Feature Articles

February 2006

Partners In Crime: The Mafia Cops

By J. R. de Szigethy and Lou Eppolito, Jr.

Part Thirteen: The Dueling Mob Turncoats

     The upcoming trial of the two accused "Mafia Cops" will likely feature the allegations documented years ago by two �rival� Mafia turncoats; Alphonse "Little Al" D�Arco, the former Acting Boss of the Luchese Mafia Family, and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, former Underboss of the Luchese Family. The names of both men surfaced during a pre-trial Hearing in Brooklyn Federal Court called to iron-out unresolved issues, including whether the Court would order an �anonymous jury� to decide the Fate of the two accused retired Detectives.

     D�Arco�s name came up in a request by Defense Attorneys Bruce Cutler and Ed Hayes for more "Discovery" material in regards to allegations the Prosecutors will use to prove that Detectives Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa provided information to the Luchese Family, some of which assisted Gaspipe Casso in the commission of murder. Casso�s name came up in objections by the Defense as to the Prosecution�s intention to introduce �Hear-say" evidence whereby one or more mob associates would testify that Casso made incriminating remarks to them about Eppolito and/or Caracappa. The Defense would have none of this, demanding the possible right to call Casso as a hostile Defense Witness to cross-examine him as to the remarks he allegedly told others. Prosecutors then made it quite clear that Anthony Casso is not a Prosecution Witness and they are determined to keep him out of this trial.

What is all of this about?

     This story begins in 1986. In the Fall of that year, Casso was shot in an unsuccessful attempt on his life by rival members of the Gambino Family. Gaspipe knew the identity of one of the assailants, a Staten Island resident named James Hydell. The Feds allege that by that time Officer Caracappa, through his work on an organized crime bureau, had access to information about organized crime figures through NYPD computers. The Feds allege that Gaspipe bribed Eppolito and Caracappa to kidnap Hydell, which they, under official cover as police officers, did, throwing the young man into the trunk of their car, and then delivered Hydell to Casso. By his own admission, Gaspipe then tortured Hydell to determine the names of his accomplices in the rubout that failed.

     One of the names Hydell offered up was a Gambino thug named Nicholas Guido, a low-level associate that Gaspipe was not familiar with. Neither did Caracappa nor Eppolito know who this man was either, so, the Feds allege, Caracappa utilized computer records to access the address of this person. Up came the address on one �Nicholas Guido� that the Feds claim - for blood money - the two partners in crime turned over to Gaspipe. Thus, on Christmas Day, 1986, this Nicholas Guido was assassinated in broad daylight. The only problem with this brutal murder is that Caracappa had gotten the wrong �Nicholas Guido.�

This sloppy work on the part of the two "Mafia cops" however, did not sour Gaspipe on utilizing their services; Casso later hired the two dirty cops to murder heroin dealer Eddie Lino, a crime in which the Feds claim Caracappa was the triggerman. In his recent �60 Minutes� interview Caracappa categorically denied taking part in this "cowboy" style public execution.

     While these and other murders were being committed, the Feds were in the process of dismantling the Luchese Family. First to go was Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, the Luchese Godfather and heroin dealer who went down in the famous "Commission Trial" prosecuted by Rudy Giuliani. That conviction resulted in Vic Amuso, also a heroin dealer, becoming acting Godfather of the Family.

     Released from prison in the mid-1980s following a conviction for heroin trafficking, "Little Al" D�Arco thus re-entered the Luchese Mafia Family at a time in which upward advancement was accelerated due to the convictions - and murders - of many at the top of the crime family. D�Arco soon became a capo in the crew of heroin dealer Paul Vario, later immortalized in the motion picture �Goodfellas.� In 1990 Amuso and his Underboss Gaspipe Casso, who was also into heroin dealing, went into hiding in order to escape Federal indictments on racketeering charges related to a government housing windows replacement scam. D�Arco was then ordained Acting Boss of the Luchese crime family. However, a power struggle soon emerged and D�Arco perceived that his only chance to stay alive was to go to the FBI and offer his services as a co-operating witness.

     Within months, Vic Amuso and, later, Gaspipe Casso were captured by the FBI. In Casso�s case, the deranged hitman who had participated in 36 murders - and who had plotted the killings of dozens of fellow Mafia figures he suspected of having turning �rat� - himself turned �rat,� offering his services to the Feds in exchange for a �get-out-of-jail-free card.� Among the most stunning of Gaspipe�s allegations were that he had two decorated NYPD Detectives on his payroll, Eppolito and Caracappa, who assisted him - and joined him - in the commission of murder. The story created a sensation when it was leaked to the Media back in 1994. However, as the years went by, Gaspipe�s credibility came into question. Among Casso�s allegations were that two co-operating witnesses for the Feds, "Little Al" D�Arco and Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, had lied on the Witness stand during the trial of Genovese "Oddfather" Vincent �Chin� Gigante. Federal Prosecutors eventually deemed Casso to be a fabricator and removed him from the Witness Protection Program.

     The testimony of D�Arco and Gravano against Gigante was presented in the Courtroom of Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein. Now, some years later, that same Judge and Courtroom will be the setting for the trial of the two accused �Mafia Cops.�

     This time around, Sammy Gravano will not be available as a Prosecution Witness; when Gaspipe Casso �flipped,� among his allegations were that Gravano, along with most of the members of the Gotti Gang, were involved in drug trafficking. Such allegations were not what some members of the Eastern District presumably wanted to hear, given that Gravano was their star witness in sending Gambino Godfather John Gotti, and later, Godfather Vincent Gigante, to prison for what would amount to be the rest of their lives. Once released from the Witness Protection Program, life-long drug addict Sammy Gravano set his own young son and daughter up in a drug trafficking scheme in Arizona that was eventually busted up - not by the FBI - but by the DEA and local prosecutors. Gravano is currently facing new charges that he participated in the murder of a New York City Police Officer, a crime he allegedly - and conveniently - neglected to tell the Feds when he became a co-operating witness.

     Thus, in the trial of the �Mafia Cops,� much may ride on the allegations of two �dueling� Mob turncoats, D�Arco and Casso. Both are drug dealers. Both are murderers. A jury of peers will decide which of the two is the more believable.

     That jury will not be anonymous, according to the ruling of Judge Weinstein. Federal Prosecutors had argued in the pre-trial Hearing that an �anonymous� jury was essential, given several factors, notably the enormous publicity and public interest the trial is expected to generate, and the fact that the two accused have an alleged history of utilizing information they had access to as members of law enforcement to tamper with the Judicial system, as well as intimidate citizens and commit murder. The Prosecutors in the case reminded Judge Weinstein that in two previous trials over which he presided - that of Vincent Gigante and Colombo Family associate Victor Orena, he had agreed with the Feds and ordered an anonymous jury, one in which the Defendants and their criminal lawyers and private investigators do not know the identities of the jurors who will be deciding the case. Such anonymous juries have become essential given previous cases in which Mafia Defendants, their corrupt criminal attorneys, and their private investigators, have resorted to physical threats, intimidation, blackmail, extortion, or bribery in order to obtain acquittals for the guilty accused.

     However, in this case, Judge Weinstein ruled against the Prosecutors, noting that the two accused former cops� Mafia associates are either dead, incarcerated, or in the Witness Protection Program, thus they are not likely to have �connections� to criminals who could pose a risk to potential jurors. This ruling was viewed as a victory by the two accused �Mafia Cops� and their criminal lawyers, Bruce Cutler and Ed Hayes. Cutler had previously represented Gambino Godfather John Gotti until a Federal Judge ruled that Cutler was more than just a lawyer, but rather "House Counsel" to the Gambino organized crime syndicate. That disqualification led to Gotti�s eventual conviction.

     Judge Weinstein also ruled that his new Courtroom in the new Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn is inadequate in terms of seating the hordes of reporters, Mafia observers, family and friends of the 10 people allegedly murdered by the two Defendants, and interested members of the general public who will undoubtedly be scrambling for seats in one of the most sensational Mafia trials of our time, and thus the trial will be held in a Courtroom of the �old� Courthouse next door. Judge Weinstein also ruled that the trial date of February 21 is firm, and that on that date 200 potential jurors from the Eastern District of New York will be screened to seat a jury of 12 peers that will decide the Fate of the �Mafia Cops,� Stephen Caracappa and Lou Eppolito, Sr.

To be continued

Related Features:

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Twelve: The Revenge of Janie McCormick

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Eleven: Christmas for the �Mafia Cops�

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Ten: The Media Wars

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Nine: The Wrong Man

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Eight: Yet Another Murder, Another Warning

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Seven: The NYPD�s �Other� Mafia Cop: Steve Gardell

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Six: Another Murder, Another Warning

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Five: A Troubled Prosecution

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Four: Judge Grants Bail

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Three: The Emergence of 'Crystal Meth'

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Two: The Cop Who Loved Snakes

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part One: Mafia Cops Indicted

J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at:

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