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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Longtime mafioso Jimmy Caci dies at 86

Vincent D. “Jimmy” Caci liked to delight little children by drawing pictures for them.
A friend recalled that Caci would sit at a restaurant table, pick up a napkin, sketch a clever little drawing on it, and with a friendly smile, hand it to a kid sitting nearby.
But others saw a more fearsome side of Caci.
Cops say he was a tough-as-nails mobster who specialized in loansharking and shakedown schemes in Buffalo, and later in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Caci, described by associates as one of the toughest mobsters ever to emerge from Buffalo’s underworld, died of an illness last month in Palm Springs, Calif., two weeks after his 86th birthday.
He was quietly buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheektowaga, a low-key farewell for a man who lived a stormy life, rubbed elbows with big-time mobsters and entertainers, and got involved in some high-profile criminal investigations.
“Guys like Jimmy are part of a dying breed,” said Ronald M. Fino, a former Buffalo mob associate and FBI witness who now works as a private investigator in Norfolk, Va. “The guys who ran things in the Buffalo mob back in the ’60s, there’s only a few of them left.”
“He was tough, he was a strong man,” added a Buffalo businessman who knew Caci for decades. “Jimmy was a stand-up guy. He was in and out of prisons all his life and never ratted on anybody.”
Caci’s mob career blossomed after he left Buffalo in the 1970s and became a feared mob leader in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Authorities said he was one of a number of Buffalo mobsters who took leadership positions after moving to Nevada or California.
After he was sentenced to 46 months in a telemarketing fraud case in 1996, the California Attorney General’s Office wrote this about Caci in its annual report on organized crime: “Caci’s imprisonment has left an organized crime leadership void in the Palm Springs area, with no one moving in to take his position.”
“Jimmy was very successful after he made the move out west,” Fino said. “People liked him, because if he was your friend, he would help you out and wouldn’t ask anything in return.”
Caci was born in Westfield in Chautauqua County, but was raised on Buffalo’s West Side. His parents, who had nine children, ran a fish market and clam stand.
He got involved with the Buffalo Mafia and in schemes to take over vending machine companies in Western and Central New York.
In 1972, after his arrest for allegedly trying to blow up a vending machine company outside Syracuse, Caci was sentenced to three years in state prison. Police had put the company under surveillance after learning that mob figures had been trying to take it over.
Police said they found dynamite, a blasting cap and a timing device when they arrested Caci and two co-defendants in a field near the company.
While Caci was serving time in that case, he went on trial in Buffalo’s federal court in 1974. In that case, Caci and other alleged mobsters were accused of trying to extort a Binghamton vending machine operator. In that case, Caci was acquitted.
He had some more good fortune in Buffalo’s federal court in 1978, when District Judge John T. Curtin dismissed charges that Caci tried to sell a painting, valued at $18,000, that had been stolen in a Las Vegas burglary.
Prosecutors failed to prove that Caci knew the painting was stolen, Curtin ruled.
In July 1976, Buffalo Police charged Caci and four other men with loitering at a large dice game at a shopping plaza at West Ferry and Grant streets. The disposition of the case was not available last week.
After moving to Palm Springs, Caci returned to Buffalo for a visit in October 1983, but got busted at the Peace Bridge for failing to declare $26,660 he was carrying in his hip pocket. He later was convicted of failing to declare the cash, but details on his sentence also were unavailable last week.
Following a highly publicized California mob probe in 1988, a judge in Los Angeles sentenced Caci to a year in prison, after he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. One of his co-defendants in that case was Peter Milano, whom police called the boss of the LA mob.
Caci was back in prison in 1996 after his telemarketing fraud conviction. In 1998, federal prosecutors filed a racketeering case that tried to connect Caci to an effort by Buffalo and Los Angeles mobsters to take over mob operations in Las Vegas, but Caci was never convicted of that.
That case ended in April 2001, when a federal judge in Las Vegas sentenced Caci to six months in prison for conspiring to sell counterfeit travelers’ checks.
At that sentencing, Caci — then 75 — asked the judge for leniency, saying he had numerous health problems.
Caci also spoke at that time to a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“When I was a young kid, I was raised not to be an informant . . . That doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong,” columnist John Smith quoted Caci as saying. “When I talk, I might give the impression that I’m a wiseguy, but it’s not true . . . I’m not a criminal. I’m not a gangster. I’m not a Mafia guy.”
Caci had two younger brothers who also were well known in Buffalo’s organized crime circles.
Salvatore “Sam” Caci, a construction worker who was president of Laborers Local 210 during a time when federal agents said it was controlled by Buffalo’s mob, died in 2002. He was 72.
Charles J. Caci, a singer and actor whose stage name was Bobby Milano, died in 2006 at age 69. He was a talented crooner whose friends included Frank Sinatra, Frankie Avalon and Jerry Vale. He was married for many years to actress and singer Keely Smith.
But the entertainer also had trouble with the law. In 1967, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to hold up an armored car messenger in Beverly Hills, Calif.
He was sentenced to four months of home confinement in 2001, after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell counterfeit travelers’ checks in Las Vegas.
The Buffalo News made efforts to get comments from Jimmy Caci’s son in Palm Springs, and other family members in Buffalo, but was unsuccessful.
One Buffalo relative of Caci, who answered the telephone at the home of Caci’s sister, said the family does not want to talk about Caci.
“His life is over. ... He did what he did,” the man told a reporter. “He has nieces and nephews who love him. ... Why do you have to bring up all this now?”



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