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· Traficant Back in the News
Gotti’s 61st …His Last?
· Binion Murder Update
· Busy Few Weeks in Philly
· This Week in Mob History

LAST ISSUE 10-22-01


Traficant Back in the News

     Federal prosecutors in Cleveland filed a superceding indictment on October 26 in their case against Mahoning Valley Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. The new charges came after a plea agreement by James Sabatine, a Canfield, Ohio businessman. Sabatine, the former owner of a paving company, confessed to giving Traficant $2,400 for access to a railroad extension near his asphalt plant. The congressman is also accused of soliciting labor from Sabatine for his Green Township horse farm.

     Sabatine joins the growing list of Youngstown area businessmen that have pleaded guilty to seeking favors from the congressman and have now decided to testify against him as part of their plea agreements. The trial is still scheduled for February 4, 2002.

     In addition, Traficant now has a co-defendant. Ricahrd E. Detore, of Clifton, Virginia, the former COO of US Aerospace Group, was charged with conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute. This arises from Detore’s participation in helping to conceal the payments made to Traficant from John J. Cafaro for repairs on the congressman’s houseboat.

     On Monday, October 29 government attorneys announced they were streamlining their case by agreeing not to use more than 40 documents seized from the congressman. Traficant claimed that all of the documents taken were protected under a federal Speech or Debate Clause afforded to congressional members. When asked to provide a list of the documents that fell under this privilege Traficant claimed the government had the burden of proof of deciding that.

Gotti’s 61st…His Last?     ^TOP

     Former AmericanMafia.com columnist Al Guart reported in the New York Post that convicted Gambino mob boss John Gotti spent what will probably be his last birthday with his wife and daughter, Victoria. Guart reported that a family confidante stated, "We’re coming to the end. It’s only a matter of weeks and I don’t think we’ll get to New Years."

     Gotti, who is back at the Springfield medical facility prison after being treated for a blood clot and internal bleeding early in October, was able to "touch his family briefly" on this birthday visit.

     Gotti-philes everywhere are clamoring for him to be returned to his family to live out what are expected to be his final weeks. However, there is no reason to believe that the government will allow their ex-nemesis this privilege.

     Meanwhile, Gotti’s soon to be ex-son-in-law, Carmine Agnello, was finally sentenced in his racketeering/extortion/arson case. After Judge Nina Gershon’s guffaw in announcing that Agnello was to receive 180 months, a 15 year stretch, she corrected herself and announced it was 108 months and an $11 million fine.

     Through a statement read by his lawyer, Agnello apologized "to the court and his family" and said that he was looking forward to completing his sentence and getting back to the "three most important people" in his life – his three sons, Carmine, John and Frankie.

     Since their divorce announcement in September 2000, Victoria Gotti is no longer afforded "important" status in Agnello’s life. Victoria didn’t even appear in court for the sentencing. Agnello will be facing her, however, as the divorce proceedings go forward.

     Mob insiders wonder what role, if any, Agnello, a one-time capo in the Gambino Family, will have once he is out of prison.

Binion Murder Update     ^TOP

     On October 8 lawyers handling the appeal process for Sandy Murphy filed a motion to establish bail for the 29 year-old ex-stripper, who is serving a 22 year minimum sentence after being convicted in the death of Teddy Binion. Murphy’s team of lawyers, Herb Sachs and Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, told Judge Joseph Bonaventure that Murphy "should not have to spend the duration of the appellant process in prison since she has a ‘meritorious appeal,’ which most likely will conclude with a dismissal or new trial."

     In a hearing two days later, Las Vegas Chief Deputy District Attorney David Roger, who tried the case, told Bonaventure that Murphy was a flight risk and danger to the community and didn’t deserve to be let go while the appeal played out.

     "This isn’t a sweet young thing," Roger told the judge. "She’s a murderess."

     Bonaventure agreed and denied the motion.

     Meanwhile, on October 25, Jeff German of the Las Vegas Sun reported that in 1999 the FBI filed an affidavit seeking permission to conduct wiretaps on possible "co-conspirators" in the Binion slaying. The target of the taps was Robert Marshall a four-time convicted felon and drug dealer. Lawyers for Marshall were seeking to have a seal put on the affidavit.

     German reported that, "The affidavit sought permission to wiretap members of a local ‘criminal organization’ allegedly linked to Marshall to see whether any of them participated in Binion’s slaying. What is interesting is that at the time of the request Sandra Murphy and her lover, Montana businessman Rick Tabish, had already been charged with the murders.

     Murphy’s attorney Herb Sachs said he planned to get a copy of the affidavit immediately. Prosecutor Roger claimed that he was never made aware of the FBI’s interest in the Binion murder. "If there was something big, I’m sure the FBI would have shared it with me by now," Roger stated.

Busy Few Weeks in Philly     ^TOP

     A federal judge in Newark, New Jersey cleared the way for alleged Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino to face repeat murder charges in the death of North Jersey mob capo Joseph Sodano. During the recent Philadelphia trial, which ran from April to July 2001, Peter Caprio testified for the government that Merlino ordered the killing. Former Philadelphia boss Ralph Natale told the court that Sodano was killed because he refused to come to Philadelphia for a meeting with the new mob leadership.

     In that trial Merlino was acquitted by the jury of that murder, two others, two attempted murders and cocaine trafficking. However, he was convicted of racketeering, extortion, receiving stolen property and illegal bookmaking and faces up to seven years in prison when sentenced next month.

     These latest charges stem from an indictment in New Jersey, originally filed in March of this year, that charged nine New Jersey mobsters with loan-sharking and illegal gambling. The Sodano murder charges were added to the indictment in August. They were "conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering." Charged with Merlino in the murder counts was Vincent "Beeps" Centorino, who is accused of being the triggerman during the 1996 killing.

     On October 27 Merlino’s lawyer Christopher Warren filed a motion to dismiss the federal charges. While not claiming double jeopardy, Warren hit US District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise with legal mumbo-jumbo called "collateral estoppel," which he claims "is being tried again for the same conduct under a different law."

     Another defendant from that March indictment pled guilty last month. Stephen Sharkey admitted his role in a gambling and extortion operation linked to Merlino and told Judge Herbert Hutton that he was truly sorry and asked for a chance to "return to my family and redeem myself."

     Assistant US Attorney David Fritchey, who told the judge that Sharkey had a total disregard for the law and was on parole while committing crimes for the mob, stated, "he is likely to continue being a criminal for the rest of his life." Despite Sharkey’s pleas to the contrary, Hutton sentenced him to 60 months in prison.

     Also sentenced last month was Anthony Accardo – no not the dead former Chicago boss. This Philadelphia version of "Joe Batters" had pleaded guilty prior to the start of the Merlino trial this past April. Accardo was sentenced to 48 months.

     Finally, in a bizarre story worthy of being swept under the carpet if the Philadelphia media doesn’t stay on top of it, three South Philadelphia men were arrested for trying to "invade" the home of John Dougherty, described as a "local labor leader and political power broker."

     Around 3:00 o’clock on the morning of October 14 Dougherty and his wife were awoken after the front door of their rowhouse was shattered. Dougherty said when he went to his front porch he was confronted by four men, one whom was pointing a gun at him, while six others on the sidewalk shouted threats at him.

     Days later three men were arrested. Two of them, Mark Leuzzi, Sr. and his son, own a bar that is in competition with one that Dougherty has part-ownership in.

     Now it gets interesting. A. Charles Peruto, Jr., a prominent local defense attorney hired to defend the men, withdrew from the case after claiming he received "tons" of phone calls from friends of Dougherty, known as "Johnny Doc," requesting him to do so. Then, top police department brass called a meeting of supervisors to discuss the case raising the question of why would such higher-ups take an interest in a matter as small as a an aggravated assault.

     Next involved was Frank DiCicco – no not the Gotti underboss blown to pieces in 1986 – a city councilman whose son Christian has represented Mark Leuzzi, Sr. in business matters in the past. The elder DiCicco, a Democrat, is the councilman in Dougherty’s district. He claims that Dougherty, the treasurer of the Democratic City Committee and business manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was looking "for an excuse" to run a candidate against him.

     Meanwhile, Mayor Street, who reportedly gave credit to Dougherty for his 1999 election victory, named "Johnny Docs" chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, which has plans underway to begin a $250 million blight-removal project.

     And last, Dougherty’s younger brother, Kevin, will become a Common Pleas judge this month after winning both the Democratic and Republican nomination.

     AmericanMafia.com is betting there are a lot of political personalities in the City of Brotherly Love who would love to see this whole mess just go away.

This Week in Mob History     ^TOP

This will cover the prior week’s events, which I missed due to the move.

October 30, 1977 – Joseph Zerilli was the longtime boss of the Detroit Mafia. Some mob historians list his leadership as beginning in the early 1930s. In the early 1970s Zerilli retired leaving the leadership in the hands of his son. However, when his son received a prison sentence in 1975, Zerilli resumed the leadership. After dying of natural causes he was replaced by his cousin Jack Tocco. In Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi they list his death as November 19, 1977.

October 31, 1923 – William "Wild Bill" Lovett was the leader of an Irish gang of New York City hoods known as the White Hand. Lovett was a power on the New York waterfront controlling the docks. On Halloween, after an all-day drinking binge, Lovett was passed out in a waterfront bar. Two gunmen entered and fired several shots into him while a third assassin buried a meat cleaver in his skull.

November 3, 1983 – Salvatore "Sammy" Tamburrino was murdered during the Riccobene/Scarfo War just a month before it officially ended. Nick Milano and Phillip Narducci followed Tamburrino, a Riccobene loyalist, into a variety store he operated on the ground floor of his home. As his horrified mother watched, Tamburrino was shot to death. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_5-8-00.html

November 4, 1955 – Willie Bioff, at onetime a small time hood and panderer for prostitutes, became the puppet of the Chicago Outfit in what became known as the Hollywood extortion rackets. After Bioff and his partner George Browne were convicted and sent to prison for extortion they ratted out the leadership of the Chicago mob. The ensuing indictments in March 1943 resulted in the suicide of Frank Nitti and the eventual conviction of seven gang members including Paul Ricca, Louis Campagna, and Johnny Roselli. Over ten years after the convictions the mob caught up with Bioff who was living in Tucson, Arizona. A bomb was wired to Bioff’s vehicle and the explosion killed him instantly.

November 5, 1930 – Steven Ferrigno and Alfred Mineo were two ranking mobsters associated with Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria during the Castellammarese War. Mineo before his death was believed to be the leader of what would eventually become the Gambino Family. The death of the two men, which was documented by Joseph Valachi, took place outside Ferrigno’s apartment on Pelham Parkway South. According to Valachi the killers were Girolamo "Bobby Doyle" Santucci, Nicholas Capuzzi and the infamous "Buster from Chicago."

November 6, 1928 – Arnold Rothstein died two days after being shot at the Park Central Hotel by George McManus. Rothstein was the true entrepreneur of organized crime. His pupils were a who’s who of the leadership of the New York underworld for the next four decades. His death, believed to be a mob murder, was more likely an accidental shooting. Several weeks earlier, McManus had hosted a high-stakes poker game in which Rothstein had participated. The game began on September 8th and continued into the morning of September 10th. Rothstein was a big loser and McManus told the other participants that "The Brain" would make good on his IOUs. Rothstein held off paying because he believed the game was fixed. Late on Sunday night November 4 McManus, drunk, nervous and angry, summoned Rothstein to the hotel. After an argument a gunshot sounded out and Rothstein was mortally wounded. I suspect that during the argument McManus pulled the gun to scare Rothstein and "The Brain" tried to wrestle it from him. The bullet was fired downward and severed an artery in Rothstein’s groin, certainly not the vital spot a killer would aim for. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_1-25-99.html

November 6, 1999 – Hank Messick was the most prolific writer of books on the subject of organized crime. An investigative journalist, who began his career with the Louisville Courier-Journal in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Messick cranked out 17 books between 1967 and 1995. Messick was stricken with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an auto-immune disease, that eventually lead to his death. The disease causes the moisture producing glands of the body to dry up. See a listing of Messick’s books at http://www.americanmafia.com/Reference_Library.html. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_12-27-99.html

November 8, 1924 – Mike Merlo was one of Chicago’s most influential and respected leaders in the Sicilian community. As president of the Unione Siciliana he was the only leader of that organization during the 1920s not to suffer a violent death. Merlo’s death from cancer set the wheels in motion for the murder of North Side Gang leader Dion O’Bannion and a bloody war that would last five years. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_10-9-00.html

November 9, 1976 – Frankie Carbo was a member of the infamous Murder, Inc. and was involved in several high profile killings for the gang including Maxie Greenberg and Max Haskell. In 1939 he was part of the hit team led by Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel that killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg in Los Angeles. In the 1940s Carbo became a prominent fight promoter and had interests in several big name boxers. He died in Miami Beach, Florida after spending much of the 1960s in prison on an assortment of charges.

November 10, 1924 – Dion O’Bannion was a legendary Irish mobster in Chicago who went head to head with the Mafia in that city. His scheming to remove Johnny Torrio as a rival led to his murder. Using the death of Unione Siciliana president Mike Merlo as a basis for ordering flowers, three gunmen showed up at O’Bannion’s flower shop to pick them up. As O’Bannion greeted the men, one held his hand while the other two blasted him. The shooters were believed to be the Sicilian killing duo Albert Anselmi and John Scalise. The man who held O’Bannion’s hand was alleged to be either Frank Uale from New York or Mike Genna of the infamous Genna clan.

November 10, 1927 – Frank and Robert Aiello, cousins of the Chicago Aiellos, were members of a rival faction of the Green Ones, a St. Louis Mafia gang. The two were allegedly murdered by Charles Casamento in Springfield, Missouri during a faction war there. Casamento was killed two days later.

November 10, 1938 – Leon Scharf was an obscure victim killed on the orders of Louis Buchalter when Lepke was a fugitive in hiding. Apparently Scharf had something on Lepke that the mob boss thought could get him in trouble with Thomas E Dewey.

November 10, 1967 – James and Thomas D’Angelo and Frank Terelli were members of the DiGregorio faction of the Bonanno Family. During the Banana War the three were gunned down as they dined at the Cypress Garden Restaurant in Queens, New York. The prime suspect in the killings was Gaspare Magaddino.

Contact: AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com


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