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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Genovese captain found not guilty on extortion and conspiracy charges

Alleged Genovese family captain Anthony "Rom" Romanello of Franklin Square was acquitted on extortion and conspiracy charges by a jury in Brooklyn federal court on Friday after one dissenting juror was dismissed.

Romanello, 76, was accused of presiding at a mob sit down with Bonanno family bosses to resolve a dispute over a $30,000 debt. The defense argued that his mere presence wasn't enough to make him part of the conspiracy, and he never took any steps to enforce the order to repay the debt.

When the jury first came into the courtroom to read its verdict, one juror said she didn't agree, stunning Romanello and his defense team. After 2-1/2 hours of additional deliberation, the jury's forewoman sent out a note raising questions about the competence of the dissenting juror.

U.S. District Judge Carol Amon, after some brief questioning, decided to remove the dissenter and take a verdict from a jury of 11. The government did not object.


Video poker machines and the Philadelphia mob

A South Philadelphia video poker machine vendor reluctantly offered jurors a look at the finances of the illegal gambling business Friday when he put a dollar figure on his 10-year run as a distributor.

Curt Arbitman, testifying in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants said when he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors he was forced to forfeit $600,000.

The money, he said, was an estimate of his take from a distribution network that he controlled from about 2000 until his arrest in September 2009.

His income, he told the jury, was based on a profit-sharing arrangement he had with the owners of the stops -- bars, restaurants and social clubs -- where his machines were placed. He said he worked a 75/25 split, meaning the stop owner got 75 percent of the take and he got 25 percent.
In effect, the buisness generated $2.4 million over that 10-year period.
Arbitman is expected back on the stand when the trial enters its seventh week of testimony on Tuesday. Prosecutors are now focusing on allegations that Ligambi, 73, and his two top associates and co-defendants, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 62, and Anthony Staino, 54, were major players in the poker machine business during the same period Arbitman was involved.

During Friday's court session, the jury heard dozens of wiretapped conversations in which Staino and Arbitman discussed maintenance and distribution issues. Arbitman acknowledged that he never charged Staino for any of the time he spent serving Staino's machines, although he said Staino would re-imbursed him for the cost of parts.

While he never clearly stated why he agreed to that arrangement, prosecutors have implied that Arbitman did so to curry favor with the mob and to avoid being muscled out of the business.
Friday's testimony ended with Arbitman being questioned about what he knew about the Philadelphia crime family.

A native of South Philadelphia, he said, "You grow up there and you just, you know it."
Often stumbling and given to one-word answers and long pauses, the 55-year-old businessman did not appear comfortable on the witness stand. He referred to Staino as a "friend" and said he also knew Massimino and several other alleged mob figures, including Ligambi.

On several occasions he appeared confused or stumbled over references and comments in his own secretly recorded conversations picked up on wiretaps that had been placed on Staino's phone.

Dressed in a biege, v-neck sweater and dark slacks with a thin silver chain around his neck and two small, hooped silver earrings in his left earlobe, Arbitman spent nearly six hours on the witness stand Friday. With black, horn-rimmed glasses that sat on the bridge of his nose, he sometimes struggled to read from transcripts of the wiretaped conversations as he described a buisness relationship that stretched from the late 1990s through 2009 when the last of several raids occurred in which poker machines were seized.

In September 2009 he was targeted by state investigators who raided the gargage-warehouse he maintained in the 800 block of Mountain Street in South Philadelphia. Shortly after that raid, he cut his deal and agreed to cooperate, pleading guilty to the same racketeering conspiracy charge that Ligambi and the others face.

Both in the taped conversations and from the witness stand, Arbitman said the video poker machine buisness has been on the decline for more than a decade. And ironically, he told Staino in one conversation recorded in August 2009, when the business was booming there was less interference from law enforcement.

"Back in the day, when everybody was makin' money...they never got bothered, ever," he said.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, Arbitman was asked to break down his $600,000 profit figure for the jury. He said on average he was making about $125-per-week on each machine he had in play in 2001. By 2009, he estimated, he was making half that amount per machine.

While Arbitman was not asked how many machines he had on the street, the prosecution is expected to present evidence indicating that Ligambi, Staino and Massimino were generating even more income, in part by using threats of mob violence to force their way into other operators' businesses.

The tapes played for the jury also offered a look at the mundane business of maintaining poker machines and the sometimes cryptic or coded discussions aimed at disgusing the fact that this was an illegal gambling business.

The owner of a coffee shop on Passyunk Avenue, for example, called frequently to Staino to complain when his machines were not functioning. But he referred in those conversations to the "espresso machine."

The shop owner was identified on the transcripts as Pasquale and was referred to several times by Staino in conversations with Arbitiman as "the greaser" (a clearly politically incorrect term designating a recently arrived Italian immigrant).

In a phone call recorded in March 2001, Pasquale in broken English told Staino, "My espresso machine no work too good...Every time I put coffee in, it send it right back to me."

Arbitman, who was sent on several service calls to the shop, said this was a reference to the bill acceptor on the gambling unit rejecting money and spitting it back out.

On another tape, Staino mistakenly thought that Pasquale was again complaining about a problem with the machines when in fact he was informing him that his shop, which had been raided a few months earlier, had been hit again, this time by the FBI.

"They took the coffee machines," Pasquale said on a tape from April 2001. And after some confusion on Staino's part, Pasquale added, "They did the same thing as before. They took'em again...The FBI this time."


Chicago mob linked to airport deal

The owner of a company that recently won a $99.4 million janitorial contract from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration was the longtime business partner of a man accused of involvement in organized crime.
United Maintenance Co. Inc., owned by Richard Simon, was chosen last month to clean O’Hare International Airport for five years starting on Dec. 15.
Simon was involved in another company with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr. from 1998 until that firm was officially disbanded on Dec. 17, 2011, according to state records.
The company managed jointly by Simon and Daddano was based in the same South Loop building where United Maintenance has its offices, the records show.
In 2004, Attorney General Lisa Madigan described Daddano and three other family members as “reputed members of organized crime” as she opposed Rosemont’s bid to open a casino.
And in a “Chicago Outfit Organizational Chart” published in 1997, the Chicago Crime Commission listed Daddano among the “members and associates” of the mob’s North Side crew.
An Emanuel administration spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times late Thursday, “The city has no reason to believe that there is any wrongdoing with United Maintenance or its owner. However, if material issues arise, the city would take appropriate action to protect its interests.”
In a statement from Simon’s company, the janitorial firm said “at no time was anyone at United aware of allegations” against any of its business partners. The statement from United Maintenance also said Simon’s collaboration with Daddano involved leasing “certain heavy equipment” at convention centers and ended about five years ago.
Daddano is the son of the late mobster William “Potatoes” Daddano. Reached on his cell phone Thursday evening, Daddano hung up on a Sun-Times reporter.
The O’Hare janitorial deal has drawn heavy criticism from organized labor, with about 300 union workers facing layoffs as a result of the new contract with United Maintenance. They say they are being undercut by a company that will pay lower wages and offer its employees fewer benefits than they get.
The custodians have been ordered to report to 1685 N. Throop at 9 a.m. Friday and told to bring their badges and any other city property with them. Until receiving an email about the meeting overnight, the custodians thought they had until Dec. 14 before being laid off.
In an effort to save their jobs, janitors and window washers marched outside the Ravenswood home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel on his 53rd birthday Thursday evening carrying candles, a cake and singing. About 70 janitors sang “Happy Birthday” in Spanish, Polish and English before blowing out 53 candles and making a wish: that Emanuel would let them keep their jobs.
Laura Garza, secretary/treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Local 1, called on Madigan to investigate United Maintenance.
“Those are right now middle-class jobs where people can feed their families, and they are going to be entry-level, poverty jobs,” Garza said.
But officials for United Maintenance, whose workers are not unionized, say they will hire some of the existing workforce and offer them the prevailing wage and better benefits. They also noted that the contractor they are replacing — Scrub Inc. — was fined $3 million for refusing to hire African Americans as O’Hare janitors.
The United Neighborhood Organization, a Latino community group that runs one of the city’s largest charter school networks, recently held two job fairs to help recruit new O’Hare janitors for United Maintenance.
UNO’s janitorial service was listed by United Maintenance as an “anticipated” sub-contractor on the O’Hare deal — an arrangement that could have been worth almost $5 million, according to city records.
But UNO chief executive Juan Rangel told the Sun-Times his janitorial firm does not have a deal with United Maintenance and hopes only to conduct “outreach” efforts to help the new city contractor find workers. Rangel said he believed black ministers also had been drafted to aid in the hiring campaign.
“We had several hundred people come to each event,” said Rangel, Emanuel’s campaign co-chairman for the 2011 election.
At Thursday’s protest at the mayor’s house, some marchers wore stickers with Emanuel’s face and the words “Job Killer.”
The mayor did not appear to be home. His house was dark, save for the light on the front porch, which shined on two pumpkins.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mob boss calls government's case bullshit

Mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi is apparently less than impressed with the government's evidence against him
"This case is all bullshit," Ligambi said Thursday to several friends and family members who were seated in the second row of the courtroom.
Ligambi's comment came during a break and with the jury out of the courtroom. But his assessment, while not in legal terms, has been repeated privately by defense attorneys as the government continues to offer evidence and witnesses but, in the defense estimation, no smoking gun.
"It's like watching paint dry," one defense lawyer said of the two days of detailed and often esoteric testimony from an FBI gambling expert who provided the jury with an inside look at the sports betting and video poker businesses that prosecutors contend were major money-makers for the Ligambi organization.
It appeared as if several of the anonymously chosen jurors in the case might agree.
At least two seemed to be doodling in notebooks during Thursday's afternoon session. Several others were rocking back and forth in their seats and one female juror was constantly twisting her hair.
While they had clearly heard enough about the business of betting, what they have decided about the roles of Ligambi and the others in what prosecutors contend was a racketeering conspiracy remains to be seen.
More important, whether they agree with Ligambi's assessment of the case is a question that won't be answered for several more weeks.
The tentative schedule set up by U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno is to complete the evidence/testimony phase of the trial by Dec. 21. At that point, the judge plans to recess until Jan. 2 when the case will reconvene for closing arguments and jury deliberation.
The schedule is designed to avoid a potential rush to judgment in deliberations that could run up against the Christmas holiday season.
The trial is now in its sixth week of testimony.
But it appeared to bog down over the past two days as first the prosecution and then the defense labored over points made by James Dunlap, the FBI gambling expert. Dunlap was first questioned Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor and then cross-examined by Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's lawyer, and Margaret Grasso, the court-appointed attorney for Damion Canalichio.
The concept of "less is more" got lost in the process as Dunlap was asked to provide minute details about gambling records, terminology and the inner-workings of video poker machines.
Grasso's cross was aimed in part at portraying her client as a major gambler, but not a bookmaker, a position that Dunlap testified was contradicted by some tape recorded conversations that have been introduced as evidence.
Jacobs spent more than two hours grilling Dunlap on the video poker machine business, presenting the position that bars, restaurants and stores that offered the machines to customers might be in the gambling business, but that vendors -- those like his client who provided and distributed the machines -- were merely businessmen.
The overriding defense theme is that the racketeering conspiracy charged in the case does not exist. In effect, the defense contends, while there may be evidence of bookmaking, loansharking and gambling, the evidence does not overlap and does not show a broad conspiracy tying the defendants together in a criminal enterprise.
"This was a tremendous over-reached by the prosecution," one defense attorney has said on several occasions.
Whether the jury agrees will determine whether any of the defendants go free.
Dunlap's testimony, which was originally expected to take a few hours, was designed in part to set the stage for the next phase of the case; the evidence tying Ligambi, 73, and co-defendants Joseph Massimino, 62, and Anthony Staino, 54, to a highly lucrative video poker machine distribution buisness.
Thursday's session ended with Curt Arbitman, a South Philadelphia distributor of video poker machines, taking the stand. Arbitman, who appeared less than comfortable in his role as a government informant, was questioned for about 25 minutes before court adjourned for the day. He is scheduled back when the trial resumes Friday.
Arbitman, 55, has pleaded guilty to a racketering conspiracy charged tied to what the prosecution contends was the Ligambi organization's illegal video poker machine business.


Government dumps another mob informant

A good rat is hard to find.
The feds have dumped a second mob informant who had secretly taped wiseguys in a case currently on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.
In both trials, the tapes were played for the jury, but the wire-wearing weasels were missing in action.
Prosecutors revealed Wednesday Bonanno associate Joseph Galante Jr. — who should have been the star witness in the extortion trial of reputed Genovese captain Anthony “Rom” Romanello — has been booted off Team America.
Galante recorded an alleged mob sitdown in a Queens pizzeria to settle a dispute over a $30,000 debt he owed a mortgage broker.
“Mr. Galante is not going to get a 5K1 letter from the government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Dennehy told Federal Judge Carol Amon, referring to a letter that recommends a reduced sentence in return for assisting authorities.
The government typically takes such drastic action when the informant has been caught committing new crimes.
Galante's criminal case is sealed so it is unknown what he’s accused of. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Another mob rat, former Colombo capo Reynold Maragni, was fired last week as a government witness in a money laundering on trial across the hall.
Cooperating witnesses are the backbone of Mafia cases. When rats go bad, the government’s case often does, too.
Both trials are going to the juries Wednesday.
“There’s no question a jury wonders why the informant is not called to testify,” said prominent criminal defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb who is not involved in either case. “If they hear there was some misconduct that led the government not to call him, it could prove devastating.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Philadelphia mob's joker poker business

The sign taped across the front of the Dodge City video poker machine read "for amusement only."
It was, federal prosecutors said, false advertising.
Video poker machines have long been a major money-maker for the mob, according to law enforcement authorities, and Wednesday the jury in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants got a detailed lesson about the ins and outs of the business.
The testimony from James Dunlap, a retired Baltimore police detective and nationally recognized gambling expert, set the stage for the next phase of the six-week old trial. On Thursday Curt Arbitman, described by investigators as a major distributor ofillegal poker machines in South Philadelphia, is expected to take the stand for the prosecution and discuss his business dealings with Ligambi and co-defendants Anthony Staino and Joseph "Mousie" Massimino among others.

Arbitman's warehouse/garage on Mountain Street in South Philadelphia was the target of a raid in September 2009. Dozens of machines were seized that day at the garage and at several bars in South Philadelphia. The raids were parrt of an ongoing investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and Attorney General's Office.
Evidence gathered in that probe wasturned over to federal authorities and was incorporated in the racketeering conspiracy indictment handed up against Ligambi, 73, and the others in May 2011.
Authorities allege that Ligambi's gambling operation included a network of video poker machines placed in bars, restaurants and social clubs throughout South Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania suburbs.
Staino, the indictment alleges, routinedly make collections.
How much money the machines generate is a topic of debate.
The defense has argued that the machines are "nickel and dime" propositions and scoffed at the idea that Ligambi and his associates were lining their pockets with profits. But some law enforcement experts have said that machines in good locations can generate profits of $500 to $1,000-a-week.
Those profits, the jury learned Wednesday, are usually split between the vendor -- in this case Ligambi and his associates -- and the owner of the "stop" -- the bar, restaurant or club where the machine is placed.
Jurors also learned that customers play the machines for "credits," allowing the "for amusement only" tag to apply to someone who isn't in the know. But by and large patrons at local insitutions know that they can turn those credits into cash.
"All they have to do is approach the bartender or the bar owner," Dunlap said.
Machines, depending on their setting, would pay from five cents to 25 cents per credit.
And like the legal machines that are in casinos, they are calibrated to insure that the house turns a profit.
Records seized during several raids were shown to the jury along with detailed discussions about payouts, reset buttons and splits.
Dunlap pointed to a notebook seized during a raid at a bar in 2001 where four machines allegedly tied to Ligambi were seized. The records, he said, showed that for a 12-month period the bar had paid cash to 4,300 winners. The total amount paid was $176,786, the records showed. That amounted to an average of about $40 per winner.
And, the expert testimony indicated, the payoffs were only a fraction of the machines' "take" for the year.
Another allegation in the indictment is that, after authorities seized 34 of their machines in that 2001 raid, Ligambi, Massimino, 62, and Staino, 54, formed a company and forced a rival poker machine distributor to "sell" them 34 different machines.
The defense contends the sale was a legitimate business deal and has a sales agreement to back up that claim. The machines -- and the "stops" where they were placed -- were sold for $70,000.
Prosecutors contend that was a form of extortion. They say that Ligambi muscled his way into the business and paid just a fraction of what the business was worth.
The machines, the prosecution will point out, were owned by a company once headed by Anthony "Tony Machines" Milicia, one of the most successful video poker machine distributors in South Philadelphia.
Milicia was shot and nearly killed after balking at paying a street tax to mob bosses Ralph Natale and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino in the mid 1990s. Milicia had made a pickup at Bonnie's Capistrano Bar at 13th and Dickinson Streets when he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting that Natale later admitted he had ordered.
Natale said there was hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made each year in the video poker machine business and Milicia had to share his take with the mob. After the shooting Milicia, who later died of natural causes, began making tribute payments to the organization, Natale said. Prosecutors intend to argue that Milicia's heirs knew that he had nearly been killed for rebuffing an organized crime advance. So when Ligambi, Staino and Massimino came with an proposal to "buy" 34 machines in 2001, they agreed.
It was, prosecutors contend, an offer they couldn't refuse.


Bonanno captain clutches pillow during sitdown at pizzeria

 Genovese Captain Anthony (Rom) Romanello leaves Brooklyn Federal Court after pleading guilty to illegal gambling.
A reputed Bonanno capo has given new mob meaning to the term “pillow talk.”
Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Santora showed up for a sit-down in a Queens pizzeria to settle a money dispute hugging a big, puffy pillow, an extortion victim testified Tuesday.
Former mortgage broker Rocky Napoli said he was puzzled by the prop, demonstrating how Santora was clutching the pillow with his arms stretched out like a bear hug.
“He said he had just gotten out of jail and he had heart surgery,” Napoli testified. “He said the pillow relieved the pain in his chest.”
Federal Judge Carol Amon appeared baffled. “You said he was holding a pillow?”
“Yes, a pillow that you sleep on,” Napoli replied.
Genovese capo Anthony “Rom” Romanello is on trial for extortion in connection with his role in brokering a solution to the $30,000 debt Napoli was owed by another mob associate. Santora pleaded guilty and will be sentenced Friday.
Santora was recovering from heart bypass surgery when he carried the pillow pain reliever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Secret recordings reveal gangsters discussing motive for 2002 mob murder

It's not part of the case, but clearly on the FBI's to-do list: solve the 2002 gangland murder of mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano.

Jurors in the ongoing racketeering conspiracy trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi (long suspected of ordering the hit) got a sampling of what authorities know Tuesday when a secretly recorded conversation involving mob bookmaker Gary Battaglini, one of Ligambi's six co-defendants, was played as the trial entered its sixth week.

Battaglini was speaking with his brother-in-law Peter Albo, a convicted gambler, drug dealer and thief who was then about $10,000 in debt to what authorities say was a mob-controlled bookmaking operation.

Albo was also wired for sound.

He had begun cooperating early in January 2002.

On Jan. 29, with the tapes rolling, the topic of the Martorano shooting, which had occurred 12 days earlier, came up. Albo, in fact, thought Martorano was dead.

He wasn't.

Not yet. But he was in critical condition.

"Oh, they had him for dead, but then he miraculously came back to life," Battaglini said on the tape.
Albo said he had met Martorano in prison and didn't think he was that sharp. In fact, he said he thought he was "stupid."

"He's stupid like a fox," Battaglini said of Martorano, a major money-maker for the mob dating back to his ties to mob boss Angelo Bruno in the 1970s. Gambling, loansharking and dealing in major quantities of methamphetamine were part of Martorano's resume. So were video poker machines.

"He ain't stupid," Battaglini added. "Far from it."

Martorano had returned to South Philadelphia in November 1999 after his murder conviction for ordering the assassination of Philadelphia Roofers Union boss John McCullough in 1980 was overturned. Martorano had served 17 years for the murder and an unrelated drug conviction.

Back on the streets and in his 70s, most underworld and law enforcement sources thought the tall, thin and always dapper wiseguy would go into retirement and enjoy the final years of his life out of the limelight. There was even some speculation that he intended to relocate of Sicily.

But apparenly Martorano had second thoughts. He remained in the house where he lived around Sixth and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia and despite medical problems -- he had a heart condition for which he was being treated -- he apparently wanted to get back in that game.

"What, he try doin' shit, something he shouldn't be doin'?" Albo asked Battaglini.

"Tried moving in on the sports and everything," Battaglini replied.

Martorano was in his car and about to drive to a doctor's appointment on the afternoon of Jan. 17, when two gunmen ran up on him and opened fire. He was hit several times in the chest and arms, but managed to drive the six blocks to his doctor's office before crashing his Lincoln Towncar into a fire hydrant.

He remained in critical condiction for three weeks and died on Feb. 5.

The murder is one of three that investigators have long hoped to tie to the Ligambi organization. The others were the 1999 murder of Ronald Turchi and the 2003 murder of John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto. Authorities have information about all three hits, but not enough evidence to bring charges.

It is one of the unspoken hopes of prosecutors in the current case that at least one of the defendants, if convicted and facing serious jail time, will agree to cooperate. The chief bargaining chips in any deal would be information about those unsolved murders.

Battaglini, 51, did not return to the topic on any other tape played for the jury Tuesday. But he did offer a bleak economic picture of the bookmaking business circa 2002.

"It's a broke mob, that's the bottom line, and it's gotten worse every year," he said in one conversation."Broke, broke."

In another, he complained that gambling customers had gotten more sophisticated and state-run casino gambling was eating into the bookmaking market. Eventually, he predicted, sports betting, like the lottery/numbers racket, would be legitimized.

"Everybody's got computers," he said. "Everybody's making moves. It ain't like it used to be...You got to run it like it's a business...You better watch what you take. You got to limit people."

The government contends that Battaglini, 51, and Louis "Sheep" Barretta, 48, ran a bookmaking operation that kicked money up to Ligambi. Barretta pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial. He was sentenced to 33 months.

On one tape, Battaglini seemed to confirm that, telling Albo, "Joe don't give a fuck what goes on on the street...He don't wanna know nothin'...Alls Joe wants is his money."

FBI Agent John Augustine, who was on the witness stand as the tapes were played, said the Joe referred to by Battaglini was Ligambi.

Other comments by Battaglini, however, seemed to support the defense position that Battaglini and the other defendants in the case were not part of a broad mob conspiracy, but rather independent operators.

That defense is aimed at undermining the principal charge, racketeering conspiracy, that the seven defendants face.

"There's no real fuckin' crews and fuckin' like Scarfo days," Battaglini said, referring to 1980s mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and a mob organization built around capos who directed crews of soldiers and associates.

"There's no money to be may," Battaglini said. "And now it's fuckin' all done and over with."

Shakedowns and threats were also a thing of the past, at least as far as he was concerned, Battaglni said.

"I ain't chasing nobody around no more...I ain't catchin' an eight- or 12-year case."

Then, explaining the new business model for the bookmakers, he told Albo, "If you can't collect it, don't take it. We don't want your fuckin' work."

In fact, Albo was about $10,000 in debt to Battaglni and Barretta when he went to the FBI and agreed to cooperate. Both a gambler and a bookmaker, Albo told Battaglini he had a customer "Vinny" who was deeply in debt to him.

Vinny, in fact, was Robert Stone, an FBI undercover agent.

Earlier jurors heard testimony from Stone and tapes that he recorded in which he agreed to pay down Albo's debt to Battaglini.

In all, the FBI p;rovided Albo with about $50,000 while he was cooperating, including $9,900 that Stone used to pay down his debt, $4,320 in mortgage payments when Albo was facing foreclosure on his home in Somers Point, NJ, $4,800 in expenses and $25,000 in relocation money.

Albo feared mob retaliation, Augustine said. But the agent also acknowledged that Albo had begun to "lie" and contradict himself in debriefings with the FBI within the past month.

As a result, Albo will not be called as a witness.

The defense hopes to portray the defendants as underworld businessmen targeted by lying cooperating witnesses who were trying to either get out from under criminal problems they faced or mounting debts that they couldn't pay.

"It's a business world today," Battaglni said on another tape that underscored the defense position in the case. "Nobody wants trouble."

But prosecutors hope that stories like the murder of Long John Martorano provide the jury with a look at a darker side of that business. Even though it's not part of the case, they contend, the Martorano hit was an example of the way mob business is conducted.

The Gambinos, Westies, and Hells Angels busted in loansharking ring

James Ferrara, Daniel Hanley, and Peter Kanakis were arrested today on a federal indictment charging them with extortionate extension of credit, extortionate collection of credit, and conspiracy to do the same.The defendants will have their initial appearances and arraignments this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
The charges and arrests were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Mary E. Galligan, Acting Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
As alleged in the indictment and set forth in a detention memorandum filed by the government, Ferrara is an associate of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra; Hanley is a member of The Westies street gang; and Kanakis is a member of the Demon Knights, a subchapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. The defendants are charged with conspiring to collect and attempting to collect loansharking debts from at least two victims, using threats of violence and displaying firearms to their victims. In one instance, when a victim could not make repayments on the loan, the defendants threatened him with brass knuckles and a baseball bat. As detailed in the government’s detention memorandum, the extortionate means used by the defendants to collect the loansharking debts included a shooting in December 2011 in which a gunman driving a car of the same color, make, and model as a car registered to Kanakis shot at the victim one morning as the victim was getting into his car to leave for work, narrowly missing him.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each count in which they are named in the indictment.
“Allegedly members of three different organized crime enterprises, these defendants nevertheless banded together and spoke the same language of violence, threats, and intimidation to their victims. Such tactics will always be met with the full force of the law,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We will not rest until organized crime is eradicated from our communities.” Ms. Lynch added that the government’s investigation is continuing.
FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Galligan stated, “If you default on a loan from a financial institution, you may lose property pledged as collateral. If you borrowed from these alleged gangsters, you risked losing life and limb. The FBI continues to target loansharking and associated criminal activity that remain lucrative for organized crime.”
Police Commissioner Kelly stated, “With alleged involvement of the Gambinos, Westies, and Hell’s Angels, this case hit the trifecta of loansharking and extortion. I want to commend the NYPD detectives and federal agents and prosecutors who brought the suspects to justice.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vamshi Reddy.
The Defendants:
James Ferrara
Age: 69
Brooklyn, New York
Daniel Hanley
Age: 47
Cliffside Park, New Jersey
Peter Kanakis
Age: 47
West Islip, New York

I was the first sitting Boss to become a rat says mobster in court

This rat’s got a purpose.

Joseph “Big Joey” Massino, who went from Mafia boss to government witness, admitted yesterday that he’s a “rat” and said he became the first don to violate the mob’s blood oath of omerta in a desperate bid for freedom.
“I’m hoping to see daylight at the end of the tunnel,” Massino said during testimony in Brooklyn federal court against Genovese capo Anthony “Rom” Romanello, who’s on trial for racketeering and extortion.
Earlier in his contentious cross-examination, defense lawyer Gerald McMahon grilled Massino, bluntly saying, “You became a rat!”
Massino, who made history last year when he became the first mob boss to take the stand for the feds, at the trial of his successor, Vincent Basciano, willingly agreed: “Correct.”
Massino, who’s serving two life sentences, is banking that his testimony in this and other trials will be so convincing, he’d be eligible for a Rule 35 reprieve, in which federal prosecutors ask a judge to severely cut a con’s prison time because of his cooperation.
“Is there anyone else in the Mafia in this courtroom?” asked Assistant US Attorney Jack Dennehy during direct examination.
“The man sitting over there with the glasses, Romanello,” said Massino, gesturing at the defense table.

Former Bonanno family boss testifies against Genovese captain

 In this undated photograph released in New York by the United States Attorney's Office, Tuesday, April 12, 2011, is Joseph Massino. Massino, the reputed former boss of a notorious New York organized crime family, is expected to testify for the government in a murder case against Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano. (AP Photo/United States Attorney's Office)
The fat man admitted he's trying to sing away two life sentences.
Looking like the canary who swallowed a beach ball, former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino took the witness stand Monday for only the second time since he became the highest-ranking New York City mafioso ever to become government rat.
Massino, 69, waddled into the courtroom outfitted in the same navy blue warm-up suit he wore when he testified last year at the murder trial of his successor Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Dennehy asked the tubby turncoat to tell jurors what the mob penalty is for cooperating.
"Moider," Massino said gruffly. "A hundred percent."
This time, Massino was called as an expert witness on the mob in the extortion trial of Anthony “Rom” Romanello, a relatively unknown Genovese captain whose only connection to the crime boss was frequently dining at his Casablanca restaurant in Queens before it was seized by the feds.
But Massino left no doubt that he's trying to earn points with the government in the hope of a reduction in his sentences someday.
"I'm hoping someday I see light at the end of the tunnel," he told the prosecutor. "Whenever they need me, I'm here."
Massino has torrents of blood on his hands to wash off. He pleaded guilty to nine gangland hits and has admitted participating in a total of 12. His crime career began in his teens, stealing pigeons and boosting cars for joyrides, before he graduated to truck hijackings, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion and murder.
He got his button along with four other wiseguys on June 14, 1977 in a Maspeth tavern — where the jukebox played "Happy Birthday" so the other patrons wouldn't suspect a mob induction ceremony was taking place.
Massino lacks the charm and charisma of the late John Gotti, who earned fame and infamy for his custom-made suits and good looks. Massino's graying hair needed a trim, he obsessively brushed lint or dandruff off his jacket, and frequently scratched the inside of his ears with his index finger.
But the gangster — known as "The Last Don" before he rocked gangland by flipping — oozes authenticity and authority.
When he became boss, Massino instituted a rule that associates had to be around the Bonannos for eight years before they could be inducted on the theory that the FBI wouldn't use an informant for that long.
"I was always leery of surveillance," he said. "If I had to talk about something serious, I'd go to the boardwalk and face the ocean and talk. No one can see what you're saying."
"I never let anybody in my house, I drove myself, I didn't talk in the car and I didn't talk on the phone," he added.
He regaled the jury with war stories about bribing jail guards to smuggle shrimp, linguini and clams into the prison cellblock; whacking the prospective son-in-law of the late Gambino boss Paul Castellano because he made fun of Castellano's looks; and refusing to allow an ex-member of law enforcement into the Bonanno ranks.
"If we put in cops, what, are we gonna make lawyers next?" Massino said, prompting chuckles.
Defense lawyer Gerald McMahon parried with Massino over the gangster's immense wealth — he turned over $10 million in cash and gold bars to the government under the plea deal. Massino denied there were millions more stashed away.
"If I would have had more money, I would have given it to the government," he insisted. "I got no money overseas."
Massino pointed out that rental income from real estate was providing his wife with a six-figure income, along with their faux mansion in Howard Beach, which they were allowed to keep.
"Maybe you missed it, but the real estate market crashed," McMahon said.
After making his point that Romanello was a Genovese captain and that mobsters never hold sitdowns over legal monetary disputes, Massino waddled out of the courtroom for the trip back to a prison somewhere in the U.S., where he keeps a copy of his 11-page cooperation agreement in his cell.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cinemax developing new NY mafia series

David Graziano offers the premium network a modern day look at the changing face of organized crime.

Screenwriter and executive producer David Graziano is having a very productive TV development season. In addition to lining up a drama on NBC, Graziano also has a project in play at Cinemax.

According to Deadline, Graziano has closed a deal with Cinemax to write and produce “The Sixth Family,” a potential TV series that will explore how the world of organized crime in New York City has drastically changed since 9/11.

The report states that “The Sixth Family” will be based on true stories, including some from Graziano himself from the personal relationships he had with people on both sides of the law. While “The Sixth Family” will likely have some action in it, the premise seems to be very different from Cinemax’s more action oriented series like “Strike Back,” “Hunted” and the upcoming “Banshee.”

Graziano got his start on TV as a staff writer on “Felicity” before going on to several series including “Las Vegas,” “Terra Nova,” “Daybreak,” “In Plain Sight,” “Lie to Me,” “Southland” and “Miracles.”

Over at NBC, Graziano is developing “Bloodline;” which follows a young woman named Bird Benson who discovers that her birth mother is part of an ancient line of mercenaries and assassins. To have any hope of a normal life, Bird must find a way to defeat her mother in armed combat.

What are your thoughts on Graziano’s new TV projects? Let us know in the comment section below!


Colombo mobster’s secret stash

Somerville's Ralph DeLeo,described as a "street boss" for the Colombo crime family, was sentenced last week to over 19 years in prison on racketeering and weapons charges.

As part of their investigation into DeLeo,FBI agents searched his Russell Street apartment and a storage unit he owned in Watertown, where there was a trove of guns,disguises,a dozen badges representing Boston area police departments,and other police paraphernalia which prosecutors called a "crime kit."

The photos below were submitted as evidence by federal prosecutors in the case against DeLeo.

The FBI found other items in the search of DeLeo's apartment not pictured here, according to an affidavit,including $50,000 in cash,a substance commonly used to cut cocaine,two strangulation tools,and a book titled "On Killing," which examines the psychological impact of killing another person.

DeLeo made regular trips to New York and Miami as part of his involvement with the Colombo family,according to prosecutors. In wire tapped conversations between DeLeo and his sister in 2009,he often said some of their traditions made him uncomfortable. "They gave me a lot of attention,they gave me too much attention," DeLeo said. "You know,too many hugs,too many kisses. You know,holding the car door for me,holding doors for me,you know all that type of stuff. And I'm not into that type of stuff... at heart, I'm a regular guy,you know."

DeLeo,69,has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1968. He was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in 1976,then escaped from the hospital at the state prison in Walpole in 1977. He was arrested a year later in an attempted bank robbery in Ohio. While jailed,he pleaded guilty to killing a Columbus,Ohio doctor and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He was released in 1997.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Devil's Protege: Crazy Phil Leonetti

Cement contractor Vincent Falcone thought he was in a good position to cash in on the casino gambling boom that was sweeping across Atlantic City three decades ago.
Falcone saw construction all over the city and figured he’d be able to get a piece of the action. His plans ended abruptly, however, while he was sharing drinks with some “friends” at an apartment on Decatur Street in Margate.
His body was found a few days later, hog-tied, wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in the trunk of his Mercury Cougar. He had been shot twice; once in the back of the head at point blank range and a second time through the heart.
There is no dispute today about the how, why and who of the Falcone murder which occurred on December 16, 1979. But thirty-three years ago there was less certainty. More important, at that time no one knew that the murder was a harbinger of what was to come in the Philadelphia/South Jersey underworld.
The Falcone hit and the bold assassination of municipal judge Edwin Helfant in the Flamingo Lounge on Pacific Avenue a year earlier were the first shots fired in a bloody power struggle that would forever change the face of the Philadelphia mob.
Atlantic City was the epicenter of that struggle. This was the war that Little Nicky and Crazy Phil launched.
Little Nicky, of course, is Nicodemo Scarfo, perhaps the most violent boss in the history of the American Mafia. Crazy Phil was his nephew, Philip Leonetti, the movie-star handsome hitman who said very little while serving as an enforcer for his uncle, but who later couldn’t stop talking from the witness stand.
They were an underworld Odd Couple who gave a unique meaning to the term “crime family.”
Mob killer Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, Scarfo’s Nephew and Underboss

Leonetti, now 59 and living with a new identify in another part of the country, has penned a book, Mafia Prince, due out later this month. It’s his version of life with Scarfo, a personal perspective that will be fascinating to read. But like all memoirs, it will be a subjective rather than objective take on events.
Keep the Falcone murder in mind when you pick up the book.
Whether Leonetti has found redemption and turned his life around is an unanswerable question. But perhaps one place to look for the answer is in the story of a singular event that defined a time. The murder of Vincent Falcone, cement contractor, said a lot about who Scarfo and Leonetti were and where the Ducktown gangsters and Atlantic City were heading.
The Falcone hit occurred a little more than a year after Resorts International opened. Resorts’ success – people were literally lined up down the Boardwalk to get in – created a gold rush with a half dozen other casinos fast-tracking construction projects in order to open their doors. Caesars was next in June 1979. Ballys came on line in December, the month Falcone was killed.
Back then, casino gambling looked like the economic panacea that proponents said it would be. Why things went wrong, why the dream soured, is a story for another day. But in December 1979 when authorities found Falcone’s body, Atlantic City was a place of hope, promise and opportunity. And among those cashing in were Scarfo and Leonetti.
Atlantic City, as we all know, had been a down-at-the-heels resort, a dowager Queen that had long ago lost her luster. Scarfo, a scuffling, violent mob soldier, was her underworld caretaker. He had been sent there – banished might be a better word — in the mid 1960s to look after the Philadelphia mob’s interests.
He didn’t have a lot to do.
Casino gambling changed all that.
A construction boom brought millions of dollars into the city. The gamblers and tourists who would flock to the casino hotels that were then being brought millions more. Scarfo rode that wave to the top of the mob. And he brought his nephew and protégé with him.
One of their first moves was a decision to get into the construction business. They opened Scarf Inc. – subtlety was never Scarfo’s strong point – a cement contracting company located in an office on Georgia Avenue next to the apartment house that Scarfo’s mother Catherine owned.
Little Nicky lived in one apartment with his wife and three sons. Phil was raised in another apartment where he lived with his mother Nancy, Scarfo’s sister. Catherine, the matriarch, lived in a third unit.
One big, happy, violent family.
Scarf Inc. was a sub-contractor on most of the major casino projects in the city at that time. The word had gone out.
Longtime Philadelphia mob boss Angelo Bruno on the streets of South Philadelphia.

If you didn’t want labor problems on your job sites, then have your general contractor give Scarf Inc. the cement work. And while you were at it, it might be wise to hire a company owned by the Merlino brothers, Salvatore and Lawrence, to do the rebar work. The Merlinos were Scarfo’s top associates in the mob and would soon climb the ladder with him and Leonetti.
That’s the way things played out and that’s why Falcone had a problem.
Falcone had been a friend of Leonetti’s. In fact, there are those who say he taught the young wiseguy the cement business. Falcone was, as you might imagine, less than pleased over the monopoly that Scarf Inc. had established in casino construction and had begun to grouse publicly about it. He also described Scarfo as “crazy.”
Scarfo, in fact, may have been nuts. And also paranoid.
Several investigators would eventually describe him as a homicidal psychopath. But even if accurate, those labels did little to help Falcone.
Angelo Bruno after being shot-gunned to death in front of his home in March of 1980

It was a Saturday in mid-December. Falcone, unaware of the animus he had created with Scarfo, was invited to a little get-together at an apartment in Margate, some pre-holiday drinks, a chance to watch a football game on television.
It was a small party. Scarfo was there when the others arrived, including Leonetti, Falcone, Lawrence Merlino and a local plumber, Joseph Salerno, who like Falcone was a mob wannabe.
Leonetti has told the story of what happened next several times.
“I said, `Vince, get some ice. Come on. Let’s make some drinks,’” he said. “And he walks over and he goes in the refrigerator, gets the ice and when he reached for a glass in the cabinet, I shot him in the back of the head.”
Falcone fell to the kitchen floor.
The hog-tied body of Vincent Falcone dumped in the trunk of his car

“Now my uncle leans over to check his heart, to see if it was still beating,” Leonetti said.
It was. Scarfo told Leonetti to shoot Falcone again.
“So I shot him in the heart,” Leonetti said.
They hogtied the body and wrapped it in a blanket before taking it to the car. All the while, Scarfo was beside himself, cackling like a banty rooster.
“I love this,” Scarfo said. “I just love this.”
It was a senseless murder, but it set a tone that continued for the next 10 years. Scarfo benefitted from two murders that he had nothing to do with; the March 1980 assassination of mob boss Angelo Bruno in South Philadelphia and the nailbomb murder of Bruno’s successor, Philip “Chicken Man”
Testa on March 15 of the following year.
Testa had been Scarfo’s mentor and had made him crime family consigliere. With the backing of the Genovese crime family in New York, Scarfo moved against those within his own organization who were suspected of the Testa hit.
Philip Leonetti and his uncle Nicodemo Scarfo inside a New Jersey courtroom in 1986.

Salvatore Testa, the Chicken’s Man’s charismatic young son, was the point man for the Scarfo faction in the battle, nearly losing an arm when he was hit with a shotgun blast while lunching on clams on the half shell at a Ninth Street seafood shop in South Philadelphia.
Scarfo solidified his hold and ruled as boss from 1981 until 1989. Leonetti was his underboss. Salvatore Testa was a capo and top lieutenant. During those years, nearly two dozen mob members and associates were killed as Scarfo rose to power and then moved to eliminate anyone he perceived as a potential rival.
Leonetti, after become a cooperating witness, frankly admitted that he been involved in 10 murders. Asked if he thought he was ruthless, he quietly said, “No.”
When a defense attorney chided him and mockingly asked if he even knew what it meant to be ruthless, Leonetti offered a classic line that sums up his underworld philosophy.
“I know what it means to be ruthless,” he said. “But I don’t remember ever doing anything, as a matter of fact I know for sure, I never did nothing ruthless besides, well, I would kill people. But that’s our life. That’s what we do.”
Salvatore “Chuckie” Merlino

There was no moral dilemma.
No debate over what it meant to murder another human being.
No question of right or wrong.
It was, simply, La Cosa Nostra in the era of Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo.
Lawrence “Yogi” Merlino

Leonetti, whose father had left him and his mother when he was just a boy, grew up in his uncle’s shadow. Scarfo was his only real father figure. So if there is an explanation for the violent nature of the handsome hitman, that would be it.
Freud would have had a field day picking Leonetti’s brain.
Frank DeSimone, the Philadelphia lawyer who helped negotiate the cooperation agreement that got Leonetti out from under a 45-year sentence for racketeering and murder, said recently that it’s not really that complicated.
“He was not the stereotypical (mobster) that the media portrayed,” DeSimone said. “I believe if he had been in a different situation, he could have been a professional…He wanted to go to college. He didn’t relish being in an organized crime situation.”
Leonetti played basketball at Holy Spirit High School and when he graduated he talked about going to pharmaceutical school. But his uncle said pharmacists “were faggots.” Instead, he set his nephew on a different career path.
Whether Leonetti was forced into the life or willingly chose it depends on your perspective.
Nicholas “Nick The Blade” Virgilio

Oscar Goodman, the criminal defense attorney who represented Leonetti in a series of trials in federal
and Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia in the 1980s has a different view of his client than the one expressed by DeSimone.
“He was not what he appeared to be,” said Goodman, who served three terms as mayor of Las Vegas after a high profile career as a “mob lawyer” whose clients including Tony Spilotro and Lefty Rosenthal, the real life characters on whom the movie “Casino” was based.
Leonetti’s defection was a major blow to organized crime up and down the East Coast. He never had to testify against his uncle, who was already (and still is) serving terms for racketeering and extortion convictions. But he helped prosecutors in a half dozen jurisdictions win dozens of convictions.
Simply put, Leonetti knew where the bodies were buried.
In addition to being a hitman, he had been the mob’s point man in dozens of other underworld gambits. He was, for example, the gangster who coordinated one of the Scarfo’s organization’s boldest moves – the corruption of Atlantic City Mayor Mike Matthews.
Salvatore “Salvie” Testa
and his father Philip
“Chicken Man” Testa

Matthews, who ended up sentenced to prison for 15 years, was in the mob’s pocket.
“We made him mayor,” Leonetti once boasted. “He was under the protection of our family. Whatever our family told him to do, he had to do.”
And if he didn’t?
“He would get killed,” Leonetti said.
Matthews knew that and while he toyed for a time with cooperating with the FBI, he ultimately backed away and pled guilty to bribery charges. At sentencing he offered an explanation that many believe defines Atlantic City and explains its ongoing problems.
“Greed,” Matthews said, “got the better of me.”
Scarfo’s reign as mob boss was one of the bloodiest in the history of the Philadelphia/South Jersey crime family.
Ruling through fear and intimidation, he amassed a small fortune. He was engaged in labor racketeering, gambling, loansharking and outright extortion. Every bookmaker and shylock between Philadelphia and Atlantic City had to pay a mob “street tax.” Those who refused had their heads busted.
Those who continued to balk were killed.
Scarfo got his hooks into the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union which quickly became the largest in the city and one of the largest in the state. When Philadelphia Roofers Union boss John McCullough tried to split the union in two, taking one faction for himself, he was gunned down by a mob associate who posed as a flower deliveryman.
The shooter showed up at McCullough’s home at Christmastime with poinsettia plants. When he put the plants down, he pulled a gun and pumped two bullets into the union leader’s chest.
Former disgraced Atlantic City Mayor Mike Matthews

When Salvatore Testa became the fastest rising mobster in South Philadelphia, he too was marked for
death. Scarfo feared the younger Testa was building his own organization.
He wasn’t, but that didn’t matter to the paranoid mob boss.
“Salvie was with my uncle one-thousand percent,” Leonetti once said while recalling the tragic events that led to Testa’s murder. “He would never double-cross him, but my uncle said, `Look, why do I have to take a chance on this guy getting powerful and trying to kill me one day.’”
So he put a contract on the young Testa’s life.
Scarfo, said his nephew, used to quote Paul Muni, the actor in the 1930s gangland classic movie “Scarface.”
Scarfo’s ultimate successor, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, the son of Chuckie Merlino, reportedly retired and living away from the mob in Southern Florida

“You’ve got to kill people and keep on killing them to be the boss,” Leonetti said his uncle would say. “You just can’t stop. You’ve got to keep on killing.”
It was all part of an underworld management style that Scarfo established and that Leonetti, even if reluctantly, helped enforce.
In the midst of all the violence back in the early 1980s, Michael Schurman, one of the best reporters to ever cover Atlantic City, started referring to Leonetti as “Crazy Phil” during his morning radio news broadcasts. The nickname stuck. Leonetti hated it. Scarfo thought it was great.
Guys in their business would pay for a nickname like that and the reputation that it implied, Scarfo said.
Crazy Phil was violent. Crazy Phil was ruthless. Crazy Phil would pump a bullet into the back of a friend’s head and then shoot him again in the chest. Crazy Phil was who his uncle wanted Leonetti to be.
But is that who Phil Leonetti really was?
Thirty-three years later, there’s still no clear cut answer.
Ask the question of ten different people who dealt with the soft-spoken and handsome young wiseguy and you’ll come away with ten different answers.
One person you can’t ask, however, is Vincent Falcone.
And that may speak volumes.