Feature Articles

February 19, 2001

Round Up The Usual Suspects

By John William Tuohy

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

compiled by John William Tuohy

The Magazines Network...

PHILADELPHIA: Former mob boss Ralph Natale, cooperating with federal authorities for the past year, has described details of at least 14 mob murders that include two in which he says he was the triggerman.

      Natale, a former head of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob, is testifying in the federal corruption trial of Camden, N.J., mayor Milton Milan.

      The 69-year-old mobster pleaded guilty earlier this year to murder, extortion, gambling and drug trafficking and admitted using an associate to bribe Milan in return for favors to mob-influenced businesses.

      Natale told the FBI that a South Philadelphia bookmaker was gunned down because his brother admitted to the 1993 murder of Michael Ciancaglini, a close associate of reputed mobster Joseph Merlino. Natale described another Merlino associate telling him, "It was a pleasure and a honor to do this for Michael and for us.''

      Natale provided information into the 1996 disappearance of mob associate Michael Avicolli, who Natale said was shot and buried in northern New Jersey for having an affair with the wife of another mobster.

      Natale also said that former mob associate Ronald Turchi gave $10,000 to a high-ranking member of the Gambino crime family to "buy" the position of Philadelphia mob boss. Turchi was later killed.

      Natale said he authorized the killing of Newark mobster Joe Sodano because Sodano repeatedly failed to come to a meeting.

NEW YORK: The jailed son-in-law of crime boss John Gotti has asked for a new bail hearing because of an FBI agent's "false" testimony on the stand, according to court papers.

     Carmine Agnello said there is reason to doubt the accuracy of an FBI agent's description of two incidents that led to Agnello being jailed without bail because he was a "danger to the community."

     Agnello's lawyers say that an alleged meeting between Agnello and reputed mobster Anthony (Tony Parkside) Federici, in which Agnello sought help finding a snitch, "never happened."

     At that alleged meeting, which reportedly took place sometime after his arrest Jan. 25, the FBI agent testified that Agnello made an "Italian horns of death" gesture with his hand.

     Agnello's lawyers produced an affidavit in which Federici swore under oath, "I have not seen or spoken to Carmine Agnello in the year 2000."

     Agnello, whose wife, Victoria Gotti, has filed for divorce from the junkyard magnate, is facing charges of arson, extortion and tax fraud.

MANHATTAN: An activist in Little Italy picked by Mayor Giuliani to run a mob-free Feast of San Gennaro ended up skimming money from Mulberry St. merchants, prosecutors charged yesterday.

     Anne Compoccia, head of the Children of San Gennaro and longtime chairwoman of Manhattan's Community Board 1, was charged by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White with one count of bank fraud.

     The money came not from the San Gennaro festival, but from fees merchants paid to a Compoccia-led group that collected "rent" to turn Little Italy's most famous street into a summertime pedestrian mall, prosecutors said.

     Compoccia, a well-liked activist who grew up in Little Italy was released without having to post bail and declined to comment.

     She faces a $1 million fine and up to 30 years in jail.

     In 1995 federal prosecutors indicted several members of the Genovese crime family, alleging that they secretly controlled San Gennaro, the city's biggest street fair.

NAPLES: A 2-year-old girl shot in the head during an attack on her father's flower shop has died.

     Police were investigating the shooting might have been a botched hold-up or instead was the latest strike in turf wars between rival clans of the Camorra crime syndicate.

     Investigators said Valentina Terraciano's father, Raffaele Terraciano, has a criminal record for selling contraband cigarettes, a lucrative activity for the Naples-based Camorra.

     Clan fighting has bloodied much of Naples and its suburbs over the last few years as mobsters keep battling for control of rackets including prostitution, cigarette and drug smuggling, illegal betting and extortion of local business owners.

     Raffaele Terraciano was treated for an arm injury and released from the hospital. His wife also suffered slight injuries in the shooting.

BOGOT´┐Ż: Roberto Escobar, the jailed brother of slain Colombian cocaine lord Pablo Escobar claims that Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori took a million-dollar contribution from Escobar during his first campaign.

     According to Escobar, the alleged go-between was Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori's former spy chief and top aide who has been in hiding since last month and is facing various criminal charges.

     Escobar, who is nearly blind due to a 1993 letter bomb, provided no hard evidence for the alleged 1989 contribution. "In the mafia there are never any documents lying around, much less so about this," he said.

     According to Escobar, the Medellin cartel was buying protection for its rug operations in Peru. The cartel purchased semi-processed cocaine from its southern Andean neighbor, and Montesinos--once in the government--helped ensure that Peruvian authorities allowed planes and fishing boats packed with "Coca paste'' to reach Colombia unimpeded, Escobar claimed.

MOSCOW: Russia said it introduced new rules for car import aimed at preventing widespread evasion of customs duties by the Russian Mafia.

     Russians wanting to import any car must place a deposit in a certified bank in the closest city to their place of residence worth from 1,000 euros to 15,000 euros ($864 to $12,985), depending on the age and value of the car. The deposit will be returned after the car owner pays customs duties.

     Russian citizens working abroad for extended periods were granted permission to import one car a year without paying taxes. The authorities have said the exemption has been used by organized crime groups to evade customs fees, costing the budget $120 million last year in lost duties.

ROME: "I Cento Passi" (The Hundred Steps), directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, was selected as Italy's candidate for Best Foreign Language Film on Wednesday. The film is based on the true story of a young journalist who boldly challenged a Mafia boss and was slain.

     The story centers around the life of a young Sicilian muckraker, Giuseppe Impastato, who grows up to defy the Mafia and rebel against his own father-- also a mobster. The title refers to the distance between Impastato's house and that of Mafia boss Tano Badalamenti in a tiny Sicilian village.

TOKYO: The Metropolitan Police Department arrested a 48-year-old Tokyo ward assembly member on suspicion he paid to have sex with teenage girls provided to him by alleged members of the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza.

     Police arrested Hiroyoshi Matsumoto, a New Komeito member of the Edogawa ward assembly. Also arrested was Hiromichi Maruyama, a 26-year-old nightclub owner who allegedly introducing Matsumoto to the girls.

     Matsumoto has admitted to being introduced to and having sex with several young girls working for the club 20 or more times, police said, adding that he also filmed the encounters.

ROME: Crime in Italy has a $133.3 billion annual turnover, with the highest revenue coming from rackets and loan sharking, a report says.

     The figure in question is equal to 15 percent of Italy's GDP and one-fifth of the country's retail and service outlets are controlled by organized crime, the report by retailers' body Confcommercio said.

     Confcommercio said the survey was based on information from magistrates, police, businesses and Interior Ministry figures.

     The report singled out the 'Ndrangheta, the equivalent of the Mafia in the southern region of Calabria, as one of the most active in the trade of drugs, arms, toxic waste, organs for transplants and money laundering.

     The report says that the Sicilian Mafia has receded after going through a reorganization following the arrest of top bosses in the 1990s, it said.

     Chinese crime groups had also increased their presence in Italian cities.

"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the
"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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