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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Former Hartford gangster accused of sex crimes in Florida

A Hartford gangster who the FBI said was once targeted for death by the Mafia is back in the custody of the law.
This time, Luis "Tito" Morales is under arrest in Florida. He is accused of sexually assaulting children while acting as a self-declared "Apostle" of a church he founded and for which he jetted into Latin America to perform exorcisms.
Since he came to law enforcement's attention a quarter-century ago, associates and police sources said that Morales has moved from thief to significant other of a Hartford Mafia daughter to subject of a Mafia murder contract to drug dealer to Christian missionary. If the trajectory is difficult to follow, it should be, according to his wife. She is known at Morales' church, located in the couple's home in Ormond Beach, Fla., as The Prophet Linda.
"Satan is the accuser of the brethren," Linda Morales said. "So anyone who makes an accusation against a man or woman of God is on Satan's team."
Linda Morales explained the eternal struggle to news reporters as she left the federal courthouse in Orlando on May 18. Inside, a judge denied bail to Tito Morales, indicted two days earlier and charged with transporting two girls, aged 12 and 13, between states in 2009 and 2010 for the purpose of sexual activity.
Morales, 57, is accused of transporting one of the girls between Arizona, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is accused, with Rebecca Rivera, 27, of East Hartford, of transporting the second child between Hartford and Florida. Rivera was taken into custody in Hartford, where court records show that a judge ordered her held without bail and taken to the federal courthouse in Orlando.
Neither Rivera nor Tito Morales was available for interviews.
Federal prosecutors in Florida said that they believe that Tito Morales has molested as many as six minors, perhaps in connection with ministerial work that called him to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Rivera declares on the Internet that she also is a prophet in Morales' ministry, which is called En Fuego (On Fire) for Jesus.
On an Internet blog, Rivera identifies herself as a Mexican living in the U.S. and traveling the world to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and offer prayer that she implies can cure cancer.
A television news station in Honduras has posted a video recording on the Internet that purports to show Morales exorcising the devil from a writhing, flopping, apparently tormented woman somewhere near Tegucigalpa.
Morales achieved a different sort of celebrity in the wrong circles in Hartford 1980s and '90s. At the time, the bustling Puerto Rican neighborhood around Park Street was expanding south, and Italian racketeers were trying to hang on to shrinking territory that they held around Franklin Avenue.
Tito Morales lived for a while on Adelaide Street, which then was also the address of John "Sonny" Castagna, an associate of the Patriarca crime family and one of Hartford's most notorious gangsters. Morales became friendly with Castagna's son Jackie Johns, and the two men went into business robbing drug dealers, according to law enforcement sources and court records.
Tito Morales also became friendly with Louis Failla, a sworn Patriarca soldier who lived with his wife and children in East Hartford. Tito Morales became even more friendly with Failla's daughter Debbie. They had a son, according to friends and information presented in court.
Tito Morales' relationship with his putative father-in-law soured, a deterioration that was well-documented because it took place during an organized crime investigation in the late 1980s and 1990 that resulted in a sensational Mafia trial.
Among other things, the investigation created an opportunity that the FBI used to make what the bureau called the first audio recording of a Mafia initiation ceremony. It also generated evidence that the FBI used to leverage Castagna and Johns to cooperate and join the witness protection program.
The authorities also accused Louis Failla of conspiring to murder Tito Morales, the father of his grandson.
There are differences of opinion about what led to the never-realized conspiracy to kill Tito Morales.
Some believe that Italian gangsters on Franklin Avenue were concerned that Tito Morales was showing too much interest in their gambling operation. Others believe that Failla became enraged after learning that friends of Morales had behaved abusively toward his wife or daughter.
The FBI tipped Tito Morales to the plot against him.
Conspiracy to commit murder was just one of a long list of charges that Failla faced in 1991 at the monthslong Mafia trial that followed the investigation. Much of the evidence against him came from a secret microphone that the FBI planted in the garrulous gangster's midnight blue Cadillac.
Failla's defense at the trial was that he was all talk and no action. His lawyer told the jurors that, if they had any doubt, they needed only to listen to the tapes made from the microphone. The defense failed.
When he emerged from prison a sick, old man, Failla and his family moved to Florida, not far from the place where Morales set up his home and church.
Morales got caught selling 8 ounces of cocaine in the parking lot of a Rocky Hill strip mall in 1989. After he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Debbie Failla became involved with the state police detective who made the arrest.
In a prison interview with The Courant after his arrest, Morales showed signs of things to come when he denied feeling any animosity toward his old girlfriend or her new police officer boyfriend.
"I would go to him and say, 'I hope you find the Lord,'" Morales said. "I would hug and kiss him, and thank him for allowing me to spend time in jail and find my savior. ... Something good came out of it."



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