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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Friday, June 11, 2021

Lucchese soldier sentenced to nearly three years in prison for assaulting former husband of Real Housewives of New Jersey star


A reputed Mafioso was sentenced on Thursday to two-and-a-half years behind bars for assaulting the husband of former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Dina Manzo.

John Perna, 44, an alleged soldier in the Lucchese crime family, had roughed up Manzo’s new beau at the request of her jealous ex-husband Tom Manzo in July 2015, Acting US Attorney Rachael Honig said in a statement.

In exchange for his strongarm services, Perna allegedly got a huge discount on a wedding reception at Manzo’s ritzy Patterson restaurant, Brownstone.

“The reception was attended by over 330 guests, many of whom were members of the Lucchese Crime Family,” the statement said.

Perna, the son of reputed Lucchese capo Ralph Perna, was accused of using a slap jack to beat up Dina Manzo’s new boyfriend (now husband) David Cantin in a Passaic County strip mall parking lot.

Dina and Tom split up in 2012 and divorced in 2016. They were on the outs at the time of the assault.

Dina, who appeared on the first two seasons of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” married Cantlin in 2019.

Perna will have three years supervised release after he gets out of the clink – and he’ll have to pay almost $18,000 in restitution, a federal judge ordered at sentencing.

The alleged Cosa Nostra member is the son of reputed Lucchese capo Ralph Perna, who was accused by the feds of running the faction’s Garden State operations.

Tom Manzo, 56, was recently charged in a separate incident that accuses him and associate of targeting his wife and her new husband in a 2017 home invasion.

“This is what happens when you f—k with a guy from Paterson,” one of the assailants said before they left, according to prosecutors.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Friday, May 21, 2021

Staten Island man awaits sentencing in luxury car storage shakedown where he mentioned name of Colombo captain

He once sold luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

But Philip Lombardo lost his job after his arrest in 2019 on extortion, racketeering and other charges.

Now, there’s a chance he could lose his freedom.

Lombardo, 62, awaits sentencing in Brooklyn federal court for conspiring to extort money from a victim by threats of violence.

The victim was a person who stored vehicles for Lombardo’s old Mercedes boss in Brooklyn.

The sentencing is scheduled for June 9.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to impose a sentence within the guideline range of 15 to 21 months in prison.

The defense seeks probation.

In October 2019, Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced the arrests of 20 suspects, including Joseph Amato Sr., a purported Colombo crime family capo, and other alleged mobsters.

The defendants were indicted on wide-ranging charges of racketeering, extortion, loansharking and stalking.

One defendant was accused of attempting to fix an NCAA college basketball game. He did not succeed.

Lombardo was among the 17 Staten Islanders charged. Public records indicate he is from New Springville.


Prosecutors identified him as a purported Colombo associate, an allegation his lawyer vehemently objects to in his sentencing memorandum.

“Mr. Lombardo is not a gangster, and he is not an associate of an organized crime family,” wrote John M. Murphy III.

Lombardo knew Amato Sr. through his job, Murphy wrote. He sold Amato and his family “numerous vehicles” throughout the years, said Murphy.

According to prosecutors’ court filings, the extortion occurred in December 2018 and January 2019.

Lombardo was working then at Mercedes-Benz of Brooklyn.

Sometime in 2018, the victim signed a contract to store some of the dealership’s vehicles at an off-site warehouse.

Shortly thereafter, Lombardo approached the man.

The defendant told him he needed to fork over a percentage of his proceeds from the contract, said prosecutors.

Otherwise, he said Amato Sr. would destroy the cars the man was storing for the dealership, prosecutors allege.

Lombardo demanded $500 a month from the victim, said prosecutors. He indicated he’d split the cash with Amato Sr. and possibly a third person, prosecutors said.

Based on Lombardo’s threat, the victim shelled out a one-time payment of $5,000, prosecutors wrote.

Four years earlier, the victim had learned the hard way who Amato was, said prosecutors.

The mob captain and others “violently assaulted” him after the victim had become embroiled in a verbal dispute with Amato’s son, Joseph Amato Jr., prosecutors said.

Lombardo had “lured” the man to the location where he was attacked, said prosecutors. However, it was unclear if Lombardo knew of Amato’s plans to assault the victim, prosecutors said.


The defendant lost his job at Mercedes after his 2019 arrest.

Afterward, he managed to land another car-sales gig. However, it was for less than half his salary at Mercedes, his lawyer said in court papers.

Last October, Lombardo pleaded guilty to interference with commerce by threat or violence to resolve his case.

Prosecutors maintain a sentence within the guideline range of 15 to 21 months is appropriate. Judges are not bound by the guidelines.

“Because extortionate conduct allows dangerous criminal organizations such as the Colombo family to earn money, these crimes are necessary for the Colombo family’s survival,” wrote prosecutors Elizabeth Geddes, Megan E. Farrell and James McDonald. “And, because extortions can lead to violence, this crime is particularly serious and warrants a sentence within the guidelines range.”

Murphy, the defense lawyer, maintained probation is sufficient punishment.

Lombardo, he contends, was “a minor participant in the extortion.”

He noted Lombardo has no prior criminal convictions. The lawyer also pointed to various letters of support submitted on the defendant’s behalf.

In them, family, friends and community members described him as a “caring, devoted father and friend” and talked about his “honesty and selflessness,” said Murphy.

“The most noteworthy part of this case, as it relates to Mr. Lombardo, is how aberrational this conduct is for him,” wrote the attorney. “… Phil Lombardo has made the world a better place for those he encounters. … It is extremely saddening to see a selfish act tarnish his exemplary character.”

Should the judge decide to incarcerate Lombardo, Murphy asked that he impose home detention or a sentence below the guideline range.

As part of his sentence, Lombardo must forfeit $5,000, said prosecutors’ court filings.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Staten Island man who is son of turncoat Gambino soldier is accused of being a Colombo associate and is sentenced for extortion

Staten Island resident Primo Cassarino is a Colombo crime family associate, federal prosecutors allege.

And the son of mob turncoat Primo Cassarino Sr. used those wiseguys’ “violent reputation” to extort payment of gambling debt, contend prosecutors.

For that “serious” crime, Cassarino deserved to spend up to 27 months in prison, Brooklyn federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Cassarino’s lawyer, however, contended the alleged mob links are way off.

Such accusations are “extremely inflammatory and prejudicial,” wrote Vincent J. Licata in his memo to the court.

Cassarino, 33, was never accused of engaging in any organized criminal activity, Licata wrote. Nor did he plead guilty to doing so.

But last year Cassarino, did admit to the crime of extortionate collection of credit.

And for that felony he was sentenced on Thursday to 18 months in prison, plus a year of supervised release.

Cassarino has also agreed to forfeit $13,500, which represents his portion of the collected debt, said court papers.

In October 2019, Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced the arrests of 20 suspects, including Joseph Amato Sr., a purported Colombo crime family capo, and other alleged mobsters.

The defendants were indicted on wide-ranging charges of racketeering, extortion, loansharking and stalking.

One defendant was accused of attempting to fix an NCAA college basketball game. He did not succeed.

Cassarino was among those charged.

According to prosecutors’ court filings, Cassarino ran a lucrative, illegal online sports-betting operation.

The business “generated significant profits for the operators and significant debts for the gamblers, which, in turn, led to loansharking loans,” wrote prosecutors.

One individual who obtained a loan was a cooperating witness. He had accumulated a gambling debt of over $30,000 on the site, prosecutors said.

Under an arrangement with Joseph Amato Jr., the mob captain’s son, the debt was owed jointly to Cassarino and the younger Amato, said prosecutors.

In intercepted phone calls, Cassarino and Amato Jr. discussed extending a loan to the witness and collecting the debt, prosecutors said.

The two men allegedly used burner phones to try to avoid detection.

Cassarino also regularly contacted a co-defendant who was collecting payments on the loan, said prosecutors.

When the cooperator fell behind, the co-defendant threatened him “on multiple occasions,” prosecutors contend.

Cassarino assisted the co-defendant at least one time in July 2019, said prosecutors.

He texted the witness, said he was a friend of the co-defendant’s and arranged to pick up a payment, prosecutors said.

However, Licata, the defense lawyer, maintained his client never met with or spoke to the witness. Nor did he help in collecting the loan, said the attorney.

As such, his role in the crime was “only peripheral,” Licata contended.

“Mr. Cassarino had nothing whatsoever to do with arranging and/or collecting any loan or with repayment,” Licata wrote. “Mr. Cassarino’s only interest was receiving payment of the gambling debt. … At no time did Mr. Cassarino participate in the use of any type of extortionate means to collect the gambling debt owed by (the cooperating witness).”

Licata sought a sentence of 366 days behind bars for his client, plus a year of supervised release.

Prosecutors asked the judge to impose a sentence within the guideline range of 21 to 27 months in prison.

Judges are not bound by the sentencing guidelines.

Cassarino’s father, also named Primo Cassarino, is a purported Gambino crime family soldier who turned on the mob.

He began cooperating with authorities well over a decade ago.

Previously, in 2003, the elder Cassarino had been convicted of shakedowns at the Staten Island waterfront and of actor Steven Seagal.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Former NHL player opens mobster themed bar in North Carolina


While it’s named after a famous mobster, Teets is no speakeasy.

Teets Bar, from brothers Bates and Anthony Battaglia, looks to join Glenwood South in a big way. The new bar is named after their grandfather, Chicago mobster Sam “Teets” Battaglia, who as a teenager joined the Chicago Outfit with Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, according to the bar’s website, eventually working his way up to boss.

Teets will take over the former Noir nightclub on Glenwod South, which closed during the COVID-19 pandemic after shuttering for months. The new gangster bar will be around the corner from the Battaglias’ longtime sports bar Lucky B’s, which has been open for more than 15 years.

Bates Battaglia is a former NHL player who played six seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. He and his brother, Anthony, won Season 22 of CBS’ reality competition show, “The Amazing Race,” in 2013.

When the Noir space opened up, Bates Battaglia said he saw it as an opportunity to share a notorious piece of family history. He sees the bar as a tribute to a first-generation American struggling to make a better life for his family.

“Obviously, it’s a pretty unique story,” Bates Battaglia said of his grandfather. “The bar is meant to be a good little tribute to him and my dad.”

“Teets” Battaglia died before the Battaglia brothers were born, and Bates Battaglia said his parents largely kept the streak of infamy quiet while they were growing up.

“It wasn’t something we actually knew about as youngsters,” Bates Battaglia said. “We didn’t really know him, only through stories and then more stories.”

Those stories include how “Teets” got his nickname, according to the bar’s website. When working as a debt collector in the Chicago mafia, he threatened to punch someone in the chest.

In its telling, the bar frames its teenage namesake as making difficult choices during difficult economic conditions.

“Being a first-generation American, it wasn’t easy finding work, especially at that time of economic hardship,” the bar says on its website. “In order to feed his family as well as make it in a new world ‘Teets’ took a different path than most in his situation. … Teets is a bar that comes from a hard-working family that did whatever it took to get where they wanted to be.”

The rise of cocktail bars and speakeasies can be traced back to the Prohibition-era bars of passwords and secret entrances leading to well mixed drinks. Teets will not be a nod to that, Battaglia said, instead steering more towards a sports bar.

The Teets bar should open in early May, Battaglia said, with large front and back patios and large TVs for gathering to watch the games. He said current and former Canes players are welcome anytime.


While Bates Battaglia played in other cities during his career, he said he always returned to the Triangle in the off season and considered it his home.

“I fell in love with the town and the people,” Battaglia said.

As a bar, Battaglia said Teets will use the family history as a jumping off point, but it won’t be a mobster-themed bar. There will be old photos and memorabilia, but not a shrine, he said.

“It’s not like a museum or anything,” Battaglia said. “We wanted to just let the public into our family history a little.”

At a decade-and-a-half old, Lucky’s is one of Glenwood’s older bars. The pandemic was particularly difficult for North Carolina’s bar industry, which was largely prevented from operating for most of the last year.

“It was brutal; we got destroyed,” Battaglia said of Lucky’s. “We were down 80 percent. Now that it’s lightening up, we’re seeing people come back, which is a huge break for us.”

Over the last month-and-a-half, once the state’s alcohol curfew was lifted and capacity restrictions were eased, Glenwood Avenue quickly returned to its pre-pandemic state, with crowds of revelers lining up for the corridor’s bars. Battaglia said he wants to see Teets in the middle of that.

“We want this to be a nightlife destination,” he said. “It will be a lot like many of the other bars on Glenwood. Places to gather and get rowdy, but not too rowdy. I hope this is a new destination for downtown.”


Aging Genovese family mobsters try to overturn conviction for plot to kill Gambino family boss John Gotti


Two aging New Jersey mobsters, who federal judges have denied to release from prison during the coronavirus pandemic, are now alleging their decades-old convictions for plotting to murder John Gotti and ordering the hit on a New York businessman should be overturned.

Attorneys for Louis “Bobby” Manna and Richard DeSciscio, who have both been incarcerated since 1989, said they filed motions in federal court this week outlining how cases that put the two members of the Genovese Crime Family behind bars was full of prosecutorial misconduct.

“This was not a valid prosecution; this was a win-at-all-costs persecution by prosecutors who acted partially out of revenge and partially out of career ego,” said Jeremy M. Iandolo, a Brooklyn attorney who represents Manna. “They invented evidence, and withheld facts that would have resulted in a far different outcome at trial.”

At the center of the case against Manna, who was the consigliere, or third-in-command of the crime family, and DeSciscio, who authorities say was an “enforcer,” was their plot to murder New York mob boss John Gotti and the actual murder of Irwin “The Fat Man” Schiff.

During the 1989 trial, which used an anonymous jury out of fear of retaliation for the jurors, prosecutors played recorded conversations from Casella’s, an Italian restaurant in Hoboken the crime family used to conduct business, in which they said showed Manna ordering the murder of Schiff in 1987, as well as discussing the plot to take out Gotti and his brother, Gene.

Prosecutors claimed DeSciscio was present at the scene of the murder to assist in the “hit” on Schiff, which was carried out by an unidentified masked gunman at an Upper East Side restaurant.

While reportedly discussing the Schiff murder, authorities say Manna, DeSciscio and others discussed the “big hit” on Gotti, according to court documents.

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

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

But federal authorities quickly foiled the plot when they alerted Gotti to the hit, and soon charged Manna and his crew.

After a three-and-a-half month trial in federal court in Newark, Manna and DeSciscio were convicted of a number of crimes, including RICO conspiracy to murder Gotti and his brother, participating in the murder of Schiff, racketeering and conducting an illegal gambling business.

After securing their convictions, prosecutors described a it as “tremendous blow to organized crime in New Jersey.”

Louis Manna

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

Both men appealed their convictions and have challenged them in court, but the convictions have been affirmed each time.

Manna, who is 91, is currently incarcerated at a federal prison in Minnesota and is not eligible to be released until 2054. DeSciscio, 78, is incarcerated in Pennsylvania, and has a release date in 2052.

In their latest attempt, the defense attorneys for the men claim prosecutors falsely interpreted intercepted voice recordings and called a questionable witness to the stand during the trial in order “to buff up their resumes by convicting two alleged members of organized crime.”

“We are asking the court to rectify the injustice done to the defendants and allow them to go home to their families who they have not been with in over 30 years,” said Marco Laracca, an Orange attorney representing DeSciscio.

The attorneys say while prosecutors claim Manna and DeSciscio could be heard discussing the murder of Schiff, the men were actually talking about weekend union shifts of two other men, who could have confirmed that but were never called to testify during the trial.

The attorneys also claim the audio tapes were not of “high quality and identifying the speakers is difficult.”

“The government manufactured transcripts of the tape recording, with fabricated context of the conversation and published those lies to the jury,” Iandolo said.

In addition, the attorneys argue that the woman who testified as to seeing DeSciscio in a hallway adjacent to the restaurant on the night Schiff was killed was an unreliable witness.

They said she gave varying descriptions of DeSciscio that called into question her truthfulness as a witness.

“Knowing what we know now, I would like to have the entire prosecution and investigative teams appear at an evidentiary hearing and explain, under oath, their deceitful behavior and what motivated it,” Iandolo said.

The attorneys allege both men were denied due process and that prosecutors “actively concealed exculpatory evidence available to them at the time of trial in a successful effort to unjustly incarcerate” Manna and DeSciscio.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter. Michael Chertoff, the lead prosecutor in the case against Manna and DeSciscio, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Federal judge once again denies early release request for Staten Island man linked to mob murder of jeweler


A federal judge has once again snubbed the early-release bid of a New Dorp man serving a stiff sentence for his role in the mob-linked slaying of a jeweler in West Brighton 13 years ago.

Brooklyn federal court Judge Carol Bagley Amon declined to reconsider her March 10 decision rejecting John "Wizzie" DeLutro’s request for compassionate release.

In her most recent ruling filed two weeks ago, the judge said DeLutro, in his pro-se request, had failed to show “extraordinary and compelling” reasons justifying early release.

After the March denial, DeLutro had written the judge asking that she re-evaluate her decision.

In a hand-printed eight-page letter, DeLutro told the judge he was “actually innocent” and was “force(d)” by his lawyer at the time, his father and uncle into taking a plea.

In February 2010, DeLutro pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to robbery conspiracy in connection with the fatal shooting of Louis Antonelli, 43, on April 29, 2008, outside El Sabor Tropical restaurant.

The victim had a basement storage area at 280 Broadway and was expected to be carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gems, said Brooklyn federal prosecutors.

Authorities said DeLutro had been scouting out the restaurant. Besides keeping an eye on the area, DeLutro was in “near-constant” telephone contact with one of his accomplices, said prosecutors.

A co-defendant, Charles Santiago, shot the victim before fleeing empty-handed with another man, said authorities.

“I am human, Your Honor, and I was scared and bullied into taking a binding plea to save me from a life sentence, a life sentence I could never get,” wrote DeLutro, who is in his mid-40s.

DeLutro implored Amon to reduce his 20-year sentence.

“I ask for house arrest, more probation, ankle bracelet, anything,” he wrote.

Authorities allege the defendant has ties to the Genovese crime family.

Amon, however, said DeLutro had previously made the same argument to her years ago. She denied his habeas corpus petition in 2014.

A federal appellate court upheld the rejection the following year, she wrote.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit deemed the defendant’s appeal “frivolous,” wrote Amon.

DeLutro also contended early release was justified by disparities between his sentence, which is longer than the sentences of co-defendants in the case.

He contended he played a lesser role in the episode.

However, Amon said those individuals received shorter prison terms because they had cooperated with the government or had been convicted of different crimes.

“Although DeLutro may disagree with this conclusion, he has not identified any data or legal authority that I overlooked in reaching it,” wrote the judge.

DeLutro has appealed Amon’s ruling.


Friday, May 7, 2021

Judge denies early release request from Staten Island mobster who has made life long commitment to Lucchese family


In early 2020, reputed Staten Island mobster Eugene "Boobsie" Castelle was granted bail from federal prison due to pandemic-related health concerns, pending the outcome of an appeal filed against a 2019 conviction.

That appeal ultimately was denied.

So instead, Castelle’s legal team asked for a reduced sentence, citing extenuating circumstances involving his fiancee and children on the outside, in addition to a past bout with the coronavirus and ongoing health risks exacerbated by the conditions of his confinement.

A federal judge isn’t budging.


Castelle— a reputed member of the Lucchese crime family who in public records is tied to an Annadale residence— was convicted in 2019 for racketeering conspiracy and running an illegal gambling business,

He was sentenced to 77 months in a federal penitentiary, a three-year supervised release, $100,000 fine and forfeiture of $188,955 in criminal proceeds.

In 2008, he had completed an 88-month sentence for racketeering conspiracy, according to court records.


In a recent letter to the courts, Castelle’s fiancee described a “truly amazing man with a heart of gold.”

“Throughout his adulthood, Eugene ever holiday would buy thousands of stuffed animals to give to the children in the pediatric hospitals,” she wrote.

Prior to his most recent incarceration they were parenting four children together.

She also described him as a self-taught, intelligent man who ran successful businesses despite a challenging home-life growing up and lack of formal education.

But in addition to that success, she wrote, he was “drawn to another life, filled with greed and poor decision making.”

“Basically he wants [his children] to learn the right lessons in life now, so they don’t make the same mistakes he made.”


Since early 2020, Castelle has contended with serious illness and respiratory issues that are putting his life at risk amid an ongoing pandemic, his lawyers argued.

But according to a recent ruling by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. Southern District of New York, the prisoner in this case did not meet the necessary requirements for an early medical release, based on legal precedent.

Diagnoses that qualify include, but are not limited to: Terminal cancer; end stage organ disease; advanced dementia and serious functional or cognitive impairment.


In a letter to the court opposing the sentence-reduction request, federal prosecutors argued that Castelle “like so many made members of organized crime, views his membership in La Cosa Nostra as a life-long commitment” and thus would be a “substantial danger to the community” if set free.

Reduced sentences have been allowed in the past when, in part “the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other person or to the community,” court records indicate.

In his denial of Castelle’s latest request, Hellerstein noted the 2019 sentencing when the defendant “refused to acknowledge any responsibility for his conduct, denied his guilt and expressed no remorse for his crimes.”

The judge also cited Castelle’s longterm involvement with the Lucchese crime family: “Extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from vulnerable businesses and individuals around him, through explicit and implicit threats of violence and economic harm.”

(Both the indictment and officials from the U.S. attorney’s office spell the family name as “Luchese.” Many outlets spell the family name as “Lucchese.”)


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Jimmy Hoffa is buried on a Georgia golf course acording to former mob lawyer


Could Jimmy Hoffa have ended up in a Georgia golf course?

A former defense attorney claims his onetime mob client helped bury the famous Teamsters boss under a hole at a Savannah golf course once popular with Mafia bosses, according to a new report.

“It was so out of the way, it was ridiculous that he would be brought him here to Savannah, Georgia,” Reginald Haupt Jr. told Fox News.

“It made this the perfect place.”

Hoffa’s mysterious disappearance in 1975 has long been presumed to be part of a mob hit — though his body has yet to turn up.

Stories over the years have ranged from it being buried under the field at the old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, to a Jersey City landfill co-owned by late mob associate Paul Cappola and late Genovese crime family partner Phil “Brother” Moscato.

But Haupt, a one-time criminal defense lawyer known as “Bubba,” told Fox that Hoffa wouldn’t have ended up in the Garden State.

“They can’t go to New Jersey on Mafia property and keep an eye on anybody,” he said. “They did not want to let Hoffa go and they did not want anybody to find him.”

Instead, Haupt claims the corrupt union boss wound up under the Savannah Inn and Golf Country Club, an exclusive resort on Wilmington Island, where members of the Chicago Outfit would vacation.

Haupt’s former client, Lou Rosanova — identified by the feds as a top member of the Chicago mob — once ran the hotel at the resort.

Known as “Lou the Tailor,” Rosanova, who died in 2003, was allegedly trusted to hide Hoffa’s remains because of his Windy City ties.

The FBI reportedly believed that Rosanova was involved in the Hoffa case and interviewed him about the claim, Haupt said.

According to Haupt, Hoffa’s remains were flown to the private dirt landing strip on the island shorty after he vanished in Detroit on July 30, 1975.

When mobsters and Teamsters would play golf at the resort, Haupt said, they would urinate on the green where Hoffa is supposedly buried.

“At one particular spot on that golf course, they would urinate,” he said. “They would laugh about it, and when you see somebody do that, it sort of rings a bell. That is not ordinary golf etiquette.”

Haupt said he once saw Rosanova urinate on the hole — and once asked his associates about the behavior.

“That’s when he told me, he said, ‘I never had this conversation with you, but you are looking where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.’ I never said another word. I did not ask anybody. The subject was dropped and I never approached it.”

Haupt said the feds have interviewed him several times about his claim. Locals also recalled seeing FBI agents on the course examining the location of the suspected hole, according to Fox. 

“They would probably locate him where no one would ever suspect,” he told Fox. “And you don’t go around digging up a golf course.”

The bureau wouldn’t comment to the outlet — but its Hoffa investigation remains open.

“Throughout the nearly 46 years since Mr. Hoffa’s disappearance, people have come forward with tips and information,” the FBI said in a statement. “When we are able to develop credible leads from those tips, we pursue them, and will continue to do so until the case is solved.”


Friday, April 30, 2021

Colombo family consigliere busted in Florida in $65 million nationwide health care fraud case


The developer of the Banyan Cay Resort and Golf was charged by the federal government last week with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, raising questions about whether the charge will affect construction of the long-delayed resort in West Palm Beach.

Domenic Gatto, a 46-year old Palm Beach Gardens resident, is one of five men charged in what the U.S. Department of Justice described as a $65 million "nationwide kickback and bribery scheme" to order medically unnecessary orthotic braces for Medicare beneficiaries.

Also charged was Thomas Farese, a 78-year old Delray Beach man once described as the consigliere of the Colombo crime family in a 2012 affidavit from an FBI agent filed in a New York court. 

Last week, Gatto surrendered and, via video conference at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, appeared before a U.S. magistrate in New Jersey, the Justice Department said.

He has not entered a plea and has not been formally indicted, though the federal government could take that step in the next few weeks.

Banyan Cay will be largest West Palm development since Rosemary Square

Gatto is the developer behind the $100 million Banyan Cay complex just east of Interstate 95, off Congress Avenue and north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, near the Palm Beach Outlets shopping mall. When complete, Banyan Cay will be the largest redevelopment in West Palm Beach since Rosemary Square, formerly known as CityPlace, the popular downtown mixed-use dining and shopping center.

The 250-acre Banyan Cay property used to be the site of the President Country Club, but the club fell into financial trouble and was sold to an investor group for $11 million in 2011. That investor group then flipped the property to Banyan Cay Dev LLC, led by Gatto, for $26 million in 2015.

The hotel was expected to be completed by 2018, but construction on the the resort has suffered stops and starts, as well as a change in hotel brand. Originally a Noble House hotel property, Banyan Cay now is slated to be part of Hyatt's Destination Hotels portfolio, a boutique luxury brand making its first foray into Florida with this property. A Hyatt spokeswoman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In the alleged health care fraud scheme, in addition to Gatto and Farese, three other men were charged.

Pat Truglia, a 53-year old Parkland resident, faces one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and three counts of health care fraud.

Truglia was convicted of money laundering in 2012 in a case where Farese, a co-defendant, was acquitted. 

Also charged were two men from Toms River, N.J. – Christopher Cirri, 63, and Nicholas DeFonte, 72, face one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud "in connection with paying and receiving health care kickbacks and bribes," according to the Justice Department.

Seth L. Levine, an attorney representing Gatto, said: "The allegations against my client are meritless, and we will fight them aggressively in court."

A man answering a telephone number associated with Farese hung up when a reporter for The Palm Beach Post called to ask about the charges.

In 1998, Farese was convicted of hiding his interest in and laundering money through strip clubs and sentenced to 87 months in prison. One of those clubs was Club Diamonds, which Farese sold in 2012 to a holding company managed by John Staluppi, himself once described by the FBI as a member of the Colombo crime family.

Staluppi, who later bought the site of what was briefly known as the Double D strip club on Southern Boulevard, has denied any connection to organized crime, and he was not part of the fraud charges the federal government released last week.

Feds: Men conspired to defraud Medicare, got illegal kickbacks

The federal government's complaint "alleges that between October 2017 and April 2019, Farese, Truglia, Cirri, DeFonte, and Gatto participated in a nationwide conspiracy to defraud Medicare, TRICARE, Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), and other federal and private health care benefit programs through the payment and receipt of illegal health care fraud kickbacks in exchange for orthotic brace orders that lacked medical necessity with a total loss of approximately $65 million."

The complaint also says Gatto "connected Cirri and DeFonte to other co-conspirators and arranged for Cirri and DeFonte to sell orthotic brace orders to orthotic brace suppliers in New Jersey and Florida in exchange for illegal health care kickbacks and bribes."

"Gatto and others paid Cirri and DeFonte kickbacks and bribes for each federal health care beneficiary for whom orthotic brace orders were sold to orthotic brace suppliers to be billed to Medicare, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, and other federal and private health care benefit programs," according to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department said that, "to conceal the kickbacks and bribes, Cirri and DeFonte created sham invoices labeling the payments as 'marketing' and 'business processing outsourcing' expenses."

Gatto, the government alleges, "used a nominee owner on forms submitted to Medicare and used shell corporations to transfer the funds he paid in connection with the purchase of the supplier."

Health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud are punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense whichever is greater.

What the charges mean for the Banyan Cay development

It's not clear if the charge filed against Gatto will matter to Banyan Cay's lender, Calmwater Capital of Los Angeles, Calif.

The non-bank commercial real estate lender provided a $62 million loan to Banyan Cay in 2018.

Calmwater officials did not respond to emails seeking comment on the status of the loan.

A source close to the project, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about it and the federal government's charges, said: "Our lender and partners were informed of the situation, and there has been no change in funding as the project continues towards completion."

Real estate attorneys said it is unlikely a lender could, or would, halt extension of credit once a loan has been made to a project.

Loan documents often contain "bad boy" clauses that provide lenders with protection in the event of a borrower's bad act. These acts are defined and can include failure to pay taxes or the filing of a bankruptcy.

But if the borrower is an entity and not an individual, a bad boy clause might not apply, and therefore Gatto's conspiracy charge might not trigger any clause in the loan documents, two lawyers said.

The major concern for a non-bank lender such as Calmwater Capital is "having their name affiliated" with a project whose principal is facing a federal conspiracy charge, said Palm Beach attorney Guy Rabideau.

"It's public perception," he said.

Despite the charge filed against Gatto, construction of the Banyan Cay resort is moving along. The roof is even installed.

If the resort is finished as planned, that's good news for buyers at the Residences at Banyan Cay. 

Boca Raton-based SobelCo. built 94 homes next to Banyan Cay. The project sold out earlier this year when the pandemic triggered big demand for new single-family homes.

Prices range from the low $600,000s to the mid-$800,000s for the three- and four-bedroom homes.

The purchase of a Banyan Cay home entitles a buyer to a three-year social membership at Banyan Cay and use of the resort's amenities, including a golf course designed by golfing great Jack Nicklaus. 

However, with the property's construction still ongoing, owners have been able to use the Banyan Cay golf facility and clubhouse until the resort is ready, said Angela Ippolito, SobelCo's director of sales and marketing.

Once the resort is complete, homeowners will switch to a three-year social membership, she said.

John Stilley, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty, last year represented a buyer who was considering a home purchase at the Residences of Banyan Cay.

Although there were concerns about construction delays at the resort, the buyer went forward with the purchase and couldn't be happier. 

"My client fell in love with the golf course," Stilley said.


Ailing former Colombo family acting boss who caused civil war seeks prison release durig upcoming resentencing


A murderous former gangland boss is wheelchair-bound and suffering from serious dementia — but he has a new shot at release, his lawyer said Thursday.

Victor Orena, the 86-year-old ex-acting boss of New York’s Colombo crime family, can no longer take care of himself in the federal prison he is being held at in Massachusetts, requiring a wheelchair and a full-time aide. But a tossed lower firearms charge in a 1992 case could get him one last shot at freedom because he has to be resentenced completely.

He was convicted of ordering a hit on mobster Thomas Ocera, who was suspected of skimming money off assorted capers. Orena was also convicted of conspiring to murder rivals in a warring faction of the Colombo family.

“An overriding factor here is Mr. Orena’s age and medical conditions,” said David Schoen, Orena’s lawyer, at a Monday hearing in front of Eastern District Judge Eric Komitee.

When Orena is resentenced, his lawyers will argue for his release saying he is rehabilitated and that newly discovered evidence in the case points toward the mobster’s innocence.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked in court papers for the judge to simply resentence Orena to life in prison.

Schoen told the Daily News that new evidence in the case includes previously unreported government misconduct related to the Ocera murder that a top-echelon confidential informant said permeated Orena’s case.

Schoen called the information “unbelievably shocking” and potentially dangerous if revealed publicly.

“It’s stuff we never knew about that happened back then,” he told The News.

Victor “Little Vic” Orena was the acting boss of the Colombo family in the 1980s and tried to take over as permanent boss in the early 1990s, leading to a bloody civil war between his faction and that of boss Carmine Persico, who was serving a life sentence at the time.

Orena’s son, Andrew Orena, pleaded for compassion for his father.

“His heart is weak. But his spirit is strong. We’re praying we can get some time with him. He has grandchildren that really don’t know him,” Orena told The News. “He’ll never be the man he was but he’s still our father and we love him.”


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Feds say recently sentenced Staten Island plumber is a violence prone Colombo family soldier


A plumber by trade, borough resident Thomas Scorcia also was an inducted member of the Colombo organized crime family who ran a “lucrative loansharking business,” federal prosecutors said.

In fact, to ensure he could locate his debtors and make it clear he knew where they lived, Scorcia required copies of their driver’s licenses and contact information, said prosecutors.

Scorcia, 54, also let it be known he would resort to violence, if need be, to advance his business, as well as to enhance his reputation within the mob, prosecutors allege.

In one instance in January 2019, Scorcia and another man planned to confront a fellow loanshark operator at the Woodrow Diner in Rossville over a business dispute, feds say.

However, the eatery was too crowded, and they backed off.

“I’m sick to my f------ stomach, I was just gonna walk right in there, but there’s f------ people coming out with f------ families,” Scorcia said afterward, according to an intercepted phone conversation.

As it turns out, Scorcia will be out of business for a while.

He was recently sentenced to 42 months behind bars and two years’ post-release supervision for racketeering.

In addition, the defendant was hit with a $20,000 fine and forfeited $75,000, which includes over $34,000 seized during a search.

Authorities said they also found an adjustable steel baton, a ski mask, binoculars and a book on the mob in a covered compartment of his vehicle’s trunk, said prosecutors.

Public records indicated Scorcia is from Annadale.

2019 BUST

In October 2019, Scorcia was among 20 suspects busted, including a purported Colombo crime family capo and other alleged mobsters, and indicted on wide-ranging charges of racketeering, extortion, loansharking and stalking.

Seventeen of the defendants were Staten Islanders, including one who was accused of attempting to fix a NCAA college basketball game in December 2018, authorities said.

Officials said 11 of the suspects were members or associates of the Colombos.

Besides Scorcia, they included Joseph Amato of Colts Neck, N.J., the alleged captain; and family members Daniel Capaldo and Vincent Scura, both of Staten Island, said authorities.

Many of the defendants have accepted plea agreements.

Scorcia pleaded guilty last November in Brooklyn federal court to one count of racketeering.

He admitted to extorting two individuals with “an implied threat of economic harm to (their) reputation,” if they failed to repay loans to him, said a sentencing memorandum submitted by defense lawyers Vincent J. Romano and Anthony DiPietro.

Prosecutors said Scorcia was heard on a wiretap speaking about an instance in which he and two other men, one a former mixed martial arts fighter, had confronted one of the victims over a delinquent payment.

“… I told the guy, ‘Sit in the car,’ and the kid had the tears, like between me and you, like … ‘No, please, T. [i.e., Scorcia]. No.’ Boom! But we’ll talk about that in person. I got this kid good right now,” Scorcia said, according to prosecutors’ sentencing memorandum.

The victim denied to law enforcement that Scorcia had hit him, although the defendant allegedly told another Colombo associate that he had, said prosecutors.

Prosecutors recommended Scorcia be sentenced to within the guideline range of 37 to 46 months in prison.

“In this case, specific deterrence and incapacitation are critical,” Brooklyn federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “When the defendant became a member of the Colombo crime family, he took an oath, swearing to remain loyal to this violent criminal organization for the remainder of his life. … Few, if any, members of the mafia give up their connections to the mafia even after serving significant terms of imprisonment.”

Romano and DiPietro, the defense lawyers, contended a sentence of 27 months behind bars, together with three years of supervised release and a forfeiture of $75,000, would be “sufficient” to accomplish sentencing goals.

Scorcia, who has been incarcerated since his arrest, has been a model inmate, they said.

“He has utilized this time while imprisoned to strive towards self-betterment,” wrote the lawyers.

Scorcia has completed “numerous” programs while incarcerated and “performed numerous acts of goodwill to the benefit of both staff and inmates,” the attorneys said.

The defendant has no prior criminal record and “is prepared to return to his community as a positive contributor,” wrote the attorneys.

“It cannot be overstated that the public will be best served by allowing Mr. Scorcia the opportunity to rebuild his life with his family at this time, not by requiring his further imprisonment and the corresponding diminution in his ability to find lawful work and to productively reenter his community at a significantly later date,” the defense lawyers maintained.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Philly mob associate refuses to cooperate with feds and is sentenced to over 4 years in prison for real estate fraud scheme


Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Stephen Sharkey, 51, of Swedesboro, NJ, was sentenced to four years and one month in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $296,000 restitution, and to forfeit the same amount of money by United States District Court Judge John R. Padova for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

In September 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and, one count of money laundering in connection with three brazen and predatory frauds which greatly harmed innocent victims and netted the defendant more than $385,000. Sharkey engaged in two mortgage-closing schemes to defraud potential home buyers – stealing money that the victims had intended to use to purchase residences for themselves and their families. In the third scheme, the defendant stole all of the proceeds of the sale of a house by secretly going to closing without telling the seller.

Sharkey and his associate, Antonio Ambrosio, convinced their victims to provide Sharkey with the down payment funds in advance of the dates set for the real estate closings, with the promise that Sharkey would provide full financing for the purchases. Rather than finance the deals, Sharkey and Ambrosio simply stole the down payment money supplied by the victims and made excuses when the deals did not close. As part of the scam, Sharkey and Ambrosio even defrauded Ambrosio’s own brother-in-law out of $208,000. After receiving this money, Sharkey immediately cut checks to ARMM Investments, LLC, a company owned by George Borgesi. Borgesi and Sharkey were both convicted in United States v. Merlino, et al., 99 CR 363, an early 2000s RICO case in which the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra was named as the enterprise. Borgesi was named as a capo of the Philadelphia LCN in that Indictment, and Sharkey was identified as a bookmaker for the mob. 

After Sharkey and Ambrosio stole the down payment from Ambrosio’s brother-in-law, they proceeded to lure a second victim to use Sharkey to finance his mortgage, and the victim wired Sharkey $100,000, which Sharkey promptly converted to his own use. The deal for this property fell through, but Sharkey and Ambrosio induced the victim to send the seller an extra $25,000 to hold the deal open, claiming Sharkey would get the deal done. The victim sent the seller the $25,000, but Sharkey had already disposed of the earlier $100,000 and the deal never closed.

Finally, in the real estate fraud perpetrated on the seller victim, Sharkey promised the victim that Sharkey would sell the house belonging to the estate of the victim’s deceased parents and, after going to a closing the victim knew nothing about, Sharkey deposited all of the proceeds of the sale into his own bank account, stealing over $52,000 from the victim in the process.

“Sharkey’s greed impacted the lives and security of multiple families, and his shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Not only did he and his associate steal mortgage down payments, but he also sold a different family’s house right out from underneath them and pocketed all of the cash. For his actions, he will now spend years in prison.”

“Real estate fraud was just the latest racket for Stephen Sharkey,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He blatantly preyed on innocent victims here, destroying two families’ plans of buying homes and stealing a third person’s inherited property. A chunk of these fraudulent proceeds was diverted to a longtime Philadelphia mob figure, underscoring Sharkey’s continued association with organized crime. The FBI and our partners are going to keep investigating and locking up those committed to making money through illicit means.”     

“This investigation once again reveals how members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family are constantly looking to make illicit financial gains by infiltrating legitimate business or exploiting regulatory rules as well as federal and state laws,” said Brandon Corby, Eastern Organized Crime Task Force Commander, Pennsylvania State Police. “The Pennsylvania State Police with our FBI partners are committed to eradicating this type of criminal behavior and hold those engaged in such activities accountable. “          

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Organized Crime Task Force and the Pennsylvania State Police, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael T. Donovan.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Wealthy Colombo soldier made political donations to Brooklyn Democrats


He really is “connected.”

The reputed wiseguy behind Brooklyn’s Plaza Auto Mall has been handing out campaign cash to local Democrats — including the borough’s district attorney and its party boss, The Post has learned.

John Rosatti’s Plaza Motors of Brooklyn donated $2,020 to DA Eric Gonzalez for his winning 2017 campaign and the next year gave $2,000 to Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, who in January 2020 succeeded longtime leader Frank Seddio as head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

The following month, Plaza donated another $10,000 to the party, records show.

John Kaehny of the good-government group “Reinvent Albany” said pols “should be vetting contributions in order to make sure that there’s no attempt to influence them.”

“What did this guy expect for his contribution — that’s the question the campaigns should ask themselves,” he added.

Before amassing a reported $400 million fortune, Rosatti, 77, was identified by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement as an alleged soldier in the Colombo crime family, according to a 1993 decision by the state’s Casino Control Commission.

The ruling, which rejected a bid to bar Rosatti pal and reputed Colombo family member John Staluppi from the state’s casinos, cited testimony that confidential informants claimed Rosatti became a Colombo associate in 1980 and was sworn in as a “made member” in 1994.

Rosatti was convicted in the mid-1970s for attempted auto theft and again in 1994 on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, for which he got probation and a $5,000 fine, the Village Voice reported in 1998.

FBI memos asserted that he pledged $50,000 to the insurgent mob faction led by Victor “Little Vic” Orena during the long, bloody war for control of the Colombo family but refused to provide vehicles so hit teams could search for supporters of the late boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico, the Voice said.

Rosatti also allegedly gave a no-show job to Orena’s son, also named Victor, with a gangster reportedly telling the younger Orena, “You’re the only salesman that never sells any cars and makes money.”

In recent years, Rosatti has made headlines by founding the BurgerFi fast-food franchise operation and for owning a series of superyachts.

One — a 162-foot, four-deck behemoth — is named the “Remember When,” which is also the title of a 2007 episode of The Sopranos and several cast members attended a party on board when Rosatti docked it at Battery Park City’s North Cove Marina for the 2011 Fourth of July celebration.

Rosatti now lives in Florida, where records show he owns a sprawling, six-bedroom waterfront mansion with a swimming pool and a private dock in West Palm Beach that’s on the market for $9.5 million.

His local New York political contributions are among more than $250,000 in total that Rosatti has doled out since 1985 at both the national and state levels, with most of the money given to Republicans last year, records show.

Plaza Auto Mall lawyer David Grandeau said, “Mr. Rosatti states that he is not now nor has he ever been a soldier of the Colombo crime family.”

“He made a political donation because he has business interests in Brooklyn, specifically Plaza Auto Mall, and he has donated to candidates of both the Republican and Democratic Parties, in and outside of Brooklyn,” added Grandeau, the former executive director of the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying.

The Gonzalez campaign said, “DA Gonzalez does not know Mr. Rosatti and has never received a personal contribution from him. However, four years ago there was a contribution from a car dealership affiliated with him.”

A spokesman for Bichotte and the Brooklyn Democratic Party said she was grieving the death of her mother and couldn’t be reached.


Monday, March 22, 2021

Colombo captain pleads guilty to racketeering and stalking and faces up to seven years in prison


Like father, like son. 

A reputed organized-crime family capo and his son took a pair of plea deals Monday in a case that netted nearly a dozen other accused Colombo mobsters and associates.

Joseph Amato, 62, pleaded guilty to racketeering and stalking in Brooklyn federal court Monday morning — admitting to shaking down businesses and tracking his girlfriend with a GPS device on her car. 

Later that afternoon, his 28-year-old son, Joseph Amato Jr., copped to threatening an unnamed man with violence if he didn’t repay a loan in December of 2018. 

Amato’s extraordinary efforts to track his gal pal’s movements actually led the feds in 2019 to bust his son and 18 others — including 11 alleged members and associates of the mob family — on charges of racketeering, loansharking and extortion.

The girlfriend apparently found the gadget, and it wound up on an MTA bus, “likely to thwart Amato’s stalking efforts,” court papers said — where it was found by a mechanic.

The feds then started wiretapping the family and allegedly uncovered a range of criminal activities from their pals — including an attempt to fix an NCAA basketball game.

“I participated in at least two overt acts,” Amato Sr. said via videoconference Monday morning.

He admitted that he took partial control of the Staten Island business through extortion and took property from another through threats of force.

He also admitted to regularly removing a GPS device from his girlfriend’s car to charge it and replanting the tracker on her car Jan. 1, 2015, and Oct. 21, 2016, and repeatedly telling her he knew her location.

“I knew it would reasonable and emotion distress to her,” he said.

The elder Amato is expected to be sentenced to five to seven years as part of his  deal, allowing him to avoid a 20-year stint in the slammer. 

His son, who remains out on bond, is expected to be sentenced to 21 to 27 months in prison.  

Both Amatos are scheduled for sentencing on July 20. 


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Monday, March 15, 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021

Wagner College graduate linked to Colombo crime family gets one year probation from judge


A Wagner College graduate who tried to fix an NCAA basketball game in a mob-linked scheme on Thursday received a slap on the wrist — and a tongue-lashing from the judge.

Benjamin Bifalco, 27, was sentenced to one year probation after pleading guilty last year to attempted sports bribery involving a game between two Division I schools. He had faced up to six months in jail.

During the hour-long hearing in Brooklyn federal court, which was conducted virtually, Judge I. Leo Glasser scolded Bifalco for letting his ego get the better of him and for his evasive responses. “I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from you with respect to any question that I have asked,” the judge sniped.

But Bifalco expressed remorse for his conduct, admitting that he was driven by a desire to impress a mobbed-up pal — before expressing gratitude to the judge.

“Your Honor, you saved my life, I can’t thank you enough,” he said. “You’ll never have to see my face again, I promise you that.”

The contest in question was between the Wagner Seahawks and the heavily favored St. John’s University Red Storm Dec. 16, 2018, at the Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

Four days before the game, Bifalco was caught on a wiretap telling his childhood pal, Colombo mob family associate Joseph Amato Jr., that he had dreamed of fixing a basketball game since he was a college freshman.

The feds ended up hearing Bifulco’s absurd boasts while listening in on Amato, whose father, Joseph Amato, is a powerful captain in the Colombo crime family.

The father and son were charged in 2019 — along with 18 others — in an unrelated loansharking, racketeering and extortion case. They pleaded not guilty.

During the call with the younger Amato, Bifalco said he’d already paid $7,500 to three Seahawks starters who had promised to lose the game and would pay them more afterward.

The college student, who had majored in finance, said he planned to bet $50,000 on the game.

“St. John’s is home, so this is why it’s gonna work,” he said. “They’re gonna have the refs on their side already. Wagner’s team sucks. They honestly suck. So, if we can have three people that impact the game the most, miss free throws, bring the shot clock down to one [second] before every shot, control the pace of the game, so it’s not high scoring.”

But it turned out the student was all talk. He never paid the players or wagered any money on the game, which turned out to be a lucky stroke for him. St. John’s won 73-58.

The crime cost him his job. Out of college, Bifalco landed a gig working for then-Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, but was fired the day he was indicted. Malliotakis is now a congresswoman representing Staten Island.

“My potential future loss has been great but it still does not equal the harm my actions have caused others,” Bifalco said in court.

His lawyer, Vincent Martinelli, added that his client now plans to attend law school.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Former Luchese soldier opens up about his old life in the mafia


It’s one of the most iconic scenes in movie history and it involves a made man.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic The Godfather, Michael Corleone, played by a young Al Paccino, tells his wife Kay, “Don’t ever ask me about my business.”

It’s a poignant scene to remind us that his line of work is so gruesome, he can’t even share the nature of it with his spouse.

The Godfather ushered in several decades of Cosa Nostra cinema. But from that very first film, if there was one thing the general public could take from these classics, it’s that the less you know about someone’s questionable dealings, the better.

Several seconds later, Corleone gives in to Kay.

“This one time,” he says, “This one time, I will let you ask me about my affairs.”

She does. And he lies to her face, but that’s not the point. The point is, we had an opportunity to talk with a real-life caporegime of one of New York’s infamous five families, a one-time pass to ask about his affairs…his life in the mob, a chance to sort gritty reality from the Hollywood fantasy.

NYC’s John Pennisi is a reformed criminal who speaks freely about his former life. He has a blog and recently hooked up with New Jersey media professional Tom La Vecchia. Together they do a podcast called The MBA and the Button Man all about “our thing.”

Putting together a podcast

Men’s Journal: So, a capo of the Lucchese Crime family has a podcast. How did that come about?
TOM LA VECCHIA: I started The New Theory Podcast about three years ago. I’d had a moderate level of success. Organized crime is sort of my personal interest. And I noticed that whenever I had anyone on from that world, it tended to do better than other guests. Then I read Cosa Nostra News one day, where John Pennisi was featured in a three-part series. I said, ‘I like this guy.’ We chatted, became fast friends and came up with the idea of recording a sit down with a made member of the mob. I was getting about 5,000 hits per podcast and this swelled up to like 15,000. So we recorded what turned into a nine-part series, and organically within a month, we had 100,000 streams. We put our heads together and formed The MBA and the Button Man Podcast.

John and I are two Italian-American guys. We took two totally different routes. But when we talk, we find a lot of commonality, comparing “the life” to my work in corporate America. We’re about five or six episodes deep. For a new podcasts, the numbers are off the charts.

Really the main thing we need to know here is, John, how you’re able to speak so freely about the things you know the things you’ve witnessed. One thing we all know is that secrecy is the key to that life. How are you able to talk about it?
JOHN PENNISI: Well, I’m no longer in the life.

Changing direction

Right, but how were you able to leave the life without repercussions from the mob or the law?
PENNISI: What had happened was, I was falsely accused of becoming a rat, or an informant, or whatever way you want to phrase it. And the mob will do their homework. And when they did their homework and realized it was a mistake, it was too late. I couldn’t trust anyone anymore. I walked away on my own. Usually there is no walking away. As far as legally, I don’t think I have said anything that probably hasn’t been said already or that the government doesn’t know about. As far as repercussions, I don’t know what’s on their mind. We’re living in a different world today. The mob is not what it once was.

Help us to understand this… You were a made guy. From the pop culture standpoint, we assume that you’re basically upper management in an organized crime family. It’s elite and no one can give you a hard time without consequences.
PENNISI: Yeah. That’s pretty accurate. You have the boss of the family, one underboss and then the captains, made guys, who are the head of different crews. The family, as it’s known, is made up of smaller crews of “associates.” There’s a big gap between an associate and a made man.

And Tom, you are literally a Master’s of Business Administration?
LA VECCHIA: Yeah, I’m a Jersey guy, 20 years in corporate. Ten years ago, I decided to hang my own shingle as a multi-media digital marketing entrepreneur. I think I bring a neutral, real-world point of view to the conversation.

Fighting and embracing stereotypes

All races and ethnicities in this country have historically worked to separate themselves from certain stereotypes. But the mob thing doesn’t seem to hurt Italian-Americans as much. There are plenty of legit Italians who aren’t in a hurry to distance themselves from it all.
PENNISI: I would say that shows like Mob Wives and The Jersey Shore would hurt Italians more than anything. And no knock against either of them, but those type of stereotypes are not good. We were kind of a black eye to the hard-working civilian Italian-Americans.

LA VECCHIA: You have a group of Italian-Americans that wants nothing to do with it. My parents were off the boat. My mother hated the Mob. She hated seeing John Gotti on TV. I had an estranged cousin who married Sammy the Bull’s niece. We weren’t really allowed to go to the wedding. We distanced ourselves.

My experience has been that Italian-Americans that are kind of connected, hang out with other connected families. My mother made it a point to annex us away from that stuff. But for other people, there’s a sense of pride whether we like it or not. You watch The Godfather and you pump out your chest a little bit. My listeners have a bigger appetite for John than they do for people from the legitimate business world. I’m personally fascinated with it. Would I want that life for my friends and my family? No. The reason I like John a lot is because he is legitimately trying to change his life. He’s genuine in his message.

Made men named Sideburns, Frog Eyes, and Quack Quack

One thing we love when we read your blog or listen to the podcast is the nicknames.
LA VECCHIA: I like Johnny Sideburns.

PENNISI: Oh my God (laughs). There’s so many. There was Louie Bagels, the acting boss of the family. There was Johnny Sausage. Frog Eyes Grillo, Big Bird Guzzo, Frank “Chiclet Mouth” Radice, Tommy Sneakers, Allie Shades, and Angelo “Quack Quack” Ruggiero. There are so many guys called Meatballs. They called me Johnny. They called me Young Gun or Young John, nothing bad.

There’s this notion that the life is a thing of the past and there’s a different world now where the mafia doesn’t exist. Can you tell us if there is still organized crime happening among a hierarchy of Italian-American families?
PENNISI: Oh, absolutely. You’re always going to have organized crime. But there’s no comparison to years past. Believe it or not, they’ve moved into more legitimate business—restaurants, construction, and real estate. There will always be an undertone of organized crime, but it definitely has changed a lot from shakedowns and extortion

LA VECCHIA: One thing I would add, John maintained his job as a construction manager while he was an inducted member. I believe that was part of his strategy. When he did interact with the government, they didn’t even know who he was. He had a job. We joke about it. If someone were to surveil him, by Thursday they would go home because they’re just sitting in a parking lot, while he’s down in the mud, directing guys on a worksite.

The Mafia in media

I’m sure you guys have seen all the mafia movies and TV shows. There’s a lot of Hollywood element. But if you had to pick one, which is the most accurate portrayal?
PENNISI: It’s hard. TV and the movies are very different than that life. The Godfather was probably very close, but there were aspects of the Godfather that would have never taken place. The same with Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale. There are little bits and pieces of reality but it’s still Hollywood. I believe people from the life were advisors on some of those movies.

It would seem that subculture exists as the opposite of political correctness. Among broader cultures, there have been changes in the past few years of acceptable ways to talk and act. Has the organized crime life seen any changes to reflect that?
PENNISI: It’s funny that you say that. Years ago, they would refer to a person from “the other side,” meaning from Italy, and they would call them a zip or a greaseball, which is a derogatory name. And I’m sure that anyone who spoke that way wasn’t trying to knock them. It was just a learned behavior. Just like throughout history, they would call us WOPs. And I noticed that in like 2017, someone had said something along the lines of, “Yeah, that greaseball….” And someone else said, “Hey you know, you should watch what you’re saying because you’re going to insult them. You shouldn’t really talk like that.” Now years ago, you would never hear someone corrected like that. But that’s the only thing that I’ve seen. Nothing else. Organized criminals are not being politically correct. They don’t care.

Food culture

Food is a very specific part if this culture. What’s your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant?
PENNISI: I would have to say most of the food at Rao’s in Harlem. Everything is very good there, especially the seafood salad. Rao’s is a good spot.

LA VECCHIA: I didn’t eat out Italian food as a kid. It was kind of a bad thing to do, out of respect for your parents’ cooking. But now my mother has passed, I have more of an appetite for it. But for some old school Italian, the Belmont Tavern in Bloomfield is very good.

PENNISI: Oh, that’s a great spot. That was our spot, a Luchesse spot. The food is incredible at the Belmont Tavern.

LA VECCHIA: And I know it’s a standard, but Maruca’s Pizza in Seaside Heights. That Trenton tomato pie. I’m getting more into that flavor the last few years and Marucca’s got it down.

Leading a Reformed Life

John, you’ve mentioned that you’re a changed person, leading a new life. Why don’t you give me a little bit of that reformed worldview?
PENNISI: From when you’re inside that fishbowl, you see things differently. A lot of people look at it like it was such an honor. In the street, it was the highest achievement to be made a soldier. But when you’re on the outside looking in at my former life, to be completely honest with you, it’s now become an embarrassment to me. I look at things very differently. I always, even in that life, try to help people. Still do so today. I’ve apologized already to a few people who I’ve wronged. I wish I could apologize to everybody.

There came a time I was somewhere near a footbridge. And I kept saying to myself, “If I walk over that footbridge and go on to the other side, I’m leaving that life behind me.” And I couldn’t do it.

One day I had a lot of stress. I was jogging and I wound up right at that footbridge. I walked over. And when I walked over that footbridge, I left all that negativity of my former life behind me. I kept going positive ever since. Violence comes with that life. I never went back to my former life, thinking or acting that way. Changed my life for the better. I keep my head up and focus on what’s ahead of me. My former family has definitely wronged me. I forgave everyone who wronged me.

Every day is a blessing and so much good has come to me this way. I have two daughters; one is 25 and one is going to be 10. I love the both of them. I want them to learn from me now, not who I was. Especially with daughters. They want to meet a guy who’s like their father. I’d rather they meet a guy who’s like me now, than what I used to be.