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Rochester, New York
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Mario Machi, Allan May, Charlie Molino and Greg Q.
Investigative Journalists
     Rochester Family
     In the wake of the infamous Apalachin Conference in November 1957, the New York State Crime Commission began an investigation of the individuals from New York who attended the meeting. Constenze "Stanley" Valenti, the recognized boss of the Rochester Family, and his brother Frank were jailed for civil contempt after failing to answer the questions of the commission members. Stanley began his sentence in August 1958 and served 16 months. During this period, Jake Russo took advantage of Valenti's absence to seize control of the Rochester rackets.

     At the time, Frank Valenti was a capo in the Pittsburgh Crime Family of John LaRocca and worked under Antonio Ripepi. Stanley Valenti was married to Ripepi's daughter. Frank was considered an ambitious man in the Pittsburgh Family and was encouraged to help his brother. When Frank tried to intervene in Russo's takeover of the Rochester activities, he was indicted for violation of New York State election laws. Frank pled guilty and was sentenced to three years probation providing that he stayed out of New York during this period. Informants later revealed that this arrest was contrived by the enemies of the Valentis' to get Frank out of Rochester.

     At the end of the probation period, Frank Valenti returned to Rochester. In September 1964, he and Pittsburgh associate Angelo Vaccaro set out with brother Stanley to retake control of the family. In December, less than three months later, Russo disappeared and his body has never been found. On the night of the disappearance, Frank hosted a dinner at Eddie's Chop House in Rochester. Buying drinks for everyone, Frank let it be known that he was now "the man to see in Rochester."

     From 1965 to 1970, the Valentis strengthened their hold on the Rochester rackets. In 1970, a newly made capo, Salvatore "Sammy G" Gingello collected $100,000 in deposits for a gambling junket to Las Vegas. Gingello contacted the police and reported that the money was stolen. Whether it was stolen or not was never made clear, but Gingello and underboss Samuel J. "Red" Russotti placed the blame on William "Billy" Lupo, a local mobster who at one time had strong ties to Jake Russo. In April 1970, Lupo was murdered.

     Also during 1970, Frank Valenti told Buffalo Family boss Stephano Magaddino that the Rochester Family's allegiance would now be to the Pittsburgh Family. Magaddino, who was in failing health and struggling with dissention in his own family, was helpless to do anything to stop Valenti. Magaddino continued to collect 15% of the gambling revenue, but Rochester would operate as an independent family.

     Rochester law enforcement and the media were becoming aware of the increased underworld activity in the city. When the local publicity became too much to bear, Valenti struck back. He had several bombs assembled by gang member Eugene DeFrancesco. The purpose of the bombs was twofold; one was to distract law enforcement officials from his operations, and two was to intimidate some of his enemies. The bombs were detonated at two churches, the Monroe County Office Building, the U. S. Courthouse and Federal Building, and at the home of a union official. The bombs went off during the early morning hours of October 12, 1970 and were dubbed by the media the "Columbus Day Bombings."

     The bombings achieved the effect Valenti was hoping for - to take the heat and publicity off the local mob activities. Happy with these results, Valenti continued the practice and set off six more explosions between October 27 and December 14. This time his targets were three synagogues, a Black Islamic mosque, a Black Baptist church, and the home of a county court judge. The nature of his targets caused law enforcement to focus its investigation on radical groups, militants and Vietnam War protestors.

     In June 1975, when a federal investigation revealed the truth behind the bombings, Valenti, Anthony Gingello, Salvatore Gingello, Thomas Didio, Angelo Vaccaro, Dominic Celestino, Eugene DeFrancesco and Rene J. Piccarreto were indicted. DeFrancesco was found guilty and sentenced to eleven years in federal prison. Valenti, due to health problems, was not tried. All of the remaining defendants were found not guilty. Valenti was tried in February 1979 for possession of a "destructive device" and pled guilty. Again, he received a sentence of three years probation.

     Valenti set up a strange hierarchy in his Rochester Family. He had an underboss, consigliere, and capos, but he then set up a special crew under Dominic Chirico that reported directly to him. The members of this special crew committed crimes on Valenti's orders and the proceeds would go to him and were not shared with the rest of the family.

     This crew handled specific activities. Vaccaro and Celestino ran dice and gambling. Didio, DeFrancesco, and Spike LaNoverra conducted loansharking and extortion rackets. Angelo Monachino ran a construction company that specialized in fraudulent contracts and corrupting labor officials. Dominic Chirico's brother, Rosario specialized in operating a stolen car ring and providing weapons for the gang. His work included removing serial numbers from guns and fitting them with silencers. Rosario also worked to acquire a remote control detonating device for the gang's bombing activities. Finally, Monachino and Vincent Massaro were involved in an arson for hire ring.

     Valenti's consigliere, Rene Piccarreto, who had developed ties with the Bonanno Family in New York City, confronted Valenti with the allegations that he was with holding profits from these operations from the rest of the family. In a meeting that included Russotti and Salvatore Gingello, the three accused Valenti of skimming and using the money to purchase property and make business investments in Phoenix, Arizona. Valenti brazenly admitted to "keeping certain moneys" for himself, but was unconcerned with his accusers, feeling confident that the Pittsburgh Family and his special crew under Chirico would protect him.

     In May 1972, the three men approached Valenti again, this time ordering him to relinquish the family's records and to turn over the money that he had skimmed. He was told it was time for him to retire. Valenti turned over what was requested, but immediately ordered Chirico to kill Russotti, Gingello, and Piccarreto. Realizing the strength of family members loyal to the trio, the soldiers under Chirico refused to carry out Valenti's orders.

     Crime experts believe that Thomas Didio, a member of Chirico's elite crew, advised his cousin, Thomas Marotta, a close associate of Gingello, of Valenti's order to kill the three men. Piccarreto approached his Bonanno contacts for support in removing Valenti. They advised that killing Valenti would not be sanctioned due to his connections with the Pittsburgh Family. The gang members then moved against Chirico and he was shot gunned to death on June 5, 1972 outside the apartment of his girlfriend.

     The following day Valenti was confronted by Russotti, Gingello and Piccarreto at the Red Lion Inn and again was ordered to leave Rochester. Valenti, fearing that he could be murdered next, finally got the message and "retired" to Phoenix. His brother, Stanley, moved outside Rochester and established a produce business and continued with some small time gambling activities. On December 15, 1972, Frank Valenti was convicted of extortion in a case involving building contractor in Batavia, New York. He is sentenced to twenty years.

     With the Valentis out of Rochester, Samuel "Red" Russotti became boss. Salvatore Gingello was the underboss and Piccarreto retained the position of consigliere. In addition, with the backing of the Bonanno Family, the ties with the Pittsburgh Family were forever severed.

     After the murder of Dominic Chirico and Frank Valenti stepping down, Vaccaro fled the city while the other special crew members were reassigned. Massaro continued in the arson for hire business, now reporting to Russotti. He soon began complaining to family members that he was not being compensated fairly for his efforts. When word of this reached Russotti, he ordered former crew members LaNoverra and DeFrancesco to prove their loyalty to the new regime by killing Massaro. On November 23, 1973 the two men with the help of Massaro's arson partner Monachino murdered Massaro. The killing took place at the Bar-Mon Construction Company garage, owned by Monachino, with guns and silencers supplied by Rosario Chirico.

     In 1974, another former member of the once special crew was beaten and thrown out of the family by underboss Gingello after having been caught with another family member's girlfriend.

     An investigation in 1975 resulted in the arrests of the four gang members involved in the Massaro killing. Faced with the murder charges and feeling that they had been consigned to subordinate positions in the family, Monachino and LaNoverra agreed to become government witnesses against the family. Their testimony resulted in Russotti, Gingello, Piccarreto, DeFrancesco, Richard Marino, and Thomas Marotta being convicted on November 11, 1976. They all received sentences of 25 years to life in January 1977.

     With the imprisonment of the entire leadership of the Rochester Family, Thomas Didio, the aforementioned cousin of Thomas Marotta and the bodyguard, chauffeur and confident of Salvatore Gingello, was promoted to acting boss. Russotti believed he could easily control the slow-witted Didio who was known for his intimidating size. However, once in charge Didio was reluctant to take orders from the previous leaders. Despite his relationship to Marotta, he did not provide support to the wives and families of the imprisoned family members. A fundraiser was held in the spring of 1977 to help the men in prison. Afterward, it was rumored that Didio skimmed a portion of the proceeds for himself. Other crime family members loyal to Russotti were soon demoted and lost positions in the union, and their no-show jobs. Dissension was soon growing in the ranks.

     Sensing this dissatisfaction, Didio met with Stanley Valenti to seek counsel. Frank Valenti, who was imprisoned at the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri, was contacted immediately and saw this as an opportunity to return to power. Angelo Vaccaro was asked to return to Rochester to assist Didio. As the battle lines were drawn, the media would name the opposing factions the A Team and the B Team, and the ensuing war would be called the A & B War or the Alphabet War. A Team consisted of those loyal to Russotti, Gingello and Piccarreto. While the B Team was headed by Didio and included those still loyal to the Valentis.

     By September 1977, Russotti decided that Didio should be removed as acting boss. B Team members Didio, Vaccaro and Celestino were confronted in the Blue Gardenia restaurant in Irondequoit, New York and advised that a new leadership team was taking over. The meeting ended with the three men being given a severe beating by A Team members. Didio and his men were now outnumbered and went into hiding. The gang war was just beginning, however.

     On January 31, 1978, Russotti, and the others sent to prison the previous January, were released after information came forward that the Monroe County Sheriff's office fabricated evidence against the mobsters by faking surveillance notes and heating them in an oven to make them look old. Within days the old order was restored to the Rochester family, but the leadership was facing a deadly foe.

     B Team was making plans to kill family underboss Salvatore Gingello. They felt that his death would create the biggest impact in letting the "on the fence" operators and family members know the determination of the B Team. Between February and April 1978, B Team members made five unsuccessful attempts to kill Gingello with a bomb. One of these attempts took place at the Blue Gardenia restaurant on March 2, 1978. The bomb was hidden in a snow bank and detonated by Celestino who was hiding in the trunk of a car owned by Frank Frassetto. The explosion blew Gingello off the ground but he escaped serious injury.

     In late March, Stanley Valenti advised B Team members that his brother would soon be released from prison. He urged them that "Rochester should be ready when Frank gets out." He also reminded them that if they won the war, they would have the backing of the Pittsburgh Crime Family again.

     Around 2:30 on the morning of April 23, 1978, the life of one of Rochester's most popular and colorful gangsters came to an end when a bomb was detonated under the automobile of Salvatore "Sammy G" Gingello. The explosion outside Ben's Café Society on Stillson Street blew off the right leg of Gingello, below the knee, while his left leg was almost severed at the thigh. He was taken to Genesee Hospital where he soon died. His two bodyguards, Thomas Torpey and Thomas Taylor, were also injured but would recover.

     After Gingello's death, B Team members tried to negotiate a peace settlement. When an agreement could not be reached, B Team decided to extend the bombing campaign to gambling houses operated by the A Team. The war raged on through May and June with bombs going off at various gambling clubs run by the A Team. On May 25, B Team member Rosario Chirico was slightly wounded by a sniper using a high-powered rifle. Miraculously no one was killed with all the shooting and bombings going on.

     On June 18, Celestino and Frassetto were chased down and arrested by the local police. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents began an investigation of Frassetto and his home. The investigation and surveillance resulted in the arrest of Anthony Chirico (Rosario's son) and Rodney Starkweather, and the confiscation of a cache of explosives and bomb making devices. After this arrest, there were no further bombings reported.

     With several members of B Team now in jail, the A Team struck back. On July 6, 1978 gunmen used a Thompson sub-machinegun to kill Thomas Didio in a room at the Exit 45 Motel in Victor, New York. On July 30, while free on bail, Starkweather was shot three times by two gunmen wearing ski masks. When he recovered, he became a government witness and entered the Federal Witness Protection Program.

     Investigations by the local police and the ATF continued and more arrests were made. As a result of their efforts B Team members William Barton, Anthony and Rosario Chirico, Dominic Celestino, Frank and Betti Frassetto, Angelo Vaccaro, and Stanley Valenti were named in a 14-count Federal indictment that included RICO charges. Stanley Valenti would use poor health as an excuse to sever himself from the other defendants.

     On January 8, 1980 the trial began, three weeks later all of the defendants were found guilty. The sentences handed down on March 11, ranged from two years for Frank Frassetto's wife, to thirty years for Frassetto and Celestino. B Team was terminated and so was the Valenti's last effort to return to power in Rochester.

     With the convictions of the seven B Team members, violence in the Rochester underworld remained dormant until December 1981. With the Blue Gardenia again the setting, A Team loyalist John M. Fiorino, a vice president of Teamster's Local 398, was shotgunned to death on December 17, 1981. Standing just a few feet from where a bombing attempt was made on the life of Sammy Gingello in March 1978, Fiorino's murder would be one of the few mob assassinations where police were on the scene quick enough to pursue the killers.

     Police theorized that Fiorino was murdered to prevent him from testifying to a grand jury and a federal Organized Crime Strike Force. Police believe Fiorino's murder was carried out to set an example for others. Anthony F. Oliveri and Vincent J. Rallo had both testified before the grand jury and were placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

     After the shooting, Irondequoit Police Officer Michael DiGiovanni spotted the killers escaping in a Cadillac. DiGiovanni gave chase and the getaway car sideswiped another automobile and then jumped the curb before coming to a stop. Both men exited the Cadillac and fired back at the young officer as they fled. Joined by other policemen, DiGiovanni was able to capture one of the gunmen, Louis A. DiGuilio, who was subdued after a scuffle, when he was found hiding in the brush near a schoolhouse. Through fingerprints, police were able to identify Joseph J. "Mad Dog" Sullivan as the gunman. Sullivan would be convicted of Fiorino's murder in September 1982. The two men who hired him to make the hit, Thomas E. Torpey and Thomas Taylor were tried in January 1984, but the trial ended in a hung jury. Tried again in March 1985, the two were found guilty and sentenced to 25 years to life.

     Torpey and Taylor were considered part of an insurgent mob faction labeled the C Team by the media. After Fiorino's murder, Rene Piccarreto ordered A Team hit man Dominic Taddeo to eliminate members of this renegade team. Taddeo responded by killing Nicholas Mastrodonato on May 25, 1982 in a shop in Gates, New York. Three months later on August 27, Taddeo blasted away at Thomas Pelusio, an alleged challenger for control of the Rochester gambling rackets. Taddeo wounded Thomas Pelusio and killed his brother Gerald. The following year, Dino Toratice was murdered by Taddeo on August 2, 1983 outside his home.

     Also in 1983, Thomas Marotta became the clay pigeon of the Rochester underworld as he was shot seven times on April 13. He survived only to be wounded again less than seven months later as he left his home. Both shootings were attributed to Dominic Taddeo.

     On October 8, 1987, Taddeo would be named in an affidavit as a suspect in the shootings. He had disappeared from view the previous March and many wondered if he was still alive. Taddeo was captured and brought back to Rochester where he was arraigned on August 2, 1990. After pleading guilty in January 1992 to killing three men and wounding two others, Taddeo was sentenced to 24 years in prison. This was in addition to the 30 years he received after being convicted on RICO charges.

     The government had begun its assault on the Rochester Family with two RICO trials during the 1980s. In the first trial, the indicted were Russotti, Piccarreto, Marotta, Joseph R. Rossi, Anthony M. Colombo, Donald J. Paone, Richard J. Marino, Joseph J. Trieste, Joseph J. La Dolce, and John Trivigno. All, or part, of this group were indicted on the following charges: operating an "enterprise" which was engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity; the murder of Vincent Massaro, the attempted murder of Rosario Chirico; the attempted murder of Dominic Celestino; the murder of Thomas Didio; the attempted murder of Angelo DiMarco; obstruction of justice; extortion of the Caserta Social & Political Club; extortion of the Young Men's Social Club; attempted arson; and several "overt acts."

     All of the defendants, except Trieste, La Dolce, and Trivigno, were convicted on October 30, 1984. On December 17, the guilty men were sentenced from 20 to 40 years in prison. Samuel "Red" Russotti died in prison at Milan, Michigan on June 25, 1993.

     The second RICO indictment was released on October 3, 1987. Indicted this time were Angelo Amico, Loren Piccarreto, Joseph Geniola, and Donald Paone. All were charged with violating federal anti-racketeering laws. Paone, at the time of the indictment was serving a twenty-year sentence from his conviction on the previous RICO indictment. In addition to these four men, Joseph La Dolce, who was also charged in the last indictment but found not guilty, was charged with conspiracy. At the time of the arrests, Roger P. Williams, the acting U S Attorney for western New York, told reporters, "These individuals are the last remnants of what we know to be organized crime in Rochester."

     The indictment stated that Amico was the acting boss of the Rochester Family, and that Loren Piccarreto was the acting underboss. Piccarreto was the son of imprisoned family consigliere Rene Piccarreto. Charges against the defendants included extortion of approximately one million dollars a year from 16 separate gambling operations, bookmakers, or card games, to help support the families, and pay the legal fees, of the seven mobsters imprisoned in 1984.

     Angelo Amico, 55 years old when he was arrested, was also charged with filing false tax returns and conspiracy to defraud the government. Amico's daughter was also charged with income tax evasion. In late October 1988, Amico pleaded guilty to both counts of the racketeering and conspiracy indictment, and to one count of tax evasion in a separate indictment. Two other tax evasion counts, including the one against his daughter were dropped. Amico was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

     During the trial of the remaining defendants, Special U S Attorney Anthony M. Bruce identified Loren Piccarreto as the leader of the Rochester Family. Bruce alleged that the younger Piccarreto had restructured the organization sometime after he took control of it. Bruce stated, "The real leader of this organization is Loren Piccarreto." Amico had a lot of authority, but "the last say came from that man, Loren Piccarreto."

     Both Piccarreto and Joseph Geniola were identified as union stewards for Teamster's Local 398. Donald Paone was accused of being the conduit from which orders were relayed from the men in prison to Amico and Piccarreto. Testifying against the men was Anthony F. Oliveri, the mobster-turned-government informant back in 1981. In early 1989, the remaining four defendants were found guilty and sent to prison.

     Finally in March 1991, Angelo Misuraca, vice president of Teamster's Local 398, was bounced out of the union and barred from holding any further office in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Misuraca, who succeeded the murdered John Fiorino, had been charged with associating with Angelo Amico from 1984 to 1989.

     There has been little organized crime activity since the convictions from the last RICO trial. Although several members will be released during the next decade, police do not expect a reoccurrence of the activities that took place during the three prior decades.

by Mario Machi, Allan May, Charlie Molino and Greg Q.

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