Feature Articles

January 8, 2001

Round Up The Usual Suspects 2

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy
New York: Exactly a year ago this month reputed Bonanno Mafia Capo Anthony Spero, 70, was charged with murdering Vincent Bickelman, a burglar who broke into his daughter's home.

     Bickelman, 25, was found dead on the sidewalk near his home. He had been shot six times. Police say he had burglarized the home of Jill Spero and stole jewelry.

     A federal indictment charged Spero and two other reputed Bonanno family soldiers, Joseph Benanti and Fabritzio DeFrancisci, in the Bickelman slaying.

     Cops say that Spero had once acted as the Bonanno family acting boss and Consigliere.

     Spero was released from prison in January 1997, while acting as Consigliere after serving two years on a federal extortion rap in connection with a business that operated "Joker-Poker" machines.

     Spero was later demoted to the rank of capo because intense law enforcement scrutiny made him ineffective, say law enforcement sources.

     Spero was indicted with Miami Beach club baron Chris Paciello and will go on trial in February 2001 on murder and obstruction of justice charges.

Boston: The sister of an alleged mobster James "Whitey" Bulger who is on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list has given up trying to collect her brothers share of a $14 million lottery jackpot.

     Jean Holland, Bulger's sister told a court last week that she would no longer pursue her brother's $1.9 million share of the Mass Millions lottery, which he and three others won in 1991. Bulger received the money in yearly increments until he was indicted and fled in 1995, and it has since been held by federal authorities.

     A new law which prohibits fugitives from using their relatives to take back government-seized property made it almost impossible for her to collect the winnings.

Chicago: Harry J. Busch, died Thursday. He was 97. Busch began his career as an assistant state's attorney, but went on to become a defense attorney for reputed mob hit men with the Chicago mob.

     He served as private attorney to Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1960s and 1970s.

     On December 11, 1921, Busch found himself at the center of a story that came to be retold thousands of times and was immortalized in the play ``The Front Page.''

     Tommy ``The Terrible'' O'Connor escaped from the Cook County Jail, just three days before he was to be hanged. O'Connor jumped onto the running board of Busch's passing car, pointed a prison guard's gun at Busch's head and told him to drive. Busch became the unwitting getaway driver for O'Connor, who was never found by police.

New York: According to the New York Daily News, the status of the five New York families as of October 2000, is as follows;

Lucchese Crime Family: With about 120 members, the Lucchese family continues to decline. The acting boss is allegedly Steven Crea, who is now facing state charges of enterprise corruption after he was arrested in a massive construction rigging scam, is currently jailed at Rikers Island.

Colombo Crime Family: With about 120 members, the family may be on the brink of civil war since alleged boss Carmine Persico was sent away to serve 139 year for murder and racketeering. Acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Carmine's son, is now serving an 18-month sentence for illegal gun possession in Florida. Experts doubt that he will survive the decade.

Gambino Crime Family: Just under 200 members, the family, for all its problems, remains wealthy and, considering the facts, well organized. The alleged acting boss is Peter Gotti, John's brother.

Genovese Crime Family: With about 250 members, boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante , 72, is serving a 12-year sentence for racketeering and extortion conspiracy. Like the Gambino's, the family remains strong and rich.

The Bonanno's: With the September 6, 2000, arrest of acting Luchese crime boss Steven Crea, the heads of four of New York's five organized crime families is now behind bars. The single remaining alleged boss still free is Jospeh Massino.

     Massino 57, is the alleged head of the Bonanno family spends most of his spare time at the Casablanca Restaurant in Maspeth, Queens, which is said to serve some of the best Italian cooking in the city.

     Massino is said to have a proclivity for secrecy and lives with his wife in modest Howard Beach, Queens, house just a few blocks from the home of his one time friend John Gotti.

     According to police, Massino's principal source of legitimate income is King Caterers, a business that provides food to street vendors.

     While Massino was in prison several years ago, Manhattan prosecutors accused him and his brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale of racketeering and murder stemming from an interfamily war in 1979 in which Massino was allied with Philip "Rusty" Rastelli.

     Massino and Vitale were acquitted on charges of murdering the three men during their 1987 trial.

Croatia: Seventeen alleged Mafia style gangsters are on trial in Zagreb in an attempt by the government to shed light on the capital's criminal underground.

     The men are charged with racketeering, murder, drug trafficking and abduction.

     Police seized nine of the alleged gangsters in a spectacular action involving heavily armed troops last November.

     The suspects, including several men suspected of being bosses of organized crime, have since been held in custody.

     Newspapers said there had been at least 22 Mafia-style murders in the Croatian capital since 1991, 20 of which remain unsolved. Prosecutors will try to pin some of them on the group. The indictments were originally laid against 18 men, but one of the accused, Tomislav Marinac, has offered to testify against his colleagues in exchange for immunity from further prosecution, local media reported, quoting prosecutors.

Mexico City: The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has added 12 Mexicans to its "most wanted" list.

     Included in the list are Gilberto Ontiveros Lucero and Eduardo Munoz Talavera, at one time linked to Amado Carrillo, former leader of Mexico's powerful Juarez cartel.

     The 12 join a list of powerful drug traffickers operating cartels in Mexico, among them Tijuana's Arellano-Felix Brothers gang, one of the nation's most powerful and violent trafficking organizations; the Sonora-based Caro-Quintero cartel, which focuses on cocaine and marijuana; and the Guadalajara-based Amezcua-Contreras organization, viewed by the DEA as one of the world's most prominent Methamphetamine trafficking operations.

     There are three Mexican traffickers on the DEA's list of four ``Major International Fugitives,'' including Ramon Arellano Felix, of the like-named cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, a former Mexican police officer who turned criminal and one Elizabeth Garza. Garza, wanted for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, was described as armed and dangerous. Her last known address was in Houston, Texas.

South Africa: Four people were injured when a bomb exploded outside a fish shop in Cape Town which has suffered a wave of bombings and assassinations starting in 1995. Among the victims of the violence are a judge, police officers investigating the bombing and alleged drug dealers and gangsters.

Philippines: President Joseph Estrada, facing impeachment for alleged links to gambling lords, has ordered the immediate closure of state facilities which run on-line bingo and other forms of betting.

     Estrada issued the order less than a week after he announced that the government was pulling out of all forms of gambling and would transfer the operations of the state gaming firm Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to the private sector. He also ordered the closure of state facilities for jai alai, a hand ball game that originated in the Basque region, and Internet casino.

     The Philippine Roman Catholic church has called for Estrada's resignation after accusations that he had received large payoffs from gambling syndicates running an illegal numbers game.

Mexico City: Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox has rejected as unfounded a report that his anti-corruption czar was linked to drug traffickers.

     Newspapers quoted Fox as saying former Chihuahua Gov. Francisco Barrio was "ethical," of "great morality," and "an honest person."

     Chihuahua and other northern border states are the operation centres for some of Latin America's most powerful narcotics cartels.

Berlin: Germany's foreign intelligence agency charged that ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic funneled more than $100 million into foreign accounts and was involved in drug trafficking.

     The intelligence agency believes Milosevic also controls accounts in Russia, China, Cyprus, Greece, South Africa and Lebanon.

     Earlier this month the Swiss government said it had frozen 100 bank accounts linked to Milosevic and his associates.

     The report alleges that some 60 Milosevic associates controlled virtually all sectors of the Yugoslav economy.

Hollywood: "The Yards" a new gangster flick starring Mark Wahlberg and James Cohn is to resembles the flip side of ``The Godfather.'' and is well worth the price of a ticket.

"Round Up the Usual Suspects" is a Magazine Network Production.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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