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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Popular mafia forum The Black Hand Club expands

Our friends over at the popular mafia forum The Black Hand have moved to a new site with plans for a store and a wiki. Be sure to register at the new site to start discussing any mob news that you have read here or any questions that you may have regarding the mafia.

Here's a blurb from our pals over at The Black Hand:

"The Black Hand Club has officially opened for members. So light up your Cohiba, bring a vat of cognac and come sit down and discuss all organized crime topics from the early days of the Black Hand to Prohibition to the modern day La Cosa Nostra. The Black Hand Club has most and best researchers and chart makers than any other forum. The Black Hand forum also has the best renowned authors and journalists who have made it their life to explore the underworld. The Black Hand Club also has several upcoming authors who have been exploring organized crime topics that have never before been uncovered and has the most comprehensive analysis of organized crime families from the U.S. to Italy and into Canada. If Italian organized crime isn't your thing, come and discuss the Russian Mob or the Colombian Cartels that terrorize America and other countries alike. Politics, Sports and general discussion are always discussed, so if you have an inside tip on the Monday night game, the members are tuned in to what you have to say. There is only one way in and no way out. Please come and immerse yourself into this virtual underworld and share any knowledge on the topics at hand."

Glory days for Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island are over

ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather
For decades the mob ruled Rhode Island's crime scene through fear and intimidation.

But those days are long gone. Their brand of violence has been replaced by something more sinister and far reaching.

ABC6 got a peak inside state police headquarters to see what now commands their full attention.

The glory days for the Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island are over and have been for a while.

"Completely diminished is the best way to describe it. On a scale of 1–10...if it used to be a 10... I'd call it 2 ½...to a 3 if that," said State Police Colonel Steven O'Donnell.

Colonel O'Donnell would certainly know, back in the day he spent 6 years working undercover in the Patriarca crime family.

"Their old shakedowns where they'd walk into a club and ask money for protection...most of those days are over cause the people that work hard for their money they call the police," he said. 

Colonel O'Donnell credits prosecution of mobsters, death, made guys rolling over and cooperating with authorities as witnesses or informants.

"There's not a lot of trust within the Mafia families who is cooperating with police and who is not."

I don't want to give you the impression that the Staties have forgotten about the Organized Crime guys, because they haven't. 

They'll always be keeping an eye on them but like everything else crime has evolved and the State Police have to change with the times as well, which means a greater emphasis on what goes on in the computer crimes unit.

"The explosion of the internet has put a lot of these things that law enforcement never really saw before out into the mainstream," said O'Donnell.

Things like crimes against children, child porn, sex trafficking and on and on. That's where the specialized troopers of the computer crimes unit come in.

"All of them go to schools they're highly trained, they travel around the country and get trained. They do in–service training to make sure that they're state of the art, they're the best at what they do."

There is also the financial crimes unit, which goes after identity theft, scams and big investigations involving 38 studios and the international institute of sport.

According to Col. O'Donnell, there isn't that ambitious young guy looking to take over and there is no trust in the organization anymore because so many "made guys" have rolled over here and across the country.

Those who are still active in the mob, their bread and butter crimes are still protection, shakedowns, drugs, gambling, and the construction trade with bid.


Patriarca crime family captain sentenced for role in illegal gambling operation

Edward “Eddie” Lato, a high-ranking member of the Patriarca crime family, appeared in a Rhode Island courtroom for the first time in years to plead no contest for his role in a large-scale illegal gambling operation.
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear sentenced Lato to a 10-year suspended sentence with 10 years of probation. Lanphear said the sentence was to be served at the same time as his federal prison term.
Lato, 67, formerly of Johnston, was transferred to the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution on Sept. 10 from a federal prison in Estill, S.C. He’s serving a nine-year sentence for a federal conspiracy and extortion conviction.
Lato has been identified by both state and federal law enforcement as a capo regime in the New England mob. In the courtroom to watch the hearing was Joseph Achille, a longtime mobster.
In May 2011 Lato was caught up in a state police sting that netter 23 other suspects including Frank “Bobo” Marrapese – who was on parole parole for the 1987 gangland slaying of Richard “Dickie” Callie – and Alfred “Chippy” Scivola.
The state police investigation began in the fall of 2010 and uncovered a large illegal gambling operation run by Vincent “Tootsie” Tallo of Johnston.
Assistant Attorney General James Baum said in court the state would have proved that Lato and Marrapese “managed a criminal usury and extortion enterprise together with several named and unnamed coconspirators.”
Lato’s attorney Mark Smith entered the no contest plea on behalf of his client.
The state case was put on hold while the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office wrapped up the federal case that also brought down former New England mob boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.
In 2012 Lato pleaded guilty to charges that he took part in a scheme to shakedown strip clubs for protection money and extort $25,000 from a used car salesman.
Of the nine defendants in the federal case – including former reputed underboss Anthony DiNunzio of East Boston – Lato was sentenced to the most time behind bars. At the time U.S. District Court Judge William Smith cited Lato’s lengthy criminal record on sentencing day in June 2012.


Patriarca crime family associate sentenced to prison as part of plea agreement

A Johnston resident prosecutors describe as a mob associate will serve more than three years in prison as part of a plea agreement entered in Superior Court this week.
Vincent “Tootsie” Tallo, 53, with a last known address of 12 Poppyhill Drive in Johnston, entered a plea of no contest on charges he operated an illegal gambling ring. Under the terms of the agreement, he was sentenced to 20 years with 40 months to serve, and the remainder of the sentence was suspended with probation.
“Hollywood may have glamorized the mob lifestyle, but Vinny Tallo is nothing more than a common criminal hanging on to the fantasy of being in the game with a ‘made guy.’ There is nothing glamorous about selling drugs, bookmaking or prison,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin states in a press release.
According to Kilmartin’s office, Tallo was arrested in May 2011 after a six-month joint investigation by the attorney general’s office and Rhode Island State Police.
The probe, which the attorney general said involved a court-authorized wire intercept of Tallo’s cell phone, also led to the arrest of 22 other individuals prosecutors say have ties to organized crime and were involved in an illegal gambling ring.
“Detectives monitored and recorded thousands of incriminating conversations as well as conducted physical surveillance,” the attorney general’s release states. “The investigation established that Tallo was conducting an organized criminal gambling operation by accepting illegal sports wagers on various professional and college sporting events. Tallo further arranged for payouts and collections of the wagers won or lost by his customers.”
Prosecutors say detectives also learned Tallo was involved in the illegal purchase and sale of prescription drugs from his residence and also possessed a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance.
According to the attorney general’s office, the investigation additionally identified “made members” of New England organized crime who were involved in the gambling operation. Two were identified as Edward C. Lato and Frank L. Marrapese, who prosecutors say are members of the Patriarca crime family.


Skinny Joey Merlino serves as maitre d' for new South Florida restaurant

Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino at the Boca Raton restaurant that bears his name, where he's maitre d'.
A woman took Joseph Merlino's hand and towed him across the marble floor to her friends, who fussed over him, cooing.
"The veal parmiagana! Fabulous!" somebody else told the maitre d' of the hot new Italian restaurant in South Florida that bears the family name. He had stopped to ask how they liked everything. "Loved the cheesecake," a woman said. "Is that your mother's recipe?"
And so it went on a drizzly Friday night in the land of perpetual valet parking as the reputed former boss of the Philadelphia mob darted around the room, greeting diners. Merlino hugged. He kissed. He shook hands, laying his hand on a shoulder, leaning in close to talk. It went on hour after hour.
The restaurant opened this month, built around recipes his mother, Rita, cooked when the man known as "Skinny Joey," now 52, was growing up in Point Breeze.
Would Merlino be willing to share one of them, perhaps for his favorite, crab gravy?
"I went to jail for not telling," he quipped. "I'm not giving up a recipe. I'm not telling."
Merlino may soon be heading back. U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick last week ordered him to report to federal prison Jan. 5 to begin serving a four-month sentence for violating terms of his supervised release after serving time on a 2001 racketeering conviction.
In October, the judge ruled Merlino had violated those terms in June when he hung out with a member of the Philadelphia crime family, John "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini, at Havana Nights, a Boca Raton cigar bar and lounge. An FBI surveillance team saw Merlino, Ciancaglini, and two other felons in the glass-enclosed VIP section filled with leather recliners and a wall-size TV, according to testimony in the case.
Merlino's lawyers say it was a chance encounter, not a planned meeting, and they have appealed Surrick's ruling.
But Friday night in Boca, jail time seemed far away,
"You want a table? I'm the right guy, then; I'm the maitre d," Merlino said Friday. "Hey, get these two a table."
The white-tablecloth restaurant was jammed, and a steady stream of Mercedeses, BMWs, and Audis pulled up to Merlino's valet station on SE 1st Avenue. The valets parked a white Ferrari right in front. As the evening wore on and the nearby nightclubs started cranking up, the crowd got younger, and the sound track changed from Sinatra standards to "Dancing Queen" by ABBA and the Bee Gees' "More Than a Woman" and "Stayin' Alive."
Merlino has survived about a dozen attempts on his life. And in the same 2001 case that sent him to prison, Merlino also 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.
But the mobster denied the allegations, and jurors acquitted him of those counts.
Merlino publicly swore off the thug life and moved to a gated housing development off Broken Sound Road here three years ago after he was released from federal custody.
"Boca's beautiful," he said Friday. "I love the warm weather."
The menu is from back home, however. Patrons were enjoying entrees like veal South Philly ($32), sauteed in brown gravy with sausage, mushrooms, hot and sweet peppers, and garlic. The aforementioned linguine crab gravy ($24) - blue crab, sauteed onions, basil, parsley, and fresh tomato sauce.
And then there were the drinks, such as the $14 "South Philly Beet Down," a mixture of London Dry No. 3 gin, beet juice, ginger, and lemon; and the $14 "Spring Garden," with Tito's, St. Germain, meyer lemon, lychee puree, and micro flowers. Patrons also quaffed "Passyunk Avenue Nitros," various concoctions infused with a cryogenic liquid that is minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I was looking for a little taste of home," said Janice Rubenstein, a native of Gladwyne who has lived in South Florida for two decades and who had heard the buzz about Merlino's. "I love South Philly. Everybody loves Italian, right?" She said the food reminded her of Ralph's and the Villa d' Roma.
Merlino is not an owner of the restaurant, said John Wyner, general manager and a partner in the venture. Most recently, Wyner ran the top Boca steak house, Abe & Louie's, and he has experience in Atlantic City hospitality.
Multimillionaire Florida businessman Stanley Stein is the major investor in Merlino's. A South Philly native, Stein also paid for a private jet to ferry Merlino to and from federal court and put him up at the Four Seasons in Center City.
"My friend Stan Stein ate at my mom's house many times and he said he wanted to do a restaurant with her recipes and me as maitre d'," Merlino said.
Rita Merlino until recently was in Boca, coaching the kitchen staff on the intricacies of her dishes. "She loves the kitchen," he said. "She's always cooking for people. The holidays would come and we always had people eating over. Neighbors, people who didn't have any place to go, everybody. It was a full house."
Famous for his sense of fashion, Merlino was wearing a Prada leather jacket the color of cured tobacco over a Versace V-neck black cashmere sweater, black Armani pants (skinny jeans, actually) and a Louis Vuitton belt. He also wore shoes by French designer Christian Louboutin, the popular black ones with the red soles.
In front of the restaurant, Merlino posed for a photographer in the mist, as wind rustled the palm trees.
"C'mon, I'm . . . freezing," he said.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bonanno gangster Skinny Santoro shows chivalry isnt dead

Judge: Wiseguys can still be nice guys
Wiseguys turn rat at the drop of a dime these days, but chivalry is not dead in the modern mafia.

A Manhattan judge commended reputed Bonanno gangster Anthony “Skinny” Santoro for his “chivalry” in trying to protect his wife when cops showed up at his Staten Island home last year.

In a written decision issued Wednesday — denying Santoro’s motion to dismiss the charges against him and eight co-defendants busted last year for a variety of mob staple rackets including loansharking, drug dealing, perjury and firearm possessions — Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson nevertheless noted, his “chivalrous nature” when cops showed up at his door with a search warrant in July 2013.

“Whatever you find in there that isn’t supposed to be there, it’s mine, not hers,” he told cops, referring to his wife.

Wrote the judge, “The circumstances of the statement support its voluntariness: the statement was non-custodial, chivalrous in nature and clearly spontaneous.”

Cops seized nearly 10 pounds of marijuana, boxes of Viagra and seven guns from his home, according to court papers.

“There’s no question that he’s a chivalrous guy,” said defense lawyer Timothy Parlatore. “This wasn’t a motion that we really needed to win anyway because we were never planning on blaming his wife at trial.”


Friday, November 14, 2014

NJ Transit plans to do battle with Papa Smurf's family over $8.1 million land deal

Carmine Franco before his sentencing in 1998.

Most people would not choose to owe Carmine Franco — or his associates — anything. But that’s exactly the situation NJ Transit finds itself in, owing more than $8 million to the family of Franco, a convicted mob boss currently serving time in federal prison for racketeering.

In May, Franco admitted that he orchestrated a Mafia scheme to control North Jersey’s garbage business through threats and intimidation, forcing many owners out of their own businesses. But NJ Transit isn’t backing off.

This morning, the agency plans to dedicate another $150,000 to challenge a court ruling that gave Franco’s family $8.1 million for a piece of land needed to build new train tunnels under the Hudson River — a project that was canceled by Governor Christie in 2010.

And the costs for the public transit agency may not stop there. A private contractor has found that cleaning up the disputed parcel could cost $2 million, a bill the Franco family now says is NJ Transit’s responsibility.

That’s on top of another $2 million NJ Transit already has paid lawyers over property disputes related to the canceled rail tunnel project.

“They’ve just procrastinated,” said Paul V. Fernicola, the attorney representing Franco’s family. “How long is this process supposed to take?”

Nancy Snyder, a spokes­wom­an for NJ Transit, declined on Tuesday to discuss the parcel or the agency’s appeal.

The legal fight centers on an awkward, 1.89-acre triangle of weeds and broken concrete that spills into Weehawken, Union City and Hoboken. Owned for years by Carmine Franco, who deeded it to his wife Mary and sister-in-law Carol, it was an industrial site used by a hodgepodge of auto repair, jitney bus and salvage yard companies, according to records filed in Superior Court in Hudson County.

Carmine Franco, who is 78 and from Ramsey, was known to his mob associates in the Genovese crime family as “Papa Smurf” and “Uncle Sonny.” Convicted in the early 1980s and again in the late 1990s for mob-related conspiracies, he was banned for life from the waste-hauling industry in New Jersey and many New York jurisdictions.

Franco eluded that ban, helping to create an alliance between the Genovese, Gambino and Lucchese crime families to exert control over the trash industry by using proxies to hide his role. He also admitted to mail fraud, wire fraud, and overbilling customers at a waste transfer station in West Nyack, N.Y., which he controlled.

When he was convicted, Franco faced a possible prison sentence of 45 years. His lawyers responded with a request that he be sentenced to a year of community service, at a church. Manhattan federal Judge Kevin Castel ultimately sentenced Franco to one year in prison. He also was ordered to forfeit $2.5 million to the United States.

The land originally caught the eye of NJ Transit officials in 2008 when the agency was looking for properties for its massive project to build a pair of train tunnels between New Jersey and New York. The project was called Access to the Region’s Core.

The agency sued for condemnation in December 2009, and initially offered to pay the Franco family $934,000, according to court filings by NJ Transit. A second appraisal increased the offer to $990,000.

Seven months later, Christie canceled the ARC tunnel project. In the years since, NJ Transit has done little with the land, other than surround it with a chain link fence festooned with signs marking it as NJ Transit property.

Meanwhile the surrounding neighborhood was experiencing a transformation. Thanks partly to NJ Transit’s light rail trains, which pass immediately north of the site, the area has exploded in recent years with new luxury condominiums and apartment buildings. All that development has left the Franco family’s 1.89-acre plot as one of the last large pieces of bare ground, just a few minutes’ walk from ferry lines to Manhattan.

Facing condemnation, the Francos hired an architect and an engineer to reimagine their land, and seek a higher price. Instead of a polluted bus parking lot, the architect envisioned residential buildings up to 13 stories tall, with 126 units and sweeping views of New York.

When its capacity for redevelopment was considered, the land’s value skyrocketed to $9.1 million, Fernicola said. After a 12-day trial a Hudson County jury largely agreed, ordering NJ Transit to pay the Franco family $8.1 million.

“Clearly NJ Transit substantially undervalued the property,” Fernicola said. “This property has amazing views of Manhattan.”

In addition to the site’s potentially growing value, NJ Transit also may have to deal with its contamination. The agency’s first, preliminary environmental study of the parcel, dated Sept. 16, 2008, found “a petroleum-like odor” and “elevated levels of contaminants … in both soil samples and groundwater samples,” according to court documents. A second study in March 2012 found PCBs and other pollutants, and estimated it would cost nearly $2 million to remove contaminated soil, remove drums of chemicals and cap dangerous portions of the site.

NJ Transit argues in court filings that the Franco family should pay to clean the site. Fernicola counters that because New Jersey law requires agencies that take land through condemnation to file two lawsuits simultaneously — one to condemn the property and a second to recover cleanup costs from the former owners — NJ Transit already has missed its only chance to get cleanup money from the Franco family.

Years after it started the condemnation process, “all NJ Transit has done was remove a single gasoline container” from the site, according to a legal brief filed in 2012 by Fernicola.

NJ Transit’s administration committee is scheduled to vote this morning on whether to spend another $150,000 on legal fees associated with the case. The agency originally allocated $2 million in November 2008 for lawyers working on property acquisitions related to the ARC tunnel.


Gambino associate indicted in 2002 drug related murder

Gennaro Bruno was busted in Las Vegas on charges that he murdered a man in Queens in 2002.

A reputed Gambino associate has been indicted in a 2002 drug-related murder in Queens.

Gennaro Bruno, 41, was arrested Tuesday by the FBI in Las Vegas and will be arraigned at a future date in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Bruno, 41, is charged with firing a bullet at point blank range into the back of the head of pot dealer Martin Bosshart as Bosshart urinated on the side of a road in Howard Beach.

The indictment alleges that Bruno was aligned with the "Corozzo Faction" of the Gambino family, referring to former consigliere Joseph "JoJo" Corozzo.

Another Gambino associate, Todd LaBarca, pleaded guilty in 2012 to participating in Bosshart's rubout.


First member of the Bonanno family to cooperate with the government gets time served

Frank Coppa (Left), a New York mobster who became a rat that toppled Vito Rizzuto, pictured with Bonanno Mafia boss Joe Massino.
Frank Coppa (Left), a New York mobster who became a rat pictured with Bonanno Mafia boss Joseph Massino

The first made member of the Bonanno crime family to turn rat was sentenced to time served for racketeering in Brooklyn federal court Thursday.

Frank Coppa, a Bonanno capo and close pal to former boss Joey Massino, apologized for his lengthy life of mob mayhem before Judge Nicholas Garaufis handed down his fate.

“I’d like to say that I’m really sorry,” the hulking but aged crook said after navigating his way into court on a motorized scooter. “I’m really sorry for the people I hurt.”

Prosecutors lauded Coppa’s landmark tenure as a rat and credited him with decimating the highest ranks of the once potent Bonanno clan.

“His cooperation was truly historic,” said federal prosecutor Amy Busa. “He was the first made member of the Bonanno family to break the Cosa Nostra code of silence.”

Coppa, 73, took the stand against many high ranking Bonanno hoods – including Massino himself.

He copped to taking part in a slew of murder conspiracies but his decision to turn rat allowed him to escape without any additional time behind bars.

“With Mr. Coppa’s cooperation, many of the redwoods started to fall,” Garaufis said of his impact on the Bonanno family.


Judge rejects Colombo prince's bid to retract guilty plea

Judge rejects mob scion’s bid to retract plea
A Brooklyn federal judge rejected a Colombo crime family scion’s bid to pull back his plea deal for loan-sharking because the feds decided to get tough with his sentencing guidelines, Brooklyn federal court papers show.

Mafia prince Michael Persico claimed prosecutors breached their 36- to 47-month sentencing deal by pushing for a stiff term in a pre-sentence report, his lawyers said in court papers.

He also claimed to have not fully understood what he was pleading to and wanted the deal torn up.

But no-nonsense Brooklyn federal Judge Sandra Townes dismissed his request and said the accord was binding.

Persico, 57, had repeatedly said he understood what he was admitting to and there was no legal basis to allow him to back out of the deal, her ruling states.

Persico copped to loaning $100,000 to trucking company businessmen and sticking them with a whopping 45 percent annual interest rate.

Persico wanted his sweetheart plea deal yanked despite facing the prospect of life in prison if he’s convicted at trial.


Gambino associate gets time served for testifying against the crime family

​A veteran mob rat was rewarded with a sentence of time served — just three days — for helping to whack his own brother-in-law despite pleas for punishment Thursday from his victim’s relatives.

Calling his cooperation “historic,” prosecutors said Gambino associate Anthony Ruggiano Jr., 61, helped the feds bag capos Bartolomeo “Bobby Glasses” Vernace and Dominick “Skinny Dom” Pizzonia with his insider testimony.

His singing on the stand against former family hit man Charles Carneglia also helped solve a slew of cold gangland cases, prosecutors said.

The son of late Gambino soldier Anthony “Fat Andy” Ruggiano Sr., a busy triggerman who ran a crew out of an Ozone Park cafe, Ruggiano Jr. was sentenced for his role in the murder of his brother-in-law Frank Boccia in 1988.

The hit – sanctioned by Gambino don John Gotti – was in retaliation for Boccia’s ill-advised manhandling of Fat Andy’s wife after she refused to cough up cash for a baptism.

Boccia was lured to the old man’s wiseguy-filled social club, Cafe Liberty, where he was shot five times and then gutted to prevent his body from floating.

Groveling before the court, Ruggiano Jr. apologized to Boccia’s relatives as they seethed in the jury box during the proceeding.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry for everything.”

A former junkie, Ruggiano Jr. said that he had cleaned up his life in the witness protection program and abandoned his life of crime.

“I was born and raised in a family whose values were rooted in organized crime,” he said. “I grew up in the shadow of my father.”

But the mobster’s tearful pleas were met with disgusted glares from Boccia’s daughter, Jenna, and sister, Josephine.

Unmoved by the fruits of his cooperation, the women focused on justice for their loved one.

“It is inconceivable how Mr. Ruggiano can live with himself,” Josephine Boccia told the court before sentencing, noting that her brother’s innards had been emptied and that his body was never found.

“It is the request of my family for the maximum penalty,” she said.

Just a baby when her father was murdered, Boccia’s daughter said the specter of his slaying has left her psychologically disfigured.

“The anger you have left with me is indescribable,” she told the hoodlum, adding that her heartbroken family told her for years that her dad was still alive and had abandoned them.

“I can’t tell you what that did to me as a child,” she said. “I pray today that justice prevails.”

But the pleas for punishment were mere formalities as Judge Jack Weinstein contritely explained that even the most nauseating cooperators were given breaks in the courtroom.

“In this case the defendant has become a tool of the government to destroy the remnants of this terrible group of the mafia that has been the cause of your grief,” he explained.

Aware of the outcome beforehand, the two women hung their heads and nodded as Weinstein expressed his sorrow for their loss.