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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Company overseeing concrete work where worker died linked to Genovese crime family

The subcontractor overseeing concrete work at the West 37th Street hotel construction project where a concrete slab crushed a worker Tuesday has a history of safety violations, records show.

Rodalfo Vasquez-Galian, 27, of 418 Liberty Ave. in Jersey City, was killed after the block fell on him while he was working on the foundation for the 22-floor hotel at 326 West 37th St. Tuesday afternoon.

A stop-work order was issued Tuesday for the entire work location because an approach pit, which gives workers access to space beneath the foundation, was not dug, according to the city Department of Buildings.

Federal Department of Labor records show that Park Side Construction, which was responsible for cement work on the project, was issued $11,900 in fines on May 27, because the company lacked safety equipment at an 81 Fleet Place project. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the fine because the company had no fall protection for workers.

After Tuesday's fatal accident, the DOB issued a violation to the adjoining building where the slab became detached, 320 West 37th St., and also gave a partial vacate order for the first-floor storefront on the exposed side of the building, a DOB spokesman said.

New York State also sued Park Side in 2013 for failing to pay more than $174,000 in worker's compensation insurance, according to court papers.

Cava Construction, which is listed as the general contractor for the project on the Department of Building’s website, is owned by Carmine Della Cava, a reputed member of the Genovese crime family, according to court documents.

Della Cava “is actively involved in every aspect of Cava Construction’s day to day operations,” according to the company’s website.

Della Cava was the driver for the boss of the Genovese organization in the mid-1980s and was convicted of a bid-rigging scheme in the 1990s, The New York Times reported in 2012.

West 37th Construction Worker Death

Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein gave $27,500 he received in campaign contributions from Cava Construction to Hurricane Sandy-recovery charities after becoming aware of Della Cava'spast, the New York Post reported in 2012.

A representative from Park Side Construction hung up the phone when reached for comment.

Cava Construction did not immediately return a request for comment.


Son of longtime Colombo crime family boss wants to take back his guilty plea

Prosecutors say Michael Persico (pictured) is stuck with his guilty plea.
The reputed prince of the Colombo crime family wants to rip up his guilty plea, the Daily News has learned.

Michael Persico, who pleaded guilty more than two years ago to loansharking in a sweet deal that also gave him immunity from prosecution for several murders, is accusing the government of breaching an agreement in which he would face only 37 to 46 months in prison when he's sentenced by hard-hitting Brooklyn Federal Judge Sandra Townes.

Persico, 57, the son of jailed Colombo boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico, is blanching at the possibility that he could get up to five years in prison. "He should just man up and do his time," said a disgusted law enforcement official.

Prosecutors argue that Persico is stuck with his guilty plea, but if he gets his wish he better be careful — he would go to trial facing murder conspiracy and extortion charges that could put him away for more than 20 years if he's convicted.

Defense lawyer Marc Fernich declined to comment on the legal strategy.


Feds plan to call Whitey Bulger's girlfriend to face grand jury in hunt for his assets

Catherine Greig, the longtime girlfriend of Whitey Bulger.
Federal authorities plan to call James “Whitey” Bulger’s girlfriend before a federal grand jury in a bid to force her to help them locate money and other valuables the gangster may have stashed around the world, according to two people familiar with the case.

Catherine Greig, 63, who is serving an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger evade capture for more than 16 years, was transferred earlier this month from the federal penitentiary in Waseca, Minn., to the state-run Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., according to a person who is close to the Bulger and Greig families. A US Bureau of Prisons website also notes that Greig is no longer in its custody.

Greig has been told that she will be placed before a federal grand jury in Boston that is attempting to track Bulger’s hidden assets, which would be distributed among the families of the gangster’s victims, according to the person close to the family, who asked not to be identified.

Greig has insisted that she does not know of any secret stashes by Bulger, now 85.

It is unclear when Greig would appear before the grand jury.

A Waseca penitentiary official said Sunday that authorities could not provide any further details about Greig, who is slated to finish her sentence in June 2018.

Christina DiIorio Sterling, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office, said Sunday, “We cannot confirm grand jury investigations or Ms. Greig’s whereabouts.”

However, after Bulger was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences last November for participating in 11 slayings, prosecutors said they planned to aggressively pursue his assets and could convene a grand jury in an effort to compel people to testify.

Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was gunned down by Bulger in 1982 while giving a ride home to the gangster’s intended target, said she doubted that Greig, who has been steadfastly loyal to the gangster, would cooperate with authorities against him. Still, Donahue said she was happy that investigators were trying to track the gangster’s money.

“I am glad to see the government is finally doing something about it and not just letting it go,” she said. “I don’t think she’s going to tell them a thing, but it would be nice if she did.”

Greig, a former dental hygienist who, like Bulger, was raised in South Boston, began dating the gangster in the mid-1970s and joined him on the run in early 1995.

Bulger, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, and Greig quietly lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., just two blocks from the beach, until they were captured in June 2011. Agents found $822,000 cash and 30 guns hidden in the walls of the apartment.

After Greig pleaded guilty in June 2012 to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud, her lawyer said she was in love with Bulger and “absolutely stands by her man.”

Former assistant US attorney Brian T. Kelly, who was part of the Bulger prosecution team, would not comment on any grand jury proceeding, but said it was logical for investigators to press Greig for information.

“The one person who is in the best position to know where Bulger’s money is, is Catherine Greig, so it makes sense that the government would seek to question her,” said Kelly, a partner in the law firm Nixon Peabody. “It’s public record that he used safe deposit boxes in several locations and it stands to reason there might be another one out there, and that’s why it’s likely they want to question her.”

Bulger was convicted last year of participating in 11 murders, drug trafficking, and other crimes while operating a sprawling criminal organization in Boston from the 1970s through the 1990s. He is currently incarcerated at the Coleman II federal penitentiary in Sumterville, Fla. In addition to the two life sentences, he was ordered by a judge to pay $19.5 million in restitution to his victims and to forfeit another $25.2 million to the government.

The forfeiture judgment allows prosecutors to seize all of Bulger’s assets, including a $50,000 diamond claddagh ring and the $822,000 seized from his California apartment, and future profits the gangster might make from selling his life story. Prosecutors have pledged to split the profits among the families of Bulger’s victims.

Bulger’s attorney Hank Brennan said he was aware that Greig had been transferred to the Rhode Island prison, but did not know anything about the new federal grand jury investigation. He criticized the government for failing to give Bulger’s victims a share of any of the assets it seized from Bulger and his associates while the gangster was on the run, or even disclosing how much had been located.

“We’ve never received an accounting of how much money they’ve taken that’s attributed to Bulger,” Brennan said. “It’s been almost 20 years and they’ve never provided the families or the public an accounting, so perhaps now the time has come to do that.”

While Bulger was on the run, the government netted $2 million from Bulger’s share of a 1991 lottery ticket, $99,335 from a BayBank safe deposit box, and $106,709 from the sale of Bulger’s condominium in Clearwater, Fla., according to court filings. The FBI seized $50,000 from a safe deposit box belonging to Bulger in London. Agents also seized the contents of safe deposit boxes believed to belong to Bulger in Florida, Ireland, and Canada.

Since his capture, Bulger has written letters from prison professing his love for Greig and blasting the government for sentencing her to eight years in prison.

He confided to a longtime friend, who shared the letter with the Globe, that Greig had managed to do what the criminal justice system couldn’t: “Got me to live crime free 16 years — for this they should give her a medal.”

Shawn Donahue, whose father was killed by Bulger, said he doubted Greig would say anything to the grand jury.

“She’s one of the only people that isn’t ratting,” he said. “All of [Bulger’s] other friends ratted on him. She’ll do her time and that’s it.”


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Closing arguments set to begin in Philadelphia murder for hire trial

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning in the murder-for-hire trial of South Philadelphia auto body shop owner Ron Galati.

A jury of 10 women and two men will likely begin deliberations later in the day. Galati's future is in the balance. The 64-year-old wannabe wiseguy, who opted not to take the witness stand, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. A sentence near the top of the guideline would be tantamount to life.

If the jury convicts, Galati's daughter Tiffany, 31, will be the witness who sealed his fate.

If the jury acquits, or can't make a decision, Tiffany may also be the reason.

The tart-tongued South Philadelphia princess was one of the last witnesses called by the prosecution in the weeklong case. She spent nearly three hours on the stand, largely supporting the testimony of three other key witnesses who said Ron Galati had hired them to kill Andrew Tuono, Tiffany's then boyfriend.

Tuono, 35, was shot outside his Atlantic City home on Nov. 30 of last year. He survived the hit and also appeared as a witness.

But the consensus from those who have followed this case is that the verdict will revolve around whether the jury accepts Tiffany Galati's version of the family dynamic at play when Tuono was shot.

Ron Galati's lawyer, Anthony Voci Jr., has done a masterful job challenging the credibility of all the government witnesses. But he may have been most effective in raising questions about the motivation of Galati's daughter.

Voci is expected to revisit that issue one more time Monday morning when he and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson, the prosecutor in the case, offer their closing arguments to the jury.

That Tiffany Galati was estranged from her father was never in dispute. That "Drew" Tuono was shot three times by Ronald Walker with assistance from Alvin Matthews and Jerome Johnson also was a given.

Why Tuono was shot is the question on which the outcome of the case hangs.

Richardson told the jury in his opening statement on Sept. 16 that this was a "simple case." And the evidence and testimony he put before the jury tried to keep it that way. Ron Galati, he said, was upset that his daughter was living with Tuono. He wanted her to break up with him and when she refused, he hired Walker and the others to have him killed.

Johnson, according to the government's theory, was the expeditor who set the hit in motion. Walker testified that Johnson drove him and Matthews to Atlantic City on the night of the shooting and provided the .25 caliber semi-automatic that he used to pump three bullets into Tuono. Walker also said that Galati promised to pay him $20,000 for the hit. Matthews was supposedly in line for a car.

But through a pointed and relentless cross-examination, Voci was able to punch some holes in the prosecution case. Most damaging was Tiffany Galati's admission that she had at one time solicited Johnson to harm another of her boyfriends, the father of her young son Jeffrey. From the witness stand she said she wanted her son's father beaten up, but not killed.

The implication that Voci was trying to plant was that Tiffany had tried to use Johnson earlier and that the Tuono shooting may have been a second act in the same bloody play. The fact that Tiffany Galati drove away from the Tuono shooting without calling police and a comment from Walker that she appeared to know what was going to happen the night he shot Tuono further underscored the scenario Voci wants the jury to at least consider.

Reasonable doubt can lead to an acquittal or a hung jury. Either would be a victory for Galati.

Tiffany Galati's character was also laid bare through her testimony. Again, on cross examination, she admitted sending her brother and parents a text photo of a fetus in a toilet, the residue of a miscarriage she said she suffered as a result of the pressure and tension her father had put her under because she was living with Tuono.

The couple has since split.

Tiffany Galati testified that she suffered two miscarriages, both pregnancies with Tuono, during the tumultuous period when they were living together and while her father was allegedly plotting to end their relationship and Tuono's life.

Evidence and testimony has provided the jury with a look at a bloody and bitter South Philadelphia soap opera. Voci is apparently counting on the women on the jury to see Tiffany Galati for what he contends she is -- a spoiled, manipulative princess who always got her way. There is a theory in the less than scientific speculation surrounding jury selection that women, rather than men, are more likely to question the motives and credibility of a woman witness.

The Galati camp was clearly happy when the jury panel chosen to hear the case included 10 women.

But to buy into the defense story that jury will have to ignore the heart of the government's case. The prosecution has not held any of its witness up as shining paragons of decency. Walker, Matthews and Johnson all have criminal records. Walker is an admitted drug dealer.

They are not upstanding citizens, but they are the kind of people you would seek out if you were planning a murder. That's part of the prosecution argument.

The question that Richardson is expected to ask the jury is a simple one that goes to the core of what he has said is a simple case. Why would Walker, Johnson and Matthews all lie about Ron Galati's role in the murder plot? Once they decided to cooperate -- and Walker and Matthews did that a short time after they were arrested on the very night of the shooting -- why would they fabricate a story about who hired them?

If Tiffany Galati was behind the hit and Walker and Matthews were looking to cut a deal, why wouldn't they have given her up that night instead of her father?

That's what the jury will have to wrestle with.

What the panel doesn't know is that Ron Galati is awaiting trial in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia in a separate murder-for-hire case that also involves Johnson, Walker and Matthews. In that case, Galati is charged with targeting two rival auto body shop operators -- a father and son -- whom he correctly believed were cooperating in an insurance fraud investigation in which he had been targeted. (He and 30 others were subsequently indicted.)

The jury has not heard any of the details of the alleged Philadelphia murder plot, a plot that authorities say was set in motion on Galati's orders by Jerome Johnson, a plot that was to be carried out by Walker and Matthews. Sound familiar? The hit never took place because the rival body shop operators had closed their business before Walker and Matthews could make a move on them. But the conspiracy alleged in that case is almost identical to the plot laid out in the Tuono shooting.

Voci, in a move that changed the dynamic in the Tuono case, filed a pretrial motion to bar any mention of the other murder-for-hire case, arguing that it might unduly prejudice the jury. Judge Joseph Rodriguez agreed.

When the jury begins deliberations early next week its members know that Tiffany Galati once tried to solicit Johnson to harm a former boyfriend. What they don't know is that Ron Galati is charged with orchestrating a second murder-for-hire plot using the same group of conspirators who, Richardson says, played kill roles in the shooting of Tuono.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Former Mob Wives star and Bonanno family rat sentenced to 11 years in prison

The ex-husband of a "Mob Wives" reality star got a reduced sentence Wednesday in exchange for ratting out a pair of his Bonnano buddies who were with him when he fatally shot a man in the back during a robbery.
Even though Hector Pagan - who was known as "Junior" on the hit reality TV show - was the one who fatally shot check casher James Donovan in the back during a July 2010 robbery, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson today gave him just 11 years in the slammer.
Pagan's testimony against two of his mob associates, Richard Riccardi and Luigi Grasso, put them away for 30-plus-year sentences in August.
Before sentencing, Pagan expressed his remorse to the victim's sobbing family who packed one side of a heavily guarded courthouse. "Out of respect, I wanted you to know that," Pagan said.
Proceedings kicked off after the family played a slideshow, set to the tune of "My Way," filled with pictures of Donovan.
Janine Donovan, the victim's daughter, stood, faced Judge Gleeson and pleaded that he not give Pagan the freedom to "take and ruin the lives of others."
"I can still hear his voice coaching me," she said of her father through sobs. "I am no longer the same. I will never again know happiness without pain."
Donovan said previous deals that Pagan had swung with the federal government in exchange for leniency "is not justice."
"How many deals can one man get?" she asked. "It should stop here."
Her words hit the mark.
"What you said today would rip out any judge's heart," Gleeson said. "I would say the exact same things."
Gleeson added that if it were his daughter, he'd "melt the key to the jailhouse."
Pagan "hasn't changed his spots," Gleeson conceded, and law enforcement is "a pretty callous system," but he said the government needs cooperation of that nature.
Gleeson said he had no choice but to honor Pagan's agreement with the government to put away mobsters.
Pagan made the deal out of "purely selfish interests, of getting himself out of jail," Gleeson said, adding that Janine Donovan's words will "ring in my ears for years."
Nevertheless the judge said he "felt the need to award cooperation."
"He's going to walk out of jail, not be carried out," Gleeson continued.
Pagan sat motionless in a white button-down shirt and yellow-and-gray striped tie as the sob-filled scene played out.
Donovan's daughter rushed out of the heavily guarded courtroom crying, along with most of the crowd, when Gleeson issued the 11-year sentence and Pagan was escorted out of the room, without handcuffs.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Enforcer for the Chicago Outfit is sentenced to 15 years in prison

Most people would consider a 15-year prison sentence a tremendous loss, but not when it comes to a career criminal and Chicago mobster who could have been sentenced to many more years behind bars.

For decades, Mario Rainone has been known in outfit circles as "The Arm" for his talent at muscling people. Rainone was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Wednesday for being a felon in possession of a gun.

While that may seem like a stiff sentence for a simple gun charge, the government actually wanted Rainone to get 25 years in consideration of his resume as a mob enforcer and all-around bad guy.

"We thought it was going to be a higher sentence and we were very surprised, and we were very happy," said Joe "The Shark" Lopez, Rainone co-counsel.

Such exuberance comes when your client has been running the rackets for four decades. Rainone was adept at burglaries and beat-downs and became an outfit handyman - their go-to guy in the 1980s.

In court Wednesday, federal prosecutors hoped that Rainone's rap sheet and reputation as a career predator would have convinced judge Harry Leinenweber to throw the book at him on the single gun charge. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amar Bhachu told the judge that Rainone is one of the most dangerous individuals of his era.

"He obviously thought Mr. Rainone was different than some of these other criminals (Scalise, et al) that he had sentenced in the past and took into account the crime that he was charged with, and he also took into account the age and the nature and circumstances of the offense," said Lisa Lopez, Rainone co-counsel.

Rainone claims to have left the outfit in 1989 when he realized that he was actually the target of a hit he was sent to commit. But his cooperation with the FBI was short-lived.

Even behind bars once at the Oxford Penitentiary, Rainone couldn't stay out of trouble.

He was busted for bribing guards to smuggle in contraband, but as his attorney Joe "The Shark" Lopez said in court, "... it wasn't drugs or anything like that," it was
just "salami and some other Italian food products."

After court, Lopez said Rainone has health problems and the judge showed mercy.

"I think that he felt that Mr. Rainone has finally reached his pinnacle, this was his swan song, this is the end of it," Lopez said. "And when Mr. Rainone is released and he's going to have five years supervised release with this judge."

Whether you call him "Rainonee," "Rainone," or just "The Arm," there is one thing that his lawyer says he shouldn't be called, and that is a snitch. According the Lopez law firm, there has never been an offer to cooperate or any interest in cooperating. He just wants to get this case behind him.


Family feud details surface during Philadelphia murder for hire trial

The father sat at the defense table facing a murder-for-hire charge that could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

The daughter sat on the witness stand, offering testimony that could help the government put him there.

Ron Galati, the 64-year-old South Philadelphia auto body shop owner, and his daughter, Tiffany, 31,  squared off in federal court in Camden today in a bloody and twisted version of family feud.

Galati is charged with hiring hitmen to kill Tiffany's boyfriend Andrew Tuono back in November. But her testimony, which included her eyewitness account of the shooting, covered a dysfunctional family dynamic that stretched back several years and that Tiffany Galati said shattered her relationship with her father, her mother Vicky and brother Ron Jr.

The shooting of Tuono, she said, was a violent and extreme extension of her father's overly protective and authoritarian approach to parenting. Her father always came between her and whomever she was dating, she explained. He wanted her to break up with Tuono with whom she had begun living. When she refused to end the relationship, she implied, her father decided to end it for her.

"There were bullets flying," she said of the night when she and Tuono were confronted by two gunmen allegedly sent by her father. "I had never been shot at before."

Dressed in black slacks and a long gray sweater over a black shirt, her dark hair parted in the middle and flowing over both shoulders, Tiffany Galati appeared both angry and determined as she testified for the government.

Her father sat quietly at the defense table, showing little emotion but occasionally whispering in the ear of his defense lawyer. Galati, who has two other cases -- including another murder-for-hire charge -- pending in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia, has been held without bail since his arrest late last year. He had pleaded not guilty and his lawyer has implied that Tuono was shot for reasons that had nothing to do with Galati.

That Tiffany Galati believed her father had orchestrated the attempt -- Tuono survived -- was clear from her direct testimony and from several asides she voluntarily offered in response to questions from both Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson, the prosecutor in the case, and from defense attorney Anthony Voci Jr.

When Voci questioned her about a custody dispute she had with another boyfriend who is the father of her six-year-old son Jeffrey, Tiffany Galati conceded that her son lived with his father. But that, she said, was only because her father refused her request for money to hire a lawyer to fight the issue.

"I asked him for money to help me get custody because I was living in New Jersey," she said. "He said he couldn't help me...but he had twenty thousand for the shooter."

Ronald Walker, who testified that he was one of the men Galati hired to kill Tuono, said Galati promised to pay him $20,000 for the hit.

Testimony in the trial, which began last week, is expected to conclude tomorrow. Closing arguments could come Thursday or Monday (there is no trial session on Friday). It appears that Galati will not take the stand in his own defense. Voci told Judge Joseph Rodriguez his case would take less than a day. Galati's testimony and cross-examination, were he to take the stand, would extend the defense case beyond one day.  

The Galati family riff, detailed in Tiffany's testimony, included confrontations and angry text and email exchanges surrounding occasional attempts to mend fences. Tuono, who took the stand this afternoon, acknowledged that he frequently clashed with Ron Galati and sometimes with Galati's wife and with Ron Jr.

They had all been friends at one time, he said, but once he started dating Tiffany, the relationship deteriorated. He admitted that he left phone messages in which he called Vicky Galati "a piece of shit."

"Those types of arguments happened frequently before I got shot," he said. But he denied making an angry phone call to Vicky Galati in May of this year, even after Voci confronted him with a taped recording of the expletive-laden message from May 4.

Tuono had told the jury he made the call in an attempt to "make peace" between Tiffany and her mother. The taped phone message, however, did not sound like a peace offering.

"Tiffany was constantly crying," he said of his then girlfriend's relationship with her family.

"They were fighting so bad it was unbearable," he said at another point.

Tiffany Galati admitted under cross by Voci that in August 2013 she sent a graphic text photo first to her brother and later to her parents. The photo, not shown to the jury but described by Voci, was a picture of the residue of a miscarriage Tiffany Galati said she suffered.

The photo was of a partially developed fetus in a toilet.

Tiffany Galati said she blamed her father for her miscarriage because of the stress he had put her under.

The jury also was read the email message Ron Galati Jr. sent his sister in reply.

In part, it read, "Do me a favor Tiff, don't text me shit that has to do with you and Drew...You want to know how I feel about it? I think it's the best thing that could happen to you."

Tiffany Galati responded via text, telling her brother, "Consider me dead. Lose my number."

In reply, Ron Galati Jr. wrote, "Tell me this. What was your intention?...Do you want sympathy. You don't talk to anyone...A picture of a dead fetus. It's sick."

Tiffany Galati said the photo, texts and messages were indicative of how badly her relationship with her brother had become. She said they were once very close, "best friends," but that her father had turned her brother against her and Tuono.

Tiffany Galati and Tuono are no longer a couple, but they were a tandem today. Tuono, 35, took the stand immediately after Tiffany Galati stepped down and provided another account of the night of the shooting. The jury has heard from the two hitmen, Tiffany Galati and Tuono. All have told basically the same story.

Tuono said he and Tiffany were on their way to dinner that Saturday night. They walked out of his townhouse on Carson Avenue in Atlantic City and were confronted by two men. Tuono said he told Tiffany to keep walking and to get to their car. He said he turned and was shot in the hand. He then began to run away from Tiffany to draw the gunman's fire. He said he heard a shot, then felt a burning sensation in his hip and then another in his back.

Tiffany got in their BMW and drove away. The gunman and his accomplice fled on foot and were arrested almost immediately. They quickly agreed to cooperate and told authorities Galati had hired them to kill Tuono.

Tuono testified that as he lay bleeding in front of his home, he told the first police office on the scene that Galati was responsible. But in a bizarre twist, Tuono said immediately after he was shot and as he lay bleeding, he called two close friends on his cell phone and left each the same message: "I just got shot. If I don't make it, I'll be looking over you."

Tuono was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery that night.

Tiffany Galati said she also called friends from her cell phone as she drove away from the shooting scene. She admitted that when she was later questioned by police, she gave somewhat conflicting information, at one point saying she believed "cops had shot Drew (Tuono)."

"I was very confused," she said when Voci raised those points during cross-examination. "I was scared and nervous. I'd never been shot at before...I don't know what I said. I was shaken up."

When Voci suggested that no one was actually shooting at her -- Walker had testified earleir that he was told "not to hurt the girl" -- Tiffany Galanti just shook her head, and from the witness stand, looked at her father.

"There were bullets flying," she said. "Who's to say one wouldn't ricochet and hit me?"


Monday, September 22, 2014

Big Ang goes off on Renee and Karen from Mob Wives during filming of season five

Angela (Big Ang) Raiola went ballistic on location at a Chelsea bar, a source tells us.
The peace at the Ainsworth, an upscale sports bar in Chelsea, was broken when the cast of the reality show “Mob Wives” ran amok while filming there last week.

An insider tells Confidenti@l that bouncers had to step in when the VH1 show’s formidable, 6-foot-tall star, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, suddenly went on a rampage and tried to attack fellow cast member Renee Graziano.

“Big Ang went psycho,” we’re told. “Renee literally ran out of the place.

“I would run out, too — (Big Ang) is scary!”, said our source. “She was screaming at (cast member) Karen Gravano and Renee, calling them ‘rats’.”

“It was a shock because Big Ang is so sweet — she’s really not a fighter. Renee must have really upset her. Karen got in the way, and she was tossed like a feather by Ang. Even the bouncers were having trouble controlling her, and the producers didn’t try — why would they?” sniffed the source.

Apparently the mountainous star even tried to launch a table at her foe. “Well, it worked for Teresa Giudice,” joked the insider, referring to the infamous 2009 table-flipping incident on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” that helped make Giudice a household name.

“Eventually Drita (D’Avanzo), another member of the cast) managed to calm her down, and in the end nobody was hurt — there was just a lot of running and smeared makeup and spray tans,” said the source. “But the whole thing made a real scene in the restaurant.”

The series, which follows several wives and daughters of mafiosi, is shooting its fifth season, which is expected to premiere in December.

Last Monday, even before the blowup at the Ainsworth, D’Avanzo posted to her Facebook page : “I can promise every Mob Wives fan that Season 5 will be the most shocking yet!!!!!!! Oh boy...oh boy... #December.”

Big Ang and reps for VH1 and the Ainsworth declined to comment.

Ang had also been enjoying some more peaceful activities of late. On Sept. 14, the Staten Island bar owner emerged victorious from the Reality All Star Meatball Challenge, beating other unscripted-TV stars from her home borough in a contest to make the best version of the Italian classic.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Family urges judge to throw the book at Mob Wives star turned informant Hector Pagan

Family members of a Brooklyn man slain during a $200,000 stickup are urging a judge to show no mercy for the “Mob Wives” ex-husband who fired the fatal bullet — even though he helped convict two accomplices in the murder.

The wife, mother and daughter of victim James Donovan have written letters to the judge that understandably contain no gratitude for Hector Pagan’s cooperation.

“Hector Pagan murdered Jamie,” widow Linda Donovan wrote. “He shot him as he was running away and left him on the street to bleed to death. Please draw the line in the sand that says no more second chances.

Pagan’s testimony helped convict mob associates Richard Riccardi and Luigi Grasso for the July 2010 murder during a ripoff of Donovan’s check-cashing business in Gravesend. They were sentenced to over 30 years in prison.

Pagan, the former spouse of “Mob Wives” star Renee Graziano, also secretly recorded tapes against his gangster father-in-law and a gaggle of other Bonannos in a desperate bid to win favor with the feds.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Pagan initially denied participating in Donovan’s murder, and while wearing a hidden wire, he secretly tried to shush anyone who raised the subject. Still, prosecutors say he should get less than life in prison as a reward for his undercover work.

“Please show no mercy for this cold-hearted man that has no regard for human life,” Patricia Donovan, the dead man’s mother, wrote Brooklyn Federal Judge John Gleeson.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gambino associate sentenced to a year and a day in waste hauling scheme

Todt Hill resident Scott Fappiano spent 21 years behind bars for a rape he didn't commit.
But the purported Gambino crime family associate got slapped on Friday with a 366-day jail sentence for a crime he admitted to -- threatening to hurt a waste-company owner who was paying him protection money, said federal prosecutors.
Fappiano was among 32 suspects with links to organized crime who were arrested in January 2013 and accused of plotting to control the commercial waste-hauling industry in the greater New York City metropolitan area, said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Members and associates of the Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese crime families participated in the scheme, which incorporated extortion, loansharking, mail and wire fraud, said Manhattan federal prosecutors.
According to prosecutors' sentencing memorandum, Fappiano offered protection to a waste-company owner who was being extorted by other parties.
The man, who later cooperated with authorities, paid Fappiano $5,600, and the defendant also demanded that he be placed on the books to document his employment to his probation officer, said prosecutors.
Fappiano was on a term of supervised release stemming from a 2011 Brooklyn federal court conviction for participating in a loansharking conspiracy, said prosecutors.
Fappiano did "only a minimal amount" of work for the waste company and on at least two occasions telephoned the owner and threatened to hurt him, said prosecutors.
In January, Fappiano, then 52, pleaded guilty to one count of communicating a threat of bodily harm in interstate commerce.
His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2006, Fappiano was sprung from prison after DNA evidence exonerated him in the 1983 rape of a police officer's wife in Brooklyn.
He later received a $1.8 million settlement from the state for false imprisonment, said an Advance report.
In December of last year, Fappiano agreed to fork over $105,000 to resolve a civil lawsuit field against him by his brother, Mark, of West Brighton.
Mark Fappiano alleged his sibling failed to pay a $138,000 debt to him despite having the money from the false-arrest settlement.


The mob did the lights for NYC's Feast of San Gennaro

The charity that runs the Feast of San Gennaro insists it has been Mafia-free for years, but it’s not quite that simple when it comes to those red, white and green lights hanging over Mulberry St.

After the mob was allegedly tossed out by hard-charging Rudy Giuliani, organized crime sneaked back in via the contract to install those lights, records show.

A Bonanno informant, capo Richard "Shellackhead" Cantarella, has testified that Criscitelli was a soldier in that family.

From 1997 — the year the charity Figli di San Gennaro was put in as part of Giuliani’s clean sweep — through 2005, a mob-tied electrical contractor handled the festival’s pricey lights, according to law enforcement and court records.

The Daily News reported Friday that Figli di San Gennaro donated only a pittance to charity out of the $4.4 million it took in between 2007 and 2012.

Event organizers say much of that money went to pay for contractors to run the feast, including electricians who handle the lights that feature the colors of the Italian flag.

On Friday, the organizers tweeted that The News’ report was “false,” but later declined to answer questions from the newspaper.

In 1997, John Cappelli and his Bronx firm, N.Y. Christmas Lights, were cleared to install lights at the feast by a monitor put in place to keep out the mob.

Behind the scenes, the mob worked to ensure nobody else got the job, court papers reveal.

 Vincent Basciano was overheard in 2003 discussing his crime family’s “involvement in providing electrical service to the San Gennaro Feast.”

John Cappelli and his firm, N.Y. Christmas Lights, were cleared to install lights at the feast in 1997.

Prosecutors say in 2000, a rival contractor bid to handle lights at San Gennaro. Soon after, he got a call from Perry Criscitelli, then-chairman of the feast’s charity.

The Daily News reported Friday that Figli di San Gennaro donated only a pittance to charity out of the $4.4 million it took in between 2007 and 2012.

Criscitelli told him “he would have to pay approximately $75,000 to obtain the electrical contract for the feast.”

The victim “refused to pay the additional money to secure the contract and his bid was rejected,” prosecutors say.

A Bonanno informant, capo Richard "Shellackhead" Cantarella, has testified that Criscitelli was a soldier in that family. With the FBI listening in, Bonanno boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano was overheard in 2003 discussing his crime family’s “involvement in providing electrical service to the San Gennaro Feast.”

In 2004, Criscitelli suddenly resigned from the board after his mob credentials were exposed in testimony by Cantarella.

The mob was allegedly tossed out of the feast by hard-charging Rudy Giuliani.

Another prosecutor in 2005 identified yet another gangster, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello, as “receiving benefits” from San Gennaro. The feast’s monitor, Richard Mark, seemed surprised: “I look at those books and believe firmly that no funds of the sponsoring organization are going to organized crime.”

Mark declined comment.

The charity Figli di San Gennaro was put in as part of Giuliani’s clean sweep in 1997.

By then, the feds were aware that yet another mobster, Angelo Prisco, a Genovese capo, was also involved in “doing ‘the lights for the feast,’ ” prosecutors said.

In 2004, the FBI overheard Prisco boasting about how he had done Cappelli a “big favor” by getting him the San Gennaro feast.” He said Cappelli paid him “$2,500 every two months in exchange for Prisco’s assistance in obtaining electrical contracts,” prosecutors alleged.

Cappelli wasn’t booted out until 2006 after he was charged with asking his mob handlers to “talk to” a competitor trying to underbid him on another feast in Jersey.

On Friday, officials made clear that the electrical vendor now hanging lights at San Gennaro, AMA Electrical, was vetted by the city Department of Investigation.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Skinny Joey Merlino heading back to Philadelphia

Joey Merlino’s coming back to Philadelphia.

But the erstwhile mob boss isn't happy about it.

Instead of completing plans to open a restaurant in Boca Raton, the 52-year-old former South Philadelphia wiseguy will have to appear in federal court at 6th and Market Streets and explain to a judge why he should not be  sent back to prison for violating the terms of his supervised release. 

According to a violation notice filed last month, Merlino was spotted meeting with mobster John “Johnny Chang” Ciancaglini and two other convicted felons on June 18 at a restaurant and a cigar bar in Boca. While on parole, Merlino is prohibited from meeting with any organized crime figure or felon.

Merlino, Ciancaglini and five other co-defendants were convicted in a highly publicized 2001 racketeering case in Philadelphia. Merlino, the  boss of the crime family at the time, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Ciancaglini, a mob capo, was sentenced to eight years and three years of supervised release. He has completed his entire sentence. Merlino was about to finish his supervised release term this week after which he would have been free to meet and associate with whomever he liked.

The timing of the violation was seen in underworld circles as an attempt by federal authorities to, in the words of one mob associate, “bust his balls.” 
The alleged meeting with Ciancaglini and the two other felons occurred in June, according to court records, at La Villetta, an Italian restaurant and later at Havana Nights, a cigar bar in Boca Raton. Yet the violation notice was not filed in federal court in Philadelphia until Aug. 25 and Merlino was not notified until Sept. 2. 

Contacted by phone, Merlino declined to comment but said his lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., was moving to set up a hearing as soon as possible. Merlino said he would offer an explanation in court. The issue will be argued before U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said one source familiar with Merlino. “Why would he meet in a public place with Johnny Chang? What was so urgent or so important that he would risk his freedom?”

Merlino could be ordered back to prison. Other co-defendants cited for violating the terms of their supervised release have been sentenced to from four to six months in prison. What’s more, the judge could order that Merlino be placed on supervised release again for an extended period of time, thus limiting his ability to meet with individuals and to travel.

Merlino moved to Florida following his release from prison and has said repeatedly that he has no intention of returning to South Philadelphia or to the criminal underworld. His activities in Florida, however, have attracted both law enforcement and media attention. 

The latest publicity has centered on reports that he intends to be involved in the operation of an Italian restaurant in Boca. As a convicted felon, Merlino could not be part of a business that held a liquor license. But he could be involved as a consultant or in some other capacity.

The restaurant, Merlino said in a phone interview, would offer “South Philadelphia-style Italian food.”

“There’s nothing like that down here,” he said, adding that his mother Rita might bring some of her homemade recipes to the kitchen.

Merlino offered few other details, but he has been gathering mementoes, including newspaper headlines and clippings from his days as a Philadelphia mob celebrity. That kind of material, enlarged and framed, could be part of the restaurant décor.

Another Merlino co-defendant, Angelo Lutz, has done exactly that in his highly successful Kitchen Consigliere Café in Collingswood. Lutz, convicted with Merlino and Ciancaglini, has been a restaurateur for four years in the South Jersey food mecca that is Collingswood.

He started in a small, 38-seat establishment on Powell Lane and last year moved to a larger facility that seats close to 100 at the corner of Collings and Haddon Avenues, literally in the center of town. Reservations on weekends are a must at Lutz’s joint and Merlino, with his high profile name recognition, was apparently hoping to duplicate that success in the Sunshine State. 

All of that is now on hold while the parole violation issue is sorted out.  

Federal authorities are offering no explanation about the meeting but court documents indicate that two detectives in Broward County, FL,  had Merlino under surveillance on the night he and Ciancaglini met.

In May, Merlino, 52, had to appear before federal authorities and answer questions about his finances.

Jacobs also represented him at that hearing.

How Merlino has managed to live a relatively comfortable life in Southern Florida with little visible means of income is a question that has been asked in both law enforcement and underworld circles since he opted to move to Florida when he was released from federal prison. 

Despite his denials and claims to have left the mob, there are those who believe  Merlino is still a player in the South Philadelphia underworld and is routinely receiving cash from illegal activities there. Those who believe that scenario see the meeting with Ciancaglini as part of an ongoing operation.

Merlino has been living in a posh condo and is frequently seen at popular bars and restaurants in the Boca Raton area. The alleged violations occurred at two such places, according to a report filed in U.S. District Court which reads in part:

On June 18, 2014, the defendant was observed by detectives from the Broward County Sheriff's Office (Florida) to be in the company of John Ciancaglini, Brad Sirkin, and Frank Fiori, all of whom are convicted felons.

According to the police report, on June 18, 2014, detectives were conducting surveillance of the defendant and observed him leaving his residence located at 67 Hawthrone Place, Boca Raton, Florida and enter a vehicle driven by Don Petullo. They followed the two to La Villetta Restaurant, located in Boca Raton, Florida. Shortly after the defendant arrived at the restaurant, several individuals exited the restaurant and met with the defendant in the parking lot.

Joseph Merlino's vehicle and three other vehicles left the parking lot of the restaurant and headed to the Havana's Nights Cigar Bar located in Boca Raton, Florida. The defendant and the other individuals entered the establishment. Two detectives then entered the Havana's Nights Cigar Bar and observed the defendant in a VIP area within the bar interacting with John Ciancaglini, Brad Sirkin and Frank Fiori. John Ciancaglini is a co-defendant of Merlino in this case and is also known to be a member of the La Cosa Nostra of Philadelphia.

In 2001 along with the defendant, Mr. Ciancaglini was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, racketeering, aiding and abetting; conspiracy to extort a bookmaking business, aiding and abetting; and illegal sports bookmaking business, aiding and abetting. Mr. Ciancaglini was also convicted in 1989 of Hobbs Act conspiracy, Hobbs Act extortion, and attempted Hobbs Act extortion, aiding and abetting, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Brad Sirkin was convicted credit card fraud, in 1989 in Anaheim, California; and of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, conspiracy and money laundering in September 1992 in the Southern District of Florida. Frank Fiori was convicted of a felony fraud charge in 1997, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The defendant did not have permission from the probation office to associate with these convicted felons.

“It was a stupid thing to do,” said another underworld source while discussing the meeting.

The source, who has repeatedly scoffed at Merlino’s claim to have left the mob, added, “These guys can’t help themselves. They are who they are and that’s all they know.”


Murder for hire plot outlined during Philadelphia trial

It sounds like the plot from a Shakespearean play, but with a decided South Philadelphia twist.

A father, upset because his daughter is dating a man he neither likes nor trusts, sends two henchmen to kill the unwanted suitor. If Shakespeare had written the story, the assassins would have carried swords or daggers.

Ronald Walker said he used a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

Walker took the stand this afternoon during the opening day of testimony in the murder-for-hire trial of Ronald Galati, a South Philadelphia auto body shop owner with a checkered criminal past that includes alleged organized crime connections.

But neither Galati's past nor his suspected mob ties are expected to figure in the trial. Instead, the case will focus on the allegation that last year Galati, 63, hired three men to kill Andrew Tuono who was dating Galati's daughter Tiffany at the time.

Tuono survived the hit and is listed as a potential witness. So is Tiffany Galati.

"It's a simple case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson said in his opening statement to the jury of 10 women and two men this morning. "Mr. Galati wanted Mr. Tuono dead." The reason, Richardson said, was also rather mundane. "Mr. Galati didn't like Mr. Tuono."

Testimony and evidence in the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, may provide a more complicated and convoluted explanation for the Nov. 30, 2013, shooting in Atlantic City that left Tuono bleeding from bullet wounds to the stomach, back and hand.

"I shot four times," Walker, a stocky 49-year-old with an extensive criminal record for drug dealing, assault, attempted murder and robbery, told the jury. "They said I only hit him three times."

Asked why he stopped shooting, Walker replied, "Because there weren't no more bullets."

Walker said he was hired by Galati and promised $20,000 for the hit. He said Alvin Matthews, a boyhood friend, was with him during the shooting and that another longtime friend, Jerome Johnson, had set the murder up at Galati's request. Both Matthews and Johnson, like Walker, have pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire and conspiracy charges and are cooperating with the government. They are also expected to testify.

"This is a case about people, family and relationships," Anthony Voci, Galati's defense attorney, told the jury in a comment that hinted at the soap opera like nature of the case. How much the jury hears about Galati's strained relationship with his daughter and the reasons why he allegedly wanted Tuono killed may depend on whether Tiffany Galati is called as a witness.

What the jury won't hear is testimony about Galati's alleged criminal relationships with Johnson, Walker and Matthews. All three are accused of playing similar roles in another murder-for-hire case pending in Common Pleas Court. In that case, Galati is charged with ordering the murders of two rival auto body shop owners, a father and son, who he suspected were cooperating in an insurance fraud investigation that had targeted him.

Galati, his wife, his son and a dozen others, including the son of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, are also under indictment in Common Pleas court in a multi-million dollar insurance fraud case. Johnson, Matthews and Walker allegedly damaged cars as part of the fraud scheme. Authorities say Walker and Matthews were also involved in arson at Galati's behest.

But Judge Joseph Rodriguez, based on motions filed by Voci, said none of that information can be used in the current trial because it has nothing to do with the attempted murder of Tuono.

Galati, jailed since his arrest in the case, said little as he sat at the defense table next to his lawyer. In his opening statement, Voci told the jury there "was not a shred of physical evidence" tying his client to the case. Voci is expected to argue that there were other reasons why Tuono was targeted, reasons that had nothing to do with Galati.

The government's case, in fact, is built almost entirely on the word of Walker, Matthews and Johnson. Voci is expected to use his cross-examination to challenge the credibility and motivation of those witnesses and to raise questions about their involvement and Tuono's involvement in the drug underworld.

Walker and Matthews were arrested within minutes of the shooting and quickly gave up Johnson and Galati to law enforcement. Johnson eventually opted to cooperate as well. All three are expected to tell basically the same story.

Walker said Galati wanted Tuono dead.

"He said he had a problem with a guy and he needed it taken care of," Walker said, adding that Galati often talked in riddles and that at one point he told the auto body shop owner, "Say what you mean."

"He said he wanted me to kill the guy. He wanted him dead...but he didn't want it come back on him."

Walker said Galati at first suggested that they bury Tuono's body, but Walker balked. He said he eventually agreed to carry out the hit, but not dispose of the body. He said Johnson took him to two different locations in South Philadelphia where Tuono was believed to be staying, but that the target was not there either time.

Finally, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he said was driving in a car with Johnson when a call came in from Galati informing them that Tuono was at the townhouse he owned in Atlantic City. Walker said he had Johnson drive him to a few drug deal deliveries that day and that they stopped at a  Church's Fried Chicken restaurant for lunch before heading down the Shore to carry out the hit.

Prosecutors displayed surveillance camera shots from the fried chicken store that showed both Johnson and Walker placing orders at the counter that day. Matthews, Walker said, joined them for the trip to Atlantic City.

He said Johnson dropped them off near Tuono's Carson Avenue townhouse. They waited on the darkened street and up an alley for several minutes before Tiffany Galati and Tuono walked out the door.

Walker said he had been told by Johnson, "do not touch the girl."

Walker told the jury that Matthews called out to Tuono, "Yo, my man. I wanna talk to you."

"About what?" Tuono replied, according to Walker who said he then walked up to the target, pulled a gun and told him, "Don't run."

Tuono ran, Walker said, and Walker opened fire.

Tiffany Galati showed little emotion, Walker said when questioned by Voci. In fact, he confirmed an earlier statement he had made to police that "She just stood there as if she knew what was going on."

Tuono, lying on the ground bleeding, yelled for her to "call 9-1-1, call the police," Walker said. Instead, he told the jury, she got into a BMW that was parked in front of the townhouse and drove away.

Walker said he and Matthews began to run from the shooting scene, but when they turned a corner they saw a police officer pointing his gun and ordering them to stop. Instead, they kept running. Walker said he tripped and stumbled and that the police officer quickly caught up with him.

Matthews was arrested within minutes a few blocks away.

Both men began cooperating almost immediately. Walker admitted that at first he told authorities that Matthews was the shooter, but he said he later changed his story and admitted he was the one who fired the shots.

Walker said he did not know Tuono's name and did not ask Galati why he wanted him dead.

"It wasn't my business to know why," he said.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Barber arrested for loan sharking operation

The owner and operator of a barber shop in Haverstraw and an alleged long-time associate of mobsters in the Lower Hudson Valley was arrested for loan-sharking on Tuesday
Anthony “Harpo” DePalma, 69, who owns Mr. Tony’s Barber Shop on Railroad Avenue, was charged with first degree criminal usury, a class C felony. According to the Rockland County District Attorney’s office, he made numerous street loans to individuals who feared they were ineligible to receive a loan from their bank.
After entering into agreements with debtors, DePalma charged them up to 200 percent interest, well above the legally-allowable limit. When police searched his shop, they found evidence of the deals, including records of the usurious loans and about $60,000 in cash.
This is not DePalma’s first offense. He was also arrested for enterprise corruption in 2001 and gambling charges in 1973 and 2011. DePalma most recent gambling conviction-which involved his participation in a gambling ring with longtime Pagano crime family associate Frank Fea, resulted in a 60 day county jail sentence.
The arrest is part of a larger crackdown on organized crime operations in the county. DePalma’s arrest came only a month after authorities arrested associate Daniel Pagano of Airmont, the son of the late mobster Joseph Pagano, on racketeering charges together with associate Michael Palazzolo, who was charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Feds seek to send Skinny Joey Merlino back to jail for parole violation

Recent photo of former mob boss Joey "Skinny" Merlino.  who was released from prison on Sunday March 13, 2011. Mandatory credit:  WPVI-TV/6abc<br /><br />
Former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino could be headed back to prison mere days before his court-ordered supervision is scheduled to end this week if federal authorities have their way.
His probation officers say the 52-year-old ex-don violated the terms of his release in June with a night on the town with one of his former mob captains and two convicted felons in Boca Raton, Fla.
The terms of his probation prohibit Merlino from associating with convicted felons or members of La Cosa Nostra.
For Merlino, who publicly swore off the mob and moved to South Florida after his release from federal custody three years ago, the new allegation could bring an abrupt halt to postprison plans that range from opening a restaurant or bar to launching a late-in-life acting career.
Merlino's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, did not return calls for comment Saturday.
According to an affidavit filed in a Philadelphia federal court last week, authorities in Broward County, Fla., conducted surveillance on a June 18 dinner between Merlino and the ex-cons at an Old World Italian restaurant in a Boca Raton strip mall.
The foursome later departed for after-dinner drinks in the VIP area of the swank Havana Nights Cigar Bar & Lounge, the document states.
In attendance were John Ciancaglini, a mob captain convicted alongside Merlino in 2001; Brad Sirkin, a convicted fraudster and money launderer; and Frank Fiore, the cigar bar's owner, who has a record of his own.
Though it remains unclear why Florida authorities were surveilling Merlino at the time, he may have simply picked the wrong bar and the wrong drinking companions. A month after the former mob don quaffed drinks at Havana Nights, federal authorities raided the bar and charged Fiore in a conspiracy to sell counterfeit Xanax, Viagra, and steroids.
In a separate violation, probation officers say, Merlino refused in May to answer questions about one of his business transactions, a breach of a requirement that he provide any financial information sought by his monitors.
The new allegations come more than a decade after Merlino was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his conviction in a racketeering conspiracy case.
His sentence included a standard three-year term of postprison probation that is scheduled to end Thursday.
In the same case that sent him to prison, Merlino stood charged with more than half a dozen shootings, including those of a video-poker operator who refused to pay street tax, a rival mob leader, and the brother of a witness in an earlier mob trial.
The mobster denied the allegations, and jurors acquitted him of those counts.
Ever since, federal investigators have kept a close eye on his activities.
In late 2011, they sent a wired mob turncoat to secretly record a conversation with him at a Florida Dunkin' Donuts. They alleged in court filings that he still ran the Philadelphia mob.
In an interview last year with the website BigTrial.net, Merlino said he left all that behind the day he left prison and laid out big dreams for his next career move - a list that at the time included opening a Philly cheesesteak restaurant in Florida or cashing in on his colorful past with an acting career.
The Miami Herald's gossip columnist reported last week that Merlino had recently finalized plans to invest in a "high-end, South Philadelphia-style Italian place."
But the probation violation charge could throw all that into doubt.
It will require him to return to Philadelphia at least temporarily. U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick had not yet scheduled a date for a hearing.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

As trial nears Philadelphia mob associate may take stand in own defense

Ron Galati has decided to roll the dice and put his future in the hands of a federal jury that will begin hearing testimony later this month in his murder-for-hire case.

What's more, the South Philadelphia auto body shop owner and wannabe wiseguy is considering taking the stand in his own defense, a move that was hinted at in a motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson, the prosecutor in the case.

In the same motion, Richardson alleged that Galati has made frequent payments to two prominent South Philadelphia organized crime figures, mob boss Joseph Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, but offered no explanation of what the payments were for.

Galati, 64, faces from 15 years to life if convicted. His apparent resolve to go to trial and perhaps tell his story in his own words to the jury undercuts speculation and media reports that he might cooperate with authorities.

"I don't know anything about anybody," he has reportedly told those close to him. 

Prior to the start of a pre-trial hearing this morning, Galati's defense attorney, Anthony J. Voci Jr., said no decision had been made on whether Galati would testify. Voci spent most of the hearing  attempting to block the introduction of evidence detailing Galati's alleged prior criminal activities. Voci said that evidence would be highly prejudicial and would make it impossible for his client to receive a fair trial. The prosecution says the evidence should be permitted, but has agreed not to introduce evidence alleging mob involvement. 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Rodriguez said he would rule on the criminal history evidence motion shortly. The trial, in federal court in Camden, is set to begin Sept. 15.

Galati, dressed in a green prison jump suit, was brought to court this morning by two federal marshals. He is currently being housed in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge that he hired two hitmen to shoot and kill Andrew "Drew" Tuono last year. At the time, Tuono was dating Galati's daughter Tiffany.

The two hitmen and a third alleged  co-conspirator have all admitted their roles in the murder plot and have agreed to testify. Tuono was shot three times outside his Atlantic City home on Nov. 30, 2013. He survived. Tiffany Galati, who was with Tuono at the time of the shooting, may also be a witness for the government.

Galati, a long-time associate of prominent Philadelphia mob figures, is facing two other criminal cases in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia. In one, he is charged with hiring the same hitmen to kill two rival auto body shop owners who he believed were testifying against him in a major insurance fraud investigation.

In the second case, he, his wife, his son and more than a dozen other co-defendants are named in a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme. One of his co-defendants is Ligambi's son.

The prosecution in response to a motion filed by Voci earlier, has said it does not intend to introduce any testimony about Galati's alleged mob ties, but reserved the right to address the topic should Galati's defense "open the door" on that issue.

In a pre-trial motion Richardson wrote that, "Although multiple organized crime and `mob' ties exist and are relevant to this case, the Government does not foresee the introduction of this evidence.
However, the Government reserves the right to introduce references to the mob and/or organized crime associations and/or activity if through argument, questioning, and/or testimony of the defendant `opens the door' or mentions these topics."

Richardson also noted that prison records indicate Galati spoke with Ligambi by phone on at least three occasions while Ligambi was being held in the Federal Detention Center and being tried on racketeering charges. Ligambi, 74, beat most of those charges in two trials. The remainder of the case was abandoned by the government early this year.

Richardson also wrote that, "On January 28, 2014, two days after Ligambi’s release from FDC Philadelphia following an acquittal and a deadlocked jury, law enforcement surveillance observed Ligambi at the defendant’s business, American Collision. Further, throughout the investigation of this case, it was learned that the defendant made frequent payments to Ligambi and his associate, George Borgesi, through a third party and sometimes twice a week through hand-to-hand transactions at American Collision."

Borgesi, 51, was acquitted in the same trial as his uncle.

Richardson's motion did not offer any explanation for why Galanti may have been funneling money to Ligambi and Borgesi. The mob's alleged role in an earlier Galati insurance fraud scheme that led to his 1995 conviction for fraud was alluded to in witness testimony during the Ligambi/Borgesi trials. 

During arguments before Rodriguez today, Voci said the defense would not dispute the prosecution's claim that Tuono was shot by Ronald Walker and Alvin Matthews and that Jerome Johnson, a long-time friend of Galati's, provided the gun and helped set up the hit. All three men are now cooperating witnesses.

But Voci said the reason for the shooting was not what the prosecution claims. Galati, should he take the stand, is expected to deny that he had anything to do with the shooting. Voci also argued that the prosecution should be limited in what additional evidence it can present to the jury about Galati's past criminal activities.

Galati's conviction for insurance fraud in a 1995 case, for example, should not be permitted because rules of evidence prohibit the mention of crimes that are more than 10 years old. Galatai was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison in that case which in many ways echoes the new insurance fraud case pending in Common Pleas Court.

Voci also argued that allegations that Walker, Matthews and Johnson were paid by Galati to vandalize cars and set fire to a boat and a tow-truck should not be permitted because those events, even if true, had nothing to do with the murder-for-hire conspiracy that is part of the Tuono case. Finally, he argued that any mention of the murder-for-hire case pending in Philadelphia would be highly prejudicial because the allegations are virtually identical to the allegations in the case now pending in federal court.

In both murder-for-hire cases, authorities allege Galati offered to pay Walker and Matthews and used Johnson as the go-between to set up the hits. The shootings in Philadelphia never occurred, authorities said, because the targets, Joseph Rao Sr. and his son Joe Jr., had closed their autobody shop before Walker and Matthews could make a move on them.

The prosecution argues that evidence about Galati's criminal relationships with the Walker, Matthews and Johnson help explain why the three would agree to commit murder for Galati and for that reason should be presented as evidence.

Richardson, in his motion, said evidence of Galati's relationship with the three men could also be used to counter any testimony that Galati might offer. The prosecutor suggested that Galati planned to take the stand and argue that "he had no association, especially criminal, with his co-conspirators and that the shooting of the victim was unrelated to the defendant’s relationship with him. Moreover, the Government anticipates the defendant will testify that the motive behind the Victim being shot was due to the Victim `owing people money,' `constantly getting in to fights' or his drug use/dealing."

Bits and pieces of the prosecution case have already been outlined in pre-trial motions. Among other things, authorities allege that Galati had threatened Tuono at a restaurant in Northfield in June 2013. The restaurant, identified today by Richardson as Salvo Kitchen, was owned by associates of Bogesi's, according to law enforcement sources. Those same sources said Galati "liked to hold court" while dining at the restaurant and frequently alluded to his mob connections.

While authorities have never clearly indicated why Galati wanted to harm Tuono, Richardson's motion contends that at one point Galati said he would kill Tuono himself.

"Galati told Michael Otterson [a potential witness in the case] in sum and substance that Galati would `kill him myself, I will strangle him, I will poke his eyes out' and `I am going to stab him right in the forehead with this thing,' referring to an ice pick type device," Richardson wrote. "In June 2013, Galati, members of Galati’s family and associates, including his cousin Anthony Valenti, had dinner with Tuono and Tiffany Galati at a restaurant in Northfield, New Jersey. During dinner, Galati took Tuono into the kitchen and threatened to kill him. Thereafter, Johnson and Mathews advised Tuono that if Galati was to instruct them to kill Tuono, they would follow through with the request."

Another document indicates that on the night of the shooting, Matthews and Walker were told that if there was a girl with Tuono, she should not be harmed. Tiffany Galati, who is expected to be called as a witness, was standing next to Tuono as three bullets were pumped into his body.

She was not hit.

Now estranged from her father, she has given a statement to authorities and both she and Tuono have been interviewed in detail. They are no longer a couple, according to sources, but both may be used by the prosecution to build its case against Galati.