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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Witness says mobster was playing the board game Clue when underboss was whacked

 Michelle Fama
Accused killer Frank Guerra loves to solve a murder.
So says his former mob associate’s ex-wife, who testified Thursday that Guerra wasn’t anywhere near the rubout of a rival gangster in 1993.
Michelle Fama told Brooklyn Federal Court jurors that she, Guerra and his moll were playing the board game Clue on the night Colombo underboss Joseph Scopo was ambushed with machine guns in Queens.
“We were playing a game of Clue,” Fama said with a chuckle. “I know it sounds silly, but we happened to like it.”
The alleged alibi goes in the face of what Russo, a former Colombo capo who turned government witness, had testified earlier in Guerra’s murder and extortion trial.
Russo said Guerra had cooked up the Clue story as cover for the hit on Scopo, who was the 12th and final victim in the crime family’s bloody civil war.
Prosecutors indicated they may call Guerra’s girlfriend to rebut Fama’s account and to say a defense investigator had asked her to offer the same alibi — a contention defense lawyer Gerald McMahon strongly refuted. But they didn’t call her to the stand.
Fama never explained why she testified on Guerra’s behalf. But she described her marriage with Russo as “very difficult.”

Colombo family consigliere busted for parole violation

Book ’em, Danno.
Two days after the Colombo crime family’s consigliere won permission from a Brooklyn federal judge to take a Hawaiian vacation, the ranking wiseguy was arrested and it looks like he won’t be hanging 10 at Waikiki Beach any time soon.
Thomas Farese, the New York mob family’s third highest-ranking member, was busted yesterday in South Florida for violating terms of his federal parole, sources told The Post.

Watergate and the Mafia: The Hidden History and the 2012 Elections

Finally, we have answers to the most important remaining questions about Watergate: What were the burglars after and why Nixon was willing to risk his presidency to get it? Watergate: The Hidden History: Nixon, The Mafia, and The CIA by Lamar Waldron lays it all out in extraordinary detail.
Perhaps equally important, it also shows how today's poisonous political climate and questionable campaign tactics originated with Nixon, yielding ominous lessons for the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Last week was the 40th anniversary of Watergate, when the arrest of White House operatives at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee triggered a scandal that eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. And perfectly timed, Waldron's new book is filled with bombshell revelations about Nixon's many crimes, that puts Nixon and the scandal in a whole new light.
While much of the recent Watergate anniversary news coverage rehashed decades-old information or Nixon's own spin, Watergate: the Hidden History contains a surprising amount of new information, most of it from the National Archives, some released as recently as April 2012. Some is completely new, while other information has been known for years to historians and investigative journalists who focused on the Mafia or the CIA, but the information never made it into conventional Watergate histories.
Waldron's book shatters the common myths of Watergate, which many on the right are trotting out as a way to smear President Obama over the politically-manipulated "Fast and Furious" matter. (The book shows that Nixon was a master at spreading political smears, including those he knew were false.)
Conservatives leaders still like to call Watergate a "third rate burglary," the term Nixon's spokesman used soon after the arrests. As the book documents, there wasn't one burglary, there were actually four attempts to burglarize the DNC offices at the Watergate. In addition, the same crew burglarized the Chilean Embassy in Washington two weeks before the first Watergate burglary attempt, something Nixon admitted in a White House tape that wasn't released until 1999. As one of the burglars later admitted, they were looking for the same document at the Chilean Embassy they were hunting for at the Watergate.
Another Watergate myth is that "the cover-up was worse than the crime," which overlooks the massive amount of criminal activity on the part of the Nixon White House of which the Watergate break-ins were only a small part. The book quotes historian Stanley Kutler as saying "more than seventy persons were convicted or offered guilty plea as a consequence of the Age of Watergate."
Waldron also demolishes the myth that two intrepid Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein "brought down" President Richard Nixon. As Woodward and Bernstein themselves admitted in their recent Post editorial, it was the president's many crimes that "brought down" Nixon, and their reporting -- summarized in All the President's Men -- covered only a small faction of those crimes.
However, journalist Ron Rosenbaum pointed out on June 18, 2012, in a piece entitled "Woodward and Bernstein Don't Know Who Ordered Watergate" that the Post reporters have never answered crucial questions about the scandal, ranging from the "real purpose" of the break in to "how much was the CIA involved?" The latter question is important since, as Waldron's book documents, all of the Watergate burglars, and their supervisor E. Howard Hunt, were current or former CIA agents or officials. Even The New York Times's Tim Weiner recently wrote that "no one knows...precisely what the burglars wanted" at the Watergate.
Many people assume that Watergate was only about bugging, but planting or fixing a few bugs could have been done with a two or three-man crew, not the five people arrested at the Watergate with enough film to photograph 1,400 pages of documents. What files did they want to photograph? And why were all of the burglars CIA veterans of the agency's secret war against Fidel Castro that began back in 1960, when Richard Nixon was vice president?
All of those questions are answered in Watergate: The Hidden History, which not only documents what the burglars were looking from, but actually prints the entire file that the burglars and Nixon wanted so badly. The book also includes the first Watergate memos to ever officially link the Mafia to Watergate, which help to show how Nixon's past ties to the Mafia triggered the Watergate break-ins.
As one of the Watergate burglars admitted, and Senate Watergate Committee investigators indicated in their secret questioning of Mafia don Johnny Rosselli, Nixon was worried about a Cuban Dossier of CIA attempts to kill Fidel Castro. Those attempts began in earnest in September 1960, when Nixon was seeking an edge in his close presidential race against Senator John F. Kennedy. A Nixon associate involved in the attempts said that in 1960 "the CIA had been in touch with Nixon [and] it was Nixon who had him to a deal with the Mafia in Florida to kill Castro."
CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel continued until a December 1971 attempt in Chile, when Nixon was president and had ordered a huge covert war against Chile's socialist government. Remarkably, at those same key times -- September 1960 and December 1971 -- Nixon accepted $500,000 bribes from Mafia leaders, including some involved in his CIA-Mafia attempts to kill Fidel. Those Nixon-Mafia bribes were extensively documented by the FBI, Time magazine, and author Dan Moldea. Those Mafia bribes and Nixon's efforts to have the CIA work with the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro were the secrets that Nixon could not afford to have come out during the 1972 campaign.
I won't attempt to explain everything the book documents in this brief review. Though Waldron's book is over eight hundred pages, he summarizes everything in an excellent photo section and in the book's Chapter One. The rest of the book unfolds in clear chronological order, and is backed by over two thousand endnotes. The book uses the epic sweep of Nixon's political career to show that everything he did in Watergate was simply doing on a larger scale what Nixon had been doing for years, sometimes decades. Waldron's book builds on the work of PBS and others to firmly establish Nixon's culpability for Watergate.
All of these revelations about Nixon have important ramifications for politics today, since this -- like 1972 -- is a presidential election year, with control of Congress also hanging in the balance. Knowing what's in Watergate: The Hidden History, it's not hard to see Nixon's legacy in the current political situation, from the "win at any cost" tactics he developed to the current involvement of some he worked with in his victorious campaigns, like Roger Ailes.
The recent election results in Wisconsin show that Nixon's techniques still work, just as they did for Nixon in 1968, 1972, and his earlier elections. Any time you see a conservative candidate making -- and continuing to make -- outrageous claims about their opponent, you can thank Richard Nixon, who used that technique much more effectively than his friend, Sen. Joe McCarthy. Such claims, even after they've been debunked, keep press and voter attention off the real issues, and away from the record (and often unsavory connections) of the person making the outrageous claims.
For Nixon, it was often all about money and power, and he knew that the candidate with an overwhelming funding advantage usually wins. To Nixon, taking money from the Mafia was no different from taking huge sums -- legal and illegal -- from business tycoons, large corporations, and even foreign governments. The parallels with today are all too obvious.
Nixon's extensive use of "dirty tricks" documented in the book were brought to mind by the mysterious "robo calls" in Wisconsin, and the attempts to limit college student voting there, as well as the growing cottage industry of disruptive techniques applied to progressive and Democratic candidates.
Nixon was reelected by a large margin in November 1972, almost five months after Watergate first hit the headlines, and the scandal was not a factor at all in that election. In the same way, the investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's "former staff and associates" for "allegations of campaign finance malfeasance, embezzlement of veterans funds, bid-rigging" and other crimes -- as reported by The Huffington Post on June 3 -- was not a factor in the recent election, in part, because it simply wasn't widely reported.
Just as in 1972, in 2012 the mainstream media is overwhelmingly pro-Republican -- even as Republicans make it sound like they're the underdogs fighting a huge liberal media. Nixon pioneered that technique, and even after Watergate, Nixon was endorsed by ten times the number of newspapers that endorsed his opponent, Senator George McGovern.
In 1972, only a few media outlets -- including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, and Time -- really focused on Watergate, while the vast majority of the news media ignored it or accepted Nixon's spin. The book shows that Nixon had what he called "the 10,000," which were the journalists and outlets he could always count on for favorable coverage. The PR effort that Nixon had to run out of the White House is now handled by the large conservative propaganda mills, who churn out a constant stream of anti-progressive rhetoric which is spread across America's public airwaves every day.
It also became obvious to me while reading the book that Nixon was constantly playing not checkers but chess against his Democratic and liberal opponents. Nixon was often thinking two or three moves ahead, knowing he could count on progressives to react in certain ways to his pronouncements (or those of his surrogates), and framing issues so as to distract -- and ultimately divide -- those opposed to his policies. In the same way, the right often seems to have the upper hand in framing issues today, in ways that suppress progressive voter turn out.
As the book shows, Nixon came to power using Congressional hearings, access to secret intelligence, and leaks to the press, and he would be proud of the current "Fast and Furious" hearings in the House. Those hearings and demands appear to have been timed so that President Obama would be forced to assert Executive Privilege the week of the Watergate anniversary, and Republicans spent last week trying to draw parallels between the two events.
There is so much more in the book that is important for the 2012 elections, as well as for the history of Watergate, including incredible revelations about Deep Throat and other Watergate matters. (Did you know that Nixon knew four months after Watergate that Associate FBI Director Mark Felt was leaking information to a Washington Post reporter? Or, that Felt was named as Deep Throat in the press two months before Nixon resigned?) Author Lamar Waldron has been researching Watergate: The Hidden History since 1990, and I helped him with much of his research through 1995.


CIA spy accused of being a Mafia hitman

Enrique “Ricky” Prado’s resume reads like the ultimate CIA officer: veteran of the Central American wars, running the CIA’s operations in Korea, a top spy in America’s espionage programs against China, and deputy to counter-terrorist chief Cofer Black — and then a stint at Blackwater. But he’s also alleged to have started out a career as a hitman for a notorious Miami mobster, and kept working for the mob even after joining the CIA. Finally, he went on to serve as the head of the CIA’s secret assassination squad against Al-Qaida.
That’s according to journalist Evan Wright’s blockbuster story How to Get Away With Murder in America, distributed by Byliner. In it, Wright — who authored Generation Kill, the seminal story of the Iraq invasion — compiles lengthy, years-long investigations by state and federal police into a sector of Miami’s criminal underworld that ended nowhere, were sidelined by higher-ups, or cut short by light sentences. It tracks the history of Prado’s alleged Miami patron and notorious cocaine trafficker, Alberto San Pedro, and suspicions that Prado moved a secret death squad from the CIA to Blackwater.
“In protecting Prado, the CIA arguably allowed a new type of mole — an agent not of a foreign government but of American criminal interests — to penetrate command,” Wright writes.
In this sense, there are two stories that blur into each other: Prado the CIA officer, and Prado the alleged killer. The latter begins when Prado met his alleged future mob patron, Alberto San Pedro, as a high school student in Miami after their families had fled Cuba following the revolution. Prado would later join the Air Force, though he never saw service in Vietnam, and returned to Miami to work as a firefighter. But he kept moonlighting as a hitman for San Pedro, who had emerged into one of Miami’s most formidable cocaine traffickers, according to Wright.

San Pedro hosted parties for the city’s elite, lost a testicle in a drive-by shooting outside of his house, rebuilt his house into a fortress, tortured guard dogs for sport, and imported tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine into the United States per year, Wright adds. His ties reportedly included an aide to former Florida Governor Bob Graham, numerous judges, lobbyists and a state prosecutor. His ties also included a friendship with former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, then a local TV reporter.
Prado, meanwhile, was dropping bodies, alleges Wright. Investigators from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s organized crime squad suspected him of participating in at least seven murders and one attempted murder. He attempted to join the CIA, but returned to Miami after not completing the background check (due to his apparent concern over his family ties). But was admitted after the Reagan administration opened up a covert offensive against leftist Central American militants, where he reportedly served training the Contras.
More startling, the Miami murders allegedly continued after Prado joined the CIA. One target included a cocaine distributor in Colorado who was killed by a car bomb. Investigators believed he was killed over concerns he would talk to the police.
Years later, in 1996, Prado was a senior manager inside the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station, before the Al-Qaida mastermind was a well-known name. Two years later, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania elevated Prado to become the chief of operations inside the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, headed by then-chief Cofer Black, later an executive for the notorious merc firm Blackwater. “As the title implied, the job made Prado responsible for all the moving pieces at the CTC — supervising field offices on surveillance, rendition, or other missions, and making sure that logistics were in order, that personnel were in place,” according to Wright.
Prado was also reportedly put in charge of a “targeted assassination unit,” that was never put into operation. (The CIA shifted to drones.) But according to Wright, the CIA handed over its hit squad operation to Blackwater, now called Academi, as a way “to kill people with precision, without getting caught.” Prado is said to have negotiated the deal to transfer the unit, which Wright wrote “marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.” As to whether the unit was then put into operation, two Blackwater contractors tell Wright the unit began “whacking people like crazy” beginning in 2008. Prado also popped up two years ago in a report by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, in which the now ex-CIA Prado was discovered to have built up a network of foreign shell companies to hide Blackwater operations, beginning in 2004. The Nation also revealed that Prado pitched an e-mail in 2007 to the DEA, explaining that Blackwater could “do everything from everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations,” carried out by foreign nationals, “so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.”
But it’s hard to say where Prado’s alleged criminal ties end. It’s possibly his ties dried up, or moved on. Even mobsters, like Alberto San Pedro, retire. Another theory has it that Prado wanted to break his ties to the Miami underworld — and San Pedro — all along, and sought out legitimate employment in the military, in firefighting and the CIA as an escape. But, the theory goes, he stayed in because he still owed a debt to his patrons.
The other question involves the CIA itself. It’s no secret the agency has associated with dubious types, but the agency is also “notoriously risk averse,” Wright writes. Yet the agency is also protective. And letting Prado on board wouldn’t be the agency’s first intelligence failure.


Notorious Colombo hitman is a happy camper in high security prison

Life couldn't be sweeter.
Colombo hitman John Pappa has been holed up in a high-security federal penitentiary in Allenwood, Pa., for four gangland rubouts — but he’s making the most of his time, savoring his cooking, rooting for his hometown teams and catching up with a good read.
Federal prosecutors introduced on Monday emails Pappa wrote to reputed mob associate Francis "BF" Guerra, who is on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court for participating in the rubout of former underboss Joseph Scopo.
The dispatches from the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains sound like Pappa is living the life of a sports-loving bachelor with a penchant for Italian cuisine — not a cold-blooded killer doing hard time.
“Getting ready to watch the Yankees . . . other than that I’m making Strombolis tonight,” Pappa wrote to Guerra on Oct. 28, 2009.
Pappa, 37, mentions in other emails cooking pasta and a more creative dish featuring “spaghetti, chicken and red sauce.”
Pappa’s access to the prison kitchen and utensils suggests officials do not hold it against him that he allegedly hacked off the private parts of murder victim John Sparacino with a steak knife.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said she could not comment specifically on Pappa’s duties, but it is common for inmates to cook, serve and clean up after meals in the jails. A call to Allenwood was not returned.
Pappa also reveals a softer side in one missive: “Today is beautiful outside but I opted to catch up on reading.”
But his great loves are the Bronx Bombers and the Broadway Blueshirts.
“The Rangers are really looking good . . . let’s see if they beat the Devils tonight,” he wrote to Guerra in 2009.
“I never watch anything other than the Yankees,” he stated in another.
“Hopefully the Yankees will win tonight and close out the series,” Pappa wrote hours before the Yanks beat the Los Angeles Angels to clinch the 2009 American League pennant.
Pappa, who has a massive tattoo across his back of the Italian words for “Death Before Dishonor,” was arrested at a wedding rehearsal in Brooklyn for Sparacino’s brother.
He was convicted of firing the final shots in 1993 that ended the crime family’s bloody civil war and also ended the life of Scopo
At the time of his conviction, Pappa was only 24 years old, making it conceivable that he could serve more than a half century behind bars.

Frank Calabrese Jr decided to turn instead of commiting the ultimate crime for the Chicago outfit

“Was I gonna be a rat? Or, was I gonna be a cold-blooded killer?”

This, Frank Calabrese Jr. revealed on this episode of the Discovery Channel special series, Mobster Confessions, was the question that he had to make to ultimately set the course of his life.

In a day when the mafia crime family known as The Outfit did not recruit from within, Frank Calabrese disregarded that notion, and brought his son into “the life.”

After 10 years of “training,” Frankie Jr. thinks he is ready to be initiated—to make his first hit. “My feelings at the time were, ‘I’m ready for this, I wanna do this.’ I wanted to hold my own.”

But, Frankie’s uncle Nick stopped it, and did the hit on his own.

Disappointed and angry, he did not realize what a favor his uncle was doing for him.

Four years later, Frankie was married with a daughter—something his father was not pleased about. He had to give all of his money to his controlling father. Frankie Jr. developed a drug problem, rebelling against his domineering father, who would beat him regularly.

“I’m dealing with a crazy man. I’m loyal to this man, and this is what he’s gonna do to me?” he asked, after a particularly bad beating. This was a turning point from Frankie Jr., and he decides he must start a new life—stealing from his father.

He knew where his father stashed a lot of his cash, so he went to one of his hiding places and took it--$750,000. But, it wasn’t enough, and he started dealing drugs, an action completely against mob rules.

It actually took years for his father to realize the money was gone. When he made the discovery, he let his son live, but made his life miserable, forcing him to call him three times a day, and keeping him under close supervision. But, Frankie wasn’t paying him back. And he stopped making the ordered phone calls. Everything continued, until one night, when his dad was being particularly nice. Frankie Jr. was just glad to see this “good” side of his dad, and went with him to a garage, no questions asked.

“As I open the door to the garage … all of a sudden it hit me: ‘Oh, no, he set me up; I’m dead.'”

His father put a gun in his face, and Frankie begged his father for his life, blaming his drug problem for his actions. “Something came over him. I don’t know what it was, but that night, I got out of that garage.”

Frankie's First Contact with FBI

Not long after, Frankie Jr. was approached by the FBI—arrested, in fact, along with his father, uncle, and others. His father asked his son to plead out for him, do his time, and they would call it all even. That’s when he truly realized that his father would always love the mob and money more than his own son—and that he had to get away from the mob.

Frankie Jr. got just under five years in prison; Frank Sr. got 12. Frankie Jr. vowed to his father that he would stop doing drugs; Frank Sr. vowed to his son that he would step back from the mob. Frankie held up his end of the bargain; Frank Sr. did not. That is when the idea came: Work with the FBI in exchange for his father staying behind bars for the rest of his life.

He approached the FBI, and before long, he was working with them to betray his father. But, for Frankie, “Operation Family Secrets” was worth it.

To ensure a solid case, he wore a wire and got his dad to open up, incriminating himself over the next four months. The case went to court, and Frank Sr. was sentenced to life + 25 years on Jan. 28, 2009; he is currently appealing his convictions.

“I’m not lookin’ for people to pat me on the back and say you did the right thing; this was a sick situation in life that had to end.”

For his cooperation, he just received a few months off of his own prison sentence.

He still fears for his life, but he felt he had no other choice.

“What were my choices? Was I gonna be a rat? Or, was I gonna be a cold-blooded killer?”


Imprisoned mobster granted relocation delay

A federal judge has agreed to recommend that officials let an admitted New England mobster answer state charges in Rhode Island before he's relocated to federal prison on an unrelated case.

Online court records show the request from Alfred "Chippy" Scivola (skee-VOH'-lah) Jr. was granted Wednesday.

The 71-year-old Scivola sought a 60-day delay before he's relocated to federal prison so he can resolve an unrelated criminal case in Rhode Island state court. He is already imprisoned at a private prison.

Scivola was sentenced this month to three years and 10 months in federal prison for his role in the shakedown of Rhode Island strip clubs.

State prosecutors allege Scivola participated in an illegal gambling ring. A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island attorney general's office says Scivola has not been arraigned.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Minor player in mob case pleads guilty to weapons charges

A minor player in what authorities allege was a multi-million-dollar scam orchestrated by mobster Nicky Scarfo Jr. and his top associate, Salvatore Pelullo, pleaded guilty to a weapons charge Wednesday during a brief hearing in federal court in Camden.
Apparently it was a discussion about some "size 9 shoes" that did him in.
Todd Stark, 43, of Ocean City, N.J., who served as Pelullo's driver, admitted purchasing two boxes of 9mm bullets for Scarfo in December 2007.
As a convicted felon, Scarfo, 46, is prohibited from possessing a gun or ammunition.
At Wednesday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler, Stark admitted that in a wiretapped telephone conversation in December 2007, Pelullo asked him to purchase the ammunition for Scarfo.
"I need two pair of those size 9 shoes," Pelullo said in the call, one of dozens recorded by the FBI during an investigation into the alleged takeover by Scarfo and Pelullo of FirstPlus Financial, a Texas-based mortgage company.
"Absolutely," Stark replied.
Under questioning by Kugler, Stark admitted that Pelullo was speaking in code.
Stark, who has refused to cooperate in the FirstPlus case, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Based on estimated sentencing guidelines, however, his lawyer said Stark could receive a term of 12 to 18 months at his hearing on Oct. 11. In the meantime, Stark remains free on bail.
"Mr. Stark is not the same person he was back in 2007," Michael Engle, his attorney, said after Wednesday's hearing. "He played a limited role in this case, and he's decided to stand up and accept responsibility for what he did. . . . It's a positive step in moving forward with his life."
Stark, who was previously convicted in a Bucks County case involving a stolen credit card, was not charged with the more serious racketeering and fraud allegations that are the basis of the case against Scarfo, Pelullo, and 10 other defendants.
Prosecutors allege that Scarfo and Pelullo secretly took control of FirstPlus in 2007 and siphoned more than $12 million out of the troubled company.
The money flowed through phony business deals and bogus consulting contracts, including purchases by FirstPlus of companies Pelullo and Scarfo set up in Philadelphia and South Jersey, according to a 25-count indictment handed up in November.
Authorities allege that the companies had little or no value, but that a FirstPlus board of directors controlled behind the scenes by Scarfo and Pelullo approved the purchases for several million dollars.
The indictment alleges that Scarfo and Pelullo controlled FirstPlus through fear and intimidation, based on their alleged mob connections.
Scarfo, son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and Pelullo have been held without bail since their arrests in November.
Scarfo's wife, Lisa-Murray Scarfo, several lawyers, an accountant, and the former CEO of FirstPlus are among those charged. All are free on bail. The trial is expected to begin next year.
In addition to fraud and conspiracy charges, Scarfo and Pelullo - who also has prior convictions - face weapons offenses. Neither is legally allowed to own a gun.
Handguns were seized in Pelullo's home and office and at Scarfo's home during raids in May 2008, authorities allege.
Investigators say they also found an "cache of weapons" - including two rifles, a shotgun, two pistols, a revolver, and 2,500 rounds of ammunition - aboard a $750,000 yacht Scarfo and Pelullo allegedly purchased with cash from FirstPlus.
The yacht, which had been docked in Miami, was named Priceless.


Infamous Chicago mobster's diamonds and gold go on auction block

Story Image
For sale: two vintage folding pocket knives, once belonging to a prolific mob killer, with one engraved with the hitman’s initials, FJC.
Opening bid: $235.
Got more to spend?
How about a loose, 8.64 carat diamond the hitman had stashed away?
Opening bid: $133,700.
Those are just two of more than 250 loose diamonds, gold necklaces, gold coins, earrings, pendants, engagement rings, luxury watches and other items that made up the hidden stash of Chicago Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese Sr.
Two years ago, the feds raided Calabrese’s home in Oak Brook.
Agents found heaps of cash, jewelry and guns in a secret compartment, hidden by a family photo in a basement wall.
Now, for the first time, the public will get its first good look at Calabrese’s hidden treasures, gathered from a life of brutality and murder.
Next month, a Texas auction house will sell the items, valued at more than $500,000.
The proceeds, minus the auction house’s commission, will go toward paying the $4.4 million that Calabrese still owes the government in fines and restitution after he was convicted in the historic Family Secrets mob trial.
Calabrese, 75, doesn’t have much use for the stuff these days.
He’s behind bars for life, held under the strictest security possible, at a medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Mo. At the trial, Calabrese was tied to 13 mob murders and even mouthed a threat to kill a federal prosecutor.
Calabrese bragged at trial he made millions on the street and was known among his family for stashing valuables. Despite being behind bars, Calabrese even allegedly persuaded a prison chaplain to help him search for a valuable violin that Calabrese had once hidden at his Wisconsin vacation home. The priest is facing a criminal trial; the violin was never recovered.
It’s not clear where Calabrese got all the jewelry. His former defense attorney, Joseph “The Shark” Lopez, dubbed Calabrese “a collector.”
But it’s known that Calabrese, a brutal loan shark, would accept payment on late juice loans in something other than cash from nervous borrowers.
“They should have paid their debts,” Lopez said.
On sale are items with luxury brand names such as Patek Philippe, Piaget and Baume & Mercier.
And dozens of diamonds, both loose and set in men’s and women’s rings.
“He’s got lots of diamonds,” said Bob Sheehan, owner of the auction firm Gaston & Sheehan, which will hold an online public auction of the items at www.txauction.com, from July 10-24.
This is the second sale of items seized from Calabrese’s home.
Last August, the same auction house, which does many sales for the U.S. Marshals Service, sold more than 100 rare $1,000 and $500 bills that Calabrese had.
Before that sale, Sheehan predicted the auction of old currency could bring in $125,000 to $150,000.
In the end, the auction raked in $245,860, court records show.


Monmouth Man Pleads Guilty to Prison Racketeering Scheme Involving Bloods and Lucchese Crime Family

Mug shots of various members of the Lucchese c...Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a Monmouth County man pleaded guilty today to participating in a scheme in which a state corrections officer, a leader of the Nine Trey Gangster set of the Bloods, and members of the Lucchese organized crime family smuggled drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.

Dwayne Spears, 33, of Neptune, pleaded guilty today to a charge of second-degree racketeering before Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morris County.  Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Spears be sentenced to five years in state prison.  The guilty plea stems from Operation Heat, an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau that led to the arrest and indictment of those involved in the smuggling scheme as well as numerous members of the New York-based Lucchese organized crime family.  As a condition of the plea agreement, Spears must cooperate fully and provide truthful testimony in the ongoing prosecution of the other defendants.

Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Bureau Chief, took the guilty plea.  Spears is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 3.

As a result of Operation Heat, the Division of Criminal Justice indicted two ruling members of the Lucchese crime family and 32 other members and associates, including the alleged current and former top New Jersey capos, Ralph V. Perna and Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., on first-degree charges of racketeering and predicate offenses on May 14, 2010.  The indictment charges that the Lucchese defendants ran a gambling operation that transacted approximately $2.2 billion in wagers on sporting events in 15 months, using a website, toll-free phone numbers, and an offshore wire room, and that they relied on extortion and violence to collect debts.  The charges against most of the defendants are pending, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved Spears’ brother, inmate Edwin B. Spears, 38, and a corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison, Michael T. Bruinton, 48, of Ringoes. It is charged that Edwin Spears, who holds a leadership position as a “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters, formed an alliance in the smuggling operation with Joseph M. Perna, 42, of Wyckoff, a member of the Lucchese crime family, and Michael A. Cetta, 45, of Wyckoff, a Bonnano crime family associate linked to the Lucchese crime family through marriage. Perna and Cetta were also charged in connection with the Lucchese family gambling operations.

In pleading guilty, Dwayne Spears admitted that he received money from Cetta to acquire contraband including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and pre-paid cell phones.  Dwayne Spears admitted he gave the contraband to Bruinton to smuggle into East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge.  The drugs and cell phones were allegedly distributed to inmates who had previously placed orders through Edwin Spears.  Cell phones are prohibited in prison.  It is charged that the purchasers paid by sending money orders or checks to individuals including Francine Hightower, 54, who previously pleaded guilty, and Kristen Gilliam, 29, of Farmingdale, who delivered the proceeds to Cetta to “re-invest” in the smuggling scheme.

The charges against Edwin Spears, Joseph Perna, Cetta and Gilliam remain pending, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Supervising Deputy Attorney General Eliades, Deputy Attorney General Romanyshyn, and Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa-Yfantis have prosecuted the case.  The lead detectives for Operation Heat were Lt. Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole, assisted by Detective Audrey Young, Sgt. Ho Chul Shin, Sgt. Brian Bruton, Detective Mario Estrada, Detective Richard DaSilva, Sgt. Noelle Holl, former Detective John Delesio, former Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney, and Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation. Chief of Detectives Paul Morris directed the investigation.  Many other investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau provided assistance. The New Jersey State Police also assisted in the investigation.


Prosecutor snubs Whitey Bulger's immunity claim

The top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts expressed skepticism Tuesday about mobster James "Whitey" Bulger's claim that the government allowed him to commit crimes because he was an FBI informant.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Bulger's former co-hort, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, who was also an FBI informant, used a similar defense, which was rejected by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Being an informant in a criminal case does not in and of itself immunize you from crimes," Ortiz told reporters during a break at a civil rights symposium.
Ortiz said the appeals court "held that being an informant, in and of itself, and certain representations by law enforcement agents does not provide sufficient or adequate immunity."
Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, is accused of participating in 19 murders beginning in the 1970s, while he was a top-echelon informant for the FBI. Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after he was warned by his former FBI handler that he was about to be indicted.
Now 82, Bulger was apprehended last year in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. Former Boston FBI Agent John Connolly Jr. was convicted of racketeering in 2002 for tipping off a Bulger associate about the upcoming indictment and protecting Bulger from prosecution.
Bulger's lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., said Monday that Bulger should not be prosecuted because he was promised immunity by a "representative of the federal government" for past or future crimes. He said Bulger's indictment "directly violated the immunity agreement that the defendant had bargained for, had relied upon, and had been promised."
Carney would not say who made such a promise to Bulger, but said the agreement was made in the 1970s, when Bulger was recruited by the FBI to become an informant on the rival New England Mafia.
Carney's claims were made in a defense motion asking that U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns recuse himself from presiding at Bulger's trial, saying he expects to call Stearns as a witness on a request to dismiss the charges against Bulger. Stearns was a top prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in the 1980s.

Judge sentences Whitey Bulger's girlfriend to 8 years in prison

A US judge sentenced the girlfriend of reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger to eight years in prison yesterday for her role in helping him evade arrest for 16 years.
Judge Douglas Woodlock also imposed on Catherine Greig a $150,000 fine and ordered her to serve three years of supervised release once she is out of prison.
Rather than face trial Greig (61) pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. Prosecutors had sought 10 years in prison while her attorney had recommended 27 months.
Judge Woodlock told Greig that she had to take responsibility for her own choices made over the many years that Irish-American Mr Bulger was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
"We are all responsible for what we do ... we all make choices," Judge Woodlock said.
Greig, in blue prison jumpsuit, briefly nodded at her twin sister, Margaret McCusker, before being led out of the packed courtroom in downtown Boston.
Outside the courtroom, Ms McCusker said merely that she "loves her sister."


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Feds introduce water bottle as justification for trying mob trial

They’re making a federal case out of it — thanks to a bottle of water.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors entered a bottle of Aquafina water into evidence in the murder and extortion trial of reputed Colombo associate Francis “BF” Guerra yesterday, solely to establish that the feds have jurisdiction.
The bottle was manufactured in Massachusetts, but was being sold at a Staten Island pizzeria that’s at the center of the alleged extortion plot. The pizzeria’s owner had allegedly stolen the secret pizza-sauce recipe of Brooklyn’s L&B Spumoni Gardens. Guerra, whose wife’s family owned Spumoni Gardens, allegedly wanted cash compensation.
The fact that the bottle had crossed state lines is all the feds need to assert that the case involved interstate commerce, and thus claim it for their own.
It’s not the first time that a refreshing beverage has played center stage in a Colombo mob trial. The feds introduced a bottle of Corona beer into evidence in 2009 to assert jurisdiction over three wiseguys accused of beating two men who robbed a mobbed-up Long Island club.

Whitey Bulger plans to argue he has immunity for his past crimes

The attorney for James “Whitey” Bulger said Monday that the former Boston mob boss and one-time FBI informant shouldn’t be prosecuted in 19 murders because the government promised him immunity for past or future crimes.

Attorney J.W. Carney Jr. said he’d soon file a motion to dismiss the charges because “a representative of the federal government” gave Bulger the blanket immunity during the 1970s.

Carney wouldn’t name the person who allegedly gave Bulger immunity, but in a separate court filing Monday said Bulger’s indictment “directly violated the immunity agreement that the defendant had bargained for, had relied upon, and had been promised.”

The sensational allegation came on a busy day for Bulger’s defense, which was granted a four-month delay in Bulger’s trial Monday. And earlier in the day, Carney filed a motion to have the trial judge in the case recused, saying he expected to call him as a witness during his motion to dismiss.

Carney said U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns was a top prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office when Bulger was allegedly committing crimes with impunity during the 1980s. But Carney noted the office never charged Bulger, and cited that as proof of the alleged immunity deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that he said law enforcement officials have since labored to hide from the public. He argued Stearns would now do whatever he could to shield former colleagues.

“Since Judge Stearns was part of the governmental prosecuting agency which did nothing to stop the defendant from committing the criminal acts when they occurred, no reasonable person would believe he can now be impartial,” Carney wrote in a motion for recusal.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the office didn’t have any comment on Carney’s motion or allegations. “The government will respond as appropriate through the court,” she said.

Steve Davis, whose sister Debra was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981, was stunned by Carney’s allegations of an immunity deal.

“A license to kill, according to Mr. Carney. It gets you boiling. ... I don’t even know how to put the thoughts together,” he said. “There had to be some agreement for all the crime he was committing, but I don’t think he had (a) license to kill or murder.”

Bulger, who allegedly ran the notorious Winter Hill gang, was a top-echelon FBI informant who fled Boston in 1995 after being tipped about his coming indictment by John Connolly Jr., his longtime FBI handler. Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., last June after 16 years on the run

Carney had argued the case is so complex, he needed until November 2013 to prepare his defense, including reviewing 320,000 pages of evidence turned over by prosecutors. The evidence was such a mess when it was given to him it was like a “shuffled deck of cards,” Carney argued.

But prosecutors say Carney hasn’t accepted their help and preferred to “wallow in confusion and to complain.” They also said Carney’s problems were his client’s fault, because he remained a fugitive for so long.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler granted Carney’s motion to delay the start of Bulger’s trial from this November until March 4, 2013, calling it a compromise.

“Clearly, the (evidence) remains a problem in this case, because of its volume,” she told Carney. “Clearly, you have a right to review it.”

Prosecutors said they’d call 30 to 50 witnesses at Bulger’s trial, which they estimated could last up to three months.

Tom Donahue, whose father was allegedly killed by Bulger when Bulger was targeting another man, said his biggest concern about the delay granted Monday is that the 82-year-old Bulger won’t live long enough to face justice.

“He’s an old man. I’m worried about him surviving. Time is not on our side,” he said. “But it’s only four months.”


Monday, June 25, 2012

New TV series chronicles the lives of mafia rats

 An actor returns fire in a re-created scene for ‘Mobster Confessions.’
Monday night's discovery is that there’s a downside to being born into a Mafia family.
Say you love your father, for instance, and you decide to follow him into his line of work, which is doing things like killing people.
But then your father picks the wrong side in a mob argument. One day when you’re waiting for him in the barber shop and he never shows up because a couple of his pals have strangled him and buried him on Long Island.
The next time you see him he will have been buried for about nine years.
Okay, that doesn’t happen to everybody in the mob. It did happen to Bill Cutolo Jr., a bright kid, first in his family to go to college, who decided his first job once he graduated would be apprenticing under his father.
“Wild Bill” Cutolo was a good soldier in the Colombo family.
But when Colombo boss Carmine Persico went up the river for a while and a disagreement emerged over who should run things in the meantime, Wild Bill picked the wrong team.
Six years later, in 1999, Wild Bill was invited to a meeting with Carmine’s son and Jackie DeRoss, one of Wild Bill’s closest pals. Wild Bill was best man at Jackie’s wedding.
This time Wild Bill was a dead man.
Which is where “Mobster Confessions” comes in. Billy Jr. was so offended by the rather casual murder of his father that he became a government informant.
Monday’s opening episode is built on his testimony, as the other five shows in this series are built on the testimony of other informants. Okay, other rats.
The episodes will run two a night for the next three Mondays, by the way, so don’t wait too long to catch them.
Billy Jr. says informing was the best way to get revenge for his father’s death. He considered the more traditional path of simply killing Jackie, he says, but figured he had a better shot this way.
He seems to have made the right call, though it came at a price. When he told his family what he’d done and that he was going into the witness protection program, they let him go. Alone.
He hasn’t had contact with them since, he says. But despite the loss of his family and the fact he knows there’s still a bounty on his life, he tells “Mobster Confessions” he would do it again.
First, he says, he avenged his father by getting the bad guys put away for life.
Second, he “broke the cycle,” because he will not lead his own son into the mob life.
That sounds like a good thing.

Colombo Informant sobs on television talking about his murdered father

Have all the boundaries of space and time been exhausted already? I mean, seriously, is there not one measly planet left to discover, not one more giant pronouncement by Stephen Hawking to hawk?
It must be so, because there’s no other reason on Earth that a network as classy as Discovery would dip down to rake up what little bits are left in the muck of old mobster stories.
Tonight, they begin a limited-run (thank God) series, called “Mobster Confessions” that makes you long for the days when a mob turncoat could be hushed up and never heard from again.
FATHER OF THE BRIBE: Wild Bill Cutolo’s (above) son talks.
FATHER OF THE BRIBE: Wild Bill Cutolo’s (above) son talks.
But nooo. Here, we have a half-dozen rats who aren’t caged because they ratted out other idiot mobsters, walked free and got the other ones caged.
Excuse me, but this is the channel that brought us “Life,” the awesome “Planet Earth” and the stupendous “Frozen Planet.” I hope they’re ashamed of themselves.
Now, it’s stooped to mob turncoats telling their tales while crying buckets of tears like spoiled brats?
Whatever happened to pride? What the hell ever happened to omertà for God’s sake.
First up is tonight’s premiere episode featuring crying Bill Cutolo, Jr., who is now in the Witness Protection Program.
Sure, he’s under federal protection, but apparently poor Billy is bored to tears (huge, unstoppable, torrents of tears). Well, either that or he knows that the Mafia is now about as relevant and dangerous as Richard Simmons.
The “confession” takes place with Bill Jr., sitting in the standard, innocuous room that’s half a warehouse and half a prison visiting room. (It’s neither.) He tells us through more tears that despite graduating from junior college, he wanted to join his father in the killing game and so becomes a soldier in the Colombo crime family.
Billy Jr. sobs that he lived the good life getting haircuts and manicures (I swear) until two members of his own crime family, Allie Boy Perscio and Jackie DeRoss, killed “my fathah, a good man. A fair man. My hero.”
Jr. wanted revenge but his dad’s mathematics lesson came back to haunt him every time he went to knock them off.
It goes something like this: “For every guy you put down, two more will die.” Despite declaring, “Three heads ah gonna roll for my fathah” (his math isn’t that good I guess), he turned on the mob and wore a wire. More tears. And it’s all told through this idiot’s recollections along with cheesy reenactments, making “Mobster Confessions” tougher to sit through than going to confession yourself.
Upcoming mob informants include Frank Calabrese Jr., “Big Ron” Previte, Frank Cullotta, Andrew DiDonato and John Veasey.
One thing is for sure: These formerly dangerous guys are more dangerous in witness protection than they ever were on the street. Now, they risk boring the entire country to death.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Rifleman's son says his dad is eager to testify against Whitey Bulger

Since his arrest one year ago today, James “Whitey” Bulger has been winding his way through the judicial system, seeing many familiar faces along the way as he prepares for his long-awaited trial.
But he has at least one significant encounter remaining: When he goes to trial, possibly this fall, he will probably come face to face with his longtime partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty to some of the killings on the pair’s long list of alleged murders and agreeing to testify against him.
Billy St. Croix, one of Flemmi’s sons, said this week that he has reignited a relationship with his father since Bulger’s arrest. St. Croix said his father seems eager to take the stand, in what will perhaps be Boston’s most notorious criminal trial.
“It will be an interesting showdown,” said St. Croix, 51, who said he left organized crime after learning the extent of his father’s wrongdoing, including the killing of his sister.
St. Croix said Flemmi told him he watched one night in 1985 in a house in South Boston as Bulger allegedly strangled St. Croix’s older sister, Deborah Hussey, whom Flemmi had raised as his stepdaughter. Her death is one of the 19 murders Bulger is accused of participating in, according to a federal racketeering indictment that named him and other members of his Winter Hill Gang.
Bulger fled in 1995 after being tipped off by his FBI handler John J. Connolly about an imminent indictment. Flemmi was arrested. He later confessed to 10 murders, with the agreement that he will testify against Bulger.
Bulger’s arrest was very much a spectacle: He has been escorted by gun-toting US marshals by helicopter in Hollywood-like fashion, and court documents have painted an intriguing portrait of his life on the lam.
And his highly anticipated trial, with Flemmi’s testimony, could help answer longstanding questions about their corrupt relationship with the FBI in Boston, a dark time in the agency’s history, which led to Congressional hearings and reforms in the ways the agency works with informants.
Already, Connolly, serving prison sentences for corruption and aiding in a murder related to Bulger, has expressed hope that anything Bulger has told authorities could shed light on the case and vindicate him.
St. Croix said Flemmi — whom he described as a master manipulator, equal in savvy to Bulger — is likely to dispute some of Bulger’s accounts of their crimes, as well as the accounts of their other associates who have testified in previous trials and hearings.
Flemmi, who has testified in civil cases, would not discuss the case at length, St. Croix said, because of the pending trial. He said Flemmi only told him, in his cunning style, “Well you know Billy, it’s a pretty interesting story.”
St. Croix also isn’t sure why his father is eager to testify: Perhaps to spend time out of his jail cell, to see an old friend, or simply to flex his ego, he speculated.
“These guys are cut from the same cloth: They want to go down in infamy,” said St. Croix.
St. Croix is writing a book about his family’s history, he said, including Flemmi’s alleged sexual assaults against his sisters.
Bulger, now 82, is slated to go to trial Nov. 5.
His lead lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., has asked that the trial be postponed at least a year, saying he cannot possibly be ready for the scheduled start date, because of an overwhelming amount of evidence to examine.
Carney also said his ability to discuss the case with Bulger has been complicated by Bulger’s refusal to communicate over the phone or by e-mail. Bulger learned that one of his letters had been turned over to prosecutors, even though it had been marked “attorney-client privilege,” and he does not trust authorities.
Prosecutors said in court documents filed Thursday that the review of Bulger’s mail in that case was “unfortunate” and an “inadvertent and isolated incident.”
They have opposed delaying the trial, saying that the aging Bulger is trying to stall the case and that they are trying to ensure that the families of his victims see justice soon.
But Carney said in court documents that Bulger “is looking forward to his trial.”
“He is physically in good health. Mentally, he is sharp, focused, candid, and effusive, with an excellent memory of events,” Carney said. “His assistance to prepare for trial is essential, especially to dispel the lies advanced by the cooperating witnesses when they thought they would never encounter him again.”
Earlier this month, Bulger’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping him remain a fugitive for 16 years. She pleaded guilty in March, but has not cooperated with authorities.
After brief stays across the country, Bulger and Greig lived in the same rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica for 16 years.
Neighbors said they were friendly but reclusive. Greig, who managed their affairs, interacted more with their neighbors.
Bulger generally kept to himself, but befriended a few people, sometimes buying them gifts.
One of their former neighbors, Catalina Schlank, 89, said in an interview this week that she still cannot believe that Bulger was one of America’s Most Wanted, and that Greig, who helped her with chores, was his accomplice on the lam.
Residents in the apartment complex have begun to put the arrest of their neighbors behind them, she said, but tourists still come by to take pictures of Unit 303, where Bulger and Greig lived.
“It’s not as many as before, but they still come,” she said.
Thomas Foley, a retired State Police colonel who helped build the criminal case against Bulger and recently published a book about it, said he never expected that Bulger would remain in hiding so long.
But, he said, Santa Monica was the type of place he would expect Bulger to choose for a hideout: quiet and oceanside, like Clearwater, Fla. where he once stayed.
Foley also said it was to be expected that Bulger would be reclusive, even nervous, in hiding.
“It was a life of paranoia, the guy lived that kind of life. He was always on guard, always on the lookout,” Foley said. “It’s just a relief to know where he is right now, on everybody’s part.”


Judge refuses to toss out conspiracy charges against Philly mob figures

A federal judge has refused to throw out a racketeering conspiracy charge against reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and 10 codefendants.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno denied a defense motion Friday seeking to have the charge dismissed. The racketeering conspiracy allegation is the principal charge in a 52-count indictment.
Robreno said there was enough evidence to support the government allegations that the conspiracy existed, rejecting the defense argument that the case was built around a series of cobbled-together but unrelated criminal acts. Ligambi and seven top associates are being held without bail pending the trial, scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.
Robreno, who will preside over the trial, ruled on several other procedural motions Friday. Two key motions still pending are the government's request for an anonymous jury and a defense motion seeking to bar the playing over any tapes made by Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli, a North Jersey mob figure who wore a body wire for the FBI for nearly two years. Stefanelli committed suicide earlier this year.