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· Alphonse "Little Al" D’Arco – Revisited
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LAST ISSUE 10-28-02


Alphonse "Little Al" D’Arco – Revisited

     On October 11, 2002, after eleven years as a government witness, Alphonse "Little Al" D’Arco was sentenced to "time served" for his career in crime, which included 10 murders. At the time of his defection D’Arco, as acting boss of the Lucchese Family, was the highest-ranking member of the Mafia to become a "mob rat." His "time served" sentence raised some eyebrows as D’Arco had only spent one night in jail. This was sure to draw comparisons to Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano who, with participation in 19 murders, had spent five years in prison.

     Former prosecutor Gregory O’Connell, who worked with D’Arco in several major trials, described the one-time mob leader as "the most prolific organized crime cooperating witness in history."

     Who was Al D’Arco and what led him to turn on the criminal organization that had occupied his life and brought him to the pinnacle of Mafia leadership in this country.

     In Ernest Volkman’s book about the Lucchese Family, Gangbusters: The Destruction of America’s Last Great Mafia Dynasty, the author gives us this description of the man:

     "…Alphonse D’Arco presented the image of a mild-mannered businessman. Called either ‘Little Al’ (for his small size) or ‘Professor’ (for his studious appearance), D’Arco was a veteran heroin trafficker who had struck up a friendship with Amuso during a prison stretch in the 1960s. In 1982, Amuso arranged for his induction into the Mafia, a ceremony, D’Arco liked to relate later, that included the serving of tea and cookies afterward. A born raconteur, D’Arco was the crew’s clown prince, but this voluble hood had a dark side: in addition to his narcotics dealing, he was also involved in a dozen murders. He ran a small restaurant whose equipment included a store of body bags to use for disposals as the need arose. D’Arco’s chief cook was an arsonist who might be asked to interrupt his cooking at any given time to burn down a building."

     D’Arco was 50 years old when he was initiated into the Lucchese Family in 1982. He had also been considered for membership in the Genovese Family. Shortly after he became a made-member D’Arco was convicted on drug charges and served a three-year sentence, being released in 1986. At this point he was determined to stay out of drug trafficking.

     He turned his attention to opening a restaurant. As Jerry Capeci would describe in a June 1993 article, he wanted "a place to call his own – even if it was in his son’s name. A nice Italian restaurant that served good food and could also double as a meeting place whenever he needed one."

     In 1989, after settling what Capeci called a Little Italy "turf beef" with a Bonanno Family associate and Johnny "Onionhead" Eng, the leader of a Chinese gang called the Flying Dragons, D’Arco opened the La Donna Rosa restaurant.

     At the time of D’Arco’s induction, Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, who was officially only the fourth boss of the family since 1931, was in charge. The Lucchese Family had been led by strong early leadership by bosses who had the ability to stay off the front pages – Gaetano Gagliano and Tommy Lucchese. Corallo replaced Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti, who was convicted of federal perjury charges in October 1973 and handed a five-year sentence.

     A series of indictments and convictions in the mid-1980s would put Corallo behind bars for the rest of his life. On September 18, 1984 he was indicted, along with 20 others mobsters for "conspiring to dominate the private garbage collection business on Long Island." The biggest blow came on February 25, 1985 when the entire leadership of the Lucchese Family was indicted in what became known as the "Commission Case." On January 13, 1987 Corallo, underboss Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro and consigliere Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari were sentenced to 100 years in prison without parole. Corallo died in August 2000 at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri; Santoro died the same year.

      Corallo needed to appoint an acting boss from his prison cell. Working behind the scenes were two men conspiring to lead the family. Vittorio "Vic" Amuso, described by Volkman as "a short, slender man, was gruff and dangerous, almost like a wild beast." He moved up in the Lucchese Family after drawing the attention of Tramunti while a "strong-arm thug and enforcer for the Brooklyn faction’s extensive heroin operations."

     Volkman offered a less kinder description of Amuso’s sidekick Anthony "Gas Pipe" Casso:

     "Casso’s mind was often preoccupied with thoughts of deadly revenge against his enemies, real or perceived. An absolute psychopath, one of those rare blood types of humanity who really liked killing people (often torturing them horribly beforehand), Casso had already murdered more than two dozen people in his twenty-five-year Mafia career. He was a perfect example of a class of Mafiosi known as street hood, the kind of soldier useful for an organization that occasionally had need of unquestioning, violent loyalists willing to do the dirty work of leg-breaking and murder. Usually of low mental capacity (as was Casso) they were enlisted by the organization strictly for their brawn, which meant they would occupy a permanent rank at the bottom of the organization chart."

     Casso had no intention of ranking "at the bottom" of the Lucchese Family’s organization chart. Volkman claims Amuso and Casso "shared several characteristics: explosive tempers, sinister reputations as stone-killers, and vaunting ambitions to become major Mafia leaders in the Tony Ducks Corallo mode."

     Despite their ambitions, Jerry Capeci would sum as their administration as a "disaster." He writes that Amuso and Casso "were totally out of their depth in the subtleties of running such a major operation. Their main idea of management was to kill anyone who displeased them in any way. Their secondary plank was to kill anyone whom they thought might displease them."

     Volkman claims that in early 1987 Corallo’s choice for his successor was Anthony "Buddy" Luongo. It was a short reign as Amuso, who Volkman described as Luongo’s chief aide, lured the new boss to a meeting and killed him. Despite being told by "Tom Mix" Santoro not to promote Amuso, Corallo soon went against his underboss’s advice.

     It was into this backdrop of murderous deceit that Alphonse D’Arco would find himself being promoted to capo in 1988. The picture would not get any better. More than two years later the incident that propelled D’Arco into the acting leadership role of the Lucchese Family was the 1990 indictment of 15 people involved in what would become known as the "Windows Case."

     From 1978 to 1990 four of New York City’s crime families (the Bonannos were the exception) profited from a window replacement racket that brought them millions of dollars. The lead family in this cartel was the Luccheses who controlled Local 580 of the Architectural & Ornamental Ironworkers Union, which provided workers in the metropolitan area.

     In Gotham Unbound James B. Jacobs, a Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University, states:

     "Federal prosecutors charged that Cosa Nostra had imposed a $1 to $2 per window charge on most public and some private window-replacement contracts in New York City. These proceeds lined the pockets of corrupt union officials, housing authority officials, and Cosa Nostra bosses.

     For twelve years, Cosa Nostra reaped profits from its windows racket while consumers and taxpayers paid roughly a 10 percent Mafia tax on window-replacement contracts."

     One of the chief profiteers from the window’s scam was Peter Savino, the owner of Arista Window Company and a Genovese Family associate. Around 1987 Savino was ratted out by an ex-business partner-turned cocaine smuggler who was working a deal with he feds. When nailed Savino agreed to wear a wire and recorded conversations between 1988 and 1989 with high level mob participants involved in the racket. His work came to an end when Savino was exposed by a leak in the police department’s Intelligence Division.

     Once word of Savino’s treachery reached Amuso and Casso they knew it would only be a matter of time before they were indicted. They quickly ordered the murder of John "Sonny Blue" Morrissey, a Lucchese associate and Local 580 business agent. They were afraid Morrissey, a co-defendant in the case, might cut a deal and become a prosecution witness who could confirm the Savino tapes and testimony. Morrissey, a self-proclaimed "stand-up guy" was lured by Lucchese capo and friend Peter "Fat Pete" Chiodo into the New Jersey countryside where he was killed and buried.

     Amuso and Casso went into "deep hiding" and from their hole they began to order the deaths of anyone and everyone they thought could be a danger to their well being. Amid the murder and turmoil a change was coming to D’Arco’s life. Volkman relates D’Arco "was summoned to a late-night rendezvous near the Verranzano Narrows Bridge and informed he would function as the on-site boss of the family while Amuso and Casso were in hiding."

Next Week – Part two of the D’Arco story as the murderous duo of Vic Amuso and Gas Pipe Casso chase D’Arco into the non-waiting arms of the FBI.

Short Takes      

Arizona – Unless Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano dies in prison we probably won’t be hearing from him over the next 20 years. He received his final sentence last week on his conviction for "masterminding" an ecstasy drug ring in the state that reached all the way to New York City. Gravano, who is battling a disease that is attacking his immune system, was handed 19 years to be served concurrently with the 20 years he received in New York.

Trials and Tribulations:      

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.



November 4, 2002 – Hackensack, NJ – The racketeering trial of Danny Provenzano is "tentatively" scheduled to get underway. The great-nephew of Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano is charged with extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars through fear, intimidation and violence. This trial was originally scheduled for September. AM.com would like to thank reporter Peter Pochna for the update. Pochna advises there could be more delays.

November 4, 2002 – New York – Jury selection is scheduled to get underway for David P. Grossman, Robert Santoro and Frank "Big Frank the German" Schwamborn. The three were part of the 45-person indictment in April 2001.

December 3, 2002 – Camden – The trial of James R. Mathis, Jr. is scheduled to begin. He is charged with corruption involving disgraced mayor Milton Milan. The federal trial will be in the courtroom of US District Judge Joseph H. Rodriquez.

December 2002 – Philadelphia – The trial of William "Billy" Rinick and Joseph Viola, Jr. on eleven federal drug counts will get underway before US District Judge Eduardo Robrena.

January 6, 2003 – 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. Due to "administrative delays" the trial has been pushed into next year. The trial was originally scheduled for January 28, then rescheduled for June 24, then rescheduled for September 17. AM.com thanks J. M. Lawrence for this update.

January 21, 2003 – Cleveland – Richard E. Detore goes to trial on one count of conspiring to violate a federal bribery statute involving United States Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. US District Court Judge Ann Aldrich, who presided over Traficant’s first trial in 1983, will hear the case. This was rescheduled from July 29, 2002, then from November 12. AM.com would like to thank the Vindicator’s Patricia Meade for the update.

January 27, 2003 – Youngstown – The trail of Sam "Skinny Sam" Fossesca, which was originally scheduled for August, has been postponed until after the new year. AM.com has been told that the end result of this trial will "blow the lid off the Naples/Carabbia War of the late 1970s and early 1980s."

January 2003 – Boston – "Big Paul" DeCologero goes on trial for ordering the murder of 19 year-old Miss Aislin Silva who disappeared on November 13, 1996. US District Judge Rya W. Zobel will oversee the case. DeCologero is expected to represent himself.

NO WORD ON THIS – September 9, 2002 – Camden – The trial of Daniel M. Daidone is scheduled to begin. He is charged with corruption involving disgraced mayor Milton Milan. Daidone answered to former Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale, who is expected to testify. The federal trial will be in the courtroom of US District Judge Joseph H. Rodriquez.

POSTPONED INDEFINITELY – Rochester, NY – Albert M Ranieri goes on trial for conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Since his arrest on December 29, 2000, another defendant, prominent defense attorney Anthony Leonardo, Jr., has pled guilty and implicated Ranieri in the May 2000 murder of his former business partner Anthony Vaccaro. Authorities also suspect Ranieri of a 1990 armor car heist of $11 million. On July 8 the deputy court clerk for Judge Jonathan Feldman has informed AM.com that no date has been established for this trial.


November 7, 2002 – Detroit – Anthony Joseph Zerilli the alleged underboss of the Detroit Mafia will be sentenced for his August 19 conviction of seven racketeering and extortion felonies. The 74 year-old will be sentenced by US District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff.

December 4, 2002 – Philadelphia – Michael A. Focoso is scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty on August 22 to one count of conspiracy and one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school in South Philadelphia. Focoso was part of a cocaine distribution ring which involved William "Billy" Rinick and Joseph Viola, Jr. Since Focoso is expected to testify against the two don’t be surprised if the sentencing date is moved back.

December 6, 2002 – Hackensack – Douglas Peek, Bernard Recanti and Paul Sabo are scheduled to be sentenced by Bergen County Superior Court Judge William Meehan. The three men were indicted in May 1999 along with alleged Genovese Family associate Danny Provenzano. All three may end up testifying against Provenzano, which may delay their sentencing on charges of extortion and criminal coercion.

Early 2003 – Chicago – The sentencing date for the recent convictions of Betty Loren-Maltese (Cicero town president), Michael Spano, Sr. (the Outfit’s alleged boss of Cicero) and five others has not been scheduled but it is believed it will not take place until after the first of the year. The seven were convicted after a ten-week trial, which ended with guilty verdicts for all but one defendant on August 23.

January 6, 2003 – Boston – Robert C. Luisi, Jr. will be sentenced for his September 27 conviction on drug charges of possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy. He is facing up to ten years in prison.

NO WORD ON THIS – May 2, 2002 – Rochester Thomas Marotta pled guilty to federal narcotics charges and is waiting sentencing. US District Judge David Larimer’s deputy court clerk tells AM.com no date has been set for the sentencing.

NO WORD ON THIS – May 2002 – New York – Donna Curra, wife of Dominick "Little Dom" Curra, is scheduled to be sentenced for lying to the FBI after her husband fled on Christmas Eve 2001 to Costa Rica. She is looking at a 6 to 12 month stretch. Meanwhile, "Little Dom" remains in a Costa Rica jail fighting extradition.

NO WORD ON THIS – September 9, 2002 – Camden – Robert E. Gibson, the former Camden sewer superintendent and a 40-year employee of the city, will be sentenced for accepting illegal payments. Gibson claimed he was swept up in the corruption of disgraced mayor Milton Milan’s administration. He is looking at 18 to 24 months.

NO WORD ON THIS – September 2002 – Philadelphia – Albert R. Coccio, Jr. will be sentenced by US District Judge John P. Fullam after his May 28 guilty plea to charges of wire fraud, making false statements and money laundering. Coccio, a South Philadelphia contractor who at one time employed Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, faces 6 to 18 months in prison.

NO WORD ON THIS – October 11, 2002 – New York – Bonanno Family underboss Salvatore "the Chief" Vitale is scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty on June 14 to racketeering charges involving gambling, loansharking and money-laundering operations which he ran out of the European American Bank in Melville, Long Island. Vitale faces an incarceration period of 33 to 41 months.

Contact: AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com


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