Allan May's book MOB STORIES
IN THIS ISSUE|
· Vegas Double Feature
· Anthony "Cuckoo" Cuccia
· Binion Trial Appealed
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
Vegas Double Feature
Anthony "Cuckoo" Cuccia
Anthony Cuccia, Jr. says he was "indirectly" associated with the Mafia since he was 13 years old while growing up in Brooklyn during the mid-1950s. Before he was old enough to drive he claims he was a bagman for the mob shuttling payoffs to police and prosecutors.
In the early 1980s Cuccia was a co-defendant in a drug trial in New York City. According to Cuccia, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local prosecutors asked him to become a cooperating witness, but he refused. One prosecutor then "hinted" in open court that Cuccia was willing to cooperate. Thus began Cuccia’s paranoid sojourn through life fearing Mafia hitmen were at his heels constantly. He claimed that over the next 18 years he was "the target of failed mafia hits on at least three occasions."
In January 2000, while in Las Vegas, Cuccia became convinced that Philip Greenspan, a patron of the Stardust casino, was sent by New York mobsters to whack him. Cuccia claimed that Greenspan was "under orders from notorious mobster John Gotti and an associate Nicky Corazzo" (Corozzo?) to kill him. Cuccia arrived at this conclusion when Greenspan sat next to him in the sports book at the Stardust in what Cuccia "interpreted as Greenspan’s attempt to identify him as the target to other mobsters."
On February 7, 2000 Greenspan was enjoying a bowl of chili while preparing his bets for the day. Cuccia calmly walked up to Greenspan and shot him in the chest killing him. Cuccia, arrested by the Las Vegas police, gave a lengthy statement about the shooting to Detective James Vaccaro.
"I didn’t want to give people nightmares for the rest of their lives," was Cuccia’s noble reasoning for not shooting the victim in the head. "They don’t deserve to see that."
"I walked over and I (shot) him," Cuccia stated matter-of-factly. "I says ‘Here, send this message back to Nicky,’ bop, and I (shot) him. I wish I had Nicky there, too, and a few of the other friends I would have whacked-out the whole fucking group. I didn’t care, John Gotti, anybody."
Vaccaro asked Cuccia if he felt any remorse.
"No, I laughed like a bastard," Cuccia replied. "It was comical to me."
Cuccia said Greenspan was in the sports book to "either whack me or direct a whacking." Police were dumbfounded because the 56 year-old Greenspan had no known mob affiliations.
Authorities surmised early on that there was going to be problems bringing this case to trial. Cuccia fired a few defense attorneys because they wanted to let jurors know he was delusional. Vaccaro once asked Cuccia if he was sane. The killer replied that he had been institutionalized once for slugging a judge.
"I was 15 years old. They put me in the nut house," revealed Cuccia.
District Judge Jeffrey Sobel, assigned to hear the case, received a letter from Cuccia in October 2001 in which he claimed he was innocent, but "would plead guilty to the murder charge on the condition that he be sent to fight in Afghanistan." This request was similar to one made in 1942 by Charley "the Bug" Workman, who wanted to be released from his life sentence for murdering the Dutch Schultz gang to fly a suicide mission against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That request was also denied.
This past April Cuccia asked a for a federal investigation of the district attorney’s office claiming a friend had informed him that prosecutors had "ties to the Gambino crime family."
Sobel worked to get counsel for Cuccia for months before reluctantly allowing him to represent himself. This decision came this past May after a team of doctors declared him competent to stand trial. Sobel even offered to postpone the trial an additional six months in order to allow Cuccia to prepare his defense. Cuccia declined the offer.
On Monday, June 17, just minutes before the trial was scheduled to begin, Cuccia agreed to allow Jay "Chip" Siegel, an attorney Sobel had as "stand-by" counsel, to represent him. In his opening statement Siegel asked the jury to consider the "possibility" that the shooting was justified, that Greenspan "could have been" a mob hitman.
On Tuesday Cuccia took the stand in his own defense. He told the jury he killed Greenspan in order to save his own life. Under cross-examination Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Owens inquired as to why Cuccia didn’t go to the police.
"They’re stupid like you," Cuccia replied. "They’re supposed to be organized crime intelligence. They’re organized dummies."
In a closing statement Cuccia told the jury, "I didn’t like the idea of killing Greenspan, but I had to do it."
The jury deliberated a whopping 40 minutes before convicting Cuccia of "first degree murder with use of a deadly weapon."
The 60 year-old Cuccia told Sobel not to worry if the jury sentenced him to 40 years to life. "I can do it, don’t worry about me your honor. You’ll be sitting on my next case."
Cuccia will be sentenced on July 23.
Editor’s Note: Information for this story came from the articles of Glenn Puit of the Las Vegas Journal Review and Christina Littlefield of the Las Vegas Sun.
Appeals attorneys for Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish, the convicted murderers of Ted Binion, had their day in court on June 27. Representing the attractive 30 year-old former stripper was Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, while local attorney William Terry spoke for Tabish. The hearing was held in the Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City.
The main issues raised by the attorneys were:
Chief Deputy District Attorneys David Roger and David Wall were put on the hotseat as most of the panel’s questions were directed at them during the 80 minute hearing which was televised by local all-news cable channel Las Vegas ONE.
Dershowitz’s arguments focused on what he called the prosecution’s "dual theories" of Binion’s death. The prosecutors put two experts on the stand with two separate theories. Famed forensics expert Michael Baden testified that the murder was caused by "Burkeing" a suffocation method whereby a hand or pillow is placed over the face of the victim while pressure is applied to the chest.
Clark County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lary Simms testified that death was caused by a forced overdose of heroin and Xanax.
Dershowitz claimed, "jurors needed more information to determine whether, in fact, the cause of death was undetermined or a homicide, given the conflicting testimony from the witnesses."
Prosecutor Wall replied that "the conflicting determinations of death are not important, as long as both witnesses concluded the manner of death was homicide," which they clearly did,
Wall said that there was plenty of case law that "shows a jury, if it believes that a homicide was committed, does not have to be unanimous in the cause of death." Wall cited one case involving a murder in 1898 where a man was shot and then thrown into the ocean. The prosecution didn’t have to prove how the man died, but rather "that the individuals involved were responsible for his death."
Jeff German, the Las Vegas Sun reporter and author of Murder in Sin City, wrote that Wall "acknowledged for the first time that the prosecution’s theory all along was that Binion did not die of a forced drug overdose," but was smothered in the manner that Baden described.
Commenting on Dershowitz’s arguments Wall stated, "I think that was pretty dramatic and theatrical, and I think he misconstrued some of the things that were argued. The only tragedy here was the death of Ted Binion."
The justices questioned whether Murphy’s defense was harmed when she was tried with Tabish instead of separately, due to the additional extortion charges he was tried for. Roger’s response was that "Bonaventure went out of his way to warn the jury not to consider the extortion evidence against Murphy."
The attorneys claimed the jury used information to convict Murphy and Tabish that had not been submitted as evidence during the trial. Roger called the accusations of juror misconduct "silly" and told the justices that the defense should not be allowed to "get into the jury’s thought process." Roger added, "While the defense condemns the jury, Mr. Wall and I applaud them. Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy may not have had a perfect trial, but they certainly had a fair trial with the meaning of the constitution. I could not have asked for a fairer hearing than what I got."
It may be several months before the Nevada Supreme Court issues an opinion in the case.
Boston (1) – "Dishonest John" Connolly has asked US District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro to throw out a jury’s "inconsistent" racketeering verdict against him and sentence him only for obstructing efforts to put his former informant, James "Whitey" Bulger, behind bars. Well, there’s some hope for Connolly’s soul. After proclaiming his innocence to everyone except Santa Claus he is now accepting responsibility for some of his actions. Perhaps too little, too late. Prosecutors will have to file a motion this month seeking to preserve the jury’s verdict. "Dishonest John" is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12.
Meanwhile, J. M. Lawrence of the Boston Herald reports that nit-wit Boston Globe sports columnist Will McDonough has asked Judge Tauro to find it in his heart to give Connolly the most lenient sentence possible. "All of us would be better served with John in our community raising his children," said McDonough. Did this twit take a Pedro Martinez fastball in the head? As if that wasn’t enough McDonough boasts that he was responsible for helping to get "Whitey" Bulger out of prison in the 1960s by securing a job for him. Who in their right mind would brag about helping a mass killer loose on Boston? Bulger has been indicted for being involved in more murders than the Boston Strangler and here’s McDonough mouthing off that he helped get him out of prison. Here’s hoping that the families of Bulger and Connolly’s victims get to confront McDonough some day. Perhaps if McDonough is beaten, strangled and shot, before being buried near an exit ramp, a judge will find it in his heart to be lenient with his murderer. The idiot!
Boston (2) – More wonderful news from the ongoing "Disaster in Beantown" soap opera. While the government admits the role rogue FBI agents played in the murder of Michael Donahue, an innocent friend of mob-turncoat-wannabe Brian Halloran, who were both slaughtered by James "Whitey" Bulger on May 11, 1982, they’re refusing to settle with the Donahue family, who filed a $36 million dollar lawsuit. Donahue family attorney Robert George is optimistic stating, "This is the first step in which the government has admitted substantial allegations being made by this family." J. M. Lawrence reports that, "The Donahue case is the first in a stream of cases demanding millions of dollars over FBI corruption dating back to the 1960s." On a happier note, Lawrence also reported that two weeks ago US District Judge Nancy Gerton "denied the government’s attempt to fend off the Halloran family’s lawsuit by arguing his survivors missed a two-year window of opportunity to file after FBI corruption was exposed in 1998."
Hackensack, N.J. – Danny Provenzano has been granted permission by Judge William C. Meehan to act as his own attorney in his upcoming racketeering trial, which is slated to begin in the fall. George Anastasia of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, "Provenzano said he wanted to represent himself because he thought he could best cross-examine the state’s key witnesses. They include several former business associates and employees who allege they were extortion victims." The 44-count indictment charges that Provenzano led a crew for the Genovese Family that extorted $1.5 million through threats and acts of violence. Provenzano turned down an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty and face a maximum of 15 years. Provenzano told reporters, "I’m not a mobster. I’m a film maker." The great-nephew of Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano directed and stars in This Thing of Ours, a film scheduled to be released this fall. No date for the trial has set.
New York (1) – On the day he was scheduled to be sentenced to 13 years in prison former Colombo Family acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico has asked that his guilty plea be withdrawn. Persico pled guilty in Federal Judge Reena Raggi’s Brooklyn courtroom to racketeering, loansharking and money laundering. Persico claims prosecutorial misconduct saying the feds "misrepresented evidence to the court." Raggi, apparently unimpressed with Persico’s revelations, gave prosecutors two weeks to file their response and told Persico he’d "better get ready for sentencing."
New York (2) – The former lawyer for Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, Lynne "Clock Stopper" Stewart is crying poverty. The New York City attorney claims she is facing "horrific expense" in preparation of her defense on charges of helping imprisoned Omar Abdel-Rahman relay messages to his terror group. Stewart says she needs funding from the government to pay her mounting attorney fees.
Newark (1) – David D’Ambrosia was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for operating an international sports betting ring in South Philadelphia, Newark and Costa Rica. D’Ambrosia and eight others, including Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, were indicted last year on federal racketeering charges. D’Ambrosia was one of four defendants to plead guilty and the first to be sentenced. If D’Ambrosia had gone to trial he would have faced three mob turncoats ready to testify for the government. Former family boss Ralph Natale, aged hitman Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio, and Roger Vella. Caprio was ready to testify that in 1999 he and D’Ambrosia plotted to take over the Philadelphia Family by whacking then "acting" boss Joseph Ligambi, underboss Steve Mazzone and consigliere George Borgesi. In addition to the prison sentence D’Ambrosia was fined $6,000. He was ordered to surrender August 5. While D’Ambrosia was being handed his sentence on June 27 another defendant, Eugene Wilson, pled guilty to gambling and running an illegal gambling operation. He’ll be sentenced on October 28.
Newark (2) – Nicodemo "Young Nicky" Scarfo went before US District Court Judge Joel Pisano on June 28 to receive his sentence for running a sports betting operation that was closed by the feds in July 1999. In handing down a 33-month term, the high-end of the sentencing guideline, Pisano told Scarfo, "I am not holding you guilty for the sins of your father. But I think it’s remarkable and extremely sad, given your life experiences, that you would have attempted to embark on another criminal enterprise." After a failed assassination attempt left "Young Nicky" with seven bullet holes he left Atlantic City and South Philadelphia for Newark where he eventually took over the loansharking and gambling operations in North Jersey for an imprisoned member of the Gambino Family. The feds used a "high-tech, classified computer device," known as a keystroke recorder, to bust the encrypted code on Scarfo’s computer to gain access to his gambling records. The case received national attention when defense attorneys demanded to know how the keystroke recorder operated. The matter was resolved when prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious loansharking charges and let Scarfo plead guilty to bookmaking. In addition to the nearly three-year sentence, Scarfo was fined $9,400 and sentenced to three years of supervised probation after his release. The kind judge will allow Scarfo to surrender to authorities on October 15 after his wife gives birth in August and the child is baptized. Attorney Norris E. Gelman claimed his client "can live with that." Scarfo who has two prior felony convictions could have faced a mandatory 30 years if the government wanted to "play hardball." Based on Scarfo’s track record perhaps that will occur next time.
Newark (3) – Peter S. "Petey Black" Campisi, the leader of a "renegade" New Jersey mob clan died June 16 when he stopped breathing after choking on a piece of lobster while enjoying a Father’s Day dinner. The 62 year-old Campisi’s health had been on the decline for several years after suffering a stroke and spending several months in a coma. When he finally regained consciousness his speech was impaired. Reporter Guy Sterling of the Newark Star-Ledger reported, "The Campisis were regarded as the renegades of the organized crime world, mobsters who were considered so violent that other underworld figures steered clear of them. Their involvement in the drug trade at a time when the Mafia hierarchy frowned on such activity didn’t endear them to anyone…" The family’s activities were the focus of the book To Drop a Dime by Paul Hoffman and Ira Pecznick. Pecznick was one of two Campisi Family turncoats.
Providence – US District Judge Ernest Torres heard arguments on July 3 to overturn the corruption conviction of Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci, who was indicted last year. Cianci’s trial began on April 17 and ended in a conviction on one count on June 24. When the trial began Cianci faced 27 counts. During the trial the judge dropped 15 for lack of evidence and the jury acquitted him of 11 of the remaining 12. Cianci, the longest serving big city mayor with nearly 30 years in office, already has announced he would not seek re-election, but refuses to resign and will fight the conviction.
Youngstown (1) – Henry DiBlasio, a former aide to US Representative James A. Traficant, Jr., admitted on June 25 that he lied to a federal grand jury about giving kickbacks to the disgraced congressman. DiBlasio was employed by Traficant as the administrative assistant from 1985 to 1998. By the time he retired he was earning more than $85,000 a year for doing virtually nothing, but kicking back around $2,500 each month to the congressman. DiBlasio has known Traficant since the mid- 1970s, prior to his campaign for Mahoning County sheriff. He testified on Traficant’s behalf during his 1983 trial for accepting bribes from the Mahoning Valley mob. During Traficant’s recent trial DiBlasio claimed he was too ill to leave his Florida home to come to Cleveland. He took the Fifth Amendment during a scheduled examination by telephone. The 73 year-old DiBlasio will be sentenced on September 26 by US District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells. He faces up to 16 months.
Youngstown (2) – On June 26 US District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells denied disgraced congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. a new trial. Basically, Wells shot down most of the congressman’s silly points because they had "no merit." Traficant, still filing his own motions because the cheapskate is too tight to hire his own counsel, stated in one motion that the jury selection plan violated "the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment." Wells, in her 44-page order, pointed out that the equal protection clause he referred to was part of the Fourteenth Amendment. He must have been ripping off a constituent the day that lesson was taught in pro se law school. The day after Wells’ ruling Traficant filed another motion to have his original indictment thrown out. This time he claimed "when a federal prosecutor instructs a grand jury of common citizens about the law – under the guidance of the federal standard that took effect on June 30, 1906" it’s a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. Where does the congressman find the time to write these asinine motions? Well, the infidel hasn’t been to Washington DC to work since January. Meanwhile the House ethics committee issued a 10-count list of alleged violations and set a public hearing for July 15 to determine whether any of the charges "have been proven by clear and convincing evidence." Isn’t that what the jury in Cleveland was impaneled to determine when they found Traficant guilty on April 11? The eight-member panel includes fellow Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette, a close friend and supporter of Jimbo. Lovely! The only good news coming out of this is that both of Ohio’s senators have recommended Craig S. Morford, who has had two successful prosecutions of Traficant, to be the next US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Here’s to hoping President Bush accepts their recommendation.
Youngstown (3) – Richard E. Detore, who was at one time scheduled to be Traficant’s co-defendant, is whining for more time after his latest counsel asked to be excused from the case. This is the third attorney Detore has had since he was indicted in October 2001. Detore is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute. His co-conspirators in the bribery of Traficant were John J. Cafaro and Albert Lange, Jr., both of whom testified against the congressman at his recent trial helping to convict him. Why Detore thinks a jury won’t buy their testimony a second time is beyond us here at AM.com. Judge Wells, who is slated to hear the case, is denying another postponement and the trial is still scheduled for July 29.
July 8, 1925 – Anthony "Tony" Genna was the third Genna brother to die in a span of 45 days. Genna was called by a friend to meet him on Grand Avenue in Chicago. As the two met, the friend grabbed his hand while two gunmen came from behind and put five bullets in Tony’s back.
July 9, 1922 – Joseph Peter DiCarlo, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the boss of the Buffalo crime family. He died of natural causes and was replaced by Stefano Magaddino.
July 10, 1934 – Johnny Lazia was a Kansas City gang leader with strong political ties to the Pendergast machine. He and his wife were being driven home by Charles Carollo, who stopped the car under a canopy in front of the hotel where Lazia got out. As he reached to open the front door for his wife, two gunmen, armed with a Thompson sub-machinegun and a shotgun, opened fire from behind some bushes. Rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital the 37-year old Lazia died approximately twelve hours after the shooting. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_1-17-00.html
July 10, 1940 – Fred "Killer" Burke was called "the one man who it can be said with moral certainty" pulled a trigger during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. A member of the St. Louis Egan’s Rats, Burke spent the last nine years of his life in prison for the murder of St. Joseph, Michigan police officer Charles Skelly. He died of a heart attack at the age of 47.
July 10, 1994 – Carmine Gargano, Jr., a Pace University accounting student, was believed to have been murdered by Colombo Family hitman John Pappa. Authorities claim Pappa killed the college student to extract revenge from Gargano’s cousin, Anthony Dellavecchia, a member of the Lucchese Family, whom Pappa had a "beef" with but could not touch. The body of the 21 year-old Gargano has never been found. Pappa is serving two life sentences.
July 11, 1927 – Giovanni Blandini (Blandina, Blaudins) was a member of the Joe Aiello gang who was murdered during the war against Al Capone. The 40 year-old barber was found dead in a ditch near 118th Street and South Ashland Avenue in Chicago. Police reported he had been "taken for a ride."
July 11, 1937 – Joseph Vaglicia was an attendee at the December 1928 Statler Hotel Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. According to our Tampa mob expert, Scott Deitche, Vaglicia was an early Mafia power in the city. He was cut down by shotgun blasts fired from an automobile as he was headed for "quick meal" around 3:30 in the morning.
July 11, 1984 – Raymond Loreda Salvatore Patriarca was the longtime boss of the New England Mafia Family who ran his operation from Providence, Rhode Island in an Atwells Avenue vending machine storefront, which was called the "Office." Patriarca became boss in 1954 and was in charge for the next 30 years. Patriarca suffered a heart attack at the age of 76 at the home of a girlfriend. See my story http://www.americanmafia.com/Cities/New_England-Providence.html
July 12, 1979 – Carmine Galante, the boss of the Bonanno Family, was assassinated during a triple murder that took the lives of his bodyguard, Leonardo "Nino" Coppolla, and cousin Guiseppe Turano at Joe and Mary’s restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Galante, vicious and ambitious, wanted to take over the role of Carlo Gambino who had died in 1976. Galante was a major player in the drug trade in New York City.
July 13, 1967 – Gaetano "Tommy, Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese was an early influence in the New York underworld and a major player from the 1920s until his death. The boss of the family that would bear his name, Lucchese (Luchese or Luckese) served as underboss to Gaetano "Thomas" Gagliano from 1931 until 1951. Lucchese became the underworld’s political fixer after the retirement of Frank Costello. In 1965 Lucchese had an operation for a brain tumor from which he never fully recovered. From then until he death he was mostly incapacitated. Lucchese died in his plush Lido Beach, Long Island home at the age of 67.
July 13, 1974 – Orion Williams was victim #6 of prolific Chicago Outfit hitman Harry Aleman. Williams, a suspected mob informant, was found in the trunk of his girlfriend’s car on East 33rd Street, the victim of a shotgun killing.
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.
July 15, 2002 – Boston – The trial of Eric O. Schneiderman, a US Army officer and the son of Richard J. Schneiderman, for lying to the grand jury about his father’s relationship with Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi is scheduled to begin. AM.com thanks Boston Herald reported J.M. Lawrence for the update.
September 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, then rescheduled for June 24. AM.com thanks J. M. Lawrence for this update.
July 23, 2002 – Las Vegas – Anthony Cuccia faces a possible life sentence for the senseless murder of Philip Greenspan in the Stardust casino. Cuccia was convicted of first degree murder on June 18.
July 30, 2002 – Cleveland – Mahoning Valley Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr., will be sentenced after being found guilty on all ten counts in a Federal trial which ended April 11. The sentencing was originally scheduled for June 27.
September 12, 2002 – Boston– Disgraced former FBI agent "Dishonest John" Connolly will be sentenced for his May 28 conviction on one count of racketeering and two counts of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. He is looking at from 8 to 20 years. This was originally scheduled for August 7.
September 26, 2002 – Cleveland– Henry DiBlasio, a former aide to US Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr., will be sentenced for lying to a Federal grand jury about paying kickbacks to the congressman. DiBlasio, 72 years old, could be sentenced to as much as 16 months in prison.
October 28, 2002 – Newark – Eugene Wilson, indicted last year with eight others including Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, will be sentenced after pleading guilty this past June 27 to gambling and running an illegal gambling operation.
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