Showing posts with label Genovese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genovese. Show all posts

13 January 2020

Crime bosses receive hundred-year sentences

Judge hands out 740 years in prison terms, $1.75 million in fines

On this date in 1987...

Rockland County NY Journal-News

Seven leaders of New York-area organized crime families were sentenced January 13, 1987, to hundred-year prison terms. The Manhattan federal court sentencing concluded the Commission Case.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Owen recommended that none of the defendants ever be paroled. "These defendants deserve permanent incarceration," the judge stated. "Their crimes cry out for extraordinary punishment. The defendants occupied the highest ranks of the Mafia, and their offenses were of the utmost magnitude." Without that recommendation, parole could have been considered after ten years had been served.

Three of those sentenced to a century behind bars were believed at the time to be bosses of Mafia organizations:
  • Lucchese Crime Family - Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, 73, of Oyster Bay Cove, New York.
  • Colombo Crime Family - Carmine "Junior" Persico, 53, from Brooklyn.
  • Genovese Crime Family - Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, 76, of Rhinebeck, New York. (Salerno was later found to be acting as a screen for the actual Genovese boss, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante.)

Corallo was also fined $250,000. Persico and Salerno were fined $240,000.

Corallo, Persico, Salerno
 Also sentenced to hundred-year prison terms:
  • Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro, 72, of Bronx, underboss of Lucchese Family. Fined $250,000.
  • Gennaro "Jerry Lang" Langella, 48, of Staten Island, underboss of Colombo Family. Fined $240,000. (Langella's attorney asked for a leniency, as Langella was already serving sentences of ten years and sixty-fine years from other cases and, according to the attorney, did not have "much left to give to his country." Judge Owen made the hundred-year term concurrent with the other sentences.)
  • Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari, 62, of Rockville Centre, New York, consigliere (counselor) of Lucchese Family. Fined $240,000.
  • Ralph Scopo, 58, of Howard Beach, Queens, former labor leader and soldier of Colombo Family. Fined $240,000.

An eighth defendant, Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, 38, of Manhattan, member of the Bonanno Crime Family, was sentenced to a lesser term. Convicted on two racketeering counts, including participation in the Commission-ordered killing of Bonanno big shot Carmine Galante, but not of holding a leadership position in the underworld, he received the maximum sentence of forty years. He was also fined $50,000.

Courtroom scene at sentencing. New York Daily News.

All the defendants were present in court for the sentencing. Judge Owen addressed them one at a time.

Salerno, believed at the time to be the wealthiest and most powerful underworld leader, was the first to be sentenced. Judge Owen remarked, "You sir, in my opinion, essentially spent all your lifetime terrorizing this community to your financial advantage."

Most of the defendants remained silent at sentencing. But Persico, who had acted as his own attorney at trial, charged that "this case was prejudiced from the very first day." He said the convictions and sentences were the result of "Mafia mania." Persico was already serving a thirty-nine-year sentence from a different case.

After four defendants had been sentenced and Judge Owen called the name of Salvatore Santoro, Santoro remarked, "Give me my hundred years and we'll get it over with."

Judge Owen explained that the sentences were intended as "a statement to those out there ... who are undoubtedly thinking about taking over the reins" of organized crime.

Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the press that the sentences would be "devastating to the mob."

Thomas L. Sheer, head of the FBI's New York office, was cautious in his assessment: "The worst mistake we can make is to declare a final victory."

The Commission Case began with the unsealing of a fifteen-count indictment on February 26, 1985. The original defendants, nine in number, did not include Persico or Indelicato but did include Bonanno Crime Family boss Philip "Rusty" Rastelli and Gambino Crime Family boss Paul "Big Paul" Castellano and his underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce. In June prosecutors added Carmine Persico and Stefano Cannone to the list of defendants.

That list was reduced over time. Dellacroce and Cannone died of natural causes. Castellano was murdered. Rastelli was severed from the case because he was being tried on a separate matter in Brooklyn. Indelicato was added.

Trial began with jury selection on September 8, 1986. The court proceedings lasted for a month and a half.

An anonymous jury of five men and seven women returned guilty verdicts against the defendants on November 19, 1986, following five days of deliberations. All eight defendants were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. All except Indelicato were convicted of extortion, extortion conspiracy and extorting and accepting labor payoffs. Corallo and Santoro were also convicted of loansharking conspiracy.

Maximum possible sentences were 326 years for Corallo and Santoro; 306 years for Persico, Salerno, Langella, Furnari and Scopo; and forty years for Indelicato.

See also:


Sources:

  • Doyle, John M., "Commission bosses get 100 years," Poughkeepsie Journal (AP), Jan. 14, 1987, p. B5.
  • Doyle, John M., "Eight mobsters convicted of all counts in Mafia Commission trial," AP News Archive, Nov. 19, 1986.
  • Jacobs, James B., with Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington, Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra, New York: New York University Press, 1994, p. 86-87.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Judge sentences 8 Mafia leaders to prison terms," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1987.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "U.S. jury convicts eight as members of mob Commission," New York Times, Nov. 20, 1986.
  • O'Shaughnessy, Patrice, "100-year terms for 7 mobsters," New York Daily News, Jan. 14, 1987, p. 7.
  • "In brief: Mafia bosses are sentenced to centuries," New York Times, Jan. 18, 1987.
  • "Lawyer for Mafia boss shows lighter side of sentencing," Rockland County NY Journal-News, Jan. 14, 1987, p. B6.
  • "Mafia bosses get 100 years each," Rockland County NY Journal-News (AP), Jan. 14, 1987, p. B6.

25 November 2019

Bringing Joe Valachi's memoirs to the Web

The 1000-plus page memoirs of Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi are valuable source material for organized crime historians. The manuscript, entitled "The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra," is one of just three authoritative inside sources on the Mafia during the period of the 1930-31 Castellammarese War (the others are published autobiographies, Vita di Capomafia by Nick Gentile and A Man of Honor by Joseph Bonanno). The Valachi memoirs were consulted and quoted by author Peter Maas for his 1968 book, The Valachi Papers, which grew into a 1972 Charles Bronson motion picture. Until now, these Joseph Valachi papers could only be accessed through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. I have been working to change that.

I first published a couple hundred pages of the manuscript on the mafiahistory.us website some years ago. The pages were acquired through the assistance of another Mafia historian, who requested anonymity. In summer 2019, I visited the JFK Library to access the remaining thousand or so pages. Since that time, I have been processing and formatting the pages for the web in small batches. At this moment, visitors to mafiahistory.us can access the first 500-plus consecutive pages of The Real Thing and an additional 80-plus scattered pages of the rest of the manuscript.

Copyright of the Valachi memoirs has been a concern. While the papers have been in the custody of the United States government and accessible to the public for decades since their official 1980 donation, the JFK Library has provided no clear guidance on any possible copyright holder. Following my summer 2019 visit to the library, I submitted a Freedom of Information request for access to the internal library paperwork relating to the memoirs. After some initial hesitation, the National Archives agreed to publicly release the "Deed of Gift" and "Donor File" relating to the memoirs. Transcriptions of these documents also have been added to the mafiahistory.us website.

The documents establish that the papers were donated to the library by Peter Maas on Christmas Eve of 1980. Maas stated his wish that they "be made available for research as soon as possible, and to the fullest extent possible." A New Year's Eve, 1980, memorandum indicates that Valachi intended at one time to publish his manuscript. Instead, the memoirs were used as source material for Maas's book, and Valachi received a payment of $75,000 for his story. Following Valachi's death in 1971, his estate went through normal probate procedures. "According to Maas' attorney, no question from Valachi's heirs about the rights to the manuscript or copyright arose during the settlement of the estate," the memorandum states. "Maas, therefore, has had the manuscript and accompanying transcript since 1965 without anyone questioning his right to the material."

This history and Maas' donation appear to place ownership of the memoirs clearly in the hands of the National Archives and the American people. In doing the work of bringing the memoirs to the Web, it is my hope to achieve Maas' goal of making them available for research "to the fullest entent possible."

Visit the Entrance Page for "The Real Thing: The Autobiography of Joseph Valachi" on Mafiahistory.us.

24 June 2019

Peers salute Genovese after murder acquittal

On this date in 1946...

Leaders of Mafia crime families based in the eastern U.S.  assembled at Midtown Manhattan's Hotel Diplomat, 108-116 West 43rd Street, on June 24, 1946, for a welcome home banquet in honor of Vito Genovese, according to Dom Frasca's book King of Crime (New York: Crown Publishers, 1959). Pittson, Pennsylvania, boss Santo Volpe was the first to greet the guest of honor, Frasca wrote. Reportedly the most senior of the crime bosses in attendance, Volpe led "Don Vitone" to a leather chair at the head of table. The remaining twenty-seven Mafiosi, standing around the table, offered their greetings and congratulations.

Genovese actually had been home in the United States for a few weeks by then. He returned from Italy June 1 in the custody of the U.S. Army Provost Marshal's Office and was turned over to New York prosecutors to stand trial for ordering "hits" on Ferdinand "the Shadow" Boccia and William Gallo in 1934. Boccia was murdered, but Gallo survived. (Genovese also was suspected of calling for the 1943 murder of anti-Fascist editor Carlo Tresca.)

As underboss to Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania in the summer of 1936, Genovese was poised to take control of a sprawling and highly profitable crime family when Lucania was convicted of compulsory prostitution and given a lengthy prison sentence.

Genovese was naturalized a U.S. citizen in November 1936, but almost immediately obtained a passport to leave the country, as he feared prosecution for the Boccia murder. He served the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini during World War II but then worked as an interpreter for the occupying American forces beginning in January 1944.

Murder suspects: Genovese, Mike Miranda, George Smurra, Gus Frasca.
(Brooklyn Eagle)

While he was away, Brooklyn prosecutors built the murder case against Genovese and other crime family leaders, largely through the confession of Ernest "the Hawk" Rupolo, who took part in the attacks on Boccia and Gallo, and corroborating testimony of witness Peter LaTempa. On August 7, 1944, a Kings County grand jury indicted Genovese for homicide. That news was transmitted to military officials, and Genovese was arrested in Italy by the end of the month.

It took months for the extradition process to begin. During that process, prosecutors' only corroborating witness, LaTempa, died in a prison holding cell of a mysterious drug overdose. Corroborating testimony was essential to the case, as state law would not permit conviction based solely on the testimony of an accomplice in the crime.

Prosecutors went ahead with the case following Genovese's return. Genovese was arraigned for the Boccia murder in Kings County Court on June 2, 1946. Trial began on June 6. Rupolo stepped to the witness stand the next day and testified that he was hired by Genovese to eliminate Boccia and Gallo. William Gallo also testified. The state rested its case that day, and the defense immediately moved that the charge against Genovese be dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Hotel Diplomat
(Museum of City of New York)
Judge Samuel Leibowitz (a former criminal defense attorney) dismissed the indictment and directed a verdict of not guilty. But he clearly wasn't happy about the situation. "I am constrained by law to dismiss the indictment and direct the jury to acquit you," the judge stated. "...You and your criminal henchmen thwarted justice time and again by devious means, among which were the terrorizing of witnesses, kidnaping them, yes, even murdering those who could give evidence against you. I cannot speak for the jury, but I believe that if there were even a shred of corroborating evidence, you would have been condemned to the chair."

Genovese was freed on June 10, two weeks before the Hotel Diplomat gathering reported by Dom Frasca.

Years of "government" work - first with Fascists and later with occupiers - apparently left Genovese with a large nest egg (or perhaps his colleagues gave him more than just greetings and food at the banquet). One month after the welcome home party, Genovese purchased a $40,000 seaside home at 130 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. The deal was reportedly made in cash.

Genovese once again became a key figure in the former Lucania Crime Family.

A decade later, following a 1957 botched murder attempt that left a lasting impression on boss Frank Costello's mind as well as his scalp, Genovese finally moved into the top spot of an organization that would from that time on be associated with his name.

Sources:

  • "'Hawk' tips off police to 4 slayings," Brooklyn Eagle, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Arrest in Italy in Tresca slaying," New York Post, Nov. 24, 1944.
  • "Chronological history of La Cosa Nostra in the United States," Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi,Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Washington D.C, 1988.
  • "Court weighs motion to acquit Genovese," New York Times, June 8, 1946.
  • "Death of four is laid to gang," New York Sun, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 6.
  • "Genovese, cleared of murder, buys $40,000 manse in Jersey," New York Sun, Aug. 16, 1946, p. 5.
  • "Genovese denies guilt," New York Times, June 3, 1945.
  • "Genovese free in murder case," New York Sun, June 10, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Murder trade's jargon explained in court," New York Sun, June 7, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Warrants out for 6 in 1934 gang murder," New York Daily News, Aug. 8, 1944, p. 28.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.
  • Manifest of S.S. James Lykes, departed Bari, Italy, on May 17, 1945, arrived NYC June 1, 1945.
  • People v. Vito Genovese, Ind. #921/44, Brooklyn District Attorney.
  • Vito Genovese naturalization record, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, petition mo. 256403, filed Dec. 19, 1935, certificate no. 4129975, Nov. 25, 1936, canceled Sept. 1, 1955.

11 January 2019

He did it, but they couldn't prove it

Carmine Galante of Bonanno clan
is regarded as Tresca's killer


On this date in 1943...

Tresca
Carlo Tresca, sixty-three-year-old editor of the Italian-language newspaper Il Martello (The Hammer), sat alone in his third floor Manhattan office after the close of business on Monday, January 11, 1943. He was preparing to host an eight-thirty meeting of a committee of the anti-Fascist Italian-American Mazzini Society.

Tresca, who embraced an anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist) philosophy and was arrested dozens of times for pro-labor mischief and other offenses over the years, had actively opposed Fascism since early in the rise of Benito Mussolini. His views on the movement, once dismissed as radical rabble-rousing, gained popularity upon U.S. entry into the Second World War near the end of 1941.

Committee member Giuseppe Calabi, of 415 Central Park West, arrived about fifteen minutes late to the office, above the Crawford clothing store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifteenth Street. None of the four other committee members showed up at all.

Tresca and Calabi waited for other members until after nine-thirty and then gave up. Tresca asked Calabi to accompany him for dinner. The editor had a favorite bar and grill, located about half a block away, on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. He often stopped there in the evening as he made his way from work to his Greenwich Village home, 52 West Twelfth Street. Calabi accepted the invitation. The office lights were turned out and the men exited the building onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.



Galante
On that same night, thirty-five-year-old Carmine Galante, of 876 Lots Avenue in Brooklyn, had an appointment in downtown Manhattan. Galante had been paroled a few years earlier from Sing Sing Prison after serving two-thirds of sentence for shooting at a police officer during a payroll holdup. There were months left on his parole, and he had been called to a meeting with the State Parole Board at 80 Centre Street.

Sidney Gross, in charge of the parole office, noted that Galante seemed nervous during the meeting. He grew concerned that Galante was slipping back into the old criminal associations that had repeatedly landed him behind bars since he was a teenager. Gross secretly assigned investigators Fred Berson and George Talianoff to follow Galante when he left the office.

The investigators positioned themselves near the building exit and waited for Galante. At shortly after eight o'clock, they were surprised by the speed with which their target rushed out onto the sidewalk and jumped into a waiting automobile.

With wartime rationing of gasoline and rubber, automobiles were generally reserved for only the most important travel, and they were entirely unavailable to Berson and Talianoff. They reasonably expected Galante to walk to the nearest subway station. As the dark sedan drove away, the investigators did the only thing they could do. They wrote down the sedan's license plate number: 1C-9272.



Tresca and Calabi took just a few strides on the dimly lit sidewalk, passing a man who was impatiently pacing back and forth, when that man stepped up behind them and fired a handgun at Tresca's back. The two men instinctively turned toward the sound of the gunshot. Tresca got a second bullet in the face. The gunmen fired another wild shot or two before climbing into a dark sedan and heading off to the west on Fifteenth Street.

Police officers and an ambulance from St. Vincent's Hospital rushed to the scene. Tresca was dead before he reached the hospital. A postmortem examination found that either of the .32-caliber bullets that entered his body would have been sufficient to end his life - the first ripped through one of his lungs and the second lodged in his brain.
NY Daily News

Calabi could provide little identifying information about the gunman. He was about five-foot-five, wore dark clothes and had his hat pulled down low, leaving his face in shadow. Calabi estimated that the gunman was in his mid-thirties.

Investigators found no .32-caliber firearm at the scene. They did find a .38-caliber handgun, tucked behind an ash barrel around the corner near the Fifteenth Street exit of the office building. This suggested that preparations were in place to assassinate Tresca as he left the building, no matter which exit he chose. It also suggested that a second gunman may have been involved.

Some eyewitnesses told the police that, despite the darkness, they could tell that the gunman's vehicle was a 1938 or 1939 Ford. A matching car soon was found abandoned at a subway entrance one-half mile away at Seventh Avenue and West 18th Street. (Seventh Avenue was not yet a southbound one-way street in 1943, allowing the automobile to drive up northward from Fifteenth Street.) Its license plate number was 1C-9272.

Police learned that the vehicle was purchased as a used car from Confield Motors just eighteen days earlier. The purchaser paid for it with $300 in cash. It was registered to Charles Pappas, 82-07 Eighty-Second Street in Brooklyn. The authorities found that the name and address were fictional.

Detectives wondered about the Mazzini Society members who failed to show up for the meeting. Tracking down the members, they found that each had a different reason for failing to make it to Tresca's office that night. One recalled a prior engagement, one insisted he was never notified of the meeting, one knew about it but didn't feel it was important to attend and the last simply forgot about it.



The next day, parole board investigators heard of the Tresca murder and saw the familiar license plate number of the abandoned automobile. Sidney Gross called police with information about Galante. He then led officers through Galante's known hangouts and located him at a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. Police arrested Galante as he emerged from the restaurant.

Questioned about his movements after leaving the parole board office, Galante stated that he took a subway uptown, went to a movie theater and then spent time with a girlfriend. He knew little about the movie he supposedly watched, and he refused to divulge the name of the girlfriend.

Police had already caught the parolee in a lie. They revealed that witnesses saw Galante get into an automobile. Galante stubbornly stuck to his lie.

Two of the many mourners who paid respects to the
late Carlo Tresca at the Manhattan Center.
Library of Congress

Police and prosecutors were certain that Galante was involved in the killing of Tresca. However, they did not have enough evidence to build a murder case against him. The authorities had to be satisfied with returning him to prison on a parole violation.



Garofalo
Galante today is widely regarded as the gunman who took Tresca's life. But the precise reason he did so remains unclear. Law enforcement sources have indicated that Galante was ordered to perform the hit by Frank Garofalo, underboss of the Bonanno Crime Family in New York. Some say this resulted from a personal dispute between Tresca and Garofalo. Others say it was a favor done by Garofalo for New York mobster Vito Genovese, who returned to Italy in the late 1930s and sought to improve his standing with Mussolini. (The Genovese theory seems unreasonably tangled.)

Still others believe there was an arrangement between Garofalo and newspaper publisher Generoso Pope. Pope, whose original surname, "Papa," was very close to the name used to purchase the Ford sedan, faced intense criticism from Tresca for his prewar support of Mussolini and Fascism. Following U.S. entry into the war, Pope made every effort to portray himself as a Mussolini critic and a key political ally of the Democratic Administration in Washington. Pope was influential in the Italian-American community, was well regarded by anti-Communist U.S. political leaders and included not only Garofalo but also Frank Costello (and possibly Tommy Lucchese) among his underworld friends.

Pope
(The Pope-Costello relationship continued into the next Pope generation. Multiple sources indicate that Generoso Pope, Jr., used no-interest loans from Costello to purchase the New York Enquirer tabloid and build it into the National Enquirer. The May 1957 assassination attempt against Costello occurred when he was returning home from a dinner with Generoso Pope, Jr., and other friends.)

Sources:

  • "Carlo Tresca slain on 5th Ave.," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 1.
  • "Carlo Tresca shot dead," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 2.
  • "Carmine Galante," FBI report, file no. 92-3025-8, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Costello is shot entering home; gunman escapes," New York Times, May 3, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Enemies of Tresca sought by police," New York Times, Jan. 15, 1943.
  • "Ex-convict seized in Tresca murder; chance gives clue," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 1.
  • "FBI fears reprisals over Tresca slaying," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 3.
  • "Tresca biography," Anarchy Archives, dwardmac.pitzer.edu, accessed Jan. 10, 2019.
  • "VIII, Costello's influence in politics," Third Interim Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Report no. 307, Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1951.
  • Cummings, Judith, "Galante to give up to U.S. authorities," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1977.
  • FBI Director, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel to SAC New York, file no 92-6054-2176, NARA no. 124-10289-10184, Nov. 16, 1967.
  • Feather, Bill, "Bonanno Family membership chart 1930-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, mafiamembershipcharts.blogspot.com.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1959, p. 67.
  • Gallagher, Dorothy, All the Right Enemies - The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.
  • Horgan, Richard, "The dubious beginnings of The National Enquirer," Adweek, adweek.com, June 13, 2013.
  • Martin, John, and James Tierney, "Grill hoodlum, linked to Tresca murder car," New York Daily News, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 2.
  • New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 1306, Jan. 11, 1943.
  • SAC New York, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel, file no. 92-6054-2194, NARA no. 124-10289-10202, Nov. 20, 1967, p. 3.

19 December 2018

'Chin' Gigante dies in prison hospital

On this date in 2005...

Vincent "Vinny the Chin" Gigante, longtime boss of the Genovese Crime Family, died December 19, 2005, at the United States Medical Center for Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. The seventy-seven-year-old was serving a racketeering sentence at the time of his death.

Prison staff found Gigante unresponsive at five-fifteen in the morning and attempted without success to resuscitate him through CPR. A cause of death was not announced, but prison officials noted that Gigante had a history of heart disease.

Gigante was born in New York on March 29, 1928. His family lived for many years on Thompson Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood. In his late teens, Gigante was a prizefighter. He later became a protege of crime bosses Vito Genovese and Tommy Eboli, and he is generally believed to have been the gunman who wounded Frank Costello in May 1957.

After serving a five-year sentence for a 1959 narcotics trafficking conviction, "Chin" Gigante advanced to leadership positions in the Genovese Crime Family. He was one of the key figures - along with longtime friend Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano - in the organization's powerful Greenwich Village crew. Gigante ran his criminal rackets from the Triangle Social Club.

About a decade after the narcotics conviction, Gigante first made use of feigned mental illness. When charged with attempting to bribe the police department, he managed to convince doctors that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Gigante gradually took over the Genovese clan in the early 1980s, as boss Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo moved into retirement. (Venero Mangano substituted for Gigante in 1988, when the boss had surgery for a heart ailment.) Gigante deflected attention first by having East Harlem-based Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno pose as crime family leader and, after Salerno's 1992 death, by publicly portraying himself as severely mentally ill. Family and close acquaintances insisted that he suffered with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and/or paranoid schizophrenia.

Gigante did his best to back up the amateur diagnoses through his actions. He regularly checked into hospitals seeking treatment for hallucinations and dementia. He often wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in pajamas, robe and slippers, was observed carrying on conversations with himself and once was found hiding under an umbrella in his bathroom shower. The New York press dubbed him "the Oddfather."

The Chin's act was largely successful until the July 25, 1997, conviction for racketeering, extortion and plotting (but not carrying out) a murder resulted in a twelve-year prison sentence. In 2003, Gigante admitted in Brooklyn federal court that he had been feigning mental illness in order to obstruct justice. Three more years were added to his prison sentence following that admission.

Sources:
  • Marzulli, John, "Last of the old dons gone," New York Daily News, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 36.
  • Newman, Andy, "Analyze this: Gigante not crazy after all those years," New York Times, April 13, 2003.
  • Pyle, Richard, "Imprisoned mob boss Vincent Gigante, 77," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 20, 2005, p. B9, "Vincent Gigante, mob's 'Oddfather,'" Arizona Republic, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 10.
  • Raab, Selwyn, "Vincent Gigante, mob boss who feigned incompetence to avoid jail, dies at 77," New York Times, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 29.

See also:

10 September 2018

Valachi recalls assassination of boss of bosses

On this date in 1931...

Reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his Park Avenue, Manhattan, office. The assassins, sent by underworld bosses who had been targeted by Maranzano, posed as government agents to gain entry to the offices. Decades later, Joseph Valachi became one of several "inside" sources who provided background information on the killing.

New York Times
Following the Mafia's 1930-1931 Castellammarese War and the April 1931 assassination of then-boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria by his own lieutenants, Valachi served on a crew that was a sort of palace guard for the new boss of bosses Maranzano.

In late summer of 1931, Maranzano expected a raid from government agents. Fearing arrests on gun charges, he instructed his guards not to bring weapons to his office, the Eagle Building Corporation on the ninth floor of the New York Central Building, 230 Park Avenue.

Valachi was upset by the order. He told his associate Buster, "I don't like this. They are trying to get us used to come up here without any guns. I ain't going to come around here any more... You better talk to that old man and make him understand..." [1].

About twelve days later, on September 9, Valachi was called to Maranzano's home, 2706 Avenue J in Brooklyn. At that time, the boss of bosses revealed that he was planning a new war to eliminate those he viewed as his rivals. [2].

"Joe, I can't get along with those two guys," Maranzano said. Valachi understood that his boss was referring to "Charlie Lucky" Luciano and Vito Genovese, who recently assumed control of the large crime family previously run by Masseria. Maranzano revealed that there were others he felt needed to be eliminated, including Al Capone, Frank Costello, Guarino "Willie Moore" Moretti, Giuseppe "Joe Adonis" Doto, Vincent Mangano, Ciro Terranova, Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer.

Valachi
Valachi was told to meet Maranzano at his office the following afternoon at two o'clock. Before leaving the Maranzano home, Valachi cautioned Maranzano not to appear in public and he let the boss know his feelings about the rule against bringing guns to the office: "I never liked that order about us coming down the office without any guns. Gee, after all, anything happened to you, we will all be out in the street."

Maranzano assured Valachi that all soon would be settled.

Overnight, Valachi wondered about the status of regional Mafia big shots Maranzano had not mentioned as targets of the intended new war. He later recalled, "I started to think that he did not mention Tom Gagliano, Frank Scalise, Don Steve from Newark, so I was wondering if those guys were in on it." [3]

The next day, September 10, Valachi prepared to meet with Maranzano as planned, but men higher in the organization called him away and kept him occupied until early the next morning. Valachi returned to his apartment at 108th Street and Second Avenue. Only then did he glance at the daily newspaper and learn that "they killed the old man."

The paper also reported that Vincenzo "Jimmy Marino" Lepore, a Maranzano ally in the Bronx, had been murdered at a barber shop, 2400 Arthur Avenue.

It occurred to Valachi that top Maranzano men had been "in on this" and worked to keep him away from the boss while the assassination was carried out. [4]

Days later, Valachi was summoned to a meeting with Tom Gagliano. The assassination of Maranzano was explained to him: "They told me the old man went crazy... and he wanted to start another war," Valachi recalled. "I knew they were right but I did not say anything." [5]

At a subsequent meeting with fellow Mafiosi, Valachi was given a story of the assassination. Girolamo "Bobby Doyle" Santuccio, who was taken into custody as a witness to the killing, told him, "...It was the Jews that came up at the office and they showed phony badges and they said that they were cops... There was about fifteen guys in the office at the time that they came up."

Maranzano escorted two of the visitors into his private office. Santuccio continued, "We heard a shot and everyone ran out of the office and, at the same time, the two guys came out and told us to beat it as they ran out. I went into the other room and I got on my knees and I lift his head and I saw that besides the shot they had cut his throat... I didn't care if I got pinched as I was disgusted, and I figure that even if I did run I won't know where to go." [6]

Read more about Maranzano in the August 2019 issue of Informer:


Notes:
  1. Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government, unpublished, 1964, p. 360.
  2. Valachi, p. 361.
  3. Valachi, p. 362-363.
  4. Valachi, p. 364-366.
  5. Valachi, p. 367.
  6. Valachi, p. 372-373.

Sources:
  • Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra, The American Mafia, mafiahistory.us.
  • "Gang kills suspect in alien smuggling," New York Times, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Hunt racket killing clue in Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 12, 1931, p. 7. (Within this report, Charlie Luciano is referred to as "Cheeks Luciano.")
  • "Racket killing diary found; lists a judge," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • Goheen, Joseph, "Gangs kill 4, 1 in offices on Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 2.

08 September 2018

Jury selected as Mafia bosses head to trial

On this date in 1986...

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Jury selection began September 8, 1986, in the federal trial of alleged Mafia Commission members in New York City.

Giuliani
The Commission Case was set in motion years earlier by Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He reportedly was inspired by a discussion of the Commission in A Man of Honor, the autobiography of longtime Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno. "If he could write about it," Giuliani reasoned, "we could prosecute it."

Giuliani was emboldened by recent successes in applying the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against organized crime leaders.

A federal indictment was unsealed February 26, 1985, charging representatives of all five New York City Mafia families with conspiring in the management of the underworld. As the fifteen-count indictment was announced, Giuliani commented, "This is a bad day, probably the worst ever, for the Mafia." Much of the case was based on electronic surveillance.

Initial Defendants:

Bonanno Crime Family
Philip "Rusty" Rastelli

Colombo Crime Family
Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella
Ralph Scopo

Gambino Crime Family
Paul "Big Paul" Castellano
Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce

Genovese Crime Family
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno

Lucchese Crime Family
Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo
Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro
Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari

Corallo
The government labeled Rastelli, Langella, Castellano, Salerno and Corallo the bosses of their crime families. Dellacroce and Santoro were said to be underbosses of the Gambino Family and Lucchese Family, respectively.

Most of the defendants were arraigned in Manhattan Federal District Court on February 28. Corallo, Dellacroce and Scopo were not present, as they had been hospitalized. All defendants pleaded not guilty (A defense attorney entered the pleas for his clients Dellacroce and Scopo), except Corallo. Corallo attorney Albert Gaudelli stated that his client refused to waive the right to plead in person. Rastelli collapsed during the arraignment and was taken to the hospital for treatment and evaluation.

A superseding indictment in June 1985 added two more defendants, Carmine Persico and Stefano Cannone, along with additional charges related to a concrete industry extortion scheme. The government charged Persico with being the reigning boss of the Colombo Crime Family (reducing Langella to Persico's underboss or acting boss).

Persico
Several defendants died before the trial began. Aniello Dellacroce died of natural causes December 2 in a Queens hospital. Two weeks later, boss Paul Castellano was shot to death in front of a Manhattan restaurant. The death of Stefano Cannone was reported January 12, 1986, (NY Daily News) as a "recent death from natural causes." Cannone's death appears to have occurred months earlier in September of 1985.

Philip Rastelli was severed from the case because he was being tried on a separate matter in Brooklyn. Prosecutors added Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, as a representative of the Bonanno clan.

As a trial date for the Commission Case approached, Mafia leaders reportedly considered but ultimately decided against the assassination of Giuliani. (This was not revealed until the fall of 2007.) John Gotti, new boss of the Gambino Family, and Persico reportedly were in favor of murdering the U.S. attorney. The Lucchese, Bonanno and Genovese bosses rejected the notion.

At jury selection before Judge Richard Owen, the names of prospective jurors were kept confidential to ensure that they would not be influenced by threats or bribery. During the selection process, prospective jurors were asked questions about their knowledge of American Mafia history, such as whether they had ever heard of Al Capone.

Prosecuting attorneys in the case were Michael Chertoff, John Savarese and John Childers. One defendant, Carmine Persico, elected to serve as his own defense counsel.

Trial Defendants:

Bonanno Crime Family
Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, 38

Colombo Crime Family
Carmine "Junior" Persico, 53
Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella, 47
Ralph Scopo, 58

Genovese Crime Family
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, 75

Lucchese Crime Family
Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, 73
Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro, 72
Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari , 62

The trial lasted a month and a half. It included surprising defense admissions that the Mafia and a ruling Commission existed in New York and prosecution testimony from turncoat Cleveland Mafioso Angelo Lonardo (part of his testimony dealt with the 1927 Mafia murder of his father) and undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone. An effort was made to gain the testimony of Joseph Bonanno, retired in Tucson Arizona. But the 80-year-old Bonanno instead accepted a stay in jail for contempt of court.

Salerno
The jury deliberated for five days. The verdict was returned to a crowded courtroom at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19: All defendants were found guilty on all the charges brought against them.

Persico, Salerno and Corallo were convicted as the bosses of the Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese Crime Families. (Sometime later it was learned that Salerno was not the real chief of the Genovese clan but was fronting for boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante.) The case established Langella as Colombo acting boss or underboss, Santoro as Lucchese underboss and Furnari as Lucchese consigliere.

All the defendants were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Indelicato was convicted of participating in the 1979 Commission-authorized murder of Carmine Galante. All the defendants but Indelicato were convicted of extortion, extortion conspiracy and labor payoffs. Corallo and Santoro also were convicted of loansharking conspiracy.
 
Judge Owen sentenced the defendants on January 13, 1987. Persico, Salerno, Corallo, Langella, Santoro, Furnari and Scopo were sentenced to a century in prison. Indelicato was sentenced to forty years.


More on this subject:
Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. II.  

Sources:
  • "11 plead not guilty to ruling organized crime in New York," New York Times, July 2, 1985.
  • "In brief: Mafia bosses are sentenced to centuries," New York Times, Jan. 18, 1987.
  • "Crime families facing trial for 'Mafia' acts," Binghamton NY Evening Press, June 27, 1985, p. 3E.
  • "Prosecutor: Indictments could help break up the mob," Ithaca NY Journal, Feb. 27, 1985, p. 2.
  • "Rhinebeck man charged as mob boss," Poughkeepsie NY Journal, Feb. 27, 1985, p. 1.
  • Blumenthal, Ralph, "Aniello Dellacroce dies at 71; reputed crime-group figure," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1985.
  • Bonanno, Joseph, with Sergio Lalli, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 141, 159-160.
  • Doyle, John M., "Eight mobsters convicted of all counts in Mafia Commission trial," AP News Archive, Nov. 19, 1986.
  • Elkin, Larry, "Government launches case against 'Mob Commission,'" AP News Archive, Sept. 18, 1986.
  • Hornblower, Margot, "Mafia 'Commission' trial begins in New York," Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1986.
  • Irwin, Victoria, "Mafia goes on trial," Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 10, 1986.
  • Irwin, Victoria, "New York arrests launch major Mafia sweep," Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 1985.
  • Jacobs, James B., with Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington, Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra, New York: New York University Press, 1994, p. 79-87.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Bonanno jailed after refusing to be witness," New York Times, Sept. 6, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Judge requires that Bonanno gives testimony," New York Times, Sept. 5, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Judge sentences 8 Mafia leaders to prison terms," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1987.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Jury strips 2 concrete racketeers of their assets," New York Times, May 13, 1988.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Reputed crime bosses arraigned," New York Times, March 1, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "U.S. jury convicts eight as members of mob Commission," New York Times, Nov. 20, 1986, p. 1.
  • Magnuson, Ed, "Hitting the Mafia," TIME, Sept. 29, 1986.
  • McFadden, Robert D., "Organized-crime chief shot dead stepping from car on E.46th St.," New York Times, Dec. 17, 1985.
  • Meskil, Paul, "Mob figure makes bail," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1986, p. 17.
  • O'Shaughnessy, Patrice, and Joseph McNamara, "Round 1 of feds v. 'iron fist,'" New York Daily News, Sept. 19, 1986, p. 7.
  • Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Vincent Cafaro testimony, Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, Hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, 100th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988, p. 232, 868-870.
  • Shifrel, Scott, and Helen Kennedy, "Court told mob bosses voted on whacking Giuliani in '86," New York Daily News, Oct. 25, 2007.
  • Winerip, Michael, "High-profile prosecutor," New York Times, June 9, 1985.
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index, ancestry.com.

06 August 2018

Unlucky date for Steel City underworld bosses

August 6 has been a bad date
to be a Pittsburgh Mafia boss.

On that date in 1929, thirty-nine-year-old underworld chief Stefano Monastero was murdered as he went to visit an ailing henchman at St. John's General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side. 



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Calogero Spallino (also known as Sparlino), free on bail as he awaited trial for an attempt on the life of Monastero rival Joe "Ghost of the Hill" Pangallo, went into St. John's for appendix surgery. Stefano Monastero drove to the hospital in an armored automobile, featuring steel plating and three-quarter-inch bulletproof glass windows. But he had to leave the protection of the vehicle to enter the building. When he emerged, shotguns erupted from a nearby parked car.

Pangallo
Monastero was knocked down by the shots. One of his assailants then approached with a handgun and fired into the boss's head to finish the job. The murder remained unsolved, but Joe Pangallo was generally believed responsible.

Stefano Monastero rose to power about 1925, assuming control of a regional underworld network in western Pennsylvania assembled largely by the linked Calderone and Landolina families. Monastero and his older brother Salvatore ran a produce business but earned considerably greater income through North Side stores that provided ingredients and equipment for bootleggers. Monastero had been fighting a gang war with Pangallo since about 1927. (In September of that year, the local press reported on a car bombing that threw Pangallo twenty feet into the air but failed to kill him.)

Monastero's Mafia pedigree was noteworthy. He was the son of Pietro Monastero, a Caccamo native who was among those charged with the 1890 Mafia murder of Police Chief David Hennessy in New Orleans. Stefano Monastero was very young, living with his mother and brothers in Sicily, when Pietro Monastero was killed by a lynch mob at Orleans Parish Prison in 1891. The family relocated to New Orleans following Pietro's killing and moved from city to city in the U.S. before settling in the Pittsburgh area.

On the same date three years later, recently installed Pittsburgh boss John Bazzano was called to a meeting of the nation's Mafia leaders on Hicks Street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. He was to answer for his involvement in the recent murders of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, racketeers John, James and Arthur Volpe. Bazzano did not leave the August 6, 1932, meeting alive.

Pittsburgh Press
The Volpes, under the protection of New York underworld power Vito Genovese, were gunned down within Bazzano's Rome Coffee Shop on Pittsburgh's Wylie Avenue on July 29. Genovese, suspecting that the Volpes were victims of an anti-Neapolitan conspiracy among Calabrian and Sicilian Mafiosi in Pittsburgh, New York and Cleveland (including Bazzano and Nick Gentile in Pittsburgh; Albert Anastasia, Joe Biondo and Vincenzo Mangano in New York; Frank Milano in Cleveland), assembled the disciplinary hearing for Bazzano.

During the meeting, the forty-four-year-old Bazzano did not deny responsibility for the murders of the Volpes. Instead, he called on other Mafia leaders to join in a war to exterminate the Neapolitans in their organization.

Bazzano's words and recent deeds presented a threat to the still-shaky underworld alliances that emerged from the bloody Castellammarese War concluded one year earlier. His punishment was immediate. He was gagged and tied with rope, while his body was punctured more than twenty times with ice picks. Some of the wounds reached his heart, causing a fatal hemorrhage. The body was found August 8, wrapped in burlap near the intersection of Centre and Clinton Streets in Red Hook. It could not be identified until relatives from Pittsburgh arrived in New York looking for Bazzano.

Authorities subsequently learned of an assembly of U.S. Mafiosi at New York City and rounded up fourteen underworld figures from Brooklyn (Albert Anastasia, John Oddo, Cassandro Bonasera, Ciro Gallo, Joseph Traina) and Buffalo, New York (Paul Palmeri, Salvatore DiCarlo); Pittsburgh (Calogero Spallino, Michael Bua, Michael Russo, Frank Adrano) and Pittston, Pennsylvania (Santo Volpe, Angelo Polizzi); Trenton, New Jersey (Peter Lombardo). The suspects, represented by attorney Samuel Leibowitz, were quickly released for lack of evidence.

More on these subjects:

18 July 2018

Mafia infiltrates Federal Bureau of Investigation

On this date in 1975...

Camden Courier-Post
Former FBI office clerk Irene Kuczynski on July 18, 1975, admitted in federal court to photocopying secret Bureau investigation files and providing the copies to New Jersey underworld figure John DiGilio.

Mrs. Kuczynski, twenty-two, and her husband George, twenty-four, testified as the first prosecution witnesses in the Newark, New Jersey, federal trial of DiGilio and three other men. (The case initially involved several other co-defendants.)

DiGilio
Mr. Kuczynski testified that he was approached in 1971 by defendant Peter Szwandrak of Bayonne, New Jersey, who worked with him at Western Electric in the Newark suburb of Kearny. Szwandrak knew that Mrs. Kuczynski, then eighteen, was a member of the stenographic pool at the FBI's Newark offices and asked if she could obtain copies of information the FBI had assembled on DiGilio's criminal activities. Szwandrak promised "there'd be money in it" for the young married couple if they assisted DiGilio.

Refusing at first to take part in the plot, Mrs. Kuczynski only agreed after suffering several beatings at the hands of her husband. She then made photocopies of parts of DiGilio's file several times between fall of 1971 and spring of 1972. She hid the copies and smuggled them out of the office.

"I would put them in my purse and sometimes I would put them in a knitting bad and other times I would put them in my girdle to take them out," she stated.

Asked her reason for participating in the scheme, Mrs. Kuczynski first responded, "Because I loved my husband very much and I didn't want to lose him in any way." She then recalled her initial hesitation and revealed, "George beat me up black and blue numerous times."

After receiving the copied pages, Mr. Kuczynski delivered them to DiGilio or to DiGilio's co-defendants. He stated that he met with DiGilio in a back room of the Italian American Civil Rights Club in Bayonne. DiGilio provided payments between $20 and $200 for the papers. "Some of them were good, and some of them he didn't like and he wanted better stuff," Mr. Kuczynski explained when questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Robertson.

Mr. Kuczynski found it profitable to turn the documents over a few pages at a time. He told the court that DiGilio provided him "an extra $200 as a Christmas bonus."

At the time the reports were stolen, the FBI was investigating DiGilio's role in loan sharking and extortion rackets in New Jersey and New York City. Federal authorities identified DiGilio as an important member of the Genovese Crime Family. Some of the stolen documents were transcriptions from FBI electronic surveillance. In addition, documents included the names of four underworld informants.

The Kuczynskis were charged for their part in the document theft in 1974, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against DiGilio. The government held them in protective custody.

DiGilio, a forty-two-year-old resident of Paramus, was brought to trial for aiding and abetting the document theft. His co-defendants were Bayonne residents Szwandrak, Harry Lupo and John Grillo.

Before the trial began, the defense team argued that DiGilio was not mentally competent to stand trial due to brain damage suffered during a twelve-year boxing career. After hearing competing testimony from expert witnesses, federal Judge H. Curtis Meanor pronounced DiGilio competent in June. Just as trial was scheduled to open, DiGilio won a short postponement because of injuries he claimed he suffered in an automobile accident. The only witnesses to the accident were three DiGilio associates who had only hazy recollections of it. (DiGilio had a history of conveniently timed but unverifiable health problems. Once he collapsed during a trial and claimed to be suffering from a heart ailment. Doctors found his heart to be healthy. For an earlier trial, DiGilio appeared at the defense table in a wheelchair.)

A few days after the Kuczynskis testified, DiGilio defense counsel called witnesses who stated that George Kuczynski came up with the document theft plan on his own as a money-making scheme and offered documents to a number of Bayonne-area individuals investigated by the FBI.

During the trial, a large number of "burly supporters of DiGilio" took seats in the courtroom gallery. During recesses, these spectators lined up in the hallway to give DiGilio a friendly slap on the back and wish him luck. One of the well-wishers, according to New Jersey press reports, was former Middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano. (Graziano and other boxers attended a DiGilio trial in 1987 as well.)

Asbury Park Press
A number of DiGilio's boxing pals came out to show 

support during a 1987 trial. They included Rocco 
Graziano, Joe Frazier and Jake LaMotta.


The trial jury deliberated for nine hours on July 30 before finding DiGilio, Lupo and Szwandrak guilty. Defendant Grillo was acquitted.

In September, Judge Meanor sentenced DiGilio to nine years in prison (one year less than the maximum sentence) and a $10,000 fine. Szwandrak and Lupo were sentenced to six months behind bars.

For their part in the document theft, the Kuczynskis were given five-year suspended sentences in mid-February of 1976. They were assigned new identities and relocated through the witness protection program.

DiGilio remained free pending his appeal. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia the following summer trimmed about eight years from his sentence.

DiGilio's troubles with the law continued for about another decade. Through that time, he became a liability to Mafia higher-ups. In late May of 1988, his lifeless body was found floating in the Hackensack River near Carlstadt, New Jersey.

The final years of John DiGilio's life are discussed in "Death of 'Benny Eggs' severs link to Genovese Family's foundation," on The American Mafia history website.

Sources:
  • "DiGilio is ruled sane after secret hearing," New York Daily News, June 20, 1975, p. 82.
  • "DiGilio too hurt to stand trial?" Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 15, 1975, p. 24.
  • "Ex-FBI typist sold data to an alleged mobster," Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 19, 1975, p. 30.
  • "Typist admits copying FBI data on DiGilio," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 19, 1975, p. 3.
  • Wechsler, Philip, "Ex-FBI clerk tells of smuggling out reports for Mob," New York Daily News, July 19, 1975, p. 5.
  • "DiGilio lawyers vilify accuser," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 25, 1975, p. 2.
  • Wechsler, Philip, "Witness is called 'liar all his life' in FBI file trial," New York Daily News, New Jersey Edition, July 25, 1975, p. 7
  • "Rival lawyers assail DiGilio defendants, witnesses," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 30, 1975, p. 13.
  • "DiGilio, 2 men guilty," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 31, 1975, p. 3.
  • "Mobster convicted in FBI case," Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 31, 1975, p. 31.
  • "DiGilio out on bail during his appeal," Camden NJ Courier-Post, Sept. 13, 1975, p. 3.
  • "Secrecy protects thieves," Asbury Park NJ Press, Feb. 24, 1976, p. 24.
  • "Sentence sliced," Elmira NY Star-Gazette, June 12, 1976, p. 7.
  • "Body of a reputed mobster is found in a bag in river," New York Times, May 27, 1988, p. 19.

16 June 2018

Top New England mobsters targeted

On this date in 1989:
In the late morning of Friday, June 16, 1989, "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, a rising star in the Patriarca Crime Family, was walking through a House of Pancakes parking lot off Route 1 in the Boston suburb of Saugus, Massachusetts, when two gunmen opened fire on him from a passing automobile. 
 
Salemme
Salemme scrambled for cover and rushed inside a Papa Gino's pizza shop about thirty yards away. As he did so, the gunmen's car turned and made a second pass, firing more shots at the fleeing Mafioso.

"Cadillac Frank," wounded and bleeding, ran to the rear of the pizza shop, yelled out, "Call the police!" and collapsed near the door to the men's room. He regained his composure and his footing. Returning to the front of the shop, he sat down at the first table. He had been struck twice by the slugs fired at him - once in his chest and once in his left leg. As he waited for police and paramedics to arrive, he calmly pressed his windbreaker jacket against the chest wound to slow the flow of blood.

The authorities found the gunshot victim uncooperative. He refused even to identify himself. When asked who shot him, Salemme answered, "No one." Salemme was taken to AtlantiCare Hospital in Lynn, Massachusetts. Later in the day, doctors graded his condition as "guarded but stable." Investigators knew of Salemme's connections to organized crime, but they weren't sure what to make of the murder attempt. Things became somewhat clearer that afternoon.

End of the Wild Guy
Shortly after three o'clock, two fishermen discovered a dead body partly submerged in the Connecticut River at Wethersfield, just south of Hartford, Connecticut. Police arriving at the scene found that the male corpse was fully clothed and still in possession of a wallet. Cards inside the wallet belonged to William P. "Wild Guy" Grasso of New Haven.

Grasso
Further investigation positively identified the dead man as Grasso, considered the number-two man in the Patriarca organization, behind only Rhode Island-based boss Raymond "Junior" Patriarca in importance.

An autopsy revealed that Grasso had been killed by a single gunshot to the base of his skull. The medical examiner concluded that the gunshot had been fired at least twenty-four hours before the body was found.

 When the news of Grasso's murder was released, Connecticut's United States Attorney Stanley A. Twardy, Jr., noted that the "Wild Guy" was "the single most influential organized crime figure in Connecticut." Twardy also commented that he could not rule out a connection between the murder of Grasso and the attack on Salemme.

Detectives kept watch for familiar underworld figures at Grasso's funeral on Tuesday, June 20. Hundreds of people filled St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in New Haven for a Mass of Christian Burial, but no known Mafiosi were seen. The funeral cortege included fifty cars. Grasso was buried at All Saints Cemetery in his hometown, sharing a grave with his wife, who died a year earlier. He was survived by a son, three brothers and two sisters.

'Best thing that ever happened'
Grasso, a New Haven native and once a member of the New York-based Colombo Crime Family, became a member of the New England organization after serving time in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for creating a garbage hauling monopoly in southern Connecticut. His cellmate at Atlanta was "Junior" Patriarca's father, notorious New England crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca. Grasso emerged from prison as a trusted aide of the elder Patriarca.

Grasso later referred to his Atlanta sentence as the "best thing that ever happened to me."

When Raymond L.S. Patriarca died in 1984, "Junior" Patriarca became boss and Grasso became underboss, directly overseeing New England Crime Family rackets in Connecticut. Grasso aggressively expanded his territory from New Haven, across the southern portion of the state into Fairfield County, up into Hartford and beyond into the Springfield, Massachusetts, area, stepping on many mobsters' toes along the way. New York Mafiosi had long dominated in Fairfield County, several crime families had interests in Hartford, and Springfield was known to be the territory of a faction of the powerful New York-based Genovese clan.

'Kill or be killed'
Authorities quickly understood that the moves against Grasso and Salemme were designed to weaken the administration of "Junior" Patriarca. But it took some time before they could piece together just what was going on.

The loss of Grasso was keenly felt within the New England Mafia. No one within Connecticut's branch of the organization had Grasso's combination of ability and loyalty. According to FBI sources, the Patriarca administration appointed a Rhode Islander, Matthew L. Guglielmetti, to oversee rackets in the Nutmeg State. Nicholas L. Bianco, another Rhode Island resident, was elevated to the position of underboss.

In 1990, federal prosecutors began dismantling the New England Mafia through successful prosecutions. In the process, they learned that brothers Louis and Frank Pugliano, Gaetano Milano and Milano's longtime friend Frank Colantoni, Jr., participated in the killing of Grasso. Believing that Grasso was planning to murder them, they set to the job of eliminating him first.

Grasso funeral (Courant, June 21, 1989)
They set up a phony underworld meeting in Massachusetts on June 13, 1989. With Louis Pugliano at the wheel of a van, they picked up Grasso to take him to the meeting. While driving along Interstate-91 in Connecticut, Milano fired a single shot into the back of Grasso's neck. The group deposited Grasso's body at the Connecticut River.

At his sentencing in 1991, Milano told U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas that he felt the killing of Grasso was necessary: "It was kill or be killed."

A like-minded group in Massachusetts was found to be behind the attempt on Salemme's life. Authorities learned that Enrico Ponzo and Vincent Michael Marino were the gunmen who attacked "Cadillac Frank."

U.S. prosecutors assembled convincing cases against the New England Mafia rebels (Ponzo was able to avoid capture until early in 2011) and much of the crime family leadership. But an important part of the story remained unknown to them and to the American public. It was unknown because agents of the FBI were keeping it secret.

FBI sparked rebellion
Years later, it was learned that some in the FBI had worked with informants within the New England underworld to create a destructive rivalry within the Patriarca Mafia organization. Seeds planted by the FBI convinced groups within the Connecticut and Massachusetts branches of the organization that the Patriarca administration was planning to eliminate them. That prompted them to act against Grasso and Salemme, and it also figured in several other murders.

Defense attorney Anthony Cardinale revealed in a 1997 affidavit that intentional FBI activities caused the plots against Grasso and Salemme and that the FBI knew of the plots but kept silent about them for a period of sixteen months. FBI improprieties were documented in the following years.

One of the mobsters involved in the FBI efforts was Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio. The FBI actively hid Mercurio's involvement in instigating the anti-Grasso plot while others were tried and convicted for it. Mercurio was never charged in connection with the killing. He died in Florida in late 2006 while in the witness protection program.

The revelations of FBI involvement and coverup led to revised sentences for a number of those convicted in the early 1990s.

Sources:
  • "Garbageman backs attempt to regain 'stolen' customer," Bridgeport CT Post, Nov. 7, 1968, p. 20.
  • "Police confirm reputed crime boss a homicide victim," Associated Press, June 17, 1989, apnews.com.
  • Cullen, Kevin, "Two men linked to mob shot in separate attacks," Boston Globe, June 17, 1989, bostonglobe.com.
  • Hays, Constance L., "A mob leader in New England is believed slain," New York Times, June 17, 1989.
  • Foderaro, Lisa W., "Mob leader's slaying may signal power struggle," New York Times, June 18, 1989, p. 31.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Hundreds attend rite for Grasso," Hartford Courant, June 21, 1989, p. 1.
  • Gombossy, George, "Magistrate may free mob suspects on bond," Hartford Courant, March 31, 1990, p. C1.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Two plead guilty to racketeering charges in surprise move," Hartford Courant, May 2, 1991, p. C1.
  • Barry, Stephanie, "Mob killer may get out early," Springfield MA Republican, Sept. 22, 2008, masslive.com.
  • Christoffersen, John, "Judge reduces mobster killer's sentence," Norwalk CT Hour, Oct. 9, 2008.
  • Marcus, Jon, "Attorney says FBI encouraged mob shootings," New Bedford MA SouthCoast Today, Jan. 10, 2011, southcoasttoday.com.
  • Guilfoil, John M., "Fugitive mobster found in Idaho," Boston Globe, Feb. 9, 2011, boston.com.
  • Mahony, Edmund H., "The Mob in Connecticut: Grasso's reign of terror," Hartford Courant, April 26, 2014, courant.com.