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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reputed North Jersey mobster Stephen "Beach" Depiro a family man of contradictions

Stephen "Beach" Depiro has been described by federal authorities as a major player in the New Jersey underworld, a veteran mobster who has risen through the ranks and now oversees the highly lucrative rackets along the North Jersey waterfront.
The balding, 5-foot-7 Union County resident is, according to one underworld source, a "flashy" wiseguy out of the John Gotti, celebrity gangster mode, favoring fancy cars, nice clothes, and a manicured look.
But court documents filed by his lawyer as Depiro, 55, tries to win release on bail after his arrest last month offer a different picture of the man the FBI has listed as one of the highest-ranking Genovese crime family soldiers in the state.
The contradictions are stark and fascinating:
Depiro, according to his lawyer, goes to Mass every day. But authorities allege that he has used violence and intimidation to enforce the mob's control of gambling, loan-sharking, and labor racketeering along the waterfront.
In a letter to the court supporting Depiro's request for bail, three priests and a deacon at his church - St. Theresa's in Kenilworth - cited "his sincerity" and his "participation in pastoral programs" and added that "some of our parishioners . . . told us they are inspired by his prayerful attitude and kindness." Yet the FBI says he was closely aligned with the late Tino Fiumara, one of the most feared mobsters in New Jersey, and is a top associate of Michael Coppola, a mob capo and suspected hit man who was once part of a murder team known as "The Fist."
His criminal record indicates he's never been convicted of a violent crime. But federal prosecutors say he took over the mob's interests along the docks after Lawrence Ricci, a Genovese crime family soldier, was killed in 2005. Ricci was shot in the head, his body left in the trunk of a car parked behind a North Jersey diner.
Depiro is the lead defendant in a pending racketeering case in federal court in Newark that details the mob's alleged control of the New Jersey waterfront.
He has been held without bail since his arrest on Jan. 20, but his New York attorney, Sarita Kedia, has filed a motion seeking his release pending trial.
Prosecutors have opposed the motion.
Court filings in that dispute have provided the wildly divergent descriptions of the reputed wiseguy.
From law enforcement's perspective, Depiro is a gangster who has sworn an oath "to serve the ends of the Genovese . . . family above all else."
And he has done that, they allege, through the extortion of International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) dockworkers who are forced to kick back to the mob in order to work; through a lucrative illegal sports-betting operation; and through a loan-sharking and extortion racket tied to the gambling enterprise.
He has also consistently associated with mob figures, they say, even while free on bail or under supervised release and despite court-ordered prohibitions.
Depiro was one of several crime family members, prosecutors say, who helped Coppola live in hiding for more than a decade as he avoided arrest in a murder case.
And since at least 2005, they allege, Depiro "has managed and controlled the crime family's waterfront rackets," which some estimate generate more than $1 million annually for organized crime.
Defense documents, on the other hand, paint Depiro as a family man in the most honorable sense of that term, and as someone who cares deeply for his loved ones.
He is, according to those filings, a man who sought court permission while under house arrest last year to visit his mother's grave on Mother's Day; to take his elderly aunt to the cemetery on another occasion and then join her for lunch; to visit his father's grave on Father's Day; and to fete family members celebrating birthdays and graduations at such restaurants as La Campagna in Millburn, La Griglia in Kenilworth, and the posh Stella Marina in Asbury Park.
His fiancée and self-described "life partner," Michele Caruso - they have been together 15 years, she wrote in a letter to the court - said Depiro had been "a second father to my son, from toddler to high school graduate."
She called him a "dedicated and personable man," a "role model in our family" who is "capable of handling any situation with thoughtfulness and maturity."
That, of course, is not the picture emerging from snippets of wiretapped conversations that are now part of the racketeering case in which Depiro and 14 associates have been charged.
In those conversations, Depiro is picked up discussing the extortion of the ILA locals with both Fiumara, who died in September, and Coppola, who was jailed last year after his conviction in another racketeering case.
The kickbacks from dockworkers alone, prosecutors say, generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for the mob each year.
Prosecutors also cite other conversations in which a top associate threatened a deadbeat gambler with a baseball bat if he didn't come up with the money owed to Depiro's gambling operation.
"He needs his hands to work," reputed mob enforcer Richard "Dickie" Dehmer said of his target. "He ain't working no more for a while."
FBI surveillance reports also detailed Depiro's meeting on several occasions with Fiumara at a Long Island restaurant and associating with mobster Daniel Dellisanti, whose criminal record includes convictions for drug dealing and murder, prosecutors said.
Whether Depiro goes to Mass every day, and even if he is a caring son and father figure, authorities argued that he was "the most recent successor" to Fiumara and Coppola and head of a "violent crew that has controlled the crime family's port-related rackets for decades."
He has, they pointed out, no legitimate source of income. Yet he clearly lives well, dining at fine restaurants and driving a Jaguar and a Mercury Mountaineer.
He has, according to his own lawyer, been approached several times by FBI agents who wanted him to cooperate. It was, apparently, an offer he could refuse.
"Each time, the FBI agents found Mr. Depiro in the same church, where he . . . attends services each morning," the lawyer wrote.
Prosecutors say Depiro's mob associations and the charges outlined in a 53-count indictment returned last month support the argument that he is a danger to the community and should be denied bail.
But not everyone in the community agrees.
The priests and deacon at the Church of St. Theresa, in a letter written Jan. 27, conceded that the charges Depiro faces are "serious."
But, they wrote, "through the years of consistently seeing him in church and from our countless conversations with him, we all agree to the fact of his sincerity and his desire to live his life consistent with what our Christian faith teaches."



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