Feature Articles

January 2001

J. R.�s Mafia Year In Review � 2000

By James Ridgway de Szigethy


     On the last night of the last century, a jet airliner was bound from Cancun Mexico for the Bahamas, carrying onboard Serbian freedom fighter Bosko Radonjich, a former CIA operative. The flight landed for a brief stopover in Miami on New Year�s Day and while awaiting the plane�s departure, a restless Radonjich accidentally wandered into an area that was a U. S. Customs checkpoint. On this date, law enforcement authorities nationwide were on increased lookout for suspicious individuals. It was, of course, the end of the Millenium, and several �Doomsday� cults from around the world were expected to engage in various terrorist attacks. Also, just weeks earlier, U. S. Customs agents had caught Arab terrorists sneaking into the U. S. with bomb making equipment in a plot to attack key U. S. targets, including those in New York City.

     Bosko Radonjich was not a threat to the United States; he had, in fact, worked with the CIA for many years in the fight against Communism in his homeland. But the computer the Customs agents had access to at the airport had something very different to say about Bosko; he was, in fact, a wanted fugitive, having been indicted in 1992 for giving a $60,000 bribe to a juror in the 1987 racketeering murder trial of Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti. The Customs agents promptly placed Bosko under arrest.

     Upon learning of this, the Feds in Brooklyn were ecstatic, knowing that the star witness in Bosko�s trial would be Sammy The Bull Gravano, who as a Prosecution Witness had secured the conviction of John Gotti, Genovese Godfather Vinnie The Chin Gigante, and countless other Mafia wiseguys. The co-operation agreement that sent Gravano out on the streets of America after just 5 years in prison, despite his having committed at least 19 murders, required that Sammy, now known to be living openly in Arizona, testify at any future trial at which his testimony was needed. The Feds desperately wanted to convict Bosko on jury tampering charges, and their star witness Sammy the Bull had been batting 1,000: thus, on the dawn of the new Century, it must have seemed that only a miracle could save Bosko from spending years in prison.

     Bosko�s miracle was, in fact, playing out over a thousand miles away, in Cleveland, Ohio. While most Americans were celebrating the turn of the Century � and the Millenium, a Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a Cuyahoga County Sheriff�s Department Detective spent New Year�s Eve intercepting a package sent via Federal Express from Phoenix, Arizona. Inside the package were over 2,000 Ecstasy pills bound for four Youngstown area residents who were part of a drug trafficking ring.

     Meanwhile, back in Miami, pop star Madonna and her friend Ingrid Casares were just a few miles away from Bosko�s drama, spending New Year�s Eve at a Miami disco, partying like it was �1999!� Ingrid, the daughter of a Cuban Freedom Fighter, had become a regular in the ClubLand scene, along with Madonna and her circle of friends. It was in this world that Casares would meet a New Yorker, Chris Paciello, who would become her lover and business partner in three Miami nightlife hangouts. However, just weeks earlier, the Feds had arrested Paciello on racketeering and murder charges, claiming he was a member of the crew of Anthony Spero of the Bonnano Mafia Family. Thus, on that New Year�s Eve, Madonna and Casares had reason to be anxious as to what the New Year would bring to their common friend and lover.

     Paciello�s rise from an obscure upbringing on Staten Island was due to his talent for partnering with others. First, Paciello teamed up with �Lord Michael� Caruso, a party promoter best known for his �Techno music� bashes held at THE LIMELIGHT, a former Episcopal Church turned into one of Manhattan�s hottest discos by Canadian entrepreneur Peter Gatien. In 1992 Paciello and �Lord Michael,� along with a few silent partners from the Gambino Family took over a Florida bar owned by actor Mickey Rourke and turned it into the nightclub RISK. It was indeed a �risky business,� as the club soon burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. Paciello then took the insurance money and opened a new nightclub, LIQUID, which became a huge success, with the help of celebrities he met along the way, including Madonna, Casares, Daisy Fuentes, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Liza Minelli, and Nikki Taylor.

     Then, things began to fall into place that would lead to the downfall of Paciello and many other veterans of the New York nightlife scene. As in many Mafia stories, the events that would unfold can be traced back to a single incident, the 1996 murder of drug dealer Angel Melendez by Michael Alig. Alig was one of the original "ClubKids," those outrageous young people with wild costumes and comic names that have created their own little world inside nightclubs in major cities. Alig hosted the popular Wednesday night bashes called �DISCO 2000� at THE LIMELIGHT� and one of the "House" drug dealers was Michael�s friend "Angel,� so named by Alig after one of his favorite movies, "Angel Heart," the Occult classic that made Mickey Rourke a star.

     One night Alig and his pal "Freeze" murdered Angel and such was the twisted state of Alig�s personality that Michael began bragging to his various friends about this. New York Post reporter Al Guart and this reporter then picked up on the investigation into the missing "Angel" and eventually Alig and Freeze pleaded guilty. This reporter has received threats from those involved in the cover-up of the murder of Angel.

     The sensation in the Media over Angel�s murder only intensified the focus of law enforcement on people such as Peter Gatien, Michael Alig�s employer. The one-eyed Canadian was eventually charged with drug trafficking and income tax evasion. Lord Michael was also charged with drug trafficking and both he and Michael Alig decided to �rat� out Gatien and everyone else involved in ClubLand crimes. Among those that Caruso made allegations against was Chris Paciello, some of which were revealed in Peter Gatien�s Federal drug trafficking trial. Gatien was acquitted in that trial and his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, who has made a career of representing organized crime figures, including Sammy Gravano, managed to negotiate a plea bargain on Gatien�s tax case that allowed Gatien to only spend a few months in jail.

     When Chris Paciello was hit with his multiple Federal charges, he first hired as his attorney Roy Black, perhaps best known for his successful defense of accused rapist William Kennedy Smith. Later, Paciello switched to Benjamin Brafman. On January 7, 2000 Paciello was arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court on various charges, the most serious being his role in a botched robbery attempt that ended in the murder of Staten Island housewife Judy Shemtov. Among other allegations against Paciello was the claim that he had given refuge to Gambino Family associate Vincent Rizzuto while on the lam for murdering a Colombo Family associate, and that Paciello had a meeting with "Allie Boy" Persico, acting head of the Colombo Family. The Village Voice�s Frank Owen also reported that government wiretaps had caught Paciello conspiring with Colombo associate Dominick Dionisio to assault nightclub director Steven Lewis, who was convicted in 1999 on charges he allowed drug trafficking while managing THE TUNNEL, one of Peter Gatien�s Manhattan nightclubs.

     Federal authorities would later add additional charges, claiming Paciello torched his club RISK for the insurance money and also tried to bribe a cop who had information about drug trafficking inside his club LIQUID. Also, Prosecutors would claim that Paciello conspired with Colombo Family Underboss "Wild Bill" Cutolo to run a nightclub in Manhattan that would be a front for the Colombo Family. Cutolo, who led a rival faction against the Persico faction during the bloody Colombo Family war and was involved in the DC 37 Union scandal, disappeared in the Spring of 1999 and is presumed to have been murdered.

     Also among the large volume of evidence the Feds had against Paciello was a secretly recorded tape on which Paciello conspired with a member of law enforcement to have a rival nightclub owner framed on fabricated drug charges. The tapes also reveal Paciello stating that if he ever got taken down, he wouldn�t turn �rat� as had Sammy the Bull. However, as Paciello and criminal attorney Benjamin Brafman weighed all of the evidence against him, Paciello began to think of the unthinkable: turn government�s witness and rat out all of his associates in the Colombo, Gambino, and Bonnano Families.


     While this drama was unfolding in Brooklyn Federal Court, another sordid story of crime and punishment was developing in Boston. On January 4 Mafia hitman/FBI informant Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and his former handler, retired FBI agent John J. Connolly were arraigned on a variety of racketeering charges. Also indicted was another Mafia hitman/FBI informant handled by Connolly, Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger, who has been a fugitive from Justice since going on the lam in 1995. Prosecutors allege that Connolly protected his prized informants with secret information, including advance notice of the impending indictments, which prompted Bulger�s decision to go into hiding.

     The allegations against Connolly were eerily similar to those made in New York in regards to Colombo Family hitman/FBI informant Greg Scarpa and his handler, FBI agent Lynn de Vecchio. In the mid 90s it had become obvious to members of the Organized Crime Task Force in New York that the Colombo Family had a �mole� in law enforcement that was leaking information to the Mob. At first, authorities believed the allegations of Colombo capo "Big Sal" Miciotta, who accused a decorated cop, Detective Joe Simone of being the mole. Simone was placed on trial and acquitted. Then, some of de Vecchio�s own FBI agents testified in Court cases that they were convinced de Vecchio, Simone�s superior, was the one giving secret information to Scarpa, some of which was believed to help Scarpa in the commission of murders during the Colombo Family War of 1991-1994. Four Federal Mafia cases resulted in acquittals because of information regarding the relationship between de Vecchio and Scarpa. "If the FBI�s like this, Society is really in trouble!" one juror told the Media after one of the trials. Benjamin Brafman himself stated during a Courtroom proceeding in regards to Scarpa and de Vecchio: "This was a murderous relationship!"

     Although de Vecchio pleaded guilty in the 1970s to charges of illegal gun running, he was never charged with any crime in regards to his handling of Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994.

     January saw the Gotti family under continued scrutiny of law enforcement. Carmine Agnello, the husband of John Gotti�s best-selling author daughter Victoria, was being held in jail, charged with conspiracy, grand larceny, arson, and other charges. Agnello�s attorney Marvyn Kornberg, who received notoriety for his defense of �plunger cop� Justin Volpe, publicly claimed that the authorities in the case were stonewalling the bail arrangement in an effort to keep his client in jail. Agnello had been caught on tape in an NYPD sting advising undercover cops on how to assemble a Malitov cocktail with which they were to firebomb a rival car parts business.

     Also, rumors began to circulate that the marriage between Agnello and Gotti was strained, but some veteran Mafia observers were not convinced the split was real. When Sammy Gravano turned �rat� against John Gotti, Sammy�s wife publicly denounced and repudiated him. It is now known that the public �turning� against Gravano by his family was part of a sham; a plot had in fact been set in motion in which a young ClubKid named Michael Papa, a friend of Sammy�s son Gerard, was transferred from a local college to one in Arizona. Once settled there, Papa began laying the groundwork for the establishment of Sammy�s wife, son, and daughter in a new life in the Desert State, where Sammy would join them once free.

     Sammy could have lived comfortably there in retirement on the monies he made illegally as Underboss of the Gambino Family, as well as from the hundreds of thousands of dollars he earned from the best-selling book UNDERBOSS, his account of his life, thus far, in crime. But that wasn�t enough for Sammy, who testified in the trial of Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante that he callously murdered a businessman after his "greed button" had been pushed; Sammy sought to set up a lucrative business selling the new designer drug Ecstasy to children, and he would use his own children to help him in this scheme.


     In what would become THE Mafia story of the year, Dennis Wagner of the Arizona Republic revealed in February that Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, his wife, daughter, son, and several associates had been indicted on charges they ran an extensive drug trafficking ring in Arizona, New Mexico, and Ohio. When arrested, Sammy was found to be in possession of a handgun and anabolic steroids, to which he was addicted during his days as Gambino Underboss. The so-called �roid rage� that is a side effect of such drugs is believed to have in part been responsible for the violent acts committed by Gravano, including the dismemberment murder by Sammy of his own brother-in-law, whose body parts Sammy buried in the back yard.

     The 1997 execution-style murder of NYPD Officer Ralph Dols, who sold anabolic steroids to cops in Brooklyn�s 70th Precinct, was on the minds of many who observed the February trial of three NYPD cops charged with conspiring to cover-up the assault on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who was sodomized by Officer Justin Volpe with a broken-off mop handle inside the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in August of 1997. Louima now claims that the door of the bathroom was briefly opened when yet a third cop entered, who observed the brutal assault. In four previous appearances in which Louima testified Under Oath, Louima had not mentioned this new detail. In fact, the first time anywhere that it was suggested that a third cop had witnessed the assault was on June 1, 1999, in the Forum post "J. R.�s Three-Cop Theory." 21 days later, the Feds, as reported by the New York Post�s Murray Weiss proposed this same theory. Yet more evidence on the steroids connection was presented in this website feature "17 Days in August: A Tale of Cops, Steroids, and the Mob!�

     The jury in this trial did not believe the testimony of Justin Volpe nor Charles Schwarz, and Officers Schwarz, Wiese, and Bruder were convicted. Just days later, the U. S. Attorney�s Office in Manhattan indicted Russian mob associates Alexander Nosov and Natan Gozman for the brutal murder of boxing champ Sergei Kobozev. The two would also later be identified as suspects in the murder of Officer Ralph Dols, an associate of the Colombo Family.

     February also saw more allegations against embattled Ohio Congressman James Traficant. Joe Lawlor of the Warren Tribune-Chronicle reported that Congressman Traficant was associated with yet another member of the Mafia, Andy Chapella, whom Traficant placed on his Congressional staff at taxpayer expense. In 1980, Chapella had delivered $100,000 of bribe money to Traficant during his campaign for Sheriff of Youngstown. The money came from Cleveland Mafia figure Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia. Charles O�Nesti had also served on Traficant�s Congressional payroll for 13 years before his indictment on racketeering charges. O�Nesti had delivered $60,000 in bribe money to Traficant in 1980 that was donated by the rival Pittsburgh Mafia Family, which fought with their Cleveland Family counterparts over control of Youngstown�s lucrative rackets.

     Fearing that Traficant was aligned with the Pittsburgh Family and would only protect their rackets once Sheriff, Carabbia secretly tape recorded Traficant bragging about how he laundered $10,000 of the bribe money through crooked attorney Ed Flask, now a convicted felon. Carabbia then stunned Traficant by claiming that he was blackmailing Flask with "compromising photographs that will ensure his silence!" Carabbia was murdered just days after disclosing this blackmail to Traficant. The accomplice in this murder who disposed of Carabbia�s car in Cleveland is believed to still be alive.

     Traficant also funneled taxpayer dollars to the two daughters of disbarred attorney George Alexander, who later admitted they performed no work for the money. Alexander, who helped the Pittsburgh Mafia Family in the attempted Christmas Eve murder of "Untouchable" Youngstown District Attorney Paul Gains, had advised Traficant during his 1987 trial during which he was convicted of failing to pay income tax on the $163,000 in Mafia bribe money he accepted.


     In March, Sammy Gravano�s brother-in-law was among 6 wiseguys arrested in a �pump and dump� stock scam, which netted the perps more than $60 million. Among those charged were Sammy�s relation Edward Garafola, and Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Family Godfather Carmine Persico. The scams were run through two brokerage firms, White Rock Partners and State Street Capital, according to the Feds.

     March also saw the guilty plea of L. A. Underboss Carmen Milano, who pleaded to a single Federal racketeering charge, an indication that he was co-operating with the Feds. Milano was involved in a plot to take over the Las Vegas rackets, which necessitated the murder of area mob boss Herbie Blitzstein in 1997. The takeover attempts of the L. A. Family largely failed, as did similar efforts by the Gambino Family, as reported in March 2000 by investigative reporter Scott Deitche in his feature �THE GAMBINOS COME TO VEGAS.�

     March also saw the singing of another wiseguy to the Feds: Detroit mobster Nove Tocco, facing 19 years in the slammer, named his cousin Jack Tocco as the Godfather of the Detroit Mafia Family.


     "I�m going to Disney World!"

     Or so the Philadelphia wiseguy hoped, when he appeared in April before the Judge in his racketeering trial hearing. Reporter Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Abbruzzi�s attorney argued that because his wife had already pre-paid for the two to have a vacation at the Florida resort, the Judge should allow the two to continue with their plans. The Judge decided not to put Mickey, Pluto, and their pals in jeopardy and denied �Ralphie Head�s� request.

     Abbruzzi�s woes were part of a determined effort by the Feds to obtain convictions against alleged acting Philadelphia Boss "Skinny Joey" Merlino, who was arrested in 1999 on drug trafficking and racketeering charges. The Feds have recruited in this scheme one-time Godfather Ralph Natale and capos Ronald Previte and Robert Luisi Jr. Previte is a former crooked cop who became a Mafia capo, and then an FBI Informant, wearing a wire for two years against the Philly mob.

     Also in April, a bizarre case played out in the Federal trial of former New York City police officer Vincent Davis, accused of trying to arrange the murder of a Mafia informant who had angered the former cop by dating his ex-wife. The trial came to a temporary halt when it was learned that a juror had told members of her book club that she had a "crush" on the Defendant, whom she described as being very handsome. The juror also remarked about similarities between the government�s case and story outlines in the popular HBO Mafia series THE SOPRANOS. When informed of this, the Judge removed the juror and deliberations resumed in the case. Days later the jury would acquit Davis, who claimed he was too drunk to know what he was doing when he asked a Luchese wiseguy to murder the informant who dated his ex-wife.

     This situation over a �smitten� juror has happened before in two other high profile cases, the �Preppy Murder� trial in Manhattan of Robert Chambers and the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith in Palm Beach, Florida. In the �Preppy Murder� trial, some jurors were said to have been so swayed by defendant Chambers� handsome looks that they just couldn�t believe he could commit the brutal strangulation murder of young Jennifer Levin, who died after Chambers lured her into Central Park for a session of what he termed "rough sex." In the case of William Kennedy Smith, one of the jurors became enamored of Smith�s Defense attorney Roy Black, and after the acquittal of Smith on rape charges, the female juror accepted Black�s offer to go out on a date. The juror and the criminal attorney later became husband and wife.


     Also in April, Boston Family associate Vincent Marino was given a 35 year prison sentence for his role in the plot to murder "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, the Godfather of the Patriarca Mafia Family. As revealed in the Feature �MOB WAR IN BEANTOWN� by crime historian Alan May, Marino took a bullet to the buttocks in an October, 1996 shoot-out with rival mobsters. When arrested a few weeks later by DEA agents, one agent jokingly told Marino that they had planted a microphone in his body during surgery to remove the bullet. The paranoid Marino believed this, and bitterly complained to the Judge at his arraignment hearing. Marino also threatened to sue the DEA over the alleged implant.

     Diane Williamson of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette also reported from Marino�s hearing the anguish of Marino�s mother, who lamented: "It�s so terrible to pick up the newspaper and read about the Devlin murder, or the girl in the dumpster, or the Souza murder, and know that they�re blaming it on Vincent!" "He�s not Mafia, believe me. I know my son! He didn�t murder all the guys they�re saying he did!"

     Williamson also reported the devotion of Marino�s girlfriend, as well as the wife of a co-defendant, who faithfully attended each Court appearance, as well as travelling twice a week to visit the men in jail.

     Such devotion between Mafia wiseguys and their women was revealed in a bizarre story published in May by New York Post crime editor Murray Weiss, in which he revealed a plot hatched by Luchese Family capo George Zappola to bribe a prison guard to smuggle his sperm out of prison so that his girlfriend could be artificially inseminated and conceive their child. In addition, Weiss reported that Zappola had bribed prison guards to smuggle into the prison delicacies such as veal cutlets, vodka, anabolic steroids, and other drugs, in a scene reminiscent from the movie "Goodfellows." When Federal authorities got wind of the scheme, they launched "Operation: Badfellows," indicting more than 20 people involved in the scam.

     Zappola�s scheme was similar to that of Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the former Underboss of the Luchese Mafia Family. When Gaspipe flipped and became a co-operating witness in the early 1990s, he created a sensation with his claim that he hired two hero cops, Lou Eppolito and Steve Caracappa, to murder heroin trafficker Eddie Lino, one of the triggermen in the murder of Gambino Godfather Paul Castellano. Gaspipe and "Big Sal" Miciotta, who accused Detective Joe Simone of corruption were eventually dropped as Prosecution Witnesses after they were caught in a variety of lies Under Oath. However, Miciotta would be able to redeem himself after he ratted out to the Feds as to how Casso had bribed guards to smuggle contraband to him once being protected inside the Witness Protection Program.

     May also saw Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn dropping the bribery charges against Bosko Radonjich. With "co-operating witness" Sammy Gravano�s credibility finally destroyed, the Feds saw a conviction against Bosko as unlikely.

     Federal authorities in Louisiana, however, had a little more luck in regards to the testimony of Youngstown, Ohio native Edward DeBartolo, Jr.; the son of a shopping mall magnate had testified against former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, who was finally convicted on racketeering, conspiracy, and extortion charges involving the awarding of a license for a riverboat gambling casino. As a result of DeBartolo�s plea bargain, DeBartolo had to relinquish his control of his proffessional football team the San Francisco 49ers, which had been given to him as a gift from his father, a gambling associate of the Carabbia brothers of the Cleveland Mafia Family.


     In June, authorities revealed that the remains of a woman found in a Mafia dumping ground were that of Deborah Hussey, the step-daughter of FBI Informant/Mafia hitman Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. Flemmi had begun raping his step-daughter when she was 14, and years later, when she could no longer be trusted to keep the dirty Flemmi family secret, Flemmi had "Whitey" Bulger strangle her to death. However, years later, an associate of the Boston Mafia Family, Kevin Weeks, whom Whitey Bulger regarded as his �surrogate son,� �flipped� and became a co-operating witness. It was Weeks who led authorities to the burial site of three of the Boston Family�s perceived enemies and after forensic testing the young woman whose life was cut short spoke again from her early grave.

     Flemmi is also a suspect in the presumed murder of Debbie Davis, one of many underage females Flemmi had a sexual relationship with. Davis disappeared in 1981, according to the Boston Herald.

     Also in June the largest roundup of Mafia criminals and their associates in U. S. history occurred, when 120 people, including members of all five New York Mafia Families, were arrested on charges they participated in an elaborate and far-reaching scheme to defraud investors in the stock market of over $50 million through a complex scheme of �pumping and dumping� the values of stocks of Internet companies. Among those indicted were Sebastian Rametta, the CEO of a profitable fast food restaurant chain, Ranch-1, his Vice-Chairman James Chickara, both of whom are alleged associates of the Colombo Family, Frank Persico, a relative of imprisoned Colombo Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico, William Stephens, Director of the Husic Capital Management group of San Francisco, who is accused of plotting to mingle Union pension funds into a kickback scheme, Robert Lino, an alleged capo in the Bonnano Family, and Michael Grecco, an alleged Colombo Family associate.

     The month of June also saw embattled Ohio Congressman James Traficant take to the floor of the House of Representatives to once again accuse the Feds of criminal behavior. "FBI agents in Ohio have been on the payroll of the Mob!" Traficant charged, without offering much evidence to his allegation. Traficant also alleged that an FBI informant once confided to him that the FBI asked him to commit murder, a more credible claim on Traficant�s part given similar stunning disclosures about murders and other crimes committed by FBI informants/Mafia hitmen in New York, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and other places.

     Similar charges would be revealed a few weeks later in Boston, where Federal Judge Mark Wolf made a ruling which disallowed evidence to move forward implicating FBI informant/Mafia hitman Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi from being prosecuted for the murders of three brothers in 1967. The Boston Herald reported the heartwrenching anguish of the family members of the three murdered men. "These people murdered, they plundered the city of Boston, . . . and they were helped by the Federal government!" Billy Bennett was quoted as saying. Bennett�s father was among the three murdered brothers. The Boston Herald�s Peter Gelzinis would further report that Bennett had identified FBI agent H. Paul Rice as one of two agents who once came to his father demanding family records. Said Bennett: "I know because I heard him. There�s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Paul Rice gave my Dad up to (FBI informant/hitman) Stevie Flemmi!"


     July saw the publication of Wayne Barrett�s explosive bio of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as U. S. Attorney in Manhattan during the 1980s made a name for himself through his prosecution of the "Commission" trial, the "pizza connection" trial and other infamous prosecutions of the Mafia. Barrett�s book revealed that Giuliani�s own father was a Mafia wiseguy, as was his uncle, a notorious gay mobster who was killed in a shoot-out with the FBI. Giuliani and First Lady Hillary Clinton were at the time locked in a statistical dead heat in their race for New York�s Senate seat. Giuliani later withdrew from the race, allegedly due to his fight against prostate cancer.

     July also saw the Feds in Brooklyn moving in on the Ecstasy trafficking scheme that involved Sammy the Bull Gravano and his kids. The Feds indicted a dozen people in the scheme, including an Israeli named Ilan Zarger. Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents first stumbled upon the "Israeli connection" to the U. S. Ecstasy trade while investigating the murder of ClubKid "Angel" Melendez. These same agents tracked Ecstasy dealers conducting a drug transaction inside Manhattan�s St. Patrick�s Cathedral.

     An equally bizarre scenario unfolded in July in Federal Court in Philadelphia, during a hearing in the ongoing case of acting Boss Skinny Joey Merlino and his associates. Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News described the surreal dysfunctional-Family gathering as a "circus," presided over by U. S. District Court Judge Herbert Hutton. Wiseguys and their loved ones exchanged waves, thumbs-ups, and blown kisses as the various suspects, including Merlino, mob soldier Marty Angelina, Tony Cianfrani, Joseph Ligambi, John Ciancaglini, and their criminal attorneys were all brought together for a preview of the upcoming racketeering trial.

     However, Federal Prosecutors seeking Merlino�s conviction might think twice before putting prosecution witness Philip Casale on the Witness Stand: Casale is a convicted pedophile who nearly killed a 10 year old child after sexually molesting her in 1977. According to New Jersey Star-Ledger reporter Guy Sterling, Casale lured the child into an abandoned building while she was out running an errand for her mother to a local grocery store. Casale broke the little girl�s skull open with a brick and then raped her. The little girl, who was left partially paralyzed by the attempted murder, was able to testify against Casale, who was convicted. After just a few years in prison, Casale was back on the streets, where he would hook up with the Mafia, in the course of which he would commit at least 2 murders.


     Undoubtedly the most bizarre Mafia story of the year occurred in August, when Congressman James Traficant appeared on the Fox News Channel talkshow Hannity & Colmes. Traficant claimed that Attorney General Janet Reno was an alcoholic lesbian who was being blackmailed by the Mafia through the possession of a secretly-recorded videotape, upon which Reno was seen having sex with a �Mobbed-up" callgirl, and that this tape was used to prevent Reno from appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate the illegal transfer of secret nuclear and missile technology to the government of Communist China. Traficant refused to name his �sources� in this matter, while accusing Reno of Treason and daring her office to indict him. When asked by reporters about Traficant�s bizarre allegations, Reno just smiled and said: "Consider the source!"

     Also in August, investigative reporter John Touhy published the feature �FIRST, WE SHOOT ALL THE LAWYERS,� in which he analyzed the claims made against Sammy Gravano by drug dealer Philip Pascucci. Pascucci had created a sensation earlier in the year, claiming that Gravano had wanted to hire him to murder Manhattan attorney Ron Kuby, who has filed a lawsuit against Gravano on behalf of many of the children whose fathers were murdered by Gravano. Howver, Tuohy�s examination of the evidence reveals that Pascucci�s allegations against Gravano have changed over time, thus calling into question Pascucci�s credibility. As in previous situations regarding "co-operating witnesses," the authorities in the case are left to determine whether the informant is telling the truth, or the stories that they believe the authorities want to hear.

     In September 3 co-defendants of Chris Paciello pleaded guilty to charges of bank robbery and murder. The guilty pleas left Bonnano associate Anthony Spero and Paciello to face charges alone in Federal Court. Paciello attorney Benjamin Brafman had been successful in severing his client�s trial from that of Spero�s, which he claimed would increase the chances of his client�s acquittal. However, just weeks later, Paciello would plead guilty to reduced charges, indicating he had �flipped� and would testify against the Mafia co-horts in three Families he associated with.

     The New York Post reported in October that Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti�s doctors had determined that he had at most one more year of life due to the spread of his cancer. Authorities were accused of neglecting Gotti�s complaints about his dental implants, which had become infected. The implants, along with Gotti�s penchant for expensive clothing, were part of a calculated effort on Gotti�s part to present a flashy image to his "public."

     In November, the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Boston Mob Boss Whitey Bulger, who went into hiding after allegedly being tipped off by FBI agent John J. Connolly that his arrest on racketeering murder charges was imminent. The special task force that sought the prosecutions of Connolly were led by investigators from the State of Rhode Island, who utilized FBI agents from outside the area, fearing local agents would cover-up for Connolly and his associates.

     Also in November, the indictment of an employee of Congressman James Traficant was announced in Cleveland. Clarence Broad was charged with Obstruction of Justice, allegedly by attempting to prevent a witness against Traficant from testifying before the Federal Grand Jury investigating Mafia corruption in Ohio. Exactly what Broad was said to have committed was not made clear by the Feds, but on November 22, Broad pleaded guilty to a single count of Obstruction of Justice. Broad also revealed in Court that he has suffered from mental illness all of his life.

     Later that same day, this reporter posted in the new Forum of the following analysis: �WAS CONGRESSMAN TRAFICANT�S HIRING OF AN EMOTIONALL-CHALLENGED EMPLOYEE AN ACT OF HUMANITARIANISM OR A TRADITIONAL MAFIA PLOY?� In that report, I wrote: "It is a standard operating procedure for the Mafia to hire mentally-challenged persons to carry out certain operations; the assassination attempt against Joe Colombo is just one example; Colombo�s enemies hired a mentally deranged African-American to shoot down Colombo in broad daylight at a rally in Midtown Manhattan; this assailant was then conveniently shot dead himself. Thus, Traficant�s hiring of a mentally disabled man cannot be easily regarded as an act of kindness. On the other hand, if the Feds in Cleveland try to put Broad on the Witness Stand against Traficant, Broad�s credibility will be seriously challenged. This is exactly the reason that the Mafia, by tradition, contracts out to emotionally disturbed individuals special projects; if those individuals �mess up,� their employers can plausibly deny any association with someone who is obviously not sane."

     Two weeks later, explosive details were made public by Sandy Ferrante, a former horse trainer on Traficant�s farm, in regards to what Broad was actually charged with. Ferrante went public, claiming she had heard an FBI tape upon which Broad was offering $10,000 in an alleged plot to murder Ferrante and keep her from testifying before the Grand Jury against Traficant. Ferrante was convinced that Traficant was behind the alleged murder-for-hire plot and was held in protective custody for three months until Broad was arrested.

     Traficant responded by publicly claiming the Feds were trying to set him up on a fabricated murder for hire charge. Ironically, one of Traficant�s private investigators, William Acosta, was involved in one of the most notorious murder-for-hire cases of the 1990s: the 1993 indictment of Dr. Thomas R. Stevens, then-President of the New York Young Republican Club, who was charged with trying to hire a hitman to murder a rival Young Republican. Those charges were thrown out "With Prejudice" by the Judge in the case after this reporter turned over secretly-recorded tapes detailing an FBI informant threatening my life because I refused to offer Perjured testimony in that case. The man who wore the wire on Dr. Stevens, claiming to be "Louie the hitman" from the Luchese Mafia Family, was in fact Acosta, who has worked with Traficant in his efforts to prove that a Georgia cop was framed on a murder rap in the early 90s. Acosta on two separate occasions resigned from the New York City Police Department after being accused of fabricating evidence.

     In December, Genovese Family Godfather Vincent Gigante was once again in the news. Mike Claffey of the New York Daily News reported that the "Oddfather" has made a "miraculous recovery" from the physical and mental ailments that shielded him from prosecution for many years, according to Federal Prosecutors. In a report to Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein, Prosecutors alleged that Gigante walks about a mile a day and that his mental faculties are the best he has possessed in over 30 years. The report came in response to Gigante�s own team of doctors, who have argued that Gigante must be treated near his New York home or face deadly consequences. Prosecutors have claimed for years that Gigante faked mental illness in order to escape prosecution.

     During his 1997 federal racketeering trial, Gigante was confined to a wheelchair and injected with drugs such as Valium to treat his heart condition. Gigante, who is renown for wandering the streets of Greenwich Village wearing only a bathrobe, mumbled to himself throughout the entire trial. Upon his conviction, Prosecutor George Stamboulidas, who suddenly found himself in the unaccustomed position of having actually won a case, declared triumphantly: "The charade is over!"

     Also in December, Charles Porter, the highest-ranking member of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family to turn �rat;� was released by a Federal Judge in exchange for Porter�s co-operation with the Feds in their highly successful prosecution of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family. Porter was Underboss to alleged Godfather Michael Genovese, who, along with Congressman Traficant, is believed to be the ultimate targets of the Federal prosecutions that have thus far convicted over 70 public figures involved with the Pittsburgh Family, including key figure Lenny Strollo.

     On December 5, 2000 Congressman Traficant entered into the Congressional Record the affidavit of "Beef" Terlicky, a former Deputy Sheriff from Youngstown who was convicted in 1990 for taking bribe money from the Mafia. In the affidavit, Terlicky claimed that he, not the FBI, found the infamous �Carabbia tapes� during an illegal search and seizure conducted in the home of area hitman Joseph DeRose, who, like Charlie The Crab Carabbia, had disappeared and was presumed murdered. Terlicky�s claims, if true, would preclude the tapes from being used again against Traficant in a Court of law for the reasons that they were obtained illegally. However, the Warren Tribune-Chronicle�s Brenda Linert reported that the conversations on the tapes did not occur until six months later, after Traficant was elected Sheriff.

     On New Year�s Eve, 2000, the potential worth of the Carabbia tapes became more clear, when Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter John Caniglia published a detailed feature which revealed more troubling information regarding Traficant and his association with the Carabbia family. Caniglia revealed that just days after Charlie "The Crab" disappeared in December 1980, three associates of the Carabbia family took Sheriff-elect Traficant on a surprise visit to the Carabbia house. An uneasy Traficant did not want to go into that house, where Charlie�s brother Orland was waiting for Traficant. Orland was in tears, convinced, as was Charlie�s wife, that "The Crab" had been murdered.

     Days earlier Charlie had disclosed to Traficant that he had secretly photographed attorney Ed Flask for the purposes of blackmail and Traficant must have considered the possibility that Carabbia had also secretly monitored him as well. Orland revealed to Traficant that his brother had in fact done just that, and he demanded that Traficant sit while he played some of the taped evidence against him. Orland made it clear to Traficant that like his brother, he believed Traficant was loyal to the rival Pittsburgh Mafia Family and that Traficant had better realize the hold the Cleveland Family held over him by possession of the tapes. Traficant left the Carabbia home and did not arrest any of the Cleveland nor Pittsburgh Mafia figures once he took office.

     Those tapes were used in Traficant�s 1983 federal bribery trial in Cleveland, at which Traficant represented himself. However, Traficant told the jury that he only took the $163,000 in bribe money from the Mafia as part of his own, one-man "undercover sting operation" so he would know who to arrest once elected Sheriff. The jury bought this explanation and Traficant was made into a folk hero, propelling him into Congress.

     A generation later, those tapes have taken on the renewed interest of the Feds in Cleveland. As the year 2000 ended, even Traficant himself had publicly admitted he expects to be indicted � again � on charges he is an associate of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family.

James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at

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