Feature Articles

April 30, 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...

     NEW YORK: John Gotti associate and alleged Gambino mobster Joey Watts, a flashy 59 year old, has been slammed with a two-count money-laundering indictment just weeks before his scheduled release from a West Virginia prison.

     The Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office is seeking forfeiture of a $3.25 million that its says Watts has stored away, all of it the proceeds from an enormous loansharking operation he is charged with running since 1984.

     The indictment also charges that the loansharking ring continued even after Watts was locked up in 1996.

     The government want to seize a Swiss bank account it says Watts controls as well as a plush waterfront estate on the Gulf Coast in Sarasota, Fla.

     In 1997 Watts was acquitted by a Staten Island jury in the kidnapping and torture slaying of William Ciccone, a deranged man who fired a gunshot at Gotti outside the mob boss' Ozone Park social club in 1987.

NEW YORK: Gerald Gravano, the 25-year-old son of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano was arraigned on drug charges in Brooklyn courthouse.

     Gerald Gravano and accomplice Michael Papa were each set free on $200,000 bail.

     The elder Gravano, his son and Papa have been accused in Brooklyn Federal Court of conspiring with the Israeli mob to ship thousands of hits of the popular club drug Ecstasy to Arizona.

     Sammy Gravano is expected to appear in New York for arraignment soon. The three men will stand trial first in Arizona on a state indictment filed in February that charges they ran a drug ring that sold $500,000 worth of Ecstasy, a popular club drug. Gravano's wife and daughter also are charged in that case.

NEW YORK: Reputed Luchese underboss, Eugene (Bubsie) Castelle and his alleged capo, Joseph "Joey Flowers" Tangorra, are still under indictment with five alleged Mafia associates, all accused of running a cocaine network that flooded south Brooklyn with drugs.

     Tangorra, 51, allegedly had been selling drugs since 1987 out of a flower shop, earning him his nickname.

     Both men are under arrest and have been ordered held without bail.

NEW YORK: Alleged Bonanno soldier Joe Chilli has been arrested on drug conspiracy charges. Chilli is the twenty fifth alleged member of the Bonanno family to be jailed in 12 months on narcotics charges.

NEW YORK: Joe DiBella, one of the alleged ring leaders in the $150 million stock fraud case has been sentenced to six and a half years in jail and charged with a whopping bill for $16 million in restitution. DiBella was a former top broker at Hanover Sterling which ran a stock fraud scam with organized crime figures.

     Brian Duffy and Frank Ragusa, two former brokers for Amerivet Securities and First National Equity, the firms at the center of the case, were cleared of four counts of securities fraud. However, Denis Yorofsky, a supervisor of brokers, was convicted of conspiracy to commit stock fraud.

     Prosecutors have won guilty pleas from more than 20 other defendants in the case, including Dominick Dionisio, an alleged Colombo crime family-associated enforcer. Dionisio is said to be close to Miami nightclub king Chris Paciello, who pleaded guilty last year to unrelated racketeering and murder charges.

NEW JERSEY: John Riggi, 75, alleged head of the DeCavalcante crime family was allowed out of prison in December to attend his wife Sarah's funneral. She had died of cancer.

     Riggi, 75, has been serving time since 1989 He was allowed to view the body for no more than 15 minutes, as per a judges order.

HOLLYWOOD: Susan Berman, the daughter of an associate of Bugsy Siegel, was found slain, with a single gunshot wound to her head, in her West Los Angeles home on Christmas Eve.

     Berman, 55, was a journalist, novelist, screenwriter, documentarian and playwright. But she was best known for being the daughter of Las Vegas mobster David Berman, the business partner of Bugsy Siegel. Police answered a call from neighbors who reported her dogs loose. When they entered the home, they found it unlocked and Berman dead. Nothing had been stolen from the house.

BRAZIL: Brazilian police have arrested a fugitive mobster sentenced to life in prison on murder charges in his native Italy.

     Mario Baratta was arrested in Goiania, about 600 miles northwest of Rio. Baratta had been living in Goiania with a Brazilian woman. The couple own a restaurant and have three children, police said. Baratta was first convicted in Rio in 1997 of possession of false documents, but escaped from prison in 1999. At the time of his escape, Brazil was reviewing Italy's request for his extradition.

CYPRUS: Two men were gunned down in a mafia-style killing at dawn this past week. Authorities said the two men, aged 27 and 29, were killed in a volley of automatic fire as they left a club in the capital Nicosia.

     A rifle, believed to be one of the murder weapons, was later found in a nearby ditch. Both of the men had criminal records and were suspected of involvement in nightclub protection rackets, police sources said.

NAPLES: Police found a Camorra boss hidden behind a sliding secret panel in the kitchen cupboard of a Naples crime family this past week.

     The Camorra mob's so-called "Queen of the Clan" ended a 10-month stakeout for Erminia

     Giuliano,44, who asked that she be allowed to visit a hairdresser before heading to jail The Camorra is Naples' version of Sicily's Mafia.

     Giuliano had allegedly risen to the top of her family's clan, propelled largely by the arrests of all her brothers - Guglielmo, Carmine ``The Lion,'' and ``Little Luigi.''

     Considered one of the 30 most dangerous fugitives in the country, she allegedly reorganized the ranks and daily operations of the clan after her brothers' capture.

     The family was based in the Forcella quarter of Naples.

     Interior Minister Enzo Bianco called the arrest ``a lovely Christmas gift for the security of Naples.''

GREECE: Authorities arrested an alleged Italian mob kingpin accused of directing a cigarette smuggling empire across southeastern Europe.

     Francesco Prudentino, 52, was considered one of Italy's most-wanted suspects and a leader of trafficking gangs stretching from Italy to Bulgaria. He was the subject of an international manhunt.

     Authorities said he recently moved to Greece from the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, which is a gateway for many contraband cigarette rings.

     Prudentino was using a fake passport and was arrested as he was shopping in a supermarket in the northern port of Thessaloniki in a joint operation by Italian and Greek agents.

     In August, an alleged Italian cigarette smuggler, Saverio Benvenuto, was killed by gunmen in a seaside town southeast of Athens. He had been living in Greece under a false name.

SICILY: A court in Sicily on Saturday acquitted seven-time former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti of consorting with the Mafia, absolving him in a case viewed as a trial of the political system that ran Italy for four decades after World War II.

     Andreotti, who served in 34 governments and continuously in parliament since creation of the postwar Italian republic, was accused of doing favors for Sicily's Mafia in exchange for votes. A three-judge panel in the Sicilian capital of Palermo declared him innocent, sparing the 80-year-old the possibility of up to 15 years in prison.

     The most riveting accusation of the 4-year-old trial alleged Andreotti exchanged a ``kiss of honor'' with Sicily's boss of bosses, Salvatore ``Toto'' Riina, in a secret meeting in the 1980s.

     Andreotti always contended that he was framed by mobsters who wanted revenge for his government's crackdowns on organized crime. The prosecutors' case had depended mainly on testimony from a total of 27 Mafia turncoats - chiefly Baldassare Di Maggio, whose information helped capture Riina himself in 1993.

     Di Maggio's credibility had been shaken in the closing weeks of the trial when he admitted killing a man while under state protection.

     Di Maggio, who received a $300,000 ``bonus'' under the witness-protection program, had his benefits stripped away.

     A number of politicians met news of his acquittal with calls for changes in laws governing the testimony of Mafia members-turned-informants, known as ``pentiti'' - whose testimony has been pivotal to a prosecutors' campaign against organized crime in the 1990s. Turncoat testimony was also key to another trial against Andreotti, in which he and five others were accused in the 1979 killing of an investigative Italian journalist. A court in Perugia acquitted Andreotti in that case last month.

ROCHESTER: An armored truck driver robbed of $10.8 million 10 years ago in a still-unsolved case was indicted on unrelated drug conspiracy charges along with an attorney who once represented mobsters.

     Albert M. Ranieri pleaded innocent to charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine. Attorney Anthony Leonardo Jr., who represented Ranieri's father during the investigation of the heist, also pleaded innocent to conspiring with Ranieri and another man, Darryl Graham, to distribute cocaine.

     All three were arrested Dec. 29 after an FBI sting operation. Leonardo built his legal reputation in the late 1970s and early 1980s defending organized crime figures and police accused of abusing criminal suspects.

     After the 1990 robbery, Leonardo also represented Ranieri's father, who lives just around the corner from where Armed Motor Services of America armored truck was unloaded in suburban Rochester. He and his son never were named as suspects in the unsolved heist

     Lloyds of London is still offering a $750,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers.

JAMAICA: Gunmen dressed as porters burst into a Kingston hospital and shot dead a wounded murder suspect in his bed and the policeman guarding him.

     Hours later the murder suspect's sister was gunned down when she went to a morgue to identify him.

     There was no word on the motive behind the shootings but much of Jamaica's crime-related violence involves warring gangs, often linked to the drug trade. Fifteen people have been killed in criminal violence in Jamaica in the first three days of 2001.

     More than 870 people died violently in this country of 2.6 million people in 2000, 13 of them policemen, according to government figures. That compared to 547 in 1999.

OTTAWA: Canadian government officials are examining ways to deal with a growing problem of intimidation against people in the Canadian justice system, including jurors, prosecutors and judges, the National Post reported, citing a 1999 report.

     The report by the Department of Justice lists cases in which witnesses, jurors and others in court cases were intimidated by defendants and organized-crime organizations, the paper said. Police forces have gone so far as to provide bulletproof vests and special home-alarm systems for people who have been threatened.

     Among solutions suggested in the report are new penalties for intimidation, protecting the identity of witnesses, limits on the disclosure of personal information about jurors, and educating the public about the justice system.

     ``Intimidation by groups such as the Hells Angels organization is normally very subtle but effective,'' Halifax, Nova Scotia, Police Chief David McKinnon wrote in the report. ``They have intimidated jurors and witnesses by their very presence in the courtroom while their associates were on trial.''

TOKYO: One year after trading began on Japan's Mothers stock market�. a loose abbreviation of the phrase ``market of the high-growth and emerging stocks''� most of the companies listed have watched their share prices fall below their initial listings. But an even bigger concern involves suspicion that the market has been infiltrated by gangsters.

     News reports earlier this year of gangster infiltration of some of the exchange's listed companies contributed to share price declines. However, most of the damage has been limited to those companies singled out in the reports.

     Some analysts say allegations of mob involvement have cast a pall over startups, which make up most of the new market.

     In October, police arrested Masafumi Okanda, president of online music distributor Liquid Audio Japan, the first company to list on Mothers, for allegedly holding a company director captive in 1999.

     Liquid Audio Japan, an affiliate of Redwood City, Calif.-based Liquid Audio, sells computer systems for delivering music over the Internet.

     While mob investment in companies is not illegal, and police have yet to establish a link between gangsters and companies whose shares trade on Mothers and Nasdaq Japan, officials say small businesses are vulnerable to such influence.

     Banks have traditionally been loathe to lend to start-ups because they view them as risky investments. With few alternative sources of cash, companies desperate for funds sometimes find the lure of quick money from organized crime groups too attractive to resist.

     Crime groups typically take stakes in small companies desperate for capital in the hope of making easy profits when the companies list their shares, said Hiroshi Shinohara, a National Police Agency official.

     To bolster confidence in its new markets, exchange officials have cooperated with police since May to obtain more information about companies suspected of having mob connections.

     In July, police arrested the chairman of Internet music distributor Entremuse on suspicion that he employed mobsters to force the firm's president to resign during a boardroom dispute. The arrest came just before the company was to list its shares on Mothers, Shinohara said.

PHILADELPHIA: The Drug Enforcement Administration, Philadelphia Field Division, announced today the seizure of two methamphetamine laboratories in Delaware County and the arrest of Carmen Gricco, a Delaware County resident.

     Gricco is the owner of Treasure Island Restaurant and Bar on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia.

     An operational methamphetamine laboratory was seized in Gricco's home at 132 Chester Pike in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. The laboratory was capable of producing approximately twenty-five pounds of methamphetamine. (One dosage unit of methamphetamine is 35 milligrams with a unit price of approximately $10.00 - $15.00.) Also seized were an automatic MAC-11 firearm with a silencer, quantities of finished methamphetamine, marijuana and various documents including a formula for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

     A second laboratory, which was not operational, was seized in Gricco's mother-in-law's home at 218 W. Hinckley Avenue in Ridley Park. Agents also seized five firearms, including a TEC-9 with two silencers.

     At the Treasure Island Bar and Restaurant, 933 North Penn Street in Philadelphia, agents seized various documents related to the club and Gricco's methamphetamine activities.

HOLLYWOOD Actor Nick Nolte is in talks to star in 'Double Down,' a $25 million remake of the 1955 French film noir classic 'Bob le flambeur.' The original film is about a veteran gangster and gambler who tries for one last casino heist in a French seaside resort.

"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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