Feature Articles

May 2003

The 'Sopranos' Trial

Part Two: Bizarre International Kidnap Plot Revealed in Court

By James Ridgway de Szigethy

     Yet another sensational disclosure has been made in the Federal trial of 3 men accused of being members of the New Jersey Mafia Family that is purported to be the inspiration for the HBO hit series THE SOPRANOS. Part One of this series detailed the stunning revelation in Manhattan Federal Court that members of New Jersey�s DeCavalcante Family conspired to murder their own Acting Boss, "Johnny Boy" D�Amato, for engaging in sex acts with other men at swingers� clubs.

     Two weeks later came the testimony of Victor DiChiara, a Securities Broker on Wall Street who was among the 120 people across the country arrested in 2000 in the largest organized crime prosecution in United States history. Realizing that he had a commodity that he could trade for his freedom � the information he had compiled regarding his various associates in organized crime, DiChiara quickly made the Feds an offer that they could not refuse; his cooperation in their investigations in exchange for a reduced sentence and new life in the Witness Protection Program.

     DiChiara, an accomplice in the murder of Acting Boss D�Amato, made his debut as a Prosecution Witness by continuing the sensational tone that has been the hallmark of the �Sopranos� trial. First, DiChiara revealed a somewhat improbable plot hatched by an associate which would involve two men on a motorcycle who would chase down associate Frank D�Amato, whereby the passenger would disembark to inject D�Amato in the neck with a hypodermic needle. After that disclosure, DiChiara matter-of-factly recalled his days working in a �boiler room� setting on Wall Street as part of a "pump and dump" stock fraud scheme that netted the Mob over $50 million.

     During cross-examination by one of the criminal attorneys for the Defendants, DiChiara was asked about his daily use of marijuana since the early 1980s. The laid-back DiChiara maintained his composure. Then, when DiChiara was asked as to whether he was coached by his Federal handlers as to the art of the Deception of others, the former Wall Street con artist deadpanned: "I know how to look like a criminal on my own!"

     Next came a brief but fascinating exchange regarding a Stock promoter from Canada. DiChiara alleged that he learned from his Canadian associate of a plot amongst organized crime figures to kidnap the brother of the President of Mexico to obtain the reward money being offered for the politician�s brother, a wanted fugitive. While not explored in depth, this Courtroom disclosure is an apparent reference to one of the most sensational scandals in the history of our Southern neighbor, that being the emergence of the Mexican Mafia and their corrupt influence into the highest levels of law enforcement and political circles.

     The story of Victor DiChiara�s life in organized crime, as well as his counterparts in the Mexican Mafia, begins in the early 1980s. By that time the demand by a growing number of Americans for marijuana had been supplanted by the demand for cocaine and it�s more lethal derivative �crack.� What had been in the 1970s a multi-million dollar industry quickly evolved into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. The newly rich drug lords utilized their ill-gotten gains to hire the best criminal attorneys, corrupt law enforcement figures, and politicians that money could buy. Inevitably, the two worlds of drug dealers and honest members of law enforcement determined to stop them would collide.

     In 1985 U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Mexican Mafia. In response, the law enforcement and intelligence communities of the United States launched the most extensive and comprehensive investigation in America�s history in order to bring to Justice those who were responsible for Agent Camarena�s murder. One person extradited to the United States was a physician alleged to have been involved in the murder. The physician, however, was acquitted and returned to Mexico, prompting Mexican officials to demand the extradition of two DEA agents involved in the case on kidnapping charges. The United States government refused this request of the government of Mexico.

     As these events were unfolding, the Society of Mexico was undergoing enormous upheaval. In 1988 Carlos Salinas was �elected� President of Mexico in a contest that was alleged to have been corrupted by massive voter fraud. Salinas left office in 1994 after the sensational murders of two of his political rivals, including reform politician Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu. Before leaving office, Salinas appointed the dead man�s brother Mario as a Special Prosecutor to investigate the case. Within months, however, President Salinas, his brother Raul, and Mario Ruiz Massieu were facing allegations ranging from money laundering for drug dealers to complicity in the murder of Ruiz Massieu. Former President Salinas went into exile, eventually travelling to Ireland, which has no extradition treaty with Mexico. Mario Ruiz Massieu fled the country and was picked up by the authorities in New Jersey. Raul Salinas went into hiding and at that point the alleged plot by the American Mafia to kidnap him was hatched.

     The United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations would later report as to how Raul Salinas laundered millions of dollars of drug money through various banks. One involved his account with Citibank in New York, in which Salinas�s account was numbered and his identity hidden through a series of shell corporations. Salinas also had an account with the bank�s office in Switzerland which was recorded under the name "Bonaparte," which might suggest Salinas had some sort of a �Napoleon complex�.

     At any rate, Raul Salinas was eventually put on trial for his role in the murder of Ruiz Massieu and was convicted. His brother has not been charged with any crimes. Mario Ruiz Massieu was found dead in his New Jersey home in 1999, an alleged suicide. At the time Mario was under indictment on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and, had he decided to become a cooperating witness in these unfolding scandals, Mario likely could have implicated numerous Mexican government and law enforcement officials in various crimes, involving drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder. Thus, Mario�s death was extremely convenient for many members of the Mexican Mafia.

     After Raul Salinas� conviction, Time Magazine reported that the triggerman in the murder of Ruiz Massieu had first been approached by associates of Salinas to kidnap the rising politician rather than murder him. The disclosure in the current �Sopranos� trial that Salinas himself would eventually become the target of a kidnapping plot adds a final, ironic twist to this bizarre story of Mexican and American Mafia criminal activity.

     As a result of the drug scandals that plagued Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s, voters in the year 2000 ended the 70-year rule of the incumbent political party by electing an outsider, Vicente Fox, as President. President Fox�s administration has since worked closely with the U. S. government to coordinate efforts to combat organized crime and the drug trafficking that has ruined so many lives in both countries.

     DEA agent Enrique Camarena is survived by his wife and three children, one of whom is a Prosecutor within the United States law enforcement community. The Miami office of the DEA hosts annually a golf tournament in memory of Agent Camarena, proceeds from which support the DEA Agents� Survivors Benefit Fund.

...To be continued

Related stories:

The �Sopranos� Trial

Part One: New Jersey Mob Boss Whacked for Gay Behavior


Murder, Deception, and Intrigue Inside New York�s Colombo Mafia Family

J. R. de Szigethy
New York


James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at

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