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· Family Feud
Sperm Gate
· John Talk With "Jimbo"
· Gigante’s First Trial – Revisited (Part 2)
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations

LAST ISSUE 2-18-02


Family Feud

     What started out as a night of near-fatal devastation with the slashing of five young men at a Queens nightclub, has turned into a mob soap opera being played out in the State Supreme Court. Reporter Sarah Kershaw sets the stage:

     "So it was that a tale of boyish bluster became something of a treatise on the Mafia in the 21st century. Since when do mobsters – or, in this case, their relatives – settle their disputes in court? Thus, a Queens courtroom looked yesterday like a casting call for "West Side Story" meets "The Sopranos" meets "My Cousin Vinny," with a disorganized defense lawyer, a grouchy judge, mysterious observers and lots of reporters eager to witness a standoff between two Mafia families."

     Representing the two mob families are the stabbee, Anthony Federico, Jr., the son of Genovese Family capo Anthony "Tough Tony" Federico, Sr.; and the stabber, Nicholas Gambino. Investigators say that young Nicholas, just 20 years old, is the nephew of Giovanni Gambino "a reputed foot soldier in the Gambino crime family." Nicholas has denied the relationship. Despite the fact that he is out on a $1 million bond, Nicholas and his lawyer, Raphael Scotto, claim Gambino is the "humble son" of a retired sanitation worker.

     On August 4, 2000 the "humble son" nearly disemboweled Federico, who is also 20 years old. Gambino was ejected from the Metropolis Night Club after a fistfight broke out over a young lady. Gambino allegedly went to his car, retrieved a knife, and returned to confront his adversaries outside the club.

     Swinging away wildly with the knife, Gambino caught Federico in the abdomen and his friend in the neck. He also stabbed or slashed two other young men in the abdomen and stomach. When a friend of Gambino tried to intercede he, too, was wounded seriously.

     In Kershaw’s article she quotes an unnamed law official:

     "They’re settling their beef in the criminal justice system and not in the back of a restaurant in a smoke-filled room. Generally speaking, it didn’t happen like this in the old days. A cardinal rule in the Mafia, no matter who you are, was never say anything about anything. The last people you ever talk to in the world are the police. Maybe the old rules no longer apply."

     "Maybe the old rules no longer apply!" AmericanMafia.com wonders who this law enforcement official is – the ex-partner of Joe Petrosino? Where has this guy been since Joe Valachi? Mob turncoat Michael Durso was banging mobsters two at a time when this article came out in separate racketeering trials – Joseph O’Kane of the Gambinos and Jackie DeRoss of the Colombo Family – and this official is wondering what happened to omerta?

     It was reported in one article that, "A source close to the case said "Tough Tony" didn’t want his son to testify, but the boy’s mother pushed for her son to play by the rules." Apparently young Federico played the role of Soloman in deciding on a wise conclusion to the matter. He testified, but claimed he didn’t get a good look at his attacker.

     In a grisly recounting of the attack, Federico said, "I felt a severe pain pulling down on me. Everything went in slow motion and I staggered and fell on the street. My intestines were exposed and I was holding them in my hand." When Federico looked over next to him he said he saw his friend with his jugular vein ripped open, "laying and twisting on the ground and blood spraying out of his neck." "

     Others, including friends of Federico and the bar’s bouncer, identified Gambino in court as the knife-wielding attacker.

     Meanwhile, attorney Scotto conducted a 30 minute hissy-fit during which he demanded a mistrial claiming the extensive media coverage scared away two of his witnesses and now forced him to place his client on the witness stand. Queens Supreme Court Justice Stanley Katz denied the drama-filled request.

     On February 8, a teary-eyed Nicholas Gambino took the stand and told the jury "he was fighting for his life when a mob of 15 people attacked him outside the club, choking him with his own chunky gold chain."

     Gambino said he picked up an open knife he saw lying on the ground and started swinging wildly. When asked if he knew if he had cut anyone, he said, "I don’t know." However, under cross-examination by Queens Assistant District Attorney Robert Hanophy, Gambino called the weapon – on four separate occasions during his testimony – my knife.

     On Tuesday, February 19, after 12 hours of deliberations, a Queens jury found Gambino not guilty of three counts of second degree attempted murder, three counts of first degree assault, two counts of second degree assault, and one count of third degree assault. The jury deadlocked on three other counts and prosecutors said they will pursue them when Gambino comes back to court on March 19.

     New York Newsday reported that "attorneys in the case said jury members told them after the verdict that they believed Gambino was acting in self-defense against a mob or that there was more than one combatant with a knife."

Sperm Gate     ^TOP

     While not as famous as "Watergate" the story of "Sperm Gate" is garnering some attention. Maria Parlavecchio, the wife of imprisoned mobster Antonino Parlavecchio, bribed an Allenwood Federal Prison guard into smuggling out three vials of his sperm between 1998 and 2000 in order for her to get pregnant.

     When the feds found out they went on a sperm hunt and found the would-be babies in the office of a Manhattan gynecologist. Instead of making it to the warm womb of Mrs. Parlavecchio the mobster sperm was ordered put on ice. Calling the mob sperm contraband the government wants it destroyed.

     This was not the first reported case of mob sperm escaping from Allenwood. In 1998 an investigation was initiated after incarcerated Colombo Family hitman Kevin Grenato began handing out cigars after the birth of his son. The investigation uncovered five other New York area mobsters that fathered children with the help of bribed prison guards.

     AmericanMafia.com sees two possibilities here. One, a black market for mob sperm all over the country where women can purchase sperm and get pregnant from the likes of, say John Gotti – well, maybe not the ailing "Dapper Don." But what about Sammy Gravano, Baby Bulls; Carmine Persico, Baby Snakes; Joseph Merlino, Skinny Babies; or Angelo Lutz, Fat Babies. Defense attorneys will have to get busy and see if the "Son of Sam" law pertains to the profits from "Son of Mobster’s" sperm.

     The second possibility benefits all the lonely mob wives. Suppose the mob wife is young and her wiseguy husband is doing 10 to 20. She tells him to have some crooked hack smuggle out a vial or two of his mob sperm and then she’s free to get pregnant with anyone she wants, all the while being able to claim the sperm came from her incarcerated hubby. She might have some explaining to do in 20 years if both she and her husband are Italian and the three children all have red hair. But she can always claim the hack screwed up and gave her the mob sperm of an incarcerated Irish Westies gang member.

John Talk with "Jimbo"     ^TOP

     After arriving at the Federal Court House in Cleveland last Tuesday to follow the Traficant trial, I found myself sharing the third floor men’s room with the colorful congressman.

Traficant: Hello, big guy.

AM.com: Good morning, Mr. T. You’re looking sharp today (not really, he was wearing a light blue denim blazer and dark blue bell-bottom pants).

Traficant: Do I still have support up here?

AM.com: Some (I wasn’t sure if he was referring to Cleveland or the third floor men’s room).

Traficant: They’re beating the hell out of me (That’s because he hadn’t offered any defense yet).

AM.com: Hang in there Mr. T.

Traficant: I’m not going anywhere (He closed the stall door to his Cleveland office and I left).

     On Wednesday afternoon testimony ended early. Traficant actually had a pretty decent day after the prosecution put on a witness who testified that he worked on Traficant’s Washington DC houseboat one afternoon for a few hours on taxpayer’s time. On cross-examination the witness made a hero out of Traficant. I couldn’t help wonder why the government put this guy on. I rode the elevator down with the Pro Se attorney

AM.com: Do you still feel the government is beating the hell out of you?

Traficant: Who said that?

AM.com: You told me that in the john yesterday.

Traficant: You misrepresented what I said. I’m not going to talk to you anymore. These are the best prosecutors in all of the United States. They’re undefeated. That’s all I have to say.

     For those following the trial the best coverage comes from Youngstown Vindicator crime reporter Patricia Meade. The veteran reporter has covered all the Youngstown action these past few years and does a complete and thorough job and provides humor in several of her stories. AmericanMafia.com wishes that reporters covering other mob trials paid as much attention to detail as Meade does. The Vindicator can be reached at

"Chin" Gigante’s First Trial – Revisited (Part Two)     ^TOP

     On April 28, 1958 the trial of Vincent L. "the Chin" Gigante, for the shooting of New York City mob boss Frank Costello, got underway – but only for a few hours. After one juror was sworn in Judge John A. Mullen adjourned the trial until May 12 to allow Gigante’s attorney, Maurice Edelbaum to complete a case he was handling in Brooklyn Federal Court.

     Jury selection resumed on May 12 and after opening statements the first witness, Philip Kennedy, testified two days later. Kennedy shared a cab with Costello the night he was shot. Kennedy claimed that after Costello was dropped off at the Majestic he did not seen anyone leave the scene after he heard a shot fired. However, he did get a "glimpse" of some passing tail fins on what appeared to be a black Cadillac speeding away.

     The next day, May 15, the prosecution’s star witness, the doorman at the Majestic, Norval Keith was on the stand. The 55 year-old told Prosecutor Alexander Herman that Gigante walked past him through the doorway and uttered his now famous, "This is for you, Frank," statement before firing once. Gigante then ran out, jumped in the getaway car and was whisked away. Keith refuted part of Philip Kennedy’s testimony from the day before. Kennedy stated his cab pulled away before the shooting. Keith claimed it was still parked outside.

     Despite a cross-examination that questioned Keith’s eyesight, the doorman stuck to his story. To back up the defense’s contention, Keith was asked to identify John DiPalo, a onetime suspect in the shooting, whom the doorman had been required to view at the police station following the shooting.

     Keith also claimed that the Vincent Gigante that was seated in the courtroom was 30 to 40 pounds lighter then when he passed by him over a year earlier. This claim was substantiated by a detective who testified after Keith that he had known Gigante for five years and had seen him two to three times each week during that period. The detective also backed up Keith’s testimony that "the Chin’s" hair was longer than the crew-cut he had been sporting since his arrest.

     On May 20, 1958 Frank Costello was called to the stand. Despite previous medical and police ballistics expert testimony that Costello was facing his assailant when shot, (there was a bullet hole entrance in the front part of the mob boss’s hat) Frank insisted his back was turned and he never saw the gunman.

     Costello gave this version of the shooting:

     "I walked through the front door into the foyer. I heard a shot – it sounded like a firecracker to me at the time. I paid little attention to it for the moment. Then I felt something wet on the side of my face. It was blood and I realized I was shot."

     Under cross-examination by Edelbaum, Costello denied ever having seen Gigante. The lawyer and the mobster had the following exchange:

Edelbaum: Do you know any reason why this man [Gigante] should seek your life?

Costello: None, whatsoever.

Edelbaum: Is the reason you won’t say you saw the man because you’ll be indicted for perjury?

Costello: Absolutely not.

Edelbaum: Tell us the truth. Who shot you?

Costello: I’ll ask you who shot me – I don’t know. I saw no one at all.

     That same day in the United States Court of Appeals, Frank Costello lost a tax appeal decision in a case from 1954 that would return the crime boss to prison in October 1958.

     The balance of the prosecution’s case centered on the hunt for Gigante, which began two weeks after the shooting and lasted three months. On May 22 the prosecution rested its case. When final arguments were made Prosecutor Herman called Gigante, "a young punk on the way up in the underworld who was chosen to kill Costello to win his spurs." Edelbaum’s argument was directed at the witness who identified Gigante – Norval Keith. The lawyer stated the doorman was blind in one eye and that his sight in the other was impaired.

     With final arguments completed, the judge gave instructions to the 12 male jurors on May 27. After deliberating for six hours the jury came back that evening with a verdict of not guilty. The jury foreman stated it was a tough case but jurors "thought that the state’s case was weak." The biggest doubt in the juror’s minds was Keith’s testimony after he failed to identify John DiPalo in the courtroom.

     The decision brought a loud round of applause from the forty friends and relatives of Gigante gathered in the courtroom. A cocky Vincent Gigante told reporters as he left the courtroom; "I knew it had to be this way because I was innocent…the cops picked on me."

     It is interesting to note that during the New York Times entire coverage of the arrest and trial of Vincent Gigante they never once mentioned Vito Genovese, or what mob affiliation "the Chin" had. As far as a reason for the attempted murder there was one comment printed from District Attorney Frank S. Hogan, who said he "refused to speculate on the motive for the assault on Costello."

     Vincent Gigante would stay out of the clutches of the law for exactly 40 days. On July 7, 1958 he and Genovese were front-page news when they were indicted and arrested for being the "two king pins" in a major narcotics operation.

     Mob lore has it that both men were set up by their colleagues in the underworld –Vito Genovese because of the Apalachin debacle, and Vincent Gigante for his attempt to kill Costello. Both would be found guilty. Genovese would spend the rest of his life in jail, and Gigante, who was released in the 1960s, would one day develop a new reputation and nickname – the Oddfather.

Historical Note: In 1974 George Wolf wrote Frank Costello: Prime Minister of the Underworld. Wolf, who was Costello’s attorney, tells the story that, "Gigante was acquitted, and I remember the moment so clearly when ‘the Chin’ came over to Frank after the verdict was announced, stuck out his hand to shake Costello’s, and said, ‘Thanks, Frank." AmericanMafia.com believes Wolf’s memory might have failed him slightly. Costello wanted nothing to do with the police investigation of his shooting. His non-cooperation cost him 30 days in jail. He didn’t want to answer questions, he didn’t want to go to the police station when Gigante turned himself in, and he didn’t want to testify in court. However, he was forced to do all this things. So why on earth would he go back to court and sit around for six hours just to be there when the verdict was read. Since the New York Times made no mention of this encounter, AM.com believes if this exchange truly took place it happened after Costello’s testimony and not after the verdict. Some 16 years had passed by between the trial and when Wolf wrote the book.

Final Note: AmericanMafia.com found it ironic that in reading the coverage of Gigante’s arraignment on the drug charges in July 1958 that the New York Times reported "the Chin" stood "apparently oblivious to the … discussion" going on in the courtroom. Some things never change.

Short Takes     ^TOP

Boston – Indiana Congressman Dan Burton, and his House Committee on Government reform, continue to be stone walled by the Justice Department and the Bush Administration in their efforts to subpoena FBI documents in the murder investigations of Edward "Teddy" Deegan and Roger Wheeler. Burton claims his committee is attempting to find answers to what he calls "the greatest failing in federal law enforcement history." Indeed, the colossal debacle in Boston – which includes Whitey Bulger, the Winter Hill Gang, the Deegan murder and three rogue FBI agents – is the biggest embarrassment in FBI history and it seems like nobody, not even the President of the United States, is going to do a thing to get to the bottom of it.

In two related stories, Tulsa, Oklahoma police officials are preparing a new affidavit with information that ties former Boston FBI agent H. Paul Rico to the 1981 murder of local businessman Roger Wheeler. Winter Hill gang leaders James "Whitey" Bulger and Steven "the Rifleman" Flemmi have already been indicted in that murder, while Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme and, confessed triggerman in the murder, John Martorano are cooperating with the government. Tulsa officers investigating the murder want the slime ball Rico charged with murder.

And speaking of that slime ball Rico. He appeared before Dan Burton’s committee on Valentine’s Day only to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Congressman Robert Barr of Georgia glared at Rico and said, "I hope you sleep well at night." Meanwhile, Federal Judge Edward J. Harrington also appeared before the committee and tried to blow smoke up their butts. Harrington’s "coddling" of Boston hitman Joseph "the Animal" Barboza incited Dan Burton to ask, "How many times do you go to defend these crudballs?" The committee has already spent a year investigating the Boston FBI’s relationship with underworld members. During the hearings on the week of February 11 more details poured out about Barboza’s murderous activities while enrolled as the first member of the Federal Witness Protection Program. California witnesses called to testify before the committee discussed three murders Barboza was alleged to have been involved in while in the program.

Chicago – Peter Volpe pled guilty to eleven counts of theft, bribery, money laundering and income tax offenses on February 5. Volpe was one of five defendants scheduled to go on trial May 20 on charges that the mob infiltrated Cicero’s insurance business and stole more than $10 million. Two other defendants in that case are Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, widow of Chicago underworld figure Frank Maltese, and Michael A. Spano, Sr., who is said to be a distant relative of Volpe. Spano and another defendant in the case, Emil Schullo, the former safety director of Cicero, are scheduled for trial on March 11 on an unrelated matter. Volpe was sentenced to a year in prison in 1999. While a member of the Cicero Police Department he stole confiscated items from the city’s storage facility.

New York – The New York City Police Department’s crack down on chop shops in the Queens area has cost Carmine Agnello three businesses. Agnello’s Auto Salvage Yard and Carlo’s Tire Shop were "shuttered" after being closed under "civil nuisance-abatement orders." Another business, Jamaica Auto Glass, was shut down due to code violations. With these closures putting a big dent in Carmine’s wallet mob watchers are wondering how Agnello will satisfy his $17,500 child support arrangements with ex-wife Victoria Gotti. Last week AmericanMafia.com reported that Gotti’s lawyer was seeking a "substantial increase" in those monthly payments.

Philadelphia – Mob lawyer Joseph Santaguida withdrew from representing Trent Pickard, a former associate of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Pickard, the one-time member of Philadelphia’s Junior Black Mafia, has two pending trials, one for conspiracy in the kidnapping of a drug pusher, the other for the murder of two drug dealers. The key government witness for those trials is Roger Vella, a former driver for Merlino. Vella claimed that Santaguida, who at one time represented both him and Merlino, was hired by the mob to defend Pickard and make sure he didn’t become a government witness. How Santaguida could have prevented that was not revealed. Santaguida met with Common Pleas Court Judge Bernard Lerner and prosecutors from the Philadelphia DA’s office before agreeing that a conflict of interest existed. AmericanMafia.com is confident Santaguida can find another mob client to defend in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, mob watchers in the City of Brotherly Love view Vella’s testimony as a precursor to another run at Skinny Joey. No one seriously believes that Merlino will serve just nine years from his recent sentence before law enforcement is through with him.

Providence – Things seem to be moving along for Anthony M. "The Saint" St. Laurent, Sr., a Providence, Rhode Island mobster and gambler. Last fall Robert "Bobby" DeLuca, an imprisoned capo in the New England Crime Family, accused St. Laurent of being a rat. The Saint proved him wrong by pleading guilty to felony racketeering and gambling charges two weeks ago. St. Laurent, who is currently serving a six-year federal sentence, will get another five years when that is completed. The 59 year-old St. Laurent was convicted of running a gambling ring from a federal prison in Kentucky along with his wife and daughter. St. Laurent had an ailment that forced him to take 40 enemas each day. Holy shit, Batman! In January, surgery was performed to clear a bowel obstruction. St. Laurent’s attorney announced, "He’s feeling a lot better." At least he’s feeling relieved.

This Week in Mob History     ^TOP

February 25, 1957 – George "Bugs" Moran was the leader of Chicago’s North Side Gang and the intended target of Capone gunmen in the infamous St. Valentines’ Day Massacre. Moran’s career went south after the murders and he went to prison on a bank robbery charge. He died of cancer in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

February 26, 1930 – Gaetano "Tommy" Reina was an influential Mafia leader prior to the Castellammarese War in New York City. His shotgun death is believed by many mob historians to be the opening volley in the Castellammarese War, which ended with the murder of Joe "the Boss" Masseria on April 15, 1931. The gang that Reina headed eventually became the Lucchese Family.

February 26, 1959 – Abner "Longy" Zwillman was one of the top Jewish crime leaders in the country operating out of Northern New Jersey. Zwillman was close to and even considered an equal of, all the mob leaders in New York City including Frank Costello, Joe Adonis and Meyer Lansky. Scheduled to appear before the McClellan Committee and under pressure from an IRS investigation, Zwillman took his own life by hanging himself in the basement of his palatial home in West Orange, New Jersey. There were unconfirmed rumors that the mob helped in the suicide.

February 28, 1919 – Vito Renda was murdered and Sam Evola and Joseph Vitale were wounded in an ambush at the Wayne County Jail during the Giannola/Vitale War in Detroit. See Paul Kavieff’s The Violent Years.

February 28, 1950 – Abraham Davidian was the key government witness scheduled to testify against California mobster Joseph Sica and 15 others in a narcotics case. The case was thrown out after Davidian was murdered while sleeping at his mother’s home in Fresno.

February 29, 2000 – Charles P. "Chuck" O’Nesti had a colorful career in the Mahoning Valley as a one-time Fire Department Chief of Youngstown, member of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department and district director to Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. In 1998 O’Nesti pled guilty to being a bagman for the Mahoning Valley mob delivering bribes to public officials for mob leader Lenine "Lenny" Strollo. In his plea agreement O’Nesti was to testify about kickbacks to the congressman, but he died of cancer prior to Traficant’s indictment.

March 2, 1993 – Carlos Marcello was the longtime leader of the New Orleans Mafia Family. Marcello was believed to have seized power in 1946 and held it until his death. During his career he was alleged to have helped order the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Sent to prison in 1983 after being convicted on RICO charges two years earlier, Marcello was released in July 1989 after a series of strokes. He died at his Metairie, Louisiana home at the age of 82.

March 2, 1993 – Joseph Ciancaglini, Jr. was one of three mobbed up brothers and the son of Philadelphia mobster Joseph "Chickie" Ciancaglini, Sr. Ciancaglini Jr. operated the Warfield Breakfast and Luncheon Express and had just opened up when three gunmen ran in and fired at him. Ciancaglini was wounded in the chest, head and neck. Although he would survive he was left with permanent impairments. The attempted hit was captured on FBI surveillance cameras and listening devices.

March 3, 1992 – Michael Ciancaglini, almost a year to the day earlier than the attempted murder of his brother, was the target of a mob hit. As Ciancaglini walked to his row house, two gunmen armed with shotguns chased him down the street. Ciancaglini made it into his house and slammed the front door behind him. The would-be assassins fired through the door and window. Ciancaglini’s wife and children were in the house at the time but not injured.

Trials and Tribulations     ^TOP

Due to time constraints this section will be updated and appear next week.

Contact: AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com

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