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

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Aging Colombo Boss posts $10M bail while another is denied compassionate release

Andrew “Mush” Russo in 1996.

The wheels of justice spun in different directions Wednesday for a pair of octogenarian Colombo crime family bosses.

Current leader Andrew “Mush” Russo, charged in a lucrative and long-running mob union shakedown, won his freedom with a $10 million bond while his long-imprisoned Colombo predecessor Victor “Little Vic” Orena was denied compassionate release despite his fast-deteriorating health in separate Brooklyn Federal Court rulings.

Russo, 87, secured his home detention from Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak in part with properties worth $7 million, although his earliest taste of freedom would be Thursday once the paperwork is complete and a prosecution doctor conducts an evaluation, officials said. Pollak found Russo posed no threat to the community due to his health issues, including some form of dementia.

“If they want to get some more doctors to reach the same conclusion, they’re certainly welcome to do that,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. “He’s also been shackled by both ankles to a bed 24 hours a day and the government told the judge that Andrew was receiving ‘excellent around the clock care.’

“That didn’t fly either.”

Mobster Victor Orena leaving 26 Federal Plaza with FBI agents.

Orena, the family boss during a bloody internal family war where 15 people died in the early ‘90s, was kept behind bars by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Eric Komitee despite the 87-year-old gangster’s myriad health woes — including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, glaucoma and heart problems.

Orena will remain inside the Federal Medical Center Devers in Massachusetts after the judge’s 10-page Wednesday decision.

“A strain of cases ... has emerged in which the offenders’ criminal history is so long, and their victims so numerous, that even serious health conditions do not suffice to merit relief,” the judge wrote. “This case falls squarely in that category.”

One of the those slain during the mob war was an innocent 17-year-old shot six times while working behind the counter of a Bay Ridge bagel shop.

The Orena faction battled forces loyal to then-jailed Colombo boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, with Russo moving into the top spot after Persico’s death in 2019. Orena’s attorney, in a hearing earlier this month, said the deranged ex-boss was now convinced that he was president of the United States.

Russo, under terms of his release, would remain under home detention, GPS monitoring, phone monitoring and a ban on contact with his 13 co-defendants or anyone else affiliated with La Cosa Nostra.

Prosecutors were permitted to have one of their doctors evaluate Russo in hopes the judge will reverse her decision. In court papers opposing his release, the feds cited Russo’s appearance last year at a gathering of the family hierarchy and his hosting of a meeting with two Colombo co-defendants this past March in his Long Island home.

“Releasing the defendant on the terms proposed by defense counsel would return him to his home, from where he carried out much of charged conduct, and give him the full resources of the Colombo crime family,” prosecutors argued in court papers.

In the Orena case, his history of failing health fell far short of swaying Komitee.

“I have considered Orena’s arguments ... (and) I am left with the inescapable conclusion that any sentence short of the life term imposed ... would insufficiently reflect the seriousness of the offense conduct here and fail to provide just punishment,” he wrote.

Orena’s son Andrew said the family’s attorney would appeal the decision, while acknowledging his sickly father was running out of time.

“Yes, he’s in bad shape,” said Andrew Orena. “So we’re forced to do it this way. So we’ll see. We have to push.”

Komitee described Vic Orena as “a singular figure in the annals of the Colombo family” — which traces its roots to the legendary boss Joe Colombo.

“He rose to a leadership role, becoming acting boss in 1988, and his efforts to cling to power triggered a bloody war,” the judge wrote. “Orena oversaw a campaign of violence that resulted in a swath of death and serious injury.”

And he noted the difference between Orena and other mobsters granted shorter sentences despite their roles in organized crime violence, including Colombo capo Greg Scarpa and Bonanno family boss Joseph “Big Joe” Massino.

“These cases generally involved high-ranking defendants who elected to cooperate with the government, at serious risk to themselves,” Komitee found.



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