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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Untouchable Bronx hitman faces life in jail after 40 murders

A Bronx hit man was once so untouchable that even a rival's hand grenade couldn't harm him.
But killer Joseph Meldish has finally been nailed by those he hates most -- people who dare to stand up to him.
The 55-year-old thug -- recently convicted of his second murder -- faces life behind bars when he's sentenced Wednesday, thanks to dogged cops and courageous witnesses and jurors, authorities say.
"[Meldish] definitely ruled the neighborhood with a lot of intimidation throughout the years," said Lt. Sean O'Toole of the Bronx Homicide Task Force.
Joseph Meldish
Joseph Meldish
When it came to prosecuting the Purple Gang killer of Throgs Neck, "nobody wanted to be involved," O'Toole said.
Meldish is suspected of being involved in up to 40 murders, both for his own gang and for the Lucchese and Genovese crime families, authorities said.
He was arrested for his first slaying nearly 40 years ago, at age 18.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in that case and was sentenced March 10, 1976 -- 35 years to the day that he'll return for sentencing in the other murder this week.
After serving just three years behind bars, the young thug was paroled -- and allegedly killed again.
O'Toole said that a dispute erupted between Meldish and 23-year-old John Gioia in a Bronx social club in September 1981 and that when they took it outside, Gioia "threw a hand grenade [at Meldish]," but it didn't go off.
"We're confident Meldish [then] shot Gioia," the cop said. But witnesses wouldn't talk. It wasn't until 2009 that Meldish was indicted.
The case has yet to go to trial; Meldish has pleaded not guilty.
His other infamous escapades also include an incident in 1984, when gang members beat a man and stole $350 while Meldish threatened to kill the victim if he went to cops. The victim went into the witness-protection program.
At the time, police said Meldish's brother, Michael, led the Purple Gang, which controlled the drug trade in Harlem and The Bronx.
Joseph Meldish was imprisoned again in 1988 for drug possession, buying the narcotics with money he stole through intimidation.
"He would go into bars and start taking people's money right off the bar," O'Toole said. "If you argued with him, the next thing you know, he would be back with a baseball bat or he would start shooting."
Then, in 1999, one-time drug dealer Tommy Brown refused to lend Meldish $20 for a deal. Meldish turned around and burglarized Brown's home.
Brown reported the crime, then decided against pressing charges.
"Nobody wanted any problems with him," he explained. But Meldish still plotted his revenge.
A crony, David Thiong, drove Meldish and crack-addicted prostitute Kim Hanzlick to Frenchy's Tavern in Throgs Neck, where Brown hung out.
Hanzlick ducked into the bar and returned to tell Meldish that Brown was sitting with his wife at the second-to-last table on the right.
Meldish then barged in wearing a ski mask and shot the man eight times, killing him.
Too bad it was Tommy Brown's lookalike brother, Joey.
O'Toole said that from the start of the investigation, Meldish was their target. But "we had to convince people to talk," he said. "At the mere mention of his name, everybody would be scared."
Getaway driver Thiong finally flipped on Meldish in 2009 for immunity. At Meldish's trial last month, ADA Christine Scaccia, armed with subpoenas, hauled in witnesses who testified that they were scared to be there.
Two potential jurors were excused after saying they knew about Meldish and were afraid.
The forewoman also asked to be excused after realizing the verdict would be read in open court.
And the entire jury asked if "the family" -- apparently Meldish's relatives -- would be watching while testimony was read back to them, then asked for a private read-back.
But in the end, the jurors held out and convicted Meldish.


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