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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mob war feared as feds arrest Bonanno street boss for parole violation



John Palazzolo, 77, a reputed street boss of the Bonanno crime family’s Bronx faction, got locked up Friday after federal law enforcement officials caught him meeting with other mobsters — a violation of his parole terms.

The Bonanno crime family may have lost its youth, but its wiseguys still have plenty of chutzpah.
John Palazzolo, 77, a reputed street boss of the clan’s Bronx faction, got locked up Friday after federal law enforcement officials caught him meeting with other mobsters — a violation of his parole terms.
The feds feared the old gangster was conspiring to take over Bonanno operations in Queens — which could possibly unleash a wave of violence among rival factions.
Citing allegations of “a conspiracy to conduct a war to control the Bonanno crime family,” federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the ailing oldfella to jail pending a hearing next month.
Palazzolo, who was released in 2012 after doing 10 years for attempted murder, is barred from associating with fellow mobsters.
But in past weeks, he was caught by surveillance having a suspiciously long meeting in the parking lot of a diner in Bayside, Queens with “Fat Anthony” Rabito, a consigliere of the Bonannos.
He also met with a mafioso with ties to reputed mob boss Michael “Mikey Nose” Mancuso, who has three more years left in federal prison for a murder rap and is believed to rule the family from the inside.
Those pow-wows are in violation of Palazzolo’s parole, prosecutors said in court.
“Is there still a leadership of the Bonnano family?” asked a puzzled Garaufis.
“Unfortunately, yes,” said assistant U.S. attorney Nicole Argentieri.
 
But in past weeks, he was caught by surveillance having a suspiciously long meeting in the parking lot of a diner in Bayside, Queens with "Fat Anthony" Rabito (pictured), a consigliere of the Bonannos. 
A source said that Palazzolo had recently lost influence in the organization’s power structure and was about to take matters into his own hands.
“He’s pissed,” the law-enforcement official said. “Once we found out, we had to stop it.”
Defense lawyer Flora Edwards argued the run-in with Rabito could have been “a casual meeting” and pointed to her client’s litany of health issues.
A resigned-looking Palazzolo, wearing track pants, a black hoodie and holding a plastic bag from Target, shuffled into the lock-up.
“I thought someone’s who’s 77-years-old and has medical problems will be happy to live a quiet life,” the judge told him.
He added that the power struggle involves another imprisoned mobster, calling it “one nightmare on top of another.”
The Bonanno family has been working to replenish its ranks following dozens of convictions in the past decade, many obtained after its boss and underboss turned into rats and testified.
New recruits and old timers are still engaged in loan sharking, racketeering and other illegal activities, said a source.
“It never ends,” he added.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/mobster-locked-meeting-mobsters-violating-parole-article-1.2165308

Sopranos star loses apartment in East Village explosion




Drea-de-Matteo-east-village-explosion.jpeg
Drea de Matteo's New York apartment of more than two decades was among those destroyed by a building explosion and fire Thursday that also left two dozen people injured and two unaccounted for.
"A hole where my N.Y.C. home of 22 years once stood," the "Sopranos" star wrote on Instagram. "RIP 123 2nd Avenue." 
Nineteen people were injured, four critically after the powerful blast and fire sent flames soaring and debris flying on Thursday.
The seven-alarm fire in New York City's East Village caused the collapse of three buildings and fire damage to a fourth, the New York City fire department said.
Preliminary evidence suggests a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside one of the buildings was to blame.
As of this morning, two people were unaccounted for, the NYPD Detective Bureau said but neither has been considered official missing persons.
De Matteo also posted a photo Thursday in homage to the firefighters who battled the blaze.
"N.Y.C.'s finest [tried] to put out the flames to mine and many others' apartments," she captioned the Instagram photo, adding that she was "speechless" and sending prayers to "those that are hurt." 

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/03/east_village_explosion_drea_de_matteo_loses_apartm.html

After prison release Lillo Brancato set to return to the big screen


http://resources0.news.com.au/images/2014/01/01/1226792/851384-sopranos-actor-parole-lillo-brancato-jr.jpg

Lillo Brancato should be thankful some people give second chances.

Brancato, 38, perhaps best known for his role as Calogero Anello opposite Robert DeNiro in Chazz Palminteri's "A Bronx Tale," owes his second "big break" to producer William DeMeo, who hired him in his first acting role since being released from prison in 2013.

"Back in the Day" will have scenes filmed on Staten Island, it was reported today.

The indie film, also starring Alec Baldwin, Danny Glover and Mike Tyson, tells the story of a troubled kid from Bensonhurst who gets mentored by a local mobster while training to be a prize fighter.

Brancato -- who also starred in the 2000 season of HBO's "The Sopranos" -- will play the role of Nikcy Germano, the cousin of a boxer, who fights the main character for the title.

Brancato spent eight years behind bars before being released in 2013 for being an accomplice in a botched armed robbery in 2005 where his accomplice Steven Armento, a low-level Genovese crime family associate, shot and killed off-duty police officer Daniel Enchautegui.

He was acquitted of a second-degree murder count and sentenced to 10 years for burglary, but was released early due to time served while waiting for trial and good behavior -- he is on parole until 2018.

http://www.silive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/03/a_bronx_tales_lillo_brancato_g.html

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bonanno captain sentenced to over 7 years in prison for racketeering


The daughter of a gangland murder victim whacked more than four decades ago brought her father's cremated remains to Brooklyn Federal Court for the sentencing of the Bonanno thug who disposed of her dad’s corpse.
Ilsa Katz recalled the night of Dec. 6, 1969 when her father, Paul Katz, left the house to “meet the guys at the candy store” while his five children watched the Frosty the Snowman cartoon on TV.
“My mother begged him not to go,” said Ilsa who was 9 at the time. “He never came back.”
Paul Katz, a low-level mob associate, was allegedly strangled with a dog chain by Bonanno gangster Vincent Asaro, who suspected him of being an informant, and James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, who was immortalized by Robert DeNiro in the film “Goodfellas.”
Katz’s corpse was buried under the basement floor of a Queens house owned by Burke and left to rot there until the 1980s when Asaro’s son, Jerome, exhumed the decomposed remains and moved them to an unknown location.
“When they killed my father, they killed a family,” Ilsa Katz told Federal Judge Allyne Ross.
Then in June 2013, the FBI excavated the basement grave and recovered bits of bone and hair that was positively identified as Paul Katz through DNA testing.
“He came home with me carrying him in an evidence bag,” the victim’s son Lawrence Katz told the judge.
The remains were cremated and Ilsa Katz had them in a cloth pouch inside her handbag as she trembled and tearfully described the torment of growing up not only without a father, but not knowing what had happened to him.
“When we were asked, ‘Where’s your father?’ we’d say he died in a plane crash,” she said.
Jerome Asaro apologized to his own family and the government, but offered no words of remorse to the Katz children for what he or his father had done.
Ross sentenced him to 7½ years in prison for racketeering, which included accessory to murder after the fact. Vincent Asaro is awaiting trial for the murder as well as for his participation in the infamous Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport.
“He may not have killed Paul Katz himself, but he helped (his father) get away with it,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri. “The Mafia is a family business and he (Jerome) is a third generation member of the Bonanno family."

http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/woman-brings-dad-cremated-remains-sentencing-mobster-article-1.2163846

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bonanno family underboss sentenced to 21 months in prison




High blood sugar, stress, swelling of kidneys, swelling of skin, lung problems, vision issues: These were some of the medical problems enumerated by lawyers for Thomas DiFiore, a 71-year-old Mafia member, at his sentencing on Tuesday in Brooklyn.

The lawyers were seeking to have Mr. DiFiore sentenced to just the 14 months he has already served in jail since his arrest on a debt collection charge. Judge Allyne R. Ross of Federal District Court instead gave him a 21-month sentence, which means he will be released in seven months.

Judge Ross said that Mr. DiFiore “had experienced some significant health problems, about which we have had numerous conferences and hearings over the past year — I’ve considered those factors.”

“On the other hand,” she added, “I am in agreement with the government that the defendant’s criminal conduct was serious.”

Mr. DiFiore is one of the “oldfellas,” aging Mafia members who have been sentenced in recent years in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. While defendants facing sentencing often focus on a harsh upbringing or good works or family, these men have highlighted their faltering health and advancing age as they seek leniency.

“I want to thank Your Honor for taking such an interest in my medical problems here,” Mr. DiFiore said on Tuesday.

A heavyset man, Mr. DiFiore was dressed in navy prison scrubs and wore his gray hair combed away from his face and glasses. He added that he had missed the previous summer with his grandchildren, and “I really don’t want to miss another summer — I don’t know how many I have left.”

Sally J. M. Butler, one of Mr. DiFiore’s lawyers, argued that the plea agreement allowed Judge Ross to consider Mr. DiFiore’s medical history as she created his sentence. Ms. Butler then detailed Mr. DiFiore’s blood-sugar levels for the judge, explaining that they had “again gone through the roof.”

“It’s just not stabilized, as hard as everyone’s tried,” Ms. Butler said, as Mr. DiFiore shook his head and mouthed “Never.”

Ms. Butler criticized the health care staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the federal jail in Brooklyn where Mr. DiFiore is being held. They were late in giving him his insulin shot on Monday, she said. They have given him compression socks for the swelling, but they have not helped. He was supposed to have regular CT scans, and those were not being performed. He still needed a full work-up on his kidneys, and on his eyes.

That criticism made the end of the proceeding all the stranger. After sentencing Mr. DiFiore, Judge Ross offered to recommend a transfer to a medical facility run by the Bureau of Prisons. His lawyers declined.

“To have him moved to a different facility would be counterproductive because of the stress that that takes,” one of the lawyers, Steve Zissou, said, requesting that Mr. DiFiore be kept at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The sentence was in the range sought by prosecutors — 21 to 27 months.

“He’s getting these illicit earnings off of other people’s backs,” Alicyn L. Cooley, an assistant United States attorney, said.

The charge, of conspiracy to collect unlawful debt, stemmed from a 2013 dispute over a loan. A man affiliated with the Bonanno crime family, for which Mr. DiFiore was the “street boss,” had lent money to a carwash employee who was affiliated with the Gambino crime family. But the Bonanno affiliate did not have clearance from his higher-ups to make the loan, and the loan was not being repaid.

Bonanno members intervened, including Vincent Asaro, 80, who is scheduled to go on trial this fall in Brooklyn in connection with the 1978 Lufthansa heist, among other offenses. “Stab him today,” Mr. Asaro told a friend about the Bonanno affiliate. “Today!”

The Bonannos resolved it by getting a $30,000 payment. Mr. Asaro figured $10,000 for himself, $10,000 for his son, $6,000 for the friend and $4,000 for Mr. DiFiore, though Mr. Asaro said he had taken Mr. DiFiore’s portion.

That apparently did not sit well with Mr. DiFiore, as Mr. Asaro described in a June 2013 conversation with an informer.

“Did you give, what’s his name, Tommy the money?” the informer asked. “Tommy, the $4,000?”

“I had a big fight with him the other day. We had $30,000 coming, he took $15,000 of it. I want to kill” him, Mr. Asaro responded.

“He’s that type of guy?” the informer asked.

Mr. Asaro described Mr. DiFiore in a term unprintable here, and added that he made a former Bonanno boss “look like St. Anthony.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/nyregion/aging-ex-mafia-bosss-bid-for-leniency-on-jail-time-fails.html?rref=homepage&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Home%20Page&pgtype=article

Nicky Scarfo Jr sentencing delayed in financial fraud case




Mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo and his partner-in-crime Salvatore Pelullo will have to wait two more months before they find out how much time they will be spending as guests of the federal government for their convictions in the FirstPlus Financial fraud case.

Sentencings originally set for this week before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler in Camden have been pushed back to June in order for authorities to have more time to prepare what are expected to be detailed pre-sentence reports.

Scarfo, 49, and Pelullo, 47, are looking at jail time in the 20- to 30-year range. Both have prior convictions which enhance the guidelines used to determine the range of sentence in federal cases.

They each were convicted of more than 20 counts in the racketeering fraud case. The government charged that the pair took behind-the-scenes control of FirstPlus in 2007 and siphoned more than $12 million out of the Texas-based mortgage company through bogus business transactions and phony consulting contracts.

Prosecutors alleged that Pelullo was the point man in the takeover and that he and Scarfo used their mob connections to intimidate and threaten FirstPlus officials who balked at the takeover.

Scarfo, the son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, has prior convictions for racketeering and gambling. Pelullo has two prior convictions for fraud.

At a brief hearing this morning, Kugler rejected a motion filed by Pelullo asking the judge to recuse himself from the sentencing process. Pelullo's lawyers argued that Kugler should step aside because the judge had preconceived negative opinions about Pelullo that would make it impossible for him to impose an fair sentence.

Kugler rejected those arguments. It was the third time the judge has denied motions from Pelullo asking for a recusal.

Scarfo and Pelullo have been held without bail since their arrests in November 2011. Scarfo's new sentencing date is June 23. Pelullo is scheduled to go before Kugler on June 1.

Co-defendants John and William Maxwell also had their sentencings delayed. John Maxwell, the former CEO of FirstPlus, will be sentenced on June 24. His brother, a lawyer hired as private counsel to FirstPlus, will hear his fate on June 26.

The brothers were convicted of racketeering and fraud charges tied to the takeover and looting of FirstPlus by Scarfo and Pelullo. Kugler revoked their bail and ordered them jailed after a jury delivered guilty verdicts in the case last year.

http://www.bigtrial.net/2015/03/sentencings-delayed-in-firstplus-case.html#II9lKzAF2gOdW7ag.99

Pair of thugs face time for home invasion execution


Thugs face prison time for home invasion execution
A pair of Manhattan thugs are facing at least two decades behind bars after copping pleas Monday for the execution-style 2009 slaying of a Queens pizzeria owner’s son who died trying to protect his cancer-stricken dad during a botched Mob-connected home invasion.

Antoine Burroughs, 26, and cohort Leon Whitfield, 24, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of robbery and robbery conspiracy. Through the plea agreement with the government, they avoid prosecution for murder and other crimes that could have landed them in jail for life for the shooting death of Gerardo Antoniello, 29.

Burroughs faces 24 to 30 years in jail and Whitfield 27 to 33 years when they are sentenced by Judge Gregory Woods on July 29, according to the plea deal.

The victim was killed defending his father, Bartolomeo Antoniello, the owner of a Howard Beach pizzeria.

The gunmen coldly stood over the victim as he lay face down on the floor and pumped a bullet into the back of his head, execution-style, in front of his helpless dad, authorities said.

Francis LaCorte, an alleged Gambino mobster, was convicted in 2012 of being the “puppeteer’’ behind the gang that pulled off the deadly home invasion and a string of other robberies. He was sentenced to 50 years to life.

An accomplice to LaCorte, Vincent Mineo, previously got 20 years in a plea deal involving the case. Cops say the group cased the neighborhood, identified target homes and then dispatched hired thugs.

http://nypost.com/2015/03/24/thugs-face-prison-time-for-home-invasion-execution/

Monday, March 23, 2015

Feds seek top sentence against Bonanno captain who exhumed and reburied body


The feds want a judge to throw the book at a Bonanno hood who’s dad was charged as one of the Lufthansa Heist crew members immortalized in “Goodfellas,” and whose own mob resume includes the requisite exhuming and reburying a body and torching of a nightclub.
Jerome Asaro, the son of longtime Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro, faces federal sentencing guidelines of 77 to 96 months in prison when his fate is handed down by Judge Allyne Ross Thursday.
Citing his grisly mob resume — including digging up and reburying a whacked family associate — prosecutor Nicole Argentieri lobbied in court papers for the top end of the sentencing scale.
Asaro dug up and reburied Paul Katz, a Bonanno crony who the feds say was slain by his father and James “Jimmy The Gent” Burke, a powerful family associate who inspired Robert DeNiro’s Jimmy Conway character in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic film.
Katz went missing in 1969, after Burke became suspicious he was cooperating with authorities, law enforcement sources have said. He was strangled with a chain.
Katz’s traumatized son still wears a mustache so he doesn’t resemble his late father, Argentieri noted in a filing.
“While the defendant did not strangle Katz to death, his actions made it easier for those responsible to evade being held accountable for their crimes, for the cold blooded murder of Paul Katz,” the filing states.
Asaro also copped to assisting in the arson of an Ozone Park nightclub in 1981 after a neighboring Italian merchant learned that it would cater to a largely black clientele, according to court documents.
Asaro’s ailing father is awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court.

http://nypost.com/2015/03/23/feds-want-top-sentence-for-mob-kid-who-dug-up-reburied-slain-crony/

Mob rat is beaten and robbed


A reputed mobster whose family owns the New Jersey strip club featured in “The Sopranos” was beaten and robbed for squealing on a fellow wiseguy, court papers claim.

Suspected Genovese associate Anthony “Tony Lodi” Cardinalle, 63, was attacked at his family’s jiggle joint Satin Dolls in Lodi on Christmas Eve, Manhattan federal court papers say.

The club doubled as Tony Soprano’s haunt, the Bada Bing, in the hit HBO series.

The attack on Cardinalle was likely “payback” for ratting out his cohorts in a “Sopranos”-style trash-hauling shakedown scheme, his lawyer, Alan Silber, wrote in the court papers.

Cardinalle “was actually beaten and robbed in what was, in all likelihood, revenge or punishment for his cooperation” with the feds, Silber said in arguing for leniency for his client in the shakedown case in January.

Cardinalle was sentenced to 30 days in prison on Jan. 29.

http://nypost.com/2015/03/23/mob-rat-with-ties-to-real-bada-bing-strip-club-beaten-and-robbed/

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Older mobsters use health problems against long jail sentences


Not long ago, Thomas DiFiore cut an intimidating figure. For a time, he was the highest-ranking member of the Bonanno organized crime family not behind bars, despite a long record of arrests on charges of kidnapping, assault, promoting gambling and extortion. Even at 70, Mr. DiFiore did not seem to falter when challenging another aging Bonanno leader in 2013 for more than his share of a loan payment, according to prosecutors’ account of a government wiretap.
“ ‘Without me,’ ” the other leader, Vincent Asaro, recalled Mr. DiFiore telling him, “ ‘you wouldn’t a got nothing.’ ” Mr. Asaro, whose words were being recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Mr. DiFiore made a former Bonanno boss “look like St. Anthony.”
Yet now, as he faces sentencing for federal unlawful debt-collection conspiracy, Mr. DiFiore’s swagger has given way to a shuffle, and he is talking about insulin and statins rather than payback.
He is one of the “oldfellas,” Mafiosi whose lives of crime seem to have succumbed as much to the ravages of age as to the relentlessness of federal prosecutors. In courtrooms, they can be found displaying catheter bags or discussing the state of their kidneys in hopes that a judge will agree to a short sentence.
Many of these geriatric gangsters have been sentenced in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, which covers the key territory of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island inhabited by New York’s five major organized crime families.
Mr. DiFiore, 71, who is to be sentenced in Brooklyn on Tuesday, has outlined his drug regimen for the court: Lantus insulin shots every 12 hours; atorvastatin for cholesterol in the morning; amlodipine and lisinopril for blood pressure; and one 325-milligram aspirin a day.
As members of the Mafia seek to avoid lengthy prison terms, informers are becoming more common, said Belle Chen, assistant special agent in charge of organized crime for the F.B.I.’s New York field office.
The prospect that these turncoats will face violent retaliation has dwindled, experts say, because of both the protection afforded by the witness-protection program and the increasing likelihood that a participant in any such retaliation could wind up helping the authorities himself. “There are too many potential cooperators these days,” Ms. Chen said.
This dynamic has allowed investigators to target decades-old crimes and aging Mafia leaders, as has the federal racketeering act, under which old offenses can yield fresh indictments.
As a result, the federal courthouse in Brooklyn has been filled in recent years with tales from an era when the Mafia loomed larger than it does today, when it was linked to conspicuous acts of criminality like the 1978 Lufthansa heist at Kennedy International Airport — a $6 million armed robbery in which Mr. Asaro, 80, is scheduled to go on trial this fall.
Just this month, federal agents arrested reputed Mafia members and associates in their 60s and 70s connected to the New Jersey-based crime family long thought to have inspired “The Sopranos,” the HBO drama that featured its share of aging mobsters.
Given the age of the some of these defendants, court can occasionally sound less like a legal forum and more like a hospital admissions ward.
Consider Bartolomeo Vernace, who was 65 when he was sentenced last year in the 1981 killings of two owners of a Queens bar in a dispute over a spilled drink. Like Mr. DiFiore, Mr. Vernace had detailed his prescriptions for the judge: diltiazem, Accupril, Norvasc, Crestor, Zetia, Actos, Plavix and Amaryl.
Prosecutors have grown familiar with such litanies, and have contended that some defendants appear to be exaggerating their medical problems in bids for leniency.
Nicky Rizzo, a Colombo family soldier who was 86 when he was sentenced for racketeering conspiracy in 2013, said his health conditions included bad hearing, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, poor blood circulation in one leg, 20 medications a day and a need to use a pump with a catheter for urination.
“He stands in the bathroom for five-, ten-, 15-minute time period, he attempts to urinate,” said his lawyer, Joseph Mure Jr. Mr. Rizzo lifted his pant leg to show the catheter and urinary drainage bag to the judge.
Prosecutor Allon Lifshitz responded that Mr. Rizzo’s “behavior in court today, shuffling in from the back and the purported inability to hear, and the groaning, should get zero weight.” He added, “It’s a joke.”
Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto, citing Mr. Rizzo’s health and age, sentenced him to six months in prison, compared to the year and a half to two years sought by prosecutors.
Some judges have questioned the aging defendants’ conditions. Judge Matsumoto, for instance, sentenced Colombo family member Richard Fusco to just four months in prison for extortion conspiracy after he listed ailments that included kidney failure, hearing loss and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, though reporters observed that his condition seemed to improve dramatically after he left court.
“If Mr. Fusco made a fool out of me, then shame on me,” Judge Matsumoto said at a later sentencing.
Thomas Gioeli, a Colombo family member convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges, detailed his health woes at his sentencing last year: back problems, a cardiac episode, diabetes and arthritis. The formerly fearsome mobster was also, literally, toothless.
“I have no teeth,” Mr. Gioeli told the court during his case. “I can’t chew my food. I’m choking more frequently. My back is out, my hips are out, my knee pops out.”
Just 61 when he was sentenced, Mr. Gioeli was “a very old 61 years,” his lawyer, Adam D. Perlmutter, argued.
“These medical conditions are not feigned, they are real,” Judge Brian M. Cogan said. Nonetheless, he sentenced Mr. Gioeli to almost 19 years in prison, saying that the federal prisons system offered decent medical care.
Whether prisons can in fact adequately handle aged and sick inmates is a question that many lawyers and defendants have raised.
Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Gioeli’s lawyer, complained that the staff at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where Mr. Gioeli was held, had not refilled his prescriptions.
The lawyer representing Dennis DeLucia, a Colombo family captain sentenced in 2013 to 34 months in prison for racketeering crimes at age 70, pointed out that a year had passed since a dentist at the Metropolitan Detention Center had recommended that Mr. DeLucia have a tooth removed.
As Mr. DiFiore said while pleading guilty in October, “My health has spiraled downhill, but I’m happy to say I am alive in spite of the stellar medical treatment that I have received at M.D.C.”
Prosecutors have said that the federal prisons do have good medical facilities. Though they concede that Mr. DiFiore’s health is relevant to the sentence he will receive on Tuesday, they are asking for a prison term of roughly two years, as recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.
And while Mr. DiFiore’s age may have contributed to his health problems, prosecutors suggest it worked to his advantage as well, with his many years in crime earning him “formidable” power and profits.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/nyregion/before-judges-the-godfathers-become-sick-old-grandfathers.html?_r=0&referrer=

Sentencing looms for Nicky Scarfo Jr


https://mafianewsblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/salvatore-pelullo-and-nicky-scarfo-jr-right.jpg

Unless there are some unforeseen developments -- and in this case that's always possible -- the hammer comes down next week in the multi-million dollar FirstPlus Financial fraud case.

Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Salvatore Pelullo and the brothers John and William Maxwell each have sentencing hearings before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler in the same federal courtroom in Camden where a jury delivered guilty verdicts last year.

Scarfo, the 49-year-old son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, is looking at a sentence that could land him in prison for the better part of the rest of his life. The same can be said for Pelullo, 47, described as a mob associate and with Scarfo the brains behind the 2007 takeover and looting of the Texas-based mortgage company.

The Maxwell brothers -- John the CEO of FirstPlus and William a lawyer hired as private counsel by the firm -- were convicted of many of the same racketeering, conspiracy and fraud counts, but with no prior criminal convictions, they face less potential jail time. That, of course, is a relative term. A 10-year prison sentence might be considerably less than a 30-year sentence but is little solace to the defendant serving the 10 years.

 Pelullo's lawyers have filed an eleventh hour motion asking Kugler to recuse himself from the sentencing hearing, arguing that the judge had demonstrated preconceived notions about Pelullo that would impact his ability to deliver a fair and impartial sentence.

Kugler has scheduled a hearing on that issue on Tuesday, the same day as Pelullo's sentencing hearing. This is the third time Pelullo has asked Kugler to recuse himself from the case. The judge rejected motions in 2012 and 2013. The third time is not likely to be the charm for the sometimes bombastic and always opinionated defendant.

Scarfo is to be sentenced Wednesday. The Maxwell brothers go before Kugler at separate hearings on Thursday.

Kugler has already rejected motions to have the convictions overturned, but that hasn't stopped defense attorneys from hammering away at the same issues that will likely form the basis for ongoing appeals.

The key issue remains the introduction of organized crime into a case that the defense contends had nothing to do with the mob. The prosecution used mob references and alleged mob connections to prejudice the jury and to glamorize and sensationalize an otherwise mundane financial case, defense attorneys have argued.

In a motion filed in November, Jeremy C. Gelb, one of Scarfo's lawyers, wrote that evidence tying organized crime to the case was irrelevant, an "abuse of discretion" on the part of the prosecution and created "unfair prejudice" with the jury.

Pelullo's lawyer contended that the organized crime "evidence" was "the definition of unfair prejudice and short of allegations of child molestation, it is difficult to even conceive of any evidence more prejudicial."

Kugler heard similar argument before, during and after the trial and rejected them. Prior to the start of deliberations, the judge gave instructions to the jury that were designed to keep the organized crime issue in perspective. The defense clearly believes that didn't work.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D'Aguanno, on the other hand, has said repeatedly that references to the mob were relevant and that the multi-million dollar fraud was carried out in large part because of the fear and intimidation that Pelullo used by alluding to his mob ties to Scarfo.

Wiretap conversations and the testimony of witnesses backed the government's position, the prosecutor said. One example pointed to was a phone conversation between Pelullo and Scarfo during the takeover in which Pelullo emphasized that he used Scarfo's name and reputation to advance their scheme.

Scarfo was on probation at the time following a mob-related gambling conviction and could not travel to Texas while the takeover was being orchestrated. But that, Pelullo said, didn't matter.

"Just because they didn't see you, I tried to enforce that is was, you know, you behind the scenes and I was just a conduit...through you to make sure things got done the way we planned to get them done," he said in a conversation with Scarfo picked up on an FBI wiretap.

The defense, however, argues that the entire FirstPlus investigation was built on a shaky foundation and that the convictions should be overturned as a result. The position of Pelullo, Scarfo and the Maxwells (who have joined in the motions) is that the government started out looking for organized crime and was determined to find the mob no matter what the evidence might show.

In fact, the defense has offered detailed information about the origins of the probe which, they say, wasn't about a takeover of FirstPlus, but rather an effort by the FBI to track the younger Scarfo's attempt to retake control of the Philadelphia crime family his jailed father once headed.

That, at least, is the information contained in an FBI affidavit that is part of the case.

In that light, Scarfo was involved in more than one power grab when he and Pelullo took behind-the-scenes control of FirstPlus back in 2007 and siphoned more than $12 million out of the company.

At the same time, the FBI document indicates, Scarfo was also maneuvering to re-establish himself in South Jersey and align himself with mob figures who might support his underworld power grab.

Few details of that scenario surfaced during the FirstPlus trial, but the jury heard that Scarfo was a member of the Lucchese crime family; that his jailed father had set that up through Vittorio "Vic" Amuso, the Lucchese organization boss serving time with the elder Scarfo, and that both Scarfo Sr. and Amuso were to get a piece of the FirstPlus take.

The two aging mobsters were named unindicted co-conspirators in the FirstPlus case.

The jury also heard that Scarfo Jr. was shot and nearly killed on Halloween night in 1989 at Dante & Luigi's Restaurant. The notorious mob hit, carried out by a gunman wearing a Halloween mask and carrying his 9 mm machine pistol in a trick-or-treat bag, was the stuff of mob movies and further prejudiced the jury, said the defense.

In contrast, defense lawyers contend that the looting of FirstPlus was a "garden variety white collar crime" dressed up to look like a  mob bust out in order to influence the anonymously chosen jurors weighing the charges. 

Mob or no mob, at $12 million that's quite a garden.

Whatever its impact on the FirstPlus case, the affidavit from the FBI case Agent Joseph Gilson cited by the defense offers an intriguing look at the Philadelphia - South Jersey underworld in 2006. The affidavit was submitted with a wiretap application and while the original thrust of the probe was the suspected takeover of the Philadelphia mob, those wiretaps eventually brought the feds into the FirstPlus scam.

Among other things, Gilson wrote that "Little Nicky" Scarfo from his prison cell in Atlanta was backing his son's attempt to wrest control of the Philadelphia crime family from then mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, a one-time Scarfo ally and suspected hitman.

"Scarfo Sr. has secured the backing of some of the New York LCN Families in this attempt to take control of the Philadelphia LCN Family and is directing his son, Scarfo Jr., in the attempted takeover," Gilson wrote.

While the affidavit doesn't mention which New York families were supporting the Scarfo move, most law enforcement sources believe the Lucchese organization, at least the faction loyal to Amuso,  was backing Scarfo's play.

The younger Scarfo, who had been living in North Jersey under the protection of the Lucchese organization, moved back to the Atlantic City area in 2006. For a time he ran a restaurant and later got involved in the construction business.

Rumors surfaced at the time that he was trying to recruit local mobsters who might still be loyal to his dad whose bloody reign between 1981 and 1989 had decimated the crime family. During that period, nearly two dozens mob members and associates were killed and nearly that same number were indicted and sent off to prison.

The elder Scarfo is currently serving time for racketeering and murder. His earliest parole date in 2033 when he will be 103 years old.

The brutality that was the mark of the Scarfo organization continued after he was jailed in the late 1980s. What followed was twenty years of wanton and often senseless violence, a bloody soap operate that often pitted brother against brother and that undermined any stability or sense of loyalty that might have existed.

Gilson touched on that in his 94-page affidavit, noting that, "It's difficult to chart the history of the Philadelphia Mafia given its frequent personnel changes caused by the violent deaths of several of its members."

Whether the younger Scarfo had a chance to retake control of the family is an open question. It is hard to imagine many mobsters lining up behind him in a clash with Ligambi. The FBI affidavit said that one confidential source indicated Scarfo had approached  Joseph Ciancaglini Jr. , the son of then jailed Scarfo family capo Joseph "Chickie" Ciancaglini. The source, according to the affidavit, said Scarfo approached Ciancaglini and asked if "he wanted to be with" him in a power grab.

The younger Ciancaglini "had not been active in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN Family since the attempt on his life (in 1993)," Gilson wrote. Joe Ciancaglini Jr. was shot and nearly killed in an ambush orchestrated, authorities believe, by Joey Merlino and Ciancaglini's own brother, Michael in March 1993. The shooting was part of a brutal mob struggle between the Merlino faction and another group headed by then mob boss John Stanfa. That summer, Michael Ciancaglini was killed in the Stanfa-Merlino war.

A third brother John was serving a federal sentence for racketeering at the time, but later became a Merlino ally.

None of that bloody history, of course, had anything to do with the FirstPlus takeover. And only the Dante & Luigi shooting and Scarfo's ties to the Lucchese organization were introduced as evidence.

But federal authorities argued that the mob connections and reputations of Scarfo and Pelullo were the driving force behind the multi-million dollar extortion.

In his affidavit Gilson pointed out that several FirstPlus officials were aware of the organized crime ties of Scarfo and Pelullo and that those officials said they were intimidated and went along with the takeover out of fear. One director, according to a source cited in the affidavit, said he believed Pelullo was using extortion to wrest control of the company. But that director said he would not cooperate with authorities because "he did not want to be a rat and end up at the bottom of a lake."

That, the prosecution contends, was the role that organized crime played in the takeover of FirstPlus and that, they argued, was justification for the mob references that surfaced during the trial.

http://www.bigtrial.net/2015/03/a-look-at-mob-ties-to-firstplus-case-as.html#l5W9LffJIdJD1VhQ.99