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LAST ISSUE 12-31-01


Traficant Arrogance at All-Time High

     "I’m going right at their ass," said Mahoning Valley Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. on the steps of the Federal Court House in Cleveland, Ohio. In concluding his talk to reporters the flamboyant congressman stated he hasn’t even looked at the government’s evidence against him in a trial that begins next month. Traficant ended his bull session by wishing reporters a happy holiday. If Assistant US Attorney Craig S. Morford has his way, it will be the last "happy holiday" Traficant sees for a while.

     During the last two weeks of December there have been important developments in the case. In papers filed with the court by Morford, the government revealed that it intends to use Traficant’s "dealings with a Youngstown businessman [Henry P. Nemenz] to demonstrate a pattern of racketeering."

     In these "dealings" the government will introduce evidence from several Mahoning Valley businessmen, including Anthony and Robert Bucci, Henry Bucheit, John J. Cafaro, James A. Sabatine, A. David Sugar, Greg Tyson and Nemenz. Cafaro, Sabatine and Sugar have already pled guilty and will testify against Traficant.

     In a December 23 article Warren Tribune Chronicle reporter Charles A. Mason discussed how the government defines Traficant’s "pattern of racketeering":

     "Traficant has dealings with an individual in need of some help related to issues that the congressman might act upon in his official capacity. A relationship develops. As the congressman ‘attempts’ to solve the individual’s problem, Traficant, in turn asks for that individual to provide him with something…

     "That item might include physical improvements to the Traficant family farm, transportation, or other items.

     "When it comes time to pay, …the congressman feigns economic hardship because of federal Internal Revenue Service wage attachments and doesn’t pay the individual for the work or the service, sending a subordinate to negotiate a lesser cash settlement.

     "Individuals fearful of reprisals from the powerful congressman meekly accept the arrangement. The congressman also discredits the work done or the credibility of the individual claiming the debt…"

     In prosecuting a RICO case the government is required to show "a minimum of two acts of racketeering and prove the acts were related."

     In my November 19 Mob Report I quoted Traficant as stating, "I think they have a pretty good strategy this time. They put 30 counts on the board and all they need is one [conviction]. It’s not going to be easy." A prominent Cleveland attorney told AmericanMafia.com last week that one of Morford’s strengths is that he keeps "piling up the charges until the defendant weakens under the pressure and pleads out."

     Many times the "plead out" guarantees that the defendant will testify, if necessary, for the government. In return, defendants who cooperated, and have been sentenced, received what some observers considered "lenient" sentences. In this current clean up of the Mahoning Valley practically all of the sentences handed down have come from US District Court Judge Kathleen O’Malley.

     Two weeks ago, while filling in for popular Youngstown radio host Dan Ryan on WKBN, Traficant told his audience that "He’s been told his chances of beating the federal government twice on a RICO act charge are one in 20 million."

     Meanwhile, Traficant continues efforts to dump his co-defendant Richard E. Detore of Virginia. Listening to Detore’s attorneys it sounds more like they want to dump the congressman. John M. Dowd, a Washington DC area lawyer, made the following comments in a 29-page motion filed with US District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells:

     "Mr. Traficant will make every effort to use the courtroom as his pulpit and will turn his trial into a highly-publicized circus.

     "His antics and the media attention they will capture will undoubtedly dominate the case, such that Mr. Detore’s ability to mount his own, separate defense will be utterly thwarted.

     "Detore will suffer by mere association with Traficant."

     Oh, Baby! Wouldn’t you love to see this attorney sharing the defense table with the Congressman come February 4? Apparently Craig Morford does. The prosecutor told Judge Wells that the government does not want to try the cases separately and would concede "a short continuance" to allow Dowd – Detore’s third lawyer – to prepare his case. More to come!

EDITORS NOTE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Friday, January 4 that US District Judge Lesley Wells has severed Richard Detore's case from Congressman James A. Traficant's. The Virginia businessman's trial has been pushed back to July 29, 2002.

     Also, from Youngstown we have heard news that former FBI agent, and one-time Youngstown Police Chief, Stanley Peterson has passed away. Peterson was the target of Traficant for years, the congressman continually protesting that Peterson was a puppet of the Mob.


Coming Attraction: Next week AmericanMafia.com begins a two-part look – fact vs. fiction – at the murder of Boston’s Edward "Teddy" Deegan. The murder, which took place in 1965, has become the talk of the town and a thorn in the side of Beantown’s beleaguered FBI office.

Book Report     ^TOP

     In a book review on August 21, 2000 about Paul Kavieff’s The Purple Gang I questioned why he left out Italian criminals in his coverage. Little did I know that a second publication, The Violent Years: Prohibition and the Detroit Mobs, was already underway.

     While The Purple Gang was strictly an organized crime book dealing with the activities of the city’s Jewish mobsters, Kavieff’s new release steps outside those boundaries. The book covers kidnappings, bank robberies and other headline-grabbing crimes that took place in the Motor City during the Prohibition Era.

     While I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more input on traditional Mafia activities, Kavieff does an excellent job explaining the Giannola / Vitale War and discussing the River Gang and its activities. However, in a chapter titled "The Fish Market Murders," the author comes up short in his talk about the death of Sam Catalonotte and Caesar "Chester" LaMare’s attempted takeover of the Detroit underworld. I feel the author leaves out some important aspects of the murder of Gasper Scibilia at the fish market. He fails to point out that Scibilia was also known as Gaspar Milazzo and was an intimate of Buffalo Family boss Stefano Magaddino. In fact, Scibilia’s murder was key incident in the Castellammarese War that was raging in New York. In Joseph Bonanno’s A Man of Honor the old mob boss states, "We had no doubt [Joe ‘the Boss] Masseria was responsible for Milazzo’s slaying."

     I’m hoping that Kavieff has additional books in progress that will bring us up to the present day. The author is a good researcher, has an easy reading style and is even more date conscious than yours truly. If I may speak for other organized crime history buffs and give Paul a wish list, then here’s hoping the next book, or books, will deal with: 1) the long lineage of the Zerillis, the Toccos and the Giacalones; 2) goes outside the city to discuss the Detroit mob’s influence and 3) touches on Hoffa only where it needs to, but doesn’t try to compete with the 20 books on him already out there – it’s not necessary.

     I feel if Kavieff can accomplish this he will be the expert people turn to whenever they want to know anything about Detroit – like Rick Porrello is for Cleveland and Scott Deitche is for Tampa.

Short Takes     ^TOP

Camden – Federal prosecutors are back in court fighting the appeal of Milton Milan one year after his conviction. The disgraced former mayor was sentenced to 87 months last June 15 for accepting payoffs from organized crime, soliciting bribes from city vendors, skimming money from a political action committee and laundering drug money. In a 105-page appeal filed this past September, Milan, a Black man, played the proverbial "race card" by claiming Assistant US Attorney’s Renee M. Bumb and Mary A. Fucher used peremptory juror challenges to exclude two men and one woman who were Black. The attorney, Richard Coughlin, also stated that Judge Joel Pisano screwed up his jury instructions by using the phrase "moral certainty" in describing the threshold for reasonable doubt. Coughlin claimed the miscue led jury members to believe that they could convict Milan based on "lesser proof than that needed to meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt." Trial watchers, however, had no doubt whatsoever that Milan got what he deserved. The 2000 trail featured the first appearance by prized government witness Ralph Natale, the former mob boss of Philadelphia.

Newark – A victory for the good guys! US District Judge Nicholas Politan decided on December 26 that "the FBI did not overstep its bounds when it secretly installed a system on the computer" of Nicodemo "Young Nicky" Scarfo, Jr. back in 1999. Politan also ruled that prosecutors did not have to share the details of the technology with defense attorneys claiming that a "watered down" version of the key logger system should suffice and not cripple their ability to defend Scarfo. Defense lawyers were hoping that with the government being forced to decide between revealing how the system worked or dismissing charges against Scarfo that prosecutors would choose the latter. Reporter John P. Martin of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote, "The technology has been used by agents in foreign-intelligence gathering, but the Scarfo case marked the first time investigators acknowledged it to battle domestic crime. The system is so secret that prosecutors refused to share details of the technology, citing national security." Defense attorneys "hinted" that an appeal is possible – especially if they lose – claiming that "it’s evidence…crucial to the case." Now there’s a surprise. No date has been set for the trial.

Pittsburgh – Thomas "Sonny" Ciancutti, the 72 year-old alleged "kingpin" of Western Pennsylvania gambling, has agreed to plead guilty when his case comes to trial on January 22. Ciancutti was arrested with 14 others in October 2000. At that time Ciancutti was charged with racketeering, criminal conspiracy, bookmaking, money laundering and dealing with illegal gambling devices. If convicted he faced up to 40 years in prison. The plea bargain calls for something much less than that. Look for something in the two-year range and a hefty fine. Entering pleas with Ciancutti will be Ralph "Big Head" Maselli and Jeffrey Risha. AmericanMafia.com wonders what role, if any, former Youngstown mob leader Lenine Strollo had in any of this. Mob watchers in Cleveland and the Mahoning Valley have been wondering if Strollo, who began squealing in March 2000, would rat out any members of the Pittsburgh Family, from whom he took orders. Ciancutti was allegedly connected to one-time Pittsburgh heavyweight Gabriel "Kelly" Mannarino.

Rochester, New York – Prosecutors are toiling away building a RICO case against Albert M. Ranieri. In December 2000 Ranieri was arrested with attorney Anthony Leonardo, Jr. and charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Leonardo has already pled guilty to drug charges, money laundering and conspiracy to commit murder – the May 2000 killing of Anthony Vacarro. Prosecutors, in their efforts to present a RICO case, are believed to be putting together charges of cocaine trafficking, money laundering, the Vacarro murder and a 1990 armored car heist, which allegedly netted Ranieri and his father some $11 million. The pair were arrested in 1992, but charges were dropped within hours after an informant was deemed unreliable. Ranieri’s attorney, Michael Tallon, claims his client "has been a thorn in the paw of the FBI" over the armored car robbery. Ranieri was once under such intense scrutiny that FBI agents assigned to tail him rear-ended his automobile.

Youngstown – Disgraced former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District Director Edward Flask answered questions about his finances before a federal bankruptcy court trustee at a hearing held at Youngstown State University on December 18. Flask filed for protection from his creditors under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code on October 19 just three days before a civil case, filed by the Ohio attorney general’s office, was to begin. Under a pounding from Ohio Assistant Attorney General Michelle Sutter, who asked what happened to approximately $2.0 million Flask earned between 1991 and 1997, the disbarred attorney squeaked out, "It’s gone," and claimed the money was used for legal fees and living expenses. Creditors have until February 4, 2002 to object to the filing. The attorney general’s office will hold a closed door hearing with Flask on January 24 to ask him more questions about his finances. Flask, the son of a former Youngstown mayor, pled guilty in June 2000 to two felonies for having an unlawful interest in contracts with the district while he was director. Flask served a 90-day jail sentence and received a one year suspended jail sentence.

This Week in Mob History     ^TOP

Missed one from last week:

December 30, 1976 – Richard Castucci, one-time owner of the infamous Ebbtide lounge in Revere, Massachusetts, was believed to have been murdered by Winter Hill mobsters James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi after allegedly telling the FBI the whereabouts of two fugitives who were friends of Bulger. An October 11, 2000 indictment tied rogue Boston FBI agent John J. Connolly, Jr. to the murder. Castucci was found in the trunk of his car behind the Northgate Shopping Center in Revere.

January 7, 1910 – Beneditto Cinene was a victim of the Black Hand in Chicago. Author John Kobler wrote about the 60 year-old Cinene in his book Capone to expose how the Italian community responded to such crimes. Kobler revealed, "To every question put by the police sergeant from the Chicago Avenue Station the murdered man’s relatives all replied with the same three words: ‘Me don’t know.’ His son-in-law simply shrugged."

January 7, 1982 – Frank "Chickie" Narducci, Sr., according to George Anastasia, was a "Mafia capo who planned the Philip Testa murder." Testa was the underboss to Angelo Bruno and his successor. Narducci was unhappy when Nicodemo Scarfo became boss of the family and let his thoughts be known. On January 4, 1982 jury selection began in a RICO trial in which Narducci was a defendant. Three days later, after arriving home after court, Narducci was shot ten times in the face, neck and chest and "died bleeding in the gutter." Testa’s son, Salvatore "Salvie" Testa, was one of the shooters. He later told an associate that he waited until Narducci looked him in the eye before he opened fire. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_5-8-00.html

January 7, 1993 – Rod Colombo was described as a muscle-bound mob enforcer by George Anastasia. Hired to collect money for John Stanfa, the Philadelphia mob boss believed Colombo was pocketing more than his share and decided to make "an example" of him. Colombo was found behind the wheel of his Cadillac in Audubon, New Jersey with two bullet holes in the back of his head.

January 8, 1929 – Pasqualino "Patsy" Lolordo was murdered just a little over a month after returning from the Statler Hotel debacle in Cleveland. Lolordo and his wife Aleina were returning from a trip downtown. When they arrived home they were met by two men outside their apartment. After lunch the two guests departed and five minutes later there was knock at the Lolordo door. Three men entered and were cordially welcomed by Lolordo. While Aleina ironed clothes in the kitchen and a Black maid scrubbed the floors, the four men talked business and laughed in the living room. At approximately 4:00 p.m., while delivering one more toast, two of the men pulled out .38 caliber guns shot Lolordo eleven times in the face, neck and chest. Aleina rushed into the living room to see her husband lying on the floor covered with blood. A velvet cushion from a sofa had been placed under the dying man’s head. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_11-6-00.html

January 10, 1926 – Henry Spignola, described as "a respected elder of the community," was the brother-in-law of Angelo Genna. In the mid-1920s the Genna family was attempting to dominate both the whiskey production in Chicago’s Little Italy and the city’s Unione Siciliana. They were unsuccessful at both. In a period of 44 days during the spring and summer of 1925 three Genna brothers were murdered and the rest fled town. Spignola, a lawyer, had been a contributor to the defense fund of the Sicilian killing duo of Anselmi and Scalise, who had served the Gennas. When he refused to re-contribute he was wined and dined and then cut down by shotgun blasts as he left Amato’s Restaurant on South Halsted Street. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_10-15-00.html

January 10, 1932 – Mrs. Fernando Serrano was the innocent victim of a murder attempt made on her husband, a South Florida gambler. According to our Tampa expert Scott Deitche, "Fernando Serrano, who ran a bolito operation, was sitting in his car on 15th Street in Ybor City, Florida with his wife, and talking to his brother. A Ford pulled up next to the Serrano’s car and opened fire with a shotgun. Mrs. Serrano took a load of s buckshot in her face and was dead on arrival at the hospital." Fernando was only slightly wounded. No one was ever charged.

January 11, 1943 – Carlo Tresca was an internationally known anarchist and newspaper publisher. A one-time friend of Benito Mussolini, Tresca became an avid critic of the Italian dictator, which many believe led to his assassination at the hands of Carmine Galante the future mob boss of the Bonanno Family.

January 11, 1979 – James "Peeps" Cononico was an early victim of the Mahoning Valley’s Naples / Carabbia War. Cononico met Youngstown underboss Joseph "Little Joey" Naples while serving a sentence at Allenwood prison, a minimum-security facility in Pennsylvania. Naples sought the protection of Cononico, a Warren, Ohio burglar while he was incarcerated. In return, Naples allegedly promised Cononico a piece of the gambling action in Trumbull County – Carabbia brothers’ territory – once he was released. After Cononico was paroled, he opened a bookmaking operation in Trumbull County with Naples’ blessing. The 40 year-old Cononico was gunned down in the parking lot of a Youngstown halfway house on Market Street.

Trials and Tribulations     ^TOP

Due to space constraints the complete "Trials and Tribulations" listing will only be shown on the first Monday of the month. Weekly we will show only the dates that fall within the next 30 days as well as any new additions.

AmericanMafia.com attempts to keep its audience advised of ongoing legal matters in the world of organized crime. New entries and addition to existing information will appear in RED.


January 7, 2002 – Atlanta – Former Atlanta police officer Jack Redlinger goes on trial for allegedly fixing traffic tickets for Gold Club employees in exchange for cash. Redlinger is the last of 17 people indicted in the Gold Club case. Everyone else has either gone to trial or pled guilty.

January 8, 2002 – Buffalo – Four police detectives go on trial on charges of stealing money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a drug dealer. The four officers have been suspended, with pay, since their March 2000 arrests.

January 28 – Boston – Retired state trooper Richard J, Schneiderman goes on trial on charges that he hampered the FBI’s search for James "Whitey" Bulger by letting Bulger family members know that the FBI had requested pen registers on their telephones.

January 2002 – Chicago – Michael Spano, Sr., alleged mob boss of legendary Cicero, Illinois, goes on trial for attempting to bribe a high-ranking federal official to obtain a pardon or clemency for former Chicago Outfit boss Rocco Infelice in 1998.

February 2002 – Boston – Stephen "the Rifleman" Fleming is scheduled for trial this month. The co-Winter Hill Gang leader is charged with killing ten people.

February 2002 – Miami – Genovese mobster and Trafficante Family associate John Mamone and members of the Tampa family's Miami faction go on trial for racketeering and money laundering. AM.com contributor Scott Deitche will keep us posted on this one when it comes up.

February 4, 2002 – Cleveland – Mahoning County Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. begins his third trial. The flamboyant former sheriff is one for two in successfully representing himself.

April 2, 2002 – Providence – Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. goes to trial for his indictment in Operation Plunder Dome.

May 2002 – Chicago – Michael Spano, Sr. and Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese go to trial for looting the city coffers of millions of dollars.


January 11, 2002 – Queens, NY – Ralph Romano will be sentenced for his recent conviction in the murder of John Spensieri

January 21, 2002 – New York City – John "Porky" Zancocchio, a Bonanno Family soldier will be sentenced for his October 28 guilty plea to charges of loan sharking and tax evasion.

January 23, 2002 – Boston – Four men found guilty of involvement in an armored car heist will be sentenced.

February 26, 2002 – Miami – Gambino Family members Anthony "Tony Pep" Trentacosta and Frederick Massaro and associate Ariel Hernandez will be sentenced for their December 14, 2001 convictions. The convictions ended a four-year probe into mob influence in Southern Florida.

March 1, 2002 – New York – Dominick "Little Dom" Curra will be sentenced for trying to sell fake artwork. Curra was at one time a "personal bookie" for "Dapper Don" John Gotti. He pled guilty in mid-trial on December 14, 2001.

March 22, 2002 – Trenton – Joseph V. Lo Re and four others will be sentenced for their December 17 conviction for an embezzlement conspiracy involving a Bayonne, New Jersey waterfront union.

March 27, 2002 – New York – Joseph "Joey Flowers" Tangorra will be sentenced after a plea agreement was reached on December 21. Tangorra admitted to wounding a man in 1992 over an unpaid debt and dealing in cocaine for 15 years.

April 29, 2002 – Chicago – Originally scheduled for January 31, the sentencing of the former chief of Chicago detectives William Hanhardt was delayed to allow prosecutors additional time to prepare their pre-sentence report. Hanhardt pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy and interstate theft for operating a nationwide jewelry theft ring that involved members of organized crime. Hanhardt, 72 years old, has been held since an unsuccessful suicide attempt this past October.

June 13, 2002 – New York – Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico will be sentenced after pleading guilty to extortion, loansharking and money laundering. The son of jailed-for-life mobster Carmine "the Snake" Persico was the alleged "acting boss of the Colombo family.

Contact: AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com

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