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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Judge blasts improper subpoenas in mob linked case

Don't blame the paralegal.

A federal judge slammed prosecutors for their "disappointing" and "glib" response to his concerns about the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office issuing improper subpoenas in the case of a mobbed-up restaurant serving as a front for drug trafficking.

Judge Raymond Dearie ruled in favor of the government in denying a motion to suppress evidence obtained from the subpoenas, but he didn't mince words in expressing his displeasure with the prosecutors' rather cavalier suggestion that "support staff" was to blame for including unlawful language in the subpoenas.

"The Court is, frankly, bemused by the government's rather glib explanation that the violations were simply 'inadvertent' and 'unintentional,'" Dearie wrote.

Lawyers for Gregorio and Eleonora Gigliotti, and their son Angelo, had brought the issue to the judge's attention that a subpoena issued to their accountant had commanded him not to disclose to anyone that the feds had seized a document — which is improper. The prosecutors later admitted that a total of three subpoenas contained the improper warning.

The Gigliottis, who owned the Cucino a Modo Mio restaurant in Corona, Queens, are alleged to have ties to mobsters in Italy.

But the prosecutors apparently ignored Dearie's demand to come clean about the scope of the problem and what remedial action is being taken.

The judge, who was once himself the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, warned that he is not convinced that adequate steps have been taken to make sure there's no repeat of the violation. "The government proceeds at its peril," Dearie stated ominously.

The Gigliottis, who owned the Cucino a Modo Mio restaurant in Corona, Queens, are alleged to have ties to mobsters in Italy.

"Judge Dearie recognized and emphasized that scales of Justice are evenly balanced — the government is fully bound by the same rules as the defense," said lawyer Gerald McMahon, who represents Angelo Gigliotti. "Given this published opinion, prosecutors are now on notice this better not happen again."

A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Sentencing delayed until February 2016 for Chicago outfit mobster

(Supplied Photo)
Sentencing for a reputed member of the Cicero Street Crew has been delayed until February.
About a dozen friends and family members showed up Monday for reputed mobster Paul Carparelli’s sentencing on extortion charges, but U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman told Carparelli and his lawyers she wanted more time to review what she called a 2-foot-high stack of filings made by both the government and Carparelli’s supporters.
There is a wide disparity between the two sides’ expectations, with Carparelli seeking probation and the feds asking for a sentence of more than 11 years.
Carparelli pleaded guilty in May to his key role in a series of extortion conspiracies around Chicago as well as in Las Vegas, the East Coast and one in Wisconsin that caused the debtor to urinate in his pants and hand over a Ford Mustang because he feared Carparelli’s henchmen.
Carparelli’s request for probation asserted that because he’s a single parent, he needs to be out of prison to take care of his teenage son. Federal prosecutors, in contrast, were asking for a sentence of 135 months — that’s 11 years and 3 months.
The feds captured the reputed Cicero Street Crew member’s colorful way with words on thousands of secret recordings as he bossed around a 300-pound enforcer, ordered up brutal beatings, and concerned himself only with the hierarchy of the Chicago Outfit.
The feds say he’s a key associate of organized crime figures in Chicago, while his attorney contends Carparelli is nothing more than a big-talking wannabe wise guy.
In U.S. District Court filings, Carparelli also asked Coleman for a break because he was once a firefighter.
The investigation that nabbed Carparelli has already resulted in prison sentences for several of Carparelli’s associates, including five years for Robert McManus, four years for Michael “Mickey” Davis, 46 months for Mark Dziuban and Frank Orlando, and 38 months for Vito Iozzo.
Carparelli, of Itasca, was arrested July 23, 2013, as he drove up to his home with his son in the car, according to the feds. He had cocaine and tested positive for it, and agents found two guns and $175,000 cash in his home.


Development company with links to Genovese soldier approved to build apartment building next to Stratford police department

A Milford development company associated with convicted mobster Gus Curcio won its appeal Wednesday to put up an apartment building next to the Stratford Police Department.
But while state Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe’s ruling in Bridgeport went in favor of Long Brook Station’s zoning application, he knocked the company’s request down from two free-standing buildings to one, with 45 apartments.
The Long Brook Station development’s principal is listed as Joseph Regensburger, a longtime associate of Curcio. Long Brook’s lawyer, Stephen Bellis, declined to comment on any connection the company has with Curcio.
“I’ve only had contact with Mr. Regensburger,” Bellis said. But as to the ruling he said, “The judge made the appropriate decision, the modified plan addressed all the concerns the town had.”
The case was an unusual one because the plaintiff was the town of Stratford and the defendant was the town’s Zoning Board.
Last spring, town zoners gave the apartment project at 3044 Main St. the go-ahead, and said Town Hall was all wet when it claimed the project would cause drainage issues at police headquarters. Lawyers on both sides agreed that it’s unusual for the town to sue itself.
Police headquarters is a few paces from the stream called Long Brook, and it has had water issues, although town officials say flooding there is infrequent.
In the trial, the Police Department had objected to the apartment building being constructed in its backyard.
Stratford Police Capt. John Popik testified the construction would create flooding problems at department headquarters, and he feared destruction of “evidence for a serious accident,” in the event of flooding.
“Actually, with the improvements my client is making, there will be even less flooding at police headquarters,” Bellis said.
The donnybrook was over the vacant lot on Main Street across the street from the YMCA. For more than a decade, it was where an ornate, but burned-out, two-family home stood.
Recently, the parcel has become a gravel parking lot for U.S. Postal Service employees, but town officials said this is a temporary arrangement.
Next to that property is the Kingdom Hall Of Jehovah’s Witnesses church, whose acre lot is mostly paved for parking as well.
Police headquarters is situated behind and downhill from these properties, off Longbrook Avenue.
The Long Brook development company’s address is 990 Naugatuck Ave., Milford, the now-vacant address of a recycling company owned by Curcio.
The Stratford resident has long been linked by federal prosecutors to the Genovese crime family. He has served federal prison time for loan-sharking, extortion and obstruction of justice.
Lawyers for the town did not immediately return calls for comment.
In May 2014, Long Brook filed an application with the Stratford Planning and Zoning Commission to build 54 two-bedroom apartments in two buildings on the 0.91-acre parcel.
The commission later rejected the application; in February, Long Brook submitted the scaled-down plan, which was approved by the commission over the Police Department’s objection.
The town then appealed the Zoning Board’s decision and Long Brook appealed the rejection of its original plan. The lawsuit was filed March 31.
“The court finds the Town of Stratford’s objections to the approval of the modified plan fail to resonate, and are without merit,” the judge ruled.
The judge also tossed out the town’s insistence that there be an emergency entrance at the rear of the property — an entrance that would have required access from the police department’s own parking lot, and something the town was unwilling to provide.


Estate of murdered Lucchese family informant seeks to unseal evidence in Bergen County

Frank Lagano
On Monday, Eric Kleiner, attorney for the Estate of Frank P. Lagano filed a motion in Superior Court to unseal evidence in the Bergen County gambling investigation ‘Operation Jersey Boyz’. Lagano ‘s Estate submits that law enforcement has used its secret-keeping privilege to “conceal legally damaging facts”.

The motion seeks to unseal the impounded records, wiretaps, and evidence emanating from the ‘Jersey Boyz’ investigation, which, to date, have never been released to the alleged criminal defendants or to the public.

“Years have passed since Operation Jersey Boyz came to an inauspicious end. Ex parte hearings and closed-door proceedings resulted in suppressed evidence, secret judicial opinions, and sealed records. This motion to unseal is about the control of state-held information, and the ever-changing tension between two conflicting values: secrecy and openness”, wrote Kleiner.

The 2004 crackdown on illegal gambling at Caffe Roma in East Rutherford netted more than $1 million in cash and arrests of dozens of alleged mobsters, but not a single person was charged or has served jail time. At the center of the case was alleged Lucchese crime family soldier, Frank Lagano. Lagano was later gunned down outside his East Brunswick diner in 2007.

In 2012, Lagano’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office claiming that their lead detective outed him as a confidential informant, leading to his murder.

In a civil suit pending in federal court, Lagano’s estate alleges that Michael Mordaga, former Chief of Detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, the "BCPO", had both a personal and a business relationship with Frank Lagano. When Mordaga and Lagano had a falling out, Mordaga and the BCPO allegedly conspired to arrest Lagano on false charges, then disclosed Lagano's status as a confidential informant to members of organized crime, ultimately resulting in Lagano's murder.

In October 2014, a Federal Appeals Court vacated an earlier order that dismissed the civil suit saying the BCPO and Mordaga could not be sued because the BCPO was an arm of the State of New Jersey, and that Mordaga, as BCPO Chief of Detectives, was a state official.

In overturning that dismissal the appellate court found that “In this case, the amended complaint is replete with allegations that Mordaga and others within the BCPO were not performing the classic functions of law enforcement or criminal investigators. -- These allegations support a reasonable inference that neither Mordaga nor the BCPO acted within their classic investigatory and prosecutorial functions with respect to the state-created danger claim”.

Among claims by Lagano’s estate is that $79.900.00 seized from Lagano’s bank safe deposit box, and $54,528.00 seized from his residence was misdirected by the BCPO. Deposit slips show $79,900 and $54,528 transferred into a "CASH FOR PAYROLL" account maintained by the BCPO at Bergen Commercial Bank-not the legally required seized asset trust account held at Mariner's Bank. According to the brief, an additional $130,000 in cash seized from Lagano has never been accounted for.

In October, Prosecutor John Molinelli announced that he was being replaced by Governor Chris Christie. When asked about his decision to replace Molinelli, Christie responded saying, “the fact is that it’s time for a change in Bergen County. It’s long overdue.” “When that change is officially made, I’ll give you all the reasons why,” the Governor added.

“Unsealing is necessary to examine the alleged nexus between Michael Mordaga, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, the Bergen County Democratic Party, and Frank Lagano's untimely death,” Kleiner wrote in the brief.

Allegations against John Molinelli made headlines during the recent corruption trial of former Bergen County Democrat boss Joseph Ferriero. Before becoming County Prosecutor, Molinelli served as Treasurer, and then legal counsel, to the Bergen County Democratic Organization under Ferriero.

Questions were raised about Molinelli’s involvement in the criminal case of Dr. Gangaram Ragi, a Teaneck dermatologist who paid $500,000 to Ferriero after a dozen women came forward with accusations they were sexually abused by the doctor during examinations.

With Molinelli’s approval, Ragi received an unprecedented second entry into Pre Trial Intervention (PTI), a program that allowed him to avoid prosecution and may have helped him keep his medical license.

“The officials who investigated Frank Lagano are connected to extortion, patronage, fraud, trading in influence, and other criminal acts. They have not only abused power for profit; they have trod upon the independence of our judiciary and exploited the public trust. Indeed, United States Attorneys have openly accused the Bergen County Prosecutor of playing an active role in a criminal racketeering enterprise,” Kleiner wrote in the brief.

In October, the Bergen Dispatch obtained and published three letters written by Bergen County Freeholder Chairwoman Joan Voss addressed to the New Jersey Attorney General, Governor Chris Christie and Bergen County Assignment Judge Bonnie Mizdol.

Those letters read:

It has been brought to the attention of the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders at a recent Public Meeting that claims have been made against the Office of the Bergen County Prosecutor. It is our understanding that, as the appointing/overseeing authority, your office is the more appropriate avenue for these complaints. We will enclose a transcript of the public comment portion of that meeting as soon as it is available.

The letters were prompted by a group of citizens led by community activist and Molinelli critic, BiIl Brennan, attorney Eric Kleiner and Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman who spoke out at the September 30th public meeting of the Freeholder Board.

Kleiner called upon the freeholder board to invoke their power under NJSA 52:17B-106 to request that the NJ Attorney General supersede the county prosecutor and remove Molinelli from office.

“This motion details over 10 years of unjust, oppressive, and illegal practices occurring under the direction of Prosecutor John Molinelli and his cohorts. The submission reveals public corruption of epic proportions at the BCPO; corruption that has occurred with the full knowledge or tacit approval of Governor Christie, the Office of the Attorney General, and the US Attorney’s Office. Apparently, the corruption occurring at the BCPO is so lengthy, dramatic, and far-reaching that various state and federal agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting these matters would rather sweep them under the rug by merely dismissing Molinelli from office than address the BCPO's unlawful conduct directly,” Kleiner said in a statement.

“For these reasons, the Estate's interest in discovering the true circumstances surrounding the murder of Frank Lagano is matched only by the public interest in exposing-and eliminating- the scourge of public corruption. In furtherance of judicial integrity, fundamental fairness, and public safety, the time has come to unearth the truth,” Kleiner surmised.

“In addition to the public corruption outlined in this motion, Molinelli declared war on innocent police officers for personal and political gain and all were acquitted. The saddest and most heinous part of Molinelli’s actions was that he knew these men were all innocent but he criminally prosecuted them anyway. Thank God for the jury system; which is our last line of defense in what has become one of the saddest chapters in law enforcement in US history. This includes P.O. Castronova [a 911 responder and hero] who was acquitted twice, Captain Garcia and Sergeant Aletta from the Hackensack Police Department and Officer Jeff Roberts and his codefendant from the Bergen County Police,” Kleiner told the Bergen Dispatch in a telephone interview.


Two men are sentenced to 34 years in prison for murderous Queens home invasion linked to the Gambino family

Two men will each spend the next 34 years in a federal penitentiary for their roles in the murder of an Ozone Park man during a botched home invasion in 2009, prosecutors announced.
Antoine Burroughs and Leon Whitfield were sentenced on Wednesday after previously pleading guilty to fatally shooting Gerardo Antoniello, 29, who came to the aid of his father during the robbery attempt at their home on the evening of Sept. 9, 2009.
According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, both suspects were hired by Francis LaCorte, a known associate of the Gambino crime family, to carry out the home invasion at the North Conduit Avenue residence of the victim’s father, who owns a local pizzeria and was the intended target of the robbery.
Police said the suspects approached Antoniello’s father and forced their way inside the home, where they brutally beat and pistolwhipped him. Gerardo Antoniello came to his father’s aid and was similarly attacked before he was fatally shot in the head by one of the perpetrators.
LaCorte was convicted in June 2012 Queens County Court for organizing the crime and other home invasions across Queens; he is currently serving a term of 50 years to life in state prison.
Following an investigation, Whitfield was arrested in connection with the case in March 2014, while Burroughs was caught the following September.
“No amount of prison time or restitution will return Gerardo Antoniello to his family,” Bharara said. “But this significant prison sentence ensures that Antoine Burroughs and Leon Whitfield can’t harm another innocent family.”


New Jersey's used car industry filled with abuse and links to the mob

New Jersey's motor vehicle regulator has enabled hundreds of used-car dealers to operate beyond government oversight and perpetrate consumer fraud for years, according to a state report released Wednesday.
The 18-month investigation by the State Commission of Investigation opens a window into the obscure world of multi-dealer complexes or locations. It alleges that some of them have ties to organized crime and a group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
Subjects of the investigation immediately hit back, rejecting the commission's conclusions and arguing that the state Motor Vehicle Commission had properly interpreted its rules in accordance with one of Gov. Christie's first executive orders.
The 11 multi-dealer complexes in New Jersey "occupy a loosely regulated niche framed by a history of weak and inconsistent enforcement, aggressive legal challenges, and bureaucratic receptiveness to behind-the-scenes pressure from Trenton lobbyists," said the 178-page report.
Collectively, the dealer-complexes owe about $10 million in unpaid taxes, the report said. In one case, customers complained of paying money but not receiving their vehicles and purchasing cars that turned out to have severe defects, investigators said.
The independent fact-finding agency referred its findings to state and federal law enforcement authorities and sent recommendations on improving oversight to Christie and the Legislature.
The report, titled "Gaming the System: Abuse and Influence Peddling in New Jersey's Used-Car Industry," describes the Motor Vehicle Commission as a hapless organization co-opted by narrow private interests, including an individual who owns a "sham" multi-dealer complex in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, with ties to the Bonanno organized crime family.
"It's fiction," Louis Civello Jr., owner of the Bridgeton-based New Jersey Dealers Auto Mall, said. "It's made up."
Lobbying on the Dealers Auto Mall's behalf was C. Richard Kamin, a partner with MBI-GluckShaw and former director of the Motor Vehicle Commission's precursor, the Division of Motor Vehicles. Kamin is also a former Republican assemblyman.
In an interview Wednesday, Kamin's attorney, Lee Vartan, called the report "completely out of bounds." The Commission of Investigation, he said, lacks expertise in this area and fundamentally misunderstood the Bridgeton enterprise's business model.
"If Mr. Kamin is going before the Motor Vehicle Commission and he's advocating ethically and legally, which he always was," Vartan said, "and MVC agrees with him, then what did Mr. Kamin do wrong? Nothing."
Alleged abuse was not limited to the Bridgeton enterprise, the report said. For example, Alex Auto Sales Inc., based at a multi-dealer site in Warren County, bought cars at auction and shipped them overseas. Its financial transactions involved banks and institutions that federal prosecutors said had funded the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates a terrorist organization.
The car dealer stopped working with Lebanese financial institutions in 2011 when he learned of a federal investigation into international used-car transactions, the report said.
Hamze Chehab, the dealer's founder, told investigators that the Motor Vehicle Commission had never visited, inspected, or audited his office.
In a statement, the commission said it had "worked diligently to evaluate the business practices of this industry and has drafted pending regulatory amendments geared toward tightening dealer practices."
The agency said it had performed more than 2,100 audits in multi-dealer complexes across the state, resulting in hundreds of proposed suspensions and warnings and $2.5 million in proposed fines.
The multi-dealer complexes are essentially warehouses and are not the multi-brand locations run by large car dealers. Operators rent space to dealers, many of them from out of state, and offer other services, such as helping them obtain New Jersey dealership licenses. The business model has been lucrative; with low overhead costs, the Bridgeton operator raked in more than $2.2 million annually in gross rent income from some 300 dealer-tenants as of this year, the report said.
Many of these complexes and dealer-tenants flout state regulations that require dealers or employees to be present at their licensed location and open for business for at least 20 hours a week, the report said. This was designed to help consumers and Motor Vehicle Commission staff, who show up unannounced to perform audits.
A 2006 regulation said absentee dealers could authorize a "signatory," meant to be an employee or business partner, to represent them.
Lobbied by Kamin, the Motor Vehicle Commission reinterpreted "signatory" so New Jersey Dealers Auto Mall's administrative staff could represent the tenant-dealers, investigators said.
Motor Vehicle workers told investigators that audits became difficult to conduct because the administrative staff was unfamiliar with the dealers' paperwork.
Investigators said agency managers, lobbied by Kamin, eased compliance requirements for his client and told career staffers to green-light used-car dealer license applications that had been flagged for violations.
New Jersey Dealers Auto Mall has paid Kamin's firm $295,000 since 2006, the report said.
Vartan, Kamin's attorney, said investigators had failed to understand the regulatory framework. The dealers were not "new" or "used" car dealers, but rather wholesale dealers who buy cars at auction and sell them to used car dealerships.
However, state law does not provide for a wholesale license, so the tenants must apply for and comply with used car dealer licenses. Given this gap in regulation, the Motor Vehicle Commission chose to interpret its rules in a manner that was favorable to business, consistent with Christie's executive order, Vartan said.
New Jersey, known for its lax oversight and enforcement, was a natural pick for these dealers to flourish, the report said. Regulators granted licenses to those who have been convicted "for crimes such as money laundering, bank fraud and odometer tampering," the report said.
The Bridgeton property was acquired in the early 1990s by two brothers, Dennis and Steven Altman, who agreed to pay the city delinquent property taxes and utility bills owed by the abandoned site's former owners, investigators said.
According to the testimony of Dennis Altman, his late brother's boating business floundered. Steven Altman secured a loan from a friend, Louis Civello Sr., and gave Civello and his son control of Altman's stake in the Bridgeton business in exchange for loan forgiveness, the report said.
The report said law enforcement in New York and a confidential source had identified Civello Sr. as a "member and soldier" of the Bonanno family.
Testifying before investigators, Civello asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to respond to questions regarding his purported ties to organized crime. He denied playing "any role" in the Bridgeton business, saying it was owned and controlled by his son, the report said.
Civello Sr. was paid $169,400 between 2003 and 2007, the report said, and his wife earned $245,750 from 2003 to 2009.
Civello Jr., in an affidavit responding to the report, attacked Dennis Altman's credibility. Civello Jr. said he had fired Altman after catching him stealing money. A jury awarded Civello Jr.'s company "thousands of dollars" in damages, he wrote in the affidavit.
At trial, Civello Jr. wrote, Altman "blurted out, 'I'm going to lie for my benefit.' " A judge also found that Altman had destroyed evidence that would have been "detrimental to his case," Civello Jr. wrote. "The report appears geared towards shaming my father for reaping the benefits of having raised me as an entrepreneurial son," he wrote.
In 2003, according to the report, the state police investigated the Bridgeton site and described it as a "major conduit of car-sale fraud throughout the Northeast."
Three years later, the commission issued new rules, including the 20-hour-a-week business requirement. Yet problems persisted, the report said.
By 2015, the business was generating more than $2 million a year in rent. "This revenue stream has been sustained in large measure by the dealers' state-sanctioned ability to receive and retain viable New Jersey licenses, all the while flouting the letter and intent of New Jersey's official licensing rules," the report said.
This occurred through "aggressive lawyering, well-connected lobbying and the indulgence of government officials whose actions, and inaction, in response to outside pressure effectively neutered MVC's enforcement of appropriate public laws and regulations and made elements of the agency a tool in service of a narrow private interest."


Friday, December 18, 2015

DeCavalcante family associate pleads guilty to cocaine distribution

An Elizabeth man and reputed associate of the DeCavalcante crime family pleaded guilty in federal court to distributing cocaine with eight other family associates, authorities said.
James Heeney, 36, appeared before U.S. District Judge
William H. Walls and admitted his role in distributing more than 500 grams of the drug, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said today.
Heeney, who is the second Union County resident to plead guilty in the conspiracy, admitted that between August 2012 and March 2013, he and other family members sold more than a half a kilo of cocaine to an undercover FBI agent for at least $30,000, authorities said.
According to the documents filed in court, Heeney was arrested and charged by complaint in March 2015, along with eight members of the DeCavalcante crime family.

Guilty plea in
An associate of the DeCavalcante crime family pleaded guilty to drug distribution charges Tuesday, federal prosecutors say.
When he is sentenced next March, Heeney faces a maximum possible punishment of 40 years in prison, authorities said.
The investigation of the drug conspiracy involved the FBI, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, the Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor and Union County Prosecutor's Office, Fishman said.
Earlier this year, Nicholas DeGidio, 37, of Union Township, also pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing more than 500 grams of cocaine.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Acting New England mafia boss and crime family solder plead guilty to extortion

Two septuagenarians, one with a limp and the other with a hearing aid and both reputed members of the New England Mafia, admitted in federal court that they ran an extortion scheme for years.
Prosecutors alleged that Antonio L. "Spucky" Spagnolo, 73, of Revere is the acting boss of the New England Mafia, also called the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra. His co-defendant, Pryce "Stretch" Quintina, 75, also of Revere, was a "made" man in the mafia who reported to Spagnolo, prosecutors said.
Both men pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston Monday, the Boston Globe reported, to charges of conspiracy to affect commerce by extortion for threatening the owner of the Revere Moose Lodge and another businessman.
If Judge Patti B. Saris approves a plea agreement in the case, Spagnolo will be sentenced to 24 months in prison and Quintana will be sentenced to 18 months, the Globe reported. A sentencing hearing is set for March 24.
While the Globe reported both men in court appeared to be many years past their prime days as physically tough gangsters, the indictments against both men charges them with threatening and intimidating business owners.
According to court documents, one of the victims of the extortion was the owner of Constitution Vending Co., a company that set up illegal video poker machines in bars and restaurants in Revere and East Boston. The company split the proceeds of the illegal machines with the bar and restaurant owners
When the victim took control of Constitution Vending Co. in 2004, he continued the 10-year tradition of paying a senior member the New England Mafia for protection — specifically, to ensure that his machines could remain in the bars and restaurants and would not be replaced by machines from another vendor.
Beginning in October 2005, court documents showed, Spagnolo was the senior member directing Quintana to collect the monthly payments from the owner of Constitution. Between that date and October 2012, the two men demanded and received at least $50,000 in payments.
In 2013, an official at the Revere Moose Lodge and the owner of a new video poker machine company agreed that new poker machines would be placed in the lodge, with the lodge getting a "more favorable" split of the proceeds than Constitution was offering.
When Spagnolo learned of the plan, he and Quintana threatened the Moose Lodge official and said he would not allow the new machines to be used. As a result, the new machines were not installed, according to the indictment.
The men were arrested in October and released with GPS monitoring devices.
In court Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Moran said the two men made "implied" economic threats, the Globe reported.
Spagnolo denied there was any physical threat. "The implied threat was that they couldn't put their machines in there," he said, according to the Globe.
It is believed that Spagnolo took over the New England Mafia after former Patriarca boss Anthony DiNunzio, 55, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges that he shook down strip clubs in Rhode Island.
Both men denied in court that they were members of any organized crime group, the Globe reported.
The Boston Globe reported that Spagnolo, a "made" man, was a capo and reputed drug dealer when Gennaro Angiulo ran the Mafia's Boston operations from 1960s to the early 1980s.
Spagnolo in the 1990s served a nine-year prison sentence for racketeering and drug dealing, while Quintana served more than seven years for racketeering.
Both were rumored to have been present at the October 1989 Mafia induction meeting in Medford that the FBI secretly recorded, the Globe reported. The group has weakened substantially since then, the newspaper wrote, with many leaders being prosecuted.


The murder that made the Dapper Don John Gotti

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(Originally published by the Daily News on December 14, 2010. This story was written by Larry McShane.)

The Black Lincoln Town Car pulled to the curb on E. 46th St., ignoring the "No Parking" sign outside Sparks Steak House.

Inside, prime rib awaited Gambino family boss Paul "Big Paul" Castellano. Outside, four men in matching fur hats and trench coats awaited Castellano.

It was Dec. 16, 1985, the night that spawned John Gotti, mob star - and eventually destroyed all that the gaudy gangster professed to love.

Gotti's quartet of killers left Castellano and his driver splayed dead across a street lined with holiday shoppers and tourists.

In a personal touch, Gotti coolly drove past the carnage to ensure the job was done.

By the time Gotti reached his Howard Beach home, the "Dapper Don" was transformed from Queens thug to boss of the nation's largest crime family. He later boasted, on a federal wiretap, of "a Cosa Nostra until I die."

The reality: It took just seven years for Gotti's reign to turn ruinous; all he touched turned toxic - from the Family to his family.

His legacy, 25 years after the hit, is this: The Gambinos in disarray, his key men dead or in jail.

Howard Abadinsky, a St. John's professor and mob expert, says Gotti's tenure is memorable for all the wrong reasons: "It was exemplary of what people in organized crime in the 21st century should NOT be doing."

A powerful enemy

While Gotti's ascension came courtesy of his loyal killers, his demise was entirely self-inflicted.

By killing Castellano without approval from Genovese boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Gotti made a powerful enemy.

The Chin had two of the "Big Paul" plotters whacked, and put out a contract on Gotti.

In contrast with the old school Gigante, the new boss reveled in his role. Gotti flitted around in $2,000 suits and hand-painted ties, tweaking law enforcement.

He even landed on the cover of Time magazine in an Andy Warhol portrait - something that made him the FBI's top target.

"This is supposed to be a secret society," said Bruce Mouw, former head of the FBI's Gambino squad. "And he's holding court in the Ravenite, so the capos can kiss the ring and pay homage."

Gotti's high profile converted the Ravenite from Little Italy mob den to tourist attraction.

The New York Daily News published this article on Dec. 14, 2010.

Government bugs planted there captured the latter-day Capone jabbering with Sammy (The Bull) Gravano, the underboss who later turned informant.

Gotti's voice detailing his murderous ways was more devastating than Gravano's testimony.

Gotti ran the Gambinos for seven years before his 1992 conviction - and the next decade before his death in federal prison.

"The best witness against John Gotti," Mouw said, "was John Gotti."

'Growing up Gotti'

For the don and his relatives, "Growing Up Gotti" became a harsh reality show that included hard time for many of them.

Brothers Gene and Peter are likely to die in prison. Youngest brother Vincent is doing time for murder conspiracy.

Brother Richard was released five years ago; his namesake son is still in jail. Gotti's former son-in-law was nailed for tax evasion.

And then there was John A. "Junior" Gotti, installed as Gambino boss by his incarcerated dad.

"That was one of the things I didn't like about Gotti," said Mouw, who pursued the mob boss for years.

The father knew "full well the career path was either getting whacked or going to jail," he said.

Although "Junior" worshiped his dad, the mob scion became disillusioned about "The Life."

Lawyer Ron Kuby remembers a jailhouse meeting with a wrung-out Junior Gotti in spring 1998.

"John made it clear to me," Kuby recalled. "I think the words he used were 'sick of this life.' He wanted to take a plea, serve his time, get out and rejoin his biological family."

Junior did six years - then withstood four emotionally and financially draining Manhattan Federal Court trials in five years. All ended in mistrials.

Gotti Jr., who declined an interview request, is working on a book and a screenplay about his mob career.

Gotti Sr. never went that route, abiding by omerta to the end.

Kuby remembered the elder Gotti, after his 1992 sentencing, joking about the $50 fine imposed with his life term: "He looks at us and smiles, and says, 'Boy, that special assessment. They sure know how to hurt a guy.'


Monday, December 14, 2015

Meyer Lansky's heirs seek compensation for confiscated Cuban Casino

Lansky Family Seeks Compensation in Cuba

When Meyer Lansky built the Habana Riviera Hotel and Casino in 1957, Havana was swinging.

It was, at the time, the largest purpose-built hotel in the world and Ginger Rogers played on the opening night.

Lansky complained that while Rogers could “wiggle her ass” she “couldn’t sing a goddam note,” but the legendary Jewish mobster was pleased enough.

After all, times were good: he had installed himself in the presidential suite and within the first 12 months he would make $3 million from his new project.

But revolution was in the air, and in 1959 Lansky was forced to flee the country, as was his great friend, the dictator and President of Cuba Fulgencio Batista, under whose patronage the American Mafia had flourished in Cuba.

Many of Havana’s casinos were damaged in the fighting and looting as Castro’s forces swarmed into town. In 1960 all of Cuba’s hotels were nationalized and gambling became illegal.

The Door is Open

But, history lesson aside, now that the US has restored diplomatic ties with its old foe, there is talk of honoring 50-year-old legal claims relating to the revolutionary confiscation of property, and Lansky’s heirs believe they have a claim on the Riviera.

Gary Rapoport, an industrial propane salesman from Florida and Lansky’s grandson, says that his mother, his uncle and he, as beneficiaries of Lansky’s trust, should be entitled to some kind of compensation.

“The hotel was taken from my grandfather forcefully,” he told NBC Miami. “Cuba owes my family money.”

“Trust me,” he continued, “I’m not looking to move down to Cuba and take over the business. I believe my family is entitled to something.

“We never filed a claim with the government or hired an attorney earlier because we didn’t think the door for negotiating would ever actually open. Now it is open”

“Governments change their mind on a lot of different things. I’m looking at it as a businessman,” he added.

Did Lansky Die Broke?

Meyer Lansky, dubbed the Mob’s accountant, was a teenage friend of Bugsy Siegel and Charles “Lucky” Luciano who would later become the head of the Genovese Crime Family. He began his career, with Siegel, running a violent bootlegging operation during Prohibition, but eventually developed a gambling empire that stretched across the world.

Despite a lifelong career in organized crime, he was never convicted of anything worse than illegal gambling.

Lansky invested hugely in Cuba, and the revolution cost him millions. When he died, in 1983 of lung cancer, aged 80, he was ostensibly broke, although the FBI believed he had squirreled away some $300 million into offshore bank accounts.

It’s unclear whether his family does have a claim on the Riviera. The revolutionaries of 1959 were furious with the corruption of the Batista government and particularly with the way the dictator had sold off land and assets to the American Mafia.

Fifty years later, the Cuban government may be unlikely to look favorably on a compensation claim from the relatives of an old mobster.


Donald Trump and the Mafia

Donald Trump says he’ll succeed as President because he has succeeded in business, so it’s appropriate to scour his business record. One area in particular that deserves scrutiny is his business relationship with companies controlled by the Mafia.
The reporting on this has so far been scanty, and we have no new revelations. But Mr. Trump was active in construction in the 1980s, when federal racketeering cases highlighted the influence that a “club” of mobsters exerted over large construction projects in New York City. In one 1988 trial, Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, was among those convicted in a scheme to control and profit from the concrete contracts for numerous buildings in Manhattan, including Trump Plaza.
We asked Mr. Trump about these ties on his recent visit to the Journal, and his answers are worth hearing at length. Mr. Trump recalled that in Manhattan there were perhaps three concrete companies and “virtually every building that was built was built with these companies.” He added that “a lot—all of these people—were somehow associated, according to what I read, I don’t know it for a fact.”
Since the Mafia is in the business of stealing, we figured Mr. Trump would be angry that he had to build a “mob tax” into the cost of his projects. But he seemed to be a satisfied customer.
In his stream-of-consciousness way, Mr. Trump described the concrete companies of that era: “You know, Wall Street Journal didn’t write about these guys but these guys were excellent contractors. They were phenomenal. They could do three floors a week in concrete. Nobody else in the world could do three floors a week. I mean they were unbelievable. Trump Tower, other buildings. They would do literally—and you’d say how can you do three? They’d set it, pour it; before the concrete was even dry, they would be putting forms on the floor working off the steel beams, okay?”
He added that “they were unbelievably good contractors in terms of doing the work. But a lot of them were supposedly associated with the mob.” Did he realize at the time that he was, for example, working with a company largely controlled by Salerno? “No, nobody would know that,” said Mr. Trump.
He recalled that after the bust following the 1980s real-estate boom, many contractors “tended to be not around so much after that. Then a lot of them got indicted I think by [former New York County District Attorney Robert] Morgenthau, who was a great D.A., fantastic guy, fantastic, but he indicted a lot of people. I don’t know in concrete, but a lot of people were indicted. And then they started sort of disappearing. Actually it’s a much different world today. But if you built a building in New York, you basically were, unless you didn’t want to build it, you basically had to use one of the two or three companies that were there, for the concrete structure mostly.”
Atlantic City brought more transactions with wise guys. The Washington Post recently reported that Mr. Trump’s casino license was delayed as he was developing the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in part because of ties to reputed Scarfo crime family associate Kenny Shapiro.
Asked about a July CNN report suggesting Mr. Trump had overpaid for a parcel of Atlantic City land from Philadelphia mobster Salvatore Testa, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t know who Testa is.” CNN reported that the transaction occurred in 1982. That was a long time ago—and two years before Testa was found shot to death.
What about the contractors in south Jersey? “You had contractors that were supposedly mob-oriented all over Atlantic City,” Mr. Trump said, adding that “every single casino company used the same companies, just I hope you will say that.” Mr. Trump said that “unlike the ones I told you about in New York, they had some lousy contractors. But basically when you’re in Atlantic City, you’re using all of the contractors, you bid them out. Some of them may have been mob-oriented, I don’t know.”
But if Mr. Trump didn’t know whether his associates had mob ties, why did he warn others not to get involved in casino gambling lest they attract organized crime? Mr. Trump now says he was merely trying to discourage potential competitors from entering the casino business: “I’d say negative about it because I didn’t want to have other jurisdictions do gambling. That’s sort of, like, you know, basic business sense.” So he says he warned about mob influence to deter competitors while claiming lack of knowledge about mob ties to his own projects.
Mr. Trump has never been accused of a crime, and his see-no-evil, he-had-no-choice explanation worked for him as a businessman. The question is whether this is adequate for someone who wants to be President.
The question is especially apt for GOP primary voters because Democrats would surely raise it in the general election. Mitt Romney lost in 2012 in part because Democrats trashed his stellar business record in private equity. Better to vet Mr. Trump’s business record now than next October.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Feds target legendary Colombo mobster's prison commissary account to pay back his crime victims

John "Sonny" Franzese leaving Brooklyn Federal Court during trial on organized crime charges.
Federal prosecutors are seeking to raid the prison commissary account of a 98-year-old former Colombo underboss to pay off the forfeiture bill he owes for shaking down the Hustler strip club, the Daily News has learned.

John "Sonny" Franzese is the oldest inmate doing time in the federal prison system, but that’s not cutting him any slack with the feds.

Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Laura Mantell has filed papers to seize the $10,089 in the oldfella’s account, which he uses to purchase items in the prison commissary, then leave him with $250 in spending money.

“The government should be as diligent fighting ISIS as they are trying to take food money from a 98-year-old inmate,” Michael Franzese, the gangster’s son, told The News.

“Believe me, it really hurts him what they’re doing,” he said.

The wheelchair-bound Franzese was convicted in 2010 of racketeering charges, including the extortion of the jiggle joint, and ordered to fork over a $116,500 forfeiture judgment.

John "Sonny" Franzese is a former Colombo underboss.

John "Sonny" Franzese (center) in younger days leaves court with his lawyer Murray Edelbaum (left).

He was sentenced to 96 months in prison, which he is serving at the Federal Medical Center, Devens, in Massachusetts.

But neither Franzese nor co-defendant Joseph DiGorga has contributed a nickel toward the judgment, the prosecutor contends in court papers. At the same time, the feds can’t locate any assets of Franzese other than the commissary account.

Michael Franzese pointed out that the money in the account isn’t really his father’s, it was sent by family members.

“He doesn’t have any money. He’s broke,” Michael Franzese said. “He uses the money to buy eye drops. He buys Cup-A-Soup, hygiene items. He doesn’t eat any junk food, but once in a while he eats ice cream.

“He can’t even make phone calls because they put a lien on the account. It’s unbelievable,” he fumed.

Michael Franzese, John's son, is trying to him sprung from prison.
John "Sonny" Franzese was convicted shaking down the Hustler Club.

Franzese is scheduled to be released to a halfway house in February 2017 — just in time for his 100th birthday.

While Franzese may be hard of hearing and have poor eyesight, the prosecutor reminded Federal Judge Brian Cogan that he didn’t make it this far without being tough.

“From a very young age, he engaged in relentless and increasingly brutal violence, and ultimately committed so many murders that he even struggled to keep track of them,” Mantell argued.

Franzese’s family has applied to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons under its “compassionate release” policy to allow his father to spend whatever time he has left alive at home instead of behind prison walls. They have not yet received an answer, according to Michael Franzese.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Trouble at Gotti family wedding

Radio host Frank Morano picked the wrong wedding to bring a mean drunk to as his date.On Saturday, the 970AM morning man brought a woman, whose name he wouldn’t give, to the Long Island nuptials of Frank Gotti Albano, a grandson of infamous Dapper Don John Gotti, godfather of the Gambino crime family.

On Sunday, Morano told listeners that at the end of the elegant evening, “My date is drinking like crazy . . . She’s dancing all over the place.”

She also managed to offend John Gotti Jr.’s mother-in-law. When the latter woman mentioned that her dearly departed mother was a Taurus, Morano’s date screamed: “Nobody gives a s - - t about your mother. I’m a Taurus.”

A “mortified” Morano instantly apologized to everyone — the crowd included the groom’s mother, Angel Gotti, her reality-show-star sister Victoria Gotti and defense lawyer Charles Carnesi — and took his date home.


New details emerge in appeal of 2003 murder of Springfield mob boss

Adolfo Bruno's 2003 murder has been thoroughly vetted in the courts and news reports over the past 12 years, but new light has been shed on the case and the workings of the Springfield mob with a treasure trove of new information.  
Two of the eight convicted defendants – former West Springfield mob enforcer Fotios "Freddy" Geas, and onetime acting Genovese Mafia boss Arthur "Artie" Nigro, of Bronx, NY, – have filed fresh motions asking a judge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to vacate their life sentences. Among the court filings related to those appeals, new details about government witnesses have emerged, including New York's John Bologna and local strip club magnate James Santaniello. Also, retired FBI Agent Clifford Hedges, was prompted to speak out about his controversial report on Bruno that has been billed as the final trigger that sent the Bruno murder conspiracy in motion.

SPRINGFIELD — It's been a dozen years since this city was roiled by a Mafia-fueled crime spree that peaked with the 2003 murders of crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno and low-level associate Gary Westerman.
Bruno was killed "cowboy style" in a downtown parking lot by a paid gunman bent on revenge, at the behest of scheming gangsters intent on a power play. Westerman was shot, smashed in the head with a shovel and dumped in a ditch in Agawam by fellow criminals he believed were his allies.
It's been four years since three men were tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for their respective roles in one or both killings. Onetime acting Genovese crime family boss Arthur "Artie" Nigro, formerly of Bronx, NY, and West Springfield brothers Fotios "Freddy" and Ty Geas stood trial in U.S. District Court in New York City in 2011. They were found guilty by a jury of a host of crimes including murder, racketeering and extortion.
The government made its case with three of the defendants' co-conspirators. They included two "made guys" in the Genovese-afilliated Springfield Crew plus one "crash dummy" from Westfield who carried out violent crimes for them. Nigro was pulling the strings in New York and gave the green-light for Bruno's murder, witnesses said.
The multi-state prosecution decimated Greater Springfield's organized crime terrain and temporarily jammed a lid on its trappings: extortion, widespread sports-betting and a general bully culture.
But all the years that have passed and law enforcement manpower aside, the case is still, in theory, a live issue. Freddy Geas filed a motion to vacate his sentence in May, arguing his defense had been hampered by ineffective counsel and that he had been robbed of a plea deal, among other things. His motion was rudimentary and boilerplate, clearly written by the hand of a penniless inmate serving a life sentence in a high-security prison in West Virginia with the possible assist of jailhouse lawyers.
Nigro's motion, on the other hand, was persuasively written and carefully prepared by prominent Wall Street lawyer Ruth Liebesman. It was filed in June. It offers a list of exhibits that provides a rare glimpse into law enforcement's handling of informants: namely John Bologna, a mid-level New York gangster who bounced between crime families while an informant for the FBI; and James Santaniello, Springfield's version of Howard Hughes - wealthy, stealthy and somewhat reclusive, also a law enforcement mole.
Obtained by The Republican, the material will be highlighted over four stories.
Liebesman's motion argues that despite having three attorneys at trial, Nigro received a woefully inadequate defense. According to Nigro, wily federal prosecutors dumped thousands of pages of witness testimony "on the eve of trial" with hidden gems of exculpatory evidence inside, which were all but unmanageable given the timeline.
Buried in this information are previously undisclosed details about Santaniello's business holdings, his coziness with authorities - plus Bologna's longtime deception straddling the mob world and his partnership with the Feds.
The onetime Bronx boss argues that his trial counsel fell short, first, by failing to make more hay with the cross-examination of Bologna, Nigro's former right hand who was secretly working as an FBI informant since 1996 while committing all the crimes gangsters cling to. It took 14 years for the Feds to disavow him, and, only after his role in the Bruno murder conspiracy came to light through other witnesses.
"Bologna was the FBI's New York office's answer to Whitey Bulger, the crime lord who committed and ordered numerous murders and acts of violence while an FBI informant in Boston over a period of many years," Liebesman's motion reads.
"Bologna was the FBI's New York office's answer to Whitey Bulger ..." ~ Attorney Ruth Liebesman
James "Whitey" Bulger, is serving a life sentence for 19 murders he committed while heading up Boston's Irish Mob crew, the Winter Hill Gang. Bulger committed crimes unchecked while acting as an informant for the FBI and feeding federal authorities information on his rivals in the Italian Mafia.
His former handler, John Connolly, also a childhood friend, is serving a 40-year prison sentence in connection with his ties to Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang. Connolly was in 1999 convicted of tipping Bulger to pending investigations and indictments, which prompted Bulger to flee Boston in 1994. Bulger remained in hiding at the top of the FBI's Most Wanted list until 2011, when he and his girlfriend were captured in California.
There have been no accusations that the FBI in New York knew about Bologna's specific criminal dealings in Western Massachusetts. An agent testified at Nigro's trial that Bologna simply hid things and lied to the agency during dozens of briefings. However, previous reports law enforcement indicate Bologna was tipped to an investigation into Mafia figures in Greater Springfield, where he had been regularly visiting in 2002, and abruptly stopped traveling here.
Liebesman argues in her motion that Bologna was the one who ordered the hit on Bruno - not Nigro - and orchestrated a myriad of extortion schemes in Springfield after Bruno was appointed boss of the city.
Another player she highlighted to bolster Nigro's case was Santianiello, local czar of strip clubs and nightlife, with extensive business holdings in his family members' names. He inked a murky deal with federal law enforcement authorities in 2010 - with unspecified benefits.
All the while, Santaniello steadied one foot in the underworld, kept a dizzying number of ventures afloat and somehow managed to avoid criminal prosecution since the mid-1980s, according to records. Among the downsides: Santaniello found himself a perennial feed box for several mob regimes. He paid up to thousands of dollars per week in shakedown money to organized crime figures, occasionally being forced to jockey between competing bosses, court records show.
Santaniello was cited as a victim of extortion in two trials: the prosecution of Nigro and the Geases plus a subsequent 2012 trial of Emilio Fusco, a co-conspirator who fled to his native Italy and delayed his own proceeding. Fusco was acquitted of the Bruno and Westerman murders but convicted of racketeering, extortion and other crimes and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Throughout Santaniello's prolific history lesson of local mob feuds, deals and transitions, hand-written notes by the FBI show - he had little or nothing to say about Nigro.
"As law enforcement was well aware - at least in Massachusetts - Santaniello was Bologna's victim. He had nothing to say about Arthur Nigro," his lawyer wrote.
Tomorrow, a summary of last-ditch motions by Fotios Geas and Nigro to set aside their sentences and the government's response.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Two DeCavalcante family associates plead guilty to drug dealing

A Toms River man was one of two associates of the DeCavalcante organized crime family who admitted their roles in distributing more than 500 grams of cocaine Wednesday, authorities said.
Mario Galli, 23, of Toms River and John Capozzi, 34, of Union each pleaded guilty to a charge of distribution of more than 500 grams of cocaine, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Capozzi and Galli were arrested and charged in March 2015, the release said. They both admitted that between Dec. 12, 2014, and this past March, in conjunction with other crime family associates, they sold more than half a kilo of cocaine to an undercover FBI agent for at least $78,000, the release said.
The drug distribution count the men pleaded guilty to carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. The penalty could be as high as 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for March 21.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Senior adviser to Donald Trump linked to Genovese and Bonanno crime families

Donald Trump tapped a man to be a senior business adviser to his real-estate empire even after the man's past involvement in a major Mafia-linked stock fraud scheme had become publicly known, according to Associated Press interviews and a review of court records.

Portions of Trump's relationship with Felix Sater, a convicted felon and government informant, have been previously known. Trump worked with the company where Sater was an executive, Bayrock Group LLC, after it rented office space from the Trump Organization as early as 2003. Sater's criminal history was effectively unknown to the public at the time, because a judge kept the relevant court records secret and Sater altered his name. When Sater's criminal past and Mafia links came to light in 2007, Trump distanced himself from Sater.

But less than three years later, Trump renewed his ties with Sater. Sater presented business cards describing himself as a senior adviser to Donald Trump, and he had an office on the same floor as Trump's own office in New York's Trump Tower, The Associated Press learned through interviews and court records.

Trump said during an AP interview on Wednesday that he recalled only bare details of Sater.

"Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," Trump said, referring questions about Sater to his staff. "I'm not that familiar with him."

According to Trump lawyer Alan Garten, Sater's role was to prospect for high-end real estate deals for the Trump Organization. The arrangement lasted six months, Garten said.

The revelation about Sater's role is significant because of its timing and directness, and marks the first time the Trump Organization has acknowledged publicly that Sater worked for Trump after the disclosures of Sater's criminal background. Trump has said that among his secrets of success is that he surrounds himself with the "best and most serious people" and with "people you can trust."

Sater never had an employment agreement or formal contract with the Trump Organization and did not close any deals for Trump, Garten said.

"He was trying to restart his life," Garten said. "I believe he was regretful of things that happened in the past."

Trump did not know the details of Sater's cooperation with the government when Sater came in-house in 2010, Garten said. But Garten noted that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised Sater's cooperation with the federal government, when senators asked about him during her confirmation hearings early this year. She said Sater cooperated against his Mafia stock fraud co-defendants and assisted the government on unspecified national security matters.

"If Mr. Sater was good enough for the government to work with, I see no reason why he wasn't good enough for Mr. Trump," Garten said.

He pleaded guilty in 1998 to one count of racketeering for his role in a $40 million stock fraud scheme involving the prominent Genovese and Bonanno crime families, according to court records. Prosecutors called the operation a pump-and-dump scheme, in which insiders manipulate the price of obscure stocks and then sell them to hapless investors at inflated prices. Five years earlier, a New York State court had sentenced Sater to more than a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass.

Sater declined to discuss his work with Trump.

"Obviously a Donald-and-the-bad-guy piece is not interesting for me to participate in," Sater wrote in an email to AP. His lawyer, Robert Wolf, said information about Sater in public records and lawsuits obtained by the AP was defamatory. He credited Sater's stint as a government cooperator with potentially saving American military lives, although he did not provide details. Wolf told the AP to write about Sater's past "at your own risk" but did not cite specific concerns.

After his 1998 racketeering conviction, Sater spent more than a decade as an informant on the Mafia and on national security-related matters. Federal prosecutors kept even the existence of Sater's racketeering case out of publicly available court records for 14 years.

During that time, Sater launched a luxury real estate development career. Sealed court records prevented potential customers or partners from learning about his past association with organized crime. Sater altered his name, to Satter, and became a top executive in Bayrock, a development firm that partnered with Trump on the Trump Soho high-rise hotel in Manhattan and other branded luxury real estate deals.

Civil lawsuits—including a sealed case filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York that was obtained by the AP—have alleged that Bayrock engaged in a pattern of misconduct during Sater's tenure, sometimes involving potential Trump projects. The AP obtained a copy of the sealed lawsuit, which was refiled last month, when the original complaint was included as part of a lawsuit Sater filed in an Israeli court. Bayrock's attorney told AP that the firm did not mislead anyone about Sater's past and denied any misconduct. The firm has not yet responded to a version of the complaint refiled in U.S. court last month.

Trump's lawyer, Garten, said Trump had no knowledge of alleged improprieties at Bayrock or reason to believe that Sater was a major stakeholder in Bayrock's projects. Trump only learned of Sater's troubled past when The New York Times reported details in December 2007. In the article, Trump distanced himself from Sater, saying: "I didn't really know him very well."

Garten said Trump had no further interactions with Sater at Bayrock following the revelations of his criminal history. But a new relationship was formed in 2010 when Trump offered Sater office space and a chance to round up new business possibilities for the Trump Organization.

"The guy's been in business a long time, he's got a lot of contacts," Garten said of Sater.