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Goodfellas Who Might Be Role Models.
by ALLEN SALKIN, New York Post, 1/15/2000
Producers of "The Sopranos" insist the guys in the show's Jersey mob crew are totally fictitious.
But lawmen and longtime observers of the New Jersey mob scene say each of the characters seems to be based -- at least in part -- on some real life Garden State gangsters.
Mob experts Robert Carroll, who headed New Jersey's Organized Crime Task Force from 1986 through 1992, and his top aide, Robert Buccino, helped The Post pick out some "real life" Sopranos. The Post also spoke to several veteran reporters who covered the Jersey mob.
Tony Soprano, the capo played by James Gandolfini who complains about his "family" problems to a psychiatrist, closely resembles Michael Taccetta, a capo who was running the Luchese family's New Jersey operations before the 1993 bust.
"He was the flamboyant type, in charge of loan-sharking and a big murder in Toms River," Buccino said.
Taccetta is serving a long jail sentence on murder and racketeering charges.
Paulie Walnuts, Tony Soprano's loyal hit man, resembles Anthony DeVingo, a fearsome -- but incredibly likable -- hit man for the Jersey faction of the Genovese mob in the 1970s and 1980s.
DeVingo, a masterful storyteller and cold-blooded killer, once beat a murder rap at trial in 1980 -- despite graphic testimony from a mob informant who was in the car when the victim was shot in the head.
DeVingo, a protégé of legendary Jersey mobster "Richie the Boot" Boiardo, was the prime suspect in the 1979 murder of Jersey Shore mob boss Anthony "Little Pussy" Russo -- although he was never charged.
DeVingo -- who looked like a mobster right out of central casting -- died of a heart attack about 10 years ago.
Uncle Junior, the stately gentleman of the Soprano family, resembles real-life mob capo Joey Sodano.
Sodano began his life in organized crime in Newark in the 1950s.
He represented the old Angelo Bruno crime family during meetings with heads of other New Jersey crime families to discuss who would control and distribute poker machines.
"Sodano was an old-style gentleman mobster," Carroll said.
He pleaded guilty in the 1993 case.
In 1996, at age 58, after his release from prison, he was found shot in the back of the head sitting in the driver's seat of his mini-van in a Newark parking lot, his hands still gripping the steering wheel.
Silvio Dante, the Soprano soldier played by Stevie Van Zandt, resembles Thomas Ricciardi, the contract murderer who beat mobster Vincent Craparotta to death with golf clubs in 1984 on the garage floor of Ocean County Auto Sales.
"He was an enforcer," Carroll said.
Ricciardi is still in jail -- and has turned informant.
Young, hot-tempered Christopher Moltisanti reminds some law-enforcement sources of "Young Nicky" Scarfo, the son of the one-time Philadelphia crime family boss.
Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., who is in his mid 20s, has reportedly been trying to become a "made man" in New Jersey.
After a 1998 court decision in which his jailed-for-life father was spared execution, Young Nicky, after chugging from a $250 bottle of Heurtevant champagne, reportedly stood up on a table in a hotel dining room and shouted, "How do I feel? I feel like a 17-year-old kid with a fistful of $100 bills in a whorehouse!"
"Big Pussy" Bompensero, the mysterious Soprano, gets his moniker from Anthony "Little Pussy" Russo, a former driver for mob boss Vito Genovese.
Russo ran a small crew of grade-B racketeers from his base in Long Branch. His downfall came in the late 1970s, when he was caught on tape blabbing about the mob.
Russo, a king of non sequiturs and malapropisms, was recorded saying he'd managed to keep much of his money because "I put it in escarole." He meant "escrow."
He was later murdered. Cops say he got his nickname from his days as a cat burglar.
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