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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Son of Gambino mobster says mafia will protect NYC from ISIS

Mobster’s son says ISIS gives Mafia chance to show its ‘good side’
The son of infamous mob figure John Gambino says the La Cosa Nostra is ready to fight ISIS in New York City — and that the Mafia can do a better job of protecting the city from terror attacks than the NYPD.

Giovanni Gambino said during an interview with NBC that “the rise of global terrorism gives the Mafia a chance to show its good side.”

“We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially . . . the Islamic State,” Gambino said.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Authorities bust alliance between the RIzzuto crime family and the Hells Angels in Canada

The heads of the most powerful criminal organizations in Montreal were rounded up Thursday as part of a drug trafficking investigation that has shaken up the city’s underworld and uncovered an incredible murder plot.

Leonardo Rizzuto, 46, and his longtime friend Stefano Sollecito, 48, were described as being the new heads of the Mafia in Montreal after more than 200 police officers made 48 arrests as part of two investigations — Projects Magot and Mastiff — that were joined together and revealed the Mafia, the Hells Angels and the city’s major street gangs were working in concert to control drug trafficking in the city.

Rizzuto is the son of Vito Rizzuto, the former head of the Mafia in Montreal who died of natural causes near the end of 2013. Sollecito is the son of Rocco Sollecito, a longtime Mafia leader who remained loyal to the organization while attempts were made to overtake it roughly four years ago.

The police also alleged that Loris Cavaliere, 61, a longtime defence lawyer, used his office in Little Italy on St-Laurent Blvd., as a place where the major players assumed they could meet in private because of the protection lawyers have to keep their discussion with clients secret. Cavaliere was arrested Thursday morning and is charged with “participating or contributing to the activity of a criminal organization” to facilitate its crimes.
Leonardo Rizzuto, grandson of Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., arrives at the funeral of his grandfather and reputed former head of the Montreal Mafia at the Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense church in Little Italy in Montreal Nov. 15, 2010.

Also charged on Thursday was Maurice "Mom" Boucher, the former Hells Angels leader who is serving a life sentence for having issued orders that led to the murders of two provincial prison guards and the attempted murder of another in 1997. Boucher, 62, is alleged to have used his daughter, Alexandra Mongeau, 25, to relay messages to his former bodyguard, Gregory Woolley, 43, as part of a plan to kill Raynald Desjardins, a former right-hand man of Vito Rizzuto, who is currently awaiting his sentence for his role in the murder of a Mafioso.

According to an indictment filed at the Longueuil courthouse, the plot to kill Raynald Desjardins began in July and ended on Nov. 9.

Lawyer Loris Cavaliere at the preliminary hearing for Danny De Gregoria on a weapons charge at the Palais de Justice in Montreal, Wednesday May 9, 2012.

Salvatore Cazzetta, 60, a longtime member of the Hells Angels and one of its more influential members in Quebec, was also arrested on Thursday. He is alleged to be the man who handled the money for the alliance between the Mafia, Hells Angels and street gangs.

Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector Patrick Belanger said the combined investigations “allowed the arrests of the very influential heads of organized crime who formed an alliance” between the Hells Angels, Mafia and street gangs.

“This alliance was born out of a desire to control territory, particularly drug trafficking, and more particularly the area of Montreal, and to share revenues,” Belanger said. “During the investigation, Gregory Woolley, 43, of St-Hubert, was identified as the head of street gangs and also an influential player within the alliance.”

“For their part, Stefano Sollecito and Leonardo Rizzuto were identified as the heads of the (Mafia in Montreal). They took the place of Vito Rizzuto who died in 2013.”

An organizational chart presented at the press conference by the SQ indicates that Cavaliere acted as a go-between for the Mafia and members of street gangs. His office was allegedly used for meetings between high-level members of organized crime.

Charges against those arrested include gangsterism, drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder.

A joint SQ, RCMP and Montreal Police task force raided the Cavaliere & Associés offices in Montreal Nov. 19, 2015.

Five suspects remain at large. They are:
Eric Bourgeois, 37, from Montréal
José Mc Carthy, 39, from Montréal
Patrick Williams, 41, from Mascouche
Dominique Gauthier, 45, from Terrebonne
Martin Céleste, 35, from Terrebonne
Salvatore Cazzetta, right, leaves a Longueuil courthouse south of Montreal, with his lawyer, Thursday Nov. 20, 2014.

During the investigation, police seized $1.2 million in cash. During Thursday’s raids, officers confiscated 41 guns, 122 cellphones, one Harley-Davidson motorcycle and seven kilograms of cocaine.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Bonanno captain bashes owner of popular Japanese restaurant in the face with a cocktail glass

A reputed Bonnano crime family captain has been arrested and charged with smashing an owner of a popular Japanese restaurant with a cocktail glass, slicing his face and blinding one of his eyes, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Peter Lovaglio, 53, a powerful Bonnano boss, was picked up at his home early Friday morning and charged with the Nov. 1 attack on a 52-year-old owner inside his swanky Takayama Sushi Lounge at 17 Page Ave. at around 2:40 a.m., according to sources and court records.

The man was standing near the eatery’s bar when he heard someone call his name, sources said. When he turned to see who was talking to him, he was blindsided by an attacker who repeatedly hit his face.

Another patron called 911, but by the time the police arrived the attacker and his friends had left.

Sources say the police eventually obtained a photo of the suspect, but they had no name.

But earlier this week, the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigation Division identified the suspect as Lovaglio.

Sources believe Lovaglio had gotten into an argument earlier that evening at the restaurant, but it was not clear if the dispute involved Forte.

Forte was taken to Staten Island University North Hospital, where he already had several surgeries to his face and eye. He is expected to require several more, sources said.

Lovaglio has long criminal history involving the Mafia.

He was freed from federal prison only last March after he served two years for violating his probation for a previous extortion conviction, records showed.

The violation involved being caught by the FBI associating with two other Bonnano bosses: Gerard Chilli, a Florida-based capo, and Anthony “Fat Tony” Rabito, another high-ranking family captain.

The FBI was watching Chilli on the day he flew into JFK Airport in May 2013 and was picked up by Rabito, and later met with Lovaglio.

Before that, Lovaglio spent four years in federal prison for extortion.

Lovaglio was being held Friday in a police lockup while he awaiting arraignment.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bonanno snitch's son visits home of recently acquitted captain

Anthony "Fat Sammy" Valenti (right) visited Vincent Asaro at his home in Queens on Saturday.

A son of a snitch stopped by to visit reputed “Goodfella” mobster Vincent Asaro at home for 90 minutes Saturday — and, astoundingly, walked out alive.
Asaro, 80, was enjoying his second morning of freedom since getting acquitted by a Brooklyn federal jury in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist when the unlikely guest darkened his doorstep in Queens.
It was reputed Bonanno soldier Anthony “Fat Sammy” Valenti.
The chubby mobster had sat and stewed angrily in the back of the courtroom as his turncoat father, Gaspare Valenti, testified against Asaro— unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
Naturally, one might think the son would have been less than welcome when he parked a brand-new, white Jeep Sahara directly in front of Asaro’s home on 111th Street in South Ozone Park.
Especially since Asaro initially appeared to be in a bad mood.
“I’m not talking,” the less-than-jolly “Goodfella” had told a Post reporter half an hour earlier, when he came outside to take the garbage out.
“I have nothing to say,” Asaro added.
Soon enough, that son of a snitch pulled up in his Sahara, wearing jeans, a brown polo shirt and sneakers. With him was an unidentified, er, associate.
No brush-off for this guy.
Asaro opened the door like the younger Valenti was a long-lost debtor packing a wad of compounded interest.
Brooklyn prosecutors had said Asaro was a member of the team of gangsters that lifted $6 million in cash and jewels from the JFK Airport cargo terminal, a caper immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film,“Goodfellas.”
The elder Valenti and Asaro had been close for decades.
Then, in 2008, Valenti began recording their conversations and turning the tapes over to the feds.
Ultimately, jurors didn’t believe the elder Valenti, the star witness. They cleared the Bonanno crime-family capo of his alleged role in the heist, as well the 1969 killing of mob informant Paul Katz.
But on Saturday, the sins of the father were not visited upon the son.


Mob Wives band together to boot Drita D'Avanzo off new season

The “Mob Wives” are trying to shove their main star Drita D'Avanzo off the show and things got so ugly during filming for the new season, bodyguards were hired in case a brawl broke out.
Season 6, which airs in January, will feature regular cast members Renee Graziano, Karen Gravano, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola and former cast member Carla Faccolia, along with two new cast members, Marissa Jade and Brittany Fogarty.
“Renee Graziano’s sister Jennifer (Graziano) is the creator and the bias is towards Renee. And Renee hates Drita,” one show insider tells Confidenti@l. “People are choosing sides. Big Ange was trying to keep the peace, but she is slowly gravitating towards Renee too.”
Our source, who has seen the current season being filmed, adds that Drita is a “sexy firecracker” who knows how to pack both a verbal and physical punch.
“There has been security hired while they film, and they’ve had to hold Drita back multiple times,” adds our source. “They are trying to push her off the show and she is aware of what’s going on. At the beginning of filming there was a concerted effort to not film with her. Then, it turned to fighting.”
It got so bad behind the scenes, that Renee quit midway through filming. As of now, she has not returned and is said to be dealin with a health issue.
Over the summer the “wives” had banded together to refuse to film with Drita, and only did so if forced or is she shows up “by accident” while a scene is being filmed.
“The producers are eating it up,” our source says. “Without Drita there is no show, so it’s useless.”
The reason the women want her out, our source explains, is because the more airtime they each get, the more money they stand to make from appearances and endorsements.
“If they kill her off,” laughs our source, “they get more TV time.”
Drita has managed to form an alliance with Fogarty, the newest of the bunch, but hasn’t made friends with Jade, the other newbie, while filming.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bonanno captain found not guilty in murder of suspected snitch and Lufthansa heist

He’s a jolly “Goodfella.”

Bonanno crime capo Vinny Asaro grinned from ear to ear as he was acquitted by a federal jury Thursday in the iconic 1978 Lufthansa heist and a slew of other Mafia crimes, including murder.

Asaro, 80, at first looked puzzled as the “not guilty” verdicts were recited in Brooklyn Federal Court. Then he leaped up from his seat with a giant smile and hugged his two lawyers.

It was a massive blow to federal prosecutors, who were seeking a landmark conviction in the legendary crime immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas.”

Prosecutors had argued that Asaro was heavily involved with the band of mob hoodlums who breached the Lufthansa terminal at Kennedy Airport on December 11, 1978 and emptied a vault of $6 million in cash and jewels.

In addition to clearing him on that score, jurors also cleared Asaro of any role in the grisly 1969 slaying of Paul Katz, a reputed mob associate who was suspected of being an informant.

The man described by a Brooklyn federal prosecutor as “the ultimate tough guy” and who once fraternized with mafia legends like John Gotti has now dodged the prospect of life in prison.

Asaro has now had the last laugh against his cousin, Gaspare Valenti, who’d been key to the prosecution case and who still faces up to 20 years in prison under his federal agreement to cooperate against Asaro.

Vincent Asaro (right) with his cousin Gaspare Valenti in an undated photo.

Broke and disillusioned with the mafia grind, Valenti turned rat in 2008 and later began wearing a wire during countless conversations with Asaro and others.

The Lufthansa heist orchestrated by mobster Vincent Asaro, was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob classic, “Goodfellas.”

Valenti, who has already pleaded guilty to involvement in the Lufthansa heist, gave jurors an intimate tour of the planning, execution and aftermath of the robbery.

The turncoat also told jurors that he exhumed Katz on his cousin’s orders.

Asaro’s defense attorneys, Diane Ferrone and Elizabeth Macedonio, may well have succeeded in discrediting Valenti and other mafia songbirds who took the stand, blasting them as professional rats who were motivated to lie in exchange for government money.

But federal prosecutors Nicole Argentieri, Lindsay Gerdes and Alicyn Cooley told the panel that the evidence against Asaro was overwhelming and that the cooperators’ testimony was supported by the evidence in the case.

The three-week trial in Brooklyn federal court vividly brought many of the characters from the famed film classic to life.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Defense lawyer for Bonanno captain blasts government and turncoats

‘Goodfellas’ turncoats are despicable liars, attorney says
Painting them as “despicable … liars” just looking for government paydays, an attorney for accused “Goodfellas” mobster Vincent Asaro urged jurors to dismiss the testimony of a handful of veteran mob canaries during her closing argument Monday in Brooklyn federal court.

“These are despicable people,” lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio said of the cooperating witnesses the government used against the Bonanno capo on the stand over the last three weeks to implicate him in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa cargo heist and the murder of a suspected mob canary.

“They are accomplished liars,” she said.

The gray-haired gangster, 80, faces life in prison if convicted in the murder and the more than $6 million Kennedy Airport heist, which was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas.”
Vincent Asaro

Seeking to undo the government’s depiction of Asaro as a ferocious hoodlum who thrived as a Cosa Nostra menace for decades, Macedonio presented him as a benign and increasingly pathetic codger who ended up all but broke.

“Hardly the powerful organized crime figure the government alleges him to be,” Macedonio said. “Rather, Mr. Asaro rode around all day with Gaspare Valenti fantasizing. Fantasizing about a way to make money.”

Macedonio concentrated her spite on Valenti, the government’s linchpin witness. The lifelong mob bench warmer, a younger cousin of Asaro, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at trial and calmly and effectively buried his relative on the stand.

The attorney painted Valenti as a loathsome Mafia layabout who had no problem lying in any circumstance as long as it refreshed his wallet.

“Gaspare Valenti is an experienced liar,” she said. “He is a person who is able to lie to everyone around him. Even his own family.”

Tired of the oppressive Mafia lifestyle, Valenti opted to turn into a rat in 2008 and began wearing a wire to ensnare his cousin in incriminating banter.

He told jurors earlier in the trial that he and Asaro were direct participants in the iconic Kennedy Airport robbery, where a team of Mafia crooks made off with $6 million in cash and jewels.

Valenti also testified that he took part in the exhumation of Asaro’s alleged murder victim, Paul Katz.

The feds claim that Katz ran a Queens warehouse that served as a holding area for items stolen by legendary Lucchese associate and purported Lufthansa mastermind Jimmy “The Gent” Burke.

After it was raided by agents, Burke suspected that Katz had run his mouth to law enforcement and killed him with a dog chain with Asaro, Valenti said.

Hoping to undercut the cousin’s damaging turn on the stand, Macedonio repeatedly reminded jurors that his spews were subsidized by the government.

The turncoat acknowledged on the stand that he has been receiving $3,000 a month from prosecutors since he began his cooperation.

“The government has become a pension plan for organized crime figures,” she zinged. “Every one of these cooperators are on the streets. They negotiate sweetheart deals and reap the rewards.”
Vincent Asaro (foreground) and his cousin Gaspare Valenti in an undated photo.

Macedonio heaped disbelief on Valenti’s recollections about the Lufthansa heist and Asaro’s involvement in it.

He testified that Asaro was parked in a car about a mile from the airport with Burke as the robbery took place. Macedonio argued that it made no sense for the men to be stationed away from the scene with no way to communicate with the heist squad as the score unfolded.

“Really?” the lawyer asked incredulously.

She also minimized the snippets of recorded chatter that the government has elevated as direct evidence of Asaro’s involvement in the heist.

In a 2011 conversation, Valenti and Asaro lamented that the Lufthansa score loot wasn’t properly dispersed, according to prosecutors.

“We got f—– all around,” Asaro said. “Got f—– all round. That f—— Jimmy, he kept everything.”

The feds asserted that Asaro was referring to Jimmy Burke and the $6 million caper. But Macedonio said that the comment was too vague to serve as direct evidence of her client’s involvement.

She also scoffed at the government’s assertion that Asaro and his fellow Lufthansa plotters opened up a supper club named Afters that was meant to refer to “after Lufthansa” soon after the heist. Macedonio said that such a maneuver would have been ludicrously incriminating. “That just doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

Valenti, who has already pleaded guilty to a range of crimes, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced. But Macedonio said that he has yet to serve a day behind bars and is hoping to keep it that way through his assistance to the government in their pursuit of Asaro.

Seeking to soften the jury’s image of her client, Macedonio mocked the government’s presentation of dozens of surveillance pictures captured over several decades.

The black and white images primarily showed him fraternizing with burly associates in front of drab, indeterminate Ozone Park storefronts.

“They were like the paparazzi,” she said of the government’s scrutiny of Asaro. “They never went away. It went on for decades.”

“Not once did they catch him doing something illegal. There is Mr. Asaro walking down the street with a coffee pot in his hand,” she said while a photo was shown to jurors. “Yep, they got him!”

“Sometimes the government gets it wrong,” Macedonio said toward the end of her two-hour summation.

“He is a man who marches to the beat of his own drum,” she said of Asaro. “He always has, he always will. But that doesn’t make him guilty.”

Prosecutors will now have the opportunity to rebut her points before the jury begins deliberations.


Trial of Bonanno captain offers inside look into the fall of the NY mafia

After he had helped pull off one of the biggest cash robberies in American history — the Lufthansa heist of 1978 — and stashed millions of dollars, along with burlap sacks of gold chains, crates of watches, and diamonds and emeralds, in his cousin’s basement, Vincent Asaro thought first about the code: Protect the family.

“He says, ‘We got to be real careful now,’” his cousin testified. “‘Don’t spend anything. Don’t buy anything major.’”

He kept quiet, but another part of Mr. Asaro, a Mafia yeoman working his way up through New York’s Bonanno crime family, could not resist. He bought a Bill Blass-model Lincoln and a Formula speedboat — symbols of a man who wanted to belong.

Mr. Asaro did not realize his world was vanishing.

An undated image of Vincent Asaro.

Born in 1935, he entered the same business as his father and grandfather, also Mafia members: a company man even if the company business was murder and extortion. Growing old, Mr. Asaro stayed in his old neighborhood in Queens, shopping at Waldbaum’s, sticking with the routines he knew.

By then, though, other organized crime groups were squeezing out the New York Mafia with new, sophisticated businesses. More devastatingly for him, Mr. Asaro’s friends, superiors and even a relative began informing on him to the government — providing the material that allowed prosecutors to bring charges after all these years, and shredding the Mafia code that defined his life.

Now 80, Mr. Asaro has spent the last three weeks in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the sole defendant in what may be one of the last big Mafia trials, accused of crimes including a 1969 murder, the Lufthansa heist at Kennedy International Airport — a plot point in the Martin Scorsese movie “Goodfellas” — other robberies and extortions. His arm tattoo has been covered up by sweaters. It reads, “Death Before Dishonor.”

In closing arguments, Elizabeth Macedonio, a defense lawyer, portrayed the cooperating Mafia witnesses as liars, and Mr. Asaro as someone who, despite years of being surveilled by federal agents, was never once caught doing anything wrong.

The case, which is expected to go to the jury Monday afternoon, has depicted a Mafia life from a time when the organization still ruled New York, drawn from testimony, recorded conversations, wiretapped phone calls, court filings and F.B.I. surveillance records going back 40 years. Vincent Asaro was brought down in his old age by a violation of the codes he so embraced; his is the story of the disappearing New York Mafia, and of a disappearing way of life.

Mr. Asaro was escorted by F.B.I. agents on Jan. 23, 2014, after he and four other reputed members of the Bonanno crime family were arrested.

Growing Up Fast

To get by around Ozone Park, Queens, in the 1950s and ’60s, teenagers had to figure certain things out pretty young. “Down the hole” was an Italian area on the border with Brooklyn. Savvy lottery players picked lucky combinations from the Daily News horse-race charts. And, several people testified, around the time they became teenagers, they realized where the power in the neighborhood lay.

Peter Zuccaro, a Mafia associate who testified at Mr. Asaro’s trial, got into a fight over a customer’s not paying for goods at the auto-parts shop where Mr. Zuccaro worked. He was in danger until a Bonanno member intervened, a display of the raw power he came to crave. “It was the thing to do,” he said. “I wanted to be a made member of organized crime.”

The five New York families each have a boss, an underboss and a consigliere ruling them. Captains follow, then soldiers. Under that are associates, who are not made, or inducted, members.

Salvatore Vitale, a former Bonanno underboss, testified at Mr. Asaro's trial.

Salvatore Vitale, a former Bonanno underboss, explained the rules: You did not cooperate with law enforcement. You did not sleep with another member’s wife or daughter. You could sell only pot, not other drugs.

Are the rules broken? an assistant United States attorney, Nicole M. Argentieri, asked him.

“All the time,” Mr. Vitale replied.

This was the family business Mr. Asaro seemed destined for. Anthony Ruggiano Jr., whose father, known as Fat Andy, was a Gambino soldier, began noticing Mr. Asaro when he saw him at Aqueduct or around the neighborhood. Fat Andy said that Mr. Asaro was going to be a third-generation wiseguy, and “thought it was a great thing,” Mr. Ruggiano testified.

Vincent Asaro’s Queens

By the 1960s, Mr. Asaro was known as an “earner” in the Bonannos, a prosecutor, Lindsay Gerdes, said. His cousin Gaspare Valenti, a Bonanno associate before he started cooperating with the government, testified about the early crimes they committed together, like hijacking truckloads of Oleg Cassini shirts. The “scores” were often at the direction of James Burke, a powerful Mafia associate who was Irish. (In “Goodfellas,” Robert De Niro plays the character based on Mr. Burke.)

In 1969, prosecutors said, Mr. Asaro graduated to murder.

One Sunday in 1969, Mr. Asaro and Mr. Burke met Mr. Valenti at a house Mr. Valenti’s father was building in Queens, bringing a sledgehammer and a shovel. “Vinny came up the steps,” Mr. Valenti testified, “and said, ‘We have to bury somebody.’” Mr. Valenti thought he was joking; he was not. The body was that of Paul Katz, a man Mr. Asaro suspected of being a government informant. Mr. Asaro and Mr. Burke had strangled the man with a dog chain, according to Mr. Valenti. Mr. Valenti said he helped them bury the body underneath the basement concrete.

James Burke, a powerful Mafia associate and a friend of Mr. Asaro's. In “Goodfellas,” Robert De Niro plays the character based on Mr. Burke.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Asaro was formally inducted into the Bonannos: Vinny Asaro was a made man. Mr. Zuccaro recalled being at a club called Little Cricket that night. When Mr. Asaro walked in, someone played a song called “Wise Guy,” and then “the whole neighborhood knew,” Mr. Zuccaro said. Soon, Mr. Asaro would show he merited the honor.

Rolf Rebmann was working his usual midnight-to-7-a.m. shift at Building 26 at Kennedy Airport on Dec. 11, 1978, when he heard a “holler” from outside the terminal. His co-workers were upstairs in the lunchroom for their 3 a.m. meal break, so Mr. Rebmann, a Lufthansa security guard, walked outside to see a man standing near a black Ford van.

“I asked him if I could help him, and he said ‘No,’ and stuck a gun in my face and told me to get in the van face down,” Mr. Rebmann testified.

In December 1978, the police cordoned off a stolen black van in Brooklyn, suspecting it had been used in the Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy International Airport.

The assailants wanted Mr. Rebmann’s keys to open the overhead door, and then they walked him upstairs to the lunchroom. “Somebody kept saying: ‘Just do as you’re told, do as you’re told. We don’t want to hurt anybody.’”

Led by Mr. Burke, they had been tipped off to the valuable cargo shipments by an airport employee.

They had pulled off what was then billed as the largest cash robbery in United States history, stealing $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels.

Gaspare Valenti, who testified he was one of the two men who attacked the guards, said Mr. Asaro had allowed him to come. In planning sessions at the Queens social club Robert’s Lounge, Mr. Burke, Mr. Asaro, Mr. Valenti and several other men looked over airport plans, and agreed to visit the terminal at least twice to map out escape routes, Mr. Valenti testified.

A Guyanese and Jamaican restaurant now operates at the site of the former Robert's Lounge in Ozone Park, a notorious mob hangout. According to trial testimony, much of the planning of the Lufthansa robbery was done there.

Mr. Asaro drove Mr. Valenti to Mr. Burke’s house the night of the robbery, giving him a .38 hammerless pistol and an instruction: “‘Anything happens, just stand your ground and continue to do the robbery the best you can,’” Mr. Asaro told him, Mr. Valenti testified. Mr. Asaro and Mr. Burke said they would wait in a decoy car a mile away, and the others piled into a van and headed for the terminal.

When they got into the vault, one of the robbers, Tommy DeSimone, took a box from a shelf and stepped on it, Mr. Valenti testified. “The yellow Styrofoam popcorn popped out of the boxes, and Tommy put his hand in there, and he pulled out two packages of money,” Mr. Valenti said. “Tommy says, ‘This is it! This is it!’”

Tommy DeSimone was one of the Lufthansa robbers, according to trial testimony.

After unloading the haul in Mr. Valenti’s basement, Mr. Asaro left for Fat Andy’s social club. When Mr. Valenti, feeling “euphoria,” met him at Fat Andy’s, Mr. Asaro issued his warning to be careful. Mr. Asaro was: He stayed away from Mr. Valenti for a while, kicked up $100,000 to his captain, distributed jewelry to the Five Families to keep the peace and asked friends to hold on to the cash so it wasn’t in one place. He even worried that throwing out the cardboard boxes that contained the cash might draw unwanted attention. So he came up with the idea for Mr. Valenti to sell Christmas trees, so a cheery bonfire would not look out of place.

He had reason for the concern. Headlines throughout that December blared about the daring robbery, and by just after Christmas, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were watching Mr. Asaro visit Mr. Burke’s house in Queens.
Style of the 1950s

In the years after Lufthansa, the participants who were still around had enough money that they should have been able to stop working. Mr. Valenti got his $750,000 share, as did Mr. Asaro. Most of the others were killed or disappeared (deaths prosecutors attribute in part to Mr. Burke, who died in 1996 while serving his sentence).

Mr. Asaro, smart enough to stay alive, aware enough not to talk too much about Lufthansa, apparently still wanted a little fun. He gambled heavily, and started a Rockaway Boulevard nightclub called Afters, which Mr. Valenti said was a reference to “After Lufthansa.”

Mr. Asaro acted, in some ways, as if it were the 1950s and the mob were at its height. He placed bets at Aqueduct. He played handball and paddleball, poker and Continental. He oversaw truck hijackings and armored-car robberies. In a series of surveillance photographs, he seemed the picture of easy confidence. He even waved at an F.B.I. agent one day, according to testimony.

Clockwise from top left, surveillance photographs of Vincent Asaro at J&S Cakes/MVP Trucking in 1987, at a social club at 433 Meeker in 1989, outside Glendale Sports Club in 2013 and at James Burke's wake in 1996 at Romanelli Funeral Home.

But it was the 1980s, and the Mafia, after years of prosperity and influence, was beginning a steep decline. The police and F.B.I. agents infiltrated the mob. Federal prosecutors charged the bosses of the Five Families using a powerful racketeering act, and four of the five were imprisoned (the fifth was killed before trial). Suddenly, even friendly local politicians stopped supporting the families.

On the other side, the Mafia was getting squeezed by crime syndicates from Japan, Russia, Mexico and Eastern Europe doing drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms dealing. The mob, though it still made money from extortion and gambling, was not evolving, and neither was Mr. Asaro.

Into the 1990s, Mr. Asaro was still threatening neighborhood shops. An Ozone Park resident, Guy Gralto, testified that when he opened his chop shop in the 1990s, Mr. Asaro asked for “protection money.” When Mr. Gralto could not pay, Mr. Asaro hit him and said that “when he was done with me my mother wouldn’t be able to ID my body,” Mr. Gralto testified.

Joseph C. Massino, the former Bonanno family boss, was the first official boss of a New York crime family to cooperate with federal authorities.

But as he grew older, his bosses considered Mr. Asaro “hostile,” as Mr. Vitale, the former Bonanno underboss, put it. In the 1990s, the boss demoted Mr. Asaro because “he was abusing his leadership position by ‘robbing’ the individuals who reported to him,” and was low on money from too much gambling, prosecutors wrote. Prosecutors do not name the mob boss in the papers, but the details they give match those of Joseph C. Massino, who later began cooperating with the government. Prosecutors discussed calling him to testify at Mr. Asaro’s trial, according to transcripts.

An enfeebled New York Mafia limped into the new millennium. One associate, Peter Zuccaro, enthralled with the Mafia since he was a teenager, declined the offer when he was told he was being made around 2000. “I didn’t need it,” he said; he began informing a few years later. In 2003, Mr. Vitale started cooperating with the government, and helped convict more than 50 Mafia figures. That was followed by a once-unthinkable betrayal. In 2005, a mob leader flipped for the first time. It was Joe Massino, Mr. Asaro’s onetime boss.

Mr. Asaro did not seem to question it when his cousin Gaspare Valenti, who had been in Las Vegas and not speaking to Mr. Asaro, returned to New York and befriended him in 2010. Mr. Valenti was secretly working with the F.B.I.

By then, Mr. Asaro was hobbling around trying to generate cash. “I don’t come out early no more,” Mr. Asaro said in 2010. “Where am I going? I got no place to go.”

Since his divorce in 2005, he had been on bad terms with his only son, Jerome, a Bonanno captain. His jewelry had been in hock for two years. He still went to Fat Andy’s, where he had celebrated the Lufthansa robbery, but “people hate me in there: I don’t pay my dues,” he told Mr. Valenti, his cousin, in a conversation Mr. Valenti recorded.

Jerome Asaro, Mr. Asaro's son and a Bonanno captain, struck a plea bargain.

He tried to look sharp, though his idea of sharp by then was fresh sneakers and a jacket from Kohl’s. As other organized crime was getting ever more sophisticated — hacking into bank accounts, stealing identities — Mr. Asaro was still talking about small robberies and little shakedowns.

He worried he was so irrelevant he would be kicked out of the Mafia altogether. “They’re going to take my badge away. You’re going to see, it’s going to happen,” he told Mr. Valenti in 2011, according to a recording played in court. By 2012, the group’s waning membership was such that he told Mr. Valenti that he was promoted to captain again. It did not change his fortunes. “I ain’t got a penny. I swear to God. No gas. Twenty dollars can you lend me?” he told Mr. Valenti.

In 2014, the F.B.I. finally closed in, arresting Mr. Asaro. Prosecutors charged him with racketeering conspiracy, including the Lufthansa robbery and Paul Katz’s murder, and extortion. Four other Mafia members, including his son, were arrested the same day. They all struck plea bargains. Mr. Asaro did not.Photo

Vincent Asaro, left, looked on as Mr. Vitale testified during Mr. Asaro's trial in this court sketch Oct. 19.

During the trial, which started in October, traces of Mr. Asaro’s verve were on display. He insisted on a clear line of sight to the turncoats, mouthing obscenities as they testified. Some moments struck him as amusing — when he heard a tape of himself telling Mr. Valenti he had a “face made of [expletive] plutonium,” he put his head in his hands and chuckled.

But the trial made it clear. Omertà was no more. People above him had flouted the code, people below him had flouted the code, and the last one left was Mr. Asaro clinging to his credo. He seemed angry and betrayed.

Partway through the trial, angry that his lawyers were not cross-examining more aggressively, he asked to speak to Judge Allyne R. Ross of Federal District Court. “I just want some input in the case, your honor,” he said. “This is my life. This is my life. I’m 80 years old.”


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Daughter of infamous Colombo family mobster The Grim Reaper writes tell all book

My dad was the Mafia’s Grim Reaper
On the morning of Nov. 18, 1991, Linda Scarpa learned, brutally, what it meant to be the daughter of a Mafia assassin.

Gregory Scarpa, known as “Grim Reaper,” was the most feared gangland enforcer in New York and executioner for one side of an internal war in the Colombo crime family.

But the enemy knew where his family lived in Bensonhurst and was waiting for Scarpa that morning as he pulled away from the house. Linda followed her father’s car out of the driveway and noticed a van speeding down the block.

“The Mafia Hit Man’s Daughter”
by Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencrance

“When I backed out, I cut the van off,” she writes in her new memoir, “The Mafia Hit Man’s Daughter.” “It almost slammed into me…I yelled a few choice words and started driving again.”

At the end of the street, a truck had blocked the intersection. She pulled up behind her father, and the van stopped behind them. Not realizing the danger, she looked down to check on her 8-month-old son. “All of a sudden I heard popping noises that sounded just like fireworks.”

“I looked up and there were these guys dressed from head to toe in black. Their faces were covered in black ski masks, and they were carrying these long black guns with silencers. They surrounded our cars and started shooting at my father’s car. As soon as the first shots rang out, I saw my father go down.”

She wanted to place her child on the floor but was too afraid to move. “I was only 22 years old. The fear was paralyzing. It was like I was outside my body watching everything that was going on around me. I noticed this one guy with a walkie-talkie standing on the sidewalk, watching these guys shooting at my father’s car as if he was directing a movie.”

A friend of her father’s, Joseph “Joe Fish” Marra, jumped out of his car and returned fire. “One of the guys started shooting back at Joe, and I saw the wind from the bullet whiz right through his hair. He just missed getting his head blown up. I read his lips. He said, ‘Holy s–t.’ He jumped back in the car.

“The guy he was shooting at panicked. His automatic gun was spraying bullets everywhere. He even shot into my car. By now my father’s entire car looked like Swiss cheese.” Modal Trigger
Linda Scarpa

Scarpa’s car took off, wedging through the space between the stop sign and the truck.

“I was left there on the road — the baby and I — with the van, the truck and all these guys dressed in black. My heart was in my mouth. I knew I was going to die right then.

“Then the guy whose gun was spraying bullets — I’ll never forget him because he had the bluest eyes — came running over to my car. . . . He looked in the car, then turned and ran away.”

Linda raced back to the house and, assuming the worst, told her mother, “Big Linda” Schiro, that Greg Scarpa was dead.

Then Scarpa himself walked through the door.

“He was pale as a ghost. He saw me and the baby and he just started to cry. He grabbed my son and hugged him. Then he looked at me. ‘You saved my life. You realize that, right?’ ”

“Don’t worry,” he added. “Everything’s OK. I’m going to take care of this.” He turned to Linda’s mother and said, “They’re all f–king dead. They’re going to f–king die, starting tonight.”
The Colombo War

Linda’s mother (Linda Schiro) was Scarpo’s mistress—she grew up thinking someone else was her father.

Family life was complicated for the pampered Mafia princess.

She grew up thinking a mild-mannered man named Charlie Schiro was her dad, and that “Greggy” was just a friend of the family. It was only as a teenager that she learned the truth: Her mother was Greg Scarpa’s mistress, and Linda and her brother Joey were his children.

Even before she knew Scarpa was her father, though, she loved him. Their home was filled with parties, and “we had the nicest cars and the nicest clothes,” she writes. “I got my first fur coat when I was 6.”

She and brother Joey would sometimes join their father at his crew’s Wimpy Boys Social Club on Thirteenth Avenue in Bensonhurst, where Scarpa worked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They were treated to chocolate egg creams at the luncheonette next door and candy from the store across the street — always free.

But when Linda was old enough to find out the truth, she lived in fear of his gangland dealings.

“He was known as the Grim Reaper,” she points out, “because if you did wrong and were in the life, or you hurt his family or anyone he cared about, it was his job to bring you death.”

Scarpa said he stopped counting the number of his victims at 50.
Throughout the Colombo War Scarpa (pictured) was allegedly assisted by FBI supervisor Lin DeVecchio.

Many of the killings occurred during the Colombo civil war of 1991-1993, which erupted just as Scarpa was thinking about retiring and moving to Florida. By then he had AIDS — contracted during a blood transfusion over a life-threatening bleeding ulcer.

The mob family’s consigliere, Carmine Sessa, begged him to join the battle in support of imprisoned godfather Carmine Persico, who was at odds with rebellious acting boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena. Scarpa owed Sessa a debt of gratitude for having cared for him when most others stayed away because of his illness.

Through the war, Scarpa was assisted, Linda alleges, by Lin DeVecchio, an FBI supervisor and Scarpa’s handler during several years when the hit man secretly aided the bureau in exchange for cash and tips.

Scarpa, who loved James Bond movies, hinted at the relationship even when his kids were young. “That’s your father,” he once said. “Call me Greg. Greg Bond.” Linda just laughed. “It wasn’t until I was older that I learned what he was talking about.”

DeVecchio was tried in 2006 for helping Scarpa carry out four gangland murders, but the case collapsed because Linda Schiro had denied DeVecchio’s involvement in Scarpa’s murders a decade earlier in a Village Voice interview.

But Linda Schiro told the truth to investigators, “about how Lin helped my father,” the daughter says. Little Linda even says DeVecchio helped spark the Colombo war by tipping Scarpa about the hit men who’d come after him.

“My father gave him the license-plate number of one of the trucks involved in the shooting,” she writes. “Lin checked around. He told my father that the truck belonged to William ‘Wild Bill’ Cutolo. So my father knew that Wild Bill and Vic Orena had called the hit — and now he knew who his targets were.”
Close to home

Linda, at age 6, with her father.

As a teenager, Linda Scarpa, now 46, fell in with a group of kids who used to hang around and smoke pot, a crowd that included her first boyfriend, Greg Vacca.

When she came home high one night, her parents raged at her. The next day, Scarpa went looking for her boyfriend.

The boy’s head and face were so badly beaten, “I couldn’t bear to look at him. His head was misshapen. There were bumps the size of grapefruits.”

She told her dad, “I hate you. How could you do that to him?” He said: “That’s what happens when you do stupid things.”

Greg Vacca gave his own account of that beating in Linda Scarpa’s book. He describes how Scarpa and his gangster friends tracked him down the day after the pot-smoking incident, chasing him in cars as he fled on foot.

“There must have been 10 or 12 guys,” Vacca recalled. “And they just friggin’ pulverized me. I ended up with a broken nose, a concussion, two fractured ribs, and the rest of my body was bruised everywhere. My head was so swollen, I looked like the Elephant Man.”

But Vacca credits Scarpa for steering him away from drugs and the streets.

“I don’t get high anymore or do drugs. I’ve been sober since 1991, completely sober — no drinking, nothing, zero. I don’t gamble at all. I don’t get involved with the mob.

“So, Greg, thank you, number one, for not killing me. Number two, I learned a lot from that.”

Another terrifying encounter happened about three years later. Linda was 16 and attacked by her car-service driver, Jose Guzman, who was supposed to take her to Bishop Ford HS in Park Slope but instead drove her to a secluded area of Prospect Park.

“He grabbed my hand . . . and licked the crease between my index finger and my middle finger as if they were my legs. ‘That’s what I’m going to do to you, baby.’ And then he ripped my shirt open. All that was going through my head was that I was going to get killed — raped and then killed.”

She got out of it by pretending to be interested and insisting that Guzman meet her later. When she told her mother, “She flipped out. Went totally crazy. Crying. Screaming at the top of her lungs.”

Scarpa tracked down Guzman and shot him as he ran from the front steps of his home, telling Linda, “I had actually saved other girls from being raped.”

Scarpa cut out a newspaper account of the murder and kept it in her wallet. “Every once in a while I’d take it out and look at it. He had kids, and I felt so bad and guilty about him getting killed. But what was I supposed to do, not say anything?”
Her lost brother

Linda with her brother Joey, Scarpa, and mother, Linda Schiro.

For Linda, the worst part about his dad’s mob world was what it did to her brother.

Joey, a “mama’s boy,” got pulled into his father’s Mafia world at 17, when Scarpa forced him to murder his best friend, Patrick Porco. DeVecchio found out Porco had been picked up on a murder charge and was going to flip.

“Greg told Joey he’d have to kill Patrick himself. Joey had no choice,” said Linda Schiro. Ultimately the teen couldn’t pull the trigger — but watched as Joey’s cousin shot Porco in the head.

Two years later, another friend of Joey’s, Joe Randazzo, was gunned down in front of him during a beef with drug dealers in which his father blasted Lucchese member Michael “Mickey Flattop” Derosa and his crew fired back. “A bullet went through Daddy’s nose and took out his eye,” Joey told his sister. “When I turned around to tell Joe to duck, he got shot in the head.”

Greg Scarpa ended up in the hospital under arrest, joking to Linda Schiro, “That’s all right, sweetheart. You can call me ‘One-eyed Greg’ from now on.”
Linda and Joey

Scarpa was eventually convicted and died in prison in 1994 at age 66.

Joey spiraled into depression.

“Life’s not the same without Dad,” he told his sister. But though he tried to get away from the life, Joey was killed after a member of the Gambinos lured him into a trap.

His death devastated Linda. “That was in 1995,” she writes. “Today it’s not better, not even a little bit.”

“I’ve often thought about the people my father murdered and the families he destroyed, and it’s very painful and disturbing. I knew what that felt like because my brother was murdered, too.”


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Prosecutors deliver final statements in Bonanno captain's trial

Hoping to finally slam the legal door on one of the most iconic crimes in American history, a prosecutor squarely accused “Goodfellas” goon Vinny Asaro of key involvement in the famed 1978 Lufthansa heist — immortalized in the classic 1990 film — during her final statement to jurors Friday.

Calling him “the ultimate tough guy,” prosecutor Alicyn Cooley portrayed Asaro, now a grandfatherly 80-year-old with slicked-back gray hair, as a violent hoodlum with a manic appetite for ill-gotten gains.

“He lived by and personally enforced the Mafia’s code — death before dishonor,” Cooley said. “He’s the ultimate tough guy.”

The government’s case, laid out over three weeks, hinged on the devastatingly detailed recollections of Asaro’s turncoat cousin, Bonanno associate Gaspare Valenti.

The marginal mafioso-turned-star witness vividly described the night in December 1978 when he and a crew of hoods breached a cargo area at Kennedy Airport, subdued employees and eventually piled $6 million in cash and jewels into a van before speeding off into the Queens night.

Valenti testified that Asaro was parked roughly a mile away from the airport during the heist along with reputed mastermind and Lucchese associate Jimmy “The Gent” Burke.

After haphazard dispersal, much of the Lufthansa loot was squandered at racetracks and on indulgent purchases. Concerned that his colleagues would eventually snitch, an increasingly paranoid Burke methodically had his accomplices whacked. Modal Trigger 
Vincent Asaro (right) with his cousin Gaspare Valenti in an undated photo.

But it wasn’t until 30 years later, when a broke and beleaguered Valenti called the feds and offered to unlock his vault of Mafia secrets, that the cold case would finally begin to thaw.

While collecting $3,000 a month from the feds in exchange for his knowledge, Valenti wore a wire for years on behalf of his handlers, recording countless hours of mostly mundane and profane banter with his oblivious cousin.

But Valenti managed to delicately steer the conversation to the Lufthansa heist on a few scattered occasions. Prosecutors asserted at trial that Asaro’s mutterings obliquely referenced his involvement in the score and his displeasure with the spoils.

In a recorded 2011 conversation, Valenti and Asaro, both aged and now all but insolvent, lamented that the Lufthansa score loot wasn’t properly dispersed.

“We got f—– all around. Got f—– all round,” Asaro complained​ on tape. “That f—— Jimmy, he kept everything,” Asaro groused, blaming Burke for hoarding the booty for himself while squeezing out his colleagues.

“It’s life, we did it to ourselves,” Asaro ​lamented after discussing another accused Lufthansa heist participant who had been reduced to begging for cigarettes.

Cooley, during her Friday statement, also charged Asaro with the brutal slaying of a Mafia associate he suspected of turning rat in 1969. Paul Katz ran a warehouse that served as a way station for stolen goods that were hijacked by Burke and his mob cohorts.

After the facility was raided, Burke began to suspect Katz of turning stool pigeon. The feds claim that Asaro joined Burke in murdering Katz with a dog chain and stuffed his corpse underneath a Queens home.

“They strangled Katz with a dog chain and buried his body — concealing evidence of their horrific crime,” Cooley said.

The Lufthansa heist makes the front page on Dec. 11, 1978.

Through a parade of witnesses, the feds had painted an intricate portrait of Asaro as a lifelong, dedicated Mafia hoodlum whose father and grandfather were both made men.

The famously volatile hood frequently expressed his displeasure over the course of the trial, mumbling profanities as a procession of former comrades turned cooperators as they calmly sought to bury him on the stand.

His lawyers, Elizabeth Macedonio and Diane Ferrone, tried to hammer away at the Mafia songbirds as inveterate liars whose word was paid for by the government and couldn’t be trusted.

But Cooley told jurors Friday to set aside their personal opinions of the cooperators in assessing their testimony.

“The question is not if you like them, it’s whether you believe them,” she said.

Cooley told jurors Friday that Asaro was nothing more than an incorrigible crook who not only took part in the Mafia life, but reveled in it. Modal Trigger 
Vinny Asaro and John Gotti (in dark shirt) outside the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Queens in an undated photo.

“Vincent Asaro wanted the power that came with getting his button,” she said. “Getting made.”

“He was born into that life and he fully embraced it.”

Cooley was to continue her summation before Asaro’s lawyers offered their final statement Friday afternoon.

The sensational trial brought several of the characters from Martin Scorsese’s film to life. Burke, portrayed by Robert De Niro as “Jimmy Conway,” was depicted by witnesses as a prolific, feared and unpredictable crook.

Tommy DeSimone, played by Joe Pesci as “Tommy DeVito,” was described as a bloodthirsty gun nut who tested out a new silencer in the hours before the Lufthansa heist.

Minor Lufthansa participant Parnell “Stacks” Edwards, played by Samuel L. Jackson in the flick, once accompanied Asaro to confront another mobster after he killed a dog Asaro claimed to own, according to testimony.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Colombo gangster is sentenced to 70 months in prison despite plea from deceased firefighter's wife

Giovanni (John) Cerbone was sentenced Thursday to 70 months in prison for drugs and money laundering crimes.
A plea for mercy from the widow of a hero firefighter didn't do much good for a reputed Colombo gangster who was sentenced Thursday to 70 months in prison for drugs and money laundering crimes.

John Cerbone, 43, who does double duty as a plumber and a goodfella, tried to portray himself as a good guy, too, in his bid for a five-year sentence.

Linda Graffagnino had written to Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis that Cerbone had helped take care of her two young children after her husband Joseph was killed in the Deutsche Bank fire in 2007. Cerbone is a longtime friend of Linda Graffagnino and is dating her sister.

"He's a good guy, that's wonderful," Garaufis said. "But he also had to do what he has to do to be law-abiding in other respects."

Linda Graffagnino said Cerbone had helped take care of her two young children after her husband Joseph was killed in the Deutsche Bank fire. Here, firefighters respond to the 2007 blaze.

The widow of Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino, killed in 2007, is friends with Cerbone and made a plea to the judge for mercy.

Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes stated in court papers that Cerbone is a member of Colombo capo Joseph Amato's crew, and had suggested to an informant last year that he had been inducted into the crime family as a made man.

Cerbone is a triplet and his two brothers attended the sentencing. Last year Cerbone tried to pass himself off as his brother Joseph when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent handed him a subpoena.

The mobster shed his blue dress shirt and donned a red T-shirt in a pathetic attempt to confuse the media outside Brooklyn Federal Court. Linda Graffagnino declined to comment.

Cerbone pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine, marijuana and oxycodone pills, and laundering the illicit proceeds after he was caught in a sting operation.


Bonanno captain's Death before Dishonor tattoo makes appearance at trial

Tat’s all, folks!

The evidence part of the trial of reputed Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro — who is charged with planning the infamous $6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978 — ended Wednesday with jurors getting a look at the mobster's "Death Before Dishonor" tattoo.

FBI special agent Robert Ypelaar, the government's final witness, identified the blurry letters pinted on the 80-year-old Asaro's right forearm from a photograph taken on the day he was busted in January 2014.

"Death Before Dishonor" tattoo.

In her opening argument two weeks ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Gerdes said those ominous three words were for Asaro, "the pact of 'Omertà,' the code of silence which he built his life on."

But like the faded tattoo, the silence did not stand the test of time. Asaro was betrayed by first cousin Gaspare Valenti, who secretly recorded nearly 200 hours of conversations with the unwitting wiseguy.

Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro charged with planning the infamous $6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978.

Defense lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio tried valiantly to defuse the tattoo photos.

Government exhibit 104 of the Lufthansa Cargo building at JFK airport, presented to the jury in the Lufthansa heist trial at Brooklyn Federal Court.

"Not particularly," Ypelaar replied.

Macedonio pointed out that the term, "Death Before Dishonor" dates back to Samurai warriors and is a motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.

"This is a question I never thought I'd be answering," he said prompting laughter in the courtroom.

Asaro's lawyers put on a short, but colorful defense case. They called former Lufthansa cargo worker Kerry Whelan, who was pistol-whipped by members of the robbery crew — and has been carrying a 37-year grudge against the FBI for allegedly mischaracterizing his description of a robber in court papers.

Whelan, 60, testified that the two thugs he encountered in a van outside the cargo building were Tommy DeSimone — portrayed in the film "Goodfellas" by actor Joe Pesci — and Colombo associate Angelo Sepe.

But Whelan didn’t come across as unbiased.

"I was treated horribly by the FBI," Whelan said.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Gerdes got him to acknowledge that he has written letters to the Gov. Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch with various complaints over the years.

He also wrote to the federal judge presiding over the trial demanding the FBI return his $5 bill that was seized for fingerprint testing because a robber might have touched it, and the shoes he was wearing the night of the heist which were also taken for forensic testing.

Whelan said outside the courthouse that he was exercising his First Amendment right of free speech when he staged numerous one-man protests in Foley Square, outside the U.S. Attorney's office, and in Facebook rants.


Big Ang's cousin provides lively testimony at gun trial

At times Luigi Grasso’s story meandered off course and he sounded more like a Martin Scorsese character at a bar than a witness at a criminal proceeding.
He did nuttin’. End of story.

“Mob Wives” relative Luigi Grasso (aka Ronnie Petrino) had sumthin' to say to jurors at his Manhattan gun trial on Wednesday — he ain’t guilty.

Grasso — cousin of busty Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, star of the VH1 series about mob family life in Staten Island — took the stand at his 2011 weapons possession case, nonchalantly telling jurors he was innocently meeting a business associate when he was cuffed and collared.

“All of a sudden, miraculously, a gun popped up — I was in shock!” said the federal convict, who is serving a 38-year sentence for participating in a robbery with Hector "Junior" Pagan, the ex-husband of Renee Graziano, another star on the show.

Prosecutors say he also had zip ties, ammo and other suspicious items when the NYPD's Organized Crime Unit arrested him on Second Ave. four years ago.

He insisted — in lively testimony — that his personality accounts for the incriminating recorded calls in which he discussed apparent threats against a foe and mentioned being “loaded up.” He said that really meant that he was doped up on medication.

“This is New York. New York has a certain kind of character. People talk a certain kind of way,” he explained.

“I'm an Italian-American. I guess I talk with a certain kind of accent, I'm told,” he went on.

Grasso is the cousin of Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, pictured, star of the VH1 series about mob family life on Staten Island.

At times the 48-year-old's story meandered off course and he sounded more like a Martin Scorsese character at a bar than a witness at a criminal proceeding.

“What do you want to know?” he repeatedly asked his lawyer, Alex Grosshtern, who was trying to get his client on track.

After his bust in the Manhattan gun case, he was bailed out and, he said, cops tore through his home while he was enjoying a morning soak.

They approached his wife's car and his daughter, who was on her way to school in Brooklyn, was also inside.

“They surrounded the truck and they says — where is he?” Grasso recalled. “I was upstairs in my Jacuzzi, just chillin.”

He said he was trying to “get myself together for the day” before going out to work, which he said involved checking on his various pizzerias, auto body shops and his wife's hair salon.

“I'm all over the place, I'm not in one place,” he said.

“Is there anything else you want to tell the jury right now?” Grosshtern said toward the end of direct examination.

Grasso, in his finale, shrugged his shoulders and got to the point.

“Youse all heard what they were saying about me — it ain’t true!” he said.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Brian Rodkey confronted Grasso about his list of business ventures at the time of his arrest.

“I managed and I directed and I showed,” he said about his pizza trucks and storefronts where he also “did the sauce.”

“I didn’t let nobody touch my sauce. It was my grandmother’s recipe,” he boasted.


Staten Island electrician denies being extorted by Bonanno captain

He wasn't extorted, he just had a change of heart about whether a mobster deserved his $3,000.

That's what Tottenville electrical contractor Carmine Muscarella told a federal jury Wednesday at the trial of 80-year-old Vincent Asaro, who's accused of racketeering, murder and planning the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist portrayed in the film "Goodfellas."

Muscarella, 56, was subpoenaed by Asaro's defense team, after prosecutors presented wire recordings of Asaro and mob informant Gaspare "Gary" Valenti allegedly shaking him down for a cut of the proceeds of a house sale in 2010.

On Wednesday, though, Muscarella said he cut Valenti a $3,000 check not because Asaro intimidated him, but rather because the aging mob capo told him Valenti was the godson of the home's previous owner.

Muscarella had inherited a house in Brookyln from his stepfather, Thomas "Dearie" Valenti, who asked him to make sure other family members got their fair share of any money from when he sold it, he testified.

Valenti, he said, had been pestering him for years, but he believed Valenti had no claim on it.

On Oct. 21, 2010, Valenti showed up unannounced at the Long Island City electoral contracting office where Muscarella worked, to press the issue. Unbeknownst to Muscarella, he was wearing a wire.

Muscarella told Valenti he never agreed to pay him, but a cellphone conversation with Asaro changed his mind, the recording shows.

Even though Valenti told Muscarella, "We're wiseguys," during that conversation, Muscarella testified that Asaro merely told him that Valenti was his stepfather's godson.

He hadn't realized that before, and it was enough to change his mind, he said

"I was not afraid," Muscarella said.

When defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio asked if he had any other reason to write a check, Muscarella responded, "Other than the fact that he was an irritant on my anus, no."

Muscarella handed Valenti a $3,000 check the very next day, meeting him early in the morning at a Starbucks in Howard Beach, according to the wire recordings.

Muscarella's testimony drew a series of incredulous questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole M. Argentieri, who grilled him on if he knew Asaro was in the mob.

"There was a reputation that he was, out on the street. Did I have any first-hand knowledge? No, I did not," he said.

She also questioned why he couldn't recount all of the roughly 30-second phone conversation he had with Asaro, including a part where he seemingly asks Asaro if he can split the amount to give to Valenti in half.

"Is your testimony that you didn't know up until that moment that Gary was your stepfather's godson?" Argentieri asked.

"Yes, that's correct," he said.

He added, "Vinny said, well, you know, he is his godson. At that point ... I had a change of heart."

Muscarella declined comment as he left the courtroom Wednesday.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Murder victim's son testifies during Lufthansa heist trial

When mob murder victim Paul Katz was getting ready to leave his house after getting a mysterious phone call, his worried wife told him to take one of the kids along — as protection.

“He said no,” Katz’s son Lawrence testified Tuesday at the trial of a Vincent Asaro, the 80-year-old Bonanno hood and Lufthansa heist leader accused of helping strangle his father with a dog chain.

“She said at least take the dog, but he said no. He said, ‘If I'm not home in a couple of hours, call the cops.’”

And those were the last words, the younger Katz testified in Brooklyn federal court, he ever heard his father say.

The remains of Katz, who Asaro suspected of being a rat, were found buried in Queens basement in June 2013 — 44 years after his death.

Investigators were led there by mob turncoat Gaspare Valenti, who has already testified that his cousin Asaro and James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke murdered Katz.

Burke was the brains of the spectacular 1978 robbery at Kennedy Airport that netted nearly $6 million in cash and jewels — and was dramatized in the mob movie “Goodfellas.”
Vincent Asaro is accused of helping strangle Paul Katz with a dog chain.

Valenti, the government’s star witness, testified earlier that Katz had a warehouse in Ozone Park, Queens where Burke’s crew stashed stolen property from truck hijackings.

Burke began to suspect Katz after the warehouse was raided in 1968 and all the members of the crew, including Asaro, were arrested.

In his testimony, Lawrence Katz said after his father was busted an NYPD officer cop began calling the house and he recalled arguments between his dad and mom. He recalled his father drawing a picture of a house at the dinner table.

"He said, ‘Soon we are going to move into the country,’” testified.

On Dec. 6, 1969, when his father disappeared, Lawrence Katz, who was 5-years-old at the time, testified that he and his siblings were watching TV when his dad got the call. He described his mother, Dolores, as “nervous” and “panicking.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicyn Cooley asked the witness what their mother made them do after their dad left.

Vincent Asaro (l.) looks on as Sal Vitale testifies during Asaro's trial.

"Hide in the dark," he replied.

Later, the family moved out of New York City.

Katz’s corpse was buried under the concrete floor of a new home in Ozone Park on 102d Road. About 20 years later, the remains were removed by Asaro's son, Jerome, and taken upstate where they were put into paint cans and buried, Valenti said.

When Valenti returned with the feds to the basement, all they found was small bones, teeth, and hair.

An FBI agent who followed Lawrence Katz on the stand testified they were positively identified as belonging to his father.

Asaro, who had sat quietly through the testimony, piped-up when prosecutor Nicole Argentieri showed the G-man an enlarged photo of the basement floor.

“Excuse me, could I see that please?" he asked.