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

Monday, December 12, 2011

Springfield Mafia landscape barren after murder and criminal prosecutions

Over the years, Mafia regimes in Western Massachusetts have risen and fallen with sweeping prosecutions, old age and murder.
Organized crime in Greater Springfield has been as cyclical as every other industry – banking, real estate and politics.
But, with the recent exodus of every made member of the Springfield faction of the Genovese crime family – either through violence, prosecution under powerful federal racketeering laws or entrance into the U.S. Witness Protection Program – the landscape of the region’s mob leadership is truly barren. Law enforcement officials say it is a first.
“For the first time in my memory, all we have left is a handful of bookies. Along with a bunch of older guys we call the geriatric crew,” says State Police Lt. Thomas J. Murphy, an organized crime investigator since the 1990s, of the cast of mob characters remaining in Greater Springfield.
“You took all your made guys and took them out in one shot. No one’s taking the lead or they’re being very covert about it,” Murphy said. “There’s nobody overly anxious to come to the forefront and pick up the ball and run.”
This year’s trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that targeted conspirators in the 2003 Springfield murder plots of slain Genovese capo Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and lower level henchmen yielded the region’s first life sentences for up-and-coming mob heavies Fotios “Freddy” Geas and his younger brother Ty Geas, formerly of West Springfield.
The Geas brothers, once feared enforcers for boss-turned-informant Anthony J. Arillotta, of Springfield, are serving sentences at a federal prison in Kentucky. They were convicted on April 1, along with onetime Bronx, N.Y., acting boss Arthur “Artie” Nigro, of the Genovese crime family, of a litany of murder and extortion conspiracies after a three-week trial.
A fourth defendant, Emilio Fusco, an Italian immigrant from Longmeadow, who’s been identified by witnesses as a “made man” in the Genovese family, is scheduled for trial on parallel charges next year.
Fusco is due to appear in U.S. District Court in Manhattan today for a pretrial conference. His defense lawyer is renewing a motion for bail and asking Judge P. Kevin Castel to dismiss the murder allegations against his client. Fusco is technically charged with racketeering conspiracy with the murders of Bruno and low-level associate Gary D. Westerman as underlying acts, not murder conspiracy.
The four were central to a violent tear that stretched from Springfield to Connecticut and New York as the power structure here shifted in a historically unique way, according to mob investigators.
Arillotta led a coup against Bruno, the fourth in a series of Springfield capos who spanned approximately 40 years. With Nigro’s blessing, according to Arillotta’s testimony, he recruited the Geases and others to take Bruno out in a hail of bullets on Nov. 23, 2003.
The hit was intended to pave the way for Arillotta to take over leadership of the rackets in Western Massachusetts. But, the rackets themselves were faltering and witnesses against Arillotta were persuaded by the government with money and the prospect of shorter prison sentences.
Thus, Arillotta’s potent run as the region’s de facto boss from 2003 to 2010 (including three years he spent in state prison for loan-sharking and gaming convictions) was cut short.
He and fellow made member Felix L. Tranghese, of East Longmeadow, found themselves on the witness stand in March, outlining for the federal jury in the Geases’ case their ascent in the crime family and the details of their turning government witnesses.
While Tranghese had a reputation of being a guy always trying to beat others out of money, most of his tenure encompassed a more passive time. Arillotta, on the other hand, testified he was pressured by Nigro and a visiting emissary, John Bologna, of Westchester, N.Y., who has since joined the ranks of witness protection, to ratchet up extortion efforts in Springfield and murder those who got in their way.
(It has since been made public that Bologna was an FBI informant as he manipulated schemes up and down the East Coast, according to court records.)
In addition to the Bruno murder plot, Arillotta told jurors he was “straightened out,” or became an official member of the Genovese family, in August 2003 after a murder attempt on Frank Dadabo, 69-year-old union official who had angered Nigro. Arillotta and Ty Geas ambushed Dadabo in the Bronx with guns fitted with silencers provided by Nigro on an early morning that year as Dadabo got in his car to go to work.
Dadabo survived several gunshot wounds. Arillotta said Nigro advised they get better at head shots. The failed attempt, coupled with thwarted attempts on local mob rivals’ lives, incensed Ty Geas and fueled the attempt to kill Bruno, which had been floundering in the winter of 2003.
“No one was getting killed! We’re about nothin’. We’re weak. No one’s dying!” Arillotta recounted of Ty Geas’ frustration.
Arillotta testified that afterwards, he, the Geas brothers and Fusco shot and bludgeoned to death Westerman, Arillotta’s brother-in-law and a rival drug dealer, in early November 2003 back home in Western Massachusetts.
Other failed plots did leave a few survivors on the regional mob landscape.
Trial witnesses said Giuseppe Manzi, whom prosecutors termed a longtime drug dealer who was at intense odds with Arrilotta’s faction, escaped being taken out with an AK-47 at a downtown Springfield intersection.
Convicted bookmaker Louis “Lou the Shoe” Santos, once a close ally of Arillotta, narrowly averted getting shot outside a medical clinic he visited regularly in Springfield, according to testimony from Arillotta and would-be shooter Frankie A. Roche.
Roche became a prosecution witness on the eve of his own trial in 2008; as he admitted when he pleaded guilty, Roche told jurors he shot Bruno six times in the parking lot of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society’s social club without breaking a sweat. While other government witnesses waffled about their expectations of the reward for their testimony, Roche was unambivalent.
“How soon do you hope to be out of prison?” Ty Geas’ lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, asked Roche on cross-examination. “Yesterday,” Roche, a former prison buddy of Fotios Geas, responded without missing a beat.
All the prosecution witnesses are queued up awaiting sentencing upon the resolution of the Fusco case, and there are no obvious cold-blooded killers or heavy-handed associates on to replace them, according to Murphy.
Arguably, the last time the Western Massachusetts mob was in comparable dire straits was in 2000, when Bruno assumed power after a sweeping loan-sharking and racketeering case that involved more than a dozen gangsters and associates. That round of prosecutions included then-boss Albert “Baba” Scibelli, who had succeeded his brother, Francesco “Skyball” Scibelli as the regional capo in the years before.
Fusco also was convicted in that case, one of several mobsters to be picked up crowing about gaming and shylock ventures on a series of state police wiretaps, at one point threatening “cement shoes” for a gambling debtor.
Others who served prison time and were released in connection with that case include Springfield barber Carmine Manzi and his son, Giuseppe “Little Joe” Manzi, cousin to Giuseppe Manzi of the failed murder attempt.
Law enforcement officials will not comment on the status of any suspects currently under investigation for organized crime activity.
Albert Scibelli, who served no jail time in the case because he was ill, admitted his association with the Genovese family as part of a plea deal. Murphy said this essentially sealed Scibelli’s fate as a has-been, and Bruno stepped in.
Bruno was the last “old-school” mobster to take the helm, according to Murphy and others. Bruno hadn’t faced a serious criminal charge since he was acquitted of the 1981 attempted murder of Joseph N. Maruca in Agawam in a 1994 trial.
Adolfo Bruno’s son, Victor Bruno, is a restaurateur in downtown Springfield, and though on the periphery of his father’s affairs for many years, says he opted for many reasons not to follow in his father’s footsteps into organized crime.
“I saw the treachery involved in my father’s world,” the younger Bruno said. “I saw the low-lifes he had to deal with on a daily basis. My father told me: ‘You can be anything you want to be,’ but that wasn’t for me. Why would I want to be in a business where you had to kill your friends?”
Victor Bruno, whose restaurant carries his father’s name, recalls his father as being a traditional gangster, who ruled with an iron fist but also routinely gave to charities, settled family disputes, recovered money for those wronged in financial dust-ups and moved easily in varied circles.
“A lot of these other bums, you think they ever did anything for Shriners Hospital? My father was more like a political figure,” Victor Bruno said. “People liked being around him, whether it be district attorneys, judges, presidents of companies.”
Rex W. Cunningham, released late last year after serving 16 years in prison for loan-sharking, agreed that Bruno’s death marked the end of an era, a trite but fitting phrase. Cunningham, who prefers the term “bookmaker” to gangster, was among the first of the region’s organized crime figures in the 1990s to receive a stinging prison sentence for mob-related charges.
“We had a tough group of guys, and Bruno was a legitimate tough guy,” Cunningham said. “But it was a different world for us. We answered to the older guys and the younger guys answered to us. And, if you did something wrong you took a beating and went on your way.”
These days, things are different, Cunningham added. There is no structure, no hierarchy and little need to bet with your local bookie as offshore on-line gaming and casinos have exploded. Street lotteries have gone the way of the eight-track tape. And, there are informants tucked in almost every pocket of the underworld.
“There’s still money on the street. Everyone’s still taking bets but it’s a free-for-all. And, there’s a viper’s nest of snakes and rats out there,” said Cunningham, who refused in his plea deal to testify against his cohorts despite facing a 30-year to life sentence. “Today, you can be your own mobster at your own risk, but with no one to answer to.”



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