Allan May's book MOB STORIES
IN THIS ISSUE|
· Motor City Mob – Down for the Count? 2
· Gottis in the Hole
· Short Takes
Motor City Mob – Down for the Count? (Part Two)
Following the April 29, 1998 convictions of Detroit Family boss Jack Tocco, capo Anthony Corrado, and soldiers Nove Tocco and Paul Corrado the judge allowed them to remain free on bond pending a scheduled sentencing date of August 28. (He delayed sentencing until November at which time the defendants would be sentenced in pairs over a two-week period.) In the meantime, prosecutors and attorneys haggled over a financial settlement.
Assistant US Attorney Keith Corbett was seeking $7.7 million, some $13.0 million less than his immediate post trial calculation, based on estimated illegal earnings the men received from gambling, the sales of interest from two Nevada hotels, extortion and collection of street tax from bookies, all of which took place over the past 30 years.
US District Judge John Corbett O’Meara, of whom the Detroit Free Press made the understatement that he had "not always ruled in the government’s favor," would continue to be a thorn in the prosecutor’s side. First, on July 30, he threw out the jury’s guilty verdicts on a combined nine counts which involved bomb-related charges which could have resulted in life sentences for Nove Tocco and Paul Corrado. Then, on October 26, he rejected the government’s request for the forfeiture of the $7.7 million stating the "evidence did not bring enough facts for the government’s claim. The testimony did not give enough information to calculate the amount received from the illegal activity or which defendants might have received the money."
Jack Tocco’s lawyer, David Griem, responded after the decision, "I’m relieved that the assets that Jack Tocco acquired from a lifetime of honest, hard work are finally safe from the government." It was not the last time Griem would be pleased with one of the O’Meara’s decisions.
On October 28 Nove Tocco was arrested in Arizona after an informant notified the FBI that the convicted mobster had obtained a fake passport. Tocco’s attorney, William Bufalino II, whined, "That is the furthest thing from the truth." Tocco, who owns a home in Arizona, had the court’s permission to travel there, the lawyer pointed out. Why he needed a passport to travel to Arizona, Bufalino declined to say. Tocco was returned to the Wayne County Jail in Michigan to await sentencing.
On November 6 Nove Tocco and Paul Corrado became the first of six Motor City mobsters to be sentenced. Nove Tocco was handed 19 years. Paul Corrado, the nephew of reputed capo Anthony Corrado – not to be confused with Anthony’s son Paul Corrado who had pled out in January – received 13 years. Corrado received a lesser sentence because he exposed Khalid Shabazz, who had approached him during the trial and guaranteed a not-guilty vote from a juror in exchange for $25,000. Corrado informed the FBI of the plot, who then wired the mobster. A meeting was set up in a downtown restaurant and when Shabazz arrived he was nabbed. In November Shabazz pled guilty to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to five years and ten months by then US District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff.
O’Meara sentenced both men to the lower end of the sentencing guidelines and refused to "pile on" additional time for the firearms conviction. Speaking like a father to Nove, O’Meara said, "You’ve got some substantial time to do, Mr. Tocco. I hope you stay healthy. I hope you get through it…Good luck."
Bufalino, speaking for his client, told O’Meara, "There is a future for Nove Tocco. He should not be permitted to rot in jail. He just wants to get on with his life. He’s going to take it like a man and take whatever the court gives him."
As November 13 approached, the date of Jack Tocco’s sentencing, prosecutors were requesting a term of 15 to 19 years because of his position as boss of the Detroit Mafia. However, the prior weeks sentencing should have served as an omen for Corbett. As Jack Tocco’s lawyer exulted afterward, "both Christmas and Thanksgiving have come early this year."
Incredibly, O’Meara sentenced Jack Tocco to one year and one day in a federal halfway house, fined him $75,000 and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service. Tim Doran of the Free Press wrote, "By adding the day, the judge made Tocco eligible for a 47-day reduction in the sentence for good behavior. Tocco will be required to live at a local halfway house, but he will be allowed to go to work in the family business in Detroit and go to medical appointments."
In a repeat performance, O’Meara came across as almost apologetic in sentencing the mob boss. "Mr. Tocco, I hope you stay as healthy as you can. Good luck to you." Anthony Corrado was given four years and three months in prison. He was fined $37,500 and ordered to do 750 hours of community work.
Prosecutor Corbett was incredulous about the sentencing. "I think this sentence [Tocco’s] is entirely inappropriate. It’s an insult to the jury. I think when someone is convicted of several felonies and gets a one-year sentence, it doesn’t send any kind of message at all to people in the community," he said.
Days after the sentencing nearly 300 letters were made public practically all of them urging leniency. One of the writers, a Grosse Pointe councilman said he was asked by Tocco’s children to do so. The mob boss had 8 children and 17 grandchildren lobbying for him. Letters arrived from Republican fund-raisers, local politicians and businessmen, a retired judge, doctors, lawyers and priests. One came from former Baltimore Oriole’s manager Earl Weaver.
Corbett’s reply was "I would remind the members of the clergy that the pope has condemned the Mafia publicly in Italy."
Paul Corrado, the son of the Detroit capo, and Vito William "Billy Jack" Giacalone were the last of the group to be sentenced on November 20. Both men had pled guilty before the February trial. Corrado, who had pled to obstruction of justice, received six months in a halfway house. Giacalone, whose crimes were more serious, received six and a half years.
Meanwhile, O’Meara’s judicial colleagues were having none of the judges holiday spirit. Two days before Christmas they rejected Jack Tocco’s plans to serve his sentence in a local halfway facility and instead told him to report to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota on January 5, 1999. Tocco completed his sentence and was back home for Thanksgiving dinner 1999, but his problems were far from over.
The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered O’Meara to re-sentence Jack Tocco concluding that the sentence violated the law and that the judge "erred when applying sentencing guidelines." The appellate judge also chastised the federal probation office accusing them of being "preoccupied with expressing its concern that Tocco was unjustly pursued by the government…" The appeals court directed the judge to "consider promptly" a government motion to revoke Tocco’s bond.
O’Meara chose not to revoke Tocco’s bail and instead waited until appeals could be heard before re-sentencing the mob boss. On March 12, 2000, ministers, a foot doctor and a psychologist were called to support attorney’s claims that Tocco should not be sent back to prison. After hearing the physical and mental woes of Tocco and his wife, Corbett let it be known he would be presenting a "surprise witness."
On March 14 the government presented the underworlds latest "mob rat." The prosecution finally had a turncoat witness that Judge O’Meara couldn’t keep from testifying – Nove Tocco! In exchange for getting his 19-year prison term reduced Nove Tocco made an agreement with the government to expose his second cousin "as the head of the Detroit Mafia."
Jack Tocco, who had previously relished the kind words that had been used to portray him as a family man and pillar of the community, sat and stared straight ahead without emotion as he was exposed as a Mafia chieftain.
Calling the Detroit mob the "Combination; the Partnership or Partners," the Free Press reported that Nove Tocco testified that "Jack Tocco took over the mob in 1979, succeeding Nove Tocco’s grandfather, Joseph Zerilli, and uncle Tony Zerilli," who was running it when Nove became a member in the late 1960s. Nove Tocco said that yet to be tried defendant Anthony Joseph Zerilli was his uncle and the current underboss of the family.
Sources told the Free Press "that Nove Tocco chose to betray the outfit once run by his grandfather because he was stuck behind bars while Jack Tocco walked after a year and a day." While Nove Tocco spilled his guts his attorney, William Bufalino, who had once promised his client was "going to take it like a man," sat in a corner in the back of the courtroom.
Nove Tocco was the first Detroit Mafia member to become a government witness. He testified that he hoped his sentence would be reduced to five years after which he would enter into the Witness Security Program. His deal with the government had one exception. He would not have to testify against underboss Anthony Zerilli, his mother’s younger brother.
On May 25, 2000 Judge O’Meara sentenced Jack Tocco to a total of 34 months; meaning the mob boss would return to prison for approximately two more years as he was given credit for time served. Jack Tocco told the court, "All my adult life, I’ve been fighting to clear my name. And I will continue that fight…until the time I die…"
An infuriated Corbett, disgusted over the community support Tocco received and the short sentence, said the judge should have sentenced "Jack Tocco, the extortionist; Jack Tocco, the racketeer; and Jack Tocco, the mob boss."
On September 5, 2000 the US Court of Appeals tossed out the convictions of Nove Tocco and Paul Corrado and ordered O’Meara to call the jurors back into court and question them about the bribe attempt by Khalid Shabazz. At the time of the incident, with deliberations near, O’Meara asked the jurors just "three broad questions concerning whether anyone had tried to influence them." The appeals court ruled the judge "should have asked more specific questions of the jurors."
In late September the appeals court overruled yet another O’Meara decision and said that Jack Tocco and Vito Giacalone should have to forfeit $1.2 million for their criminal activities.
In early October Judge O’Meara met for three hours with the jurors who decided the case and the six alternates. After determining that there was no evidence to toss out the convictions he reinstated them, denied the men bond and announced they would be re-sentenced.
Fast forward to July 2002. Anthony Joseph Zerilli is the only defendant left to stand trial. At the age of 74 he has spent the better part of the past four years using health problems to avoid going to court. Each delay along the way was allowed by Judge O’Meara.
By the time Zerilli’s case was heard, 12 of the 17 men indicted in March 1996 had been convicted or had pled guilty. Of the remaining five, Anthony Tocco had been acquitted; Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone had died; charges against two were dismissed; leaving just Zerilli to face the music.
The build up for the trial had the Detroit News calling the case the "end of an era," and running articles tracing the heritage of the Zerilli family in Detroit.
On the day the trial was schedule to begin, July 22, it was again health problems that almost prevented it from getting off the ground. However, this time it was the judge who was hospitalized "for an undisclosed illness." Lawrence Zatkoff, now the Chief US District Judge ordered the trial to continue after the aging mobster turned down the last ditch effort of prosecutors, who offered him a term of 18 months to 4 years.
The government used the Paul Corrado / Nove Tocco tapes which had been successful in achieving the previous convictions of 12 mobsters. Angelo Polizzi again was called to testify with the defense later calling his mother to refute him.
In addition, the government had tapes of Zerilli. On one from December 1992 the mobster is heard telling an associate, "Crack him real good," in response to a businessman who was avoiding a meeting on a property deal.
After the third day of trial there were delays again due to Zerilli’s health. Receiving medical attention for his ailing heart, Zerilli shuffled in and out of courtroom wearing a hearing aid and using a walker.
The trial, which took ten days, spanned four weeks with the jury getting the case on August 14. After three days of deliberations the jury convicted Zerilli on seven of eight counts. The jury foreman claimed afterwards, "there was never much doubt among most jurors that Zerilli was guilty."
Zatkoff, who heard the entire case, set a November 7 sentencing date and refused to revoke Zerilli’s bond. Each charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Instead of 140 years, look for Zerilli to get more like 3 to 5.
In a hallway, after the verdict was read, prosecutor Corbett told reporters, "I’ve been waiting for this for a long time." He then unwrapped a big cigar and put it in his mouth. However, federal courthouse rules prevented him from lighting up.
John Bell, the special-agent-in-charge of the Detroit FBI office, issued a statement saying, "The Zerilli conviction effectively ends the LCN organized crime family in Detroit as it has existed for years." Another one bites the dust!
AmericanMafia.com is left to ponder the bizarre actions of US District Judge John O’Meara. They leave you wondering what was behind the decisions, which always favored the defendants. Beginning with the refusal to allow government witnesses like Al D’Arco to testify as to the inner-workings of the mob, to the lenient sentences, and then in between the rejection of the government forfeiture requests, throwing out some of the jury’s guilty verdicts, and refusing to add more prison time for weapons specifications.
You have to wonder just what the "undisclosed illness" was that prevented the judge from sitting in on this last case. After having his decisions scrutinized and rejected time and again by the appeals court you might question if there even was an illness.
Brothers Peter and Gene Gotti and their nephew John A. "Junior" Gotti have been kept in solitary confinement in their respective jails and prisons based on what government prosecutors claim is "credible information" that the Gotti clan approved plans to have prison warden William Hedrick killed. Hedrick was the warden at both federal facilities that John J. Gotti had been incarcerated in.
According to paperwork filed by government prosecutors, a plan was in the works to murder Hedrick "and if necessary the warden’s family, in order to exact revenge for the perceived mistreatment of John Gotti by the warden." Among the items of "perceived mistreatment" against Gotti were:
Hedrick was the warden at Marion, where Gotti was first imprisoned, and then at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri where the Dapper Don was transferred and where he died of head, neck and throat cancer on June 10.
Junior Gotti was placed in "the hole" at Ray Brook prison in Upstate New York where he is serving six and a half years.
Gene Gotti, who has been in prison since 1989 on a heroin trafficking conviction, was recently transferred to the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma where he is being held in isolation. Both Junior and Gene were reported to have been in solitary confinement since August 16. The government claimed the Gottis were removed from the general prison population to prevent them from communicating with other inmates "who would assist" in passing along messages.
Peter Gotti, who is awaiting trial after a June racketeering indictment, is also being held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. It was reported by Newsday that Peter, who ascended to the Gambino Family throne just weeks before his brother’s death, has been "kept locked up 23 hours a day – 24 hours on weekends – and denied access to a TV or radio."
On September 5 Peter Gotti’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel, told Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block that the procedure for appealing an inmate’s detention was "a mockery of due process." Gotti had been in lock-down for nearly three weeks before he was given the paperwork to file an appeal. Shargel says his client informed the FBI he knew nothing about the murder plot.
Block ordered a closed-door hearing regarding the death threat allegations after "peppering" Assistant US Attorney Andrew Genser and Bureau of Prisons attorney Todd Bailey with questions about Peter Gotti’s appeal.
Kati Cornell Smith of the New York Post reported that Block "ripped" federal prosecutors telling them, "I’m not confident that this naked allegation is justification for keeping this man…in lock-down. I find this unconstitutional, based upon what you’ve told me in court. He is not being punished for anything he did wrong."
After hearing the evidence brought forward by government prosecutors, on September 11 Judge Block called Peter Gotti’s confinement "punitive" and "excessive" and ordered him released from solitary. The following day a federal appeals court allowed prosecutors to delay a judge's order to return Gotti to the general population in the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Atlantic City – The name of alleged Philadelphia Family boss Joseph Ligambi was submitted by the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement to the casino exclusion list, which would ban the 63 year-old mobster from Atlantic City casinos. The "exclusion list" is the Atlantic City version of the infamous "Black Book" of Nevada. Ligambi has the right to challenge the ban, but according to George Anastasia of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "his low-key style and penchant for shunning the limelight – an appeal would result in a public hearing – make that move unlikely." Earlier this year Ligambi’s alleged underboss, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, had his name added to the list of undesirables. Anastasia says that half of the names on the list are "reputed" mobsters, including Nicky Scarfo, Martin Angelina, Joseph Bongiovanni, Joseph Ciancaglini, Sr., Salvatore Merlino and his son Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Anastasia didn’t mention Lawrence "Yogi’ Merlino. A couple of weeks ago someone posted an article on one of the Forums that claimed the turncoat member of the Merlino family died of a "cancer-related illness" in November 2001. Death, however, does not necessarily cause one’s name to be expunged from the list as Anastasia points out that the name of Saul Kane, who died in prison two years ago, still appears. Another name George didn’t mention was Billy "the Dust Bunny" Rinick. AM.com wonders if this is because Rinick only appeared under the tables when he frequented the casinos. For a look at the "exclusion list" check this link: http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ge/exclude1.htm
Boston (1) – On Monday, September 16 when this column is published, disgraced former FBI agent "Dishonest John" Connolly will stand before US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro to be sentenced. Connolly is looking at an 8 to 10 year sentence for his conviction last May for racketeering, conspiracy and lying. On September 6 the first official response to the matter, a letter to the judge from the government, was released. As promised, Robert J. Jordan, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote to the judge and provided the following statements printed in the Boston Globe. "Connolly deserves maximum punishment because he ‘betrayed his oath of office, his duty to his fellow agents, and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement’ by working with his criminal informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen Flemmi." Rejecting the argument that Connolly was forced by circumstances to work the way he did, Jordan said, "I can attest that there is no FBI policy, official or otherwise, that enables an Agent to veer from the law in the development and maintenance of criminal informants. The FBI has no ‘wink-and-a-nod’ policy that condones John Connolly’s criminal conduct." Jordan claimed Connolly’s leaks "poisoned the trust that had existed among law enforcement [agencies] and caused us to grow suspicious of one another. This is the cost and legacy of John Connolly." The Globe reports that defense attorneys are expected to include over 100 bleeding-heart letters in support of "Dishonest John" when they submit their sentencing memorandum.
On Monday, September 9 Judge Tauro ended speculation as to which way his decision would swing in the sentencing by announcing that Connolly "must serve 8 to 10 years" in a federal prison.
Boston (2) – Claiming that he was still "perplexed why the veteran police officer helped move the cache of 70 weapons in January 2000 from the Flemmi parent’s South Boston cabana," US District Judge Richard G. Sterns sentenced Michael Flemmi to 10 years in federal prison. The sentence was handed down on Monday, September 9 in Boston. J. M. Lawrence of the Boston Herald writes, "A jury convicted Flemmi May 3 of obstructing justice, possession of silencers, and lying to a grand jury about the weapons June 7, 2000.
During the spring trial William St. Croix, the son of Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi and nephew of Michael, testified along with former Winter Hill Gang member Kevin J. Weeks. Looking for a more lenient sentence, Michael Flemmi’s attorney John LaChance said his client has already suffered two heart attacks, he may not survive a third one.
Hartford – Painting former New England underboss William "The Wild Guy" Grasso as the mob-grinch who once stole a child’s McDonald’s Happy Meal, attorneys for Gaetano Milano are asking for a new trial. In 1989 Milano, Frank Colantoni, Jr., and Frank Pugliano murdered the "cruel" underboss and dumped his body in the Connecticut River. Now, lawyers want to see "secret FBI files" which they claim will prove that agents "used informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Steven "the Rifleman" Flemmi to stoke underworld violence" which led to Milano shooting Grasso in the back of the neck in self-defense. "The government withheld evidence in pre-trial and pre-sentencing proceedings that would have been favorable" to their client, lawyers claimed. Connecticut US District Judge Alan H. Nevas is allowing the attorneys permission to depose former Assistant US Attorney Diane Kottmyer, now a superior court judge, and Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio, a former mob informant now enrolled in the Witness Security Program. The Boston Herald’s J. M. Lawrence writes, "When Milano was sentenced in 1991 in Hartford, he wept and denounced the Mafia as an ‘evil organization’ whose snare he could never escape. ‘All they do is maim, destroy and make people disappear,’ he told the court, renouncing his La Cosa Nostra membership. He said he murdered Grasso because it was ‘kill or be killed.’"
The Hartford trial came to an end on August 8, 1991 with eight members of the Patriarca Family convicted of violating the RICO act. Nicholas Bianco, considered by the FBI the "unofficial" head of the Providence operations, and Americo Petrillo were both convicted on two counts of racketeering. Milano was found guilty of murdering Grasso. Frank Colantoni, Jr., and brothers Frank and Louis Pugliano were found guilty of conspiracy, in the Grasso murder. The other two defendants, found guilty of racketeering, were Salvatore "Butch" D’Aquila, Jr., and Louis Faillia. On November 14, 1994 Bianco died in a federal prison in Springfield, Missouri. Disclosures made during the trial of New England Family crime boss Frank Salemme seem to have vindicated "Junior" Patriarca of the belief that his ineptitude allowed the bugging of the induction ceremony in 1989. Family member Angelo Mercurio, who drove Patriarca to the ceremony, was revealed to be a FBI informant. Under federal law, warrants for electronic surveillance are only available if there are no other means of obtaining information. Defense experts said that law enforcement officials lied to the judge, failing to disclose that an informant, Mercurio, would be attending the ceremony.
New York (1) – The plot thickens in the ongoing dispute and indictments involving actor Steven Seagal and his ex-business partner Jules Nasso, an alleged Gambino Family associate. AM.com reported back in June that Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch found her windshield smashed and an aluminum pan containing a rose, a dead fish and a sign that said "STOP" were left behind after she wrote about the Seagal / Nasso incident. In late August Ned Zeman, a reporter for Vanity Fair, who has written an article about Seagal for the October issue, told police that an automobile pulled alongside his one night, and someone pointed a gun at him and told him to "stop." While some wonder if this is just an old Hollywood publicity stunt, both Busch and Zeman are said to be terrified. Nasso has connections to Gambino Family capo Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone. Both were part of a Gambino Family indictment earlier this year, which included newly anointed boss Peter Gotti, in which they were charged with trying to extort an unnamed Hollywood entertainer believed to be Seagal. Meanwhile, it was reported a few weeks ago that Seagal was working with Danny Provenzano, an alleged Genovese Family member. Whatever they are "working" on reporters failed to mention. Provenzano goes on trial this month for a racketeering indictment in Hackensack, New Jersey.
New York (2) – As AmericanMafia.com reported last week, it looks like the end of the road for Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. The once proud Gambino underboss, who boasted of his exploits in a best-selling book and made-for-television movie that he profited from, will not see freedom again until at least the year 2020. This is assuming that when the State of Arizona sentences him it will be a concurrent term. To make sure he doesn’t go back to his criminal ways, if he lives to be released, US District Court Judge Allyne Ross ordered that he be placed on supervised release for the rest of his life. Assistant US Attorney Linda Lacewell told the court before sentence was passed that Gravano "was given that second chance and he threw it away like yesterday’s news. It meant nothing. His was a crime of power and arrogance. He couldn’t sit in Arizona and be a pool salesman or run a construction company. He wanted the old days back; he wanted ‘The Life’ back, the power back. And he took this young crew and capitalized on their bizarre hero worship of him." Under the sentencing guidelines Gravano faced fifteen and a half years. Attorney Anthony L. Ricco, who replaced Lynne Stewart as Gravano’s counsel, argued that Ross should give a sentence lower than the guidelines because Gravano would have to spend his incarceration in 24-hour confinement due to his "mob rat" status. Instead, Ross tacked on an additional 54 months and fined Gravano $100,000. Gravano, who answered the judge with a terse "no" when asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed, was scolded by Ross, who said he "showed utter lack of remorse for prior criminality…" As Gravano was being led from the courtroom a New York Daily News reporter asked him what he thought of the sentence. "What do you think?" Gravano snapped back. In attendance was 82 year-old Mona Garofola. With tears in her eyes, she stated "He still hasn’t paid for my son’s murder. Closure [on Eddie’s death] will be when I die." Anthony Ricco claimed the sentence was no surprise. Gravano’s repeat criminality "was an insult to the [prosecutors] office. It was egg on their face." Ricco said he would appeal the sentence "immediately."
New York (3) – Over the past decade one of the requirements for "acting boss’ of the Lucchese Family is that you have to be a good singer. The tune the most recent "acting boss," Joseph "Little Joe" Defede has been singing since February resulted in the arrest of 13 mobsters, 8 of them Lucchese Family members or associates, on September 5. Among those nailed were alleged underboss Steven Crea and capo Dominic "Crazy Dom" Truscello. The charges included in the five separate indictments are extortion, loansharking and drug trafficking. Crea and Truscello were indicted two years ago in a construction-rigging scam, which has yet to come to trial. Manhattan US Attorney James Comey stated Defede’s betrayal was "another example of La Cosa Nostra’s crumbling wall of silence. Defede’s turn at government witness follows those of Alphonse "Little Al" D’Arco, and another Lucchese singer, one that changed his tune, Anthony "Gas Pipe" Casso, who opted to spend the rest of his life in prison. Let’s see what song and dance Crea will have for the feds.
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