces of life after death. A reputed mobster, Gaccione is out on $1 million bail for a charge of second degree murder in connection to a gangland hit 19 years ago.
"I've never killed anyone. I never gave the order to kill anyone. I'm not in the mafia," he says as his fists rattle the table in front of him. "I have friends who are politicians, medical doctors, law enforcement, movie stars…people from all walks of life. Do I have some people that I know that have been labeled members of organized crime, some that are currently incarcerated? Yes."
Last year, Gaccione was sitting in a Riker's Island jail cell; a second degree murder indictment lurking over his head for his alleged involvement in a mob-related hit that took place in the Bronx 19 years ago. It was last April when Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson made the announcement that Gaccione allegedly was the driver of a van that was used in a hit on 32-year-old Angelo Sangiuolo. Sangiuolo was shot for allegedly robbing the Genovese crime family gambling operations, according to prosecutors. Sangiuolo's cousin, Genovese capo Angelo Prisco, was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for ordering the hit and other federal charges. John Leto, the alleged triggerman, later pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds, according to published reports. Gaccione said Leto is the one that placed Gaccione at the scene that day and the only one to make such an accusation. He said he knows Prisco and Leto, but vehemently denies any involvement in Sangiuolo's murder.
Fast forward a year and out on $1 million bail, with the possibility of the 64-year-old Lyndhurst resident still spending 25 to life behind bars, Gaccione, through his "destiny," as he calls it, is a published author. He says he's ready to tell the world what life in and out of the headlines is like and how the forces of life after death and God's will have reached out to him along the way to guide him through his trials and tribulations.
Gaccione was just about a year into penning "Beyond the Beyond – My Journey to Destiny" when he was greeted at the door on April 20, 2010. It was the FBI, arresting him on the charge that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.
"As one agent cuffed me to the chair, another agent told me I was being arrested for murder," writes Gaccione in the book. "He mentioned a name – I had no idea who it was."
The story, although a memoir of his life, both living in Lyndhurst and behind bars in federal prison on previous drug charges, was written for a reason, which readers are not essentially greeted to until the last chapter. It was a Sunday evening in 2008 when Gaccione says he went to his bedroom, observed a tunnel with a bright shining light and several other lights. He walked toward the tunnel and heard his deceased mother say, "All our spirits live on, although we are accountable for our actions on earth. We can influence our destinies each and every day."
That reason, one of great spirituality and understanding of life after death is prefaced by diving deep into the life of a man that has been dubbed a "reputed mobster" and "Genovese enforcer" in the headlines, but started life as an awkward, skinny kid with thick glasses who was forced to stand up to his bullies with his fists.
"This is how my fighting began. The older kids would call my glasses Coca-Cola bottles, and I would get so mad that I would beat them up. Before you knew it, I was building a reputation around my town of being tough," writes Gaccione.
He soon beefed up and stood up for the other kids bullied in town. He excelled at sports; boxing being a passion, and he excelled through his teens in amateur bouts. In Lyndhurst High School, he played football and basketball and ran track. A fight on the courts ended basketball and an injury ended football. After junior college, he came home and got a job at a women's health spa. He soon asked for a $5,000 loan and using credit and workers from his father's fledgling construction business, he opened his own fitness center and turned it into a profitable operation.
Things soon began to spiral downward for Gaccione. It started just after junior college. He and a friend were entering the parking lot of the Lyndhurst Diner when a car backed up, almost hitting them. His friend honked the horn, words were exchanged, and three men came at Gaccione.
"That's when the guy closest to me began to throw the first punch. I blocked it and then threw a punch at him. He went down, hit his head on the ground, and died," writes Gaccione.
A trial declared the death self-defense on Gaccione's part. The fitness center was doing well. He and his wife would have four kids. In the midst however, he found gambling, drugs, failed business ideas and other women. He left his wife. He lost thousands on sports games and in Atlantic City casinos. He brought cocaine from the wrong people. He met them while he was operating a deli at the Harmon Cove towers in Secaucus. He just wanted small amounts to feed his addiction. His dealers sold large amounts and the DEA was onto them. Surveillance caught Gaccione on tape ordering coke. After trial, he would spend four years in federal prison.
"The problem was that when the jury heard 50 different people calling, saying 'Give me one or give me two or three,' there was no way to know if they were referring to kilos or ounces," writes Gaccione.
But the powers of "Beyond the Beyond" are what Gaccione wants readers to take away from the book. They appear frequently throughout; premonitions in a way. It happened as young as when he was in grammar school when he had a dream his music teacher had died. An announcement over the loudspeaker the next morning announced her death. He remembers getting the chills and realizing he had been to the "Beyond the Beyond" the night before for the first time. It happened after his mother's passing when he invited his two brothers on a trip to Atlantic City. Losing miserably, he heard his mother say "play my birthday." He played six on roulette and even when he told the croupier to not hit six, the number kept coming up. "Beyond the Beyond" came to Gaccione at two of his major court appearances. First was the trial on drug charges and then at a bail hearing for his murder charge. Something told him at the last minute to write to the judge from the heart. Eight years was cut to four in the drug case and a bail was granted in his murder case, a rarity for a murder charge.
Even how the book was published was destiny, said Gaccione. He sent a paper manuscript when Brighton only takes them electronically. The regular mailman at the company was out that day and would have discarded it. It made the way to acquisitions.
"Writers like this—and books like this—are very rare, not only because of who he is, but because of the scope of what he has written," said Kathie McGuire, director of Brighton Publishing.
Gaccione, expecting a trial on his murder charge in the spring of 2012, said the outcome will all be a part of his destiny. He feels his destiny will let him bring his writings to the masses, in an effort to help people with his message of "Beyond the Beyond."
"What He [God] has done in my life with the special occurrences He has given me, I have been chosen to be given them to spread them to the world," says Gaccione.