Allan May's book MOB STORIES
IN THIS ISSUE|
· Billy "Dust Bunny" Rinick – A One Man Show
· Traficant – 8 Years in Stir
· Mob History Lesson
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
Billy "Dust Bunny" Rinick – A One Man Show
Since the July 2001 conviction of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and the top leadership of the Philadelphia Mafia – and their subsequent sentencing in December – mob watchers from the "City of Brotherly Love" have needed someone to keep them entertained. Who better to fill that need than William "Billy the Dust Bunny" Rinick.
Rinick, described as a "wealthy South Philadelphian," had his leg amputated several years ago after being hit by a SEPTA bus. The short, muscular, brown-haired 29 year-old became an entrepreneur and used a multimillion-dollar insurance settlement to invest in real estate and other business ventures. Police claim Rinick also invested his newfound wealth in the city’s drug trade.
In June 2000 Rinick was arrested after having been caught on his own videotape having sex with two 15-year-old girls. Charged with "corrupting the morals of a minor," he pled guilty. On January 17, 2001 Rinick was sentenced to four years probation.
These activities seem minor compared to the events of October 2001, when Rinick crossed over the line from drug dealer and sexual deviate to cold-blooded murderer.
Rinick, Adam Finelli and Michael Focoso were business partners in the South Philadelphia drug trade. Finelli, who operated Nick’s Charcoal Pit on Snyder Avenue, was said to be a "South Philadelphia Jewish kid originally named Silver who had his name changed to fit in with his Italian-American friends."
Finelli and Focoso lived in homes that Rinick purchased with money from his financial settlement. Finelli and Rinick shared a two-story home on South Camac Street. The house was equipped with surveillance cameras, including one in the bedroom, which Rinick used to tape his sex-capades with young women.
Finelli wanted to purchase the home the two shared and offered his Cadillac Escalade SUV as partial payment. Rinick wanted cash, not the vehicle, despite the fact the property was in his brother-in-law’s name. When the process didn’t move fast enough Finelli had the locks on the house changed.
On the night of October 30 Billy and Focoso, whom Rinick affectionately called "Bo," were driving around when Rinick spotted Finelli in his SUV. Rinick flashed his high-beams and then followed Finelli home.
"You changed the locks," Rinick challenged Finelli. "I’ve been locked out for a long time."
Finelli offered to get him a key, but Rinick refused. Instead he asked Finelli to drive them to "a pal’s" house who Rinick claimed owed him money. Rinick climbed into the backseat, while Focoso sat on the front passenger seat. Shortly after midnight the trio arrived on Jackson Street near 18th where Finelli double-parked the SUV.
"Billy, go do what you’re going to do," Focoso said. "I’m going to stay here."
Focoso would later testify, "I heard a number of shots, four, five, six…I was stunned. I didn’t know what happened. All I can hear was the slide going back on the gun. I was numb. I didn’t know if I was shot or anyone else…" Looking to his left Focoso saw Finelli slumped over dead.
"Come on, Bo," Rinick yelled. "You going to let him drive? He’s not driving anywhere."
Focoso snapped back to reality and was now concerned for his own life. He and Rinick exited the SUV and took off on foot through the streets of South Philadelphia, which were lit up with festive Halloween decorations. Rinick hid the murder weapon, a 9mm Ruger, alongside the wheel of a parked car. As they made their way back to Focoso’s home Rinick let his unwitting accomplice know that the two of them were equally guilty of the murder. Focoso asked Rinick why he killed Finelli.
"I don’t know, Bo, I just did it," Rinick explained. "Let’s not talk about it."
When they arrived at Focoso’s home on Norwood Street near Jackson, Rinick asked Focoso to go retrieve the weapon. Focoso refused because he would have to use his mother’s car. While Rinick drove to get the gun by himself, Focoso went to his mother’s house where he changed clothes; placing his old ones in a plastic bag. When he returned Rinick was cleaning the Ruger in the kitchen sink with a mixture of vinegar and acetone. Focoso said they got the idea from watching an A & E forensics special.
Focoso was still concerned for his own safety. He suggested that Rinick remove the clip and wrap it and the gun in separate towels and place them in the trunk of his car. Once that was accomplished Focoso drew a sigh of relief.
The two then drove to get rid of the evidence. On the Walnut Street Bridge they threw the Ruger and it’s clip into the waters of the Schuykill River. They then set fire to the clothing along a dirt road, watching it burn for several minutes.
"That’s it," Rinick boasted. "We’re home free, Bo."
Rinick was considered a suspect in Finelli’s death shortly after the murder. It would have been a good time for Billy to lie low – a term Rinick apparently didn’t know the meaning of.
Rinick had been friends with both Joey Merlino and his attractive wife, Deborah. In October Merlino’s mother, Rita, and her two daughters, Maria and Natalie, voiced concerns when Deborah was seen with Rinick on several occasions. Rinick was a target of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation Unit. Their surveillance revealed that Rinick’s car had been parked several times overnight outside the Merlino home. In addition, state drug agents had once followed Billy and Deborah to Maryland recording the trip on videotape.
On Thursday, December 6, five weeks after the Finelli murder and just three days after Joey was sentenced, state drug agents and city homicide and drug officers raided the Merlino home just after 7:00 in the morning. Deborah Merlino answered the door in her bedclothes. Inside, hiding among the dust bunnies under the bed of one of Joey’s two daughters, agents found Rinick.
A police source stated that the prosthetic leg Rinick used was found lying on the floor. Another source told a Philadelphia weekly publication that the early morning raid was tipped to "the news media to cover it to embarrass Deborah Merlino and publicly expose an alleged relationship between the two."
During the search of the Merlino home investigators found $86,000 stashed in Deborah’s bedroom closet. The money, which revealed a partial Rinick fingerprint on it, was in a yellow plastic bag in which Adam Finelli had placed money from his safe just days before his murder. A search of Rinick’s sweat pants uncovered some $4,700 in marked government bills that authorities had used to purchase drugs from Rinick. Billy claimed the money was rent he had collected.
Rita Merlino soon appeared at the house, cursing loudly at officers and demanding to be allowed to enter the home. After the four-hour search was concluded neither Deborah nor Billy were arrested. Instead, they both left in a car with a very agitated Rita Merlino.
When questioned by reporters, Edwin Jacobs, Jr., the lawyer who represents both Rinick and Joey Merlino, described Billy as a "family friend of the Merlinos." Jacobs was kept busy this day as, in addition to the Merlino home, four properties owned by Rinick were targeted by the raiders.
The discovery of Rinick among the dust bunnies became the talk of South Philadelphia. Warned by state drug agents that his actions called for the death penalty in mob circles, a belligerent Rinick stated, "I ain’t afraid of anyone." According to Philadelphia Daily News reporter Kitty Caparella, just hours after Rinick’s defiant remark he "was frantically trying to reach mob boss" Merlino to explain his presence in his home. Caparella reported there was widespread speculation "that there could be bloodshed regardless of why Rinick was in the house, due to embarrassment to Joey."
Hours after the raids Rinick went to his mother’s home on Ritner Street where her other children had gathered to comfort her. Billy’s mother was reported to be a "very, very sick woman." At one point Rinick left the house and sat on the steps with his head in his hands.
Meanwhile, Deborah Merlino was having a hard time staying out of the news. Two days after the raid she appeared at a party thrown by alleged "acting boss" Joseph Ligambi. One of the party’s attendees told City Paper, a Philadelphia weekly rag, "There’s two different groups of people now. Those that say they believe Billy was just Deborah’s bodyguard, and those that think there’s something more going on between them. Either way, everybody thinks it’s pretty embarrassing. He has a lot of questions to answer, and nobody really believes him."
A week following the now infamous raid, the Philadelphia Daily News ran an article entitled "Daily Bed Check On Rinick" and published a list of places the "Dust Bunny" was said to have been spotted. When someone suggested they ask for a list of "Deborah sightings," the newspaper established a "Deb Watch" hot-line number to call with information.
On January 7, 2002 Deborah testified in Harrisburg before a state grand jury investigating drug trafficking in Philadelphia. By the end of May, Deborah was fed up with the rumors and media publicity. The Philadelphia Daily News announced the "former first lady of the mob" was moving to New Jersey to be near her mother.
If Rinick was trying to avoid publicity he had a strange way of doing it. On December 23 Salvatore "Sammy Boy" Abbruzzese, Jr. was shopping for clothes in Gigolos, a South Philadelphia men’s store. When Abbruzzese accidentally dropped a pair of socks on the floor Rinick, who was also there shopping, laughed at him.
"What the fuck is so funny?" Abbruzzese demanded to know.
"Who the fuck are you getting cocky with?" responded Rinick
"Who the fuck you getting cocky with?" replied Abbruzzese.
Rinick’s next response was a sucker punch to the face of the 32 year-old. The damage, not immediately apparent, was devastating. It wasn’t until the following night, Christmas Eve, that Abbruzzese’s fiancee noticed his face becoming swollen and discolored. Abbruzzese was admitted to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he underwent two operations for broken bones in his cheek and jaw and major repair was needed for the orbital bone near his left eye.
Kitty Caparella of the Daily News reported:
"Abbruzzese, who has no medical insurance, had two operations at Jefferson University Hospital to repair his crushed left cheek, jaw and eye socket, and was treated at Willis Eye Hospital for his damaged eye.
‘"I got nine screws and two plates in my face. I have an implant in my left eye, and I’m losing my sight,’ said Abbruzzese. His face remains numb and he continues to have headaches.
"His medical bills amount to $42,000, according to assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron. Plus another $5,000 for doctors visits and prescriptions."
The day after Christmas Abbruzzese filed a complaint with the police. An arrest warrant was issued on January 15, 2002 charging Rinick with aggravated assault and related offenses. Billy turned himself in the following morning. In addition to the assault on Abbruzzese, police booked Rinick on a scofflaw charge for 35 unpaid traffic citations totaling more than $7,000.
During his booking Rinick got into a dispute with the city jailer over the removal of items of clothing that could be used in a suicide attempt. Billy had no problem giving up his shoelaces, but protested when they tried to remove the cord that held up his sweatpants. Rinick lost the argument.
Because his arrest violated his probation on the morals conviction the police were hopeful of detaining him without bail. They moved him to a cell at police headquarters where homicide detectives could questions him about the Finelli murder.
Despite police efforts Rinick was soon out on bail. On April 17 a 90-minute non-jury trial was conducted before Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gehret. Abbruzzese’s fiancee testified that she confronted Rinick after he pummeled her boyfriend. "I didn’t mean to do it," she quoted Billy as saying. She claimed he later offered to pay for the medical expenses. This offer, like one he would later make to Michael Focoso, turned out to be an empty promise.
Rinick’s attorney tried to show that Abbruzzese was not a model citizen and claimed Billy acted in self-defense. Abbruzzese had a history of run-ins with the law, mostly involving drugs. On September 6, 2001 a bench warrant was issued for Abbruzzese’s arrest after he failed to appear for a court hearing. He was later jailed for failing to report while on probation. Despite Abbruzzese’s reputation Judge Gehret found Rinick guilty of simple assault and set the sentencing date for July 10.
Even with this latest go-round Rinick still couldn’t find it within himself to stay out of the public eye. Less than three weeks after his conviction for assaulting Abbruzzese, Rinick was accused of harassing a Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney General. The state official, who handled asset forfeitures, was contacted by Rinick, who was trying to retrieve items seized by state drug agents during the December raids. When things didn’t go Rinick’s way during a telephone conversation the "Dust Bunny" decided to stare down the lady attorney while traveling side-by-side on a highway. The incident resulted in the attorney having to be guarded at her home for several days before moving into an undisclosed hotel.
During a court hearing on May 8 Rinick claimed, "I just want my stuff back." Included in his "stuff" was his Harley-Davidson, two expensive automobiles, four rental properties and $90,000 plus in cash. The government said, "No way!" Common Pleas Court Judge Denis P. Cohen’s response to the request was that everything seized was part of an on-going investigation and, until that investigation was completed, Rinick would not get his "stuff" back. While Rinick’s attorney, Joseph Levin, claimed the government didn’t have a case, Deputy Senior State Attorney General John Flannery had another perspective. After watching the "Dust Bunny" boast in a televised interview that he’s a multimillionaire real-estate entrepreneur, Flannery suggested that the seized "stuff" should only be "a minor inconvenience to someone of Mr. Rinick’s means."
During the murder investigation of Adam Finelli authorities were already aware of the dead man’s relationship with both Focoso and Rinick. In April Focoso was called before a Pennsylvania State grand jury in Harrisburg. When he refused to testify he was held in jail for six months. While Focoso was in stir Rinick promised to pay his lawyer’s fee and take care of his family. He did neither. This caused Focoso to have a change of heart. He decided it was time to "cut and roll" and contacted the authorities.
In exchange for the state dropping any plans to charge him in the murder of Finelli, Focoso would cooperate with law enforcement. When asked if he was mad at Rinick, Focoso replied, "That’s part of it."
Focoso lead authorities to the site where he and Rinick had burned the clothes. Ashes, pieces of clothing, and one of Rinick’s shoes were recovered.
On May 13 Philadelphia SWAT team members and homicide detectives swarmed the Ritner Street home, where Rinick was staying, armed with an arrest warrant charging the "Dust Bunny" with the murder of Adam Finelli.
"It’s Billy Day!" one officer shouted.
"Billy Day" would have to wait another 24 hours, as all the police were able to come up with was Rinick’s sickly mother. After the search for Billy turned out to be futile the first question asked was whether investigators had looked under the beds.
The following day Rinick surrendered to police. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the police didn’t have a case. "They’re just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks," he stated.
In addition to the murder of Finelli, George Anastasia of the Inquirer reported that Rinick was charged "with intimidating witnesses, with failing to file income-tax returns for the last 11 years, and with violating state wiretap laws by videotaping himself having sex with women without the women’s consent to the taping." The tapes were seized during the December 6 raids on Rinick’s properties. Bail for Billy was denied bail.
Again Rinick’s escapades became the talk of the Philadelphia media and everyone was anxious to see the one-legged Dust Bunny having sex on the small screen. However, less than 40 minutes after the attorney general’s office set up a media viewing session District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the state attorney general’s office put the kibosh on the porno screening.
While prosecutors build their murder case against Rinick, the "Dust Bunny" will be cooling his heels in prison. When Rinick was convicted in April it was reported that the judge was going to sentence him to probation plus restitution for Abbruzzese’s medical expenses. On July 10 Judge Gehret handed down a sentence of 6 to 23 months and, pending the receipt of all medical bills, Rinick’s bank account will be shy about $47,000.
It remains to be seen if Billy Rinick can still garner publicity while in prison. With the overwhelming evidence against him the only bed the "Dust Bunny" may be hiding under in the next 30 years will be his prison bunk.
It was a bad week for James A. Traficant, Jr. On July 24 the House of Representatives voted 420 to 1 to expel the nine-term Congressman from the Mahoning Valley. The only vote in his favor came from Representative Gary Condit, the golden-shower from the Golden State of California who is looking at his own legal woes. Six days later, on July 30, justice caught up with the now disgraced ex-Congressman. The judge, who Traficant badgered, belittled, falsely accused, and constantly interrupted during a ten-week trial, had the final, but interrupted, say. When Judge Lesley Brooks Wells was through the stunned former congressman was led away in handcuffs by federal marshals to begin an eight-year stretch. In addition to the jail time Traficant must pay $150,000 for his incarceration, $19,580 for back taxes and $96,000 in reparations, which was the amount decided on by the jury.
Wells lowered the boom on Traficant with a fiery, but long overdue, verbal barrage.
"You cast yourself as a folk hero, a champion of the people…A voice for the average guy, You did a lot of good…but the good you have done does not excuse your crimes. Staff salaries are not to be kicked back to line your own pockets and feed your greed. You ran your congressional office as what we call a racketeering enterprise. Then when inquiries started, you cast yourself as the number one victim of persecution in America. You took on this role and tried to use it as a cover. You were howling you were going to fight like a junkyard dog and you did. You fought to protect a junkyard of deceit and corruption. Outside the courtroom you carried on this drumbeat, this cadence for Jim Traficant, the number one victim…none of it altered the jury carrying out its duty."
Traficant rose and interrupted her several times. Wells spoke over him before finally ordering him to sit down.
She continued, "You have descended into ranting, raving and spewing your venom. Your deceit, your distortion and your intimidation are your weapons. The truth is rarely in you. Your drumbeat is the drumbeat of a big lie."
Bravo, Judge Lesley Brooks Wells!
Bravo, Craig Morford!
During the past few weeks I found it disgusting listening to Traficant rant and rave about the same issues I heard him bellyache about during his ten-week trial. He told the same lies before, during and after the trial; during the House Ethic’s Committee hearings; and again before the full House of Representatives. I knew it was all crap because I had sat though most of the trial; the jurors who found him guilty of all ten counts knew it was all crap because they had heard the evidence; and finally the Ethic’s Committee members knew it was all crap because they had read the trial transcripts.
So I was surprised to see an article by reporter Charles Mason from the Warren Tribune Chronicle stating that telephone calls to Congressman Steven LaTourette’s office were running 9 to 1 in favor of Traficant. After giving this some thought I realized why this was happening. Traficant had been given free reign during both the Ethic’s Committee hearing and before the full House to say whatever he wanted to say. People have heard his lies over and over again, but they never heard the evidence against Traficant in court. They are forming their opinions after hearing just his side of the story.
Once someone hears the evidence, the truth – like myself, the jurors, and the members of the Ethic’s Committee – a different opinion unfolds. The most vivid evidence I have of that was sitting in Judge Leslie Wells’ courtroom one day when a Traficant supporter took a seat beside me.
"I’m hear to support old Jimbo," the man said to me.
After watching Traficant’s antics during the first half of the morning session, the man turned to me and said "Why doesn’t that judge slap him with a contempt charge."
Traficant’s lies were exposed by Assistant US Attorney Craig Morford during his closing rebuttal. Traficant had taunted and tried unsuccessfully to intimidate Morford throughout the entire trial. Going into the closing arguments Traficant knew he had not presented a case and knew he was going to get destroyed. He begged Judge Wells to set a time limit for the first half of Morford’s closing argument. He was terrified that Morford, given 90 minutes, would use two minutes for his closing argument and take 88 minutes to rip Traficant’s closing statement in his rebuttal.
Morford’s opening took a full hour. Then it took the skilled prosecutor just 30 minutes in rebuttal to refute all of Traficant’s lies from his closing. The whole time Traficant sat on the edge of his chair watching the clock as Morford rebutted Jimbo’s lies one at a time.
In addition to Traficant’s misrepresentation of the facts, Richard Detore, who was originally to be tried alongside Traficant, was allowed to spew more lies. Detore had gone through three sets of lawyers all of whom had explained to him that the government had him cold and he should cut a deal. Detore had ignored their advice and was now crying poverty after paying more than $60,000 in legal fees for advice he refused to heed. His only chance was if jurors and Congress sided with Traficant.
Detore got a note from his physician in order to avoid pre-trial hearings on his case on July 2 and July 9. He was just too ill to travel. Then on July 16 he miraculously regained his health in time to testify for three hours before the Ethics Committee during a hearing that ended around midnight. Detore was allowed to say anything he wanted and was not cross-examined with the cold hard facts that will surely be his undoing come his trial in November. Again, the casual observer was treated to only one side of the story.
For those of you who would like to read Morford’s closing here is a link to the transcripts http://www.house.gov/ethics/Traficant_pdfs/Traficant_Transcript_Listing.htm
Go down to the April 8 closing arguments and click on it. Once the transcripts come up go to page 6322 which begins the rebuttal portion of Morford’s closing.
Traficant vows that he will run for Congress again as an Independent this fall from his prison cell. Are the people of the Mahoning Valley crazy enough to elect him again? If they do the House of Representatives can vote not to seat him. After losing 420 to 1 it’s unlikely he will fair much better if it comes to another vote. However, if the Bureau of Prisons decides to place Traficant in a facility outside the State of Ohio the only position he will be running for is chairman of the cellblock.
Meanwhile, what will the ex-Congressman’s life be like in prison? Well, he will be trading in his bell-bottoms, skinny ties, and cowboy shit-kickers for khaki uniforms and sneakers. Once Traficant is assigned a location by the Bureau of Prisons he will undergo an orientation program and be handed a prison rulebook.
With his education level Traficant can earn between 23 cents and $1.15 an hour. However, this time it will be Jimbo who will be kicking back part of his salary. Fifty percent of his wages will go to the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program to pay his court-ordered fines. Employment opportunities available to Traficant will include metal work, furniture, electronics, textiles and graphic arts. Or perhaps Jimbo can hone his culinary skills in the prison kitchen. One thing is for certain, wherever he lands NO ONE is going to give him a job in the prison barbershop.
While catching up on articles over the past few weeks AmericanMafia.com got a chuckle from a story written by Paul L. Allen of the Tucson Citizen regarding a story on the passing of Joe Bonanno. In the article Allen uses the following quote from A. Bates Butler III, a former US Attorney for the State of Arizona: "He [Bonanno] is probably the first Mafia godfather to die of natural causes."
My first reaction was to think that perhaps Bates had seen the Godfather movie one too many times. But then I thought that couldn’t be it because Don Corleone died of natural causes. So I decided that Bates, being from a relatively Mafia-free section of the country, needed a little history lesson to let him know that not all "Mafia godfathers" have gone to their maker via cement overshoes or from lead poisoning.
Well Mr. Butler here’s a listing of Mafia bosses to depart this world the natural way. For you mob die-hards this is NOT an all-inclusive listing:
Bonanno Family – Joseph Bonanno, Gaspar DiGregorio, Natale Evola, Philip Rastelli
Colombo Family – Joseph Profaci, Joseph Magliocco, Joseph Colombo (technically)
Genovese Family – Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Frank Tieri, Anthony Salerno
Gambino Family – Carlo Gambino, John Gotti
Lucchese Family – Gaetano Gagliano, Thomas Lucchese, Carmine Tramunti, Anthony Corallo
Buffalo – Joseph DiCarlo, Sr., Stefano Magaddino, Sam Pieri
Chicago – Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, Paul DeLucia, Anthony Accardo, Joey Aiuppa, Joseph Ferriola
Cleveland – Frank Milano, Al Polizzi, John Scalish, James Licavoli, John Tronolone
Dallas – Carlo Piranio, Joseph Civello, Joseph Campisi
Denver – James Colletti, Joseph Spinuzzi, Eugene Smaldone, Clyde Smaldone
Detroit – Sam Catalonotte, Joseph Zerilli
Kansas City – Charles Corolla, Anthony Gizzo, Nicholas Civella
Los Angeles – Jack Dragna, Frank DeSimone, Dominic Brooklier, Nick Licata
Milwaukee – Vito Guardalabene, Peter Guardalabene, Joseph Amato, Joseph Vallone, Joseph Alioto, Frank Balistrieri
New England – Phil Buccola (Bruccola), Raymond L S Patriarca, Nicholas Bianco
New Orleans – Charles Matranga, Silvestro Carolla, Carlos Marcello
New Jersey (DeCavalcante) – Gaspare D’Amico, Philip Amari, Nicholas Delmore, Sam DeCavalcante
Philadelphia – Mike Sabella, Joseph Bruno, Joseph Ida
Pittsburgh – Vincenzo Capizzi, John LaRocca
Pittston/Scranton – Joseph Barbara, Russel Bufalino
Rochester – Stanley Valenti, Frank Valenti
Rockford – Tony Musso, Joseph Zammuto
San Francisco – Francesco Lanza, Anthony Lima, Mike Abati, James Lanza
San Jose – Onofrio Sciortino, Joseph Cerrito
St. Louis – Anthony Giordano, John Vitale, Mathew Trupiano
Tampa – Santo Trafficante, Sr., Santo Trafficante, Jr.
Boston – Disgraced former FBI agent "Dishonest John" Connolly and his counsel, Tracy Miner, are growing desperate with his September 12 sentencing date now less than 40 days away. Their latest motion calls for a new trial due to a "tainted jury." The motion pointed out that a juror was using notes they had written at home, after each day’s testimony ended, and then brought with them to use during deliberations. US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro, in denying the motion, responded, "On the first day of trial…I told the jurors I did not permit notetaking during the trial…I did not, however, forbid the jurors from the making of notes of their own impressions of the evidence." Let’s see what they come up with next.
New York – Thomas Pennini, a mob associate with alleged ties to four New York City crime families, was shot to death by Lucchese Family associate Frank "Anthony" Santoro on July 11. The 54 year-old Pennini was walking his pit-bull in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx when he encountered a woman and her daughter engaged in a fight with Santoro’s girlfriend. During the incident Santoro was called. After showing up in his SUV Santoro, a 280-pounder, bashed Pennini over the head with a handgun before shooting him in the stomach. Santoro fled the scene in his SUV while Pennini left in an ambulance only to be declared DOA at Jacobi Medical Center. Pennini once turned down an offer to become a made member of the Genovese Family, claiming he didn’t want the "spotlight on him." Convicted several years ago of trafficking in heroin he served eight years in prison. The investigation into the murder revealed some witnesses claim Santoro acted in self-defense. One account had Pennini wielding a baseball bat; another had him with a pair of scissors. Sources say that since Pennini outranked his killer that mob justice would befall Santoro if he didn’t turn himself in to authorities. One police source told the New York Daily News that, "He’s better off coming in to face the court system than street justice. And we know they are out for him. Pennini ranked a lot higher in the mob chain and Santoro is expendable." On July 23 police found Santoro "scared stiff – holed up in an upstate hotel."
Believe it or not it has been a year since the Current Mob Report has been in existence. While I have added names to my list over the past 12 months I’m not sure what to do with this area for the future. Options include doing a "This Day in Mob History," or simply focusing on one event and expounding on it.
We are currently open to suggestions.
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.
August 6, 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. This sentencing was originally scheduled for July 23. AM.com would like to thank Kim Smith and Christina Littlefield of the Las Vegas Sun for the update and some new research tools.
September 6, 2002 – Providence – Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. will be sentenced for his June 24 conviction on one count of federal racketeering conspiracy by US District Judge Ernest C. Torres. Cianci was cleared of 11 other charges. Being sentenced with him will be Frank E. Corrente, a former top aide, and Richard E. Autiello, a businessman. Cianci, the longest serving "big city" mayor in the United States, is looking at 37 to 46 months in prison.
September 2002 – Philadelphia– Albert R. Coccio, Jr. will be sentenced by US District Judge John P. Fullam after his May 28 guilty plea to charges of wire fraud, making false statements and money laundering. Coccio, a South Philadelphia contractor who at one time employed Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, faces 6 to 18 months in prison.
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