Interview With Steve Lenehan
By Scott M. Deitche
On August 8, 1994 Steve Lenehan walked off the streets of New Jersey for the last time. He became, in the words of the U.S. Attorney in Newark, "one of the most productive cooperators the District of New Jersey has ever seen."
For the previous two years he had wore a wire on the streets and caught 343 conversations between 50 mobsters in New Jersey and New York. That taped evidence, supported by his testimony, resulted in the conviction of 26 mobsters from the Genovese, Luchesse, Bonnano, Gambino, Colombo, and Bruno-Scarfo crime families.
Steve worked the streets of Jersey from his "headquarters" at the Belmont Tavern on Bloomfield Ave. in Newark. Although he was only half- Italian, and could never be formally made into the mob, he moved with ease between the various families and crews operating in New Jersey. He became driver to a top Bonnano capo, Gerry Chilli, and was part of the inner circle of one of the most respected Gambino mobsters in the Garden State, Jimmy �Higgins" Palmieri.
You�ll see names of guys never before seen in print, mobsters who never made the front page Gotti-style. You�ll hear about places and events never before chronicled, and you�ll get Steve�s frank assessment of mobsters that go against the common misconceptions.
The interview is divided into two sections. The first will consist of questions from posters to Bostonmafia.com and AmericanMafia.com as well as other Mafia forums, while the second section will mainly be questions from me.
Steve answered each and every question posted to him. Some answers are long, some short, but they give a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of a New Jersey mob guy working the streets and getting know just about every major player in NJ organized crime for the last 30 years. All-in-all I think this is a great interview and I hope everyone will enjoy it.
Part 1- Questions from mob buffs and posters to the various Mafia forums :
(Question from Nelson) I'm always most curious about how people get "made". How was the offer made and the details of the ceremony etc.
When I was a kid the books were closed, but guys started getting in, in the mid 1970�s. I used to drive Jimmy Higgins Palmieri into New York a lot in 75/76. He never used to say a word, just told his brother, Nicky, to have me pick him up. I drove him because I was only 20,had no record and didn't know shit. I must have taken him 5 different times in the spring of 76 to Mulberry Street. I'd drop him off on the corner of Hester Street and go back in 2 hours or so for him. He'd meet me on the corner and I�d drive him home. There was complete silence in the car and I never asked any questions. He must have liked that about me as I became real close to him in the years to come. Anyway, Nicky gave me heads up that jimmy was going to get made. One night I drop him off and he tells me not to pick him up and to just go home. He told me to tell his brother Nick what time I dropped him off. The next day he was at the American Legion with Joe the Indian Polverino. Everyone knew he got made the night before. A lot of guys went in hush-hush at this time. In later years there was more fanfare.
The way you get made is a made guy brings your name to a skipper who brings it to the underboss or consilierge and then they propose it to the boss. That�s how the process begins. Then they pass your name to different crews to see if anyone has a beef against you. This is referred to as the �list�. You are referred to as �proposed.� I don�t know the actual ceremony. I heard the Fresolone induction tape during a debriefing with the FBI.
(Jay) Does he know if Nick Forlan, deceased Colombo capo, was ever offered the boss's seat following the assassination of Joe Colombo. Forlano was a player in his later years in Miami.
The only Colombo guy I knew well was Jimmy Randazzo. I met with Ray Cagno, Petey Black and Tootie Lombardino at different times, but didn't really know them all that well.
(Jay) Did Steve ever meet Nicholas "Nicky Cigars" Marangello? His opinion? There is also some debate on his role. Joe Pistone states his undercover work revealed him to be the underboss while some sources state he was consigliere. I know this last part is a bit picky but just one of curiosity.
I never knew Nicky Cigars. My connection with the Bonnanos was through Gerry Chilli and that didn�t really start until the late 80's. I wasn't around the Bonnanos during the Pistone years.
(Jay) Did Steve ever do business with murdered Bruno family capo Tony Capinigro? What were his thoughts on him? He is often described as less than calm.
I knew of Tony Bannana's because of my association with Jimmy Higgins. My
(Jay) Did Steve ever come in contact with smaller families, such as the Bufalino group or the Pittsburgh family? If so, his opinion.
I never knew anyone from Scranton or Pittsburgh
(Capo878) I was wondering what his opinion would be on the state of the mob in the next 10
The mob isn't going away. Sure more and more guys are going to flip, so it's going to be a tough road on the street, but it'll survive. Listen, I got caught because of rats. They were "unnamed sources." You got more rats on the street than in the Witness Protection Program. I miss my old friends but my life has worked out fine. My kids and wife have had a better life because of what I did, but I�ll never make a friend, I�ll be lonely in some respects until I die, but all in all I�m glad I�m out. When I see guys like Carlo Tacetta and Nicky Scarfo jr. get made I know I�d be a dinosaur if I was on the streets. How could anyone take direction or orders from guys like that?? It's a joke.
(Pete Stathakis) The question that I thought might be a good one was whether or not he ever visits either of the "mafia forums" and if so did he or does he ever post. Also if he has visited does he think he knows who Picasso, New Jersey, or any of the other Jersey posters are. It's almost like their identities are one of the great mysteries of our time.
I read the forums once in awhile but I never post anything for security reasons. I used to think Picasso was George Fresolone, but I know now it isn't George. I'm pretty sure I know who he is. He's stated some things that give me a heads up, like how he knew me as a kid. He knows a lot about Gerry Catena, and my father was close with Gerry. Everyone else he mentions from Gyp�s crew is on the mark. If I�m not mistaken, and I could be, Picasso is a straightened out guy who went in the can in 86. His brother, who is older, is also straightened out, lived out west since the late 70's.
New Jersey is friends with my old friend Marco Minichino. What he said about me in jail is bullshit. I don't think Marco ever said any of that. I did good time, both in the county and in Annandale. People say shit because they know you can't respond. New Jersey works with Marco in the Union. I could be wrong but I don't think so. I was out and Marco had me on his visiting list in both northern state and Danburry. I paid for his daughter�s communion party at Johnny Moose�s when he was still down. I don't want to comment other than to say Marco and I had both a personal and professional relationship until the day I left. He is the one guy the feds knew I�d never hurt, the best friend I ever had on the street or anywhere else. There are a few guys on the forums that obviously know the score. I enjoy most of it.
(TiAmoItaliano/Jay) How well did he know & do business with Gerry Chilli? / Since he was involved with Jerry Chilli, did he ever come in contact with the "zip" faction? What were his thoughts on this group?
I was very close to Jerry, as well as his family. When he was in NY I was with him constantly, every day day in-day out. I picked him up and dropped him off at the airports. When he was in Florida I talked to him every day. When he was in jail and I was on the street still he called me every Sunday. When he needed money in Florida for the lawyers his wife gave it to me to fly down with. I referred to him as "unc". I was present at all his family functions. I was with him hunting Gus Farrace. When he was in Florida I oversaw his bookmaking interests on the Lower East Side. His guys reported to me. Any work that needed to be done in NY or Florida came to my crew and me. We were partners in the distribution of football tickets. I had the largest operation in Essex County in 92,93. We were handling about 20,000 tickets a week, which I distributed to other bookmakers, plus the ones for my operation. We were in the large fireworks wholesale business together, as well as some drug dealing.
I�ll tell you how I came to be with Jerry. Everyone thinks I was with Nicky Olivieri, but I was really with Joe the Indian when I came home from the can. Nicky tried telling me we were with Patty Specs, but I knew better from Johnny Mongiello. I went to Joe and told him I didn't want to wind up with Cabert. He said because Nick Palmieri bought me around in the first place and my father was close to him and jack panels from the old days when they were all with Gyp that I really was with the Genovese family. Anyway when Joe the Indian died I didn't want to go with Sally Dogs Lombardi because I wasn't going to answer to Lenny Macaluso. I went to meet Sally Dogs at his 50th birthday party at Pastels in Brooklyn. He liked me from when I used to drive out to Brooklyn and Staten Island with Joe the Indian on Thursday nights. He knew I was with Jerry Chilli all the time and I told him I�d like to stay with Jerry because I wanted to move to Florida. The next day I went with Jerry to Lees Tavern in Staten Island and we had lunch with Sally and Joey "Mann" Maniscalco, a made guy with Sally. They released me to Jerry and then we went to Bath Avenue to see Anthony Spero and it was official. This was in 1990.
I never even told Nicky O, due to the fact I was beefing with him anyway. He was going around telling people I was on the shelf. Every time he said it he embarrassed himself. One day he was beefing to me in front of Louie Fazzini (Bruno-Scarfo associate). He made a remark that I walked Bloomfield Ave because of him, not Jerry. I never told Jerry, but my friend Ray Goodell told him. I had to beg Jerry not to beef to Joe Scoops.
As for the zips, Jerry was a loner in the Bonnano's. We never associated with any of the zips.
(Scott L) I would like to know the eastern families ties with Chicago and what they thought about the Mid west families.
I wasn't on a level that families outside of the New York metro area came into play.
(Ducati996SP) I want to know how someone in the mob for so long, sees double cross, and murders committed by the closest of friends actually feel safe at times. I want to know if he was always scared that his best friend was going to pull out a silencer and place it to the back of his head every time they went out to party, when they were at meetings, or at social events. I want to understand if it was normal to feel scared or if he did feel scared, because most hits are done by the closest of friends or when a person is in a very comfortable situation and not expecting it. How can someone see this life and be ignorant enough to get involved in it or stay in it.
Actually I never gave getting whacked a lot of thought. I still don't. But my biggest worry was being told I had to set up or whack a friend. I was very violent when ordered to be, so I knew the game. I'm sure that if I hadn�t I flipped I would have eventually been hit, but you never see it coming.
(Pdslex) Ask him to tell you about Nick Palmieri and what they involved with.
Nick Palmieri and my father were close. Nicky raised me in the mob more than anyone. Once it was apparent that I was destined for a life in "the life" my father asked Nicky to school me. I was like a son to him and he like a second father to me. He was my godfather. I called him coach. He taught me from his mistakes. Even though I could never be straightened out I was schooled as though I could have. I understood Cosa Nostra as well as anyone and better than most and I owe it to Nick. I learned all the bread and butter moves from nick; bookmaking, loansharking, shakedowns etc. Nick was also a very dangerous guy, almost crazy at times. When I was with him most of his hell raising was behind him and he had health issues, but he was still brilliant in both the history and tradition of Cosa Nostra.
(meatball) I would ask if he had to do it all over again would he change anything? How does he really feel about what he did, I mean when he looks in the mirror, and it�s just him and his conscience?
Let me assure you that my decision had nothing to do with anything other than my own personal survival. Any guy like me who says that he flipped because he suddenly had a religious revelation or that he re-evaluated his life and wanted to make up for the bad things he's done is full of shit. I simply weighed out the pros and cons and decided that I was wasting my time if I went to jail just so I could be a stand up guy.
The feds were on me for a year big time before they arrested me. I was counting Chevy Luminas in my sleep instead of sheep. Was it because of Chilli? Was it because of Nicky O? I knew I was the main suspect in the Larry Day murder. I committed crimes every day. When I got pinched it was because of Brian and John Gianola, two brothers I met in jail. They were facing time with Chick Fabio on a score and gave me up to the feds. They were part of my crew, mainly Brian. Chick Fabio and Ray Goodell were also part of the crew. The feds had me for a piece of work I did for Chilli upstate New York. Brian was there when we shook a carting company owner down for the Bonnano's. The guy belonged to the Genovese crew under Bobby Ida, but Ida gave Chilli his blessing to hurt the guy, which I did. I did that by biting the top of his ear off in a Brewster NY restaurant in the middle of a very busy after work cocktail hour.
They also had me on a bank robbery case with Fabio and Brian. They had me on gambling, loansharking, extortion, arson, and money laundering charges. They were going to arrest my mother and wife on money laundering charges because they cashed checks from construction business that I had an interest in. They already had indicted me in the Sally Dogs Genovese family case along with Joe the Indian Polverino and Lenny Macaluso. Joe died in November 1989 but they knew if was his right hand guy so I got thrown into that mess. They also had me on a swag beef with Beesh Taccetta that Nicky O set up.
I later found out that they had my phone bugged for a year. Ronnie Castellano gave me up on a grass operation I was involved with. On top of that the feds knew the state was going to arrest me for Larry Day�s murder. They also knew I didn't do it because they had me on a wiretap when the murder was committed, but they weren't going to let the state know prior to the arrest, so it's safe to assume I was fucked.
They arrested me and I knew I was looking at a RICO conviction, maybe 50 years, 20 at best. I was 37, my oldest kid was 8, my youngest was 2. I learned all those years that to be a successful wiseguy you fuck everyone else. I just did what I was taught. I made the best deal for me, end of story. It had nothing to do with redemption or revenge it had everything to do with getting out from under. I did it to save my own ass. You can say what you want about me but you can't say I�m a hypocrite.
Before most of you condemn me ask yourself what you would have done? As far as things go there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about what I did or I don't miss who I used to be. For all you wanna-be mob groupie types let me say this, don't ever think that any of your mob heroes have any real conscience. We steal; we swindle, cheat and kill when we have to. If you want to live the life leave your conscience at the door. So there it is in a nutshell, but remember the only rats aren't the ones who wear a wire. The mob couldn't make without its internal snitches any more than the law could cut it without guys like me. I'm not proud of what I did, but it�s to late to change any of it now.
(Camden Yard) How does an Irish kid end up as a major player in LCN? Who were the people responsible for his induction into the life? Is there anyone he put away that he regrets? Was he the only one in his family directly involved with LCN?
I always knew the life existed. My father�s friends weren't 9 to 5 guys, although my father was. He worked till he was 77 years old, but he had a lot of friends. I guess he introduced me to the life, but my choices were my own. You can't blame anyone else.
(Rob) I would ask him if at anytime since he has been under protection has he thought of doing anything illegal. Also to straight up admit he did it to save his hide.
First of all I�m not under protection anymore. I left the witness protection program after 3 months. If I come to jersey for anything the FBI gives me security. I got a job and then started my own business after about a year and I�ve never looked back. I got a chance to start all over again and I made the most of it. Sure there�s been some rough spots over the past 7 years but I�d get a part time job before I crossed the line again. It's got nothing to do with a new found moral approach; it�s just the smarter thing to do at this point in my life.
( Chester Prudhomme) Secondly, members of organized crime, labeled as the Mafioso, tend to make a show of their religious faith (usually Catholicism) - is this just another front to hide behind? And if it isn't how do they rationalize the dogma of their faith with their activities?
Everyone has their own set of moral standards. Mob guys are no different. I was educated in Catholic schools for the most part. I have a deep-rooted faith, but I�m not a knee bending Catholic. I guess a lot of guys are like me. Mob guys don't have a franchise on immorality. I�ve known more legit guys who were more morally bankrupt than the wiseguys I�ve known.
( Chester Prudhomme) How much does organized crime engage in countering the publicity aboutthe "Mafia" especially in placing prominent denials in the media thatthere is such a thing as the "Mafia" - in fact, I'd like to hear Mr. Lenehan�s take on whether there is a "Mafia".
There is Cosa Nostra. There is a Sicilian mafia. They are totally separate. Not too many guys I know or knew spend their time waging a campaign to prove that Cosa Nostra doesn't exist. The mob is all Hollywood today. It's wide open and everyone thinks they're a celebrity.
Part 2- Questions from the interviewer:
How old were you when you got started "in the life"?
I was around 13 or 14 when I really became aware of it. I was with Nicky Palmieri a lot and I met a lot of other guys who I knew weren't 9 to 5 guys. I worked in a candy store where the guy moved shy money for my father. I got a birds eye view of gambling, swag and shylocking. By the time I was 15 I was working the door at a 24hr crap game they had in the basement of the store.
Who were some of the bigger mobsters in Jersey during your days on the street ?
Well, the thing about jersey is that there are so many crews. In the Lucchese crew you had Anthony "Tumac" Acceturo, Micheal Tacetta, his brother Marty and Michael Perna. I knew Michael Perna really well. He was like the 'crown prince' of the mob in the late70's and early 80's.He always treated me very well. I could have counted on his friendship if I had needed it. The Colombos had Jimmy Randazzo. Jimmy was a straight shooter. He was all business and a real dangerous guy. I moved a lot of money with him over the years. He was a shylock�s shylock. I got close with him in the 90's.i liked him and he always was nice to me.
The Genovese had a ton of guys around. I was very close with Genovese made guy Joe "the Indian" Polverino. I knew him as a young kid but got real close to him after I got out of jail in 87. I served as a driver for him when he had 'official' business to attend to. Joe didn't let his street friends into his personal world. He kept everyone at arms length when it came to his family. I was one of the few people he invited to his home. I was saddened when he died in 89. I was friendly with John Digilio and most of his crew. I knew all of the Bioardo Genovese faction including Andy Gerardo, Tommy Dephillips, Joe Zarro and Sal Cetrulo.
I was with Jimmy Higgins (Palmieri), so anyone who was a Jersey Gambino guy I got to meet. I always got along with Bobby Cabert (Bisaccia), however because of his dislike for Nicky Olivieri our relationship was strained. I knew Patty Specs (Martorano) from the 70's and Scoops Licata too. We don't have enough time to discuss everyone I knew or met over the years
What kind of dealings did you have in South Florida? Is it really an open a city as people think?
My dealings in south Florida involved my association with Gerry Chilli. I met Gerry in Florida when he sent for me, which was often, but most of our business was in New York. Yeah, Florida is pretty much open territory.
What kind of crimes were you involved in?
I was involved in gambling, loansharking, stick-ups, shakedowns, drugs, and robbery. Let�s put it this way, if there was money to be made I was into it.
How come we never hear about some of the guys you worked with like Vincent "Juicy" Dimodica. Why do some mobsters make the papers while others languish behind the scenes.
Actually, most guys like the shadows. Dimodica is a prime example. You know you have to remember it's supposed to be a "secret'" thing. (LOL)
What is your opinion of Joe Scoops Licata and Nicky Oliveri ?
Scoops Licata is a jerk off in my opinion. He was Tony Banana�s bagman. When Banana�s got clipped, Scoops got rich. When I was in the can in 1986 I heard from Nicky O that Scoops got made. Nicky was passed over and that pissed me off because in my book Scoops is a fag. I once called him a fat fuck to his face because he made a remark about Jerry Chilli to me. There were a lot of people around when I said it including Nicky o, Louie fazzini, Bobby Spags, Marty Taccetta and Jimmy Fede. If Scoops didn't have Mike Perna backing him up no one would have paid him. He's one of those cases where he got respect when he got a button, but he never had it before. He also shit every time Joey Sodano came around. They were both 'acting' skippers for awhile, but Joey was a 'hitter' and Scoops was most certainly not. Nick Olivieri was like my big brother. I used to think he was god until I realized he thought he was god. He's my goombah and godfather to my oldest son. Our families were close. We were partners under Jimmy Higgins (Palmieri) in the early 1980's. I made a lot of money with and for nick. I was the closest person to him, even when our relationship was strained, which it often was. I could count on him and he on me, but it was a love hate thing. We both had over sized egos. It was tough on both of us.
Let me say this about Nick, when it comes to pure balls he's in a league of his own. He doesn't give a fuck. When it comes to the trenches I�d go any where with him, but he's greedy and a bullshitter. A lot of people see him as a fence jumper, that�s why his button isn't recognized. He was set to get hit, along with Scoops, but then they went away. He should just fade away when he gets out because in my opinion he's trunk material.I get sad when I think about the way nick and I both changed over the years. We were truly brothers. He sent a message to me through FBI agent Billy Evenina, that "I broke his heart". I believe that�s true. I wish him well.
How accurate, in your opinion, is the Sopranos at portraying the NJ gangster life ?
I like the Sopranos. It�s entertaining regarding Tony�s home life. I think Gandolfini is accurate in his portrayal and I think Edie Falco is outstanding, although the story lines get a little imaginative once in a while.
Tell me about your relationship with actor Frank Vincent.
I met Frankie Vincent when I had the bar in the Holiday Inn. Nicky O and I shook the joint down for a piece in the early 80's. Frank was selling advertising in a TV magazine. We hit it off. He was shocked at my knowledge of film and just in general. I was heavy in the coke business at the time and he became one of my dealers. Soon we were the best of friends. My wife and mother used to send him food every day because he was always broke. Anyway when I came home from the can in 87 I hooked him up with Ron Castellano so he could continue in the coke business. I was done with it by then. Frank was with me every day, I was buying cars and making him earn. I was also in the limo business so I hooked him up with cars when he needed them.
When I moved into Asbury Park to set up my deal at the Empress Hotel I bought Frank in. We started a corporation called "Frank Vincent�s Hollywood East�". I had him on the payroll for a g-note a week. I sold my interest in the lounge to Joe Lucarelli and he never opened the place as Frank Vincent�s Hollywood East. Lucarelli is another story.
Frank is godfather to my daughter. He had it made with me, but he fucked up and it got him hurt. I was beefing with Ron Castellano because he was trying to shake a friend of mine down. Frankie sided with Ronnie behind my back. Ronnie went to my mother�s house trying to find me. He caused a little commotion and the next night I told Ronnie to meet me on Blf. (Bloomfield) Ave by Ting-A-Lings. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 1990. When
Anyway after I try to clip Ronnie he ran to Nicky Olivieri Jr. Nicky Jr. called me and gave me the heads up that Frank Vincent gave Ron my mother�s address. I made Ray drive me to 515 Mount Prospect Ave where he lived in a high rise. I was going to whack him. I made him come downstairs and when he did I threw him on the ground and was about to shoot him when some old lady came out and started screaming and ray dragged me away. I gave Frank a minor tune up before I left. I never talked to him again. I did see him at Juicy Dimodica�s brother�s wake in 1994. The Juice and me were real tight at the time. Frankie told Juice he thought I was still going to whack him. Juice asked me to leave him be.
Name association- I give a name you tell me your thoughts :
I met him through Nicky O. I wasn't impressed. Nicky was up his ass to get close with Patty Specs. George was no tough guy. Me and Louie Fazzini didn't like him, but maybe that was just sour grapes on our part. How can you dislike someone you don't know? I read his book and realized we were a lot alike in our upbringing, at least as far as OC goes. His book is truthful. From what I know he's done well for himself and for his family in his new life. I wish him well. For awhile I thought this guy "Picasso" who writes on the mob forums was George, but I know now for sure he isn't.
I met him twice; once on Blmf. Ave. with his uncle when they came to see Patty Specs. Nicky O was there and I was with Nicky. Phil was quiet, well dressed and reserved. Our intro was brief. I saw him in Atlantic City once, on the boardwalk. I introduced myself and he remembered our previous meeting on Blmf. Ave. He was very polite and courteous. We have the same FBI handler, as my guy was transferred to A.C. . from Newark. For those interested, he's doing well.
Patty �Specs� Martorano
A prince. I knew patty from Jimmy Higgins. I knew him before Nicky O latched on to his coat tails. I was with Higgins when Patty came to meet Jimmy at the Belmont. He had just been named skipper after the broke Blackie Napoli. What I remember about Patty was that he wasn't a hump and he wasn't greedy. When I came home in 87 I�d meet with him and Turk Cifelli at Michealangelo's Restaurant on Blmf Ave almost every morning. Nicky O would be there too. Every morning we'd do the Daily News crossword puzzle together and then the jumble. My time with him was cut short when he went on the lam later that year. I never saw him after that.
Robert �Cabert� Bisaccia
I knew Bobby from when I was a teenager. I hung around in Silver Lake a lot with Sonny and Buddy Muccigrasso's cousin Joe Carzarella. Me and Joe were like brothers. Everyone thought we were cousins. He called me his cousin Steve and I called him cousin Joey. Anyway I probably met Cabert through Buddy and Sonny. He always liked me. When Higgins died, John Gotti assigned all of Higgins� guys to Bobby. Nicky O went Down Neck to Patty Specs on loan. Joe the Indian claimed me and Bobby couldn't get his hands on either me or Nicky. This pissed him off. He started to really dislike me because he disliked Nicky O. He told me that straight out.
One time I got into a beef with Larry Day. Cabert sided with Larry even though it was none of his business because Larry belonged to Sally Dogs. Anyway Bobby was just about the most powerful guy around and no one to fuck with. He wanted to hurt me to get at Nicky O. Nicky said he had it under control. That�s what Custer told his troops at the little big horn. With that I went to Chilli. At one time he and Bobby were real close and Cabert wouldn't dare fuck with Gerry. We ran into him at the Meadowlands racetrack one afternoon and Gerry put the issue to rest. That really got me under Cabert�s skin.
Later when I was doing things with Juicy Dimodica, Bobby tried to stir up some shit. Juicy told him to fuck off and believe me Juice meant it. Anyway Bobby turned in a beef from jail to Junior Gotti and Jackie the Nose about me and a kid around Juicy, Joey Vollaro. Juice took our back and went to NY to see Junior, Pete Gotti and Jackie the Nose. Pete remembered me from Chilli and Juice told him Gerry had ok'd me to do some things with him. Meanwhile they sent word to Bobby to stop the shit.
My overall feeling about Bobby is this; he was a degenerate gambler who robbed all the guys under him. He is a ballsy guy, but a loudmouth bully who picks his spots. No one said it out loud, but when they gave him 40 years almost everyone, including his own crew said good riddance.
Thomas "Pee-Wee" DePhillips
He was a good guy. He was always nice to me. I knew him before he got made through the time he was a captain.
I met him when I was a young kid with my dad. My dad was 'with' him directly, but I didn't even know what the mob was in those days.
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my father, Nicky Palmieri and Jack Panels bouncing from one joint to another. I met Gyp and his brother-in-law Cy Riga a couple times, but again I wasn't even a teenager yet.
Who was Jack Panels?
Jack "Panels" Santoli was a Genovese guy. Jack was a class guy. He operated in Newark and was under Gyp Decarlo. The other made guys in Gyp�s crew were Joe Polverino, Lucky from Asbury Park (whose name I can never remember) Carl "Leash" Scalesa, Frank Casina and Tommy Lombardi (the last two guys were from Brooklyn). Jack died of a perforated colon in 1972 during surgery to close up his colostomy. He was in his 50�s. I've been told by more than one person, among them Joe Polverino, Nick Palmieri, Turk and Jimmy Palmieri and my father that Jack is the one who shot Frank Costello. I just don't repeat the story because everyone will think I�m nuts.
I never met him.
Nicky Scarfo Sr. and Jr.
I met Nicky Scarfo Sr. with Patty Specs and Nicky one time. It was on a Sunday night. Phil Leonetti was with him. I remember he was drunk. I shook hands and that was it. Nicky and Patty went off by themselves. Now Nick junior is a different story. I got to know him good after he got shot. He was under Scoops and Nicky O's protection while he recovered, so I saw him a lot. He was a good kid but kind of serious. I sold him some swag in �92 to help him earn some cash. I never got paid.
I met him once at a wake for Jimmy Higgin�s son Joey and Jimmy had me walk him and his guys to their car when they left. I met him one other time in the Queen Anne diner. I was waiting for my friend Marco Minichino when Frank Dicicco saw me and called me over to say hello. Frank remembered me from Higgins. Anyway Riggi was with him and again handshakes and 15 seconds of small talk.
How did you know Frank Dicicco ?
I knew Frankie from going out to Brooklyn with Jimmy Higgins. Every Sunday he went to meet Jimmy Brown at the Veterans club Brown ran next to Tommasso's Restaurant on 86th st. in Bensonhurst. Dicicco really liked Nicky O and me. He referred to us as the "peck twins"[pecks bad boy]. He represented Gambino and Castellano at NJ social functions, like weddings and wakes. He should have been boss. I was in the can when he got clipped in April of 86. Nicky and I would never have wound up with Cabert if he had lived, so there would never have been any reason for us to leave the Gambino fold. Life would have been all together different.
I didn't know him except to say hello to. He was a serious tough guy and a hitter. He also had the rep of being a big time earner with big juice across the river
Pete �The Crumb� Caprio
I never met Pete.
Jimmy Higgins Palmieri
I was part of his inner crew from 1981 until he died in 85. If something needed doing it was me and Nicky O that got the call. When Nicky was away it was me. My impression is that Jimmy was the smartest wiseguy I ever met. He knew what you were going to do before you did it. He was a true gangster, a very gruff and uncouth guy. A stone killer and I mean a stone killer. A guy down neck owed me money one time. He ran to Bannanas and I got a threatening phone call. I was about 22 at the time. I told Higgins and he met with Bannanas, the guy, whose name was Pat Ciccalese and me. Bannanas was as scary as they came. I had met him before with my father. Anyway they're talking by themselves and suddenly Jimmy looks straight at Bannanas as says "well you know he's with me now!" He turned and we crossed the street and went into the Belmont. Jimmy then talked to Joe the Indian. I had my money the next day. Jimmy got away with a lot of shit over the years. I think he was really a psychopath, but his big problem was his wife and kids. Everyone was trouble with the exception of his son Peter. Higby was no ones fool
Joe �The Indian� Polverino
Joe was a very tough guy and a gentleman. I got really close with him and referred to him as Uncle Joe. He was great believer in family and of not shitting where you eat. He could have been the captain after Gyp DeCarlo died but he didn't want it. He was a health nut who could still kick most guys asses when he was in his 70's. Sally Dogs sought his advice on all-important matters involving the crew. Joe got lucky when he died, the feds would have banged him with 20 years after Tommy Dimino ratted out the crew. They were going to pinch me on that case too, but I got pinched on the bank case and the rest is history
What, if anything, do you miss about the life ?
I really miss 1976. I was 21 and it was all in front of me. Other than that, honestly, I've moved on.
Why does it seem like so many people around the NJ Bruno-Scarfo crew flipped?
Maybe it's the water in Philly. Seriously I think it is a combination of Nicky Scarfo Sr. being inept and paranoid and the fact that too many young guys got made. I also think that the FBI and Justice Department have too many guns in the arsenal.
How do you really feel about what you did -ever regret making the deal with the feds ?
Unlike a lot of guys who flip I don't offer any excuses. I flipped for selfish reasons. I saw an opening to get out from under and I went through it. The feds had me on a RICO indictment. I was looking at 50,no less than 20.so I made the best deal I could. There�s no sense in trying to justify it. The life wasn't worth my life. I had things to do. I weighed it out and made my decision based on what I thought I could accomplish away from the life.
I know I made the smart move, whether it was the right move only time will tell. What I do know is there is no future in being a wiseguy. It's all over now. I've done ok in the legit world because I�m not lazy. My wife and kids have benefited from the decision I made.
I'll tell you a story. Gerry Chilli is regarded as the ultimate stand up guy, right? He didn't know I flipped until I left, no one knew or had a clue. Gerry knew that Brian Gianolla flipped on me and Chicky. I knew because I was with the feds, Gerry knew because he was trying to combine his Florida case with any outstanding cases. They told him that he and I would be indicted for the garbage case. He called me every week from prison and sometimes more than once a week. He never told me he pled guilty on the garbage thing. If I wasn't co-operating his guilty plea sends me to the can for 20 years. He pled guilty to sending me to hurt the guy. I could never mount a reasonable defense. He sent me down the road and under the bus. He didn't give a fuck, he did what was best for Chilli. This is what the mob is really all about, fuck everyone before they fuck you. But they call Gerry a standup guy. You can't trust anyone and sometimes you can't even trust yourself. I�m glad I�m out. I�m glad my sons will never be part of it, I�m glad I�m alive. What I think about life today is not what I thought about 20 years ago.
Every mobster has a few funny stories about a botched job. What are some (or one) of yours?
I guess I have a few. The one that stands out in my mind is a hijacking I committed in 1976. Along with 2 friends of mine, who are both long deceased, we grabbed a load of Florshiem shoes. This friend of mine Nick "Zinn" Franciose, gave me the score. A driver he knew gave it up. We picked the load up and delivered it to a guy named Emile from Down Neck. He in turn gave it to a Jewish guy from Hudson County. By the way my 2 friends were Alex Cerza and Jimmy Juliano. We got paid 7500.00 for the score, which we whacked up. We headed for the Surf Club in Ortley Beach, with a stop at Monmouth Park racetrack. Needless to say in a short time we were broke. Anyway we did the score on the sneak. I was with Jimmy Higgins, so I was obligated to tell him before I did it and to send him an end.
Well to make a long story short I get word that a couple guys came looking for me at the Belmont Tavern, which was basically my office for 20 years. I call this Emile up and he's shit scared. I asked him what was wrong and he told me the entire load was left shoes only! Now this guy in Fort Lee, Tony, wanted his money back. Now I�m in trouble, so I go see Nicky Palmieri and told him the truth. He took me to Higgins and I told him the truth. He ranted and raved at me and wanted to know who else was involved, but I wouldn't tell him. He got even more pissed and asked me if I had 7500. I didn't have 75 dollars.
So make a long story short I go with Higgins and Johnny M up to Tom Swift�s in Fort Lee to meet this Tony. There were two other guys with him, Mario, who was Tony�s son in law, and Ritchie, who was around Tony. These are the two guys who were looking for me at the Belmont. Well Higgins and this Tony talked for a while and then called me to the table. Tony asked me if I had his 7500, to which I said no. Then this Mario asks me if I could get the cash. They gave me a week. Higgins tells me on the way back that he's putting up the 7500 to cover it, plus another 2500 he was entitled to for me cutting him out of the score. I had to pay him 200 a
Now the funny thing is that Tony was Tony C. Carminati, a Gambino soldier in Joe Paterno's crew along with Higgins. The fix was in before I ever went to the sit at Tom Swift�s. I got close with Tony, Mario and Richie a couple of years down the road and they always busted my balls about it. Higgins gave Tony half the 7500 and Tony told the guy Bernie to mind his business because I was with Higgins. So the breakdown is this. Bernie the Jew loses 7500. Tony C. makes 3750 and Higgins makes 6250.
The moral here? The wiseguy always makes the money.
Scott M. Deitche and Steve Lenehan are currently working on a book about Steve�s life in the mob entitled, A Day�s Pay.
He also runs a website on the Tampa mob at: www.geocities.com/scottyyz.
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