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

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Federal judge denies request to release 91 year old former Genovese Consigliere for plotting to murder Gambino Boss John Gotti


 

A 91-year-old mobster convicted of putting a hit on John Gotti was denied release from prison by a federal judge.

Louis “Bobby” Manna, a former consigliere of the Genovese crime family, has been imprisoned for more than three decades, following his 1989 conviction for ordering the failed Gotti assassination, and orchestrating the murder of organized-crime figure Irwin “Fat Man” Schiff, NJ.com reported.

After learning of the planned Gotti hit through a wiretap at one of Manna’s hangouts, a restaurant in Hoboken, the FBI warned the Dapper Don, then-boss of the Gambino crime family.

Manna’s attorney, Jeremy Iandolo, argued in an Oct. 20 motion that Manna — who is in poor health — had “paid his debt to society.”

But Judge Peter G. Sheridan rejected the request Nov. 16.

“He was a leader of the Genovese crime family, a role he performed through violence and intimidation,” Sheridan ruled. “His numerous crimes were extremely serious and heinous.”

Manna is serving a sentence of 80 years.

In 1989, following Manna’s conviction, Samuel Alito Jr. — then an assistant U.S. attorney, today a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court — said: “Bobby Manna is the third-ranking figure in the Genovese crime family, which has been the leading force in organized crime in this state for decades through its stranglehold on the unions,” according to the Bergen Record.

He’s behind bars at the Federal Medical Center, Rochester, Minn.

His release date is Nov. 7, 2054 — when Manna would be 124.

https://nypost.com/2021/11/27/jailed-mobster-91-who-put-hit-on-gotti-denied-release/

Monday, November 22, 2021

Former Colombo Consigliere facing additional healthcare fraud scheme charges in New Jersey



Two Florida men have been indicted for their roles in durable medical equipment and compound medication schemes involving kickbacks and fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Thomas Farese, 79, of Delray Beach, Florida, and Domenic J. Gatto Jr., 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, are charged in an 11-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to transact in criminal proceeds, transacting in criminal proceeds, and conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Farese and Gatto played key roles in a scheme to defraud health care benefit programs by offering, paying, soliciting, and receiving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment (DME) without regard to medical necessity, namely orthotic braces. Farese, Gatto, and their conspirators had financial interests in multiple DME companies that paid kickbacks to suppliers of DME orders, in exchange for DME orders. The suppliers, in turn, used telemedicine companies to obtain DME orders without regard to medical necessity. The DME companies owned by Farese and Gatto subsequently fraudulently billed Medicare, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, and other health care benefit programs for the DME orders. The defendants concealed their ownership of the DME companies by using straw owners who were falsely reported to Medicare as the owners of the companies. Gatto also brokered a kickback relationship whereby he received an illegal kickback each time specific DME suppliers provided DME orders to the DME companies controlled by him and his conspirators. Gatto and his conspirators then laundered the proceeds of the scheme through several layers of bank accounts under their control.

Gatto and his conspirators entered into a related kickback scheme involving prescriptions for compounded medications. They agreed that suppliers of compounded medications would receive kickbacks in exchange for submitting the orders to the pharmacies with whom Gatto and his conspirators had relationships. Gatto also agreed with others that he would receive kickbacks from those pharmacies for the compounded medication orders submitted by those suppliers. The compounding pharmacies then billed Medicare for the compounded medication orders.

The defendants caused losses to Medicare, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA of approximately $25 million.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to transact in criminal proceeds, and transacting in criminal proceeds are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison per count. The charge of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison.  he maximum fine for each count is $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greatest.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Scott J. Lampert; the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty; and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri, with the ongoing investigations.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean M. Sherman of the Opioid Abuse Prevention & Enforcement Unit in Newark, Ryan L. O’Neill of the Health Care Fraud Unit in Newark, Senior Trial Counsel Barbara Ward of the Asset Recovery & Money Laundering Unit in Newark, and Trial Attorney Darren Halverson of the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/two-florida-men-indicted-multimillion-dollar-health-care-fraud-schemes

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Lawyer for 91 year old Genovese Consigliere covicted of John Gotti murder conspiracy requests compassionate release


 Louis Manna

The 91-year-old incarcerated mobster, whose been behind bars for more than 30 years after being convicted as a leader of the Genovese crime family and who put out a hit on John Gotti, is making another push to be released from federal prison.

In an emergency motion filed last month seeking compassionate release for Louis “Bobby” Manna, his attorney argued that the aging mobster is slowly dying in a Minnesota medical prison and deserves to spend the rest of his life with his family in Hudson County.

Manna has a “litany of health issues,” Jeremy Iandolo, Manna’s attorney, said during a hearing before a federal judge Thursday, including hypertension and Parkinson’s disease. He can no longer take more than a step or two on his own, the attorney said.

“After 33 years (in prison), the man has paid his debt to society,” said Iandolo, of Brooklyn.

Manna previously applied for compassionate release last year — a motion that was opposed by prosecutors and eventually denied by senior U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan.

Manna is in the midst of an 80-year prison sentence after being convicted in 1989 in New Jersey federal court for his role as the consigliere of the Genovese crime family, as well as placing a hit on mob boss John Gotti and his brother, Gene Gotti, and orchestrating the murder of a crime family associate. Also known as “The Thin Guy,” Manna was seen as one of the most experienced and powerful mob leaders in the country at the time, prosecutors said.

“Manna was a leader in the Genovese family, a street boss, who accomplished (La Cosa Nostra) goals through violence and intimidation,” Judge Sheridan wrote last year when he denied Manna’s motion for compassionate release. “Despite the fact that he is considered ‘frail’ and has some medical issues, the nature of his life as a career criminal and his leadership in the Genovese family outweigh his age and medical issues.”

Sheridan heard arguments Thursday on the latest motion and said he would have a ruling in a week or two.

Manna, who turns 92 in less than a month, was on the telephone for the court hearing Thursday. When asked if he wanted to address the court, Manna struggled to speak and said he would let his attorney speak for him.

Iandolo’s argument for Manna’s release centered around his deteriorating health, but also recent prisoners with similar circumstances to Manna who were freed by federal judges under compassionate release.

The attorney pointed to Eddie David Cox, an 86-year-old former Kansas City mob leader who was released from prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic after more than three decades in prison. Cox was also serving an 80-year sentence.

Iandolo also noted that William Underwood, the leader of a 1970s Harlem heroin trafficking gang who was serving a life sentence, was released by a judge in January. Criminal justice advocates had been pushing for the release of the 67-year-old.

“Why are only Italian Americans getting denied?” Iandolo asked after the hearing Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Ramey told the judge he should stick with his ruling last year in denying Manna compassionate release.

Prosecutors, who have acknowledged that Manna is no longer a threat to society, previously argued that he should remain incarcerated as a deterrence to others. They have remained steadfast that he should serve the sentence he was given, which was to “spend the remainder of his natural life in prison,” prosecutors wrote last year.

Federal authorities once described Manna as “dangerous and evil” and touted his conviction as being a “tremendous blow to organized crime in New Jersey.”

Louis Manna

A breakdown of the Genovese crime family faction in New Jersey in the 1980s, according to the FBI.

During the three-and-a-half month trial in the late 1980s, prosecutors outlined Manna’s role in overseeing gambling, loansharking, and labor racketeering in the region. When federal authorities were able to bug an Italian restaurant in Hoboken, they learned Manna was using his power to take out his enemies.

They learned that he had ordered the 1987 hit on Irwin “The Fat Man” Schiff at a Manhattan restaurant. Manna and other Genovese figures believed Schiff was going to expose their criminal enterprise and would no longer run a more than $25 million money laundering operation for the crime family, according to court documents.

But Manna was planning something even more drastic. Authorities heard Manna select the individuals who were to participate in the “big hit” on Gotti, according to court documents.

“Well we are stuck behind Gotti,” Manna said. “Let’s hit the (expletive).”

A subordinate of Manna’s made it clear: “The f---in’' godfather ain’t getting’ home,” he said, according to court documents.

But federal authorities quickly foiled the plot when they alerted Gotti to the hit, and Manna was then charged in 1988 with crimes that would put him behind bars for decades to come.

Even in custody, Manna was so feared that the court used an anonymous jury, the first time ever in federal court in New Jersey at the time, due to the fear of retaliation for the jurors, according to news reports at the time.

But more than 30 years later, Iandolo has repeatedly argued that Manna is no longer a threat to society and deserves to be released as “his life is nearing the end.”

Iandolo said Manna would live with his stepson in Bayonne if the judge grants his release.

“(He wants to) have the rest of his time to spend with his children, grandchildren and any family that is still alive,” the attorney said.

 https://www.nj.com/news/2021/11/91-year-old-jailed-mobster-who-planned-hit-on-gotti-should-be-freed-attorney-says.html

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Feds stay mum three years after the murder of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger


FILE - In this June 30, 2011 file photo, James "Whitey" Bulger, right, is escorted from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to a waiting vehicle at an airport in Plymouth, Mass., after attending hearings in federal court in Boston. Three years after he was bludgeoned to death in a West Virginia prison, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger. Bulger was 89 when he was fatally beaten in October 2018. (Stuart Cahill/The Boston Herald via AP, File)

He was one of the most infamous criminals ever to be killed behind bars. And investigators narrowed in on suspects immediately after his shocking slaying in a West Virginia prison.

Yet three years later, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger. Questions such as why the well-known FBI informant was put in the troubled lockup’s general population alongside other New England gangsters — instead of more protective housing — remain unanswered.

Federal officials will say only that his death remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the lack of answers has only fueled rumors and spurred claims by Bulger’s family that the frail 89-year-old was “deliberately sent to his death” at the penitentiary nicknamed “Misery Mountain.”

“This was really a dereliction of duty,” said Joe Rojas, a union representative for the correctional staff at the Florida prison where Bulger was held before being transferred to USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. “There’s no way he should have been put in that institution.”

Some of the families of Bulger’s victims, however, feel differently.

Steven Davis said holding someone accountable in the killing of the man accused of strangling to death his 26-year-old sister, Debra Davis, in 1981 doesn’t change anything for him and other families.

“He had what was coming to him and it didn’t come soon enough,” the 64-year-old Boston-area resident said. “He’s where he should have been a long time ago — in the dirt.”

Bulger was found dead on Oct. 30, 2018, hours after arriving at Hazelton from the Coleman prison in Florida, where he was serving a life sentence for participating in 11 killings. The ruthless gangster who spent 16 years on the lam before being captured in 2011 was assaulted and died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to his death certificate.

Federal officials have never officially publicly identified any suspects and have said only that they are investigating his death as a homicide.

But shortly after the killing, a former federal investigator and a law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity because of the ongoing probe identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

Geas, a Mafia hitman serving life behind bars for his role in the killing of a Genovese crime family boss and other violent crimes, has been in a restricted unit at the West Virginia prison since Bulger’s killing even though no charges have been filed, said his lawyer, Daniel Kelly.

Kelly says Geas hasn’t been provided regular reviews to see if he can be released from the unit but has petitioned to be returned to the general prison population, where he’d enjoy more freedoms, including the ability to call his family more often.

“He’s remaining positive and upbeat, but it’s a punitive measure,” Kelly said. “It’s a prison within a prison.”

DeCologero, meanwhile, was moved earlier this year to another high-security penitentiary in Virginia. A member of a Massachusetts gang led by his uncle, DeCologero was convicted in 2006 of racketeering and witness tampering for a number of crimes and is scheduled to be released in 2026.

Brian Kelly, one of the federal prosecutors in Bulger’s 2013 murder trial in Boston, said the delays may indicate prison officials don’t have any witnesses or video evidence to support charges.

“In a prison environment they are going to have a tough time finding any witnesses to testify as to who did it,” said Kelly, now a defense attorney.

A spokesperson for the federal prosecutors’ office in West Virginia that’s investigating Bulger’s killing along with the FBI confirmed this month that the investigation remains open. The spokesperson, Stacy Bishop, refused to answer further questions, saying doing so could jeopardize the probe.

Bulger’s transfer to Hazelton — where workers had already been sounding the alarm about violence and understaffing — and placement within the general population despite his notoriety was widely criticized by observers after his killing.

A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press in 2018 that Bulger had been transferred to Hazelton because of disciplinary issues. Months before he was moved, Bulger threatened an assistant supervisor at Coleman, telling her “your day of reckoning is coming,” and received 30 days in disciplinary detention.

Some answers may come in a federal lawsuit filed in West Virginia by Bulger’s family. A trial has been set for February in the case, where prison system officials are accused of failing to protect Bulger from other inmates.

The lawsuit — filed on the two-year anniversary of his killing against the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the former Hazelton warden and others — says prison system officials were well aware that Bulger had been labeled a “snitch” and that his life was at heightened risk behind bars. Bulger strongly denied ever being an informant.

“USP Hazelton by all accounts was not an appropriate placement of James Bulger and was, in fact, recognized as so inappropriate, the appearance is that he was deliberately sent to his death” by the defendants, the lawsuit says.

The family is seeking damages for Bulger’s physical and emotional pain and suffering, as well as for wrongful death. Lawyers representing the family declined to comment and calls to William Bulger, a former Massachusetts Senate president and president of the University of Massachusetts who administers his late brother’s estate, went unreturned this week.

Justice Department lawyers urged the judge in court documents filed this month to dismiss the claim, saying Bulger’s family “cannot allege that BOP skipped some mandatory, procedural directive” in transferring him to Hazelton or putting him in the general population.

Attorneys for the individual defendants said in another legal filing that the lawsuit “makes no mention of Bulger objecting to his transfer” or “ever requesting protective custody or expressing concern for his safety” upon arriving at Hazelton.

Justice Department lawyers pointed to a declaration from an executive assistant at Hazelton that says staff interviewed Bulger the night of his arrival and reviewed other records to determine if there were non-medical reasons for keeping Bulger out of the general population.

An intake screening form signed by Bulger that was filed in court says that he was asked such questions as: “Do you know of any reason that you should not be placed in general population?” and “have you assisted law enforcement agents in any way?” Both questions were marked “NO.”

https://www.masslive.com/news/2021/10/whitey-bulgers-death-3-years-later-still-no-charges-filed-in-boston-mobsters-killing.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Aging Colombo Boss posts $10M bail while another is denied compassionate release


Andrew “Mush” Russo in 1996.

The wheels of justice spun in different directions Wednesday for a pair of octogenarian Colombo crime family bosses.

Current leader Andrew “Mush” Russo, charged in a lucrative and long-running mob union shakedown, won his freedom with a $10 million bond while his long-imprisoned Colombo predecessor Victor “Little Vic” Orena was denied compassionate release despite his fast-deteriorating health in separate Brooklyn Federal Court rulings.

Russo, 87, secured his home detention from Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak in part with properties worth $7 million, although his earliest taste of freedom would be Thursday once the paperwork is complete and a prosecution doctor conducts an evaluation, officials said. Pollak found Russo posed no threat to the community due to his health issues, including some form of dementia.

“If they want to get some more doctors to reach the same conclusion, they’re certainly welcome to do that,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. “He’s also been shackled by both ankles to a bed 24 hours a day and the government told the judge that Andrew was receiving ‘excellent around the clock care.’

“That didn’t fly either.”

Mobster Victor Orena leaving 26 Federal Plaza with FBI agents.

Orena, the family boss during a bloody internal family war where 15 people died in the early ‘90s, was kept behind bars by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Eric Komitee despite the 87-year-old gangster’s myriad health woes — including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, glaucoma and heart problems.

Orena will remain inside the Federal Medical Center Devers in Massachusetts after the judge’s 10-page Wednesday decision.

“A strain of cases ... has emerged in which the offenders’ criminal history is so long, and their victims so numerous, that even serious health conditions do not suffice to merit relief,” the judge wrote. “This case falls squarely in that category.”

One of the those slain during the mob war was an innocent 17-year-old shot six times while working behind the counter of a Bay Ridge bagel shop.

The Orena faction battled forces loyal to then-jailed Colombo boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, with Russo moving into the top spot after Persico’s death in 2019. Orena’s attorney, in a hearing earlier this month, said the deranged ex-boss was now convinced that he was president of the United States.

Russo, under terms of his release, would remain under home detention, GPS monitoring, phone monitoring and a ban on contact with his 13 co-defendants or anyone else affiliated with La Cosa Nostra.

Prosecutors were permitted to have one of their doctors evaluate Russo in hopes the judge will reverse her decision. In court papers opposing his release, the feds cited Russo’s appearance last year at a gathering of the family hierarchy and his hosting of a meeting with two Colombo co-defendants this past March in his Long Island home.

“Releasing the defendant on the terms proposed by defense counsel would return him to his home, from where he carried out much of charged conduct, and give him the full resources of the Colombo crime family,” prosecutors argued in court papers.

In the Orena case, his history of failing health fell far short of swaying Komitee.

“I have considered Orena’s arguments ... (and) I am left with the inescapable conclusion that any sentence short of the life term imposed ... would insufficiently reflect the seriousness of the offense conduct here and fail to provide just punishment,” he wrote.

Orena’s son Andrew said the family’s attorney would appeal the decision, while acknowledging his sickly father was running out of time.

“Yes, he’s in bad shape,” said Andrew Orena. “So we’re forced to do it this way. So we’ll see. We have to push.”

Komitee described Vic Orena as “a singular figure in the annals of the Colombo family” — which traces its roots to the legendary boss Joe Colombo.

“He rose to a leadership role, becoming acting boss in 1988, and his efforts to cling to power triggered a bloody war,” the judge wrote. “Orena oversaw a campaign of violence that resulted in a swath of death and serious injury.”

And he noted the difference between Orena and other mobsters granted shorter sentences despite their roles in organized crime violence, including Colombo capo Greg Scarpa and Bonanno family boss Joseph “Big Joe” Massino.

“These cases generally involved high-ranking defendants who elected to cooperate with the government, at serious risk to themselves,” Komitee found.

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-colombo-mob-boss-orena-compassionate-release-20211027-p4alrthlkbgh7f7rhr2pevs3h4-story.html#nt=pf-single%20chain~top-left-chain~flex%20feature~curated~colombo-212p~P4ALRTHLKBGH7F7RHR2PEVS3H4~1~1~2~5~art%20yes

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The FBI is loving all these new mafia podasts



To join the Mafia, one must take an oath of omertà, the code of silence that’s meant to keep information about business dealings within the family. Breaking it is a crime punishable by death, but, these days, a lot of mafiosi are speaking pretty freely. Take Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the Gambino family underboss in the late eighties, who was involved in at least nineteen murders during his tenure as John Gotti’s right-hand man. He now makes an honest living podcasting from the Phoenix suburbs, where he relocated after spending seventeen and a half years at a supermax prison. In an unhurried Bensonhurst accent, Gravano, now seventy-six years old, recounts his biggest hits (such as the one carried on the Mob boss Paul Castellano, Gotti’s predecessor), and his own infamous breach of omertà: the 1992 court testimony that sent Gotti to prison for life.

Back in New York City, another ex-hit man who worked for Gotti, John Alite, blends tales of his “six murders, more than eight shootings, and dozens of baseball battings” with inspirational advice for youth on his “Mafia Truths” podcast. Meanwhile, Jimmy Calandra, a notorious enforcer for the Bonanno family—reportedly the most brutal of the Five Families who controlled organized crime in New York—insults various “fat rat scumbags” and “stone-cold losers” on his YouTube series, “A Bath Avenue Story.” Those in search of cleaner fare might check out “The Sit Down with Michael Franzese,” an interview show in which the Colombo capo turned Orange County motivational speaker chats with celebrities and offers movie reviews and life-style tips to his viewers. (No. 1: “Fly under the radar.”)

The growing glut of Mob content, with its mix of graphic violence, relationship drama, and aspirational wealth, has carved out a natural niche for itself in our reality-TV and true-crime landscape. Gravano’s podcast, launched last year, boasts more than four hundred thousand subscribers; Franzese’s “Sit Downs” sometimes garner more than a million views each—roughly equal to the number of opening-weekend streams received by the “Many Saints of Newark” (which, according to Franzese, made Italian Americans “look like degenerates”). But the genre has drawn, alongside the usual true-crime obsessives, a more surprising set of devotees: F.B.I. agents, looking for a deeper understanding of some of the biggest cases of their careers.

“I spend hours and hours listening to these wise guys,” the retired special agent Bill Fleisher told me, the other day. Fleisher, who lives in New Jersey, spent most of the nineteen-seventies working on organized-crime squads in New York, Boston, and Detroit. “I could talk to them, I could polygraph them, I knew how they operated—but I could never get in their heads,” he said. “That’s why I like these podcasts. I’m beginning, like a shrink, to understand their thinking.”

Most of the mobsters sharing their stories today have cooperated with authorities in the past and now have legal immunity that allows them to speak openly about their crimes (those to which they have confessed, anyway). In the process of telling those stories, they often reveal answers to questions that have stumped law enforcement for years. “Instead of us going into prison and interviewing Sammy the Bull—how convenient, he starts his own podcast,” James R. Fitzgerald, a former F.B.I. profiler and another dedicated listener, said, from his house in Maryland. “If you watch and listen to enough of them, you can pick up on the trajectory of where they’re going, and maybe even solve some of those old crimes.”

The other afternoon, Fitzgerald, Fleisher, and I gathered on Zoom to watch a YouTube video of Sammy the Bull’s podcast “Our Thing,” a reference to the Cosa Nostra. Neither agent had met Gravano personally, but, having tracked his and his family’s dealings so closely, they both felt like they knew him as well as an old friend. In the clip’s opening animation, a bull charges through a concrete wall before Gravano appears, seated in a leather chair, in a recording studio outfitted with a fireplace, a neon bull glowing above the mantel. On the walls are framed portraits of the crime bosses Al Capone and Charles (Lucky) Luciano, and the actor James Cagney, known for his iconic portrayals of gangsters onscreen. Our host, small and wiry, is dressed in a white T-shirt and slacks.

“I’m glad to see Sammy in more traditional garb,” Fitzgerald said. “Back in the late eighties, early nineties, when I was dealing with these guys, the Adidas running suits or sweatsuits were the big uniform of the day.” (To be fair, in the video, Gravano was still wearing a pinky ring and gold chain.)

The podcast is focussed on one of the biggest investigations in F.B.I. history: the 1989 murder of an undercover D.E.A. agent by a low-level Mafia associate. “This is one of those pretty heavy stories that I really shouldn’t talk about,” Gravano begins. He starts by describing the associate: “There was a guy named Gus Farace. . . . Real tough guy, big guy, steroid freak, big ,huge fuckin’ body, arms, fairly good-lookin’ guy.” (“He was played by Tony Danza in the made-for-TV movie,” Fitzgerald pointed out.) Gravano explains that Farace had met the undercover D.E.A. agent, Everett Hatcher, on a Staten Island overpass to sell him some cocaine. But something unsettled Farace. “He started thinking this guy may have been an undercover, not cop, but an undercover informant,” Gravano says. “They must have had words in the car, and he shot and killed him.”

Farace went on the lam and the F.B.I. cracked down on every family in the Cosa Nostra, raiding their clubs and gambling rings, arresting parolees for any minor infraction, in an effort to extract information about Farace’s whereabouts. “Everyone in this game knew the rules had been changed,” Fitzgerald explained. “We don’t kill them. They don’t kill us.” Farace, who wasn’t even a made guy, had “violated rule No. 1,” so the Mafia “knew it was hard times ahead for them.”

According to Gravano, one day, the F.B.I. knocked on his door, and ordered him to track down Farace: “ ‘Sammy, we want you to tell John Gotti that we want this guy found, and we don’t care how.’ The way they said it,” Gravano continues, “I just had to ask the question: ‘Are you asking me to kill him?’ ”

“ ‘No, no, Sammy,’ ” the agent supposedly responded. “ ‘No, we’re not going there. We don’t give a fuck how he’s found.’ ”

Gravano didn’t buy it. (Or, maybe he didn’t want to buy it.) “There would be nothing better for me to do for the government than to kill somebody for them,” he tells his audience. “That would give me a license to do whatever the fuck I felt like doing.” He goes on, “They checked themselves right away. But that was the message.”

Fitzgerald interrupted: “We honestly didn’t want that,” he said. “We wanted to put this guy on trial, and maybe even to flip him and get information.”

“But it tells you how Sammy’s mind works,” Fleisher added. “As a wise guy, a lot of his orders, given and taken, are done by nods, innuendo, double-entendres.” If a boss describes a guy as “ ‘always smiling,’ that could be a message to go knock his teeth out.”

In any case, the two sides had certainly entered “a very strange situation,” Fitzgerald said. “The F.B.I. and the Mob are both looking for Gus, and who’s gonna get him first?” The Mob, it turned out. Nine months after the Hatcher murder, Farace was found, shot dead, in the streets. “The moral of the story is, this kid did not belong to us in the Mafia,” Gravano concludes. “If you like this story, press Like, subscribe.”

After the episode ended, I asked the agents what they would ask Sammy if they had the chance. Fitzgerald said he’d ask him why he flipped on Gotti: “You violated the most sacred code of all, omertà,” he said. “What did one F.B.I. agent say to you to convince you to give it all up?”

A few days later, I called Gravano up to ask him why he broke with omertà back in the day, and why he’s still spilling Mafia secrets now. “I want my children and grandchildren to know my truth—good, bad, and ugly,” he said. Plus, “it’s a good way to earn.” As for flipping on Gotti, “We were brothers,” he told me. “I killed for him. I rigged trials.” But when Gotti got caught on tape implicating Gravano in multiple murders, that was the end. Gotti told Sammy that he’d have to do the time so that Gotti could go free. “I walked from that meeting and said, ‘Fuck John, fuck the Mafia,’ and I quit.”

“The agents Frank [Spero] and Matty [Tricorico] who were assigned to me, they were always around me,” Gravano said. At Christmas, he would bring coffee and cookies to their car while they staked out his house. “I trusted them. I liked them.” So when he needed to talk, he turned to the agents, who were more than happy to listen. They still are.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/why-the-fbi-loves-mob-podcasts

Feds say recorded prison phone calls show Colombo Underboss is conducting mafia business from jail


Benjamin "The Claw" Castellazzo

Within days of being arrested at a New Jersey nursing home, federal authorities accused the octogenarian underboss of the Colombo crime family of still conducting mob business inside a New York jail.

In three recorded phone calls from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo, 84, told a woman to have a member of his family pass a message to other members of the Colombo crime family at a Brooklyn garage reportedly used for mob business, asked associates for money and directed a family member to remove items from his apartment and discard of his cell phone, federal authorities wrote in a detention memo.

The Brooklyn garage is where authorities said Castellazzo, a Manahawkin resident, often did business with other members of the Colombo crime family as they engaged in a conspiracy to take control of a New York City-based labor union.

Castellazzo has been indicted on a number of charges related to his role as the “number two” of the crime family, including racketeering, extortion and money laundering conspiracies, conspiracy to steal and embezzle health benefit funds, and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, among other charges, officials said.

Prosecutors used the phone calls to argue that Castellazzo should be held without bail. They said the calls show Castellazzo continues to associate with Colombo crime family members and that as the underboss, he still has the means to orchestrate mob business, despite his age and numerous health conditions.

“In short, the defendant has the capabilities to direct (and clearly has directed) others to take actions for him,” prosecutors wrote in arguing for his detention throughout the case.

A judge ultimately ruled last week to deny Castellazzo bail, citing his lengthy criminal history and his continued association with Colombo members.

“He’s continuing to affiliate with other individuals who are charged with serious crimes that arise out of that meeting,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara said at the bail hearing.

Bulsara said he was particularly troubled by Castellazzo’s demand that a family member discard his cell phone and other items. He called it “highly problematic.”

Prosecutors detailed the call in their detention memo:

Castellazzo: Did you find what you had to find? ... No, but what I’m saying, did you?

Family member: Yea, that I took yea.

Castellazzo: Oh, okay, all right that’s what I’m talking about, ha, all right, okay.

Family member: Yea, yea, they, ha, like I said, yup, I got it.

Castellazzo: . . . with my cellphone, when you get it, just throw it away

Prosecutors also said the other two calls detailed his continued involvement with the Colombo crime family.

Castellazzo’s attorney argued the phone calls were relatively standard after someone is arrested.

“Give it to [name], tell him to get in touch with my friend [name], okay? And for him, to tell somebody in the garage, he’ll know what I’m talking about, to send me money, they gotta do it through western union...and tell him, to ah, did he do everything that I told him to do?,” Castellazzo could be heard saying in the phone call on Sept. 17, three days after he was arrested.

In another call, he also directed another woman female to meet with the same member of the Colombo crime family on his behalf, according to the recorded phone calls.

Castellazzo’s attorney Jennifer Louis-Jeune said nearly all of her clients call family or friends and ask for money on their commissary after being arrested.

Though prosecutors said, “it’s not what’s being said, it’s who he’s communicating with and what he’s asking for.”

Louis-Jeune downplayed the recorded phone calls.

“As far as the phone calls that the government cites to, the government’s interpretation of these calls is just that. It’s the government’s interpretation. And I think that these calls could be easily explained in other ways,” she said, adding that Castellazzo knew they would be recorded.

She also argued that Castellazzo should be released on strict bail conditions, citing his age, lack of financial means to flee and lack of proper medical care at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a jail notorious for troubling conditions.

Castellazzo has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1959, when he was sentenced to a four-to-eight-year prison sentence following a conviction for grand larceny after he was involved in a theft, with others, of a tractor trailer truck containing carpeting, according to court documents.

More convictions and prison terms would follow and by 2002, federal authorities identified Castellazzo as a captain of the Colombo crime family. After serving yet another prison term, court documents in 2008 named him as the underboss. He was last released from federal prison in 2015.

While the judge considering bail in Castellazzo’s latests charges agreed that conditions at the Brooklyn detention center are “horrific, horrendous, despicable, untenable,” he ordered him to remain jailed noting that Castellazzo is not the ordinary 84-year-old his attorney was making him out to be.

“Getting rid of a cell phone, directing the people meet up at a certain place, do certain things, it’s not clear at all that it has the kind of innocent characteristics that you would suggest,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara said of Castellazzo.

https://www.nj.com/news/2021/10/inside-the-criminal-life-of-the-83-year-old-mob-underboss-from-nj-known-as-the-claw.html

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021

Powerful Colombo Captain who claimed he ran Staten Island is sentenced to six years in prison


https://www.casino.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/amato.jpg

A reputed Colombo crime family captain who authorities said was a ruthless force on Staten Island during his reign will be spending more time behind bars than he hoped after he was dished a nearly-six-year prison sentence in Brooklyn federal court Thursday.

Joseph Amato Sr., 62, a Colts Neck, N.J., resident who earlier this year pleaded guilty to shaking down two people and stalking his then-girlfriend with a GPS tracking device on the borough, was given minimal sympathy by federal Judge Brian M. Cogan, who called the defendant’s attributes “almost as bad as they can possibly be.”
Garbed in a blue shirt and green pants, Amato mostly sat quiet in court as his lawyer, Scott E. Leemon, fervently argued the conditions at the Brooklyn federal jail where his client has been for the past two years are “barbaric.”

Those conditions, Leemon contended, should warrant a more lenient sentence of 63 months — the bottom of the suggested federal guidelines for the crimes considered in the court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes argued Amato, who previously served time in prison for his association with organized crime, “doesn’t hesitate to use violence to get what he wants” and has made a series of decisions that has warranted his reputation as a “fearsome mobster.”

“In virtually all of those choices, he has put the goals of the Colombo crime family at the top,” said Geddes.

Prosecutors said Amato “is never going to leave the mafia” and pointed to his willingness to involve his own son, Joseph Amato Jr., in criminal activities as evidence of his dedication to the criminal organization.
Amato Jr. previously pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to extort a loan borrower. The two were among 20 suspects, including 17 borough residents, indicted in Brooklyn federal court in October 2019.

While the two parties could not come to an agreement on the proposed sentencing guidelines for the case (the government believed the sentencing range should be between 70 and 80 months while Leemon calculated it to be between 63 and 78 months), Cogan, who has the right to depart from those suggestions, said the guidelines mattered “very little” in his decision.
Cogan said he considered parting upward past the range of 70 months, noting, “I’ve got to say, there’s a lot of reasons to do it.” However, the conditions at the federal prison ultimately factored into his final verdict, he said.
And while Leemon mentioned Amato Sr.’s “productive” time in prison, which included working and feeding other inmates, Cogan said, “those things pale in comparison to the life he chose for himself.”
Additionally, as prosecutors noted, the stalking charge Amato Sr. pleaded guilty to was not included in the proposed guidelines.
The alleged Colombo captain, who tracked his then-girlfriend in 2015 and 2016 by placing a GPS tracking device in her car, regularly retrieving and recharging it to reposition it on the vehicle, once emailed the woman, “This is my Island, not yours,” referencing Staten Island. “I have eyes all over,” he said.
Excluding that charge from the guidelines, Cogan said, gave Amato Sr. “a real break.” And while the capo took responsibility for the crimes, the federal judge said he had no belief the defendant was capable of believing his crimes were inherently wrong.
“Everything about him suggests incorrigibility,” Cogan said at the sentencing.

NO CONTACT WITH ORGANIZED CRIME
In addition to the five-year-and-10-month sentence, Cogan ordered one year of supervised release that included no contact with any members of organized crime groups.
That point drew a line of contention from the defense lawyer, Leemon, who requested the man’s son be excluded from that restriction.
Prosecutors opposed lifting that rule, citing the pair’s actions together, while Leemon suggested Amato Jr. “changed” his life around.
Ultimately, Cogan determined the two could only engage in monitored conversations with a third party present.
In addition, Amato Sr. must forfeit just over $60,000, the court said.
While he has a right to appeal, Leemon said his client will “probably not” file that paperwork.

https://www.silive.com/crime-safety/2021/10/this-is-my-island-not-yours-alleged-mob-capo-once-threatened-now-hes-off-to-prison-after-rebuke-from-judge.html

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Alzheimer's has former Acting Boss of the Colombo family thinking he is the President of the United States


 Victor Orena leaving 26 Federal Plaza with two unidentified FBI agents and Agent R. Lindley DeVecchio (right) in a file photo.

Vic Orena went from leading the Colombo crime family to thinking he’s the president of the United States, his lawyer revealed Wednesday.

The lawyer for the Alzheimer’s stricken ex-boss of the crime family called for the mafioso’s compassionate release from prison, revealing the mobster sometimes believes he’s the commander-in-chief or running the military because of the degenerative disease.

Orena, who now uses a wheelchair and turned 87 in August, is “a shell of a man,” his attorney David Schoen said at a Brooklyn Federal Court hearing.

“Mr. Orena is completely unable to self-care. The delusions have been there for quite a while. Mr. Orena does not know who he is or where he is.”

When not laying claim to the White House, said Schoen, the octogenarian Orena — known during his reign as acting boss of the Colombos as “Little Vic” — believes he is the warden of the facility where he remains imprisoned, the Federal Medical Center Devens in Massachusetts.

According to Schoen, Orena contracted COVID-19 in prison and then declared the pandemic was a conspiracy conjured up by President Biden. Orena is now unable to walk on his own or use the bathroom without help, the lawyer said.

While federal prosecutors did not dispute Orena’s myriad health issues, they argued that the venerable gangster should remain behind bars because he could still pose the threat of violence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Lash referenced the bloody Colombo family war of the early 1990s, with the Orena faction squaring off with supporters of imprisoned boss Carmine Persico.

“He instigated a conflict that injured 28 people and claimed 12 lives,” Lash said about the mob war that ended with Orena’s Dec. 22, 1992, conviction for racketeering, murder and other charges. He was hit with a staggering three life sentences plus 85 years in federal prison, with family members fighting in recent years for his release as Orena’s health continued to fail.

Judge Eric Komitee did not rule from the bench on the appeal for compassionate release for the frail Orena, head of a large family with five sons and 20 grandkids.

Schoen, in addressing the judge, claimed his client was drawn into the mob war that landed him behind bars through the efforts of allegedly corrupt FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio, who was reportedly aligned with the Persico loyalists.

“In the history of the FBI and the Justice Department, the misconduct in this case was unprecedented. ... It’s as if we don’t have a fully developed record of what happened there. The agent who testified as the expert witness in the Orena case was indicted for murders,” Schoen said of DeVecchio.

“I think the judge is forcing us to put everything on the table. It needs to be exposed” said Orena’s son Andrew Orena, 59, who was in court Wednesday. “Unfortunately, it’s not the time frame we would want.”

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-orena-court-hearing-20211013-6pllg3cq6fhmpigvakm4fxj5re-story.html

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Former Underboss of the Gambino family linked to John Gotti dies in prison serving life sentence


 Former Gambino underboss Frank LoCascio.

A Gambino crime family underboss famed for professing his loyalty to John Gotti as they were convicted at a murder and racketeering trial has finished his life prison sentence.

Frank LoCascio, who was 89, died Friday at FMC Devens in Massachusetts, which houses federal prisoners with health issues.

“I am guilty of being a good friend of John Gotti,” the defiant underboss famously said in court in 1992 after he was found guilty of racketeering. “If there was more men like John Gotti, we would have a better country.”

“Frankie Loc” LoCascio and the Dapper Don were nabbed in 1991 and charged in a sprawling racketeering case in which they were caught on tape discussing criminal activity — including murder — in the apartment of an old widow who lived above Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry St. in Manhattan.

Gotti was convicted of murder and racketeering at the same trial as LoCascio. Gotti was nicknamed the Teflon Don for beating the rap in several criminal cases during the 1980s, but his conviction with LoCascio was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

LoCascio’s daughter, Lisa LoCascio, told the Daily News that her father never complained during his 31 years in prison — and that he never snitched.

“That means something,” she said. “I won’t explain it to you.”

She said her dad was a favorite among the staff at Devens and that he called her last Monday to say his goodbyes to the family.

“He said the things you say to your daughter when you choose your daughter to be the last phone call you’re going to make,” LoCascio said.

She rushed to the Massachusetts prison and held her father in her arms singing him Frank Sinatra as he took his final breaths.

A made guy for 35 years when he was busted by the feds, LoCascio was a consummate gangster, and took his life sentence without testifying for the government. He was Gotti’s underboss from 1987 to his arrest in 1991.

LoCascio helped Gotti carry out the murder of Gambino family member Louis “Jelly Belly” DiBono in 1990, who was shot in the head with three .25-caliber bullets in his Cadillac in the parking garage of the twin towers.

Gotti wanted DiBono dead because the Gambino soldier once refused to come meet with him when he called.

“He didn’t do nothing else wrong,” Gotti said on the wiretap with LoCascio in the room. “He’s gonna get killed because he, he disobeyed coming.”

LoCascio also bribed an NYPD detective for confidential information, hatched an ultimately unsuccessful plan to kill someone the Gambino family thought might snitch, and obstructed the investigation into the 1985 murder of then-Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

While he remained silent on the tapes about the DiBono killing, prosecutors argued that his mere presence in the room when Gotti hatched the rubout plans made him him guilty, since his job as underboss was to advise Gotti and, where necessary, correct him.

Gotti and LoCascio’s fates were sealed by turncoat mobster Sammy “Bull” Gravano, who was initially indicted with them, but turned rat in the weeks leading up to the 1992 trial.

Fast forward 27 years, however, and Gravano changed his story, arguing that LoCascio had not wanted DiBono killed.

Gambino turncoat Gravano, who admitted to a role in 19 gangland killings, provided a declaration in November 2018 asserting LoCascio “had no role in the planning of, nor did he participate in any way in the murder.”

But Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Leo Glasser, who presided over the 1992 trial, would have none of it and rejected LoCascio’s late-in-life bid for freedom.

“LoCascio’s utter silence upon that stark pronouncement bespeaks a wordless assent,” wrote Glasser, affirming the conviction. “That wordless assent was to a death sentence on DiBono, not because he committed a crime but worse — only because he did not come in when called by John Gotti.”

Gotti died of throat cancer behind bars in 2002.

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-gambino-underboss-frank-locascio-john-gotti-dead-20211005-2fddomao3fdfhnv2xsskbudb6m-story.html

Monday, October 4, 2021

Modern day mob plagued by management problems and lousy recruits


Andrew Russo

The kiss of death for mob families isn’t necessarily from gang wars or snitches. These days, organized crime is further threatened by mismanagement, lousy hires, and half-baked succession plans.

Former mob investigators point to the case against Andrew Russo, the man federal prosecutors say heads the Colombo crime family, one of the five gangster clans that ruled the New York underworld for much of the last century.

The alleged management problems of the Colombo leader seem to mirror those of Tony Soprano, the fictional boss of the television mafia who struggled to choose a successor and keep his hands off the dirty work.

Mr. Russo was arrested on September 14 in a crippling takedown of the Colombo family’s executive leaders and middle managers. Prosecutors said in court documents that Mr. Russo, his deputy chief, consigliere, several captains and other subordinates carried out an alleged scheme for two decades to extort money from a New York City union and related health fund.

In hindsight, Russo’s executive mistakes included micromanaging subordinates and, at 87, hanging on to his job too long, said Scott Curtis, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated the family operation for years.

“I can’t walk away. I can’t rest, ”Russo said in one of his conversations secretly recorded by the FBI over the years and revealed in court documents.

Curtis, who is not involved in the court case, said Russo did not follow the best business practices established by past generations of bosses: maintaining a healthy distance between mischief and boss.

Russo, nicknamed “Mush,” was too practical, Curtis said. Prosecutors said in court documents that the alleged Colombo leader, who has seven previous convictions, knew the heart of the alleged crackdown.

“That’s why you see some of these guys getting arrested repeatedly,” said Curtis, who now works as vice president of investigations at Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. “They have to get their hands on all these minute details of the plan. “

That predisposes them to failure, he said, that is, to jail. Mr. Russo has pleaded not guilty to nine criminal charges, including charges spanning racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy.

Curtis said the high-level micromanagement in the Colombo case reflected concerns about the incompetence of lower-level members.

A new generation of savants did not properly learn the business, according to former government researchers. Older members complain that millennials, who grew up in the suburbs rather than on city streets, are softer, dumber, and not as loyal as gangsters of the past. Also, they are always texting.

“Everything is on the phones with them,” said a former Colombo family member who knows some of the men accused in the case. A Colombo associate is accused of sending threatening text messages to a union official over extortion charges.

“Hey, this is the second text, there is not going to be a third,” wrote the associate, according to court records.

“I’m sure that’s frowned upon in mob circles,” former FBI agent and crisis management consultant Richard Frankel said of what appeared to be incriminating texts.

In the mid-20th century, the five New York mob families “operated like a McDonald’s franchise,” said Jerold Zimmerman, professor emeritus at the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.

Illegal businesses, such as gambling houses, trafficking in illicit goods and corruption involving unions and construction companies, are operated independently, he said. Those in charge paid a portion of the proceeds to the boss, who kept the peace and handed out promotions, said Dr. Zimmerman, one of the authors of a book on business practices in New York criminal families.

One reason for the mafia’s decline is the FBI’s prosecution of organized crime in the 1980s and 1990s, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of hundreds of experts. All five families are still operating, but their market reach has been reduced and membership has suffered.

Gangsters are trying to keep a low profile by reducing violence. “They certainly don’t kill people like they used to,” said Michael Gaeta, a former FBI agent who spent 13 years investigating organized crime in New York. “At the end of the day, it draws too much heat.”

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York lobbied to keep Mr. Russo behind bars while awaiting trial by presenting transcripts of recordings that they allege show him as a danger to society. Jeffrey Lichtman, Russo’s attorney, said the recordings were more than a decade old.

“In terms of danger, he’s an 87-year-old man and they are relying on tapes from 11 years ago,” Lichtman said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Some alleged Colombo members appear to have been pining for an administrative shakeup, court documents show.

Prosecutors allege that Colombo leaders at a meeting at a Brooklyn restaurant last year decided that Russo would eventually be replaced by Theodore Persico Jr., the nephew of Carmine “The Snake” Persico, a long-time suspected Colombo crime boss. Mr. Persico died while serving a sentence in federal prison two years ago at age 85.

Persico Jr., also a defendant in the current case, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said a recording of the investigation captured a suspected Colombo soldier saying extortion from the union would be “easy” once Persico took control of the family. “The guy is the best man in the world to deal with,” she said, according to transcripts of court documents.

In another transcribed recording, the soldier regretted that Mr. Russo had no intention of resigning. “The problem is that this old man wanted to be the boss all his life,” he said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/lousy-management-knucklehead-hires-plague-operations-of-real-life-sopranos-11633360973?mod=searchresults_pos1&page=1

Inside the life of 83 year old Colombo Underboss known as The Claw


SO-POORANOS! Trailer-park mob slob says he's living on food stamps! - New  York Daily News

Accused mob underboss Benjamin Castellazzo is known as the “Claw” because he gets his hands on everything.

It started in the 1950s when he was convicted for hijacking a carpeting truck and continued in the decades since.

But when he appeared before a federal judge in New York in 2013 to be sentenced as the underboss of the Colombo crime family on a racketeering charge, which included extortion over a pizza sauce recipe of a famed Brooklyn pizzeria, Castellazzo said he was done with the life of crime.

He was 75, his wife of 58 years had health issues and he wanted to live out his final years in New Jersey with his two children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The claws would be retired, he promised.

“I have reflected on my life during the last two years I have been in jail since my arrest. I can tell your honor without hesitation, I am not proud of the life I have led,” Castellazzo wrote to the judge before being sentenced to 63 months in prison. “...I can tell your honor in all sincerity that you will never see me before this or any court of law again.”

He was released from federal prison in 2015, but the feds came calling once again last month.

Castellazzo, now 83, was indicted once again as the underboss of the Colombo crime family on a number of charges related to its long-running scheme to take control of a New York City-based labor union. Federal authorities have pinpointed Castellazzo as the man in charge of the matter recently.

He was denied bail and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Castellazzo has pleaded not guilty to the latest charges.

“Mr. Castellazzo plans to fight the charges against him,” his attorney, Jennifer R. Louis-Jeune, said in a statement. She did not respond to additional requests for comment.

The 19-count indictment unsealed in the Eastern District of New York delivered a blow to the Colombo crime family as its administration (the boss, underboss and consigliere) were all charged in connection with the conspiracy, along with a number of other members.

Mob organizational structure

The FBI's depiction of the mob's organizational structure is shown in a file graphic.

It also highlighted how the mob continues to operate in the region. The indictment details discreet meetings in Brooklyn garages, threats to union officials and how the family allegedly maneuvered money to top mobsters from union health funds.

“The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well,” Michael Driscoll, the assistant director-in-charge of New York’s FBI field office, said when announcing the charges.

It’s a world that Castellazzo, a longtime Manahawkin resident, has long been a part of, according to court documents from numerous convictions related to his life in the underworld.

Theft. Drugs. Extortion. Gambling operations. Racketeering.

Dating back to the mid-20th century, Castellazzo has faced charges for a wide range of crimes that the mob is often involved in.

And at 83 — despite a large family and numerous health concerns of his own — the Claw apparently hasn’t been able to leave the life, which is not uncommon for those entrenched in the Mafia, according to organized crime experts.

Because of this, many of the leaders stay in the game over decades and earn status as a leader.

The Colombo crime family boss busted earlier this month, Andrew Russo, is 87. And years ago, during the monumental Mafia Commission Trial, which took down the leaders of the five families in New York City in the 1980s, multiple high-ranking members were over the age of 70.

“Whenever you look back on a lot of these cases of these guys, they are not often spring chickens,” said Jay Albanese, a criminology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who specializes in organized crime.

The blend of street crimes and white-collar schemes is all many of them know, and since much of the money members earn is off the books, there is a financial incentive to remain in the game.

Castellazzo, according to court documents, has lived in a New Jersey trailer park in recent years and his wife previously filed for bankruptcy.

“You have these guys that are doing this their whole lives,” said David Shapiro, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and former FBI agent who investigated the mob in New York City. “What else are they going to do?”

It’s unclear when Castellazzo earned his nickname as the Claw, but it was more than 60 years ago when he was first sentenced for getting his hands on something that wasn’t his.

In 1959, Castellazzo, then in his 20s, was sentenced to a four-to-eight-year prison sentence following a conviction for grand larceny after he was involved in a theft, with others, of a tractor trailer truck containing carpeting, according to court documents.

It would be the start of a life of crime spanning decades.

Castellazzo got caught up in a heroin importation and distribution ring and was sentenced to four years in prison in 1976 following a conviction for the unlawful use of a telephone in the commission of a felony.

His next prison stint would be in 1995 when he was sentenced to an eight-months after being convicted of operating an illegal gambling business that held craps games, conducted illegal numbers betting operations and accepted wagers on sporting events, according to court documents.

It wasn’t until 2002 that federal authorities identified Castellazzo’s place in the mob. He was described that year by authorities as a captain — a prominent position — of the Colombo crime family when he was convicted of owning and operating a social club where he used extortive measures related to credit, gambling and other criminal activity.

As a 64-year-old, he pleaded with the judge then to lessen his sentence due to his age and health reasons, including hypertension and other blood-related issues, but was eventually sentenced to three years in prison for running the club.

Upon being released in 2005, Castellazzo still couldn’t leave the life behind.

Castellazzo was able to elevate himself within the Colombo family’s hierarchy. By 2008, according to court documents, he became the family’s underboss, or second-in-command.

He helped lead a “months-long project to re-energize the Colombo crime family,” prosecutors said in court documents, and presided over a 2009 ceremony inducting new members into the family.

It came to a head in 2011 when federal authorities arrested 127 accused mobsters, including Castellazzo, from around the region, making it the largest one-day Mafia bust in U.S. history.

He was indicted on charges of racketeering, money laundering conspiracies, extortion and possessing a firearm.

Prosecutors said in his capacity as the underboss, Castellazzo “sanctioned and indirectly oversaw, and profited from, several of the crimes of violence alleged in the Indictment.”

But he quickly cut a deal. Within nine months of being charged, Castellazzo pleaded guilty to one count racketeering conspiracy related to shaking down a construction company, as well as being involved in a pizza sauce recipe war.

A family member of a Colombo associate owned L&B Spumoni Gardens, a famed Brooklyn pizzeria. The family came to believe that the children of a Bonanno crime family associate, who worked at the pizzeria and later left to open their own store on Staten Island, stole the sauce recipe for their new venture.

Members of the Colombo family confronted the new owners and wanted proceeds from the Staten Island pizzeria. Eventually, they settled on a few thousand dollars, a cut of which was given to Castellazzo, who had been “kept apprised of the situation,” according to court documents.

Prosecutors even alluded to his nickname in their sentencing memo.

Castellazzo was able “to get his ‘claw’ into any crime committed by any member or associate of the Colombo crime family, including violent crimes,” they wrote.

‘An extraordinary man’

Castellazzo was seen as a much different man to those close to him than to prosecutors.

As he went before a judge in 2013 to be sentenced after pleading guilty to racketeering from the 2011 indictment, those around him described Castellazzo as a loving and devoted family man, who was ready to put his criminal life behind him and live within the law.

James J. Dipietro, his attorney, said Castellazzo had “deep remorse and (made an) unconditional promise to be rid of his past life involving crime.”

“I know he has a criminal history, but I truly believe he has now come to the realization that the only real issue in life that matters is to spend the rest of his remaining years in the comfort of his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,” Dipietro wrote eight years ago as he sought a lesser sentence for his client.

“He is an extraordinary man,” Castellazzo’s daughter wrote at the time.

His daughter-in-law described how Castellazzo gave shoes and food to less fortunate residents near his Manahawkin home.

“He is a loving, caring individual who has touched many lives with his gentle ways,” she wrote.

A retired school teacher and former tutor to his children even wrote to the judge on behalf of Castellazzo.

“The values of family and community are the very fabric of our society,” the woman wrote. “In my estimation Mr. Castellazzo has always demonstrated the importance of being a loving father and caring, compassionate neighbor.”

He did not live the flashy lifestyle of a mobster often depicted in pop culture.

For at least the last 15 years, Castellazzo and his wife, Sophie, lived very modestly in Manahawkin and struggled financially, according to court documents.

His wife filed for bankruptcy in 2011, saying the combined monthly income between her and her husband was $1,115 — entirely from Social Security, according to a bankruptcy filing. Their monthly net income was -$490, according to the filing.

They were paying $450 per month to live in a mobile home in Manahawkin, the filing says.

Sophie Castellazzo was also sued numerous times for failing to pay other small claim debts in state court in New Jersey, according to court documents.

Shapiro, the professor and former FBI agent, said Castellazzo is an example of how made men aren’t always as wealthy as the general public imagines.

“The kernel of truth of what he was saying (about the mobile home) is that a lot of these guys aren’t nearly as wealthy as you think,” Shapiro said. “They don’t make nearly as much money as you think so if they want to live large, they have to stay in the game. There is no way to get out of the game and live that kind of lifestyle. They don’t have savings or severance plans.”

“What are they going to do?” he added. “Go work at Costco?”

Latest charges

So the Claw apparently kept working, according to federal authorities.

In the latest allegations against him, authorities said Castellazzo was recently put in charge of the Colombo family’s two-decade long scheme to infiltrate and take control of a Queens-based labor union and its health care benefit programs as their extortion efforts stalled.

The scheme was centered around forcing a senior union official and others to make decisions that benefitted the crime family, like forcing them to select vendors for contracts who were associated with the mobsters, according to the indictment.

Castellazzo reportedly worked directly with Vincent Ricciardo, also known as “Vinny Unions,” who was on the ground leading the alleged extortion efforts, authorities said. Ricciardo could be heard on a recording in April saying that Castellazzo was in charge of the Colombo crime family’s takeover of the union and its health fund, according to the indictment.

Ricciardo was also caught in a recorded conversation threatening to kill the senior union official the family was allegedly extorting, authorities said.

Castellazzo and other Colombo mobsters also allegedly used a scheme to launder money from the health benefit programs to themselves, according to the indictment. They sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from health fund to the administration of the Colombo crime family, which included Castellazzo, authorities said.

He has been charged with racketeering, extortion and money laundering conspiracies, conspiracy to steal and embezzle health benefit funds, and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, among other charges.

Authorities said crime families cannot survive without structure and leadership, which they allege Castellazzo played a role in.

“Members and associates of the crime family could not commit the bread and butter crimes of the mafia such as extortion and loansharking, if not for Castellazzo,” the indictment says.

It was the role he told the judge he was going to leave in 2013 after a life of crime.

Castellazzo knew his life would soon come to a close. He told the judge he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life with his immediate family, who he had embarrassed once again.

Instead, Castellazzo now sits behind bars once again and could for years, as the prosecution moves forward with another case against him and his other family.

https://www.nj.com/news/2021/10/inside-the-criminal-life-of-the-83-year-old-mob-underboss-from-nj-known-as-the-claw.html