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

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Monday, August 2, 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Former priest turned NYC councilman and brother of late legendary Genovese family boss accused of child sex abuse

Louis Gigante, a former priest turned New York City councilman who is credited for rebuilding the Hunts Point section of the Bronx in the 1980s, is being accused of sexually abusing a minor while at St. Athanasius Church in Longwood, according to recent court filings.

According to documents filed with the Bronx County clerk on May 25, an unnamed “John Doe” alleges that Gigante sexually assaulted him from 1976-1977 when he was a nine-year-old attending Gigante’s bible study at St. Athanasius Church.

The man, estimated to be 50 years old, alleges that during that time Gigante forced him to perform oral sex during bible study sessions.

“The Archdiocese knew or should have known that Father Gigante was sexually abusing children and/or had the propensity to do so,” the claim reads. “The defendants Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church knew or should have known of the abuse that Mr. Doe and other young children were suffering at the hands of their clergy.”

St. Athanasius Church officials declined to comment on “a pending legal matter” and attempts by the Bronx Times to reach Gigante for comment about the allegations were unsuccessful.

Gigante is one of 177 names recently unveiled in a wave of lawsuits against parishioners and officials connected to the Archdiocese of New York via the state’s 2019 Child Victims Act, which granted a one-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to file court cases that had already been time-barred or expired.

Having already been extended twice, the act’s latest timeline extension expires on Aug. 14.

In the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers had discussed the Adult Survivors Act, which creates a similar look-back window similar to the Child Victims Act, but for those who were sexually abused as adults and are time-barred from filing civil suits.

In a statement to the Bronx Times on Wednesday, NYC-based law firm Curis Law, who is representing the unnamed plaintiff, is hoping future legislation can continue to remove the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse.

“We commend all child sexual abuse survivors coming forward and seeking justice,” the statement reads. “It is unfortunate that the August 14, 2021 deadline will soon come to an end and look to New York State to implement new legislation to remove time restrictions as the trauma and suffering for these survivors is everlasting.”

Gigante was the parish priest of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was a teenager, which is documented in her memoir “My Beloved World.”

Gigante is more widely known, however, for his work in economic and community development in the South Bronx and his involvement in NYC politics.

Gigante founded the Southeast Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO) and Simpson Street Development Association in 1968 and 1969, respectively. In 1971, Gigante, while still a priest, founded the Bruckner Democratic Club and then was a two-term Bronx city councilman after being elected in 1973.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1980, however Gigante’s fingerprints are all over the Hunts Points section of the Bronx.

In the ’80s, the non-profit housing group SEBCO developed al­most 2,000 new or renovated housing units for low-income families in the Hunts Points area, which was considered downtrodden by national pundits and media.

However, a four-month investigation by The Village Voice in 2007 revealed that Gigante and his publicly financed South Bronx developments were $50 million investments that benefitted companies owned by or affiliated with top-ranking members of the Genovese organized crime family.

Between 1978 and 2004, SEBCO registered 18 businesses, including six nonprofit organizations and 12 for-profit companies. Gigante is listed as CEO of five of the corporations and a chairperson of the majority of the nonprofit organizations.

In July 2017, Gigante was honored for “rebuilding major stretches of the South Bronx” by elected officials at a Family Day celebration in front of his former church at St. Athanasius.

The law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, a firm advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, says more than 1,700 alleged perpetrators are tied to the Catholic Diocese in New York.

Approximately 962 lawsuits have already been filed under the state’s Child Victims Act involving the Archdiocese of New York.

“Many times when a survivor comes forward with allegations against an alleged perpetrator, more survivors are often out there and may come forward,” said a representative from Anderson & Associates PA, a firm advocating for survivors of sexual abuse. “Unfortunately, so many survivors feel alone and when they see another survivor from the same location of abuse, or abused by the same alleged perpetrator, it can inspire those survivors to come forward and seek legal justice.”


Monday, July 19, 2021

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

New book covers the latest FBI infiltration of the New Jersey based DeCavalcante crime family

 Amazon.com: Giovanni's Ring: My Life Inside the Real Sopranos eBook: Rocco,  Giovanni, Schofield, Douglas: Kindle Store

“Giovanni’s Ring: My Life Inside the Real Sopranos,” written by Giovanni Rocco with Douglas Schofield, covers the true story of a former FBI undercover operative and his successful infiltration of the DeCavalcante Cosa Nostra crime family.

Rocco was a New Jersey police officer assigned to an FBI task force that focused on nailing Charlie Stango, one of the DeCavalcante family’s top captains. For two and a half years, Rocco penetrated the mob using the undercover name Giovanni Gatto. His undercover life ended in 2015 with the arrest of Stango and nine other mobsters. 

I reached out to Rocco and asked him if the real New Jersey mobsters he encountered were anything like the TV gangsters “The Sopranos,” which was based reportedly on the DeCavalcante crime family.  

“Inside the real world of the mafia, there are no ‘second takes or re-dos’ like on TV,” Rocco replied. “If you do not get it right the first time, there may not be another tomorrow for you. But I think the ‘Sopranos’ TV series depicted a genuine look into the life of the Italian American mafia and had several similarities to the DeCavalcante crime family.

“The DeCavalcante crime family is one of the oldest Italian American crime families in the United States based out of North Jersey,” Rocco explained. “Because of the close proximity to New York City, they can be overshadowed by New York’s traditional five families, but that doesn’t mean they do not hold their own among the other families. They are a very close-knit organization with old school Cosa Nostra beliefs with a strong propensity for violence. Their reputation as such is the reason the other families respect and have been known to contract out work to them, such as extortions, murders, and other rackets.”

Rocco said Stango and Luigi Oliveri, two of his targets, were committed to life inside the DeCavalcante family.

“They are two generations of the crime family who both grew up in Elizabeth, N.J. They both value the old-school mafia beliefs and live by the code of Omerta. Oliveri and other defendants in the case were sentenced and served time, and Stango is currently serving his 10-year sentence in federal prison.”  

Rocco began his law enforcement career in 1990 as a patrolman. He later worked as a detective in a Vice/Gambling Unit investigating organized crime and then worked in a narcotics and major case unit. 

“I was then deputized as a special U.S. federal marshal and assigned to a DEA task force to investigate narcotics violations and trafficking organizations within the U.S. and internationally,” Rocco said. “Eventually, I joined the FBI task force and trained to be a certified FBI undercover employee.” 

I asked Rocco if his undercover work brought him in contact with the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family. 

“Because Stango was my capo and I reported directly to him and spoke on his behalf, I was exposed to individuals within all the major crime families. On occasion, I met with or was introduced to members of the Philly/South Jersey crime family,” Rocco recalled.  

Rocco said he participated in the investigation of Nicky Scarfo Jr. and Salvatore Pelullo in a financial fraud scheme that netted millions of dollars illegally. Pellullo and Scarfo, whose father, Nicky Scarfo Sr., was the former mob boss of Philadelphia, were sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering, securities and wire fraud, and other charges related to the 2007 illegal takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. 

“I was also part of the investigation surrounding the witness cooperation of Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli, who had wired up against significant Philly crime figures such as Joe Merlino, Joe Ligambi, Anthony Staino and others before Stefanelli ultimately murdered another witness and took his own life rather than going into the witness protection program,” Rocco said.  

I asked Rocco if there was a time he was concerned about his life while undercover.

“I was concerned for my life every single day I lived the life inside the mafia,” Rocco said. “I knew that Stango had prior convictions for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The stress of being discovered as an infiltrator, crossing the wrong person, or worst, being accused of being an informant or rat, was constant.”

I asked Rocco what he thought of Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia is a city rich with history, culture and a feeling of constant growth. Its residents are dedicated, hard-working and passionate,” Rocco said. “It is a city with many similarities to the neighborhoods I remember growing up in the Hudson County area of N.J. Their pride in the city and the close-knit feeling the residents still have in their neighborhoods may contribute to making Philadelphia stand out as the great city.”


Lucchese family soldier Boobsie again tries to get out of prison

Reputed mobster wants out of prison. Says he nixed plea deal on lawyer’s bum advice.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That old maxim appears to be the mantra of a reputed mobster who is taking another stab at an early release from prison, despite his prior failures.

Alleged Lucchese crime family member Eugene "Boobsie" Castelle, 61, has asked a federal judge to let him take a plea deal which he previously refused.

The Staten Island resident contends, in a pro-se motion, he was led astray by his lawyer.

The defendant, who is serving a 77-month sentence after being convicted at trial of running an illegal gambling business and racketeering conspiracy, had rejected the government’s offer of eight to 14 months behind bars prior to his trial two years ago.

Castelle maintains he nixed that deal because his attorney, Gerald J. McMahon, had miscalculated his likely sentence if he was convicted at trial.

McMahon told him he faced 33 to 41 months behind bars if found guilty of those charges, said Castelle, who public records indicate lives in Annadale.

However, Manhattan federal court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein determined the sentencing guidelines to be 51-63 months in prison.

As it turned out, Hellerstein hit Castelle with 77 months, which is 14 months above his own interpretation of the guidelines’ maximum.

Judges are not bound by the guidelines in imposing sentence.

Castelle contends McMahon failed to do his homework in estimating the guidelines range.

“Pointedly, had counsel accurately advised movant, he would have accepted the government’s 8-to-14-month plea offer,” wrote Castelle.

As it stands, Castelle’s anticipated release date is in September 2025.

Ordered by the judge to respond within 30 days, McMahon didn’t waste any time.

Or mince words.

“Castelle’s assertions are factually incorrect,” McMahon wrote the court. “Whether the post-trial guidelines were 33-41 months, 51-63 months, or some different numbers entirely, the fact is that Castelle wanted a trial, regardless.”

“Having just triumphed (with the undersigned as counsel) in a racketeering case in Brooklyn Supreme Court, which included among other charges the gambling case with co-defendant Anthony Greco, Castelle wanted a dismissal or trial in SDNY (Southern District of New York – Manhattan federal court),” McMahon wrote.

In support, McMahon pointed to an excerpt from Castelle’s sentencing transcript, which the defendant included in his motion.

“My client wanted the trial. Notwithstanding what his attorney recommended, my client wanted a trial, and he got a trial,” the transcript quoted McMahon as saying.

In fact, the lawyer said he had “strongly recommended” that Castelle accept prosecutors’ 8-to-14-months plea offer.

McMahon said he emphasized to Castelle he could only estimate the guideline range.

Moreover, he said he told the defendant prosecutors would likely seek a higher sentence, and the court could put him behind bars for up to 20 years.

The lawyer even took a shot at the judge.

Hellerstein increased the sentencing range after finding that Castelle had extorted Greco, his gambling partner and former state court defendant, wrote McMahon.

But no jury found that Castelle extorted Greco, McMahon said. And Manhattan federal prosecutors never charged Castelle with extorting Greco, he said.

“It certainly was not unreasonable or ‘wrong’ for counsel not to anticipate such an unwarranted — indeed, made-up — enhancement,” wrote McMahon.

Prosecutors must respond to Castelle’s motion by Aug. 8, after which the defendant has 30 days to reply.

No date has been set for a ruling.


Castelle has been down this road before.

A federal appeals court previously denied his motion to overturn his conviction and sentence.

In addition to 77 months behind bars, Castelle was sentenced in June 2019 to three years’ supervised release, fined $100,000 and ordered to forfeit nearly $189,000 in criminal proceeds.

In March, Hellerstein, the Manhattan federal court judge, denied Castelle’s bid for early release due to COVID-19 concerns.

Hellerstein cited Castelle’s 2019 sentencing in which the defendant “refused to acknowledge any responsibility for his conduct, denied his guilt and expressed no remorse for his crimes.”

Castelle, he said, had “immediate(ly)” returned to the Lucchese family and a life of crime despite serving a prior 88-month sentence for racketeering conspiracy.


Friday, June 18, 2021

Whitey Bulger's infamous FBI handler getting released from Florida prison due to cancer


A Florida prison review panel on Wednesday voted to release on medical grounds a former FBI agent diagnosed with cancer who was serving a 40-year murder sentence for helping Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger carry out a 1982 hit on a businessman.

John Connolly, Bulger’s handler within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had served nearly 20 years of his sentence following his 2008 second-degree murder conviction in Florida over the death of businessman John Callahan.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review voted 2-1 to release Connolly, 80, after hearing he had cancer and a prognosis of less than one year to live. He must remain confined in an approved residence or hospice.

Bulger, who led the Winter Hill Gang, lived a double life as one of Boston’s most notorious mobsters and as a secret FBI informant before going on the run for 16 years after Connolly tipped him that his arrest was imminent.

Bulger was convicted in 2013 of 11 murders, among other charges, and was serving a life sentence when the 89-year-old was killed in prison in 2018.

Bulger’s trial revealed his corrupt relationship with federal law enforcement officials, who turned a blind eye to the Irish-American gangster’s crimes in exchange for information they could use against the Italian-American Mafia.

Connolly and Bulger both grew up in South Boston. After being assigned to the FBI’s organized crime division in Boston, Connolly recruited Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi in the 1970s to work as informants.

Prosecutors said Connolly warned Bulger and Flemmi that the FBI was seeking to question Callahan, the president of sports betting operation World Jai-Alai, about another mob slaying, prompting them to arrange for a hitman to kill him.

Connolly has long proclaimed his innocence. “John was nowhere near the scene of the crime,” James McDonald, his attorney, told the commission.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Imprisoned longtime Gambino mobster hopes letter from Sammy the Bull will clear him of murder and overturn his life sentence


An octogenarian mob bigwig is pinning his hopes on an affidavit from notorious Mafia turncoat and one-time Graniteville resident Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano in a longshot bid to be sprung from prison.

One-time Gambino crime family underboss and acting consigliere Frank "Frankie Loc" LoCascio is serving a life sentence in the 1990 murder of wiseguy Louis DiBono.

DiBono was killed on the order of Gambino chief John Gotti for not reporting to meetings with the “Dapper Don” as told.

LoCascio maintains he had nothing to do with DiBono’s slaying, and that Gravano’s affidavit backs him up.

Gotti and LoCascio, now in his late 80s, were convicted at trial in Brooklyn federal court in 1992. Gotti died behind bars nearly two decades ago.

But LoCascio, who has been locked up for almost 30 years, recently got a ray of hope.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has agreed to consider whether the octogenarian is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine if he was wrongfully convicted.

Despite Gravano’s affidavit, a Brooklyn federal court judge had denied LoCascio’s motion for a hearing late last year.

“We are pleased the Second Circuit recognized that there are substantial issues in Mr. LoCascio’s case,” said his lawyer William W. Fick of the Boston-based firm, Fick & Marx. “We look forward to proceeding with the appeal and eventually convening a hearing where Mr. Gravano can testify.”

No date has been set.

A spokesman for Brooklyn federal prosecutors declined comment.

Gravano, whose testimony helped bring Gotti down, signed the affidavit in November 2018.

In it, he says he was never asked at trial whether LoCascio agreed with the decision to kill DiBono. Nor was he asked if LoCascio approved of the hit.

“Frank had no role in the planning of, nor did he participate in any way in the murder or conspiracy to murder Louis DiBono,” wrote Gravano. “… LoCascio’s role as a member of the administration did not require him to agree with the ‘boss’ in every situation. Clearly, Gotti, as the boss of the family, had the sole authority to make the decision to kill DiBono.”

In support, Gravano pointed to a Dec. 12, 1989 wiretapped conversation between LoCascio and Gotti.

LoCascio tried to calm Gotti down after the chief said he had decided to kill DiBono for disobeying him, Gravano said.

In fact, LoCascio predicted the victim would bring the boss $50,000 to amend things, according to Gravano.

“This conversation shows that Frank tried to save DiBono’s life, and he did not agree with nor approve the decision to kill DiBono,” Gravano wrote.

Shortly after that discussion, Gotti told Gravano he “strongly resented” LoCascio’s suggestion that he take the cash and spare DiBono’s life, said Gravano.

Gotti was so peeved he promoted Gravano to official underboss and demoted LoCascio to acting consigliere, Gravano wrote.

“Viewed in light of all the evidence, this declaration proves LoCascio innocent of the DiBono murder,” LoCascio’s lawyers wrote in their Appeals Court motion. “Gravano’s testimony that LoCascio played no role in the murder, did not want DiBono to be killed, made his view clear to Gotti, and did so at the expense of his own role in the organization, was likely to convince the jury that LoCascio was not involved in, and not guilty of, the murder.”

In previously denying LoCascio’s motion last November, Brooklyn federal court Judge I. Leo Glasser questioned the validity of Gravano’s statements.

Gravano, he noted, was not present during the intercepted conversation between Gotti and LoCascio.

Yet Gravano interpreted the meaning of LoCascio’s words without having heard his tone of voice or seeing his face, said the judge. Nor had he discussed the conversation with LoCascio.

“It is, remarkably, the reading of his mind or divine enlightenment some 30 years later, that ‘shows’ him what his words meant,” wrote Glasser.

“Frank LoCascio was not trying to save the life of Louie DiBono. He predicted that DiBono would try to save his own,” the judge said. “Throughout the (trial) transcript, one becomes aware that going against, disobeying, or disagreeing with Gotti is fraught with danger, and Gravano and LoCascio knew it.”

LoCascio’s “utter silence” on Gotti’s “stark pronouncement” to murder DiBono “bespeaks a wordless assent,” opined Glasser.


Jailed Gambino soldier who plotted to kill turncoat Sammy the Bull with a land mine wants sentenced slashed


Former Travis resident and reputed Gambino organized crime family solider Thomas "Huck" Carbonaro has a long and violent criminal history.

Nearly two decades ago, Carbonaro was convicted of participating in a conspiracy to assassinate notorious mob turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano in Arizona in late 1999 and early 2000.

Carbonaro was also found guilty for his role in two other murder plots: The April 1998 slaying of New Springville resident Frank Hydell and the August 1990 killing of construction official and reputed Gambino solider Edward Garofalo.

Hydell was gunned down outside Scarlet’s, a former South Beach strip club.

Carbonaro, now 73, doesn’t dispute the seriousness of his crimes, which also includes a construction industry shakedown, his lawyer said in a recent letter to the court.

But he is a changed man.

One who deserves a shot at having his 70-year sentence reduced and spending his remaining years with his family.

“Mr. Carbonaro is no longer the man who committed his offenses of conviction,” wrote attorney Harlan Protass. “Rather, today, he is a simple convict doing his time, trying to improve himself and attempting to maintain relationships with his large, loving and ever-growing family.”

“He has put decades of distance between himself and his criminal conduct and decades of distance between himself and any individual associated with the ‘Gambino Crime Family’ who might induce him to engage in criminal conduct should he be released from prison,” Protass said. “Mr. Carbonaro is, simply put, ready to start a new chapter in his life.”

Carbonaro has already served 18 years behind bars.

Protass seeks to reduce the sentence to 25 years, or a period less than 70 years which the court finds “just, fair (and) appropriate.”


Citing Carbonaro’s troubling criminal past, Manhattan federal prosecutors say he doesn’t deserve a break.

“The defendant and his associates were part of the notorious Gambino crime family and conspired to murder individuals they suspected were cooperating with the government and threatening their illegal enterprise,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Robles in opposition. “These offenses thus could not have been more harmful to the public and our justice system.”

“Given the multiple lives taken at the hands of the defendant and his co-conspirators, as well as the defendant’s involvement in loan-sharking and extortions on behalf of the Gambino crime family, the 70-year sentence imposed by the court was fair and should remain undisturbed,” Robles said.

No date has been set for Manhattan federal court Judge Colleen McMahon to rule on Carbonaro’s motion.

In December 2004, Carbonaro was convicted in Manhattan federal court of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion and conspiracy to commit murder.

He was sentenced to three consecutive prison terms of 20 years each, plus a consecutive term of 10 years.

Carbonaro appealed his convictions and sentence and was denied.

His projected release date is in March of 2063. Which effectively makes his prison term a life sentence, said Protass.

While behind bars, Carbonaro has been a model prisoner, the attorney wrote the court.

That, coupled with Carbonaro’s age, “serious” health issues and scant likelihood of recidivism make him an ideal candidate for a sentence reduction, reasoned Protass.

“Despite having no realistic hope of release before the end of his life, Mr. Carbonaro has sought to rehabilitate himself to the fullest extent possible, as evidenced by his accomplishments behind bars and his meritorious prison record, which includes no disciplinary violations whatsoever,” Protass wrote.

Carbonaro has earned his GED and “several valued certificates,” said the lawyer.

More importantly, he is remorseful for his actions, Protass wrote.

“Mr. Carbonaro makes no excuses for his criminal conduct or former criminal associations. He does not seek to justify, diminish or detract from the seriousness of the offenses,” said the lawyer. “And he unequivocally accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct, including the conspiracies that resulted in the tragic deaths of Edward Garofalo and Frank Hydell.”


Another reason for a reduced sentence: Carbonaro’s 70-year prison term is disproportionate to the sentences received by his co-defendants, maintained Protass.

Peter Gotti, the acting Gambino crime boss, was sentenced to 25 years. Edward Garafola, a cousin of the victim, Edward Garofalo, got 30 years.

Both men died before finishing their terms.

“Unlike Mr. Carbonaro, both Mr. Gotti and Mr. Garafola each had at least a chance of surviving their prison sentences (even if they did not),” wrote Protass. “Realistically, Mr. Carbonaro will not survive his current 70-year sentence.”

Gotti, 81, died in prison earlier this year.

He was convicted in 2004 for putting a $70,000 bounty on Gravano’s head.

A onetime Graniteville resident, Gravano’s testimony had helped send Gotti’s brother, mob chief John Gotti Sr., to prison.

Prosecutors at the time said the men plotted to kill Gravano in Arizona with a homemade land mine or a hunting rifle as payback for turning against the family.

Gravano, however, was busted on drug charges before the hit could be carried out.

Prosecutors contend Carbonaro has failed to demonstrate “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting compassionate release.

Regarding his health issues, prosecutors maintain he has received and will continue to receive appropriate treatment in prison.

And the scope of his crimes nullifies his positive prison behavior, contend prosecutors.

“While the government commends the efforts the defendant has taken to rehabilitate himself and recognizes that he has the love and support of his family, that does not negate his lengthy criminal history prior to conspiring to commit multiple murders or the seriousness of offenses that he committed on behalf of one of the most vicious and notorious crime organizations in New York,” wrote prosecutors.

“Under these circumstances, the court should require the defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence,” prosecutors said.


Man who helped dump body linked to the Gambino family found dead in Brooklyn


A man who helped dump the body of a reputed mob scion allegedly murdered by the ex-con’s identical twin was found dead Friday of an apparent drug overdose, The Post has learned.

Vincent Iacono was found unconscious in a Brooklyn bathroom just before 11 a.m. with a needle and fanny pack filled with drugs, according to police sources. The NYPD confirmed his death, which was a day before his 40th birthday.

Iacono had been working as a caretaker for a person at the apartment where his body was found in Canarsie.

He had been convicted of tampering with physical evidence in the murder of Carmine Carini, Jr., the son of a Gambino crime-family associate with the same name, in August 2017.

Iacono did 15 months behind bars for the crime before being paroled July 28, 2020, according to sources and prison records.

His twin, Louie, is accused of bashing Carini Jr.’s head in with a hammer over a drug dispute, with the siblings then allegedly using duct tape to wrap the body in a blue tarp and attaching cinderblocks to his legs before tossing him in Jamaica Bay. The body washed up days later with the tide. 

The twins went on the run, but cops eventually caught them in Indiana.

The brother’s murder case is still pending, court records show. 


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.