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

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Daughter of deceased Gambino Boss John Gotti is selling nearly $40M in properties


Victoria Gotti, daughter of the notorious mobster John Gotti, has put nine of her New York City properties up for sale, The Post has learned.

However, despite sales listings being active for them, Gotti asserts that she isn’t particularly keen on selling the commercial properties unless there’s an offer she simply can’t refuse.

“I have 17 properties, a $36 million portfolio, and nothing is for sale,” Gotti, 61, told The Post. “I receive offers every single week, almost every other day. I had a tiny offer yesterday. This is an everyday thing.”

The genesis of these holdings — comprising retail and automotive structures — dates back to her 2002 divorce from ex-husband Carmine Agnello.

She inherited them from him during their contentious separation. 

“This listing has been active for 2 years, I get calls on these properties every week, from brokers, buyers, but none of my properties are for sale,” Gotti added.

“I get offers all the time. If one catches my eye, I might consider it,” she said.

Yet, the upkeep costs for these properties, scattered throughout Queens, are far from chump change. As of October, Gotti currently faces more than $635,000 in property taxes that she still owes, records obtained by The Post show.

One notable offering is a three-lot assemblage on Liberty Avenue, boasting 80-plus feet of frontage, which recently re-listed last month. Additionally, a three-property assemblage with more than 200 feet of frontage, previously utilized for automobile-related businesses, is also up for grabs.

Another property, at 120-01 Sutphin Blvd., has lingered on the market since 2022. This “rare” block-front site, ideal for various developments, comes with approximately 40,000 buildable square feet.

Asking prices aren’t present on the listing pages, as tends to be typical for local commercial property. Instead, interested parties are encouraged to “request your own specific terms when submitting a non-binding offer.”

Richard Libbey of Atlantic Beach Associates, the broker repping these listings, revealed to The Post the influx of offers, including a recent $5 million bid.

However, the road to selling these pieces of real estate hasn’t been without its challenges.

Libbey highlighted the difficulties faced by landlords, especially during the pandemic, citing an instance when tenants failed to pay rent even after a property was sold on behalf of Gotti in 2020, leading to legal battles for eviction.

With these properties, some sitting on the market for more than 550 days, Libbey insists that any serious offers must come with proof of financing. 

Referring to them as “legacy listings,” he stressed the necessity for substantial financial backing for any potential deal to materialize.

The backdrop to these sales hints at a legacy intertwined with the infamous John Gotti, known as the “Teflon Don,” who orchestrated Agnello’s induction into the Gambino family upon marrying his daughter.

The former couple share three children, sons Carmine Gotti Agnello, John Gotti Agnello and Frank Gotti Agnello. 


Monday, December 4, 2023

Aging Genovese mobster punched NYC steakhouse owner after being called a washed up Italian

An aging reputed Genovese mobster accused of socking a Manhattan steakhouse owner as part of an extortion plot didn’t do it to collect a gambling debt — but because the victim called him a “washed-up Italian” with “no balls,” his lawyer claimed at the start of his trial Wednesday.

Anthony “Rom” Romanello, 86, an alleged capo in the Genovese crime family, was merely defending his honor after restaurateur Shuqeri “Bruno” Selimaj insulted him — and he “punches like a girl” anyway, defense attorney Jerry McMahon told jurors in Brooklyn federal court.

“He didn’t punch Bruno to collect a gambling debt,” McMahon said during his opening statements. “Bruno told him that he was a washed-up Italian, that he had no balls, that he was nothing.”

“He punched him, that 86-year-old guy sitting there, he punched him because Bruno insulted him to his face.”

The elderly wiseguy and an alleged accomplice, reputed Genovese soldier Joseph Celso, are on trial on two counts of extortion after allegedly being enlisted by a Queens bookie and wannabe actor to collect an $86,000 gambling debt owed by two of Selimaj’s relatives.

Taking the stand later Wednesday, Selimaj described how Romanello paid him a visit at his since-shuttered Lincoln Square Steak on May 11, 2017 — and flew into a rage after Selimaj told him he was only willing to pay the part of the debt owed by his nephew, and not his nephew’s brother-in-law.

“Rom kept saying, ‘I’d like to punch you’ … I said, ‘You have no guts to punch me,'” Selimaj recounted for the jury.

“A few seconds later, he punched me.”

Prosecutors played video of the right-handed jab that connected with Selimaj’s jaw for the jurors during the testimony.

After getting slugged, Selimaj told Romanello there were security cameras in the establishment, prompting the alleged longtime mafioso to hightail it out of there with his crew.

Selimaj filed a police report that night — but he ended up retracting it within 24 hours because his brother had relayed a threatening message from Celso that it would be a bad idea to go through with the complaint, he testified.

In a written statement with the NYPD, Selimaj recanted, claiming Romanello had a “few drinks” during the confrontation and that the two of them had been acquaintances for 30 years.

“So it was a misunderstanding between me and him. I think he didn’t want to do that,” Selimaj wrote.

But on the stand, Selimaj said that the retraction was “not true.”

“I was afraid this Mafia guy was going to hurt me, [hurt] my nephew,” he testified.

During cross-examination by McMahon, jurors were read a transcript of a voicemail that Selimaj left Romanello after getting hit — in which he taunted and swore at the mobster.

“Why don’t you come suck my d–k, you motherf–ker. This is Bruno,” Selimaj allegedly said.

Selimaj told jurors he didn’t remember leaving the message.

McMahon, in his opening statement, warned jurors that prosecutors would attempt to paint Romanello as delivering the hit to Selimaj’s face like 1950s American boxing legend Rocky Marciano — adding, “people who have viewed the video will say my client punches like a girl.”

The encounter took place while Romanello was a weekly guest at Selimaj’s food joint, where the accused wiseguy would spend upward of $1,000 on each dinner, McMahon said.

But Brooklyn federal prosecutor Rebecca Schuman told the jury that Selimaj was aware that getting on his patron’s bad side wouldn’t end well.

“Bruno knew that crossing Romanello could have real consequences — violent consequences,” she said.

The prosecutor described for jurors how Celso, who also faces an obstruction of justice count, allegedly sent a threat to Selimaj to get him to drop the police report, saying “things may get even uglier” if he didn’t comply.

Selimaj caved, retracting the police report and paying off the $6,000 debt of his nephew, and the $80,000 owed by his nephew’s brother-in-law, to apparent Genovese associate and wannabe Albanian film star Luan Bexheti, Schuman said.

Celso’s lawyer, Gerrard Marrone, told the jury his client wasn’t involved in any extortion scheme.

“He didn’t menace anyone, certainly didn’t punch anyone,” Marrone said. “My client is not involved in the drama.”

Selimaj, who was the first witness called by prosecutors, told jurors that he’d gotten a visit in March 2017 from an Irish bookie, Mike Regan, informing him of his relatives’ debts and name-dropping Romanello and Anthony “Tough Tony” Federici.

He took it to mean that Regan “was going to use his muscles against me” if the debt wasn’t settled, Selimaj, the owner of Club A Steakhouse, testified.

Then a few weeks later, Celso, Romanello and others came to the restaurant again and Romanello yelled at Selimaj, demanding the money.

“I was afraid because nobody jokes with the Mafia,” Selimaj testified. “It was no joke.”

“I was hoping they’d pay the debt because if they didn’t pay the debt, they would be killed,” Selimaj said of his nephew and nephew’s relative.

“Rom told me Tony [Federici] said hello and he was going to come visit you,” Selimaj recounted of the thinly veiled threat. 

Romanello has beaten an extortion case before — he was acquitted over a decade ago in the same courthouse where he currently faces trial.

Celso, meanwhile, was acquitted in a murder trial in 1993 after the main witness left the country. 

He was accused in the 1991 killing of Manuel Mayi, 19, a Queens College student from the Dominican Republic.

Mayi was chased for 16 blocks and fatally beaten by a mob of almost a dozen people after they saw him spraying graffiti in Corona.

Bexheti, who once acted in a movie called “Albanian Gangster,” pleaded guilty in the ongoing case on Oct. 4.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Judge releases two Gambino mobsters on bail for Thanksgiving holiday

A US federal judge will release two men accused of being part of the Gambino crime family ahead of Thanksgiving because the 'younger generation of mafiosos aren't killing anyone'.

Diego Tantillo, 48, and Angelo Gradilone, 57,  appeared in Brooklyn Federal Court on Tuesday dressed in khaki prison clothing for their bail appeal.

The two men were arraigned on racketeering charges on November 8 and were denied bond over fears they could flee the country, threaten witnesses and use facilities of the crime syndicate to help with intimidation.

But Judge Frederic Block said he would release Tantillo, from Freehold, New Jersey, and Gradilone, from Staten Island, on Wednesday, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

He did not agree they posed a flight risk and said this generation of mafia members are not as violent as those in the past.

Tantillo and Gradilone were among 10 alleged mafia operatives arrested earlier this month, in a coordinated US-Italian operation. Six suspected mafia members were arrested in Italy

At the time of their arrest, Breon Peace, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said they were ruthless and violent.

'As alleged, for years, the defendants committed violent extortions, assaults, arson, witness retaliation and other crimes in an attempt to dominate the New York carting and demolition industries,' said Peace. 

'Today's arrests reflect the commitment of this Office and our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to keep our communities safe by the complete dismantling of organized crime.' 

Yet on Tuesday, Judge Block questioned prosecutor Andrew Roddin on why Tantillo and Gradilone should not be released on bail like the five other men accused of being part of the Gambino crime family.

'This thing doesn't ring a bell with me,' he said. 'Posing significant conditions, they are not going anywhere.

'I don't see a risk of flight certainly that can't be cured by bail conditions.' He pointed to the fact that those accused of murder are sometimes granted bail.

'In the past we have let murderers go with bail,' Judge Block said. 'In this case there were no murders. The younger generation of mafiosos aren't killing anyone.'

Roddin, the prosecutor, argued that they should be kept in jail. 'I think the violence is to consider and the nature of the charges,' he said.

'It is a serious culmination of criminal history and a possession of weapons. 'There are numerous violent extortion attempts included in the indictment.'

But the judge said: 'Even if you have a very heavy case, it doesn't mean it's lights out.'

Gradilone's defense attorney Michael Schneider said: 'What this boils down to is when the government throws mafia around that's the end of the argument.

'We're not here to provide trial arguments. We haven't been handed discovery.' Judge Block questioned the prosecution as to why stringent bail conditions were not enough.

'What do you want to do - short of shoot them?' he asked. 'I am not giving them gold stars but they are presumed to be at liberty.

'They're going to be a lot of things, a couple of million dollars at risk.' The judge ruled that he would release the pair on bail in time for Thanksgiving.

'I will let them out but I have to make sure we have stringent bail conditions,' said Block.

'We all have human aspects. I am very direct and I don't see any risk of flight and a proper bail package can ease concern about wealth.'

Tantillo's defense attorney Andrew Weinstein asked for bail to be set at $1 million for the defendants.

The defense attorneys and prosecution are set to agree on a list of bail conditions on Wednesday, before Tantillo and Gradilone are released.

Tantillo and Gradilone's families were both in court for the appeal and remained calm when the judge said he would release them ahead of Thanksgiving.

They gathered outside the courtroom and celebrated the ruling with hugs and warm embraces.

The Gambino men, from Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, New Jersey, and Long Island, have allegedly been wreaking havoc in New York for the past 27 years. 

The infamous Italian-American crime syndicate made up one of the 'Five Families' known for their racketeering, gambling and loansharking. The 10 defendants now variously face maximum sentences between 20 and 180 years' imprisonment.

Among the defendants charged on November 8 were alleged US-based Sicilian Mafia members Vito Rappa, 46, and Francesco Vicari, 46 - who is known as 'Uncle Ciccio.'

Vincent Minsquero, 36, known as 'Vinny Slick'; Kyle Johnson, 46, known as 'Twin'; and the alleged captain of the Gambino crime ring - 52-year-old Joseph Lanni - were also charged with the slew of federal crimes. 

Lanni is known by nicknames 'Joe Brooklyn' and 'Mommino.' The four others were Tantillo, James LaForte, Salvatore DiLorenzo, and Robert Brooke. 

James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI, said on November 8 as the arrests were announced: 'These defendants learned the hard way that the FBI is united with our law enforcement locally and internationally in our efforts to eradicate the insidious organized crime threat. 

'Those arrested are alleged to have taken part in a racketeering conspiracy in an attempt to control the carting and demolition industries in the city. 

'The FBI will continue to lead the fight against organized crime and ensure that individuals willing to cross the line face punishment in the criminal justice system.' 

NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban also vowed to take down members of any organized crime group, wherever they operate.

He said: 'Today's arrests should serve as a warning to others who believe they can operate in plain sight with apparent impunity – the NYPD and our law enforcement partners exist to shatter that notion.

'And we will continue to take down members of traditional organized crime wherever they may operate.' 

According to the federal indictment, Tantillo, Rappa, Vicari and Johnson 'engaged in a violent extortion conspiracy relating to the demand and receipt of money from John Doe 1, who operated a carting business in the New York City area.' 

John Doe 1 was threatened 'with a bat, setting fire to the steps to John Doe 1's residence, attempting to damage John Doe 1's carting trucks, and violently assaulting an associate of John Doe 1.'

Images included in the document show the metal bat discovered during a police raid - and the stoop of the victim's home up in flames on September 22, 2020. 

One of John Doe 1's business associates was then attacked with a hammer - sending him to the hospital on October 29, 2020. After he was assaulted, Kyle Johnson texted Tantillo three thumbs up emojis for his 'work today.'

The indictment states that Tantillo and Vicari were captured on 'judicially-authorized wiretaps discussing threats they made to John Doe 1 and John Doe 1's father- in-law.'

Rappa stated that Vicari 'acted like the 'Last of the Samurai,' when he picked up a knife and directed John Doe 1's father-in-law to threaten to cut John Doe 1 in half in order to get him to make extortionate payments, according to the documents. 

When the victim finally made a payment of $4,000 to Vicari, he and Rappa met and sent Tantillo a photo of Vicari raising a small champagne bottle, cheering in a toast.

The image is included in the indictment pages. 

The documents also contain evidence that shows when the men were 'made' into the Gambino family. 

One image shows Tantillo being inducted into the family on October 17, 2019, standing with Gradilone.

The unsealed document also claimed that Tantillo, Brooke and Johnson engaged in two separate violent extortion schemes of a demolition company and its owners, known as John Does 2–4.

Their motivation was over purported debts owed to Tantillo, and to a company operated by Tantillo and Brooke, called Specialized Concrete Cutting Corp. They demanded $40,000 from the owners - who did not cough up.

In response, Brooke then violently attacked John Doe 2 on a street corner in Midtown Manhattan, leaving him bloodied with a black eye, the document alleges. 

Alongside these charges, some of the men are also accused of thieving and embezzling employee benefit plans, including health insurance and pay checks, when they did little or no work for the companies.

Tantillo is accused of obtaining no-show and low-show jobs for Rappa, Gradilone and Johnson. The document alleges: 'Through the no-show jobs, Gradilone and Rappa received health care benefits, paid for by unions, to which they were not entitled, in addition to receiving paychecks for work they did not perform.' 

The alleged mobsters also intimidated people they believed 'ratted' on them to police, which resulted in physical altercations inside swanky New York City restaurants.

In a dramatic scene from February 2021 described in the indictment, LaForte and Minsquero assaulted John Doe 6 while Gambino captain Joseph Lanni sat nearby. 

That evening, John Doe 6, his girlfriend, and their friends went to Asian restaurant Sei Less, on West 38th Street in Manhattan, where specialty cocktails cost $20. 

As the group was waiting to pay their bill, LaForte and Minsquero approached their table, called John Doe 6 a 'rat,' and hit him in the face with a bottle - before flipping their table over. 

Drinks were sent flying and glass was shattered everywhere, witnesses said.

In another incident on September 1, 2023, Lanni and Minsquero caused a disturbance at Roxy's Bar and Grille, a restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey.

The duo got into an argument with another patron that led the restaurant's staff to ask them to leave - and as they were escorted out, Minsquero damaged a painting and punched a wall, and Lanni told the owner he would 'burn this place down with you in it.' 

Less than 20 minutes later, video footage from a gas station across the street showed Lanni and Minsquero purchasing a red gas container, walking to a pump, and trying briefly to fill the container with gas.

Lanni was eventually dissuaded by Minsquero and a gas station attendant.

Police were called to the restaurant, but four hours after the scene, the owner and his wife went to get in their car to go home for the night, around midnight.

The owner got into the driver's seat of a car, while his spouse stood outside the vehicle talking with the owner through the open driver's side window. 

As they were chatting, a man got into the front passenger door of the car, punched the owner in the head, put a knife to his neck, and threatened to kill him. 

The spouse ran to help, but was punched and knocked to the ground by a second man. 

Both perpetrators then beat the spouse while she was on the ground. The man with the knife slashed the owner's tires wand pointed the knife at the spouse, before leaving on foot, the documents allege. 

The family, led by Salvatore D'Aquila in the early 1900s, made millions of dollars by carrying out extortion, money laundering and fraud.

Frank Cali was the last known leader of the group, and was killed in 2019. It remains unclear who leads the syndicate at this time. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

FBI digs up horse farms looking for bodies linked to the Gambino crime family


The FBI has been digging for bodies at two upstate New York horse farms in connection to ongoing federal investigations into the Gambino crime family, according to sources.

Federal authorities arrived at the properties on Hampton Road in Goshen and on Hamptonburgh Road in Campbell Hall on Tuesday and spent Wednesday searching the grounds, according to News 12 and an FBI spokesperson.

They descended upon the Orange County farms — located just five miles apart — after a tipster said bodies were buried on the properties, a law enforcement source confirmed.

“The activity is related to federal investigations into the Gambino crime family,” the source said.

Investigators were seen using heavy equipment, including a backhoe, and shovels, NBC 4 News reported.

No remains were found Wednesday, but the search will continue Thursday.

News 12 reported that both farms were formerly owned by Giovanni DiLorenzo — who has the same surname as one of the ten alleged mafiosos from the Gambino crime family who were indicted last week over accusations they used violent tactics to take over the Big Apple’s garbage hauling and demolition industry.

The 16-count indictment lists the defendants as Joseph “Joe Brooklyn” Lanni, 52, of Staten Island; Diego “Danny” Tantillo, 48, of Freehold, New Jersey; Robert Brooke, 55, of New York; Salvatore DiLorenzo, 66, of Oceanside, New York; Angelo “Fifi” Gradilone, 57, of Staten Island; Kyle “Twin” Johnson, 46, of the Bronx; James LaForte, 46, of New York; Vincent “Vinny Slick” Minsquero, 36, of Staten Island; Vito “Vi” Rappa, 46, of East Brunswick; and Franceso “Uncle Ciccio” Vicari, 46, of Elmont, New York.

Much of the indictment centers on the group’s alleged attempts to extort money from an unidentified garbage hauling company and an unidentified demolition company, starting in late 2017.

The defendants — who include made men and mob associates of the infamous Brooklyn crime syndicate — allegedly attacked one victim with a hammer so viciously he was sent to the hospital, threatened to cut a business owner in half with a knife and tried to burn down a restaurant they were thrown out from, among other brutal crimes.

The men were hit with charges including racketeering conspiracy, extortion, witness retaliation, fraud and embezzlement.

They each face between 20 and 180 years in prison for the laundry list of crimes they allegedly committed. 




Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Jailed for life Bonanno mobster wants sentence tossed saying he had bad attorney

A mobster convicted of murdering a potential homicide witness four decades ago was back on the stand Monday, arguing that his life sentence should be tossed because his attorney misled him — and others who committed more vile crimes got a slap on the wrist.

Stephen LoCurto — known in the Big Apple’s seedy underworld as “Stevie Blue” — told a federal judge in Brooklyn that he would have taken a plea deal during his 2006 trial if his attorney hadn’t misled him about the amount of jail time he faced.

“These guys all had two and three murders, and they were getting 10-year pleas!” the 62-year-old grinning killer told the judge, referencing other mobbed-up murderers who he claimed had more bodies on them than he did.

But his old trial attorney, Harry Batchelder, never told him that he was facing life in prison, LoCurto said in his erratic, meandering testimony.

The Bonanno crime family mobster said he thought he only faced 20 years in jail — or about the same as what the feds offered in their plea deal.

Batchelder should have grabbed him by the collar, shook him and said he was risking life in prison by rejecting the deal, LoCurto said.

Thinking the deal was no better than what he faced at trial, LoCurto said he told his lawyer to tell prosecutors what they could do with the deal. 

A mobster convicted of murdering a potential homicide witness four decades ago was back on the stand Monday, arguing that his life sentence should be tossed because his attorney misled him — and others who committed more vile crimes got a slap on the wrist.

Stephen LoCurto — known in the Big Apple’s seedy underworld as “Stevie Blue” — told a federal judge in Brooklyn that he would have taken a plea deal during his 2006 trial if his attorney hadn’t misled him about the amount of jail time he faced.

“These guys all had two and three murders, and they were getting 10-year pleas!” the 62-year-old grinning killer told the judge, referencing other mobbed-up murderers who he claimed had more bodies on them than he did.

But his old trial attorney, Harry Batchelder, never told him that he was facing life in prison, LoCurto said in his erratic, meandering testimony.

The Bonanno crime family mobster said he thought he only faced 20 years in jail — or about the same as what the feds offered in their plea deal.

Batchelder should have grabbed him by the collar, shook him and said he was risking life in prison by rejecting the deal, LoCurto said.

Thinking the deal was no better than what he faced at trial, LoCurto said he told his lawyer to tell prosecutors what they could do with the deal. 

Batchelder confirmed that Monday.

“I would call this a letter of proposal,“ he testified. “They had 25 defendants. It was a plea proposal.” 


Feds bust 10 Gambino family members and associates with racketeering charges

Ten alleged mafiosos from the Gambino crime family were indicted by the feds for their alleged violent attempts to take over the Big Apple’s garbage hauling and demolition industry — which included a hammer attack that sent one worker to the hospital and a grim threat to cut a business owner in half with a knife.

The defendants — who include made men and mob associates — were hit with charges including racketeering conspiracy, extortion, witness retaliation, fraud and embezzlement, according to the indictment unsealed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court.

They each face between 20 and 180 years in prison for the laundry list of crimes they’re accused of — many so brutal they’d make Tony Soprano grin.

“As alleged, for years, the defendants committed violent extortions, assaults, arson, witness retaliation and other crimes in an attempt to dominate the New York carting and demolition industries,” Breon Peace, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

The 16-count indictment lists the defendants as Joseph “Joe Brooklyn” Lanni, 52, of Staten Island; Diego “Danny” Tantillo, 48, of Freehold, New Jersey; Robert Brooke, 55, of New York; Salvatore DiLorenzo, 66, of Oceanside, New York; Angelo “Fifi” Gradilone, 57, of Staten Island; Kyle “Twin” Johnson, 46, of the Bronx; James LaForte, 46, of New York; Vincent “Vinny Slick” Minsquero, 36, of Staten Island; Vito “Vi” Rappa, 46, of East Brunswick; and Franceso “Uncle Ciccio” Vicari, 46, of Elmont, New York.

Several of the accused kicked up hundreds of thousands of dollars to Lanni —a made man who was the crew’s “caporegime,” or captain — through an intricate web of payments made by companies they owned, according to federal prosecutors.

“The investigation has revealed that, since at least 2017, the defendants have profited from extorting individuals in the New York carting and demolition industries, including through actual and threatened violence, stealing and embezzling from union employee benefit plans and conspiring to rig bids for lucrative demolition jobs,” according to the US Attorney’s office.

Much of the indictment centers on the group’s attempts to extort money from an unidentified garbage hauling company and an unidentified demolition company, starting in late 2017.

That’s when prosecutors say Tantillo demanded monthly extortion payments from the garbage company’s owner — who was identified in court papers as “John Doe 1.”

To put a point on their friendly request, Tantillo, Johnson, Rappa and Vicari regularly threatened and intimidated their victim by lighting the steps of his home on fire, damaging his trucks and threatening to seriously hurt him, the papers said.

For instance, the man was paying Tantillo $1,000 one day when Tantillo broke out a metal baseball bat and told him it was for him, court documents said. Cops said they later found the bat in Tantillo’s car.

Another time, Rappa allegedly sent the victim a picture of his business late at night — just to let him know they’d been there.

It got worse when the man stopped making payments, the feds said.

On Sept. 22, 2020, someone lit his front steps on fire while his wife and kids were inside, the court papers said. About a month later, someone broke into his business and tried slashing the tires on his garbage trucks.

They somehow messed that up, though. So instead, they let the air out, according to the feds.

Two weeks later, on Oct. 29, 2020, someone allegedly attacked an employee of the unidentified demolition company with a hammer as a message to the garbage company owner — the two companies often shared business, and beating the man with a hammer intimidated both firms in one shot, the indictment states.

The attacker only quit when another employee broke up the attack, and the bloody victim was sent to the hospital.

Vicari also forced the man’s father-in-law to pick up a knife and threaten to cut his son-in-law in two if he didn’t keep making payments.

“Get this axe and you make him – two,” Vicari allegedly told the man, according to Rappa’s description caught on an intercepted phone call.

The money started flowing again, according to court papers. And when it did, Rappa sent the man a photo of Vicari toasting him with a small bottle of champagne.

Tantillo, Brooke and Johnson also tried to extort the demolition company and its unidentified owners, prosecutors said.

Tantillo and Brooke allegedly wanted a $40,000 payment — but when they didn’t pay, Brooke attacked one of them on a Midtown Manhattan street corner.

He beat the man until his face was bloody and his eye was blackened — which convinced them to pay Tantillo $50,000 and give $3.9 million worth of discounts for using a facility they owned.

The defendants also gave each other no-show jobs so they could get union benefits they didn’t deserve, tried to rig bids for lucrative demolition jobs and embezzled from benefits plans by breaking collective bargaining agreements, prosecutors said.

In February 2021, LaForte and Minsquero also allegedly beat a man identified as “John Doe 6” who they thought talked to the cops about the mob — right in a Midtown restaurant.

“That evening, John Doe 6, his girlfriend, and their friends went to Sei Less, a restaurant near West 38th Street and Broadway in Manhattan,” according to the indictment. “According to witnesses, while the group was waiting to pay their bill, LaForte and Minsquero approached their table.”

“LaForte called John Doe 6 a ‘rat,’ and hit [him] in the face with a bottle,” the indictment continued. “LaForte and Minsquero also flipped John Doe 6’s table, sending drinks and shattered glass everywhere.”

The indictment outlined other assaults — some charged and some not — including Lanni and Minsquero’s aborted attempt to burn down a restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, after they were chucked out of it. 

All 10 alleged wise guys were taken into custody Wednesday — with Italian police arresting another six organized crime members in the multi-continent sting.

“Today’s arrests reflect the commitment of this Office and our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to keep our communities safe by the complete dismantling of organized crime,” Peace said.

Nine of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday, according to a US Attorney’s Office spokesperson.

Only one, Dilorenzo, was released on a $500,000 bond as of Wednesday night.

Lanni, Johnson,Tantillo and Gradilone were all being held without bond after prosecutors argued they were violent and could potentially intimidate witnesses. 

Brooke, Rappa, Vicari, and Minsquero were each granted release on a $1 million bond — but their releases are stayed for 24 hours so the government can appeal.

Louis Gelormino, Minsquaro’s defense attorney, told The Post his client “completely denies these allegations and looks forward to a complete investigation of the facts and looks forward to being fully exonerated.”

Laforte was not arraigned on Wednesday because he is currently in jail in Pennsylvania and will be arraigned on a later date.


Sunday, November 5, 2023

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Jailed New Jersey Lucchese wiseguy says his dental records were switched and he is innocent of murder

The tooth shall set him free!

A real-life Tony Soprano who has been cooling his heels in prison for decades in connection with the 1984 golf club beating death of a Toms River used car salesman is now reportedly claiming he was at the dentist at the time of the slaying — and his dental records were secretly changed to sink his alibi.

Martin Taccetta, 72, of Florham Park, insisted he was framed by prosecutors for any evil deeds related to the rub-out of Toms River auto dealer Vincent “Jimmy Sinatra” Craparotta, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Craparotta, 56, was beaten to death by men with golf clubs at his Route 9 car lot on June 12, 1984, reportedly to scare his nephews into paying tributes to the Lucchese crime family from earnings on their video poker machines, the report said.

Taccetta was a capo in the Lucchese crime family running the gang’s NJ operations. 

In a 2000 Post story about “Goodfellas Who Might Be Role Models,” mob experts — who formerly worked with New Jersey’s Organized Crime Task Force — said iconic TV mob boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini, closely resembled the charismatic Taccetta.

Taccetta and two other reputed members of the Lucchese crime family were charged with Craparotta’s murder.

They stood trial in Superior Court in Ocean County in 1993, along with two other alleged mob associates charged with racketeering and extortion offenses.

Taccetta beat the murder rap, but the jury found him guilty of racketeering, conspiracy, and extortion.

He received the harshest penalty of all the defendants — life plus 10 years.

The government presented testimony from former Mafia underbosses that Taccetta told them he and an associate “whacked” the victim “over some Joker Pokers” and used golf clubs rather than baseball bats to do the job because “bats break,” the Jersey media outlet reported.

Taccetta claims the assistant attorney general who prosecuted him in 1993 hid from him an FBI report that concluded his dental records — which he says proved he was at his dentist’s office an hour away when Craparotta was killed — were secretly altered, the report said.

Taccetta claimed he learned of the FBI report in recent years through a Freedom of Information Act request and he deserves a new trial, the published report said.

“The evidence at trial included testimony that co-defendant Thomas Ricciardi, another member of the Lucchese crime family, had beaten Craporatta to death with a golf club while yelling, “pay your debts,” according to NJ Appellate Division court papers.

Ricciardi, described as a high-ranking enforcer for the Lucchese crime family, was the only one of the three charged with Craparotta’s murder to be convicted of it, the Asbury Park Press reported.  


Longtime Bonanno captain linked to Lufthansa heist in Goodfellas is dead at 86

A notorious Bonanno crime family capo once linked to the infamous Lufthansa heist at JFK airport depicted in the movie “Goodfellas,” has died three years after he was released from prison for health reasons.

Vincent Asaro, 86, was part of a cadre of mobsters charged with making off with nearly $6 million in the 1978 airport robbery. He beat the rap in 2015 — only to get jailed on an unrelated road rage arson conviction.

In 2020 the ailing capo, who had suffered a stroke behind bars, was granted compassionate release amid fears that he was vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.

Asaro died Saturday, according to reports and sources.

The former mobster was born in Ozone Park in 1937. He followed his father and uncle into the organized crime business and rose in the ranks of the Bonanno family to become a captain by the mid-1970s.

He was part of a crew that pulled off the Lufthansa theft orchestrated by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, a Lucchese family associate portrayed by Robert DeNiro in “Goodfellas.”

The crew — including gangster Tommy “Tommy Two Guns” DeSimone, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie — plotted the heist at Robert’s Lounge, Burke’s dive bar in Queens, expecting a $2 million take.

On Dec. 11, 1978, the gang busted into a Lufthansa hangar at the Queens airport and made off with dozens of boxes stuffed with cash and jewelry valued over $6 million at the time.

“We loaded 50 boxes,” mob turncoat Gaspare Valenti, Asaro’s cousin, testified at the 2015 trial. “There were burlap sacks of gold chains, crates of watches, metal boxes with three drawers in them — and each drawer had diamonds and emeralds in it.

“And we loaded everything into the van,” Gaspare testified. “It was euphoria. We thought there was $2 million in cash and there was $6 million. Without the gold. Without the German money.”

Despite his own cousin’s testimony against him, a Brooklyn jury acquitted Asaro for his alleged role in the robbery and the unrelated 1969 gangland murder of mob associate Paul Katz.

Valenti, who faced up to 20 years in prison, got off with probation for cooperating with the feds.

The respite wouldn’t last long — Asaro was busted again in 2017.

The mobster sent a crew of henchmen, including the grandson of former Gambino crime boss John “Dapper Don” Gotti, to torch the car of a driver who cut him off at a traffic light on April 1, 2012.

“I made arrangements for someone to take care of it and it was done,” Asaro told the judge.

Asaro pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years behind bars until his early release in 2020.

The exact cause of Asaro’s death was unclear. According to his family, Asaro’s funeral will be held Friday at St. Helen’s Catholic church in Queens. 


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Wealthy Gambino Captain and son of Calo Gambino dead at 94

Thomas “Tommy” Gambino, the oldest son of crime family founder Carlo Gambino, has died.

He was 94.

The longtime Upper East Side resident died Oct. 3 of natural causes.

The New York Times reported in 1992 that the Mafia captain had “at least $75 million in cash, bonds and blue chip stock.”

He was the nephew of “Big Paul” Castellano, who succeeded Carlo as the head of the family but was rubbed out in 1985 on the orders of eventual Gambino godfather John Gotti.

Tommy Gambino arrived at Sparks Steakhouse on East 46th Street just moments after Castellano and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, were gunned down outside the eatery.

Tommy Gambino, once described as the a “quintessential Mafia prince of New York City,” was convicted in 1993 of two counts of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy for controlling gambling and loan sharking operations in Connecticut.

He served in federal prison from 1996 to 2000.

The prosecution’s evidence in his trial included secretly recorded conversations with Mafia turncoat Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.

Thomas’ younger brother Joseph, who never became a made man, died in 2020 at the age of 83.

In 1992, the brothers — who owned a trucking monopoly Consolidated Carrier Corporation on West 35th Street with several companies in the Garment District — were charged with enterprise corruption and 52 counts of larceny, extortion, coercion and restraint of trade, which meant a possibility of 25 years in prison if convicted.

Then-assistant district attorney Eliot Spitzer led the investigation that ultimately brought them down, “figuring out a way to break into the duo’s office to plant a bug — by using Con Ed trucks on a phony repair call, by picking locks, switching off alarms, and evading motion detectors — then listening to hundreds of hours of tapes,” according to New York Magazine.

The brothers took a plea deal, agreeing to shell out $12 million in fines and restitution and sell their trucking businesses.

“I send my condolences to his family,” Spitzer told The Post.

Thomas married Mafia boss Tommy Lucchese’s daughter Frances, who is now 92. They had one son, Thomas Jr., 63. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Retired top NJ cop linked to corrupt US Senator Menendez and ratting out cooperating Lucchese soldier leading to his execution

A retired top policeman helped Robert Menendez‘s wife-to-be leave the scene of her fatal car crash without a sobriety test or handing over her phone.

The Post has learned that Michael Mordaga, the former director of Hackensack police and an ex-chief of detectives in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, was on the scene within minutes when Nadine Arslanian slammed her black Mercedes into Richard Koop in Bogota, NJ, in December 2018.

Mordaga, 66, helped her leave behind the totaled car and take her belongings from it after quizzing the patrolman dealing with the crash on what he planned to do.

Dashcam footage and 911 recordings do not show Arslanian asking after the victim, but they do show her refusing to have her cellphone searched and also suggest she did not call 911 until officers were already on the scene — then told them the wrong location for the crash.

A witness claimed that she told cops she was going to call someone for help.  

At the time, Arslanian was dating both Menendez, whom she married in 2020, and her long-term boyfriend Douglas Anton, an attorney who went on to represent R. Kelly in his sex-trafficking trial.

The fatal collision on December 12, 2018, led to part of the sweeping bribery and corruption charges brought against her and Menendez, which they both deny. 

A month after the crash, Arslanian texted Wael Hana, an Egyptian American businessman also indicted in the bribery scheme, about the loss of her car, and he later provided her with a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible, worth $60,000, prosecutors allege.

Arslanian’s role in 49-year-old Koop’s death, however, only emerged Wednesday, in dashcam footage and other records released by the Bogota Police Department to NorthJersey.com.

Menendez’s future wife told cops she didn’t see Koop, 49.

But she was driving her car fast enough that the collision flung Koop’s body to the curb just steps from his own house on East Main Street in Bogota, then crashed into a parked car.

Sheri Breen, an attorney for Koop’s estate, told NorthJersey.com that other footage from a business had shown that Arslanian “moved her car around his body as he was lying in the road and she did not come to his aid or to even check on him.”

Records also suggest that Arslanian was not the first person to call 911 after the crash, at 7:35 p.m., because the dispatcher told her an officer was already on the scene.

She told the dispatcher she was in “Teaneck,” which borders on Bogota.

Koop was struck in front of 155 E. Main St. in Bogota. That address is next door, just to the west, 311 DeGraw Ave. in Teaneck.

Arslanian, shivering in a fur coat and short dress as she stood in the road, initially agreed to allow cops to search her phone but then said she wanted an attorney because “I don’t want to say anything wrong.”

“Why was the guy standing in the middle of the road?” she asked. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Later she told the patrolman: “He jumped on my windshield.” The footage does not show her asking about the victim’s fate, but she is heard asking to get something that an officer said had gone “in the ambulance.”

Minutes later, the dashcam shows someone off-camera being asked: “You’re retired, you said?” That person, identified by The Post as Mordaga, said “Yes,” and that he was retired from “Hackensack.”

In the footage, his voice could be heard as he said: “I don’t even know her. That’s my buddy’s wife who’s friends with her. He said could you do me a favor and take her up there because her friend just got in a car accident.”

The “buddy’s wife” appears to be an unnamed friend who helped Arslanian take her possessions from the car.

Mordaga is also heard on the footage asking: “Are you guys getting a statement that you’re going to give to the prosecutor’s office?”

He was told by the patrolman, “I don’t believe so, as of right now. She’s good to grab her stuff from her car.”

Mordaga was also given details of the investigation, being told the victim was “walking in the middle of the road, that’s what we’re gathering.”

“I believe we’re good to release her, as soon as she grabs her stuff from her car,” said the Bogota police officer on the video. Arslanian left without a summons.

But Sergio Uribe, who owned the parked car Arslanian hit, told the New York Times that he heard her tell cops she was going to call someone.

“I remember saying, ‘That woman is just allowed to leave? She’s not being arrested or anything?’” he told the Times.

Arslanian’s attorney declined to comment to The Post.

Both Arslanian, 56, and Menendez, 69, were indicted in Manhattan federal court last month along with three others in a brazen bribery scheme.

Prosecutors said the couple had amassed gold bullion and nearly $500,000 in cash at their home, as well as a new Mercedes convertible.

A man who identified himself as Mordaga refused to comment Thursday after The Post reached him by phone, and directed all inquiries to the Bogota PD, which did not immediately return a request for comment.

An attorney representing Mordaga did not return a request for comment.

The former top cop has himself been accused of ratting out Frank Lagano, a reputed member of the Lucchese crime family, leading to his execution in the parking lot of an East Brunswick diner he co-owned in 2007. 

The dead man’s family lost their federal lawsuit against Mordaga — who denied all wrongdoing — and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year, but the family have appealed.

He was also hit with allegations in another federal complaint that he failed to intervene in a domestic violence incident involving two married police officers — Sara Malvasia and Niles Malvasia — from the Hackensack Police Department in 2015 when he was still in charge of the force.

It was alleged that rather than arresting or disciplining the husband, he said: “There’s always female s–t going on. That’s why women can’t be police officers.”

The 2017 federal suit was later settled, and the couple went on to win $1 million in a Powerball lottery in 2018.


Staten Island mansion once belonging to murdered Gambino Boss lists for $16.8 Million

This made manse is on the market. 

A baroque bit of local legend is looking for a new owner, one who doesn’t mind this palatial property having some bloody former associates.

In Staten Island’s tony Todt Hill — the highest natural point on the East Coast — a 33,000-square-foot mansion that once belonged to Gambino crime family boss “Big Paul” Castellano has listed for an ambitious $16.8 million, according to social media chatter and the Staten Island Advance. 

Castellano commissioned the residence — which has eight bedrooms — after he succeeded his brother-in-law, Carlo Gambino, as the syndicate’s don in 1976. 

He designed the opulent property to have a pillared portico and a circular, fountain-equipped drive so it would resemble the White House. Indeed, that’s how it’s known in the neighborhood, The Post reported in 2015 when Hillary Clinton had a fundraiser at the Benedict Road abode. 

The four-story compound was completed in 1980, and the kingpin called it home until his infamous 1985 murder, when John Gotti had him gunned down outside of Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House. 

With Castellano out of the way, Gotti then took over the family and earned the nickname “Dapper Don” before losing a battle with cancer and dying in prison at age 61 in 2002. 

The Castellano name has, however, continued to appear in the headlines — including in 2013, when Paul’s grandson was arrested for illegal waste carting.

The home last changed hands shortly before then, in 2000, when Selim “Sal” Rusi bought it for $3.1 million.

Public records now show that the place has a total of three owners and has been extensively redone since Castellano’s time there, according to the Advance. 

In addition to its gangster history, the manse also has a boss-level amount of lavish amenities. 

All those eight bedrooms have an ensuite bath — and an enormous balcony spans the backside of the property.

There’s also a home theater, a gym, a sauna, a “personal beauty parlor,” a wine cellar, a solarium, a library, an elevator, a 13-car showroom, and both indoor and outdoor pools, according to the listing, which is held by Connie Profaci Realty. 


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Monday, September 25, 2023

After three decades on the run notorious Boss of Sicilian Cosa Nostra Boss dies at 61 of colon cancer

Matteo Messina Denaro, a convicted killer and high-ranking mobster with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra who had eluded capture for three decades, died on Monday in a hospital in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, where he had been serving time in a maximum-security prison. He was 61.

Alessandro Cerella, an attorney for Mr. Messina Denaro, confirmed the death, which he said was from colon cancer. Mr. Messina Denaro had been undergoing treatment for several years, and on Friday he fell into a coma that doctors said was irreversible.

Mr. Messina Denaro was arrested in January while waiting to undergo chemotherapy at a private clinic in Palermo. He had been using a fake identity, and investigators discovered that he was being treated for cancer when they found a scrap of paper with his medical history rolled up in the leg of a chair in his mother’s home in Castelvetrano, Sicily.

Since he was not treated under his real name, they used national health service records to identify patients with similar conditions and narrow it down. 

Despite operating in the shadows, Mr. Messina Denaro had remained at the top of Italy’s list of most wanted fugitives for decades. His ability to confound investigators on a dogged, if frustrating, mission to find him added to his aura of invincibility.

“La Cattura” (“The Capture”), a recently published book about hunting him down written by Maurizio de Lucia, the chief prosecutor in Palermo, calls Mr. Messina Denaro “one of Italy’s greatest mysteries.” He was, Mr. de Lucia wrote, “the mobster who ferried Sicily’s Cosa Nostra into a new era, within a criminal system that unites many segments.” 

In 2020, Mr. Messina Denaro was convicted in absentia for his role in the high-profile murders of two of Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, in 1992, and for deadly bombings the next year in Milan, Rome and Florence that prosecutors believe were part of a Cosa Nostra strategy against the state.

He also received a life sentence for his involvement in the kidnapping and death of the 12-year-old son of a Mafia turncoat after the boy was strangled and his body was dissolved in acid, and in the death of a police officer.

Lirio Abbate, an investigative journalist, has also written a book about Mr. Messina Denaro. In that book, “U Siccu,” published 2020, Mr. Abbate said that Mr. Messina Denaro had confided in a friend that he could make “a cemetery” out of all the people he had killed or ordered killed.

What little is known about Mr. Messina Denaro comes by way of the testimony of Mafia turncoats and arrested mobsters, as well as court records, police reports and hearsay. Before his arrest, investigators had little to go on: a 1988 recording of his testimony about a murder and a handful of photographs of him as a young man.

Nicknamed U Siccu (Sicilian for slim), Mr. Messina Denaro was said to have had a penchant for fast luxury cars that he could not indulge in for fear of being caught. According to one investigator, he was wearing a watch valued at over 30,000 euros (about $32,000) when he was arrested. The police also found designer clothes and expensive perfumes in his last hide-out, an apartment in southwestern Sicily where Mr. Messina Denaro had been living for several years under an assumed name.

He told the investigators who caught him that in recent years he had lived largely in the open, “a tree in the midst of a forest,” thinking that he would be less likely to be caught. If anyone knew that he was a Italy’s most wanted mob boss, they had not said a word to the authorities.

He was said to be a “fimminaru,” or playboy, and books and articles about him recounted his conquests in Italy and abroad. Some women paid a high price, landing in prison for abetting his life as a fugitive. Mr. Abbate noted in his book that Mr. Messina Denaro’s philandering had broken with the “family values of the traditional Mafia.”

He is thought to have traveled extensively during his years on the run, establishing connections with criminal groups in Europe and the Americas. “He was everywhere and nowhere,” Attilio Bolzoni, a seasoned Mafia reporter, wrote after the arrest. “A ghost.”

Mr. Messina Denaro had taken his place at the Cosa Nostra table when his father, who also had Mafia affiliations, became a fugitive after his own legal troubles. In 1991, the son attended an infamous meeting at which prosecutors believe the Sicilian Mafia families decided to wage war against the central government by pulling off the high-profile assassinations and bombings of the early 1990s.

His rise within the echelons of organized crime was facilitated by his affiliation with the Corleonesi crime family, which was headed by Salvatore (Toto) Riina, the so-called Boss of all Bosses, who is said to have considered him like a son.

When a Mafia turncoat connected Mr. Messina Denaro to several murders in 1993, he went underground. But he maintained a firm hold over his turf, the western Sicilian province of Trapani, where he acquired assets in legal businesses including travel agencies, supermarkets and alternative-energy companies.

He communicated with associates through letters and handwritten messages that he avoided writing personally and demanded be burned once read. He was protected, experts said, by a large network of associates who feared and respected him, as well as locals who looked the other way.

Hundreds of people who helped him elude capture or benefited from his financial dealings were jailed over the years, including friends, family members and top business associates. Nearly 10 billion euros of his in assets and shares in various companies and businesses that were seized over the years were just “the tip of the iceberg,” according to Mr. de Lucia.

Piero Grasso, a onetime national anti-Mafia prosecutor, said that Mr. Messina Denaro was “much loved, because he was considered a benefactor in his territories” — a dynamic that helps explain why he was able to stay under cover for so long.

By the time he was arrested, he had accrued several life sentences. His final months were spent in jail, in court and receiving treatment for cancer. He had been scheduled to attend a hearing for one trial this month.

Mr. Messina Denaro was born on April 26, 1962, in Castelvetrano, a rural town in western Sicily, the fourth of six children. His father, Francesco Messina Denaro, known as “don Ciccio,” was a local crime family boss who died in 1998 while a fugitive. His mother, Lorenza Santangelo, was a homemaker.

He grew up on an estate belonging to a wealthy local family and attended a technical school in the area but did not finish high school, according to Mr. de Lucia’s book.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. de Lucia wrote that during the interrogations after his arrest, Mr. Messina Denaro had continued to deny being part of the Mafia or participating in its killings.

Yet his violent streak began early.

“He was already shooting at 14,” Mr. Abbate wrote. “Killing at 18. At 31, he was placing bombs in the north. This is what we know about him, a boy with undeniable criminal skills.”

Mr. Messina Denaro maintained his innocence until the end, however; in one interrogation in February, he described himself as a “stateless farmer.” “I used to work in the countryside,” he said, complaining that he had lost his residence and his property. “I had assets, but you took them all away.” 


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Underworld rejoices as longtime former Bonanno Boss Joseph Massino dies in witness protection program

Joseph Massino, the low-key Mafia boss who stunned the world of organized crime in 2005 when it was revealed he had become a government witness, has died after a short illness, sources close to his family told Newsday.

Massino, once a trim and powerful man who would jump off the Cross Bay Boulevard bridge in Queens and swim for hours, battled a number of chronic health conditions including diabetes and obesity. He was 80 and lived until recently in Ohio. Massino died Sept. 14 at a rehabilitation facility in the New York City area, according to the sources.

Massino’s youngest daughter Joanne, who asked that her last name not be published, confirmed his death but declined to comment further.

Over the years Massino navigated the treacherous world of the Mafia families in New York, all the while running legitimate businesses such as a sandwich shop in Queens, catering firms in Farmingdale and the CasaBlanca Restaurant in Maspeth, which he forfeited after a federal racketeering conviction in 2004.

“He ruled with an iron fist and kept order within the ranks,” said former FBI supervisory special agent Charles Rooney, who investigated the Sicilian faction of the crime family in the famous Pizza Connection drug case.

Through tribute paid to by fellow mobsters along with illegal and legal earnings, Massino amassed a fortune and after his conviction, had to turn over $10 million in cash — some of which he had kept in his Howard Beach home — as well as gold bars and other assets.

Massino actually wanted to cooperate within minutes after a Brooklyn federal court jury found him guilty in July 2004 of racketeering, including the orchestration of six mob murders, as boss of the Bonanno crime family. Massino immediately approached presiding Judge Nicholas Garaufis and said he wanted to cooperate, at which point Garaufis appointed him a special lawyer to negotiate.

After several months, it was revealed that Massino, who faced a federal death penalty trial in a different case, was cooperating against fellow mobsters. In 2005, Massino formally entered the federal witness security program. His life sentence was reduced to time served in 2013.

Born in Queens in January 1943, Massino was one of three sons of Anthony and Adeline Massino and lived close to Maspeth. Massino was an athletic young man who earned a reputation as being a street tough after dropping out of school in the seventh grade.

Massino took a number of jobs, including working as a lifeguard at Atlantic Beach on Long Island. As a young adult, Massino started a coffee cart business, serving businesses in the Maspeth area.

But it was in the 1970s that Massino became associated with Philip Rastelli, who rose to become boss of the Bonanno crime family. After Rastelli went to prison, investigators said his trust in Massino grew.

Massino was inducted into the Mafia around 1977 and became a captain in 1979, according to the FBI. Two years later, in May 1981 according to federal court testimony, Massino helped engineer the killings of the three upstart captains — Philip Giaccone, Alphonse Indelicato and Dominic Trinchera.— suspected of trying to gain control of the Bonanno family.

After Massino served time in federal prison in the 1980s, he was officially anointed as boss of the Bonanno family in 1991 upon Rastelli’s death.

Although Massino was a friend of his neighbor John Gotti, head of the Gambino family, he didn’t emulate his public stance and nightlife. Instead, Massino kept a low profile and closed down mob social clubs to frustrate FBI surveillance. To keep his name out of conversations that could be bugged, Massino asked that fellow gangsters refer to him only by tugging on their ears, a gesture that earned Massino the moniker “The Ear.”

But by 2000, the FBI again focused on Massino. The result was a federal indictment that led to his arrest on Jan. 9, 2003, along with his wife Josephine's brother, Sal Vitale. But soon after, Vitale became a government witness against Massino and testified at the mob boss’s 2004 trial.

After he became a government cooperating witness, Massino helped build a case against his former street boss, Vincent “Vinnie Gorgeous” Basciano. Massino also gave information to the FBI that allowed investigators to dig up the bodies of the captains killed in May 1981.


Friday, September 15, 2023

Bonanno Soldier Stevie Blue tells judge his lawyer suffers blackouts like Senator Mitch McConnell

 The Bonanno crime family soldier convicted of killing a witness in a murder case says that his lawyer suffers from the same blackouts as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Stephen “Stevie Blue” LoCurto, 62, wants a Brooklyn federal judge to appoint assistant counsel to help with his attempt to get his sentence lowered from life in prison for his role in the murder to 20 years.

“My attorney Bernard Freamon is having trouble focusing for long periods of time,” LoCurto wrote in a letter to Magistrate Sanket Bulsara on Sept. 6. “It’s gotten so bad, they took his driver’s license. What he has is similar to what Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader has when he freezes up.”

LoCurto has asked the judge to have lawyer David Schoen question him on the stand for his case.

The mobster filed a civil case to shave eternity off his prison time, arguing that his lawyer told him not to take a plea because he misunderstood a change to federal racketeering law.

Freamon did not immediately respond to an email sent Thursday night


Monday, September 11, 2023

Jailed Bonanno Soldier seeks to overturn life sentence in killing of witness in murder case


A Bonanno crime family soldier who whacked a witness in a murder case will get a hearing to determine whether one of his lawyers screwed up by telling him not to take a plea deal.

Stephen “Stevie Blue” LoCurto, 62, argues that he thought he could only get 20 years maximum, not the life sentence he’s currently serving, because one of his attorneys misunderstood whether a change to the federal racketeering law applied to his case.

“If I had known there was no chance of me getting less than life I would have taken the plea,” Locurto wrote in a 2010 motion to vacate his sentence. “Why would I take a 20 year plea when I had nothing to lose? All I could get is 20 years if I blew trial anyway.”

A judge ordered a hearing on the matter in 2016, but it was pushed back after years of procedural delays — and a 2022 psychiatric exam that followed a series of bizarre claims that correction officers were trying to poison him and hiding in his walls, while a group of onlookers bet on when he’d die while he was hospitalized.

“While dying in the ICU unit at NYU-Langone, there was a man in the wall, behind my bed, cursing me, telling me to hurry up and die, pouring soda from bottle to bottle and playing his ring tone over and over,” he wrote in a 2021 complaint to the Department of Justice.

His hearing was initially supposed to happen in Brooklyn Federal Court this Thursday, but it’s been pushed back to a later date.

LoCurto was convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court back in 2006 of racketeering and the 1986 murder of Bonanno associate Joseph Platia.

The mob marked Platia for death because he was hanging out with his pal, fellow Bonanno associate Robert Capasio, on May 9, 1986, when members of the crime family lured Capasio from Manhattan to a Brooklyn apartment where they fatally shot him in the head.

Rather than risk the killers’ identities getting out, LoCurto’s mob higher-ups ordered him to rub out Platia.

LoCurto shot Platia several times in the head as he sat in a car near W. 35th St. and 10th Ave. in Manhattan. Unluckily for LoCurto, a nearby cabbie flagged down police, who caught the mob killer with the murder weapon still warm in his pocket.

LoCurto managed to beat the charges in Manhattan Supreme Court in 1987, but was convicted by a federal jury in 2006.

In both trials, he took the stand in his own defense — a rarity in Mafia cases, since mob members who are still loyal are typically not supposed to take the stand and risk giving the government information on the inner workings of their crime families.

He’s been fighting the conviction ever since, including an appeal that failed in 2009.

LoCurto raised the question of ineffective counsel in 2010, arguing that lawyer Laura Oppenheim, who was assisting his trial attorney with research, gave him bad advice about whether a 1988 amendment to the racketeering law would apply to his case. The amendment raises the maximum sentence from 20 years to life.

She wrote in a 2010 affidavit that she told him, incorrectly, that applying the amendment to his case would violate the Constitution, because Platia’s murder happened in 1986.

But LoCurto’s trial lawyer, Harry Batchelder, had a different recollection of what happened — one more favorable to the prosecution.

“In fact, I told Mr. LoCurto that this was not a viable argument and advised him that if convicted at trial, he would receive a life sentence,” Batchelder wrote in a 2021 affidavit. “I never advised Mr. LoCurto that he should go to trial because he had nothing to lose.”

LoCurto insisted on going to trial because he had beaten the state charges, and never would have accepted a plea deal, Batchelder wrote. “Mr. LoCurto expressed that he was expecting a parade on Arthur Avenue after his anticipated acquittal,” he wrote.

Federal prosecutors also contend that the 20-year offer was never made as a formal plea deal.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Elderly Queens man struck and killed by Bonanno associate

An 88-year-old man who was mowed down around the corner from his Queens home by a rogue tow truck driver with connections to the Bonanno crime family has died three weeks after the accident, police said Tuesday.

Chung Lun Shao was crossing Dry Harbor Road and 84th St. in Middle Village just before 5 a.m. on July 29 when he was struck by a Chevrolet Silverado being driven by Long Island resident Filippo Bonura, cops said.

EMS rushed the victim to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he appeared to be on the mend, police said. But the senior took a turn for the worse Sunday and died from the injuries he sustained in the crash, according to cops.

Bonura was a former longshoreman until his registration was revoked in 2017 by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor after an administrative judge found that he consorted with three high-ranking members of the ruthless organized crime family.

As a teenager, Bonura worked at a deli owned by Giacomo “Jack” Bonventre, an acting Bonanno capo. He also worked as a tow truck driver for Bonventre, the judge found. Bonura palled around with Ronald “Ronnie G” Giallanzo, another Bonanno capo and convicted racketeer. He was also chummy with Sandro “Santo” Aiosa, a Bonanno soldier, according to the judge.

The Waterfront Commission administrative trial uncovered other unsavory facts about him.

“Bonura’s previous addiction to drugs and problems with gambling, and ... Bonventre’s conviction for gambling and extortion and his association with Aiosa, who also had gambling convictions, put Bonura ‘at a risk for corruption if he should ever lose so much gambling that he needs money,’” according to the commission.

Bonura told police that Shao, who immigrated from China in the 1960s and rose to be the head chef at Shun Lee West, had stepped out from two parked cars when his Silverado slammed into him.

Shao’s only daughter, however, provided video to the Daily News that tells a different story.

The footage shows the old man clearly visible in the roadway for several seconds when the driver struck him.

“It’s completely the driver’s fault. He basically killed my father. Even everyone in this building, they expected to see my father for another 20 years,” Alice Shao, 48, told The News.

“He had no serious issues. he took care of himself pretty well. He was still able to do a lot of things that most people couldn’t at that age,” she added.

Neither Bonura nor his lawyer could immediately be reached for comment.

“After the crash, I was upset and a little angry, because I didn’t know how that could have happened,” Alice Shao said. “Then as more details came and I saw the footage, I realized the driver lied, and even his demeanor after hitting him — throwing his hands up in the air — it was as if it was an inconvenience to him.”

She said her dad, who was a light sleeper, frequently took walks around the neighborhood at that time.

The elderly father suffered numerous injuries in the collision, including a punctured left lung, contusions, broken ribs on both sides, a fractured left pelvis and a shattered right pelvis, his daughter said.

She said that her father fought hard to recover, but last week the doctors offered a choice to take him off the breathing tube with the chance that he would die — or leave it in for the rest of his life.

“His quality of life would have been nothing. He would have still been hooked up to a machine. He liked moving around. He kept himself busy and was in pretty good shape. That would have been hard for him, to be hooked up,” she said.

When the tube was removed, she coached her father to breathe.

“He responded when I was calling to him,” she said. “I told him you have to breathe, and he did, he really tried.”

Ultimately, he could not survive on his own.

“It was hard. Honestly, I wanted to give him a chance, even if it’s a slim chance, but you have to remember their wishes. It’s not what he wanted. He wouldn’t have been happy living like that. I didn’t want him to be in pain, I didn’t want him to be in discomfort. I didn’t want him to be unhappy. It was the only choice I could have made given the circumstances,” she said.

Bonura, 48, remained at the scene and was charged with driving without a valid license.

This was not his only scrape with the law.

In August 2019, he was operating an unlicensed tow truck when he was arrested for possessing burglar tools. A police officer found him at the scene of a car accident trying to solicit the driver for a tow, and he had a police scanner in his truck in what may have been an effort to circumvent the city’s Directed Accident Response Program that allocates tows to licensed companies.

It’s unclear what the tools were.

After he struck Shao, Bonura was released without bail during a brief arraignment proceeding at Queens Criminal Court the next day.

He’s due back in court to answer the charges on Oct. 31, prosecutors said.


Saturday, August 12, 2023

Dementia stricken and deteriorating former Colombo Acting Boss appears in the NYTimes

At Federal Medical Center Devens, a federal prison in Massachusetts, there is a prisoner who thinks he is a warden. “I’m the boss. I’m going to fire you,” Victor Orena, who is 89, will tell the prison staff.

On some days, Mr. Orena is studiously aloof — as if he were simply too busy or important to deal with anybody else. On other days, he orders everyone around in an overwrought Mafioso tone: a version of the voice that, perhaps, he used when he was a working New York City mob boss decades ago, browbeating members of his notorious crime family. This makes the real prison warden laugh.

On a recent morning, Mr. Orena sat in his wheelchair beside a man with bloodshot eyes. I asked them if they knew where they were.

“This is a prison,” Mr. Orena said, brightly.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“I don’t remember,” he frowned. “I don’t know.”

Timothy Doherty, a senior officer specialist at F.M.C. Devens, which houses federal prisoners who require medical care, estimates that 90 percent of the men he oversees “don’t know what they did. Some of them don’t even know where they are.” Mr. Doherty helps to run the Memory Disorder Unit, the federal prison system’s first purpose-built facility for incarcerated people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Down the hall from where Mr. Orena was sitting — past the activity room with the fish tank, where a cluster of men were watching “King Kong” on TV — there is a cell belonging to another man who wakes every day to discover anew that he is in prison. Some mornings, the man packs up his belongings and waits at the door. He explains that his mother is coming to get him.

“She sure is,” a staff member might say, before slowly leading him back to his cell.

In recent years, I have reported on many aspects of life with dementia. One image has especially haunted me: that of a prisoner who, as a result of cognitive impairment, no longer remembers his crimes — but is still being punished for them.

We don’t know exactly how many people in American prisons have dementia because nobody is counting. By some estimates, there are already thousands, most of them languishing in the general inmate population.

Older adults represent one of the fastest-growing demographic groups within American correctional facilities. Between 1999 and 2016, the number of prisoners over 55 increased by 280 percent, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts; over the same period, the number of incarcerated younger people grew by just 3 percent. This trend is largely attributed to “tough on crime” reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, which lengthened sentences and ensured that many more people would grow old and frail and then die behind prison walls.

Incarcerated life is also thought to accelerate the aging process, such that many longtime prisoners appear more than a decade older than their chronological ages — and are considered “elderly” at 50 or 55.

Early on, a prisoner’s dementia might go unnoticed. Federal prisons do not routinely screen older people for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia unless they exhibit symptoms. And the rigidity and monotony of institutional life can often mask them: A person can get by, for a while, just by following the man ahead of him.

But later, things will start to fall apart. At first, a person with dementia might struggle in the normal way that other aging prisoners do: to walk long distances for meals or medication, to get up from a low-lying toilet without a handrail, to climb a bunk bed on command. Over time, he might start to pace or repeat phrases over and over. He might have hallucinations or delusions or paranoia. He might fall. He might be incorrectly medicated by a doctor who does not understand his condition. He might struggle to distinguish between items of similar color — mashed potatoes on a white plate, say — and so have trouble eating. Or forget to eat at all.

A prisoner with dementia might wear slippers outside his cell, even though this is against the rules. Or wander somewhere he is not supposed to go. He might have trouble judging the distance between things and bump into people who might, in turn, mistake the stumbles for deliberate affronts. He might begin to smell, because he can’t remember how to wash his body — and he might expose his body to others, because his disease leaves him sexually disinhibited. He might get hurt by another prisoner who takes advantage of his impairment and then forget that he was hurt. He might hurt someone else. He might become incontinent. He might grow afraid of shadows because he perceives them to be holes in the ground.

Eventually, the man will find himself living inside an unyielding system whose boundaries and principles he can no longer see or interpret or remember. And because he can’t stop breaking the rules, he might be punished — in some cases, with solitary housing. There, his condition might worsen. “Noncompliance with correctional rules and directions is often treated as a disciplinary issue rather than a medical issue,” explains a 2022 report, “Persons Living With Dementia in the Criminal Legal System,” copublished by the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging. Because the prisoner has nowhere else to go, he might muddle along as best as he can until he becomes so impaired that he is transferred to a medical center, where he will spend the rest of his incarcerated days lying in bed.

The Memory Disorder Unit at F.M.C. Devens, which opened in 2019 and was designed to resemble a memory care facility, offers an alternative path for such a prisoner. Its correctional officers have received training from the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners and currently supervise around two dozen men with an average age of 72. These officers have been given a tall task: to bend an institution designed to punish and sequester into a place that can provide care to some of the most vulnerable people in the system.

In the end, they are proud of what they have built. Why else would they let a journalist come to see it? And still, the M.D.U. seems to challenge several of the classic justifications for the prison system itself: to segregate the dangerous, for instance (many M.D.U. residents are weak and unthreatening), or to reform the morally corrupt (many M.D.U. prisoners don’t remember doing wrong).

Amy Boncher, who was the warden of F.M.C. Devens when I visited in May (she is now the Bureau of Prisons’ Northeast regional director), told me that when she first met the residents of the unit, it was hard to make sense of the entire project. “I looked at them. And I’m thinking: Why haven’t we released all of them?”

“Do you know history?” An M.D.U. resident shuffled toward me. I could only make out bits of speech: “Fidel Castro” and “revolution” and “United States took over Cuba.” This man was born in Cuba and now spends his days reliving its past. As he moved closer, I noticed the smell; since arriving at the M.D.U., he has generally refused to brush his teeth.

I’m told that he’s a “big teddy bear” — though he can get agitated if, say, another prisoner gets annoyed by his revolutionary babble and tells him that Fidel Castro is dead and that nobody liked him. When this happens, a staff member will play the man some old Cuban music, and he will weep as he listens to it.

Most days, he doesn’t seem to know why he is in prison, though sometimes he will allude to a past transgression. “I was a young man,” he will insist. “I told them who did it.”

After a few minutes, an “inmate companion” named Oswaldo Ornelas put his arm around the Cuban man’s shoulders and led him down the hallway. Mr. Ornelas is one of four cognitively healthy prisoners, men without dementia, who are trained to live and work in the M.D.U. in exchange for $30 to $100 a month in wages and, possibly, time off their sentences. The companions are selected based on criminal history — they can’t have been convicted of a sex crime or another violent crime — and temperament. “You’ve got to make sure they won’t take advantage of the men in any way,” Mr. Doherty, the senior officer specialist, said.

Mr. Ornelas told me that a few years ago, while incarcerated, he received a kidney transplant and that he wanted to work in the M.D.U. “to give my life back.”

When I arrived at the unit, Mr. Ornelas was on duty with another companion, Richard Lotito, and the two men had just spent three hours waking, showering and dressing the other prisoners. Their work is physically demanding and exquisitely intimate. Several of the men need help with the toilet and wear diapers. Over many months, the companions have learned their individual needs and tempos. “One guy poops every other day, another poops all day,” Mr. Lotito said. Another gets confused and urinates in the trash cans. “The key to this job is patience.” (Mr. Lotito and Mr. Ornelas were both released in July.)

The M.D.U. is made up of two long hallways that are lined with cells and several common rooms. Unlike standard prison units, the M.D.U. has a kitchen filled with snacks, because sometimes the men forget that they have just eaten and insist that they are starving — and then one of the companions can make them peanut butter sandwiches.

Across most of the unit, the walls are painted a pale pink. In the world of dementia care, pink is sometimes thought to be a calming color that reduces combative behavior. Two officers and one nurse are walking the floors at any given moment, but they do not carry guns, and they are not everywhere. Near the entryway, the prisoners’ artwork is displayed on the wall: paper lanterns, painted tiles, flowers made of pipe cleaners. On the doors to the cells are pictures of favorite objects that help the men to locate their rooms: a Cadillac, the Red Sox logo, an umbrella. Most of the time, the doors inside the unit are unlocked, and the prisoners can come and go as they please. If the whole place weren’t locked down and made of windowless concrete, it would almost look like a day care center.

During the day, there are activities. Trivia, with questions about events from the ’50s and ’60s. Bocce ball. Music therapy. Outside of scheduled time, the men are encouraged to be active. One folds laundry. One sits on the patio on a metal rocking chair and watches birds fly by. Another is given a paintbrush and a can of washable paint so that he can paint the walls all day — “because he gets upset when he’s bored and doesn’t know what to do with himself,” Mr. Doherty said.

As I was led around the unit, I heard screaming. I was told that the screaming man had suffered a brain injury and that he screams often, sometimes because of pain from the spots on his legs where he has rubbed the skin raw. Alexandra Kimball, an occupational therapist, rushed to his side. “Do you like Tom Brady?” she asked gently, referring to the former N.F.L. quarterback.

The screaming stopped. “I love Tom Brady.”

The staff members of the M.D.U. maintain a binder with profiles of the prisoners, including information on how to soothe them. The binder entry for the screaming man advises officers to reference Tom Brady.

Compared to officers in the rest of the prison, M.D.U. staff members can exercise a bit more discretion when it comes to rule breaking. Ms. Boncher, the former warden, told me that the M.D.U. has its own unique “disciplinary procedures.” Her staff members, she explained, are skilled at deciding which prisoners should be disciplined for bad behavior, which she says involves a psychological determination about whether the offending man knew that he was doing something wrong and did it anyway and is therefore responsible and worthy of punishment or was simply acting on impulse, a victim of his own damaged mind. This approach assumes that it is even possible to deduce the mental state of a man who only sometimes or partially understands himself.

But sometimes the M.D.U. residents will fight in the TV room. Or someone will spit on someone else — or walk into the wrong cell and get punched in the face. In most cases, a man who acts out will be “redirected” to a new activity. In other cases, he will lose his commissary or phone privileges for a few days. In rarer cases, he will be locked alone in his room until he calms down, an approach that would not be used in a typical nursing home.

A few men are only allowed out of their cells for two hours each day, with supervision. This includes someone whom Mr. Doherty describes as “absolutely the nicest of inmates” until he starts hearing voices. Some of the men understand that they are being punished and some don’t, and some understand but then forget.

“All the prisons need this,” Mr. Doherty told me, gesturing around him. “What do other places do with these guys?”

On the day I visited the unit, a few of the medical staff members told me that they previously worked in community nursing homes and that the M.D.U. prisoners are probably receiving better care than they would on the outside, in whatever Medicaid-subsidized beds they were likely to find themselves. Behind bars, the men have easy access to psychologists, social workers and a pharmacist with a specialty in geriatrics. Perhaps that’s true. And yet, the existence of the M.D.U. seems to impugn the basic logic of the carceral system or at least its classic rationales.

For some, the point of prison is chiefly to incapacitate dangerous people. The men inside the M.D.U. vary in their physical abilities, but many are very sick and confused and use wheelchairs or walkers, and they probably couldn’t hurt anyone if they wanted to. With them, appeals to public safety fall short. More broadly, the Department of Justice has concluded that “aging inmates are generally less of a public safety threat.” And researchers have found that recidivism rates drop to nearly zero for people over 65.

For others, prison is meant to offer retribution for wrongdoing. In this view, if a person does something wrong, he deserves to be punished in proportion to his crime — and justice depends on it. Dementia tests this logic in different ways. Proponents of this view might decide that even a just act of punishment becomes unjust if the offender no longer understands why he is being condemned. Alternatively, they might conclude that those who are ailing and weak deserve mercy. Many of the M.D.U. residents have already served several years of their sentences.

Some believe that incarceration is an opportunity for rehabilitation. “But with dementia, there is no rehabilitation,” says Lynn Biot-Gordon, of the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, the organization that provided training to M.D.U. staff. Moral education is impossible for a person who cannot be educated. And a prisoner cannot reflect on his crimes — and then maybe regret them or feel ashamed of them or be repulsed by them or resolve to do better in the future — if he does not even remember them or feel responsible for them.

Kelly Fricker, a psychologist at F.M.C. Devens, told me that she can’t do much in the way of talk therapy for her M.D.U. patients. “An inherent part of mental health therapy would be to remember from session to session. Many guys here don’t even know who I am.”

But what if the point of imprisoning people for decades is to deter others from committing crimes? Arguably, this rationale survives. Letting the M.D.U.’s prisoners go would, in this view, weaken the overall deterrent effect of criminal law. To hold this view, however, you would have to hold the unlikely belief that a person’s decision to commit a crime would be affected by the knowledge that prisoners with advanced dementia are sometimes released from prison early.

Of course, dementia is not the only medical condition that casts doubt on the principles of incarceration. A prisoner who is very old but cognitively healthy might be similarly frail and unthreatening — or might have changed in drastic ways since his incarceration. A person with a severe mental illness might similarly forget his crimes — or feel psychically disconnected from them or be incapable of thoughtfully reflecting on them later. But dementia might pose the paradigmatic challenge.

Within the philosophical literature on cognitive impairment, there is a debate about whether a person with advanced dementia is even the same person as he was before it. If he cannot be considered the same person, then the men of the M.D.U. are, in an important sense, being punished for someone else’s crimes.

At one point during my visit, I spoke with a white-haired man who had a large nose and reddish skin. “I want to go home like anything,” he told me softly.

“What brought you here?” I asked.

“What brought me here?” The man paused. “Hmm. I don’t know.”

As we walked away, Mr. Doherty shook his head. “He remembers,” he said. Then he told me that the white-haired man had raped his granddaughter.

Later, I wondered how much it should matter whether the old man remembered what he did. And what if he remembered sometimes but not other times? Many people with dementia exist in a kind of middle ground of partial comprehension or have memories that surface and then disappear.

“We get into difficult metaphysical questions about personhood here,” said Jeffrey Howard, a professor of political philosophy and public policy at University College London, when I told him about my conversation with the white-haired man. “But you might think that there are two versions of the man: One of them deserves the punishment, and the other doesn’t. In order to punish the version of him that deserves it, you have to take along this hostage for the ride. It’s hard to see how that sort of collateral damage could be justified.”

There is, technically, a way out. A few of the M.D.U.’s residents have received so-called compassionate release, which allows prisoners with extraordinary or compelling reasons, such as severe illness, to be released early from their sentences. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state systems have a version of it. But compassionate release, according to the 2022 American Bar Association report, is “rarely used,” and many prisoners die over the months it takes for their applications to be reviewed. Release is especially rare for people with dementia, because the Bureau of Prisons has historically misinterpreted the federal statute to mean that only prisoners who are terminally ill and very close to death are eligible.

State programs are also limited. Lilli Paratore, the director of legal services at UnCommon Law, which offers pro bono legal representation to incarcerated people in California, told me about representing a woman with Parkinson’s disease and dementia who applied for medical parole. Parole board members looked at her client’s memory gaps with suspicion, Ms. Paratore told me. “Your lack of memory appears to be selective,” one commissioner said. (The client was eventually released.)

Even people with dementia who do obtain early release can find themselves stuck in prison, because they can’t be released without a plan and there is nowhere else for them to go. Some have lost contact with family members. They don’t have anyone on the outside who is able to provide or fund round-the-clock care. And nursing homes usually won’t take them, particularly if they have violent histories — which some but not all of the M.D.U. residents do. “Some people get released but we can’t find them a spot,” Christina Cozza, a social worker in the unit, said.

Within the medical field, there has been very little research on how a history of violence might present itself in the context of dementia. Would a violent impulse be heightened or diminished as the brain it dwells in grows more impaired?

Patricia Ruze, the clinical director of F.M.C. Devens, does not believe that the men of the M.D.U. pose a threat to anyone. “They are probably better behaved than most patients in dementia units generally, because a lot of them have spent many, many, many years in custody and so are rule followers.” Dr. Ruze thinks it would be “totally appropriate” to release the whole unit on compassionate grounds and relocate the men to community nursing homes, which already have experience dealing with aggressive behaviors brought on by cognitive impairment — and which cost much less than operating a prison unit.

“It doesn’t make sense for our country to pay so much to house 15, 20 guys,” Dr. Ruze said.

Ms. Boncher, the former warden, is now equivocal. “They’ve done some horrific things. They’ve been abusive to other humans.” Collectively, the men of the M.D.U. have murdered, attempted to murder, stabbed, kidnapped, extorted, swindled and brought fear to entire cities. There were victims of these crimes, and some of them are still living. They will have their own opinions about the need, or not, for mercy.

Within the M.D.U., staff members believe that the future of the correctional system lies in more M.D.U.s. “This is the future,” one unit nurse told me.

“Have people from other institutions visited, to learn about the model?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Doherty said. Then he turned to his colleagues. “Didn’t we have people from Guantánamo?”

In the meantime, some researchers are proposing a more modest approach: building more “dementia-friendly prisons.” Such prisons might have cell doors painted in different colors to help confused inmates orient themselves — and handrails, nonslip floors and accessible showers. They might guarantee that prisoners with dementia get bottom bunks and a bit more time to drop to the floor during drills. They might have pictures above the sinks to remind prisoners how hand-washing works and “scheduled toileting” for people who are incontinent. They might permit a person to wear Velcro clothing if he can no longer manage buttons or clasps. They could give him longer to finish his dinner.

Dr. Ruze, the clinical director, is skeptical of all of it. “In this country, we incarcerate way too many people for way too long. We give people life sentences. And then they turn 90, they’re in diapers, they get demented. We have to ask ourselves, what are we accomplishing?”

Whatever we are currently accomplishing or mean to accomplish, it seems to require that America’s prisons undergo a strange and maybe absurd conversion: into something that more closely resembles a locked-down, fenced-off, barbed-wire-enclosed nursing home.

As I left the M.D.U., a man was moving slowly down the hallway in a wheelchair, his head wrapped in a thick bandage — because, I was told, he bangs his head on the concrete walls when he gets frustrated. In the common room, another man was helping the person beside him to open a plastic container holding his lunch, a hamburger. Another man sat to the side.

“Do you like it here?” I asked him.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” he said. “But I’d rather be in … oh, what’s it …?” Then he forgot where he wished he could go.