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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Branded a mobster, Staten Island caterer Frank DiMattina says his life went to hell

Frank DiMattina calls it the fight of his life.

The 44-year-old catering hall owner is staring down a six-year prison sentence, after being convicted at a federal trial on extortion charges, but he maintains his innocence and wants the world to know he's not a mobster.
"It's like I went to hell and I came back," he said. "That's not me, what they're portraying as a gangster, as an organized crime figure, as an associate."
DiMattina used to own Ariana's Catering Hall in New Dorp, and he's starred in a slick series of Web videos to promote his catering business and further his dreams of starring in a reality show.
DiMattina still owns two catering halls, Ariana's Grand in Woodbridge, N.J., and The Loft at Ariana's Grand in Charleston, and he said his weekends remain booked through December, despite the case's outcome.
His sentence is on hold pending his appeal, and he has to wear an ankle bracelet.
And, he says, media coverage of the case, especially the allegations of mob ties, has tarnished his reputation and his business, and has torn his children's life asunder.
"I have no association with no crime family. I've been in the business for 15 years, it's me, my wife, my family," he says.

His YouTube videos, titled "The Banquet Boyz," offers up a wiseguy milieu -- in its minute-long promo, DiMattina refers to his team as "my crew," puts on a stern look as he glowers through a pair of sunglasses, and makes reference to his Brooklyn roots.

Branded a mobster, Staten Island caterer Frank DiMattina says his life 'went to hell'  
Branded a mobster, Staten Island caterer Frank DiMattina says his life 'went to hell' Guilty in catering shakedown case, ex-owner laments a reputation lost in interview with Advance.
Another member of his team, "Big Joe," which in its opening promo, plays a tough-guy role, telling the camera, "Take your cameras, take your microphone, I'm done." Still, both DiMattina and his wife, Marie-Elaina say, that's just meant to capture the networks' eye.
"If you don't have some type of flair to your part on, what is that called, reality TV, who's going to watch it?" Mrs. DiMattina says. "His crew is his family. That's two cousins and a lifelong friend."
She points to longer videos posted, which feature their daughter and their mother helping out at a party, and a benefit for the Woodbridge track team.
"That whole persona with the Brooklynese, if you don't say something catchy... you're not going to get picked up by Bravo, because they don't want a straight-laced caterer, just pouring food and saying, 'Hi, how are you?'" Mrs. DiMattina says.
"I wanted to be a little more of the Cake Boss, but a little more of a flair, a little funnier," DiMattina says.
Last year, he found a different kind of notoriety -- federal authorities called him a Genovese crime family association, and accused him of pulling a gun on Walter Bowers, who bought the business from him, outside the New Dorp catering hall in an attempt to scare Bowers out of bidding on the school lunch program at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School.
After a trial in January, which featured testimony from the high school's principal, the Rev. Michael Reilly, a jury found him guilty of gun possession and extortion, though it cleared him on other extortion charges relating to vandalism at the catering hall.
He's recently hired powerhouse attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented John Gotti, Jr. in a 2005 racketeering trial that ended with an acquittal on a stock fraud charge and a deadlocked jury on every other charge.
The trial gave him ammunition for a possible appeal, Lichtman says -- up until the day of Bowers' testimony, DiMattina didn't know the day the alleged extortion took place, June 26, 2010.
A court filing in March lays out DiMattina's appeal strategy -- sworn affidavits from an array of witnesses, some saying he was in New Jersey that day, catering a large wedding in the morning and a college formal at night, others saying they never saw him at the New Dorp hall.

Bowers, meanwhile, says he doesn't buy that DiMattina only found out about the date at trial -- "It just amazes me," he says, adding. "He knew what date it took place. His appeal is what it is."
Bowers says the FBI came to him with the case, not vice versa, nearly a year after the incident, approaching him at a baseball game to talk about what they had heard from a tipster.
"At the end of the day, here's the story. He made me a victim and the FBI made me a victim," he says, adding that he just wants to move on, now that the civil case between him and DiMattina was settled.
A spokesman for the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York declined comment on the case.
DiMattina challenges the government's assertions in court filings that he's a Genovese associate who answers to John "Johnny Sausage" Barbato.
"To call me a gangster? I'm in the kitchen 24-7. You come in here, and you see what we do. It's absurd. I'm pro-law enforcement, and I'm always gonna be that way. I have no affiliation with no gangsters, and I never will," he says. "I'm proud of what I do. I'm not out there, robbing people, dealing drugs, killing people. That's not my thing. That's why they don't have no audio, they don't have no video. Because it never happened."
Both he and his wife list off their philanthropic efforts, including the aforementioned Woodbridge track team benefit, and their work with local law enforcement groups and police community councils.
"How am I getting the state police and the Honor Legion giving me parties? They're not going to give me business because I've got good food if I'm affiliated. They know I'm not affiliated. It's not true. I denounce that."
And he hasn't shelved his television aspirations, nothing that he'd auditioned for other reality shows.
"Everybody's waiting for my appeal. They think I'm a different type of character. They know I'm a hard worker," DiMattina says. "We try to make our job funny, we try to make everybody comfortable."



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