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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Botched murder in the Bronx reminds people of mafia past

The shots popped at 6:30 on the sunny morning of July 11, at the corner of a quiet street near the water in the Bronx. Just off Tierney Place in Throgs Neck, Salvatore Zottola, 41, was ambushed by a gunman, who sped off while Mr. Zottola, full of gunshot wounds, rolled on the pavement.
The attack lasted 17 seconds and was caught on a grainy security camera video released by the New York Police Department. As far as murder attempts go, it wasn’t much of one. The gunman was sloppy. Gravely injured but alive, Mr. Zottola was whisked to Jacobi Medical Center.
That same afternoon, his father, Sylvester Zottola, was in court for charges stemming from his own brush with death. In June, the elder Mr. Zottola had brandished an unlicensed gun at someone who threatened him outside his home, the police said. The unknown thug vanished, and the 71-year-old was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm.
It all might be chalked up as a bizarre coincidence, had both Zottolas not kept company with reputed mobsters. The police say the father and son are noted associates of New York’s Bonanno crime family.
Who is after the duo remains a mystery. The police said they are looking at whether the two episodes are connected, and that the younger Mr. Zottola, who has since recovered, has spoken with detectives.
But the police stopped short of characterizing those discussions as “cooperation,” and would not comment further. The Bronx district attorney’s office said it has handed the case over to federal investigators, who, after a flurry of media attention, have gone quiet.
The ordeal adds another footnote to the epilogue of the mafia’s golden age. Gone are the days when crime bosses like Paul Castellano were gunned down outside Midtown restaurants by hit men. From Boston to Philadelphia, the aging dons of America’s most notorious crime families have been knocked off, locked up or have settled into less illicit — or at least less violent — retirements.
But every so often there is a reminder that those organizations, though weakened, are still here.
“I don’t think the heyday of the mob is dead,” said Nicole Argentieri, a former federal prosecutor who worked on several organized crime cases in New York, including one that involved the Zottolas. “I think people have romanticized it and are sympathetic to them.”
Indeed, bullets with mob fingerprints — if only figurative — have flown across the five boroughs over the last decade, albeit infrequently.
In June 2016, a Brooklyn pizzeria owner, Louis Barbati, 61, was gunned down in his backyard in what was widely rumored to be a mob hit. In 2009, Anthony Seccafico, who the police said was a member of the Bonnano family, was shot to death on Staten Island.
“The fact that they aren’t as flagrant and notorious as they used to be doesn’t mean they’re not there,” David Fritchey, a retired federal prosecutor who helped put away Philadelphia’s bosses in the early 2000s, said of organized crime families. “They’re still operating and they still have some power.”
According to court filings, the elder Mr. Zottola, known as “Sally Daz,” is one of that bygone era’s dwindling crew. His eponymous D.A.Z. Amusements supplied “Joker Poker” slot machines to mob-controlled gambling hubs, court documents show.
According to the documents, it was the elder Zottola’s proclivities that brought his son, Salvatore, into the circle of Vincent J. Basciano, the boss of the Bonanno crime family in the early 2000s. The father and son helped service Mr. Basciano’s poker machines, the documents charge, and Mr. Basciano’s girlfriend, Debra Kalb, lived at the Zottolas’ Throgs Neck compound at the turn of the century.
The extent to which the traditional structures of New York organized crime families have been decimated by prosecutors in recent years is difficult to overstate. Even as the Justice Department’s organized crime resources were shifted to terrorism after Sept. 11, sweeping racketeering cases put most of the bosses in the Northeast into prison cells.
Mr. Zottola’s syndicate clients met similar fates. Mr. Basciano, known as “Vinny Gorgeous,” led the Bonanno enterprise only briefly before he was convicted of racketeering and murder, for which he is now serving a life sentence.
The Zottolas are mentioned sporadically in court filings from Mr. Basciano’s case, but it is unclear what, if any, of their mafia ties remain. John Meglio, a lawyer for the Zottolas, said his clients would not comment.
Salvatore Zottola’s would-be killer remains at large, and his father’s next court date has been pushed to September. For now, the Zottola’s compound in Throgs Neck remains quiet.
“They’re not out of business by a long sight,” Mr. Fritchey said of crime families. But, he added, “They’re not what they were.”



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