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

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Panel rejects compassionate release for former Acting Boss of the Colombo Family assuring his death behind bars


A one-time notorious Colombo family mob boss who is now gravely ill with dementia was denied release from prison by a federal appeals court Wednesday — all but assuring he’ll die behind bars. 

Victor “Little Vic” Orena’s appeal for compassionate release was slapped down by a three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with a lower-court jurist in affirming his life sentence. 

Orena, once the acting boss of the Colombos, was sentenced to life in prison in the early 1990s after his conviction in Brooklyn federal court on murder, racketeering and other Mafia-related crimes. 

The former shot-caller, now 87, asked a Brooklyn federal judge to free him in 2021 because of his deteriorating health — and because his lawyer discovered new evidence that allegedly casts doubt on his conviction. 

On Wednesday, the appeals court panel wrote that while even federal prosecutors agree his health issues are “extraordinary and compelling,” the district court judge correctly ruled they do not outweigh the need for a life sentence.

The judges also ruled that if there is indeed new evidence that proves Orena’s innocence, it should be raised in a separate appeal — not one for compassionate release. 

The wiseguy’s crimes that put him away for life related to a murderous, intra-family Colombo war that pitted factions loyal to Orena against those who backed the late Carmine “Junior” Persico. More than a dozen people were killed in the beef. 

“The five Families’ criminal activities and the war between the competing Colombo factions resulted in multiple assassinations and attempted assassinations and billions of dollars of economic impact on the city,” the appeals court panel wrote in the decision Wednesday. 

Orena is serving time in FMC Devens, a federal medical center with an attached minimum-security prison. 

In an email, Orena’s attorney, David Schoen, called the decision “very disappointing” – and blasted the prosecution as the most corrupt in the history of the DOJ. 

“It is absurd and completely unfair to deny a trial court judge the discretion to at least consider whether new evidence since the trial ought to be relevant to the appropriateness of a terminally ill defendant,” he said.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Jury convicts Gambino associate in under an hour for murdering his friend over $750K debt

Arraignment of Anthony Pandrella

A Gambino crime family associate was convicted of murder Tuesday for shooting his mob-tied loan shark friend twice in the back of the head at his Brooklyn home.

Anthony Pandrella, 62, was found guilty in the Oct. 26, 2018 execution-style death of 77-year-old Vincent Zito following a half-week trial in Brooklyn federal court.

The jury deliberated for just an hour and a half before convicting Pandrella on all three counts, robbery, murder and unlawful use of a firearm.

Prosecutors said the cold-blooded killer had been holding $750,000 for Zito, who asked for the money back after finding out his illegal business was under investigation by law enforcement.

But Pandrella, who had warned Zito about the probe, refused to return the cash.

He allegedly met the older man at his Sheepshead Bay home, put two bullets in the back of his head at close range and swiped his loansharking assets — as well as pricey foreign watches that Zito was holding as collateral.

Prosecutors said Pandrella attempted to cover up evidence of the slay, but his DNA was found on a gun recovered at Zito’s home.

He was also captured on surveillance footage entering and leaving Zito’s. When Pandrella later returned to his own home, his neighbor’s security cameras caught him changing his shoes and clothes and taking out the driver’s side floor mat in his car to clean it, prosecutors said.

Zito’s body was found by his 11-year-old grandson when he returned home from school, prosecutors say. 

“Today’s verdict has found that the defendant is a cold-blooded killer who shot his elderly friend in his home, execution-style with a bullet in the back of the head, to avoid returning a large sum of money he was holding for the victim,” Brooklyn US Attorney Peace said in a statement. “In addition to the brutal betrayal, the defendant also robbed luxury watches from the victim’s loan business.”

Pandrella faces up to life in prison at his sentencing on Sept. 16.

His lawyers didn’t immediately return a request for comment.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Feds say Gambino associate killed loan shark because he feared death over a debt

It’s a kill or be killed world.

A reputed Gambino mob associate gunned down his long-time friend, a mafia-connected loan shark, because he feared the older man wanted to whack him over a debt, federal prosecutors say.

Anthony Pandrella, 62, is headed to trial next Tuesday for the 2018 murder of Vincent Zito, 78.

In two sets of court papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, prosecutors revealed there are witnesses who said Zito was murderously mad at Pandrella over a missing $750,000 that Pandrella was holding for him.

One witness is expected to testify that weeks before the slaying Pandrella heard Zito loudly tell someone at a Brooklyn restaurant that he was going to kill him over the debt.

Pandrella was holding the illicit funds for Zito because Zito was worried that the feds were eyeing his business, prosecutors said. It was Pandrella who advised Zito that he was “hot,” according to the feds.

But when Zito requested the money back, Pandrella said the cash mysteriously disappeared from his basement, authorities said.

“I gave him $750,000 and he said it’s gone,” Zito allegedly told another man expected to testify at the upcoming two-week trial, according to court papers. “The fat f--k stole my money.”

The Brooklyn restaurant dinner was not the only time Zito suggested he might use violence to resolve the debt Pandrella owed him, prosecutors said.

Another witness said Zito made a gun gesture with his hand while talking about how he was going to get his money back from Pandrella, court documents state.

Pandrella promised to partly make good on the debt by giving Zito an initial payment of $300,000 by selling property, but that did not satisfy Zito, the feds say.

The day Zito was murdered — Oct. 26, 2018 — Pandrella was supposed to square up the debt.

But instead of returning the money, Pandrella went to Zito’s Sheepshead Bay home, shot the septuagenarian once in the back of the head, swiped some expensive watches, and left, prosecutors say.

Surveillance footage allegedly shows Pandrella entering and leaving the house around the time of the robbery and murder.

The accused killer later returned to the home and spent time with Zito’s mourning family and friends, and even asked about the police homicide investigation, the feds say.

Pandrella’s lawyer, James Froccaro, declined to comment beyond saying his client pleaded not guilty and plans to fight the charges.

Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday morning. Pandrella is charged with Zito’s murder as well as robbery and illegal gun possession.


Friday, May 27, 2022

Federal judge releases violent ailing Colombo Soldier from prison

A Brooklyn judge sprang a violent mobster from prison because he said the federal Bureau of Prisons did a lousy job taking care of the wiseguy’s medical problems.

Federal Court Judge Raymond Dearie issued a scathing ruling Thursday, saying the feds weren’t competently treating made man Vincent “Chickie” DeMartino’s maladies. The goodfella had more than two years left of his 25-year sentence for an attempted hit on a fellow Colombo family member.

“Mr. DeMartino’s age, the amount of time he has served in prison, his deteriorating health — in particular, complications with his right eye — and the Bureau of Prison’s cavalier attitude in addressing these conditions, present extraordinary and compelling circumstances,” Dearie wrote, ordering DeMartino be released from West Virginia prison FCC Hazelton to home confinement.

DeMartino, 66, was convicted of the 2001 botched hit of Joseph Campanella as he was packing a beach chair into his car in Coney Island. DeMartino fired at least four shots at the rival mobster, hitting him in the arm and foot, but leaving him alive and willing to testify against him.

It wasn’t DeMartino’s first run in with the law. He was convicted of threatening to murder a man in 1983 and breaking every window in the guy’s house with a baseball bat. He was also found guilty of a 1985 armed robbery of a Chase bank branch in Brooklyn.

DeMartino is also a publicly named — though never charged — suspect in the 1999 rubout of William “Wild Bill” Cutolo.

Since his conviction in the Campanella shooting in 2004, DeMartino’s list of medical conditions has grown, and the federal jailers responsible for taking care of his health have failed to do so, Judge Dearie said.

“Mr. DeMartino’s circumstances are made all the more extraordinary and compelling by the BOP’s lack of responsiveness and candor with respect to his medical conditions,” Dearie wrote.

The jurist noted DeMartino’s documented “high blood pressure, high choleterol, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiac arrhythmia, obesity, and knee problems,” but said that the “gravest threat” to the mobster’s health is his incredibly serious eye issues.

“The record reflects a consistent pattern on the part of the [Bureau of Prisons] of downplaying Mr. DeMartino’s conditions and delaying treatment. Despite the severity of his ocular conditions, it has been a herculean task for Mr. DeMartino to see an ophthalmologist,” Dearie wrote.

“The [Bureau of Prisons] is not a common jailor. Theirs is a far more challenging and vital responsibility. Human beings are entrusted to their care for decades on end. There is no excuse for inaction or dissembling and, in this Court’s view, no alternative to immediate release,” Dearie concluded.

The feds declined to comment.

“We are grateful to the court for acknowledging what the Federal Bureau of Prisons would not: that Mr. DeMartino suffers from serious health problems that require urgent and ongoing attention and treatment,” said DeMartino’s lawyer, Benjamin Yaster.


Friday, May 20, 2022

Escaped Rochester mob hitman later captured by feds pleads guilty

Convicted killer-for-hire Dominic Taddeo pleaded guilty Tuesday to escaping from his federal halfway house.

With less than a year left on his sentence, Taddeo left the Florida home for a scheduled doctor's visit in late March. He didn't come back.

He was captured a week later near Miami.

He will be sentenced in October.

Taddeo was later convicted of killing three men, including Nicholas Mastrodonato in his Gates coin store in May of 1982, in the early 1980s during Rochester's mob wars. His other victims include Gerald Pelusio and Dino Tortatice.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Judge sentences longtime Colombo mobster nicknamed Shrek and the Wig to over two years in prison


Despite a criminal history dating back nearly three decades, reputed Colombo crime family mobster Daniel Capaldo insisted he has turned over a new leaf.

“I’m done with the past,” the Staten Island resident told a social worker during a pre-sentencing evaluation earlier this year, according to court documents. “I can’t wait for it to be over. I just want to go back to work, come home to my family, do the right thing, and make my family proud of me.”

With the love and support of his kin, Capaldo, 57, is determined to walk the straight-and-narrow path and deserved to remain out of prison, wrote defense lawyer Peter J. Guadagnino in a pre-sentencing memo to the court.

A sentence of time served with three years’ supervised release was appropriate for the defendant, said the attorney.

Capaldo had previously pleaded guilty to two racketeering acts, which occurred in 2019 and involved or implied threats of violence.

“Mr. Capaldo has an extended loving family who is supportive and would guide him in living a law-abiding life,” Guadagnino wrote. “… This strong support makes it more likely than not that Mr. Capaldo will not commit further crimes.”

Brooklyn federal court Judge Brian M. Cogan disagreed.

On Wednesday, the judge sentenced Capaldo, known as “The Wig” and “Shrek,” to 27 months behind bars and two years’ supervised release.

The defendant is also subject to a $1,500 forfeiture judgment.

Federal guidelines had called for a sentencing range of 27 to 33 months.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors sought a sentence within that range, pointing to Capaldo’s criminal history, his mob ties and the nature of his crimes.

Sentencing guidelines are advisory, and judges are not bound by them. They can impose a harsher or less-severe sentence if they choose.

“Over a period of decades, the defendant has sustained several convictions in connection with his association with and/or membership in the Colombo crime family,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Geddes and Megan E. Farrell in a pre-sentencing memo. “After serving a lengthy term of incarcerations in the 1990s and 2000s, the defendant was released and rather than reject its criminal means, the defendant was formally inducted as a member of the crime family.”

“A sentence within the guidelines range will at least incapacitate the defendant, thereby protecting the public from further crimes he would otherwise commit during that period of time,” prosecutors said.

Capaldo has at least four prior felony convictions for offenses such as narcotics sale and possession and collecting an unlawful debt, said prosecutors.

In October 2019, Capaldo was among 20 suspects indicted in Brooklyn federal court on wide-ranging charges including racketeering, extortion, loansharking and stalking.

Seventeen defendants were Staten Islanders, and 11 of the suspects are members or associates of the Colombos, officials said.

One defendant was sentenced last year to probation for trying to fix an NCAA men’s college basketball game between Wagner College and St. John’s University in December 2018.

However, as it turned out, no money ever exchanged hands, said prosecutors.

Capaldo was not charged in that scheme.

Prosecutors said Capaldo reported to Joseph Amato Sr., a Colombo capo, and the highest-profile defendant among those arrested.

In November 2020, Capaldo resolved his case by pleading guilty in Brooklyn federal court to two racketeering acts: Extortion conspiracy and financing an extortionate extension of credit.

In the first instance, Capaldo and others relied “on their reputation as inducted members of the Colombo crime family” and threatened two men over an outstanding gambling debt, said prosecutors.

In the other case, Capaldo advanced money to Thomas Scorcia, a loanshark and fellow Colombo family member, said authorities.

Capaldo knew Scorcia was going to loan the money to a third party and violence would be used, if necessary, to collect the debt, authorities said.

Scorcia also was among the suspects arrested in October 2019 and was sentenced last year to 42 months in prison for racketeering.

Capaldo is now the last defendant to be sentenced in the case.

“It’s a guidelines sentence,” said Guadagnino, the defense lawyer. “The judge gave him the lower end based on his health issues. He’s just concentrating now on the future so that he can help out his family, his wife and daughter. That’s all he’s really worried about now.”


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Judge rules that former New England Captain wont be getting his money back and seals records from the public until 2025

 (050922 Boston, MA): Vincent ‘The animal’ Ferrara appears at a hearing in Suffolk Superior court on Monday,May 9, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Former North End mobster Vincent “The Animal” Ferrara’s hopes of a judge’s injunction to get Attorney General Maura Healey to give him his money back are sleeping with the fishes.

Suffolk Superior Judge Elaine Buckley has sided with Healey’s office on multiple fronts in the former wiseguy’s suit, first impounding the AG’s written response in the case and then denying the erstwhile mafioso’s injunction.

In the lawsuit, first reported by the Herald last week, the now-73-year-old Ferrara alleges that Healey’s office had seized $268,000 of what he says is a “legitimate” business venture. Per the complaint that he certified under penalty of perjury, he was acting as a “facilitator” in a real-estate deal that paid him the bulk of that dough — before investigators showed up with a warrant and seized it as part of what the AG’s office has described as a “broad, ongoing criminal investigation.”

Ferrara and his attorney Michael Natola argued that the judge should make Healey give it back because, they posit, it has no connection to any crimes.

Buckley held a hearing on the matter this past Monday, also ruling that day to impound the AG’s office’s response to the complaint for three years — not letting the public see Healey’s reasoning in the case until May 9, 2025. She then ruled in Healey’s favor again on Tuesday on the matter of the injunction.

On the matter of giving Ferrara his money back, the judge wrote that he only had argued “in the most general of terms, that the monies seized by the lawfully executed search warrant were obtained legally in a business transaction,” and therefore, “The failure of this analysis is that it ignores that the defendant is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

And regarding impoundment, the judge said that the AG’s office should be allowed to preserve the “confidentiality of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

A spokeswoman for Healey — who’s the front runner in the race to become the next governor — last week said much the same, citing an ongoing investigation and not elaborating further. On Thursday her office declined further comment.

Ferrara, of Revere, showed up to the hearing on Monday in a dapper gray pinstriped suit. It’s far from his first time in a courtroom, as the man once known as “Vinny the Animal” is a former “capo de regime” lieutenant in the Boston North End La Cosa Nostra mob — who in the early 1990s pleaded guilty to an array of racketeering crimes and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. But 17 years later, the same judge who’d sentenced him sprung him from jail when it came to light that the prosecution had withheld key evidence related to a 1980s gangland slaying that was one of several charges he’d pleaded guilty in connection with.

The authorities came back at Ferrara shortly after that on charges of running some Norfolk County rackets, but he beat that rap cleanly.

Natola, the attorney, told the Herald on Thursday that he and Ferrara are “disappointed with the ruling” on the injunction.

“We have other plans to get back into court soon,” Natola said. Asked about the ongoing investigation, he said, “There’s nothing criminal going on with Vincent M. Ferrara — can’t really speak for anyone else.”


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Son of Gambino Captain sentenced to two months in prison for MTA overtime fraud


The son of a notorious Queens mobster was sentenced to prison time Wednesday for his part in a scheme to bilk the MTA out of thousands of dollars in bogus overtime he collected while purporting to be at work. 

Frank Pizzonia, son of reputed Gambino captain Dominick “Skinny Dom” Pizzonia, was sentenced to two months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in the scheme. 

“I apologize to everyone and regret my actions,” Pizzonia told Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan federal court before he was sentenced. 

Pizzonia, 54, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in January, raked in enormous amounts of cash from the state agency in 2018, earning a total salary of $305,000, including $223,000 in overtime wages. 

Despite the eye-popping amount of overtime income Pizzonia claimed that year, federal prosecutors only charged him with wrongfully claiming 150 hours of overtime, according to court records. 

The “highly conservative” amount of hours were the ones when prosecutors said they could prove — using cell site data — that Pizzonia was not at work when he logged hours on the job.

Pizzonia, who was hired by the MTA in 1988 and worked as a track worker for the LIRR, schemed with “overtime king” Thomas Caputo and three others “by repeatedly covering for one another’s absences from work,” according to the indictment against them. He is the fourth to be sentenced.

Engelmayer chided Pizzonia at the sentencing hearing for his crime, which he said warranted a prison term because it was both one of public corruption and of a conspiracy with fellow MTA workers. 

“You were stealing money the public expected would be spent in the public interest,” Engelmayer said, noting the hard-working taxpayers of New York state were indirect victims in the case. 


Pizzonia’s lawyer, Joseph Corrozo, argued at the hearing that his client is a hard-working family man whose life was upended when he was arrested for the scheme. 

“He’s all about work and his family,” Corrozo told Engelmayer. “He values hard work.” 

The elder Pizzonia served a 15-year prison sentence for plotting the murders of a “Bonnie-and-Clyde” couple he suspected of robbing his Queens social club. 

“Skinny Dom,” who was acquitted of actually carrying out the pair’s 1992 murder, was released from prison in 2019. 

After his son’s arrest last year, he answered the door at their Queens home and told a Post reporter to “Fuhgeddaboudit!”


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Former New England Captain demands return of $268K seized by the attorney general

A one-time Boston mobster who served 16 years in prison before he was freed by a judge who ruled that prosecutors may have coerced him into admitting to a role in a killing he had no part in has sued the state attorney general for the return of $268,000 he says was unjustifiably confiscated.

The complaint filed last week by Vincent “The Animal” Ferrara, 73, said $250,000 was earned when he acted as a “facilitator” between a buyer and a seller in a real estate transaction, while the other $18,000 was earned through lawful business endeavors and from Social Security.

Since the money was seized from two of Ferrara’s bank accounts last September, no one in law enforcement “has given to Ferrara an oral or written notice of any kind detailing the seizure” or of the “reason for its seizure,” according to the suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

The money was legitimately earned “without any, any doubt,” Michael Natola, Ferrara’s attorney said Thursday. “He has no other way to support himself and they are completely hanging him up.”

In a letter to the office of Attorney General Maura Healey dated Feb. 25 seeking the return of the money, Natola wrote that his client is “apparently a person of interest in connection with a grand jury investigation,” but had no additional details.

Ferrara intended to use the money “to invest in real estate and for other lawful business transactions to support himself and to assist his children in meeting their financial needs,” the letter said.

When asked about the lawsuit, the attorney general’s office in a statement said the case “is in connection to a broad, ongoing criminal investigation,” but did not provide details.

Ferrara, a Boston College-educated former New England Mafia capo, pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in the early 1990s and was sentenced to 22 years behind bars. In May 2005, a federal judge said there was evidence prosecutors didn’t tell Ferrara’s lawyers about a police memo saying a key government witness recanted his claim that Ferrara ordered the 1985 killing of Vincent Limoli, a mob foot soldier who allegedly stole drugs from another mobster.

Ferrara’s attorney at the time said his client was innocent, but accepted the plea deal because he feared a life sentence if found guilty of murder.

A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Elderly Genovese Captain busted for punching restaurant owner in the face over unpaid debt

A Queens bookie who once acted in a movie called “Albanian Gangster” was arrested along with two reputed Genovese crime family mobsters he allegedly enlisted to collect a debt, federal prosecutors and sources said Tuesday.

The trio, including an alleged 84-year-old Genovese capo, was charged in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday for the extortion scheme against an Italian restaurant owner, according to an indictment against them and a law enforcement source. 

The suspects — wannabe film star Luan Bexheti, 49, reputed soldier Joseph Celso, also 49, and octogenarian and longtime wiseguy Anthony “Rom” Romanello — all face two federal counts for extortion. Celso faces a third count for obstruction of justice, according to the indictment. 

The case stems from a gambling debt a restaurant owner racked up with Bexheti in 2017, when the actor, who has appeared in more than 40 indie flicks, was moonlighting as a bookie, a law enforcement source said. 

Bexheti, an apparent Genovese associate of Albanian descent, allegedly enlisted Celso and Romanello to collect, the source said. 

Romanello — who was acquitted in Brooklyn federal court a decade ago on extortion charges — allegedly punched the restaurateur in the face to convince him to pay up, the law enforcement source said. 

The other accused mafioso, Celso, was implicated in the 1991 slaying of Manuel Mayi, a 19-year-old Dominican Queens College student.

The teen was chased for 16 blocks and beaten to death by a mob of nearly a dozen people who allegedly spotted him spraying graffiti in Corona. 

Celso was the only person charged in the slaying, but was acquitted at trial in 1993 after the main witness in the case left the country, The Post reported at the time. 

All three of the suspects pleaded not guilty and were released on bond at their arraignments in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. None of the defendants, nor any of the eight or so relatives and friends with them, commented as they left.

A judge set Celso’s bond at $1 million because he is charged with obstruction of justice as well as extortion. His attorney, Anjelica Cappellino, declined to comment after the hearing.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Feds round up six members of the powerful Genovese crime family

Ralph Balsamo

Six reputed mobsters who allegedly served in various roles in the Genovese crime family were charged in a racketeering conspiracy in Manhattan federal court Tuesday.

The six alleged wiseguys — including two caporegimes — raked in money for the syndicate from 2011 to 2022 “through a pattern of racketeering activity,” which included extortion and illegal gambling, according to the indictment against them.

The suspects were “members and associates of an organized criminal enterprise known as the Genovese Organized Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, whose members and associates engaged in crimes including making extortionate extensions of credit,” the indictment states.

The alleged mobsters charged include capos Nicholas Calisi and Ralph Balsamo, soldiers Michael Messina and John Campanella and associates Michael Poli and Thomas Poli, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said.

All of the six suspects face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

“From extortion to illegal gambling, the Mafia continues to find ways to prey on others to fill its coffers. Our office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to putting organized crime out of business,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after the indictment was unsealed.

At their arraignments Tuesday, Balsamo and Thomas Poli pleaded not guilty and were ordered to remain in home confinement pending trial. 

“The government can’t seem to go three months without rounding up some Italians. Today just happened to be Ralph Balsamo’s turn,” his attorney, Gerald McMahon, told The Post in an email.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Colombo family Boss remembered at Brooklyn funeral


He may have been a cold-blooded mob boss who used threats of violence to get what he wanted — but to his granddaughter he was just “Poppy.”

Terrifying Colombo family boss Andrew “Mush” Russo was remembered Saturday at his funeral by about 100 mourners in Brooklyn, including his granddaughter, Annie, who eulogized him as an “always loving” family man. 

That family man had been free on $10 million bail on a federal racketeering case when he died this week at 87. 

He was indicted in September along with 13 others, the crew accused of trying to infiltrate a Queens labor union by using “direct threats of bodily harm to control the management of the labor union and caused it to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family.”

A cousin of the late Colombo boss Carmine Persico, Russo was said to be reluctant to retire from the “family” business saying on one FBI recording, “I can’t walk away. I can’t rest.” 

Russo was released on home confinement on Long Island in October because of his ill health.

His farewell had many of the trappings of a mob funeral with a big floral tribute outside Our Lady of Peace Church in Brooklyn which said “Poppy” and mourners in black suits.

While the feds alleged Russo and his co-defendants were engaged in “loansharking, money laundering, fraud, and drug trafficking,” his granddaughter remembered him as a guy who visited a local nail salon last Christmas to buy gift certificates. 

“We can’t tell you how much your grandfather helped us out,” the granddaughter, whose name couldn’t be confirmed, quoted the workers at the salon as saying.

She also remembered how her grandfather loved to cook.

“The kitchen looked like a tornado hit when he was done, but he was always so proud of the meals he so lovingly created,” she said. 

She also seemed to allude to his connection to the underworld by saying her granddad missed the people who were “still away.”

“He always dreamed of the day he would sit around the table with his cousins and his friends and look at them and know they were finally free. Sadly he never got that chance,” she said.


Friday, April 22, 2022

Feds wont reveal identity of agent afraid of revenge from jailed aging Gambino associate

Mark Reiter in 1992.

Federal prosecutors declined Thursday to identify the law enforcement agent who’s worried that an aging mobster could seek revenge against everyone who helped put him away if he gets sprung from prison.

In court papers, Manhattan assistant US Attorney Timothy Capozzi said prosecutors wouldn’t submit an affidavit from the agent but maintained their position against the “compassionate release” being sought by reputed Gambino crime family associate Mark Reiter, 74.

Capozzi cited the “risk of recidivism” posed by Reiter, who’s serving a life sentence for running one of the city’s biggest heroin-dealing rackets during the 1980s.

“After convictions for a narcotics offense and attempted robbery in his 20s, the defendant did not stop his life of crime. Instead, he became the leader of a massive drug business, which he protected by ordering three murders in retaliation for cooperation with law enforcement,” he wrote.

“This type of crime — ordering murders — can be just as easily accomplished in one’s 70s as one’s 30s.”

Capozzi also urged Manhattan federal Judge Vernon Broderick to consider “the need for just punishment” of Reiter.

“Two lives were lost because of the defendant and his desire for retribution for cooperating with law enforcement, and a third life would have met the same fate had the defendant had his way,” he wrote.

Reiter is seeking to be freed from the low-security federal prison near Allenwood, Penn., because he’s suffering from health problems that include obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

But back in 1990, when he was locked up at California’s Lompoc federal prison, Reiter was all smiles while posing for a photograph as the singer in a mobbed-up rock band along with the late Colombo family boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, Gambino family hitman Anthony Senter and late Joseph “J.R.” Russo, an assassin for New England’s Patriarca family.

Capozzi’s Thursday letter followed a September court filing in which he recounted being “contacted by an agent who assisted with the investigation of Reiter, who expressed serious concern about the possibility of retribution against law enforcement and those who aided law enforcement in the defendant’s prosecution should the defendant be released.”

Broderick denied a defense request for a hearing with testimony from the agent but said prosecutors could submit an affidavit from the agent with “specific concerns about any individuals whom Defendant might harm, and how he might harm them, if Defendant were released.”

Defense lawyer Harlan Protass said, “The government blinked and abandoned the purported law enforcement concerns on which it previously opposed Mr. Reiter’s sentence reduction motion.”

Protass has previously said that he doesn’t believe Reiter “poses a threat to anyone, including law enforcement” because he’s “a different man than he was 35 years ago.”


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Veteran Colombo family Boss dies at the age of 87 while out on $10 million bond for racketeering charges


Colombo family kingpin Andrew “Mush” Russo, the mob veteran busted for racketeering last year before myriad health woes led to his release on a $10 million bond, died Monday night, his attorney confirmed to the Daily News.

The 87-year-old Russo, a cousin of the late and legendary boss Carmine Persico, was arrested in a huge federal sweep last September over the crime family’s attempt to violently seize control of a local labor union, according to court documents. He was turned loose a month later and died in the company of family without facing trial in the pending case, attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said Wednesday.

“He had a number of medical issues,” Lichtman told the News. “I don’t know what ultimately did him in. He was not well when he was arrested, which is why we were successful in getting him out on bail.

“I would hope there is some small solace for the family in that he was able to die surrounded by his loved ones as opposed to in a prison.”

The federal charges alleged that Russo and the rest of the family administration “used extortionate means, including direct threats of bodily harm,” in their plot to snap up the labor union.

The veteran gangster, caught on a wiretap before his 2011 guilty plea to federal charges, offered a glimpse of his management style: “I don’t hesitate, I’ve never hesitated” to use violence against mob colleagues who stepped out of line.

Russo, who lived in Glen Head, L.I., was convicted alongside his relative Persico in a 1986 mob trial on racketeering charges, and was reportedly bumped up to acting boss after his release from prison eight years later.

In late 2020, Russo assembled the family’s top hierarchy in late 2020 for a mob sitdown at the legendary Brennan and Carr restaurant in Brooklyn as federal agents surreptitiously watched, the Daily News previously reported.

Russo was long involved in the Colombo family hierarchy, serving as an acting underboss in the mid-1970s before his 1994 promotion by the imprisoned Persico.

According to authorities, he became the official head of the family in 2010 after his parole on a prior arrest ended. He then continued to head the Colombos from behind bars after his conviction on a separate charge one year later.

Russo, freed in June 2013, stayed on in the top spot until his arrest in last year’s massive racketeering sweep that initially left him behind bars with 13 other Colombo leaders and associates.

Back in 1981, Russo was believed dead by the FBI when he suddenly disappeared — only to stunningly resurface at a court hearing where he surrendered to authorities.

The mob boss was also a schoolboy pal of “The Godfather” actor James Caan, who was subpoenaed to appear at Russo’s 1985 Manhattan Federal Court trial.

“We grew up together,” Caan told reporters at the time. “I’ve never heard anything about this. He’s got eight grandchildren. This is unreal.”


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Feds want to keep aging Gambino associate and major heroin dealer in prison due to fears of revenge from law enforcement


Once a killer, always a killer, the feds say.

Prosecutors want to keep an aging New York City gangster locked up for life because a law-enforcement agent is worried that the mobster will seek revenge against G-men if he gets out — but a judge wants to hear from the investigator before he decides.

Former Gambino crime-family associate Mark Reiter, 74, was sent away in 1988 for running one of the city’s biggest heroin-dealing operations and ordering three murders to protect his racket.

During his time behind bars, he was photographed posing as a singer in a mobbed-up mock rock band at California’s Lompoc federal prison, along with the late Colombo family boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, Gambino family hitman Anthony Senter and late Joseph “J.R.” Russo, a killer for New England’s Patriarca family.

But since that pic was shot in 1990, Reiter has been beset by health problems and now suffers from conditions including obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to Manhattan federal court papers filed in support of his request for compassionate release.

Prosecutors, however, contend that Reiter — who’s locked up at a low-security federal prison near Allenwood, Pa. — deserves to rot there because of the “nature and circumstances” of his crimes, “which … clearly involved serious and extreme violence.”

In addition, Assistant US Attorney Timothy Capozzi wrote, he “was contacted by an agent who assisted with the investigation of Reiter, who expressed serious concern about the possibility of retribution against law enforcement and those who aided law enforcement in the defendant’s prosecution should the defendant be released.

“Such concerns are understandable given the defendant’s offense conduct, which included ordering multiple murders, including the murder of a cooperator,” Capozzi added.

In an order handed down last week, Manhattan federal Judge Vernon Broderick denied Reiter’s request for a hearing with testimony from the unidentified agent but said, “To be clear, I take any possibility of violence against members of law enforcement as a serious issue.”

Broderick then gave prosecutors a Thursday deadline to submit an affidavit identifying the agent and spelling out the “specific concerns about any individuals whom Defendant might harm, and how he might harm them, if Defendant were released,” including “any and all bases for the agent’s concerns.”

Reiter’s lawyer, Harlan Protass, told The Post on Friday, “I do not believe he poses a threat to anyone, including law enforcement, based on what I know about him, what I’ve read about him and how he’s conducted himself in prison.

“He is a different man than he was 35 years ago,” Protass added.

A spokesman for Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams declined to comment.


Celebrity chef admits to secret life as a soldier in the Gambino crime family

He’s now dishing on his main course with the mob.

One-time TV chef and lauded Big Apple restauranteur David Ruggerio has admitted to a secret life as a made man for the mob — even involved in a series of underworld murders, starting when he was age just 11.

“I was living two lives,” Ruggerio, 59, told Vanity Fair in an extraordinary interview breaking omertà, the mob’s sacred code of silence.

Throughout his celebrated decades-long career in the kitchen — cooking for presidents and royalty and even landing his own Food Network show — Ruggerio was also an active soldier for the Gambinos, he said.

Even as he enjoyed greater celebrity in the 1990s running Manhattan restaurants La Caravelle, Maxim’s and Le Chantilly, Ruggerio said he grew ever-deeper in his mob life — getting actively involved in heroin dealing, loan-sharking, extortion and helping several notorious gangland murders.

“I did things when I was pushed that I’m not proud of,” he told the magazine of the mob life he also hopes to publish in a biography.

“But to really, truly be in the streets, you gotta have a black heart. When you turn that switch, there can be no emotion. You have no pity. You gotta just do it,” he said.

“I didn’t want to be a criminal. I want you to understand that. I loved being a chef,” he insisted.

His secret life involves his famous name — which hides the obvious mob ties of his birth name, Sabatino Antonino Gambino.

His Sicilian father, Saverio Erasmo Gambino, was a cousin of Carlo Gambino, the infamous “boss of bosses,” who ruled New York’s five Mafia families in the 1960s and ’70s, he revealed.

His dad took him to Sicily in 1977 — just before he started high school — where he was made by Santo Inzerillo, the brother of Palermo boss Totuccio Inzerillo, he said.

The ceremony included him getting a homemade tattoo on his right shoulder with a fiery cross image and the words Uomo de Fiducia, Italian for “man of trust.”

Ruggerio said he had already been readied for a life of crime after a series of tragedies as a youngster, including finding his infant sister dead when he was four, getting beaten by a stepfather — and then seeing his pregnant mom die of an asthma attack when he was just five.

“I learned early that I had a very cold side to me,” he told Vanity Fair of those painful early experiences.

“Did I want to be a gangster? Never one day did I say to myself, ‘Yeah, I want to be a gangster when I grow up’ … All I wanted to do was survive the next day.”

Still, as a child, he said he was mentored as a mobster by “the most ruthless gangster I ever saw,” Egidio “Ernie Boy” Onorato, who was nicknamed Ernie “M&M,” short for “murder and mayhem,” he said.

Ruggerio was just 11 when he watched Onorato beat to death Anthony Finn — who he said was a federal informant — beating him to death then shooting him and stuffing cocaine in his mouth near the Alley Cat bar on the Lower East Side.

We loaded the body into a car and drove it over to Avenue A and Ninth Street,” Ruggerio said.

He was even more involved in other murders, he admitted, saying he helped Onorato torture and kill a 56-year-old Genovese and Colombo associate named Pasquale “Paddy Mac” Macchirole in 1978.

But the violence also came close to home, losing a girlfriend as well as his best friend, whose body he says he left sleeping with the fishes, dumping it in in the waters near Sheepshead Bay.

Still, he got to enjoy the trappings of the life of crime, saying he earned $50,000 — equivalent to about $230,000 today — from drug dealing when he was still a teen, he told the mag.

He would also party at his mentor’s home in Florida where “there was always a quarter or half kilo of coke piled up” on a coffee table.

“Ernie used to have girls over and everybody was naked. For me, sex at 14 and 15 wasn’t a big deal,” Ruggerio told Vanity Fair.

He would soon make his name in the kitchen, too, becoming La Caravelle’s executive chef at 26 — a sideline that he thinks may have saved his life.

After mob boss Constantino Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of Sparks Steak House in midtown Manhattan in 1985, Ruggerio said he and his crew feared they would be next in the coup by John Gotti’s crew.

But “what wiseguys do most of the time is they talk about food,” Ruggerio said — and “Gotti loved Maxim’s,” he said of the hip restaurant he was hired to reinvent for fashion-mogul owner Pierre Cardin.

Ruggerio ended up throwing a 50th birthday party for Gotti at Maxim’s, the mob boss’s last birthday as a free man before his arrest and death in prison.

His life as an enforcer eventually switched over to his restaurant career, too, he said, admitting he obtained ownership of Le Chantilly in 1995 by kidnapping partner Camille Dulac and throwing him in a hole dug in a remote beach in Breezy Point, Queens.

“He was on his knees, begging for mercy,” he said, although Dulac denied it.

But it was ultimately credit card fraud that brought him down in July 1998,
with Ruggerio pleading guilty to attempted grand larceny in a deal the next year. He got five years’ probation and paid $100,000 in restitution.

Worse, he was ridiculed by his mob bosses, and “the press just categorized me as a moron because I f—ed up my TV career,” he said.

“I had five restaurants, 650 employees. And it was gone,” he recalled to Vanity Fair, with all his comeback attempts doomed. “Overnight it was gone.”

However, it was not until the overdose death of his oldest son, in June 2014, that he ultimately decided he would break his gangland code of silence, feeling slighted by the mob boss.

“He did a lot of OxyContin and drank. He went to sleep and never woke up,” Ruggerio said of his son, who had also been an aspiring gangster.

But the ultimate wound came when Daniel Marino, the capo of his Brooklyn crew, made no effort to get out of house arrest to attend the funeral, he said.

“When Danny didn’t come, that’s when I said, ‘F—k this. I’m done,’ ” Ruggerio told Vanity Fair

Now, he is further dishing in a yet-unpublished biography, writing that “there was no need to embellish; the truths were horrific enough.”

He insists, however, that he “will not cooperate against anyone.”

“That isn’t why I did this,” he told Vanity Fair, saying he will also accept any blowback coming his way, from his former mob pals and the authorities.

“I’ll let the chips fall where they may. After I lost my son, I knew that this has to end with me,” he said.


Federal judge denies latest compassionate release request for cancer stricken former Colombo street boss Tommy Shots

A one-time Colombo crime family street boss’ violent life of crime could end with his death behind bars.

A Brooklyn federal judge rejected the latest appeal from cancer-stricken mobster Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli for a compassionate release from prison, declaring the inmate’s murderous Mafia career outweighed any arguments for his freedom.

“The unfortunate fact in this case is that the defendant’s crimes were so heinous and the nature of his leadership role so dangerous that release would not be appropriate,” wrote Judge Brian M. Cogan in the Wednesday decision. “The motion is therefore denied.”

Cogan previously shot down a May 2020 appeal for Gioeli’s freedom based on the ailing gangster’s fears of contracting COVID-19. The judge, in his latest ruling, acknowledged Gioeli’s health woes but declined to set him free.

“I find the defendant’s medical status has deteriorated to the point where he has satisfied his burden of showing extraordinary and compelling reasons (for release) under the statute,” he wrote in the seven-page decision.

“However, the assessment of the sentencing factors has not changed and that assessment precludes release.”

Gioeli, 70, was convicted at a 2012 federal racketeering trial for conspiring to killer supporters of then-family boss “Little Vic” Orena during a lethal war for control of the Colombo family. He was sentenced to 18½ years behind bars.

The family capo, heading a faction loyal to imprisoned head Carmine “Junior” Persico, was bumped up to street boss during the bloody battle where 13 victims were killed — including a teen bagel shop worker gunned down in a case of mistaken identity.

Cogan, in his decision, noted Gioeli and his crew “committed multiple murders that I know of from the evidence at trial ... The evidence of these murders was again detailed, grisly and left me with no doubt as to the defendant’s involvement.”

According to court papers, Gioeli was diagnosed last year with a recurrence of bladder cancer followed by surgery and now receives weekly injections of hormones to battle the illness. The cancer’s return followed an 18-month stretch where Gioeli received no follow-up medical treatment behind bars, court papers said.

“We will never know if his bladder cancer could have been caught earlier, and perhaps treated more effectively,” wrote Cogan.

Gioeli famously collected a $250,000 settlement after an August 2013 slip and fall during a prison ping-pong game left him with a fractured kneecap. The mobster needed surgery and spent a month in the hospital after the accident.

But Cogan, in a November 2019, ruled the financial windfall should go for restitution to a fur store and a bank robbed by the gangster and his crew back in the ‘90s.


Monday, April 4, 2022

US Marshals catch escaped Rochester mafia hitman in Miami after escaping federal custody

Dominic Taddeo, the contract killer for the mob who escaped federal custody on March 28, has been found in Miami.

Taddeo, 64, was within a year of release when he escaped from a federal halfway house in Orlando. His escape prompted a manhunt that reached back to Rochester, where Taddeo fatally shot three organized crime figures and attempted to kill two others.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Taddeo was found in Hialeah in Miami-Dade County. He was captured around 11 a.m. "without incident," the Marshals Service said in a news release, hours after the Democrat and Chronicle first reported Taddeo's apprehension.

U.S. District Judge David Larimer said Monday that he'd been contacted about the arrest. Larimer was a sentencing judge for some of Taddeo's mob-connected crimes and has been kept apprised of the hunt for Taddeo.

This was not Taddeo's first disappearance.

Facing federal firearms charges, Taddeo was released on bail in 1987. He then disappeared.

Over the next two years, Taddeo used more than two dozen aliases while living across the East and Midwest. With the help of an informant, authorities learned that Taddeo was en route to meet his brother in Cleveland. They found him there.

Dominic Taddeo in 2020

Taddeo pleaded guilty in 1992 in federal court in Rochester to racketeering crimes. Records show that in recent years Taddeo has had a clean disciplinary record in prison and has taken advantage of numerous educational opportunities.


Philly mob associate Big Vic sentenced to 10 years for racketeering and drug dealing

United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Victor DeLuca, a.k.a. “Big Vic,” 57, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was sentenced to ten years in prison and ten years of supervised release by Senior United States District Judge R. Barclay Surrick for racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

In November 2021, the defendant pleaded guilty to charges in a superseding indictment stemming from his involvement in criminal activity with and for the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra, also known as the LCN, the mafia, and the mob. The Philadelphia LCN is one of a number of LCN organized crime families based in various cities throughout the United States. The goal of the LCN in Philadelphia and elsewhere is to make money through the commission of various crimes, including illegal gambling, loansharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.

According to court documents, and the defendant’s guilty plea on November 29, 2021, DeLuca was an associate of the LCN who worked with LCN members and associates to commit crimes such as drug trafficking, extortion, and loansharking, among other crimes. The defendant pled guilty to his involvement with the LCN for that conduct as well as for an effort in April 2017 to obtain two pounds of methamphetamine, intended for later resale, on behalf of other LCN members and associates.

“Even though the Philadelphia mob is not what it was in the last century, the organization and its criminal activities are still very much a problem and are damaging the communities in which it operates,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting anyone who is committing serious federal crimes like these, and we will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory.”

“As a longtime associate of the Philadelphia LCN, Victor DeLuca earned his keep through drug-dealing, loansharking, and extortion - pretty much the antithesis of an honest day’s work,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “His actions caused harm to individual victims and the community alike and it’s gratifying he’s now been brought to justice. The FBI will continue to keep organized crime squarely in our sights as we work to make the city of Philadelphia a safer place.”

The case was investigated the FBI, including its Philadelphia Field Division and Atlantic City Resident Agency, as part of a long-running investigation, with the assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Ortiz and Justin Ashenfelter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorneys Alexander Gottfried and Kristen Taylor of the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Organized Crime and Gang Section.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Murderous Boss of the Bonanno family posts $500k bail after violating his supervised release for meeting with Colombo family

 Michael Mancuso, the reputed boss of the Bonanno crime family.

The killer boss of the Bonanno crime family hid his face and refused to answer Daily News questions after he was released on a $500,000 bond Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn accused Michael “The Nose” Mancuso, 67, of associating with members of organized crime, violating the terms of his supervised release, which came after served 15 years in prison for his role in the 2004 death of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.

“Don’t you have something better to do?” asked a woman standing with Mancuso in a park across from the courthouse when a reporter with The News tried Tuesday to question the Bonanno head honcho.

“Go cure cancer,” she added.

Mancuso did not respond to questions and hid his face behind his black leather coat.

He was not much more loquacious in court, responding only “deny” when asked by Judge James Cho whether the allegations that he had associated with other members of La Cosa Nostra were true.

Mancuso got caught up twice in federal wiretaps related to a separate investigation of the Colombo crime family, which resulted in 14 arrests, a law enforcement source told The News.

The 67-year-old Bonanno skipper has been out of prison for nearly three years after serving his 15-year stretch for helping carry out former Bonanno boss Vincent Basciano’s order to kill Pizzolo, who had botched a construction project for Basciano.

The hit man who carried out the killing, Anthony "Ace" Aiello, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 30-year minimum term.

The feds say he twice violated the terms of his supervised release — in Aug. 2020 and again in June 2021 — by associating with organized crime figures.

Law enforcement officials filed a petition charging him with the violations on March 9, two days before his supervised release term was to expire.

Michael Mancuso, the reputed boss of the Bonanno crime family.
Michael Mancuso, the reputed boss of the Bonanno crime family.

Associating with organized crime — though it violates the terms of his supervised release — is nothing new for Mancuso. He was already running the Bonanno family while locked up with five years left on his federal sentence, sources told The News in 2013.

Mancuso also served a ten-year state sentence for fatally shooting his wife in The Bronx in 1984.

He sat in court during the hearing Tuesday with his arm around the woman who snapped at the reporter.

His wife and two daughters signed onto his bond.

Mancuso’s attorney, Stacey Richman, declined to comment.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

As New Jersey seeks to end watchdog mobsters rake in over $400K a year in cushy jobs on the waterfront

Hundreds of longshoremen rake in more than $400,000 yearly in the shadow of a decades-old organized crime racket that thrives in New York Harbor’s sprawling seaports, reports by a little-known law enforcement agency show.

Many of those big earners are affiliated with New York-New Jersey Mafia families, according to federal investigators and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

The Waterfront Commission, which since 1953 has cracked down on mob activity and unfair hiring practices at the ports, now faces an existential threat from New Jersey’s political establishment, which is bent on shutting it down.

Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy aims to turn over waterfront policing to the New Jersey State Police starting March 28 — and the move could prompt a lawsuit from New York officials who want more oversight of mob activity in the seaports.

Among the highest-paid New York-area longshoremen is Ralph Gigante Jr., who in 2019 made $423,488 working for Port Newark Maintenance & Repair, according to records obtained by the Daily News via a freedom of information request.

Gigante — the nephew of late Genovese family boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, famed for an insanity act that involved mumbling incoherently as he wandered Greenwich Village in a bathrobe and slippers — is among more than 200 longshoremen in New York and New Jersey’s seaports to benefit from “special deals” that let them put in for up to 27 hours of work a day, seven days a week.

The “special deals” allowing Gigante and others in a select group of longshoremen to file for more hours of pay than there are hours in a week are negotiated in collective bargaining agreements between the New York Shipping Association and the International Longshoremen’s Association — a union known by the initials ILA that represents dockworkers from Maine to Texas.

New York Shipping Association President John Nardi said the special deals are “filled with long-term workers with seniority” and said the association under his leadership “has never encountered anyone involved in organized crime in our operations.”

“Any claim by the Waterfront Commission that there are people working in the port who are associated with organized crime is an admission that the Waterfront Commission has failed to achieve their core mission,” Nardi said.

Yet law enforcement sources said many of the 200-plus longshoremen who earn big money at the port through “special deals” have direct connections to crime families or high-ranking ILA officials.

They include Joseph Queli Jr., the son of convicted Genovese soldier Joseph Queli Sr., who made $471,818 in 2020 working for Maher Terminals, records show. The older Queli was sentenced in 2012 to five years in prison for extortion of dockworkers, from whom he demanded payments called “Christmas tributes.”

The convicted soldier’s brother, Lawrence Queli, works as a foreman with Gigante at Port Newark Repair & Maintenance. He made $403,519 in 2019, records show.

The top two earners at the seaport are Paul Buglioli and Michael Giordano, records show.

In 2020, Buglioli earned $610,889 and Giordano earned $588,315 as timekeepers at Port Newark Container Terminal. For more than a decade, they’ve enjoyed high salaries for work they barely show up for, according to annual reports by the Waterfront Commission.

Buglioli’s late father, Robert, was a former vice president for Ports America at Port Newark who in 2011 was charged by the Waterfront Commission with having ties to Genovese family members like Joseph “Pepe” LaScala and Andrew Gigante, the son of Vincent “The Chin.”

Sometimes dockworkers are prosecuted for failing to show up for work while collecting huge paychecks, as happened to Paul Moe Sr., a former general foreman at APM Terminals in Elizabeth, N.J., who in 2018 was sentenced to two years in prison for salary fraud.

The ILA contract requires workers to show up at least 40 hours a week to be paid for more than 24 hours per day. Investigators found Moe regularly skipped his shifts, but was paid $500,000 a year anyway.

When Moe was locked up, his son, Paul Moe Jr., took over the reins. In 2020, Moe Jr. raked in $498,273 as a mechanic at APM Terminals, where his father worked.

The ILA, which negotiated the big salaries, and its international president, Harold Daggett, have long been accused of having ties to organized crime families.

In the 2000s, Daggett was twice acquitted of alleged organized crime activities. A civil racketeering lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court that’s been ongoing since 2005 alleges Daggett is party to the families’ criminal conspiracies.

Daggett, in a 2005 trial, was acquitted for fraud, extortion and other mob-related charges, along with another former ILA executive, Arthur Coffey. During the trial, one of their co-defendants, Genovese captain Lawrence Ricci, was found dead in the trunk of a car outside a New Jersey diner.

Through a spokesman, Daggett and ILA officials declined to comment.

Mob schemes at the seaports prosecuted by the feds over the last 15 years include extortion and racketeering.

Despite the decadeslong history of port corruption, New Jersey lawmakers are set on dismantling the Waterfront Commission, which was established as the famed 1954 movie “On the Waterfront” told a story of murder and corruption on the mob-controlled New Jersey docks.

Law enforcement officials say the bistate commission’s crimefighting work isn’t done.

A former prosecutor told The News that shuttering the commission would “allow the mob to continue to rule the waterfront through an unholy alliance between the ILA and the New York Shipping Association.”

“Successful federal prosecutions have revealed the continued influence of the Genovese and Gambino organized crime families over the International Longshoremen’s Association and waterfront businesses,” said a letter filed to the U.S. Supreme Court last June by top FBI Special Agents George Crouch Jr. and Jacqueline Maguire.

Crouch and Maguire wrote in support of a lawsuit by the Waterfront Commission to stop New Jersey politicians’ effort to dismantle it.

Elected officials in Trenton have pushed to close the commission for years. The New Jersey Legislature in 2017 passed a law requiring the state to pull out of the commission, which has one representative from both states.

Former Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill on his last day in office in 2018, prompting a lawsuit from the Waterfront Commission arguing the move was not legal without approval from lawmakers in New York.

The suit was shot down by the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court last year declined to take up the case, finding that only the State of New York could sue New Jersey over the disagreement.

New York Gov. Hochul says New Jersey can’t by itself dismantle the bistate agency — a position that could lead to a court battle between the two states over the commission’s future.

How far Hochul will go to save the agency isn’t clear. In February, Hochul’s chief counsel, Elizabeth Fine, wrote a letter stating New Jersey’s withdrawal plan “is without effect,” and called the Waterfront Commission “a key investigative partner in both state and federal prosecutions in both New York and New Jersey.”

Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays would not say whether the governor plans to sue New Jersey in federal court to save the commission.

“We have made our position clear and we are evaluating our options,” she said.

Gov. Murphy in December appointed Joseph Sanzari, a construction executive, as the state’s member of the Waterfront Commission, replacing Michael Murphy, a former prosecutor in Morris County, N.J.

Sanzari in 2019 spoke at an ILA convention in Florida, and said ILA President Daggett gave him an honorary membership card to the union’s Local 1804-1.

As a bistate agency, Waterfront Commission investigators can work the New York and New Jersey sides of New York Harbor. The New Jersey State Police would have no jurisdiction on the New York City side of the port — which includes container ports in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The Waterfront Commission also helps federal and state mob busts outside of the seaports — such as the New Jersey attorney general office’s “Operation Fistful,” which in 2019 resulted in prison sentences for Genovese soldier Vito Alberti, 60, and five associates in a loansharking, gambling and money laundering scheme.

Amid the war over its survival, Waterfront Commission officials have declined to provide documents and data about their operations to the New Jersey State Police.

The letter in February from Hochul’s chief counsel made clear that she believes “there remains the threat of organized crime and corruption at the port.”

Michael Zhadanovsky, a spokesman for Murphy, declined to say whether the New Jersey governor believes the Mafia still corrupts the seaports, but said the New Jersey State Police “is well-equipped to patrol and safeguard our state’s ports.”


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Modern mobsters turned to The Godfather movie for inspiration

 John Gotti, the mafia boss who became known as the Dapper Don, center, followed by Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, the right-hand man who later testified against him. Gravano said that he was influenced in several ways by “The Godfather.”

A table for five at CaSa Bella in Little Italy in the late 1970s included a few mobsters, a girlfriend and the man they knew as Donnie Brasco, actually an undercover F.B.I. agent. There was business to discuss, but then the mood lightened.

“The restaurant’s strolling guitarist came to our table,” the agent, Joseph Pistone, wrote years later in a memoir. The girlfriend spoke up: “Louise requested the theme from ‘The Godfather.’” The guitarist obliged, and even knew the version with words.

Years later, in 2005, two New York mobsters were heard in a recording talking about a third man, Anthony “Ace” Aiello, who was under investigation in a criminal case. “Ace Aiello is like a Luca Brasi,” one mobster told the other, according to a court document. An agent seeking Aiello’s arrest helpfully added in a footnote: “Brasi was a hit man for the fictional Corleone family.”

And in 2018, yet another familiar reference surfaced in a wiretapped call between Joseph Amato, a mobster, and an associate who was set to become a “made man” in a secret ceremony the following day but was in fact a confidential informant. Amato urged the man to dress appropriately.

“You’re gonna look like Barzini, or what?” he asked, a reference to the sharp-dressing Don played in the film by Richard Conte. The informant chuckled, and replied, “Barzini.”

Mario Puzo, who wrote “The Godfather,” has said that the novel’s keenly observed depictions came from his meticulous research. But since the movie premiered half a century ago, this prime example of art imitating Mafia life has gone on to work in the other direction, too. Generations of mobsters have looked to “The Godfather” for inspiration, validation and as a playbook for how to speak and act and dress, as seen in law enforcement wiretaps and through interviews with some of the players themselves.

The infamous former mob enforcer Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, who has admitted to participating in 19 murders, was a young man just entering the world of mobsters when he first saw the film, and he took it as a sign that he was on the right path. “I looked up to them,” he recalled in a telephone interview, “even more than I ever did.”

“It was so true to life,” he said. “Not just the Mafia life, but the parts of being Italian, the wedding, the whole nine yards. It seemed like it was us, Italians, and our heritage.”

At first, the film was viewed as a threat to that heritage. Before filming began in 1971, Anthony Colombo campaigned to purge the words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” from the screenplay on behalf of the Italian-American Civil Rights League, which had been founded by his father, the organized crime figure Joseph A. Colombo Sr. Fearing labor troubles and interference during filming, particularly in New York, the producers agreed.

But soon after the film opened, it was embraced by many in the underworld it depicted.

“Many wiseguys rejoiced in viewing the original film multiple times,” Selwyn Raab, a veteran writer on organized crime, wrote in his definitive tome, “The Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” (2014).

“Federal and local investigators on surveillance duty saw and heard made men and wannabes imitating the mannerisms and language of the screen gangsters,” he wrote. “They endlessly played the movie’s captivating musical score, as if it were their private national anthem, at parties and weddings. The film validated their lifestyles and decisions to join the Mob and accept its credo.”

Mob relatives and associates, and mobsters themselves, have reflected on the way the film electrified them. In a memoir, Lynda Milito, the wife of a mobster who was killed in the 1980s — Gravano has admitted to being present — recalled her husband’s obsession with “The Godfather.”

“Louie got a copy and watched it like six thousand times,” Milito wrote in “Mafia Wife: My Story of Love, Murder, and Madness” (2012). She added that “the guys who came to our house were all acting like ‘Godfather’ actors, kissing and hugging even more than they did before and coming out with lines from the movie.”

Nicolas Pileggi, the author of “Wiseguy” (1985), the book that inspired the film “Goodfellas,” said that Henry Hill, the real-life mobster at the story’s center, once told him about going to see “The Godfather.”

Hill recalled piling into a car with the gangsters who were later played in “Goodfellas” by the actors Paul Sorvino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci to catch an early screening. He told Pileggi he had “felt sort of enlarged by it” and that the movie “was about us.”

“These guys never really had movies that were made about them,” Pileggi said. “They had Edward G. Robinson, Bogart, Jimmy Cagney.”

“The Godfather” and other Mafia movies didn’t just depict the mob, they defined the mob for itself and provided visual and social cues, Diego Gambetta, a sociologist, wrote in “Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate” (2009). “How a real mobster should look, dress and behave are issues for which there is no optimal technical solution,” he wrote, noting that they “cannot for instance devise a company jingle and make it known to everyone without getting caught.”

“Movies,” he wrote, “can accidentally offer some solutions to these problems.”

“The Godfather” offered that and much more to the young Gravano, a boy born in the Italian enclave of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in 1945. A tough kid, he was a member of a neighborhood gang called the Rampers before he joined the U.S. Army at 19. When he came home at 21, he found all his old Rampers pals had joined the Mafia.

A mobster told him, “You’ve got to belong to a family or you can’t do nothing. You can’t own a bar, you can’t own a club, you can’t do nothing,” Gravano recalled.

And so Salvatore Gravano became “Sammy the Bull.” And a couple of years later, in 1972, he saw the movie.

John Gotti, center, enters the Brooklyn Federal courthouse with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano May 1986 in New York City.

“I was stunned,” he said. The movie, and a father figure he admired in the Colombo crime family, put him on a clear path. “My dream was to become a gangster, to be honest with you.”

Gravano would eventually wind up in the Gambino family and rise to No. 2, the underboss to John Gotti, the boss of what was then believed to be America’s most powerful crime family. Along the way, he said, he sometimes found himself looking back to “The Godfather” for guidance.

One scene that stayed with him: when the Corleones sit down with an associate of another family to discuss entering the drug trade. Vito Corleone says no, but his hothead son, Sonny, interjects. Vito laments: “I have a sentimental weakness for my children, and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen.” He then privately scolds Sonny: “Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again.”

That scene imprinted on the young Gravano, who said he had given versions of that order many times. “I would tell people: If you open your mouth, have an opinion to do something, they’ll know you’re a weak link,” he said.

He always related most closely with one character. “I literally see myself as Michael Corleone,” he said. “I was in the military, I came home and I went in the Mafia. I abided by the rules and regulations, I stayed quiet. I stayed a family man with my wife and kids.”

Gravano, who was so moved as a young man by a saga of the Mafia’s allure, went on to play a major role in the organization’s undoing. He became a cooperating federal witness and testified against Gotti and others in return for a five-year prison term and entry into the witness protection program. Gravano blames Gotti, who became known as the “The Dapper Don,” for the whole thing falling apart.

“Gotti, in his flamboyant ways, broke every rule in the book,” he said. “He did more damage to the Mafia than 10 people who cooperated put together. You never saw any Mafioso do what he did.”

Benjamin Brafman, a prominent criminal defense lawyer who has in the past represented defendants in organized crime cases, sees “The Godfather” as a postcard from the past. “It glorified an era I don’t think exists anymore,” he said.

Sammy the Bull would agree. Gravano left witness protection years ago and, turning 77 this month, shares stories from his life in a podcast, “Our Thing,” from a studio outside of Phoenix. He said that he doesn’t envy what passes for today’s mobster, unrecognizable to the Corleones. But he still thinks of the movie.

“Here I am, 100 years later,” he chuckled, “still quoting ‘The Godfather.’”