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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Joey Merlino is the Mobster Next Door in Boca Raton

Joseph Merlino steps out onto the iron-railed balcony of his $400,000 townhouse. Bare-chested, ripped and clad in nothing but gray skivvies, he looks more like a former Calvin Klein underwear model than one of the most ruthless mobsters of his time. A year out of prison, Joseph Salvatore "Skinny Joey" Merlino isn't so skinny anymore. But he looks almost as boyish at 50 as at 39, when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for racketeering. Back then, he was a 5-foot-3, 100-pound dapper young don who masterminded the bloody takeover of the Philadelphia mob. Today, he is a two-hour plane ride from the Southwest Philadelphia rowhouse where he grew up to become an underworld icon, both feared and eerily revered in the City of Brotherly Love.
"How'd ya find me?" he asks, his Philadelphia accent unmistakable.
Surely Merlino, who has survived at least a dozen attempts on his life and has been accused and acquitted of ordering the grisly murders of plenty of wise guys, knows the answer to his question: If you really want to, you can find just about anyone.
He grins and says he doesn't want to talk. This is something of a surprise, because Merlino is a mob star who, at least at one time, loved seeing himself in the spotlight so much that he used to ask friends to tape the TV news if there was a chance he would appear.
Once dubbed the "John Gotti of Passyunk Avenue," Merlino is now the ex-Mafioso, supposedly, of Boca's Broken Sound Boulevard, where he lives in a cookie-cutter development still partly under construction off Interstate 95 and Yamato Road.
"I mean no disrespect," he says, in a cliché as fitting as the Frank Sinatra tunes that neighbors say he blares in the middle of the night.
"Don't believe everything you read," he counters when asked about a possible movie deal about his gangster life, or to address evidence suggesting that he is back at the helm of the Philly-South Jersey La Cosa Nostra from his suburban South Florida outpost.
Mobsters have flocked to Florida since the first trees were planted on Palm Island, where Al Capone moved into a mansion in 1928. The state always has been open territory for organized crime, a wise-guy retreat where figures like Meyer Lansky and underlings from just about every crime family have angled for turf - from gambling to extortion to prostitution to money-laundering to running drugs.
Merlino says that he is in the carpet-installing business. The owner of his posh townhouse, Bruce DeLuca, is CEO of U.S. Installation Group, a primary flooring and carpeting subcontractor for Home Depot. Through a spokesperson, DeLuca said that he didn't lease the place to Merlino, doesn't know him and would never have rented the house had he known who would be living there.
The 2,900-square-foot, two-story, Mediterranean-style townhouse sits at the end of a cul-de-sac of former model homes in a community occupied by upper-middle-class, educated people who mostly work day jobs. It has an ornamental cross atop its tower-like roof.
But if Merlino has joined the work force, he isn't installing carpets 9-to-5, according to neighbors. They say he has thrown loud parties, with beefy men and scantily clad women coming and going at all hours. Last Christmas season, somebody threw his fully decorated tree - tinsel, balls and all, from his balcony onto the street.
"They're scary," said one neighbor who asked not to be identified. "We've had the police come several times. It's been very stressful living near them. There is always screaming and fighting."
Boca Raton police said that they have no record of any calls to the address, but if police were summoned because of noise, they wouldn't necessarily write up a report, said spokeswoman Sandra Boonenberg.
The neighbors say that what they find most disturbing are the banging noises in the middle of the night, as if furniture or equipment is being moved about.
"I'm not easily frightened," another neighbor said, when informed that a convicted mobster lived a few doors away. "I don't know who he is, but he does have a lot of visitors."

'Hometown Boy'

Retired Philadelphia Police Sgt. Walt Coughlin, who followed Merlino for much of his 47-year career, said that the former mob boss seemed to like everybody - except those who were out to kill him. His neighbors welcomed him, as he often gave them Christmas trees and offered to help them if they couldn't pay their heating bill.
"There were quite a few murders we thought he did, but there were no witnesses,'' said Coughlin. "Nobody would cooperate with police. They were afraid, and he was a hometown boy."
It's not clear whether Merlino's wife, Deborah Wells Merlino, and his two children are living with him in Boca. Neighbors say they haven't seen any children at the house.
Merlino appears to work out of his home. He named his Wi-Fi connection "Pine Barrens," a reference to the heavily forested area in New Jersey where organized criminals often disposed of bodies. It was the scene of one of the most famous - and frightening - episodes of "The Sopranos."
It would not surprise those who know Merlino if he is still living the "life."
"I can tell you that I would not want to live next door to Joey Merlino," said Stephen LaPenta, a retired Philadelphia police lieutenant who worked undercover as a mob informant, and infiltrated Merlino's inner circle. LaPenta, now retired and living in Florida, said that he still keeps tabs on the flamboyant ringleader.
"The Joey I know was a hard-drinking, womanizing, gambling drug user who would strangle you," he said.
Merlino had ruthless power, as well as panache.
"If Joey sneezed, 20 people would hand him a handkerchief," LaPenta said.

Why Boca?

So, why Boca Raton, a place without real cheesesteaks, Mummers and the Eagles?
Organized-crime experts say that Merlino, one of the many Teflon dons who have beaten multiple murder raps, has a better shot of staying under the radar in Boca. He was high-profile in Philly, with an entourage of pretty women and bodyguards. He was always followed by police and undercover agents.
Richard Mangan, a professor at Florida Atlantic University's School of Criminology, said that Merlino is no stranger to South Florida. At one time, he was part of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo's regime in Philadelphia. Scarfo owned a home in Fort Lauderdale, and Merlino is among those whose photo was taken on Scarfo's boat, the "Casa Blanca," also known as "The Usual Suspects.''
Mangan said it's likely that Merlino has been in charge of the family all along, even from prison.
"The speculation is that yeah, why wouldn't he be running things, especially in this digital age," Mangan said.
According to various media reports, Merlino has talked about getting into the restaurant business. In August, Don Michael Petullo, a former Las Vegas businessman who worked in the casino industry, registered a company, DNS Inc., at Merlino's Boca Raton address. Petullo, who could not be reached for comment, doesn't appear to be in the carpet business.
In February, a confidential FBI memo was leaked by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks that said that Merlino "appears to be restoring and developing significant relationships for a potential South Florida crew," and that he was getting involved in gambling/bookmaking activities.
Then, in May, a detention memo filed by prosecutors referred to a secretly recorded conversation among New Jersey mobsters discussing Merlino's status in the organization as the man in charge who would decide, after his release from prison, which candidates would be initiated into the mob. Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, until then considered the top boss, is recorded as saying that Merlino would "make" the guys he wants. Ligambi is now in prison.

Inviting trouble

A former boss of one of Florida's crime families, now retired, said that Merlino is inviting trouble by moving to Boca.
"I don't know who he thinks he is, but it's stupid, very stupid," said the ex-mobster, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Why Boca? He could go anywhere, Phoenix, even Central Florida." Boca, he said, will only create more police scrutiny of his dealings. "Boca is just too hot for someone like him."
The old-timer said that the brash and brazen Merlino will not be welcomed by the local La Cosa Nostra.
"I guarantee you that there are people out there who won't want him," he said.
New York's five organized-crime syndicates - the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese families - have always considered Florida to be "open," with no family claiming exclusive rights to operate.
But, many of the older bosses have either gone to jail or are dead. In the old days, the guys didn't want to attract attention, but young turks like Merlino enjoy the limelight, said the old boss.
During the time he was in prison, Merlino reportedly spent a lot of time in the gym, bulking up. Meanwhile, the mob was led by Ligambi, although speculation among law enforcement is that Ligambi was actually a figurehead for Merlino.
Merlino, released in 2011, served time in a Boca Raton halfway house before being freed last year.
If he is running the Philadelphia mob, he is likely doing so through associates still living in Philly and South Jersey, according to the confidential FBI memo. Merlino is prohibited from associating with known felons and is still on federally supervised release.
"The word we got is Joey has a benefactor, he has somebody pumping money into him. How else could he get out of prison and move into a $400,000 house and drive a Mercedes?'' LaPenta said. "It's trouble for South Florida in the sense that because Joey is there, others will follow."


Friday, September 28, 2012

Whitey Bulger's girlfriend pays federal fine

Catherine Greig, who spent 16 years on the run with Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, has paid a fine of $150,000, court records show.
Greig, 61, who received an eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to identity theft and other crimes, is now incarcerated in a minimum-security federal women's prison in Minnesota.
Court records reveal she paid the federal government $150,063.44 last Friday, The Boston Globe reported.
As a result of the payment, the government has dropped liens on Greig's bank account -- with a balance of about $115,000 -- and on her sister's house in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, the Boston Herald reported. Greig raised the money for the fine by selling her own house in Quincy.
Greig's lawyers say she is appealing despite her guilty plea. Bulger, 83, is awaiting trial on a long list of crimes, including 19 killings.
The couple were arrested last year in Santa Monica, Calif., where they had been living quietly under assumed names for more than a decade.

Potential strike by Longshoremen would cripple East Coast Economy

Last week, as the Chicago teachers’ strike was puttering out of the news cycle and the National Football League’s lockout of its referees was thundering in, a federal labor mediator announced to little fanfare that the International Longshoremen’s Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance had agreed, “for the good of the country,” to extend the master contract governing dock work from Maine to Texas for 90 days.
The media barely covered the news, but the implications were enormous. If the two sides had failed to reach a deal before the existing contract expired on Sept. 30, the resulting chaos would have touched not only the 20,000-some longshoremen who punch a clock on the East Coast, but thousands of truckers and railroad men, mechanics and warehouse workers, and the many millions of Americans who buy and sell automobiles, home electronics, designer jeans, toothpaste and anything else that’s manufactured on foreign shores. Pretty much everyone.
Three months from now, it could still happen.

The last time the U.S. had a major work stoppage on the docks, when the West Coast longshoremen’s union was locked out amid stalled contract negotiations in 2002, the economic costs were said to reach $2 billion a day. And then there are the political implications. Had the ILA followed through on its strike threat, President Barack Obama would have faced an interesting decision not five weeks from Election Day: allow the work stoppage to drag on an already sluggish economy, or invoke Taft-Hartley to send the longshoremen back to work, provoking the ire of a loyal and powerful constituency.
There are reasons for the lack of attention. In an era when virtually every consumer good is available at the click of a mouse, it’s easy to take for granted the massive enterprise required to move a pair of Nikes from a factory in Vietnam to a stockroom on the Upper West Side. Perhaps as important in explaining the quiet surrounding the issue is that neither side in the negotiations is known to cherish attention. One is a labor union with a history of mob ties dating back to the days when stevedores gaffed stray cargo with steel hooks. The other is a group of mostly faceless institutional investors who have been snapping up terminal operators for the last five or so years.
There’s a famous story about ILA President Harold Daggett. It was the early 1980s, and as the newly elected secretary-treasurer of Local 1804-1, Mr. Daggett had taken it into his head to move the local’s offices closer to the New Jersey waterfront, where his membership worked. The idea went over well with the local president, and with the bank officer who approved a loan for a union hall behind a tangled stretch of rail yard in North Bergen. But not everyone was onboard.
Mr. Daggett was still working out of the old local offices at 403 Greenwich Street when a messenger ferried the young union man to a grocery store in East Harlem. Beyond a pair of steel doors in a windowless storeroom, a Genovese family hitman was waiting, a canvas athletic bag thrown open on the floor.
“You motherfucker,” said the mob tough who awaited him in a dimly lit back room. “Who the fuck are you to take this local away from me?”
At least, that’s the story Mr. Daggett told in federal court in 2005, where he faced charges of conspiracy and extortion.
Daggett told the court: “I said, ‘I’m not taking anything, I’m going closer to the membership,’ and he pulled out a gun and shoved it in my head. I said, ‘Please, don’t do this to me,’ and he cocked back the trigger and he said, ‘I will blow your brains all over the fuckin’ room. I’m going to kill you.’”
Mr. Daggett walked out of the storeroom alive, and he moved his local to North Bergen. But the union’s relationship with the mafia persisted. In 1987, a federal commission reported that the ILA “has been virtually a synonym for organized crime in the labor movement.” In 1999, a federal judge found that Local 1588 in Bayonne was under control of the Genovese crime family; five years later, the same local was placed under court monitorship after investigators discovered that the union’s top officials were kicking back half of their salaries to the mob. In 2010, Nunzio Lagrasso, then vice president of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast district, was charged with extorting tribute payments after longshoremen received their Christmas bonuses.
When approached for comment, the ILA lived up to the ideal posited by Johnny Friendly’s gang in Elia Kazan’s 1954 classic, On the Waterfront, keeping it “D and D,” or deaf and dumb, declining to return emails and phone calls. In past statements, representatives have said that charges against the ILA amount to a governmental effort to take control of the union.
Whatever the truth of that claim, the whiff of organized crime emanating from the harbor didn’t prevent institutional investors from engaging in a dockside turf war of their own. Beginning in 2006, when the soon-to-be-embattled insurer AIG acquired a terminal operator with businesses in Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tampa and Miami, container terminals became hot properties. By the end of the following year, Deutsche Bank and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund had also bought into the Port of New York and New Jersey, and Goldman Sachs had acquired a majority stake in SSA Marine, the biggest terminal operator in the U.S.
Of course, those were the days of the boom economy, when buying into the shipping business seemed like a smart way to get linked to inflation and take advantage of the growth in global trade. As a result, the investment funds paid great multiples on earnings for the terminal operations. When Dubai Ports World took over CSX World Terminals in 2004, it paid 14 times earnings, according to research published by Jean-Paul Rodrigue, a professor of transportation and logistics at Hofstra University. When Deutsche’s RREEF Infrastructure fund bought Maher Terminals in 2007, it paid a multiple of 25.
“Just like there was a real estate bubble, there was also a port real estate bubble,” Mr. Rodrigue told The Observer. “People bought ports at very high rates, so they had very high expectations.”
Then the financial crisis came steaming toward shore. The bottom fell out of the housing market, and workers were laid off in droves. Demand for foreign goods plunged, and container traffic slowed to a crawl. If the institutional investors that bought in at the high end of the market were going to make good on their acquisitions, they’d have to get serious about cutting costs.
“The new players in the shipping business are looking at significantly diminished earnings,” said Chris Ward, the former PANYNJ chief. “It’s gone into a nose dive due to the economy, and people are beginning to ask, ‘How are we going to recover that cost?’ The ILA contract has potential for that.”
Last July, as Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” played over the speakers in the ballroom of the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Fla., Mr. Daggett, a bald bear of a man, appeared on a podium to formally accept the position of ILA president and warn his delegates of the fight to come.
“Investment bankers, pension funds, have invested billions of dollars in our industry,” he said. “And they fully intend to get a return on investment.”
From where Mr. Daggett stood, that meant the new terminal owners would soon be pushing for increased automation on his docks—rail-mounted gantry cranes, which not only move containers off of ships but carry the boxes around the yard, and powerful software that tracks the cargo, allowing truckers to locate their freight with less human assistance.
In case the delegates wondered where Mr. Daggett stood on such innovations, he told them about what he’d seen on a visitto the Port of Rotterdam two decades back: a ship-to-shore crane lifting containers onto railroad cars, smaller cranes at the end of the line lofting containers onto stacks. The entire operation seemed to be run by a handful of computer operators in a glass-enclosed tower.
“There was not one person on that terminal who was there to run that terminal except those men in that tower,” Mr. Daggett said. “If I had a hand grenade, I would have threw it up there.
“It was terrible,” he continued, “I was sick. You gotta believe me, we are against automation in the U.S. on the East Coast and the West Coast.”
The degree to which Mr. Daggett’s explosive imagery should be credited is unclear. Joseph Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, which represents management in negotiations over local contracts, told us that Mr. Daggett has an inclination toward “colorful language.”
“He’s a strong union leader, and he’s interested in protecting the jurisdiction, better benefits and pay,” Mr. Curto said. “He’s doing all of the things that a strong leader does.”
One source suggested that, Mr. Daggett’s public stance notwithstanding, he knows change is inevitable and is intent on making the best of the situation. “If that technology is eliminating jobs, it’s also creating them somewhere down the line,” the source said. “If automation is going to create jobs, that should go under the union’s jurisdiction.”
In the days before container shipping revolutionized global trade, dockworkers performed grueling work for low pay and uncertain hours. Containers changed that, replacing sheer manpower with mechanized cranes, reducing at once the number of hands needed to work a ship.
As the old longshoremen left the docks, the union’s rank-and-file dwindled, but the jobs that remain pay well. The average longshoreman earned $124,000 last year, according to the USMX, while in New York, one-third of ILA members earned more than $208,000. What’s left is a membership that may be better able to withstand a strike—at least economically—than any other. What’s more, the ILA’s role as the gatekeepers of global trade allow the union to exact an economic toll out of proportion to the size of its membership.
“They’re strategically located in the choke-hold position,” noted David Jaffee, a sociologist at the University of North Florida who studies transport workers. “This is the last stronghold of union power in the U.S., or in the supply chain at least.”
In the end, automation wasn’t the issue that brought the ILA to the brink of a work stoppage. In July, USMX CEO James Capo said the sides had reached a tentative agreement on terminal technology. Having given ground on the issue, though, USMX demanded concessions.
In the early days of containerization, the ILA struck a sweetheart deal. Recognizing that the new container cranes would vastly reduce the need for longshoreman labor, the union demanded and won a guarantee that the workers would not lose their jobs to the new machinery. For decades, that meant longshoremen got paid for a set number of hours regardless of whether their labor was required. While the workers who received those early guarantees are gone from the waterfront, the principle remains intact, with pension plans and bonuses funded by royalties based in part on the weight of containers that cross the terminal.
Other rules vary from port to port. To operate a ship-to-shore crane in New York and New Jersey, management is required to employ three crane operators, though only one works the crane at a time. Shop stewards, meanwhile, get paid whenever a member of their craft is on the clock, no matter where the shop steward is or what he’s doing—an arrangement that allowed Ralph Gigante, a relative of former Genovese family boss “Vinny the Chin,” to earn more than $400,000 in 2009, and allows ILA timekeepers to be paid for more than 25 hours in a day.
“The one advance with which the ILA can be credited is the discovery of quantum economics,” said Matt Yates, director of commercial operations for American Stevedoring Inc., which operated a container terminal in Red Hook until last year. “It’s where workers are being paid by different companies at the same time, when they’re at none of the workplaces.”
(Still, as Sopranos capo Christopher Moltisanti once put it, “This no-show shit is hard—deciding what not to wear to work, what not to put in my lunchbox …”)
In August, having compromised on automation earlier in the summer, management insisted that the union give ground on work rules, including pay practices and guaranteed hours in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Mr. Daggett dug in, calling a halt to negotiations and threatening a strike.
On a recent afternoon, The Observer stopped by the Port Newark Container Terminal, owned in part by former AIG subsidiary Highstar Capital. Orange ship-to-shore cranes danced a mechanical ballet, lifting containers off a Moravian vessel called the Jennifer Rickmers and setting them ashore, from where a platoon of $1 million “straddle carriers,” piloted by longshoremen perched in cockpits two stories high, sorted the boxes along the docks.
As we headed toward the cranes, we asked our guide about a pile of scrap metal towering over the terminal. The junk, it turned out, is the biggest export from the Port of New York and New Jersey—that is, if you don’t count empty containers. Waste paper and used clothing are other big exports. “To some degree, we’ve become a colony to the manufacturing nations of the world,” Thomas Wakemen, the deputy director of the Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens Institute for Technology in Hoboken, told us. “The world has changed.”
At the docks, change may need a little longer to take hold. Although the 90-day extension announced last week moved a potential work stoppage past the presidential election, the core issues remain. The ILA must defend its jobs. The terminal operators still need to cut costs.
Shmuel Yahalom, a professor of economics at SUNY Maritime, threw up his hands when asked what the economic impact of a strike would be. “The price tag on a work stoppage is almost too big to determine,” he told us, adding that the East Coast is more densely populated and utilizes more ports than the West Coast. Start with the billions of dollars a day the work stoppage on the West Coast waterfront caused in 2002, and estimate upward.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Deceased Genovese mobster owned legendary Stonewall Inn

Genovese crime family mob boss Matthew Ianniello, a.k.a. Matty the Horse, died on Aug. 15 at his home in Old Westbury, Long Island. He was 92.
Ianniello was born in 1920 in Little Italy. Legend has it, he earned his nickname by knocking down an older, opposing pitcher at a youth baseball game after he threw a pitch in his teammate’s face. “That boy is strong as a horse,” someone said, and a nickname was born.
Ianniello served in the Army in World War II and received a purple heart. He later got hearts racing when, with a business partner in the 1960s and ’70s, he owned clubs and bars for both gay and straight men, as well as topless clubs for straight men. He controlled the sex club and bar business in Times Square and Midtown, and reputedly controlled the Stonewall Inn in 1969 when rioting there sparked by police harassment famously launched the gay rights movement. Because the State Liquor Authority didn’t allow gay bars back then, the mafia had moved in to operate them illegally.
In 1972, Joey Gallo, a.k.a. “Crazy Joey Gallo,” was murdered at Umberto’s restaurant in Little Italy, which was owned by Matty the Horse. However, Ianniello, who was supposedly in the eatery’s kitchen at the time, denied prior knowledge of the hit.
From 1988 to 1995 Ianniello served time in prison on racketeering charges. He later served another two-to-three-year term for racketeering and was released in 2009.
When 6-year-old Etan Patz went missing in Soho in May 1979, Matty the Horse assisted the authorities, putting them in touch with a former employee of his whom they wanted to question.


John Gotti's brother arrested for beating a woman

Richard Vito Gotti with his son, Richard Gotti Jr

Maybe chivalry isn’t dead.
The Dapper Don’s brother Richard V. Gotti beat up a woman at his Pennsylvania home — but then took her to a hospital for treatment.
Gotti, 70, a reputed Gambino crime family mobster, was arrested at the hospital on Sept. 2 and charged with simple assault. He was arraigned and released on his own recognizance
Officials said that Gotti had hit the unidentified woman in the face, neck and arm, and also choked her at his home in Milford.
Sources said Gotti remains a soldier in the Gambino crime family, which was run at one time by his legendary brother, John.
John Gotti died in federal prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence on murder and racketeering charges.
Richard Gotti was convicted of extortion and money laundering and was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. He was released in August 2005.
His son, also named Richard, is in federal prison.
Brother Peter Gotti, who succeeded John as boss, is serving a 25-year sentence.
Another brother, Gene, is also in federal prison.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bronx produce wholesaler with Genovese ties is closed by government

There were several clear tip-offs to investigators that ADJ Wholesale Produce in the Bronx was simply operating with a new name after its license was pulled in February.
The letters “ADJ” on a truck were thinly covered over in white paint, according to court papers, and some employees also still had email addresses that contained “ADJ” in them.
Then there was the huge word “DUTCHIE” – the name of ADJ’s limited liability corporation — still painted inside the wholesaler’s Hunts Point Market offices.
On Tuesday, investigators for the Business Integrity Commission and New York Police Department officers assigned to the agency shut down Jaraq Produce, which never registered its business with the city, seizing its trucks and other equipment.
Attorneys for the commission — which regulates the city’s private trash haulers and wholesale markets with a special interest at rooting out organized crime — had been granted a court order Monday evening after presenting information to a Bronx judge reportedly showing that the business on Ryawa Avenue had been operating illegally since at least June.
“BIC is here to ensure a level playing field for the market businesses we regulate,” Shari Hyman, BIC commissioner, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Today’s action highlights the need for continued oversight to ensure that those who refuse to play by the rules and erode a fair marketplace are held accountable.”
A woman who answered the phone at Jaraq’s Brooklyn warehouse Tuesday declined comment.
According to court papers, Jaraq had been issued three violations over the summer for running an unregistered business. But the company ignored the orders, didn’t apply for a license and continued supplying fruits and vegetables to delicatessens and restaurants across the city.
A hearing is scheduled in Bronx Supreme Court for Thursday to give the company a chance to show why it should be allowed to re-open.
According to its request for a restraining order, commission officials said they have “submitted clear and convincing evidence that the current operators of the subject premises are the successors of the two prior companies.”
Both those companies were barred from doing business because of alleged ties to organize crime.
Investigators made the connection between those other two companies because after C & S Wholesale Produce closed, ADJ began operating in the same warehouse and didn’t change the C & S phone or fax numbers, BIC records show.
BIC has alleged that both those companies were run by 63-year-old John Caggiano of the Bronx. Investigators say they’ve found no evidence that connects Mr. Caggiano with Jaraq. They did, however, take surveillance photographs a car that was regularly parked at the Bronx facility that belonged to a relative of Mr. Caggiano. Mr. Caggiano couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday. The courts papers do not include any direct evidence that connects Mr. Caggiano with Jaraq.
In 2007, BIC denied Mr. Caggiano and his former company, C & S, a license to operate three months after he was charged in an indictment with running an illegal gambling ring at Hunts Point Market.
At the time, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged that Mr. Caggiano was part of a sports betting and “numbers” gambling operation in the market that took in $1 million worth of bets a year. The district attorney said that Mr. Caggiano acted as a “lieutenant” in the ring, which was headed by Ralph Balsamo, who they identified as a member of the Genovese crime family with the moniker of “the Undertaker” because he co-owned a Bronx funeral parlor.
In August 2008, Mr. Caggiano pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption. He served 14 months in prison before being released on parole. BIC officials say that Mr. Caggiano later admitted to his parole officer that he had dissolved C & S and made it into ADJ, letters that correspond to the first letters in the names of his wife and two children.
This February, BIC denied ADJ’s application to renew its license based on the fact that it failed to identify Mr. Caggiano as a principal of the company.
Paul Gentile, a lawyer who represented Mr. Caggiano’s C & S company, said he couldn’t comment because he doesn’t represent him and hadn’t been in contact with Mr. Caggiano recently.


Chicago mobster gets 1 year sentence for federal tax evasion

Rudy Fratto
A judge has sentenced reputed Chicago mobster Rudy Fratto to one year and one day in prison.
Fratto, known as "the Chin," pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion after admitting he failed to pay more than $140,000 in federal taxes from 2001 to 2007.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber could have sentenced Fratto on Wednesday to more than two years.
Evidence included wiretaps where Fratto is heard cursing as he talks about breaking someone's legs. At one point he brags about how "guys" as far away as Cleveland appreciate his influence.
In asking for leniency, the defense cited Fratto's ailing health and remorse.
The Darien man pleaded guilty last year. He must report to prison Jan. 8.


Operation Family Secrets Movie is in the Works

Chicago News and Weather | FOX Chicago News
One of Chicago's most notorious mobsters has a new home. Fox Chicago has learned convicted gangster Frank Calabrese, Sr. has been moved to a federal prison in North Carolina.
Calabrese, Sr. was recently transferred to Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. He is serving life behind bars after his conviction in the historic Family Secrets mob trial of committing more than a dozen murders for the Chicago Outfit. For the last several years Calabrese was held under the highest level of security at a federal prison in Springfield, MO. Despite having virtually no contact with the outside world, Calabrese allegedly convinced a prison chaplain to pass messages to associates in Illinois, in an attempt to recover mob loot worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Frank Calabrese, Jr., who secretly recorded his father for the feds and testified against him during the trial, says it's clear why the Federal Bureau of Prisons moved his dad.
"My father's a hot item, meaning that nobody wants to deal with him, and a lot of time in the Bureau of Prisons, instead of dealing with problem prisoners, they'd rather ship them to another prison," Calabrese, Jr. said.
Calabrese, Jr. wrote a best-selling book about his decision to abandon the mob lifestyle and go against his father. He says that compelling story is now being turned into a movie with some Hollywood heavy hitters.
Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the mob classics "Goodfellas" and "Casino" has signed on to executive produce the Calabrese story. Gary Ross of "The Hunger Games" has agreed to direct the movie. They've also landed Stephen Schiff as screenwriter, who wrote the recent "Wall Street" sequel. The William Morris Endeavor agency is involved, which is headed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's brother Ari. Calabrese says rather than sell the rights to a studio, he wanted to put together an independent team to make the movie so he could retain some control.
"What I was concerned with is not just somebody that wants to make the next shoot 'em up gangster movie. This is about family. This is about the dark side of crime," he said.
Calabrese says nobody has been cast yet, but he's heard several a-list actors are interested in the role of his father, whom he calls a Shakespearian figure.
"The multiple personalities--in the book I explain there was a good side to my dad. There was a great side to my dad. There were multiple sides to my dad. He could walk in a room and win everybody over, and the next minute he could walk in a room and everybody would run for their life."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ailing Gambino captain charged with grand larceny

He’s the kicking capo.
Manhattan prosecutors have charged a reputed Gambino crime-family captain with grand larceny for allegedly extorting $50,000 from a construction-company official — by threatening, punching, slapping and kicking the poor victim until he couldn’t refuse.
The accused Mafia boss, Joseph “Joe the Blond” Giordano, 63, grew up as Gambino royalty. He is nephew to former John Gotti Sr. underboss Joseph “Joe Piney” Armone, and his brother, John “Handsome Jack” Giordano, was Gotti Sr.’s one-time right-hand man.
Joseph Giordano served on the Gambinos’ ruling commission three years ago, according to sources. The ruling panel of three elder capos was initiated after the Dapper Don was locked away for life in 1992.
In the current grand-larceny case, Giordano used his status as a Gambino captain to further intimidate the victim, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said in announcing the indictment.
Giordano, of Deer Park, LI, pleaded not guilty and was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
The reputed mob captain was caught on video extorting his victim through actual and threatened violence, lead prosecutor Eric Seidel, chief of the DA’s rackets bureau, told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro in successfully asking for the high bail.
“This is the most violent way for someone to steal,” the judge said of the allegations.
“The force of the threat must have been really strong for the victim to give him the money.”
The victim’s name was not revealed.
Defense lawyer James Pascarella insisted Giordano was innocent, not involved in organized crime, and in precarious health.
“I take exception to his being called a capo in the Gambino crime family,” Pascarella told the judge. “He does carry an Italian name, but aside from that there is no proof.”
Giordano suffers from the autoimmune disease lupus and a heart condition and has had two recent knee operations, the lawyer said.
He also has a criminal record stretching back through the ’80s and early ’90s, officials said.
As rising young gangsters, the two brothers, “Handsome Jack” and “Joe the Blond,” hung out together at DeRobertis Pasticceria and Caffe in the East Village, allegedly learning the business at the knee of their uncle, Gotti underboss Armone, who used the bakery shop as a headquarters.
Armone was sent to prison in 1988 for racketeering — incriminated in large part by secret wiretaps at the bakery — and “Handsome Jack” would soon be busted for taking over.


The Tale of the Undercover FBI Tapes

Boss of the Bonanno crime family sentenced to 18 months

Acting Bonanno family boss Vincent (Vinny TV) Badalamenti (l.) and reputed Bonanno soldier Vito Balsamo in long-sleeved dress shirt on right.
THE REPUTED BOSS of the Bonanno crime family was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for conspiring with other gangsters to collect a gambling debt.
Vincent "Vinny TV" Badalamenti was caught in the government's web by mob turncoat Hector Pagan, the ex-husband of "Mob Wives" star Renee Graziano.
The reputed crime boss presided over a meeting in a Staten Island diner with Pagan's father-in-law Anthony Graziano — the crime family's former consigliere — and reputed capo Vito Balsamo to settle a dispute over how much a deadbeat would repay them.
Badalamenti, 54, declined to make a statement at the his sentencing in Brooklyn Federal Court. But he did wave and blow kisses to his elderly mother and family members who were sitting in the courtroom.
Chief Judge Carol Amon could have slammed the gangster with up to 27 months in prison, but she gave him some credit for the time he had served for a previous extortion conviction stemming from the same debt.
“The defendant continued to engage in criminal conduct after completing his last sentence,” Amon noted.
She also hit him with a $10,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
“It was a very fair sentence," defense lawyer Ronald Fischetti said, adding that Badalamenti has already been imprisoned for nine months and could get sprung in six months with credit for good behavior.
Balsamo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and Graziano got 19 months for the extortion.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Escaped prisoner with mob ties gets 51 months

An inmate with Mafia ties has been sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for escaping from federal custody while being transferred to a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood handed down 39-year-old Derek Albert Capozzi’s prison term on Monday in federal court in Lexington. The sentence will run consecutively with the 23-year sentence he is serving for possession and use of a firearm during a crime of violence and a 30-year sentence for his role in the 1996 of a potential government witness.
Capozzi, of Boston, pleaded guilty in July. Prosecutors say he kicked out a van door in central Kentucky while U.S. Marshals were transporting him to the airport in Lexington in April 2010. Capozzi had been in Kentucky to testify at a trial.


Jailed NYPD top cop called to testify at Bronx perjury trial

Bernard B. Kerik, the disgraced former police commissioner of New York, will return to the city in the coming days, though certainly not triumphantly, and not yet as a free man.
Mr. Kerik, who is an inmate at a federal prison in Maryland, is scheduled to be taken to the Bronx to testify for the prosecution at the perjury trial of two of his former friends, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, the Bronx district attorney’s office said.
The case against the DiTommasos dates to a 2006 grand jury investigation of Mr. Kerik. The DiTommaso brothers told the grand jury that Interstate Industrial Corporation, their company based in New Jersey, had not paid for renovations to Mr. Kerik’s apartment.
Mr. Kerik himself contradicted that testimony a few months later, when he pleaded guilty to receiving $165,000 in free renovations from “the Interstate companies or a subsidiary.”
The DiTommasos were soon after indicted on perjury charges.
Opening arguments in the DiTommaso trial are scheduled to begin Monday. When Mr. Kerik will testify during the trial, which is expected to last a month, is not yet clear. The trial, in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, will reopen a scandalous period in the city’s history, one that resulted in Mr. Kerik’s spectacular demise as a nominee to lead the federal Department of Homeland Security and damaged the presidential aspirations of his benefactor, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The relationship between the DiTommasos — Frank, 53, and Peter, 51 — and Mr. Kerik, 57, emerged from their desire to overcome the impression among regulators and investigators that their construction company was tied to organized crime, something that they have always denied.
The DiTommasos grew up on Staten Island, where their father had a construction business. Both played football at the University of Massachusetts.
In 1984, while still in their 20s, they started their own construction company and quickly built up a significant business.
In 1996, the brothers bought a dirt-transfer station on Staten Island. The purchase brought them to the attention of investigators because the seller was Edward Garafola, a notorious organized crime figure.
City investigators declined to give them a license to operate the station, and gambling authorities in New Jersey held up their license to work on casino construction projects in Atlantic City.
In 1998, Frank DiTommaso hired Lawrence Ray, who had been the best man at Mr. Kerik’s wedding, to help him deal with regulators looking at his company’s possible mob ties.
Mr. Kerik vouched for Mr. Ray’s integrity and suitability for the task, Mr. DiTommaso has said.
Interstate also hired Mr. Kerik’s brother. And Mr. Kerik forged his own friendship with Frank DiTommaso, whom he invited to a private Christmas party at Correction Department headquarters.
“When I would be in the city I would call him, see if he was in, stop by,” Frank DiTommaso once told investigators. “I liked Bernie. I thought he was a pretty interesting guy. Still do.”
In July 1999, Mr. Kerik met with Mayor Giuliani’s cousin Raymond V. Casey — who headed the city department investigating the DiTommasos — at a downtown Manhattan restaurant, where Mr. Kerik defended Interstate’s integrity.
It was about that time that the renovation work on Mr. Kerik’s apartment began.
The relationship with Mr. Kerik’s best man, Mr. Ray, served only to deepen suspicions that the DiTommasos were too close to organized crime figures.
In 2000, Mr. Ray and 18 others were indicted in federal court in Brooklyn in what prosecutors described as a $40 million pump-and-dump stock-fraud scheme run by the mob.
At the center of that case was Mr. Garafola, the same organized crime figure who had sold the transfer station to the DiTommasos.
By then, the renovations on the Bronx apartment, including a marble foyer, new kitchen and whirlpool tub in the master suite, were complete.
That summer, Mr. Giuliani appointed Mr. Kerik as the city’s police commissioner, a role that on Sept. 11, 2001, would thrust Mr. Kerik into the national spotlight and allow him to form the bond with President George W. Bush that led to his nomination as secretary of homeland security.
After avoiding state jail time by pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in the Bronx in 2006, Mr. Kerik faced federal charges stemming in part from the renovations and his associations with the DiTommasos.
He pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight federal crimes, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials when he was being vetted for the homeland security position.
Mr. Kerik was sentenced to 48 months in prison. He is scheduled to be released in October 2013.
The perjury trial against the DiTommasos had been delayed for six years pending the outcome of Mr. Kerik’s appeals, which failed.
Calls and e-mails to lawyers who have represented the DiTommasos in the case were not returned. If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.


Former FBI agent speaks about infiltrating the Gambino family at Vegas mob museum

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas, Nevada commenced its Speaker’s Series on Wednesday night with renowned undercover FBI agent, Mr. Joaquín “Jack” García. The Executive Director of the Mob Museum, Mr. Jonathon Ullman, was on hand to introduce the series and the legendary Mob icon to the sold out crowd. The idea of the series is to hear eye witness accounts from individuals who had relationships with Organized Crime and to go ‘behind’ the story. Mr. García led over 100 operations with the FBI in a 24 year period. In his most famous operation, he went undercover as the persona Mr. Jack Falcone where he was able to infiltrate the Gambino crime family that led to the eventual arrest of over 30 individuals.
Mr. García was born in Havana, Cuba in 1952. His family opted to move to the United States as political refugees when he was nine years old. He grew up in the Bronx, New York and received football scholarships and graduated from the University of Richmond. Inspired by the movie Serpico, a 1973 American crime film starring Al Pacino about a police officer who refuses to take bribes, Mr. García applied to work for the FBI. After becoming an American citizen, he was accepted to the FBI in 1980. He was sent to Quantico, Virginia to attend training and was the second person of Cuban origin to graduate from the FBI Academy.
Mr. García’s first crime syndicate setting was in Newark, New Jersey. He posed as a bookie and money launderer. Through the years, Mr. García worked in a myriad of fields but was especially talented in the narcotics division. He was able to collude with various organized crime syndicates from Central and South America, Russia and Asia during his lifetime. He ran several different operations often simultaneously involving multiple identities with various crime consortiums, never once making a fatal error. Not only was he able to conduct multiple scenarios at once but also the sheer number of operations that he conducted in his tenure is a testament to Mr. García’s ingenuity. His bilingual ability and street smarts allowed him to be trusted by bad guys though he never wavered in his honest convictions. During his lecture, he gave a graphic portrayal of mules, individuals used to smuggle drugs across borders and their often unsightly demises which all too often end in death. His talk gave an in depth look of the life of an alias. Mr. García’s undercover FBI work and famous operation is set to be made into an upcoming feature film.


Government accidentally erased videotaped Colombo induction ceremony

 Metropolitan Detention Center for Marzulli story.
FEDERAL prosecutors would show a bombshell video of a mobster becoming a made man behind bars, but there’s one problem — a prison official erased the tape!
The feds claim that Ilario "Fat Larry" Sessa was inducted into the Colombo crime family at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn by then-acting boss Andrew "Mush" Russo after more than 100 gangsters were rounded up by the feds in January 2011.
Mob rat Reynold Maragni provided the account, though said he was not present for the ceremony, a source said.
Sessa’s lawyer demanded the government back up its talk by handing over surveillance tapes from the high-security facility, which is wired for pictures wall-to-wall.
Under pressure to respond to Sessa’s lawyer’s denials, the feds have been forced to admit that they don’t actually have the Jan.` 21 footage, which they claim would show the ultimate mob ceremony.
An FBI agent said he saw the video, which showed “several defendants . . . variously entering and exiting Andrew Russo’s cell,” according to papers.
The agent requested a DVD copy of the tape, but a prison staffer “failed to properly burn the video.” So the agent contacted the prison for a new copy, but was told that the original tape had been overwritten, prosecutors stated.
Defense lawyer Vincent Romano has maintained the snitch’s claim is bogus. “I’m not surprised the government erased the tape of a so-called event that never happened in the first place,” the lawyer told the Daily News.
Romano also asked for a list of all the alleged mobsters who supposedly attended the blessed event — but prosecutors said they would not provide the list.
There seems to be little question about Sessa’s connection to the mob, given that he is expected to plead guilty soon in Brooklyn Federal Court. But the question of whether he is a “made” man or just a soldier is central because prosecutors are expected to argue at sentencing that a high-ranking member of the mob should get more jail time than a mere criminal associate.
Footage of a mob induction ceremony is considered the holy grail of Mafia buffs.
In the ceremony, a mobster holds a gun and swears allegiance to the crime family as his finger is pricked with a knife and the blood smeared on the picture of a saint. The picture is then set on fire and the wiseguy warned that he will burn in hell like the picture if he ever violates the oath of secrecy, or omerta.
In the alleged Metropolitian Detention Center ceremony, a prop would have had to replace a gun.
There is an audiotape of a ceremony secretly recorded among members of the Patriarca crime family of New England, but there are no known videos of such a ceremony.

Montreal mobsters involved in New York mafia disputes

Montreal mobsters were so close to New York's Bonanno crime family that they testified in internal mediation meetings, an inquiry heard Monday.
The ties between the Mafia on both sides of the border were illustrated by Joe Pistone, a.k.a. Donnie Brasco, a former FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family from 1976 to 1981.
He penetrated more deeply into the underworld than any FBI agent in history and his information helped to put more than 100 mobsters behind bars.
Sitting behind a barricade that shielded him from cameras at the organized-crime commission, Pistone recalled one meeting involving the Montreal Mob in which his own life hung in the balance.
He said "the Canadians" had come to New York to testify against him during a meeting after he had been accused of stealing $250,000 from the Bonannos.
Bonanno solder Anthony Mirra had made up the story out of jealousy over Pistone alter-ego Donnie Brasco's close relationship with family captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, the agent said.
A close gangster friend told him Mirra called for false witnesses from north of the border.
"(He) told me 'Donnie, (Mirra) wants this so bad he even brought our people from Canada to this sit down,'" Pistone said, adding that any mobster found guilty of stealing from the family was doomed.
"If Sonny Black loses that sit-down (meeting), I'm dead," the former agent continued. "There's no appeal system. They come out, 'Alright Donnie, let's go for a ride,' and they kill you."
He didn't identify the Montreal mobsters, but the Cotroni crime family ran Mafia operations in Quebec until 1980, when the Rizzutos took over following a bloody coup.
Pistone said he escaped the pivotal sit-down meeting by the skin of his teeth when a mediator sided with him and his boss.
He said the episode was proof the Canadian Mob exerted influence in New York.
"Why they would bring someone from Montreal down to lie for Tony Mirra?" Pistone asked. "So it had to be a close relationship."
The agent worked under Bonanno captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, who trusted him so much that he recommended Brasco become a "made man," a full-fledged member of the Mob.
But as a test, Napolitano ordered Brasco to murder the son of a rogue gangster who worked with three rival capos marked for death by the Bonannos in 1981.
Pistone wasn't able to find his target and the FBI pulled him out of the Mob in July 1981 before he could be made a full Mafia member.
Napolitano was able to carry out the murders of his three rivals in May 1981, and one of the men on the hit squad was Montreal Bonanno associate Vito Rizzuto, who later became the head of the Montreal Mafia.
Rizzuto is currently wrapping up a 10-year prison term for his part in the murders of the three capos.
Pistone testified behind a shield on Monday because the Mafia still has a price on his head. A number of police officers were stationed inside and outside the commission's downtown headquarters.

"You leave your badge and gun in the office. Your whole existence is dealing with the bad guys or attempting to infiltrate the bad guys."
"In a long-term, deep-cover situation, you have to know your enemy. You have to know everything about your enemy. It will keep you alive if you know who you're dealing with."
"We go into the club, we go into the back room, they lock the door, one of the guys takes out his gun, puts it on the desk and says to me: 'Donnie, if you don't answer my questions and convince me that you are who you say you are, the only way you're going out of this room is rolled up in that rug.'"
"Sworn allegiance is to the Mafia family, then your regular family, then the church and then country. Your first allegiance is to the (Mob) family."
"When your boss gives you a contract to kill somebody, you have to accept it. It's your responsibility to make sure that that person gets killed. If you do refuse it, and nobody will, then you get killed."
"(A mobster told me) 'you can lie, you can steal, you can cheat, it's all legitimate.' In our world is that legitimate? But in their world, it's legitimate. They function according to their own set of rules."
"Some rules will get you killed and some rules won't get you killed."
"There's a lot of envy and jealousy in the (Mafia) society. Not that different from Wall Street, except Wall Street don't kill you."
"If your mother is dying in the hospital and your capo asks you to do something, what are you going to do? You go with your capo."
"That's why the Mafia has stayed around so long. If you're caught breaking one of these rules, you're going to die."
"It's important to keep the pressure on (the Mafia). Through movies and television the public has an image of an honourable society. The Mafia is not honourable. They're like an octopus, they just keep growing."
"Any product that the mafia has their hands in, the public ultimately pays for. They cannot operate without corruption. Who do they corrupt? They corrupt public officials, they corrupt businessmen, they corrupt politicians. Without that corruption, they really cannot operate. Once the public realizes that, it lessens the impact that the Mafia has on all of us."
"Most of the public, they have this romantic view of the Mafia and they see the movies and they see guys sitting around, wearing $5,000 suits, talking elegantly. Believe me, it's not like that. It's 'kill that so and so.'"
"This is not the movies and this is not the way these guys really are. This is real life. They are a dangerous plague on our society."


Genovese mobster to be sentenced next month for racketeering

Convicted Genovese crime family gangster Emilio Fusco has failed in an effort to all but clear the decks on a split verdict rendered in May after a three-week trial in federal court in New York City.
Fusco, 43, dodged two murder convictions – the 2003 gangland murders in Western Massachusetts of Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno”; and lower-level associate Gary D. Westerman – but was found guilty of other charges, including racketeering, extortion and marijuana distribution conspiracies and interstate travel in aid of racketeering.
While escaping murder convictions was a major coup for Fusco, particularly in a legal district that routinely racks up guilty verdicts, Fusco still faces a maximum of 45 years in prison at his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Oct. 10.
The judge issued his ruling on Sept. 17.
Fusco’s was the second case to go to trial as a result of the intense investigation into the Bruno and Westerman murders. Witnesses at two federal court trials attributed the pair’s gruesome deaths to a power play by a group of young upstarts in the organized crime regional rackets, intent on wresting power from the old guard which included Bruno.
Bruno was gunned down by a paid hitman in the parking lot of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society on Main Street in the South End neighborhood on Nov. 23, 2003 as he left a weekly card game; Westerman, 48, had disappeared three weeks earlier.
Key witnesses at a 2011 trial, including two so-called “made men” in the Genovese family from this region, testified that a plot to kill Bruno simmered when his underlings suspected him a weak leader and a U.S. Justice Department document outed him as chatting up an FBI agent. Westerman was a longtime rival of those in the inner circle of Anthony J. Arillotta, Bruno’s surreptitious successor.
As a government witness Arillotta testified that he was “made,” or sanctioned as a protected member of the Mafia, by then-boss Arthur “Artie” Nigro, of the Bronx, N.Y., in a secret ceremony in 2003. He testified he was made to strip his clothes and pledge his allegiance to the “family.” Arillotta also testified that he told few people of his new status when he returned to Greater Springfield.
Arillotta broke the Mafia pledge when he entered the U.S. Witness Protection Program after his arrest in 2010 and testified against his former cohorts in two trials.
Onetime associates Fotios “Freddy” and Ty Geas, once of West Springfield, were convicted of murder in 2011, along with Nigro. Fusco, who had fled to his native Italy during the investigation, was tried a year later after being apprehended in a small village in southern Italy later that year.
During Fusco’s trial, Arillotta testified that he and Fusco spearheaded Bruno’s murder plot and they participated directly with the Geases in shooting and bludgeoning Westerman to death before burying his body in a wooded lot in Agawam.
“We ‘salud’ed’ (Italian toast) with cognac.” Arillotta testified in mid-April at Fusco’s trial. “It was like a gesture that we had just accomplished something. We were like brothers.”
While jurors sent the Geases and Nigro away for life, a separate panel cleared Fusco of the murder charges, and defense lawyer Richard B. Lind filed a motion to vacate the remaining convictions but for the racketeering conspiracy charge. Lind argued the evidence was insufficient and inconsistent with the acquittals. However, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel said Fusco’s jury met the standard of reasonable doubt.
“He did not want to send any of the money down to New York,” Castel quoted from Arillotta’s testimony at the Fusco trial. “He wanted to keep all the money in Springfield.”
Arillotta told jurors about a strand where to two were serving adjacent prison sentences for separate criminal charges and trying to keep a lid on their profits, sending emissaries to separate prisons to discuss meting out the spoils.
Also scheduled for sentencing are cooperating witnesses Felix Tranghese, of East Longmeadow, and John Bologna, of New York, an FBI informant who ultimately admitted participating in Bruno’s murder plot. It is unclear if he was an active informant at that time. 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Godfather of Montreal is relocating to Toronto?

When Vito Rizzuto re-emerges next month from the U.S. prison cell where he has been incarcerated for the past five years, he will have many graves to visit at home in Canada.
While behind bars in Colorado for his role in the slaying of three American Mafia leaders, Rizzuto — described in court documents as the “Godfather of the Montreal Mafia” — lost his son, father, a brother-in-law and a close family friend in a series of gangland slayings that rocked this city’s underworld.
Now, veteran organized crime investigators are raising intriguing possibilities: Vito Rizzuto, 66, is considering the GTA as his new home base, where he may choose between revenge and rebuilding his shaken empire.
“Toronto is where he can find strength and calm,” one senior Quebec police official told a team from the Star and the Radio-Canada program Enquête that is investigating the underworld.
For some time now, Rizzuto’s $1.5-million home in a northeast Montreal suburb — described in real-estate listings as a “luxurious property” with five bedrooms and a marble foyer — has been up for sale on an upscale street nicknamed “Mafia Row.”
Montreal police have told their Toronto colleagues that, according their Mob sources, Rizzuto might be contemplating a move to Ontario — right in the heartland of some of his rivals.
“Wow, that’s gutsy,” was the reaction of one veteran Mafia investigator in the province. “But he’s is no stranger to Ontario.”
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rizzuto felt comfortable in the Toronto area, where his businesses included investment in a restaurant and nightclub, Bay Street stock trading and garbage disposal.
He visited Ontario often, frequenting his favourite hotels and a golf course in the Vaughan area.
His wife’s family also live in the region.
Some Montreal cops think it would be “suicidal” for Rizzuto to head into the lion’s den of Ontario.
Rizzuto’s Sicilian branch of the Mafia in Montreal has had a tense history of enmity and alliance with the ’Ndrangheta, the Mafia clan based in the Calabrian region of Italy that has established a strong foothold in the GTA.
On Wednesday, the Star reported that the RCMP has raised the ’Ndrangheta in Ontario to a “Tier 1” national threat.
Another organized crime investigator said Rizzuto might even try to find temporary refuge in Venezuela (where his father fled briefly during the Montreal Mafia wars of the 1970s and was later imprisoned).
But everyone agrees: don’t count him out.
“It’s too early to write the obituary of Vito Rizzuto,” said Antonio Nicaso, the Toronto-based Mafia expert who has written more than 20 books on the Mob. “It’s not over.”
Regardless of where he eventually settles, Rizzuto will have the tough task of restoring order to his operations in Montreal, under unprecedented attack in recent years by rival criminals and damaging police probes.
Once known as the “Teflon Don” for his ability to stay out of jail — he twice avoided conviction on drug importing charges in the 1980s —Rizzuto’s luck ran out in 2004 when he was arrested for his role in the New York murders dating back to the 1980s (an execution-style hit dramatically if not very accurately retold in the Hollywood Mafia flick, Donnie Brasco.)
By August 2006, he was extradited to the United States, where he eventually pleaded guilty to racketeering charges related to the murders and received a 10-year sentence.
Within months, the empire he left behind suffered its first major setback when the RCMP and other police agencies arrested more than 90 people in a major money-laundering probe called Project Colisée. Vito father’s and his brother-in-law were among the many who by 2008 pleaded guilty to gangsterism charges, including possession of the proceeds of crime.
The arrests, jailings and the embarrassing revelations through wiretaps and surveillance of the inner workings of the Mafia seriously weakened the Rizzutos in the eyes of the criminal world in Canada and the U.S.
Montreal — with its port that has long been heavily infiltrated by organized crime — is crucial to the drug pipeline that feeds the New York Mafia and the lucrative American market.
“The Ontario ’Ndrangheta is looking for control of the Montreal port,” said Nicaso. “They don’t care who is controlling the streets. What they want is the port.”
According to one Toronto Police intelligence report obtained by the Star and Radio-Canada, there was a general belief among law enforcement that with Rizzuto out of the picture, “the Calabrians are overpowering the Sicilians for power in the drug trade in Montreal.”
By 2009, the bodies of Rizzuto’s family members started falling.
In December, his son Nick, 42, was gunned down on a west-end street. Police sources say the younger Rizzuto was trying to shake down a local businessman involved in construction.
By 2010, Rizzuto faced a wider and more serious assault on his power, this time from within the Mafia.
In May, his brother-in-law, Paulo Renda, vanished in an apparent abduction.
Then in November 2010, Vito’s father Nicolo was killed with a sniper’s bullet through the patio window of his home on “Mafia Row.”
The man many suspect was behind the power grab against the Rizzutos, if not the killings, was Salvatore “The Bambino Boss” Montagna, a Montreal-born gangster who rose to prominence in the New York mob but was deported to Canada in 2009 in an FBI crackdown.
Though a Sicilian, he reportedly made several trips to Toronto and Hamilton, apparently to get the support and blessing from Calabrian ’Ndrangheta leaders eager to get rid of the Rizzutos.
Montagna’s alleged move against the Rizzutos promised the Ontario mob players a return to the glory days of the 1960s and ’70s when Calabrians like Paolo Violi ran the Montreal Mafia scene.
The Rizzutos had wrested control away from the ’Ndrangheta by the 1980s, in a bloody mob war that saw close to two dozen murders in Montreal and Italy.
But Montagna’s bid for power did not last long. In late 2011, his bullet-riddled body turned up in a river outside of Montreal.
In the complicated crime chessboard that is the Canadian Mafia, Rizzuto had always been shrewd enough to build alliances with the GTA-based underworld.
The close ties between the Sicilian and Calabrian mob families were in evidence at a 50th wedding anniversary in Vaughan in February 2011 attended by so many figures of “traditional organized crime” — the polite police term for the Mafia — that the Toronto Police conducted extensive video surveillance.
The surveillance report on the event concluded that, “the mix of both Sicilian and Calabrian guests at this event would appear to show there is no animosity between the two groups in the GTA.”
“It would be more plausible to believe the two factions are working together in the GTA to possibly share control of Montreal,” the report said.