IN THIS ISSUE|
· Bonanno Family the Largest?
· Big Trials: Coming and Going
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
Bonanno Family the Largest?
In an August 2001 article the New York Daily News claimed the Bonanno Family had moved into second place among the five crime families of New York City surpassing the Gambino Family. This was based on the estimated number of made members and associates. AmericanMafia.com wonders if, with the dismantling job the feds have done on the Genovese Family over the past ten months, have the Bonannos ascended to the number one spot.
In April of last year the three-year effort of mob informant Michael "Cookie" Durso began to bear fruit as 45 members of organized crime – 33 from the Genovese Family – were indicted on a variety of charges ranging from murder to stock market fraud. The roundup of Genovese Family members included Frank "Farby" Serpico, a former acting boss, Alan "Baldie" Longo, Salvatore "Sammy Meatballs" Aparo and Peter "Petey Red" DiChiara.
It was during this investigation that the FBI caught a Genovese member, Paul "Slick" Geraci, on tape boasting, "Hurting people – that’s what this is all about. If you’re not capable of doing that, you might as well stay home." Aparo was recorded reminding crewmembers that "murder was a way of life in the Genovese Family."
Fast forward to December 2001 and the feds are at it again – this time on an even grander scale. Striking at what recently retired assistant New York FBI director Barry Mawn called the "middle management and rank and file" of the Genovese Family, 73 members and associates were targeted. Biting the dust in this indictment were Pasquale "Patsy" Parrello and Joseph Dente, Jr., both Bronx crew leaders, and Rosario "Ross" Gangi, head of a downtown Manhattan crew.
In this effort, a courageous undercover New York City Police Department detective infiltrated a Mafia crew, ala Donnie Brasco/Joe Pistone, and for two and a half years gathered intelligence.
What became apparent to authorities in both investigations was the fact that imprisoned mob boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was still running the crime family. Although this was vehemently denied by his attorney, Gigante and his son Andrew, who authorities believed acted as the liaison between the mob boss and his mob, were indicted on January 23 of this year along with six other reputed mobsters. As this week’s column goes to press, federal prosecutors in New York are releasing prison tapes of Vince Gigante proving his insanity act was just that – an act.
Finally, on March 7, seven former and current leaders of Local 1588 of the International Longshoreman’s Association – all with ties to the Genovese Family – were indicted and charged with "shaking down members in a long-running money-for-work scheme."
Instead of going to trial and facing a mountain of overwhelming evidence against them, most Genovese Family members are sucking it up and pleading guilty. In a March 14 "Gang Land" piece, Jerry Capeci stated this "latest round of plea deals are the result of a textbook execution of an FBI takedown, complete with electronic surveillance and the pre-requisite wired-up turncoat insider…"
In question is whether any of these members will strike a deal and testify to the sanity of the family boss. Former AmericanMafia.com contributor Al Guart reported in a New York Post article on March 17 that in Ross Gangi’s plea bargain he "could shed light on whether Gigante still has any control of the Genovese Crime Family."
With the Genovese Family suddenly on the ropes is it possible that the long maligned Bonanno Family, now under the reputed leadership of Joseph Massino, can claim dominance in New York City. And, if so, how long will it be before the feds come huffing and puffing on their door.
Editors Note: That last comment being made, last Wednesday 12 members of the Bonanno Family, including consigliere Anthony "TG" Graziano, were indicted.
This seems to be the year of some major league trials around the nation involving the mob, political corruption and police scandal. In Cleveland the Traficant trial is winding down. Prosecutors completed their case last week. Meanwhile the brash congressman has been running his mouth on radio talk programs and every television show short of "Captain Kangaroo" spewing nonsense and innuendo that he is incapable of backing up. Now that it’s time that he can take the stand and speak under oath look for this cheapskate in the cheap suit to weasel out.
In Boston the trial of Michael L. Carucci, a real-estate broker accused of laundering money for Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi began two weeks ago. In Chicago a kickback trial involving Cicero mob boss Michael A. Spano, Sr. also got started. Spano, James Inendino and Emil Schullo, the former public safety director of Cicero, allegedly stole $75,000 in a scheme involving a private investigator’s services for the town. This is small beans compared to the trial Spano is facing in May with Cicero town-president Betty Loren-Maltese. The two, and several others defendants, are accused of bilking the Cicero treasury of $10 million.
Perhaps this year’s biggest trial will be that of Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci, Jr. in what has become known as "Plunder Dome." Cianci and three other city officials are charged with government corruption involving bribery, extortion, and racketeering. Federal prosecutors revealed last week that they plan to introduce 1,100 exhibits. This is going to be a long one folks.
In the meantime, we have one that just ended in Buffalo. The nine-week trial of four present and former narcotics detectives is over and three are going to prison. Detectives Darnyl Parker, David Rodriquez and John Farby, along with the recently retired Robert Hill were arrested on March 2, 2000 and charged with counts ranging from "theft to conspiracy, to money laundering and obstructing commerce by extorting a drug dealer." Faced with the bulk of the charges was Parker, who was jailed last December for threatening witnesses. Parker was found guilty of ten charges and faces up to eight years in prison. Parker faced two tough witnesses, Theodore Calhoun, a lifelong friend and long time drug dealer who was working for the government and recording his conversations with the crooked detective, and William Parker, the officer’s son, who he helped set up in the drug business. Detective Farby and Hill were found guilty of theft for taking money from an FBI agent posing as a Jamaican drug dealer. Farby and Hill could be sentenced to as little as two years. The fourth defendant, David Rodriquez, was found not guilty of all charges. That, however, did not seem to carry much weight with Buffalo Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina, who stated, "he would do everything in his power to see that Rodriquez never again carries a Buffalo Police Department badge." He currently remains under suspension and faces departmental charges, which Diina hopes will bring about his dismissal. Parker and Farby were fired immediately after the verdicts were announced. Parker’s disappointed defense attorney, Mark J. Maloney expressed confusion over the fact that the jury found his client guilty of three conspiracy counts while acquitting his three co-defendants. "How could Parker conspire with someone who was found not guilty?" he questioned. The three guilty ex-officers will be sentenced in June.
There’s more to Boston than Baked Beans this week.
Boston (1) – A feast of friends? John J. Gallahue, Jr., the disgraced MBTA Retirement Fund Director, has been forced out of office by a scandal exposed by the Boston Herald. The Herald disclosed that between 1998 and 2000 Gallahue accepted kickbacks in the form of home renovations from Francis K. Fraine, "an admitted arsonist and racketeer" with ties to fugitive gangster James J. "Whitey" Bulger. In return, Fraine received loans from the pension fund to the tune of $7 million, which have now been in default for a year and a half. To celebrate his fall from grace Gallahue has organized a $150 a plate tribute dinner for himself to honor his crooked tenure at the MBTA. Those of you who are interested in attending can send your check to Gallahue’s sister, Helen Irvin. It’s been reported that "an unspecified portion" of the proceeds will go to the MBTA Retirement Fund Scholarship Fund. The balance, I’m guessing 90 percent, will probably end up in this sleaze ball’s back pocket. Gallahue’s lugubrious soiree is scheduled for April 5, so hurry and order your tickets. Maybe if we’re lucky the keynote speaker will be old "Whitey" himself. See you there.
Boston (2) – U S District Judge Joseph L. Tauro may rule that Assistant US Attorney John Durham cannot tell a jury that information "tipped" to James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi by former FBI agent John J. Connolly led to the murders of three men. The judge stated, "The consequence has nothing to do with the tip," and that it’s irrelevant whether the tip caused Connolly informants to murder or "saved Mother Teresa’s life." Tauro told prosecutors, "You may want the murder in there, maybe it makes it a more compelling case…But it’s simpler for you to prove he tipped…I don’t think that we need a trial on murder…the trial will go 400 years." Does this judge have to be somewhere? The last time AM.com talked about the case Tauro was preventing Connolly’s defense attorney from stepping down due to the time it would take to get new counsel, and telling the prosecutors to trim down the number of counts in order to shorten the length of the trial. AM.com wonders what the jury is supposed to think the "tips" resulted in if not the deaths of Richard Castucci (1976), Brian Halloran and John J. Calhoun (both 1982). Making this case even more irritating is the fact that a bleeding heart magistrate, Robert B. Collings, has decided that taxpayers will now foot the bill for that scumbag Connolly’s defense. Even though "Dishonest John" owns a home on the cape, a house in Lynnfield and has pensions from both the FBI and Edison. Beautiful! Now maybe Connolly can afford a ticket to Gallahue’s going away party.
Boston (3) – The debut of government witness William St. Croix, the son of notorious Boston mobster Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi, began this week as the trial of Back Bay real-estate broker Michael L. Carucci gets underway. St. Croix is one of fifty scheduled witnesses that the government will call against Carucci, who is described as a "partner" of Flemmi who helped launder money by purchasing millions of dollars of real estate for the co-leader of the infamous Winter Hill Gang. Carucci was charged with 103 counts of money laundering, conspiracy and racketeering. Carucci’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, claims St. Croix is a "career con man, a predator who lived a life of deception." He told the jury the government allowed St. Croix to escape jail so he could testify against "a family man who runs a real estate agency." St. Croix is expected to reveal a sordid "Life With Father" tale that includes Flemmi having a sexual affair with St. Croix’s half-sister, Deborah Hussey, before murdering her.
Chicago – Jerry Genova, the disgraced former mayor of Calumet City, was sentenced to five years in prison for racketeering. US District Judge Ruben Castillo, who is currently overseeing the Michael Spano, Sr. trial, told Genova, "You could’ve been great." The mayor, who was elected in 1993 on a promise to clean out the city’s strip joints and seedy image, was found guilty of taking kickbacks and having city workers help on his re-election campaign on city time. Genova, who was never popular with the Calumet City Police department, faced a group of gloating officers in the court lobby. While one group of detractors sang "Goodbye, Jerry! Good bye, Jerry!" another group chanted "Five more years! Five more years!" in response to the sentence the judge handed out.
New York – Queens prosecutors are trying to strike a deal with Nicholas Gambino on the last three charges that a jury deadlocked on last month after finding him not guilty of nine others. The prison sentence is the haggling point in the negotiations. Gambino would be looking at anywhere from probation to up to 14 years in prison. Gambino claimed self-defense and testified on the witness stand about a vicious slashing attack that wounded four people including the son of Genovese capo Anthony "Tough Tony" Federici. The next hearing on the matter is April 17.
Newark – George Fresolone, co-author of the book Blood Oath, has died at the age of 48. The former government informant died at an undisclosed location of a heart attack. In the book Fresolone revealed that the main factor in his becoming a mob turncoat was because the mob failed to provide for his family while he was serving time. A former New Jersey State Police officer stated, "He felt his organized crime family had lost its loyalty to him and that it was all about money and greed." As an informant Fresolone made over 400 recordings, including one of a Mafia initiation ceremony. His testimony led to the convictions of 40 mobsters in the early 1990s.
Providence – Would you rather support a hotel/casino for the Narragansett Indian Tribe or take a tomahawk between the shoulder blades. That’s pretty close to how taxpayers were approached with the idea of supporting a state referendum on a new gambling casino. Frank Luntz, representing Las Vegas based Boyd Gaming, claimed the State of Rhode Island will "have to increase taxes or cut programs, like education, or they choose a casino. One of these has to happen." Luntz reported that 82 percent of "probable" Rhode Island voters want the statewide referendum. Gordon G. Fox, chairman of House Finance for Rhode Island, claims the polling was a little "skewed" by the way the question was asked, "Would you favor a tax increase or $100 million in – [new] revenue." Fox claims he’s surprised they didn’t get 98 percent of the voters because the questioning assumes "there is going to be a tax increase" unless you vote for the casino. Backers of the project say construction alone will create 1,600 new jobs and $100 million in income in a state that’s looking at a $300 million-plus deficit in the next fiscal year. How difficult is this decision going to be?
Tulsa – In the largest single wrongful death suit ever filed against the United States government the family of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler is asking for more than $850 million in damages. Add this to the $1.0 billion-plus in lawsuits already filed in Boston, which involve the same cast of characters. In their civil suit the family alleges that the government allowed James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi to kill with impunity, while working as FBI informants. According to Ralph Ranalli, a Boston Globe reporter and author of Deadly Alliance, the family is "arguing that the 54 year-old Wheeler’s holdings in the technology, minerals, and energy businesses were worth tens of millions of dollars at his death [May 1981] and would have grown ponentially if he had lived to participate in the economic booms of the ‘80s and ‘90s." The family is represented by ex-federal prosecutor Frank Libby, who claims, "The figure is extraordinary because the man was extraordinary." The suit names, in addition to the government, Bulger, Flemmi, that scumbag Connolly, and six former FBI agents and supervisors. "They had these mad dogs on a leash and they let them run," said an overly dramatic Libby. Then to add to his own brand of defense attorney humor, Libby stated, "the lawsuit is more about holding the government accountable than about money." Right! I doubt that means Libby will be donating any proceeds to anyone but himself. Perhaps he can send the entire population of Oklahoma to John Gallahue’s retirement bash.
March 27, 1961 – Thomas Viola may possibly be the only hitman to be convicted of a mob murder and then making the FBI’s "Most Wanted List." Viola and a partner murdered popular Warren, Ohio gangster James "Jimmy" Muncene and his nephew in Muncene’s restaurant in the early 1940s. Captured several years later, Viola was still serving a life sentence when he escaped in 1961. He made the FBI’s "Most Wanted List" on January 17 of that year and was captured 69 days later.
March 28, 1927 – Joseph Amato, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the boss of the Milwaukee crime family, having succeeded Peter Guardalabene around 1924. He died of natural causes and was succeeded by Joseph Vallone.
March 28, 1999 – Angelo LaPietra was described as "a major mob figure whose interests included control of gambling operations on the South and Southwest Sides of Chicago." The 78 year-old LaPietra went to prison with other leaders of the Chicago Outfit in 1986 after being found guilty of skimming money from Las Vegas casinos. LaPietra was released in 1997.
March 29, 1977 – Charles "Chuck" Nicoletti was considered by famed FBI agent William Roemer as one of two "major hit guys" in Chicago along with "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio. Nicoletti was murdered by another "major hit guy," prolific Chicago killer Harry Aleman, while sitting in his automobile outside a Northlake restaurant.
March 29, 1981 – Frank "Funzi" Tieri was said to hold the distinction of being the first mobster convicted of heading a crime family. In 1981 he went to prison after being convicted in a "pattern of racketeering" as head of the Genovese Family. Tieri died of natural causes at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City at the age of 77.
March 30, 1939 – Joseph Miller was one of several former "business partners" ordered put to rest by Louis "Lepke" Buchalter while the labor racketeer was in hiding from New York City prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey.
March 31, 1994 – Richard Devlin, an enforcer for Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, had a violent history. In 1971, he was convicted of manslaughter. The victim’s corpse was found floating in Dorchester Bay, minus its head, hands, and right leg. The hatchet used to perform the butchery was left buried in the man’s chest. Devlin was sentenced to Walpole Prison. While there he was considered a prime suspect in the November 1973 stabbing death of Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler." Two trials in the DeSalvo murder ended in hung juries; the case was never solved. Devlin was found slumped down behind the wheel of a 1994 Buick Skylark. Devlin, wearing a bullet proof vest, had been shot in the head and was in critical condition. After a few days on life support he died at Massachusetts General Hospital. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_9-11-00.html
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.
Due to space constraints, the complete "Trials and Tribulations" listing will only be shown on the first Monday of each month. Weekly we will show the ones that are due to occur in the next 30 days and any new additions.
April 1, 2002 – 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. The trial was originally scheduled for January 28. AmericanMafia.com would like to thank Boston Herald reporter J. M. Lawrence for the update. AM.com, which uses a lot of Lawrence’s articles, was surprised to find out J. M. is a woman. Lawrence also tells us that Judge Edward F. Harrington, who was called Washington DC to testify last week, has recused himself from the case.
April 15, 2002 – Providence – Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. and four co-defendants go on trial in what the FBI has dubbed Operation Plunder Dome.
April 15, 2002 – Boston – The racketeering trial of Robert Luisi, Jr. is scheduled to get underway before US District Court Judge Reginald C. Lindsay. Luisi at one time had a plea agreement which called for him to testify against Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino last year. On December 27, 2001 Luisi withdrew the plea.
April 15, 2002 – 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.
April 17, 2002 – New York– Nicholas Gambino will be back in court and a decision will be made to either strike a deal with Queens’ prosecutors or go to trial again on the three charges jurors deadlocked on in his February trial. At tat trial he was acquitted on nine charges involving a vicious knife attack in August 2002 in which four young men were wounded. Gambino claimed self-defense.
March 25/26, 2002 – New York – Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano is scheduled to speak at his sentencing for his conviction in running an ecstasy ring in Arizona, which had ties to New York.
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.
June 2002 – Buffalo– Three former Buffalo narcotics detectives will be sentenced for their role in stealing money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a Jamaican drug dealer. The men were found guilty in March.
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