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

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

New photo surfaces of former President Donald Trump with turncoat Gambino hitman

A photo taken during the summer of 2022 shows a grinning former president Donald Trump flashing a thumbs up gesture while posing with John Alite, a podcaster and motivational speaker who was once a hitman for the Gambino crime family.

Alite, who confirmed the authenticity of the photo in a phone interview with The Independent, described himself as a political independent who supported Mr Trump’s push for criminal justice reform, and said his support for the ex-president is well known.

Though he described himself as a media figure who “speaks out against the street” and encourages young people to refrain from engaging in crime or violence, he spent years of his life as an associate of the Gambino family, one of the famed “five families” of the American mob. He has confessed to murdering six people and assaulting many more during that period of his life, which ended when he was arrested in Brazil after several years evading capture following an indictment in federal court.

Upon his extradition to the US, he eventually made a deal with prosecutors and testified against former associates who had fingered him for a slew of crimes, including top Gambino family figures such as John Gotti Jr (whose case ended in a mistrial) and Charles Carneglia (who got a life sentence).

Alite’s help to prosecutors got him a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to numerous offenses including including murder and robbery.

Since his release from prison, he says he has changed his life.

“I'm a guy that's does TV, does movies, those talk shows, does talks for kids, works with the FBI, does events and talks with the FBI against the street to save kids lives. I do things with documentaries against drugs, openly against my past. So I'm a different guy,” he said.

Asked whether he believed Mr Trump was aware of his past when he posed for a photo with him, Alite told The Independent: “I assume he knows who I am, but possibly not”.

The Independent was tipped off to the existence of the photograph after reporting that Mr Trump had recently posed for a snapshot with Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, who ran the Philadelphia mafia in the 1990s when Mr Trump was a casino operator in nearby Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Merlino spent more than a decade in federal prison after he was convicted on extortion, bookmaking and receiving stolen property charges following a 2001 trial. After his release he moved to Florida but found himself back in the dock in 2016, when he was arrested on another racketeering indictment and tried in a New York federal court. Following a mistrial on racketeering, fraud and illegal gambling charges, he pleaded guilty to illegal gambling and received a two-year prison sentence.

Alite said Mr Trump’s photograph with Merlino is a good indicator that the ex-president doesn’t have anyone around him who can vet who he comes into contact with.

“I just think he doesn't realise all the people he's taking a picture with because he recently took a picture of someone and I guarantee he doesn’t know who that person is,” he said.

In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for Mr Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign denied that the ex-president has any awareness of the identity of people he is photographed with in informal settings.

“President Trump takes countless photos with people. That does not mean he knows every single person he comes into contact with,” the spokesperson said.

The existence of two photographs of the twice-impeached ex-president posing alongside people with strong connections to organised crime raises questions about whether Mr Trump is being adequately staffed as he ramps up his third campaign for the presidency.

In November, Mr Trump was photographed having dinner with antisemitic rapper Kanye West and an associate of his, notorious white nationalist podcast host Nick Fuentes.

Despite the denials from Mr Trump’s campaign, it’s possible that he knew of both Mr Alite and Mr Merlino. Both were active in organised crime circles in the 1980s and 1990s, when Mr Trump was active in New York City real estate development.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Photo of former President Donald Trump and Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino surfaces

They share an affinity for golf and an aversion to cooperating witnesses who “flip” to help federal investigators.

But former President Donald Trump and Philly mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino don’t have much to say about how they wound up in a photo together at a South Florida golf course.

Trump posed for the photo with Merlino earlier this month at Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach. The two, along with an unidentified third man, flash Trump’s customary “thumbs-up” hand signs and smiles while wearing golfing attire.

Does Trump know Merlino? Or at least who he was?

His presidential campaign won’t say

The photo, obtained by The Inquirer, is likely to renew concerns among Trump loyalists eager to help him retake the White House next year that he still lacks the sort of protective political infrastructure that would prevent a candidate for president from taking a picture with a convicted mobster whose last stint in federal prison ended in mid-2020.

“President Trump takes countless photos with people. That does not mean he knows every single person he comes in contact with,” said a Trump spokesperson after The Inquirer shared a copy of the photo with his campaign.

The spokesperson did not respond when asked if Trump knew Merlino, or his background.

Trump sparked outrage when he dined Nov. 22 at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach private club and residence, with Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who had shown up with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was under fire then for a series of antisemitic remarks.

That now-notorious dinner happened just one week after Trump announced his third bid for president.

Trump later complained about the outcry, claiming he didn’t know Fuentes or about his fiercely bigoted ideology. Still, Democrats and Republican critics railed about the dinner, and Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, called on him to apologize.

The fallout prompted Trump’s campaign to enact new protocols for vetting and approving people he met with. Those protocols were not apparently followed at Trump’s golf course this month.

Merlino did not respond to requests for comment.

In the slightly blurry photo, Merlino wears a gray polo shirt, dark shorts, and sneakers. A source who provided the photo and requested anonymity to discuss it, said the third man pictured is a friend of Merlino’s. That man also wears a polo shirt, shorts, and sneakers along with a red “Keep America Great” baseball cap.

Trump is shown wearing a white polo shirt, dark pants, white golf shoes, and a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.

Merlino has made clear in the past that he admires Trump. It is unclear if Trump feels the same.

Trump and Merlino were well-known and on the rise in the Philadelphia region in the 1990s — for very different reasons.

Trump was a prominent New York real estate developer with a growing collection of casinos in Atlantic City in the 1990s.

Merlino was a leader of a violent crew on his way up to being boss of an organized crime operation active in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Trump’s casino empire was eventually mired in bankruptcy, but his star continued to rise, with increased fame from a reality television series the following decade and then a successful run for president in 2016.

Merlino was convicted in 2001 in a racketeering case and served a decade in federal prison. He had claimed more recently to have left that life behind, moving to Boca Raton in Florida to work as maĆ®tre d’ at an Italian restaurant named after him.

The restaurant closed after Merlino’s most recent run-in with the feds, which led to a two-year sentence in October 2018 when he pleaded guilty to a gambling-related charge. Merlino, after being sentenced, echoed comments from Trump at the time that were critical of witnesses who cooperate with federal investigators.

“President Trump is right — they’ve got to outlaw the flippers,” said Merlino, who was released from prison in July 2020.

Trump in August 2018 said the practice of prosecutors “flipping” people accused of crimes into witnesses who testify against others “almost ought to be illegal” after his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to a campaign finance crime — paying women to keep quiet about affairs they had with Trump —and implicated his former client.

Merlino was pulled into Trump’s orbit in the weeks after the 2020 general election when a website known for trafficking in misinformation falsely claimed he had been paid $3 million to help Joe Biden win Philadelphia with thousands of fake ballots.

Jordan Sekulow, an attorney who had served in late 2019 and early 2020 on Trump’s legal team for his first impeachment, gave that false claim a public boost by tweeting a link to the website.

The claim was swiftly debunked by several media organizations, including Fox News. Even Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, called the claim “far-fetched.”

Still, it caused Merlino some agita.

“Joey is a Trumper and any allegation of fixing this is just completely fiction,” an attorney for Merlino told Fox News at the time, adding that his client “is against cooperating witnesses and against making uncorroborated deals with snitches, which is what the president is against.”


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Massive indictment unveiled against 24 people and 26 companies in $5 million construction kickback and bribery scheme

Shackled men are led into a police van.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”) Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber, and NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell today announced the indictment of 24 individuals and 26 companies for a wide-ranging construction industry kickback scheme that corrupted the competitive bidding process for dozens of contracts over more than 8 years. Led by ROBERT BASELICE (known professionally as Robert Basilice), 51, in conjunction with associates including LOUIS ASTUTO, 58, PAUL NOTO, 43, and FRANK CAMUSO, 59, the alleged scheme resulted in the theft of more than $5,000,000 from BASELICE’s firm’s clients.

The 83-count New York County Supreme Court indictment charges all 50 defendants with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree. The defendants also face varying charges of Grand Larceny in the First, Second, and Third Degrees, Commercial Bribing in the First Degree, Commercial Bribe Receiving in the First Degree, Donnelly Act violations (bid-rigging), and Money Laundering in the Second and Fourth Degrees.

“When the bidding process is rigged, we all lose,” said District Attorney Bragg. “The market suffers from a lack of quality competition, developers are prevented from hiring the best companies at fair prices, and – importantly – honest, law-abiding companies are pushed out by those that broke the law. I hope this indictment sends a message that the Manhattan D.A.’s Office and our partners at the DOI and NYPD will not tolerate bribery, corruption, or fraud. We will use our combined expertise and resources to ensure free competition and a fair market.”

DOI Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said, “Bribery and kickbacks should not be costs of doing business in this City. As charged, Robert Baselice and his co-defendants conspired with subcontractors to inflate their bids for work on construction projects, in a pay-to-play scheme that lined the defendants’ pockets at the expense of developers. This Indictment shows that construction firms in this City must operate with honesty and integrity or face the consequences. I want to thank the prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and investigators from the NYPD and DOI who collaborated to bring these important charges.”

“BIC applauds DANY, DOI, and the NYPD for their work on this case,” said BIC Commissioner and Chair Elizabeth Crotty. “This investigation demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement to root out criminality and organized crime in the construction industry, as well as the importance of interagency collaboration to maintain public safety. Fraud and anticompetitive business practices that harm New Yorkers will not be tolerated.”

“Over a period of more than eight years, these defendants stole millions of dollars through their criminal behavior, fraud, and corruption,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “The NYPD and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who seeks to betray the public’s trust for profit, and we will hold them fully accountable for their actions. I want to thank and commend the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, the New York City Department of Investigation, and everyone who worked on this important case.”

The indictment was the result of a joint investigation by the Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s Rackets Bureau, DOI, and the NYPD Criminal Enterprise Investigative Section.

According to court documents, as a Vice President of a construction management firm, BASELICE had authority over the firm’s subcontractor bidding process. In this position, BASELICE was responsible for providing developers with truthful and accurate information and acting in their best interests on properties that included some of the most significant high-rise construction projects in Manhattan, including: 11 Stone Street (the FiDi Hotel), 12 East 48th Street (Hilton Club The Central at 5th New York), 75 Kenmare Street, 101 West 28th Street (the Remy), 106 West 56th Street (the Six office building), 189 Bowery (the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel), 250 Fifth Avenue (the Fifth Avenue Hotel), and 396 Broadway (the Walker Hotel Tribeca).

Instead, from April 2013 through July 2021, BASELICE used his position to steal from his firm’s developer clients by:

  1. Directing his project team to include specific co-conspirator subcontractors on project bidder lists,
  2. Providing inside information about competitors’ bids to co-conspirator subcontractors, and
  3. Directing the co-conspirator subcontractors to raise their bids to a dollar amount that included a kickback for BASELICE, room to negotiate with the developers, and as much profit as possible within the developers’ budgets.

BASELICE then lobbied developers on behalf of the co-conspirator subcontractors and participated in the final negotiations, including pretending to strong-arm the subcontractors to lower their price – in what he referred to as his “dog and pony show” – in a false display of loyalty to the developers. Developers were unlikely to reject BASELICE’s recommendations for subcontract awards because if they did, they bore the risk of any subsequent cost overrun.

In exchange for manipulating the bidding process to benefit certain subcontractors, the subcontractors paid kickbacks to BASELICE, his company DVA GROUP, LLC, and other companies, including those owned by ASTUTO and NOTO. ASTUTO and NOTO then distributed a portion of the proceeds to companies owned by CAMUSO and his family. In total, the subcontractors paid more than $4,200,000 in kickbacks to BASELICE (and companies and individuals related to him) and more than $2,800,000 in kickbacks to companies controlled by BASELICE’s associates, including ASTUTO and NOTO.

Though this corrupted bidding process, the conspirators stole from the developers by purposefully inflating subcontracts and knowingly charging higher prices. BASELICE also recommended change orders for the co-conspirator subcontractors after they were hired, generating additional income for the subcontractors and additional kickbacks to BASELICE. In total, the defendants stole more than $5,000,000 from the developers over the course of the conspiracy.

As a result, subpar work was sometimes completed by unqualified subcontractors and developers complained. In one instance, HVAC firm TRV Mechanical Contractors, Inc., had only done work on smaller residential jobs and was tasked with installing a heating and cooling system for The Remy, a 32-story condominium tower in Chelsea.

In another project, Earth Structures, Inc., was hired to pour concrete foundations for the Fifth Avenue Hotel and Hilton Club The Central at 5th New York, but had to be taken off both projects when they took payment from developers but failed to pay their vendor bills.    

For a summary of the allegations against the 24 individuals and 26 companies charged within the indictment, please see the Statement of Facts here.

Assistant D.A.s Meredith McGowan, Guy Tardanico, and Jaime Hickey-Mendoza are handling the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Assistant D.A.s Michael Ohm, Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; Judy Salwen, Principal Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; and Jodie Kane, Chief of the Rackets Bureau; as well as Executive Assistant D.A. Christopher Conroy (Senior Advisor to the Investigation Division). Forensic Accounting Investigator Reginal Lau; Former Assistant D.A. Brian Foley; Trial Preparation Assistants Eleanor Bock, Rachel Broomer, Benjamin Karam, Violet Michel, Shriya Shinde, and Srivatsan Senthilkumar; former Trial Preparation Assistants Annie Bell, Matthew Ender-Silberman, Madeleine Lippey, Emma Olcott, Alex Prior, Morgan Spencer, and Elena Syman; Data Specialist Olivia Savell; High Technology Analysis Unit Director Steven Moran, Supervising Investigator Lawrence Hayes, and Analyst Boris Vestfrid; and retired Financial Investigators William Tamparo and Michael Kelly assisted with the investigation.

D.A. Bragg thanked the New York City Department of Investigation, in particular Assistant Inspector General Dan Taylor, Chief Investigator James McElligot, and Inspector General Gregory Cho; and the NYPD Criminal Enterprise Investigative Section, in particular retired Detectives Nicholas Lagano and Ignazio Conca; Detective Jose Ortiz, Sergeant Joseph Rivera, and Lieutenant Benjamin Nelson for their partnership in the investigation.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Mansion from Growing Up Gotti show is foreclosed


Victoria Gotti’s mansion featured in the hit reality show “Growing Up Gotti” has been foreclosed on by a bank, real estate records show.

Located in Old Westbury, New York, the estate was auctioned off on Oct. 26, 2022, and received an offer of $2.65 million by JP Morgan Chase National Bank.

The referee’s deed, which transfers ownership from the foreclosed property to the highest bidder, went through to the bank on Dec. 7, 2022, according to the records, obtained by Page Six exclusively.

Gotti, 60, didn’t immediately return our request for comment.

The estate, which was first owned by Gotti’s infamous mob-boss father, John Gotti, has been abandoned since September 2016 when the FBI raided it and an auto parts store in Queens run by her sons with her mobbed-up ex-husband, Carmine Agnello.

The reasons for the searches were not publicly disclosed at the time, but it later came out that the Feds busted in as part of a tax fraud investigation involving Victoria’s three sons, John, Carmine and Frank.

Despite appearances, Victoria told Page Six in 2019 that she didn’t consider herself a mob “princess.”

“The preconceived notions about my life that I’d like to change or make people more aware of — correct — is that I think the whole aura that life was just so easy and I was this princess my whole life. It was anything but that,” she shared with us.

“Through the grace of God, I’ve had a great chance to live an amazing life — an amazing, an amazing life,” Victoria added. “I grew up dirt-poor. I don’t know what this whole princess thing is about and was about.”

Known as “Teflon Don” or “Dapper Don,” John became famous in the 1980s after he took over the Gambino crime family, which was one of the most powerful mobs in America. He was convicted on 14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering and sentence to multiple life terms.

He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002. He was 61.


Monday, January 16, 2023

Infamous and powerful Italian mafia boss arrested after 30 years on the run


The Italian police on Monday arrested the country’s most wanted fugitive, Matteo Messina Denaro, a mafia boss who had eluded the authorities for three decades and was convicted in absentia of murder and other crimes.

Mr. Messina Denaro, 60, was arrested in a hospital in Palermo, in his native Sicily, where he was undergoing treatment, according to Pasquale Angelosanto, a general with the Italian national police.

Law enforcement had considered Mr. Messina Denaro the heir to Salvatore Riina, the “boss of bosses” who was responsible for a series of brutal killings of Italian prosecutors and police officers in the 1990s. Mr. Riina was captured in 1993, also in Palermo, and spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in 2017.

The Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, flew to Sicily to congratulate the police and prosecutors for the arrest of the “most significant representative of mafia syndicates,” her office said in a statement.

“We didn’t win the war, we didn’t defeat the mafia, but this was a fundamental battle to win,” Ms. Meloni told reporters in impromptu remarks at the main Palermo courthouse. “This is a hard blow to organized crime.” 

“Italy has never thrown in the towel,” she said. “It is stronger than the mafia.”

President Sergio Mattarella of Italy, whose brother, Piersanti Mattarella, was murdered by the mafia in 1980 while serving as Sicily’s governor, phoned the police and prosecutors on Monday to congratulate them on the arrest.

Mr. Messina Denaro maintained power even while in hiding, mostly managing assets and infiltrating legal economic enterprises including solar energy companies and large-scale distribution, investigators said. In 2020, he was sentenced to a life term in absentia for his role in the 1992 murders of two anti-mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and bombings in 1993 in Florence, Milan and Rome that left 10 people dead.

Prosecutors say that he was also involved in the 1993 kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy, Giuseppe Di Matteo, to pressure his father to stop revealing mafia secrets to the authorities. The boy’s remains were later found dissolved in acid.

Police officials say that Mr. Messina Denaro was linked to dozens of murders in the 1990s, including the strangulation of a pregnant woman whose partner was seen as a threat to his clan, and had been killed days earlier.

“One of the most dramatic seasons of the republic’s history closes today,” Carlo Nordio, the Italian justice minister, said in a statement on Monday. “The work of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and all the state’s servants who gave their life to defend democratic values, has continued.”

The police had tried several times to apprehend Mr. Messina Denaro after he went underground in June 1993, but officials said that a network of collaborators in Sicily, especially in the western Trapani region, helped him evade arrest.

Mr. Messina Denaro was born to a mafia-affiliated family, and his own father died in hiding in 1998. He disappeared from public life at the age of 31, soon after the arrest of Mr. Riina. The Cosa Nostra syndicate — the mafia based in Sicily — was led at the time by Bernardo Provenzano, like Mr. Riina a member of the Corleone family, who pulled back from Mr. Riina’s war against the state and the killings of top investigators and journalists.

Mr. Provenzano was arrested in 2006, after 13 relatively quiet years of criminal activities. His most likely successors appeared to be Mr. Messina Denaro and Salvatore Lo Piccolo, but Mr. Lo Piccolo was arrested a year later.

Only Mr. Messina Denaro remained at large, surrounded by an increasing aura of mystery. Known as a ruthless boss with a penchant for designer clothes and playboy inclinations, he communicated with associates through letters and handwritten messages that he avoided drafting personally. Most of his closest relatives have been arrested over the years for mafia-related crimes, but they never betrayed him.

For decades, the police had little evidence to track him down.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Underboss of the Philadelphia crime family sentenced to five years in prison

The reputed underboss of what remains of the Philadelphia mob was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday in the latest jail term to be handed out in a major strike by federal prosecutors against organized crime in the city.

Steven Mazzone, 59, was given the maximum term possible under a plea deal he struck with prosecutors when he pleaded guilty in June to racketeering conspiracy, extortion, loan-sharking, and illegal gambling. Senior U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick told Mazzone he doubted any sentence would change him, noting that he had been was convicted of similar crimes in 2001.

In a courtroom crowded with two dozen of Mazzone’s relatives and friends, two of his grown daughters pleaded for mercy and said he had been the family’s rock during a series of recent tragedies. They said he had been a key caretaker for his mother, who suffers from dementia, and rallied to them after their mother — and his ex-wife — was killed in a domestic murder-suicide last December.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Ashenfelter said Mazzone had spurned a chance to leave his life of crime after serving about nine years behind bars on his last conviction. “Instead, he got out of prison and he got promoted within the mob,” the prosecutor said

Under the plea deal, Mazzone was facing a sentence of between 45 and 60 months. Ashenfelter asked for and got the full five years.

“The defendant is one of the highest-ranking members of the Philadelphia mob,” Ashenfelter said. “That’s who he is. That’s how he projects himself on the street.”

Though less well-known, Mazzone is the latest in a string of alleged top Mafia figures to be convicted by federal prosecutors. Others over the decades include Nicky Scarfo, John Stanfa, Ralph Natale, and Joseph Merlino

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said that “even though the Philadelphia mob has been weakened over the decades,” prosecutors would keep pursuing it “until the mob is nothing but a memory that lives on in movies.”

Mazzone was among 15 defendants in a sweeping case made public in 2020 that targeted 10 alleged members and five associates of the Philadelphia mob, including his younger brother and former father-in-law. Of the 15 defendants, 14 have pleaded guilty. One defendant died while his trial was pending.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI, working with the Pennsylvania State Police and Philadelphia police, built the case on tapes made by informants who wore wires, along with evidence from wiretaps, camera surveillance, and law enforcement and civilian witnesses.

In the most unusual part of the indictment, prosecutors say Mazzone was caught on tape participating in a 2015 mob initiation ceremony in South Philadelphia in which his brother and four others became made members of the crime family. In the secret session, the initiates were captured pledging to “burn in hell forever if I betray my friends.”

On the tape, quoted by prosecutors in a sentencing memo, Mazzone said at one point: “We got to get a hold back on Atlantic City. … That’s what I want. We have to get that back.”

Prosecutors said the “acting boss” of the family also took part in the ceremony, identifying him in court papers only as “M.L.” That man would be the seventh or so leader of the Philadelphia mob since Angelo Bruno was shot to death in 1980, according to court documents.

A year after Bruno’s murder, his successor, Philip Testa, was killed by a bomb on his South Philly doorstep and, in the decades that followed, other bosses were sidelined by long prison terms in a string of cases brought by federal prosecutors.

In the so-called mob wars that flared for years after Bruno’s death, prosecutors said informants variously named Mazzone as both the pursued and the pursuer in a series of violent encounters. Among other allegations, authorities said, Mazzone shot to death a rival mob member in 1993. That same year, authorities have said, Mazzone’s enemies schemed to kill him, but the plot failed.

In the 2001 conviction, a jury acquitted Mazzone of allegations related to the killing but convicted him on racketeering, extortion, and gambling charges.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Former New England mob boss turned government cooperator dies in federal prison at 89

Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, the former Mafia don of the Patriarca crime family, has died at a federal prison. He was 89.

Salemme was serving a life sentence after he was found guilty in the 1993 murder of Boston nightclub owner Steven DiSarro, who lived in Providence. In March, Salemme lost his last hope for a new trial when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. He was serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Missouri.

An email to a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson was not immediately returned seeking more details on Salemme’s death, but the agency’s website states that Salemme died on Dec. 13.

In 2018, federal prosecutors convinced a jury of 10 women and six men that Salemme and co-defendant Paul Weadick killed DiSarro in Salemme’s Sharon home, then solicited the help of then-mob capo Robert DeLuca and his brother Joe to bury DiSarro’s body behind a Branch Avenue mill building in Providence.

Informed of Salemme’s death, DiSarro’s son Nick told Target 12: “The world is better off without him. Good riddance.”

Salemme’s former attorney Steven Boozang said that despite his persona, Salemme was always “a gentleman,” and “honest and forthright” with him in their interactions.

“I think he regretted a lot of things in his life but came from a different era,” Boozang said. “I think he felt particularly bad for the hardship that came to his family and to other families.”

In 1989, when Salemme was a rising star in the crime family, he was the target of an assassination attempt when masked gunmen opened fire on him he was walking into a Saugus, Massachusetts, pancake house.

Salemme survived, but another mob leader, William “Billy” Grasso of Connecticut, was slain. The shootings marked the beginning of a mob war that ended when then-boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca inducted new members into the family.

After Patriarca was imprisoned in 1992 — in large part because the induction ceremony had been secretly recorded — Salemme took over as boss.

Salemme had one son, Francis Jr., who took part in the murder of DiSarro. The younger Salemme died of natural causes in 1995.

That same year, the elder Salemme was indicted in a sweeping racketeering case that also ensnared notorious South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Salemme was ultimately sentenced to 11 years in prison, and while incarcerated he learned that both Bulger and Flemmi were top-echelon informants for the FBI.

As a result, Salemme agreed to provide information to the government on what he knew about the pair, who controlled the Winter Hill Gang. (It was later discovered that Bulger had been in hiding in California at the time.) Salemme’s cooperation helped lead to the conviction of Bulger’s handler, the corrupt former FBI agent John Connolly.

Salemme eventually entered the witness protection program. In 2016, Target 12 reported that he had become a member of a New England Patriots fan club while living under an assumed name in Atlanta.

Salemme later voluntarily left the program. His final arrest came after DiSarro’s body was exhumed from behind the Branch Avenue mill building.

Weadick — who prosecutors said held DiSarro leg’s as Salemme Jr. strangled him — was also convicted and is serving a life sentence.


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Two Genovese soldiers and Manhattan doctor busted for writing prescriptions for opioids and adderall that were sold on the street

 Carmien Russo hides his face

A Manhattan doctor was indicted over a drug-dealing scheme in which he allegedly wrote prescriptions for pills — including opioids and Adderall — that were then sold on the street, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Dr. Noel Smith, a Tribeca family physician, is accused of writing scripts for five men who then conspired to distribute the tens of thousands of the pills through illegal street-level sales on Staten Island, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The drug ring was busted after investigators found Smith was allegedly prescribing controlled substances in a “manner inconsistent with public health and safety,” prosecutors said.

The doc is accused of writing prescriptions for Adderall, Klonopin and Suboxone for five of the men: Timothy Bonaguro, Ivan Iorizzo, Mark Lanfranchi, Louis Ventafredda and Christopher Gorga, a NYCHA employee.

The men, along with alleged associate Anthony Santo, devised a scheme that maximized their hauls of pills and allowed to build up a mountain of drugs, prosecutors charged. They would fill the prescriptions that were written in their names and assume the identity of one another to obtain as many pills as possible before hawking them.

The accused dealers carried out similar schemes with alleged associates Elio Albanese and Carmine Russo to get oxycodone pills from a different Midtown Manhattan doctor, prosecutors said.

City officials had been following the drug ring through a wiretap investigation for one year, according to the DA’s Office.

Smith was charged with several counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance by a practitioner and pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday. The other eight defendants were hit with a slew of charges, ranging from the criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance and identity theft.

Six others also pleaded not guilty. Bonaguro, Gorga and Lanfranchi were awaiting arraignment.

Because the charges are not bail-eligible, the men were released, though prosecutors requested they surrender their passports.

“As alleged, these defendants used the ongoing opioid crisis to exploit the suffering and addiction of others. And to make matters worse, a trusted Manhattan doctor prescribed pills to the defendants, which were then sold illegally to New Yorkers,” said District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.


Sunday, November 27, 2022

New book tells the story of turncoat Sicilian hitman Luigi the Zip

 Hitman “Luigi the Zip" Ronsisvalle had dirt on everything from the French Connection to the Vatican Bank scam before disappearing into witness protection.

During his two decades as Brooklyn’s top mob-busting homicide prosecutor, Michael Vecchione dealt with all manner of wiseguys, but none was less impressive than Luigi the Zip.

Short, overweight, disheveled and speaking in broken English, Sicilian import Luigi Ronsisvalle — dubbed “the human bowling ball” by Vecchione for being as wide as he was tall — embodied his Zip moniker, a slur American gangsters used for their overseas brethren, whom they regarded as backwater yokels. No one, it seemed, took Luigi seriously.

“He was just a schlub,” says Vecchione of the focus of his new book, “Homicide Is My Business” (Camino Books), out now.

“He was never sharp in the way he dressed. He was never able to carry on conversations. He was just a guy who knew how to do what they wanted him to do, which was kill people.”

Vecchione, who penned two previous books involving his career as a crime fighter after he left the Brooklyn DA’s office in 2013, got to know Ronsisvalle in a series of meetings at his cramped office in Downtown Brooklyn in the early 1980s, where they chatted while the turncoat munched on veal parmesan sandwiches and sipped Budweiser from a can. 

His demeanor might have been underwhelming. But Luigi the Zip — a heroin trafficker and hitman with 13 confirmed kills who flipped in 1979 — played a role in virtually every big Mafia event of his day, a kind of underworld Forrest Gump. “He was a colorful character who turned up in all these different places,” says Vecchione.

Ronsisvalle had intel on the French Connection heroin trade, made famous by the hit film starring Gene Hackman, and the Pizza Connection smugglers, which pumped some $1.6 billion worth of heroin into the US between 1975 and 1984, the drugs tucked into dough for pizzerias. He knew key details about the murder of mob boss Carmine Galante and the schemes of an Italian banker suspected of stealing a fortune from the Vatican.

Over the course of their meetings, the mobster regaled the prosecutor with details of his various hits and his own personal code: pay your debts, treat workers with respect, leave the working man alone, and go after only those who deserve it. “A man of honor kills to help people,” he explained to Vecchione.

His first slaying in the US was a freebie — and a chance for Ronsisvalle to get noticed by the bosses. A heavy gambler, he frequented a poker den on Knickerbocker Avenue, where he was dealing blackjack one night in 1968 when he overheard a group of Bonanno mafiosi “talking about someone they all knew who needed to be whacked,” writes Vecchione. The man in question was someone from the neighborhood who had been pimping out a young Italian girl from a well-liked family. 

“This called for the death penalty, no questions asked,” Ronsisvalle told him. “This girl is a widow, recent, and the motherf—er who everyone seemed to like so much was taking advantage of her situation.”

“I stop dealing cards and tell the wiseguys, ‘I take the job.’”

Ronsisvalle proudly recounted to Vecchione how he did it — staking out the mark’s house near Knickerbocker Avenue, following him on foot, learning his routine. He bought an old .38 revolver from a street hustler, and test-fired the weapon in an isolated spot along the Belt Parkway. 

Then, at 6 a.m. one morning, just as the pimp was leaving his house for work, “I sneak up behind him and shoot him in the head two times. He go right down. I know he dead. He get what he deserve.” The shooter casually strolled off, then split for Atlantic City. 

It was the same formula Ronsisvalle had used in Italy, where he was a respected assassin — and would employ again in the US. He meticulously researched his victim’s movements, stayed calm after the killing, and justified to himself that the dead man had it coming.

Alas, Ronsisvalle’s dream of becoming a made member of the Bonnano family never happened — according to Vecchione, he was never truly appreciated by those he worked for, and remained tainted by his pedigree. 

“He was encouraged to come to Brooklyn from Sicily by Carmine Galante and Joe Bonanno. They needed a hitman and bodyguards. They figured that when the other families got wind of the fact that they had this big narcotics business going — and were not sharing with them — there was going to be trouble,” says Vecchione. 

“They started to import people like him to come to the United States to be their watchmen and to take care of business if a war broke out. But he was not what they were looking for as far as someone who moved up to become a made man. He was just a zip.”

Ronsisvalle was disillusioned by what he perceived, ironically, as the mob’s lack of morals. He was outraged by the antics of notorious mobster Michele “The Shark” Sindona, a corrupt Sicilian-born banker, murderer and Gambino associate suspected of defrauding the Vatican Bank of an estimated $100 million to cover his loses when his Franklin National Bank on Long Island went under in 1974. Sindona, desperate to duck jail, asked Ronsisvalle to kill a US federal prosecutor, John Kenny of the Southern District in Manhattan, and a lawyer in Milan — for $100,000. He refused. Sindona was later convicted in the US and Italy and killed himself by ingesting poison.

Meanwhile, Ronsisvalle had also grown tired of all the drug dealing by mobsters who were supposed to be duty-bound not to traffic narcotics. 

Nothing in the American mob business resembled the code of honor back home, he felt. This drove his decision to flip.

He was eventually convicted in a 1976 slaying and was sentenced to just just five years in jail before being whisked off into federal witness protection. In 1985, he became the star witness at the President’s Commission on Organized Crime under Ronald Reagan. “I grew up in Sicily, since age 10, 11, 12, like a kid, American kid falls in love with baseball, I fell in love with Mafia,” he told rapt panelists.

Vecchione said he was told that Ronsisvalle had commited suicide while in witness protection, but he was unable to confirm this, and never got any details.

“I believe it,” he said. “But I guess it’s possible he’s still alive.” 


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Judge sends elderly Chicago mobster to 4 months in prison for stealing Social Security money

In this artist sketch, alleged mobsters Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, from left, Frank Calabrese Sr. and James Marcello sit in court on June 19, 2007, as jury selection begins in the city's biggest organized crime trial in years.

A Chicago mobster who previously spent time behind bars as a result of the landmark Family Secrets case was sentenced at a hearing Monday to 4 months in prison for stealing nearly $23,000 in Social Security funds.

Michael Marcello, 71, of Wood Dale, pleaded guilty in January to felony theft of government funds. Judge Jorge Alonso noted that sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 8 and 14 months, but Marcello’s attorney objected and instead suggested 4 to 10 months would be appropriate. 

The judge agreed with Marcello’s attorneys, saying that although Marcello’s crimes were “outrageous” they weren’t sophisticated enough to fall under the guidelines.

Prosecutors alleged that in April of 2016 Marcello began providing false wage and tax information to the Social Security administration to artificially inflate his Social Security earnings. He falsely claimed that he worked jobs that he never held and received income that he didn’t earn.

When Marcello applied for benefits in February of 2017, he lied again about his retirement income, prosecutors said. On his claimant form, Marcello stated he worked for bankrupt or defunct companies like Lehman Brothers and ITT Technical Institute to make it harder for the government to track.

Prosecutors also accused Marcello of providing false tax information to the IRS to hide the theft.

Before sentencing, Marcello’s attorney said her client was ashamed and embarrassed about his conduct, adding that he has already paid back everything that he stole. She asked the judge to consider his age and recent medical troubles when considering a sentence.

“I ask this court to show mercy on me as I walk through my life’s final miles,” Marcello told the judge. “I am very truly sorry. I made terrible choices.”

It wasn’t the first time Marcello made his case before a federal court. Marcello, the half-brother of Chicago mob boss James Marcello, was sentenced in March 2008 to 8 ½ years in prison — the first to be sentenced in the Family Secrets case. He once ran a lucrative video poker machine operation in the western suburbs and carried out his half-brother’s orders while James Marcello was in prison, authorities have said. He admitted his role in the mob in a 2007 plea agreement.

Prosecutors on Monday told the judge to consider that despite his previous conviction, Marcello still chose to commit another crime when he was released.

Marcello also took the witness stand in 2009 in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, who was charged with leaking details about the Family Secrets investigation to the mob.

Marcello also worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as a truck driver from 1986 to 1995.

The judge ordered Marcello to surrender to the bureau of prisons on Jan. 23, 2023. 


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.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Former NYC buildings commissioner spent $40K at mafia linked restaurants

Former Buildings Commissioner and onetime political candidate Eric Ulrich spent nearly $40,000 in campaign funds at several food businesses with past reported links to mobsters, a review of records shows.

Ulrich resigned this week when it surfaced he is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after having racked up unpaid debts at mob-controlled gambling parlors.

Ulrich has not been charged by prosecutors, who have declined to comment on the case.

The authorities’ probe into possible illegal gambling has been under way for at least a year, and the former councilman was not the initial target of investigators, who were focused on organized crime, sources have said.

But “[Ulrich] owed a lot of money to a lot of people — a lot of big people,” a Queens source said.

When Ulrich was futilely running for city public advocate in 2019, his campaign spent a total of thousands of dollars at several businesses previously tied to the mob.

He raised just $159,000 for his campaign but received more than $595,000 in matching funds from the Big Apple’s generous public financing system — meaning that tax dollars were likely among the sources of money spent in these establishments. 

Historically, all three establishments have had ties to the Gambino crime family.

Campaign finance records show that Urlich spent $19,192 to hold his Election Night party at Russo’s on the Bay in Queens, where the public figure lives.

Mafia informants Michael DiLeonardo and Anthony Rotondo both testified in the 2000s that the Gambino family received money from the popular establishment — with DiLeonardo pegging the amount at $1 per visitor.

Ulrich’s campaign spent another $14,167 at Villa Russo — an old favorite of former Gambino boss John Gotti — and listed the expense as related to fundraising.

Ulrich’s failed public advocate bid also spent more than $5,000 at Aldo’s, a Howard Beach pizzeria, for a fundraising event and “campaign food.”

The grandson of Aldo’s owner Aldo Calore was once busted by cops for torching a Mercedes-Benz driven by the owner of a competing pizza shop in a feud over $1,300 in catering business and caught himself on fire in the process.

The dumbfella, Gino Gabrielli, told cops at the time he had burned himself cooking chicken. 

His bail bond was signed by his sister, who dated John Gotti Jr. at the time. 

The New York Times first reported that Manhattan prosecutors were eying the pizza joint, which is now owned by Anthony and Joe Livreri, as part of the probe that has ensnared Ulrich.

Ulrich, Russo’s on the Bay and Villa Russo did not respond to requests for comment. 

The city’s Campaign Finance Board, which is tasked with policing political spending, told The Post in a statement Friday, “The Campaign Finance Board’s audits ensure that the public trust placed in our agency is honored by candidates.

“Our reviews make sure public funds go to qualified candidates who spend the money for qualified campaign purposes.”


Thursday, November 3, 2022

NYC building commissioner resigns after his phone is seized in a criminal gambling investigation

New York City’s building commissioner resigned Thursday after it was revealed that he was under investigation and had turned his cellphone over as part of a criminal gambling probe.

Eric Ulrich, 37, tendered his resignation to avoid “unnecessary distraction for the Adams administration,” said Fabien Levy, a rep for Mayor Eric Adams.

“We have accepted his resignation, appreciate him taking this step, and wish him well,” Levy said. “We have no further knowledge of any investigation and, out of respect for his and his family’s privacy, have nothing further to add.”

First Deputy Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik will serve as acting commissioner and no services will be affected, Levy added.

The resignation comes after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized Ulrich’s phone on Tuesday, and questioned him for more than two hours, sources previously told The Post.

Ulrich, a Republican served from 2009 until he was term limited out last year, hasn’t been charged with a crime. He had served as commissioner since he was appointed to that $243,171-a-year role by Adams in May.

He drew the attention of authorities who were conducting an organized crime investigation and had possibly racked up debts in backroom Ozone Park card games with reputed mob associates, sources previously told The Post.

As a city councilman, Ulrich once wrote a letter to a federal judge asking for leniency for “personal friend” and reputed Bonanno family associate Robert Pisani, who had pleaded guilty to a RICO conspiracy charge.

“Mr. Pisani is a kind person, devoted family man and a selfless individual,” Ulrich wrote on behalf of Pisani in a 2018 letter printed on his official City Council letterhead.

When Ulrich’s 3-year-old daughter was hospitalized with an injury from a “shopping cart accident,” Pisani sent the nurses bagels and food, the letter claimed.

“I found about his kind deed after the fact,” Ulrich wrote to Judge Dora Irizarry. “When I insisted on paying for the food, he told me to donate the money to charity. He really is a good guy.”

It’s not clear if that letter is part of the investigation.

Ulrich reported gambling winnings on his ethics disclosures as a city councilman totaling between $5,000 and $47,999 in 2016 and 2017. He reported the same range in winnings from the New York State Lottery for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, disclosures show.

In 2021, Ulrich announced he was battling alcoholism and looking to get sober.

“The COVID pandemic has affected people in different ways,” Ulrich said at the time. “What used to be mainly a social activity, and a way to cope with stress, and a way to cope with stress, has now become far too frequent and self-destructive.”

Ulrich’s resignation comes just one day after the mayor said he had no plans to remove the him from his post in the city’s Department of Buildings.

“Eric is still the commissioner there,” Adams said. “Number 2, this is really so early for us to be saying we should, we should, we should… The DA’s office is going to do their review, that review will determine how we move forward.”

Adams said the administration “had no idea” about the probe until reporters began calling around on Monday asking about it.

Adams’ chief counsel Brendan McGuire said Ulrich passed a background check required of senior leaders before he was appointed.

Ulrich did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. Neither he nor the DA office have commented on the investigation.


85 year old Chicago mobster moved to halfway house after serving time for murder

The last major "Family Secrets" mobster is out of federal prison.

At age 85, Paul "the Indian" Schiro has now moved to a halfway house.

He had been locked up Butler Federal Penitentiary in North Carolina and, as the I-Team first reported, he said he wanted out because the jailhouse was a breeding ground for COVID bugs.

Schiro was put away after being among those convicted in the government's "Operation Family Secrets" mob murder trial.

In 1986, he murdered Arizona businessman Emil Vaci, whom Outfit bosses had feared was cooperating with law enforcement in a casino death case.

But, Vaci's daughter told Judge John Blakey that, "We are the victims, not Paul Schiro because of his failing health and COVID-19."

"This is an 85 year old. He's probably, unless he is broke -- maybe he is -- he's probably looking for a quiet retired life," said John Binder, who is a Chicago mob historian and author. "Again, if they think he is not of any great use to them, they may well just let him move on a retire."

The judge said Schiro needed to stay in prison "to provide just punishment" for his role in "the cold-blooded murder of an individual thought to be a potential witness" against the infamous racketeering enterprise to which Schiro belonged.

Schiro has now finished his prison sentence and has been assigned by authorities to a halfway house in Phoenix, Arizona.

He will finish up his time there and will be fully free next April, just as he is pushing 90.

"Either your life ends or they let you go and say, 'Okay, Paulie,' you know, 'You're not good any more, you're sick --you can go retire. We really don't need ya,'" Binder said.

Schiro may be the last man to carry a family secret out of prison, but he's not the last Family Secret man in prison.

That blue ribbon goes to Outfit boss Jimmy "The Man" Marcello, who will remain locked up in America's supermax Colorado prison until the day he dies. He is serving a life sentence for being a top operator of the Outfit.

Other top mob bosses who went away in the Family Secrets trial died in prison. And for all of them, at least at the end, crime paid with taxpayer meals and a pint-sized mattress. 


Federal judge orders release of aging Colombo Captain convicted of ordering murders during bloody civil war

Two convicted killers — together with mob capo Anthony Russo, who ordered murders in the course of the bloody Colombo crime household civil warfare — are being released from jail by a federal decide.

Russo and Paul Moore, a drug trafficker who fatally shot a rival, got diminished sentences Wednesday by Judge Frederic Block below the First Step Act.

The felons utilized for compassionate launch below the prison justice reform invoice, which was signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018.

Block famous that Russo and Moore have been mannequin prisoners, and that they have been punished with life sentences for exercising their proper to trial.

“I am letting two murderers sentenced to life out of prison,” Block wrote Wednesday. “But I have painstakingly endeavored to explain why it is the appropriate thing to do under the First Step Act.”

The two males will be sprung instantly, however Block minimize each their jail phrases to 35 years.

That means Russo, 70, nonetheless owes six years of his sentence, whereas Moore, 56, has about three years to go, although each may probably get credit score for good time.

Russo and two others have been convicted in 1994 of conspiring to homicide John Minerva and Michael Imbergamo in the course of the battle between Colombo boss Victor Orena and Alphonse Persico — the son of jailed Colombo head Carmine “The Snake” Persico. A dozen killings have been linked to the bloody battle.

Russo served as a captain below Orena, however when the warfare broke out in 1991, he sided with Persico. On March 25, 1992, Russo’s subordinates stalked Minerva and Imbergamo — who sided with Orena — to a restaurant Minerva owned on Long Island, and shot them dead as they walked to their vehicles.

In his memo, Block praised the First Step Act, which has led to the discount of greater than 4,000 jail sentences. Russo and Moore’s instances “reflect the broad range of issues” that Block believes judges ought to take a look at whereas weighing compassionate launch requests,” he wrote.

“The Act was a remarkable piece of bipartisan legislation by an otherwise divided Congress and reflected the realization by lawyers on both sides of the aisle that sentencing reform of the judicial system was sorely needed,” Block stated.

Block, 88, has served on the federal bench since his appointment by President Clinton in 1994.

Prior to that, on the retrial within the slaying of a Hasidic man in the course of the 1991 Crown Heights riot, Block requested a Black witness to outline the slang time period “‘chillin’ for somebody who is not a brother.”

He has a repute for taking pictures from the hip, and was ripped on the front page of the Daily News in 2007 with the headline “Judge Blockhead” after he ridiculed prosecutors for looking for the dying penalty towards a drug kingpin throughout a racketeering homicide trial.

Russo “has clearly demonstrated that he has achieved extraordinary rehabilitation” when he utilized for compassionate launch in April and pointed to his well being issues and his danger of catching COVID-19, Block wrote.

He additionally contends that Russo shouldn’t be penalized for selecting to go to trial.

“Russo exercised his constitutional right to trial. Of Russo’s 14 co-defendants, seven went to trial. Six received mandatory life sentences under the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines. The seventh was acquitted,” he wrote. “In contrast, the remaining co-defendants received sentences ranging from time-served, equating to approximately four years, to 270 months.”

Those different defendants have been accused of actions “no less violent or destructive than those who received life sentences,” he stated.

Federal prosecutors opposed Russo’s early launch, arguing that he confirmed a “disregard for the law and human life,” and that he may nonetheless grow to be a participant within the Colombo crime household.

“Russo rose through the ranks to serve as a captain of the Colombo crime family, a position from which he gave direction to the ‘made men’ who reported to him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Lash wrote to the decide. “His risk he poses (even at an advanced age) comes from the influence he has over others in the enterprise.”

The decide made comparable arguments about Moore, a Jamaican immigrant who served as an enforcer for drug boss Eric Vassell, and was tasked with increasing his gang’s affect from Brooklyn to Texas. Moore and an confederate shot and killed a rival drug vendor in 1991, and he shot one of his personal gang members within the leg to self-discipline him for disrespecting Vassell, Block wrote.

“Like Russo, Moore has also been the victim of sentencing disparities. Only Moore and one of his 46 co-defendants are serving life sentences,” Block stated. “Eric Vassell, who accepted a plea deal, murdered two people and ordered the murders of several others. He is scheduled to be released from prison in December after serving approximately 25 years.”

Moore, who utilized for compassionate launch final November, has agreed not to combat deportation after he’s freed.

A spokesman for Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Breon Peace declined remark.

Lawyers for Russo and Moore didn’t return messages looking for remark.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

NYC building commissioner being probed for gambling with mobsters


New York City’s building commissioner is under investigation as part of a gambling probe, and he may have racked up debts during card games with mob associates and helped award contracts as payback, law-enforcement sources told The Post on Tuesday.  

Department of Buildings chief Eric Ulrich, a former city councilman, was served a search warrant by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office outside his home in Queens in the morning, according to sources.

Investigators seized Ulrich’s cell phone during the search, sources said.

Investigators are focusing on gambling that Ulrich allegedly participated in in back rooms in Ozone Park, Queens, apparently before he joined Mayor Eric Adams’ administration this year.

Ulrich has not responded to requests for comment from The Post. DA spokeswoman Danielle Filson declined comment.

Adams didn’t take questions from reporters as he arrived at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our administration has no knowledge of any type of investigation,” Adams rep Fabien Levy said. “If an investigation were to be conducted, we would expect any member of this administration to cooperate fully.”

Ulrich, a Republican, served on the council from 2009 until he was term-limited out at the end of 2021. This year, he joined the Adams administration first as a senior adviser to the mayor before he was bumped up to this spring to his $243,171-a-year gig as commissioner.

While still a councilman, Ulrich reported gambling winnings on his city ethics disclosures of between $5,000 and $47,999 in 2016 and 2017. He reported the same range in winnings from the New York State Lottery for each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, disclosures show.

In 2021, Ulrich said in a Facebook post that he was battling alcoholism and looking to get sober.

“The COVID pandemic has affected people in different ways,” Ulrich said at the time. “What used to be mainly a social activity, and a way to cope with stress, and a way to cope with stress, has now become far too frequent and self-destructive.”


Monday, October 24, 2022

Bronx priest and brother of deceased Genovese Boss dies at 90

The Bronx priest whose brother was oddball Genovese crime-family boss Vincent “The Chin’’ Gigante has died at age 90. 

The Rev. Louis Gigante, who once headed up the South East Bronx Community Organization and served as a city councilman in the 1970s, was known for his vociferous defense of his Mafioso brother.

Louis Gigante, who died last week, was described by The Post in 1975 as a “priest who plays power politics instead of bingo.”

At the time, he told The Post his old-school party-machine politics were “a question of power.

“People have to eat,” Louis said.

Born the youngest of five boys to immigrant Italian parents, Gigante grew up with his family in Greenwich Village. His older brothers went on to become mobsters, with Vinnie rising through the ranks of the Genovese crime family to lead the organization for decades.

The mumbling, pajama-wearing, Greenwich Village-walking don died in prison in 2005 after his conviction on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to kill rival mob boss John Gotti.

Presiding over his brother’s funeral Mass, Louis Gigante said Vinnie “lived a Christian life and was a good man.”

Louis Gigante defended his brother during his trial — at which the mob boss would often appear confused — telling reporters that “The Chin” had suffered from a degenerative brain condition since the ’70s.

When a Mafia turncoat told the feds that Louis Gigante himself was a made man — testimony the informant later denied at trial — the priest was dismissive.

“Not a bad movie, but even Hollywood doesn’t go that far,” Louis quipped to the Post in 1997.

As head of SEBCO, Louis Gigante was instrumental in the revitalization of one of the most impoverished sections of The Bronx, bringing relative safety and stability to a neighborhood that had literally been in ruins.

But his success there caught the eye of government investigators in the 1990s, who suspected the involvement of Genovese-connected contractors in SEBCO’s rebuilding efforts. No charges were ever filed against Louis Gigante or his organization.

Louis made headlines in the 1980s as well — when he used $25,000 of his own money to bail out one of the so-called “Central Park Five,” a group of teenagers arrested, falsely convicted and ultimately exonerated for the brutal rape of a Manhattan jogger.

“Everyone who’s so filled with anger about these suspects should ask themselves, ‘what if this were my son, wouldn’t I want him helped?’ ” the priest said at the time.

He also ended up in the news last year when he was slapped with lawsuits accusing him of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy in the 1970s and a 10-year-old girl in the 1960s. He did not comment on the two suits at the time. Both lawsuits were still pending at the time of his death, the New York Times said.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Son is convicted of ordering murder of his mobster father over his real estate empire

Someone kept trying to kill Sylvester Zottola, month after month.

The first attack came in September 2017, when a man approached Mr. Zottola, whom the authorities described as a Mafia associate, outside his Bronx home and knocked him down with a punch in the face.

That November, someone tried to shoot Mr. Zottola as he drove on the Throggs Neck Expressway. Two days after Christmas, men lurking inside his home stabbed him in the neck. In the summer of 2018, a man walked up on the sidewalk, pointed a pistol at him and pulled the trigger only for the weapon to misfire.

Finally, that fall, an attacker succeeded in killing Mr. Zottola, 71, shooting him repeatedly as he sat in his S.U.V. at a McDonald’s drive-through on Webster Avenue.

On Wednesday, a jury in Brooklyn convicted Anthony Zottola, his 44-year-old son, of conspiracy, murder-for-hire, shooting his brother, Salvatore Zottola, and murdering his father.

Prosecutors had told jurors that Anthony Zottola planned to kill his brother and father so he could control a family real estate business worth millions of dollars. He was accused of working with a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang who hired a “network of hit men.”

Himen Ross, who was accused of firing the fatal shots, was convicted on Wednesday, along with Anthony Zottola. They face life sentences, prosecutors said.

Alfred Lopez, who prosecutors said was Mr. Ross’s getaway driver, was acquitted. Several other men had pleaded guilty to participating in the plot. Among them was a senior Bloods member, Bushawn Shelton.

After Wednesday’s verdict, Anthony Zottola’s wife exited the courtroom weeping. In a hallway, Salvatore Zottola said his father was a good man.

“He didn’t deserve this,” Salvatore Zottola added. “None of us did.”

Evidence presented by prosecutors during an eight-week trial in Federal District Court included surveillance camera footage of shootings, hundreds of text messages among conspirators and testimony from a hired killer who described bumbling assassination attempts.

That witness, Ron Cabey, testified that in addition to trying to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola, who was shot in 2018, he contemplated murdering Mr. Shelton, whom he suspected of withholding information from him, and two getaway drivers whom he deemed overly talkative.

In the end, Mr. Cabey’s decision to talk broke the case. He was arrested in the summer of 2018 after a police officer saw him disposing of a gun and he eventually told investigators about the murder plots. That led to the arrest of Mr. Shelton and the discovery of text messages he had exchanged with Anthony Zottola.

Prosecutors said the two often used code. They referred to Sylvester Zottola as “the actor” and to murder attempts as “scenes.”

On the day that Sylvester Zottola escaped the attempted expressway shooting, Mr. Shelton wrote to Anthony Zottola, saying: “The actor wanted to do his own stunts and throw it in reverse in the middle of shooting a scene and drive in the opposite direction.”

Mr. Zottola replied that he was “changing the location of the last scene” adding: “We going to film in his dressing room.” Hours before the attack on Sylvester Zottola in his home, Anthony Zottola wrote: “I get keys to dressing room.”

The Zottola family had lived for decades in the Bronx, with generations sharing homes in the Pelham Bay neighborhood and in Locust Point, a quiet enclave facing the Long Island Sound. Sylvester Zottola built several large brick houses there with mottos carved into their facades, including “Our walls are built thick. Our love for each other is thicker.”

“He wanted us to live together,” Salvatore Zottola testified. “It was his dream.”

A prosecutor in court said that Mr. Zottola “had ties to the Mafia,” and he reputedly was associated with the Bonanno crime family. Salvatore Zottola testified that, although his father was friendly with mobsters, he was not a “made member” of La Cosa Nostra.

His father’s income came from providing pool tables, jukeboxes and poker machines to bars and restaurants, Salvatore Zottola said, and from about 30 properties in the Bronx that yielded roughly $1.5 million a year in rental income.

Salvatore Zottola’s wife, Katie Zottola, testified that Anthony Zottola had told her he had a buyer who would pay $27 million for those properties. But, she added, the elder Mr. Zottola had vetoed the sale.

 “Anthony believed his father and his brother were in his way,” a prosecutor, Devon Lash, told jurors during her opening statement. “He decided to kill them both.”

Defense lawyers said Anthony Zottola had not conspired to kill his father and brother. Instead, they said, he had been taken advantage of by a group of criminals with whom he had cultivated a relationship because he felt he needed protection against the Mafia.

“That is something he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life,” one of his lawyers, Ilana Haramati, told jurors.

Perhaps the most riveting evidence in the trial came from Mr. Cabey, who testified that Mr. Shelton offered him separate fees of $10,000 to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola.

Mr. Cabey testified that he set out several times to kill one or both, but was hindered by poor planning and blunders.

Once Mr. Shelton berated a getaway driver who had risked drawing unwanted attention by smoking strong-smelling marijuana while parked at night on a quiet residential street near Salvatore Zottola’s Locust Point home, Mr. Cabey said.

Mr. Cabey also testified that a brown van used as a getaway vehicle often had engine trouble. On another night, parked near Salvatore Zottola’s home, he and a driver had to call Mr. Shelton and ask for a jump start.

One day in June 2018, Mr. Cabey stalked Sylvester Zottola through the streets of Pelham Bay, then walked toward him pointing a pistol, an episode that was partly captured on video.

“As I’m brandishing the firearm, I’m pulling the trigger and the trigger was just not firing,” Mr. Cabey testified.

Mr. Cabey fled as Mr. Zottola fired his own pistol back at him. When the police arrived, they arrested Mr. Zottola for criminal possession of a firearm. Mr. Cabey was arrested later that day by officers in Manhattan who saw him throwing away a gun but did not know about the incident in the Bronx.

In July, a man shot Salvatore Zottola as he emerged from a van he had parked outside his home, striking him in the chest, the back and the head.

“Didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would,” he testified. “The first shot, when it hit me, it was more of just a push back to the van. When I got shot in the back, that hurt. Then when I got shot in the head, that was the last shot I remember.”

Still in jail after his arrest in June, Mr. Cabey saw a television news report on the shooting and recognized the neighborhood he had been staking out. Soon after that, he testified, he learned from a criminal associate who had helped introduce him to Mr. Shelton that he was to have received $25,000 for each murder he committed, while Mr. Shelton had promised him only $10,000.

By that time, Mr. Cabey said, Mr. Shelton had stopped communicating with him. And the television report made him realize that he was participating in a plot guaranteed to draw public attention. Within months, Mr. Cabey began cooperating with investigators and pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire.

That came too late to stop the death of Sylvester Zottola. He was on the phone with his girlfriend while waiting in the McDonald’s drive-through for a cup of coffee when, prosecutors said, Mr. Ross ran up and shot him.

Salvatore Zottola testified that after the shooting, he spoke on the phone with his brother: “He said that Margaret, my father’s girlfriend, was on the phone with my dad and she heard a bunch of bangs, and he never answered the phone again.”

According to text messages introduced as evidence, Mr. Ross wrote “Done” to Mr. Shelton four minutes after the shooting. Four minutes after that, Mr. Shelton sent a message to Anthony Zottola saying: “Can we party today or tomorrow.”

Anthony Zottola replied that it was his son’s birthday, adding that he was taking him to his favorite place — McDonald’s.

“Hey it’s like your birthday today as well lol,” replied Mr. Shelton.


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Gambino associate receives 40 year sentence for killing mobster pal over $750K

Arraignment of Anthony Pandrella

A reputed Gambino associate who killed his elderly mobster pal after stealing $750,000 in loansharking cash will spend the next 40 years behind bars.

Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Margo Brodie handed down the sentence to Anthony Pandrella, 63, on Wednesday, but not before the wiseguy had to face his victim’s devastated son and daughter one more time.

“He doesn’t deserve another day outside prison,” seethed victim Vincent Zito’s son, Joseph. “I hope you live a long time behind bars.”

Pandrella was close to the 78-year-old victim’s family — Zito referred to him as his “right-hand man,” and the family saw Pandrella as an uncle, someone who came to their house most days, and who promised to take care of the family if anything ever happened to their patriarch.

They never thought that Pandrella would shoot Zito on Oct. 26, 2018, leaving the victim’s body in his family’s Sheepshead Bay home, where his 11-year-old grandson would find it.

The killing stemmed from a fight over stolen cash. Pandrella agreed to hold on to $750,000 from Zito’s loanshark business because Zito was worried he was under investigation. But when Zito asked for the money back, Pandrella said it had vanished from his basement.

Enraged, Zito threatened to kill Pandrella over dinner at Battista, a restaurant in Brooklyn, just weeks before the slaying, so Pandrella acted first — then sat with the grief-stricken family the night of the murder.

Pandrella was convicted at trial in June.

“All for greed, the defendant ruthlessly executed his longtime friend after being welcomed into his home,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Pandrella’s cold-blooded crime has cost him dearly with the loss of his freedom for decades.”

Zito’s family has struggled to stay close without their patriarch. “He was the ones that brought us close. He was the walls and the glue,” his daughter, Samantha Zito, told the court Wednesday.

Since the killing, she’s had to upend her life in New Mexico and move back to her father’s Brooklyn house, living under the same roof where she grew up and where he was murdered, to keep the property from falling into disrepair.

“The love and energy that once filled it are gone,” she said.

Pandrella, who is hospitalized and uses a wheelchair, suffers from gangrene and diabetes. “Anything far beyond the 10-year statutory minimum is going to be a death sentence,” said his lawyer, James Froccaro.

Despite his failing health, prosecutors asked Judge Brodie to sentence Pandrella to life behind bars, saying that the sentence would a send a message about the “heinous” nature of the crime.

Even though they were hoping Pandrella would get life, Zito’s children said they were satisfied justice was done.

“In essence, 40 years? Sixty-three years old? You tell me what it is,” Joseph Zito said. “But just the satisfaction of hearing ‘life.’ A life for a life, in my mind.”


Friday, September 30, 2022

Feds seek life sentence for Gambino associate for killing elderly Lucchese loanshark over $750K

Vincent Zito was gunned down in his Brooklyn home in 2018.Vincent Zito was gunned down in his Brooklyn home in 2018.

A Gambino associate who murdered his elderly mobster pal over $750,000 in stolen loansharking proceeds should spend the rest of his life behind bars, federal prosecutors argued Thursday.

Anthony Pandrella, 63, killed Vincent Zito, 78, in Zito’s home in 2018, before the Lucchese loanshark had the chance to whack him first over the missing money. Pandrella was convicted at trial in Brooklyn Federal Court in June.

Prosecutors called the case “worse than even most premeditated murders” in a sentencing memo filed Thursday.

“The murder of the defendant’s frail, elderly friend was callous, cold-blooded and motivated by greed. The defendant knew the victim’s family, which had welcomed him into their home; he knew the anguish this murder would cause — and he did it anyway, for money,” wrote assistant U.S. attorneys. M. Kristin Mace and Matthew R. Galeotti.

The sordid saga began when Pandrella agreed to hold on to $750,000 from Zito’s loanshark business because Zito was worried he was under investigation.

But when Zito asked for his money back, Pandrella said it had mysteriously vanished from his basement.

An angry Zito threatened to kill Pandrella over dinner at Battista, a restaurant in Brooklyn, just weeks before the Oct. 26, 2018 killing, prosecutors said.

The morning of the murder, Pandrella told Zito he was ready to pay up and went to his friend’s Sheepshead Bay home. But instead of bringing the cash, he pumped a bullet in the back of Zito’s head. He then stole the victim’s expensive watches and fled.

That night, Pandrella returned to Zito’s home to sit with his grieving friends and relatives — and to find out what he could about the murder investigation.

Federal prosecutors said Pandrella can’t use a tough upbringing as an excuse for his actions.

“The defendant had an average, middle-class life with no extraordinary hardship. The defendant simply believed he could get away with murder, and he tried to (do) just that,” they wrote.

Pandrella’s lawyer, James Froccaro, asked Judge Margo Brodie to take into account his “myriad serious health issues,” including chronic heart disease, diabetes and a debilitating gangrene condition.

His sentencing is set for Oct. 5.