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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Small investigation leads to a murder and some big fish

As New York City's oversight agency for private garbage-haulers, the Business Integrity Commission handles complaints that tend toward the mundane: stolen containers, illegal dumping, bid-rigging.
Investigators had little reason to believe a suspected arson in 2009 at a Staten Island carting company would be much different. But over the next three years, the fire would lead them to an extraordinary series of alleged crimes, including one that was a first for the commission: murder.
The investigation -- which spiraled into allegations of robbery, betrayal, revenge and organized-crime connections -- culminated in federal indictments last week of two men and shined a light on an obscure agency whose work goes largely unnoticed.
"We look at every loose thread that needs to be pulled," said agency Commissioner Shari Hyman. "And you can see what can unravel when you do these kinds of investigations."
Established in November 2001 as the Organized Crime Control Commission, the small agency was later renamed and given law-enforcement and regulatory control over industries with historic mob influence: more than 1,500 private carting companies, three wholesale markets and local shipboard gambling.
In April 2009, New York City Police Lt. Chris Murphy and Detective William Martin, who are both assigned to the agency, opened what seemed like a run-of-the-mill investigation. Four trucks were reported to have been torched at Coney Island Container Service, a carting company located in an isolated spot on Staten Island.
But the probe soon grew into something larger. The New York City officers, working with commission investigators Dominick Albergo and Nelson Cortez, found the business was owned by a Department of Sanitation worker who had his agency's permission to run a private garbage-hauling firm, according to the commission and the department.
The owner, Anthony Castelle, and his lawyer didn't respond to a request for comment. He pleaded guilty to an unrelated weapons possession charge in May, according to the Staten Island District Attorney's office. The commission announced in June it had declined to renew his company's registration. He still works for the city, the department said.
The alleged arson appeared to have its roots in an August 2008 dispute, Lt. Murphy said. A man named John Ferris gave $250,000 to a pair of longtime friends of Mr. Castelle, Christopher Garguilo and James Donovan, for safekeeping, Lt. Murphy said. Mr. Ferris said he had worked for Mr. Garguilo.
But when Mr. Ferris tried to retrieve the money, the men balked, the lieutenant and Mr. Ferris said.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Ferris said he gave Mr. Garguilo $500,000, not $250,000, that he had taken from his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child. Mr. Garguilo didn't return a call for comment.
Over the next several months, the three feuded, investigators said. Messrs. Garguilo and Donovan were arrested in November 2008 on menacing charges after allegedly threatening Mr. Ferris with a gun. Mr. Ferris was arrested in April 2009 after allegedly setting one of their cars on fire, a charge he denied. Then came the blaze at Coney Island Container Service. The New York Fire Department deemed the fire to be arson, but no one was ever charged.
The menacing and car-fire cases eventually were dropped because of a lack of cooperation from the victims. Mr. Ferris denied any involvement in the fire at Coney Island Container Service.
While probing that case, the agency investigators discovered that during Mr. Donovan's arrest for menacing, officers seized from his car what appeared to be a customer ledger, $62,000 in cash, deposit slips and checks from local businesses.
Their attention shifted. In March 2010, Mr. Donovan became the subject of a new investigation: Authorities believed he was collecting insurance checks from auto-body shops for a fee and giving the shops the cash value of the checks. The shops would pocket the money without declaring it, allowing them to avoid paying taxes. Lt. Murphy said their investigation found that Mr. Donovan was cashing more than $1 million worth of these checks a year through connections at check-cashing stores and clearing more than $100,000 annually from the alleged scheme.
Over the following months, investigators said, Mr. Donovan's alleged scheme was linked to dozens of companies in "Operation Tax Grab."
But before any charges were filed, Mr. Donovan was killed. The focus of the case changed once again, and so did Mr. Donovan's role -- from suspect to victim.
A surveillance camera that investigators were using to watch Mr. Donovan at a friend's auto-body shop caught something on July 2, 2010: Four men approached Mr. Donovan, appearing intent on robbery.
The men struggled with Mr. Donovan, who was shot in the leg. The robbers made off with $90,000 in cash and $60,000 in checks, according to Lt. Murphy. Mr. Donovan died several hours later at a local hospital.
Now it was a murder investigation, which brought Brooklyn homicide Detective Peter McMahon into the probe. Still, investigators had few clues.
A break came weeks later when detectives followed a trail from a bank surveillance camera. A man spotted depositing some of the allegedly stolen checks -- and who was subsequently arrested on an unrelated narcotics charge -- placed calls from Rikers Island that were ultimately traced to a parolee, Nunzio "Nicky" DeCarlo. Federal prosecutors identified Mr. DeCarlo as a member of the Colombo crime family when he was arrested in 1987 on racketeering charges. He was later convicted and served 18 years in prison.
Those calls plus other clues, including DNA from discarded cigarette butts that Detective McMahon had collected from the scene and phone taps -- another almost unheard-of tactic for the Business Integrity Commission -- led investigators over the following months to three other men: Hector "Junior" Pagan, Richard Riccardi and Luigi Grasso.
Mr. DeCarlo died in October 2010 at his Staten Island home from an overdose of drugs, including heroin, according to the New York City Medical Examiner's office.
On July 11, a federal grand jury in Brooklyn indicted Messrs. Riccardi and Grasso on charges of robbery conspiracy, causing death through the use of a firearm and using or carrying a firearm. They pleaded not guilty and were ordered held without bail.
Mr. Riccardi's attorney, Joseph Benfante, said his client was falsely implicated. "Richard Riccardi is innocent of these charges," he said. Mr. Grasso's attorney, Robert Soloway, didn't return calls for comment.
In mid-2011, Mr. Pagan agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in continuing probes, including a case that resulted in the arrest on racketeering charges of several alleged members of the Bonanno crime family. His role as government informant emerged during a federal court hearing in Brooklyn in February.
Included among the defendants was his former father-in-law, Anthony "TG" Graziano, once named by a "confidential source" as a member of the Bonanno family, according to federal court papers. Mr. Graziano pleaded guilty to extortion on April 9. His lawyer didn't return a call for comment.
Mr. Pagan, whose ex-wife Renee Graziano is on the VH-1 television show "Mob Wives," hasn't been charged in connection with Mr. Donovan's murder. Ms. Graziano declined to comment for this article.
"Unprecedented might not be the right word, but it might be close," Lt. Murphy said of the investigation. "We started with that arson job three years ago and now it's the tax evasion and the homicide and guns we've gotten and everything."



  1. This reads like to opening chapters of Jimmy Cowans book "Takedown". Can't wait to read this tale in it's entirety.

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  4. Two More Men Are Charged In a Mob Killing in 1988
    Published: November 29, 2000

    One day in October 1988, the police found the body of 28-year-old Victor Filocamo stuffed inside the trunk of a white B.M.W. parked on 73rd Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

    At the time, investigators suspected that Mr. Filocamo was killed because of his ties to the underworld, and, over the last decade, three known mobsters pleaded guilty in the slaying. But yesterday, federal prosecutors announced that two additional men were responsible for the mob hit, and charged them in Federal District Court in Brooklyn with conspiracy to murder Mr. Filocamo.

    The murder charges were part of a broad racketeering indictment against seven reputed members of the Luchese crime family, two of whom were accused of taking part in Mr. Filocamo's death more than a decade ago inside a mob-connected social club in Bensonhurst. The seven men were also charged with other crimes, from loan sharking to drug dealing to arson.

    While the indictment charged the men, Joseph Tangorra, 51, and Joseph Truncale, 69, with participating in Mr. Filocamo's murder, it made no mention of a motive. But investigators said that Mr. Filocamo was killed because of suspicions that he was a government informer.
    The indictment said Mr. Truncale and Mr. Tangorra were members of a Luchese family group known as the Bensonhurst Crew. It also said five other men -- Eugene Castelle, 40; Lester Ellis, 50; Robert Greenberg, 29; John Castellucci, 43; and Scott Gervasi, 36 -- were members of the group.

    From 1987 to earlier this year, Mr. Tangorra, who is known in the underworld as Joey Flowers, and Mr. Castelle, who goes by the nickname Boopsie, supervised the Bensonhurst Crew as it ran illegal gambling dens and loan-sharking businesses throughout southern Brooklyn, the indictment said. The crew has also been accused of attempted murder.

    Investigators have said that Mr. Tangorra's crew was once led by a Luchese captain named George Zappola, who was known to mobsters and federal agents as Georgie Neck. Mr. Zappola is serving a 22-year sentence in a federal prison in Brooklyn where, four years ago, he attempted an unusual scheme to perpetuate his family name. Hoping to have a grown child waiting for him when he got out of prison, Mr. Zappola arranged to have his sperm smuggled out of the Metropolitan Detention Center in 1996 with the help of a corrupt prison guard, court papers show. Although the sperm was eventually sent to a Manhattan fertility clinic, where it was frozen for future use, the woman who was to carry Mr. Zappola's child changed her mind about being artificially inseminated and cooperated with federal agents long enough to derail the plan.

    Mr. Tangorra is facing separate state charges in Manhattan, where he was accused in September of bribery, bid-rigging and other racketeering schemes that investigators said siphoned millions of dollars from construction projects in the last two years. The state indictment, which named several union officials, contractors and other reputed mobsters, was the most significant case focusing on organized crime's role in the construction industry in a decade, the authorities said.

    All seven men in the current federal case pleaded not guilty yesterday and are scheduled to appear for bail hearings on Monday.

    Their lawyers were dismissive of the government's accusations.

    ''If these defendants represent a high level of organized crime figures,'' said one defense lawyer who spoke on the condition that he not be named, ''then America is safe.''

  5. 11-29-00
    Feds Charge Seven In Mob Terror Spree.
    Original Publication Date: 11/29/00

    New York Daily News Staff Writer

    Seven alleged members of the Luchese family were indicted yesterday on charges of conducting a 13-year reign of terror on the streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn — dealing organized crime another huge body blow.

    At the top of the list were Eugene (Bubsie) Castelle, 40, and Joseph (Joey Flowers) Tangorra, 51, alleged capos who authorities say headed a crew charged with two murder conspiracies and a drug, extortion and loansharking operation that dated to 1987.

    The crew allegedly divvied the Bensonhurst drug trade with the Bonanno crime family's Bath Ave. Crew and extorted tribute payments from shopkeepers in the neighborhood through brute force and arson.

    The seven men were rounded up Monday night and processed at the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who initially launched a probe into the crew's loansharking and gambling operations, a source said.

    Because of more favorable rules governing evidence and grand jury proceedings, state prosecutors handed the suspects over to the feds, who arraigned them yesterday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

    Castelle, stocky with thinning hair, looked nothing like a mob boss at the arraignment, wearing blue jeans and a blue sweatshirt. He stood behind his lawyer, Ben Brafman, and at one point turned around and made a telephone-calling gesture to someone in the gallery.

    Tangorra, a short, plump man, wore a white sweatshirt, black sweat pants and new-looking white leather sneakers. He appeared unruffled by his legal troubles.

    Prosecutors asked that the men be held without bail. Magistrate Marilyn Go agreed to detain Castelle, Tangorra and the five underlings pending a bail hearing Monday.

    Also charged are two alleged Luchese soldiers, Joseph (JoJo) Truncale, 69, and Scott Gervasi, 36, and three alleged associates, John (Big John) Castellucci, 40, Lester Ellis, 50, who uses the last name Zullo, and Robert (the Vulture) Greenberg, 29, who uses the last name Volturo.

    The 48-count indictment charges Tangorra and Truncale with conspiracy to murder Victor Filocamo in October 1988.

    The 28-year-old man was shot in the head and found stuffed in the trunk of a BMW on a Brooklyn street. A source said he had been killed because he was suspected of being a mob informant.

    Tangorra and Ellis are charged with the attempted murder of Henry Motta in March 1992. Motta was chosen because he had failed to pay a debt, the source said.

    Law enforcement sources said the low-key Castelle, who lives in South River, N.J., had moved up recently to underboss in the Luchese family as other bosses were arrested.

    Tangorra, of Brooklyn, was recently charged in a wide-ranging labor racketeering case brought by the Manhattan district attorney.

    "He's been on everybody's hit list," a top organized crime investigator said.

    He was called Joey Flowers because he picked up loansharking payments at a flower shop on 13th Ave. in Bensonhurst, sources said.

    Tangorra's attorney, Vincent Romano, noted that most of the serious charges are more than a decade old.

    "Of course my client denies being a member of any organized-crime family," Romano said.

    "The government unnecessarily stigmatizes certain defendants by giving them meaningless titles," he added. "The labels make it harder to get a fair trial."

    The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gurin and Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Trish McNeill.

  6. Feds End Mob Bigs' Buy & Cell
    Friday, May 23, 1997
    Mobsters turned their Brooklyn jail into a pleasure palace, bribing guards for extravagant meals, booze, drugs and special privileges to conduct criminal business, authorities charged yesterday.

    But the good life for the Goodfellas came to an end yesterday with the arrests of 20 people, including 11 correction officers and a civilian Police Department employe.

    The Justice Department's inspector general's office found the alleged corruption in an 18-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Badfellas after being tipped off by an unidentified inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

    "They conducted business at the MDC as they do at many of the social clubs in Brooklyn," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lewis Schiliro. Among the Goodfellas were convicted former acting Colombo crime boss Victor Orena and reputed Gambino captain Nicholas Corozzo, who each paid guards $500 a week for special privileges, according to complaints filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

    Several Luchese captains and associates also allegedly bribed guards in exchange for the favors.

    "You have a volatile mixture in our prison facilities. You've got powerful and very wealthy inmates and many, many guards who are not paid a lot of money," said Inspector General Michael Bromwich.

    Authorities said the 140 guards assigned to the MDC a 1,000-bed facility that houses defendants awaiting trial and sentencing earn $25,000 to $30,000 a year.

    Court records show that Anthony Martinez, a Bureau of Prisons guard, allegedly allowed inmates to access confidential computer files relating to their cases in an effort to learn the names of cooperating witnesses against them.

    Martinez also is charged with letting gangsters use office phones which aren't tapped to conduct criminal business and arranging inmate mob meetings after hours while he was a lookout.

    Correction Officer Raymond Cotton an eight-year veteran and president of the MDC correction officers' union allegedly smuggled in 10 hero sandwiches, 20 pounds of pasta, a gallon of olive oil and a box of garlic.

    Guards also smuggled in vodka, heroin, steroids, marijuana, clothing and vitamins, getting them to the mobsters by hiding the goods in garbage bins and vacuum cleaners.

    Guard Peter Negron and his wife, Anne, are accused of taking a $200 bribe for submitting his own urine for that of an inmate for drug testing. Another guard, Rodney Robinson, is charged with smuggling heroin and taking a $5,000 bribe to void an Immigration and Naturalization Service warrant.

    MDC guard Oscar Ortiz is charged with smuggling sham steroids in exchange for a $1,000 bribe.

    Reputed Luchese soldier Eugene Castelle is charged with smuggling in food and steroids. Luchese associate Anthony Albanese is charged with paying bribes to guards.

  7. rob greenberg is jewish and used his ex wives name or they would of never accepted him in, big mistake clearly because he wound up ratting also, could not do his time either, stupid bastard.put his ex through hell thnk God she divorced him before he did his horrible deeds.

  8. Rob Greenberg stole the name Volturo because who would accept a jewish guy in the mafia. He played the part well so he thought. He abused his wife and cheated. she filed for divorce, and then he ratted when he got caught from the feds cause he couldnt do his time and is living the life now in the south

  9. You're wrong on many accounts. But Volturo is Israeli/Italian, I like that combo. I'll take him. ;)

  10. Can't understand how the publisher approved unknown facts by someone calling themselves anonymous on January 20, 2016. I would hope that bias hating would be removed. I read your columns for facts.

  11. Glad to see it's easy for people to comment and slander people on this site without actual facts.