Feature Articles

May 2003

The 'Sopranos' Trial

Part Three: Reversal of Fortune for Mob Canary

By James Ridgway de Szigethy

     Yet more sensational disclosures have emerged 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. Alleged members of the DeCavalcante Family Stefano Vitabile, Philip Abramo, and Pini Schifilliti are on trial in Manhattan Federal Court on charges or racketeering and murder. During the opening phase of this trial jurors heard the stunning testimony of Associate Anthony Capo, who admitted that the Family murdered their Acting Boss "Johnny Boy" D�Amato because he was having sex with other men. Next came the revelations of former Wall Street scam artist Victor DiChiara, who revealed a Mob plot to kidnap the brother of a former President of Mexico. DiChiara also revealed a bizarre plot to chase down a Mafia Associate on a motorcycle and inject the targeted individual with a hypodermic needle.

     The �Sopranos� trial has now been rocked by the testimony of the former Acting Boss of the Family, "Vinnie Ocean" Palermo, who stunned Prosecutors on day 4 of his testimony by revealing he had withheld from them that he had secretly given his son $1.7 million shortly before he was arrested in 1999. Palermo�s stash of cash were profits from his nudie club "Wiggles" in New York, which could remind some Sopranos� fans of the infamous �Bada-Bing� Club.

     Co-operating Witnesses for the Feds are required to be completely truthful as to their previous criminal activities and disclose their ill-gotten fortunes; otherwise, once caught in lies on the Witness Stand, criminal attorneys for the Defendants can use such deception to destroy their credibility. In this case, such attorneys wasted no time in challenging "Vinnie Ocean." Under cross-examination, "Vinnie Ocean" was accused of participating in a murder he had denied � that of his longtime friend and driver "Joey O" Masella. Palermo was originally charged with this murder when he was first arrested, but the Feds dropped those charges once he agreed to be a Prosecution Witness. Despite a body of circumstantial evidence that suggested Palermo as Acting Boss approved of the murder of Masella, Palermo continued to insist he was not involved. Palermo did, however, admit that he had an affair with one of Masella�s daughters, but claimed he could not remember her name, despite the fact that he was a close associate of Masella for over 25 years.

     Prosecutors in this trial are now faced with a dilemma � whether to end their agreement with Palermo, which could send the confessed murderer and liar to prison for Life, as opposed to continued freedom should Prosecutors retain him as a member of the Witness Protection Program. Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn faced similar concerns regarding lying Prosecution Witnesses who derailed 4 trials in the 1990s regarding the internal Colombo Family War of that decade that left at least 11 people dead. Trapped by their own deception of the Feds were "Big Sal" Miciotta of the Colombo Family and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso of the Luchese Family. Both men made sensational allegations against New York City Detectives that Federal Prosecutors were eager to pursue. In Miciotta�s case, he claimed that Detective Joe Simone was the Colombo Family�s mole on the Organized Crime Task Force. Simone was placed on trial and acquitted of those charges. "Gaspipe" Casso accused two decorated NYPD Detectives of carrying out the sensational public murder of Eddie Lino, a participant in the murder of Gambino Family Godfather Paul Castellano. Lino was purportedly marked for death due to his questionable reliability as the result of his escalating heroin addiction. The two Detectives accused by "Gaspipe" were never charged and Casso and Miciotta were removed from the Witness Protection Program after being detected in other lies to the Feds.

     Whether or not the Feds remove "Vinnie Ocean" Palermo from the Program may depend on the outcome of the current trial. If the 3 men currently on trial are convicted, in part based on Palermo�s testimony, the Feds may proceed with Palermo as a Witness in other trials. However, if convictions are not obtained, the Feds may drop Palermo as a Witness.

     Thus, in the current �Sopranos� trial, the Fate of Prosecution Witness Vincent Palermo � as well as that of the 3 Defendants Palermo testified against � will likely be decided by the jurors when they conclude their deliberations. Either Palermo or those three accused will see a reversal of Fortune.

...To be continued

Related stories:

  • The �Sopranos� Trial

    Part Two: Bizarre International Kidnap Plot Revealed in Court

  • The �Sopranos� Trial

    Part One: New Jersey Mob Boss Whacked for Gay Behavior

  • MOB WAR!

    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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