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

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Colombo Soldier sentenced to 38 years in prison for five murders says he is rehabilitated and seeks early release

The leader of a Mafia death squad says he’s a changed man and wants an early release from prison — but the feds say he’s changed for the worse by becoming a “made” man in the Colombo crime family while serving his time.

Vito Guzzo, who is serving a 38-year sentence for five murders in the 1990s, describes himself in a court filing as “completely rehabilitated” and someone who “has matured from a rash young man pursuing a lawless lifestyle, to a reflective, empathetic middle-aged adult.”

He’s seeking compassionate release under the First Step Act criminal justice reform bill, which was signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018.

Federal prosecutors contend that his claims of rehabilitation aren’t worth much, especially as “multiple government sources” say he was inducted into the Colombo crime family within the past decade while he was locked up at the federal prison in Danbury, Conn.

“In joining a notoriously violent criminal enterprise as a made member, Guzzo swore to a lifelong commitment to commit crime to advance the interests of the crime family,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James McDonald wrote in a filing this month.

“He promised, among other things, to follow the directions of superiors in the crime family, including to commit murder when instructed,” McDonald wrote. “In view of the demonstrated history of violence by Guzzo, there can be little question that he would follow such instruction if given upon his release.”

Guzzo, who copped to the five murders as part of a 1998 guilty plea, was the leader of the “Giannini Crew” — a team of mobsters from several Cosa Nostra families who used the former Caffe Giannini in Ridgewood as their home base.

In January 1992, the now 57-year-old mob killer and his crew lured pot dealers John Ruisi and Steven Pagnozzi to a Queens social club, forced them to their knees and demanded they reveal where they stashed their drugs and cash.

The duo didn’t tell Guzzo what he wanted to know, so he shot Ruisi in the head, while another crew member, Anthony Tabbita, did the same to Pagnozzi, the feds said. Guzzo and company put both victims in a car and torched it, and one of the men may have still been alive as they burned, prosecutors said.

In August 1992, he lured Gambino associate Ralph Campione Sciulla to the basement of his accomplice Fabio Bartolotta’s home, then fatally shot Sciulla in the head.

Sciulla died for not giving the Giannini crew a cut of his drug dealing and fraud money. His partially decomposed body was found in the trunk of a car in Jericho, L.I.

A few months later, in November 1992, Guzzo orchestrated the shooting of Colombo associates Vincent Ricciardo, Anthony Mesi and Paul Schiava as they drove to a capo’s wake, the feds said.

Guzzo suspected that Ricciardo had killed his father in upstate New York in 1987, and he made sure to take part in the ambush. A U-Haul truck pulled in front of Mesi’s car in Maspeth, while a second car boxed him in from behind, the feds said. Guzzo and another shooter donned Halloween monster masks and raked the car with gunfire, killing Mesi and badly wounding Ricciardo and Schiava.

And in October 1996, Guzzo and Tabbita murdered Genovese crime family associate John Borelli, who was dating Guzzo’s ex-girlfriend.

They followed Borelli to his ex’s home in Maspeth, and descended on the couple as they sat in a car.

Guzzo carried a shotgun, Tabitta two handguns. Together, they opened fire into the car, killing Borelli, the feds allege.

Federal prosecutors also linked Guzzo’s crew to several other murder plots and robberies, as well as the beating of a man he thought was cooperating with law enforcement.

In his request for release, Guzzo refers to himself as “elderly” even though he’s 57, describing his serious injuries from two shootings in 1990 and 1996, which left him with the loss of sight in one eye and the removal of part of his left lung. He also said he fears continued exposure to COVID-19 in prison will kill him.

“The evidence of [Guzzo’s] rehabilitation cannot be disputed. [Guzzo] has taken approximately 132 classes,” Guzzo wrote, in a request which will be reviewed by Judge Margo Brodie. “And he is still taking classes. He only has a couple minor infractions over his 25 years of incarceration. He also saved an inmate’s life who attempted to commit suicide while housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.”

McDonald countered, though, that he was cited for fighting as recently as 2015. “The most recent conduct, in April 2015, concerned a fight between members of Italian organized crime and Albanian organized crime,” the prosecutor wrote.

Guzzo’s lawyer, Sanford Talkin, declined comment for this story.



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