Feature Articles

November 2011


Crime and Cover-up at Penn State

By J. R. de Szigethy

     On two separate occasions, 11 years ago and 9 years ago, two men walked into a shower in the building of the Penn State football team and claim they saw a football coach sexually assaulting a young boy. There are several ways these men could have responded. One would be to pick up the nearest dumbbell and forcefully and repeatedly apply that to the rapist's head - or other part of his body. Both these men chose not to do this, but instead told several other people what they witnessed.

     Some of these men are capable of throwing a football 60 yards, but not one could manage to use their index finger to push 9-1-1 on a telephone. Had even one of these men done so, they would have discovered that the local District Attorney, Ray Gricar, had investigated the Coach in question in 1998 regarding child molestation but needed additional evidence to move forward. Instead, none of these men went to the police, and Ray Gricar subsequently vanished without a trace.

     Once the scandal broke, Americans across the country were further outraged when a few thousand Penn State students rioted, throwing rocks and bottles at police and overturning a van belonging to the Media. The students were not angry that young boys may have been molested on their campus, nor that officials had covered it up; the students were angry at the fact that the head Coach of their long-successful football team had been fired for not dialing 9-1-1-. (1)

     Residents of "Happy Valley," as State College, PA. is known by, are now bracing themselves for the possibility of even more revelations as both local and Federal law enforcement officers are investigating these alleged crimes. Investigators will be focusing on the accused Coach and whether he had other alleged accomplices. And, investigators will look for the possibility that one or more of the targets of this investigation have connections with members of the two major organized crime syndicates that operate in the State of Pennsylvania.

     The reasons for this are simple: Pedophilia and college sports are two areas that historically the American Mafia have been involved in; supplying under-age males and females to customers of prostitution rings, producing and distributing child pornography, and fixing college football and basketball games as part of the multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling industry. The Pittsburgh Mafia Family, which controls rackets throughout Pennsylvania, part of West Virginia, and Ohio, have been involved in such criminal operations for decades. And, while most Mafia families follow the "rule" that no member of law enforcement or the Media ever be harmed, the Pittsburgh Mafia Family has targeted journalists, and once ordered the murder of a District Attorney 140 miles West of Happy Valley.

     Herein is road map as to where these investigations may lead, specific to the crimes alleged, and the history of criminals in the State of Pennsylvania involved in similar crimes. It is not intended to cast aspersions on any of those publicly named in the Penn State scandal but rather document the likely paths law enforcement officials will pursue in this investigation.


     Central to this case is the football coach accused of crimes against children. Investigators will endeavor to identify every alleged victim, some of whom, for personal reasons, may not want to confront what was done to them in their childhood. One crucial question is whether the alleged perpetrator acted alone, or if he acted in concert with other pedophiles. Criminals of this type often network with others, exchanging amongst themselves children for abuse, and chronicles of such abuse, including photographic documentation of their crimes.

     From the beginnings of the American Mafia in the early 1900s, crime syndicates have operated prostitution rings throughout the country. As in any business for profit, the gangs offered for sale what their customer was interested in, which in most cases was females from the ages of 18 to 35. Some gangs, such as New York's Colombo Mafia Family, ran rings back in the 1950s and 1960s that featured male prostitutes in this same age range. The "Market" for under-age prostitutes, male and female, was thus much smaller, and thus less profitable, but nevertheless existed.

     In 1910, Congress passed legislation to make such crimes a Federal crime. Called the "White-Slave Traffic Act," but better known as the "Mann Act," after the Bill's sponsor, Congressman James Robert Mann, the legislation made it a crime to transport a woman across State lines for the purposes of prostitution.

     Notice the term "White-Slave" in the Bill's title. The actual motivation behind this Bill was Racism, the Legislation's goal being to enable Federal Prosecution of Black men who dared to engage in sex acts with White Women. The target of this Legislation was Jack Johnson, a Black athlete who stunned America by becoming the first African-American Heavyweight boxing champion. The Mann Act was utilized to successfully prosecute Johnson for having sex with a White prostitute, the result being a one-year prison sentence for Johnson. The Mann Act was used sporadically throughout the past decades, against a wide variety of alleged perpetrators, among them: Chuck Berry, an African-American rock music pioneer, and Hollywood mogul Charlie Chaplin. (2)

     In recent years, the Mann Act was invoked in a Federal investigation of the Emperor's Club, a prostitution ring which had ensnared New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who spent $80,000 on the services of their prostitutes. (3) What is particularly disturbing about this case is that Spitzer had, prior to becoming Governor, been elected New York State Attorney General, and before that, had served as a Prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. It was there that Spitzer prosecuted Joseph and Thomas Gambino regarding the Gambino Family's control of the garment and trucking industries. (4) Spitzer also prosecuted men who solicited the services of prostitutes. (5)

     Even more disturbing is a New York Times report which detailed that Ashley Alexandra Dupre, a prostitute whom Spitzer ordered up from New York and had transported to Washington D. C. for the purposes of prostitution - a clear violation of the Mann Act - was a close friend of a Gambino Family associate who was among 62 people indicted by the Feds in March, 2008 on a variety of Mafia related charges. Dupre's Mob friend was accused of extortion. Governor Spitzer resigned in disgrace but was not charged with a crime. (6)

     In 1999 Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney, announced at a press conference regarding the indictments of numerous Labor Union Officers that some of the Union Dues money had been used to pay for the services of male prostitutes. Providing such services to Labor Union leaders provides the potential for blackmail by the Mob in order to siphon money from Union Pension and Health Care funds.

     Members of the American Mafia have historically subjected members of law enforcement with the threat of blackmail, compromising them with sex scandals that would end their career if exposed - and thus enabling them to neutralize their power. This is a practice that goes all the way back to the career of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who made a name for himself in the 1930s by targeting organized crime figures such as "Pretty Boy" Floyd and John Dillinger, only to suddenly stop such targeting of criminals and taking the implausible public position that 'organized crime' in America did not exist. Hoover's sudden reverse direction regarding organized crime is believed by many crime historians to have been the result of the American Mafia's blackmail of Hoover regarding his personal life.

     Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Gambino Family, then run by Godfather Paul Castellano, catered to the pedophile trade. Finally, in 1984, the Feds in New York indicted Castellano on numerous counts, including the production and distribution of child pornography. Castellano's indictment was part of the "Commission" trial, in which the Godfathers of New York's five Mafia families were charged by U. S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. Had Castellano gone to trial, the Gambino Family would have been publicly shamed by Courtroom revelations about children being molested for monetary gain.

     Among those members of the Family outraged over this practice was John Gotti, who decided to take the matter into his own hands. "The Commission" is the ruling body of the 5 Godfathers that settle disputes between crime families and keeps the peace. Among the "rules" of the Commission is that no "Made member" of a Family, especially the Godfather, can be murdered without permission from the Commission. John Gotti decided that Castellano and his child pornographer, Robert DiBernardo, had to be taken out, and it had to done secretly so they themselves would not be sentenced to death by the Commission. Thus, on the afternoon of December 16, 1985, Godfather Castellano and his driver were shot dead as they stepped out of their car outside Sparks Steak House in mid-Manhattan. John Gotti would later be convicted of the murders of Castellano and Robert DiBernardo and sentenced to Life in Prison.

     While Gotti was plotting the removal of Castellano and DiBernardo, another organized crime syndicate run by pedophiles was rising in power up in Boston. This was the "Winter Hill Gang," run by a pedophile named Whitey Bulger. This crime syndicate was populated by pedophiles who preyed on underage girls, many of whom were plied with the illegal drugs that funded the gang's operations. Some of these sexual encounters were videotaped for the pedophile market. Bulger's top aides were Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. Flemmi's sexual conquests included two teenagers he would eventually murder once they grew too "old" for him after leaving their teens; Deborah Davis, and Deborah Hussey. Hussey was Flemmi's step-daughter whom Flemmi first raped when she was 14 years old. (7)

     The problem with this crime family was that Whitey Bulger secretly worked as an FBI Informant and the FBI protected him - and his criminal organization - over the course of two decades. The corrupt FBI agents involved in this included Paul Rico, who had recruited Flemmi as an FBI Informant, and agent John Connolly, who handled Whitey Bulger. In 1994, "Whitey" Bulger went on the lam after Agent Connolly tipped him off he was about to be indicted for numerous murders. Retired FBI agent Paul Rico was indicted for his role in helping the gang murder Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler, but Rico died before his trial began. FBI Agent John Connolly was convicted for his part in this murder and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

     In his book "Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob," author Edward MacKenzie Jr. revealed his own personal experience of having been raped as a child by a pedophile, and the emotional scars that haunted him for many decades later. MacKenzie also revealed the pedophile abuses by Whitey Bulger and others in his gang, and his own journey from Mafia drug dealer to College Graduate and devoted father.


     In regards to collegiate and professional sports the American Mafia has a long history of obtaining income from illegal gambling rackets, which focused on the placing of a bet by an average citizen on the outcome of a sporting event, typically a local college football or basketball game. This led to the practice of "points shaving," whereby a coach or athlete on a team is recruited, though bribery, blackmail, the services of prostitutes, or other means, to manipulate the "point spread" of a game to the advantage of those Mafia rackets that run the gambling rackets. The scam is common in basketball and football games nationwide.

     Referees of such games can also engage in this crime, such as Tim Donaghy. Raised in the Philadelphia area, Donaghy played baseball at Villanova University and later became a Referee for professional basketball. In 2007 Donaghy pleaded guilty to two counts regarding making bad calls in order to alter the point spread on behalf of gambling racketeers.

     In April, 2011, 2 former players on the San Diego State basketball team, along with a former Coach, and 7 other people, were indicted in an alleged points shaving scheme.


     The American Mafia established four families that operated in the State of Pennsylvania in the early part of the 20th Century. Today, crime rackets in Pennsylvania are run by Mafia families based in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, New York. The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh families have been the most successful in running crime syndicates based on gambling, prostitution, and drug trafficking.

     In the 1960s the Pittsburgh Family entered into a war against the Cleveland Mafia.

     The war continued on into the 1980s, with Youngstown, Ohio being the front-line of the war. Youngstown is situated mid-way between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, so both families ran lucrative rackets there fueled by the substantial disposable income residents enjoyed during the boom era of the area steel mills that began with World War II. By contrast, State College, Pennsylvania is located between the Mafia families centered in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

     In the mid-1970s the war took on a bizarre side-chapter, when Danny Greene formed his own crime syndicate of Irish mobsters who took on the Italian mobsters that had always controlled organized crime in Cleveland. This story formed the basis for Rick Porrello's book "To Kill the Irishman," which was adapted for the motion picture "Kill the Irishman" released earlier this year. The war between both factions in Cleveland left numerous dead bodies on both sides, many dying as the result of a car bomb. Danny Greene himself was finally disposed of, but in a new twist on an old ploy; the Cleveland Mafia parked a "bomb-car" next to Greene's, a car loaded with explosives and a remote-control detonator. When Greene approached his car, Ronnie "Crab" Carabbia pushed the remote button which blew the car - and Danny Greene - into pieces. Ronnie Carabbia was convicted of this murder, despite competent representation from his lawyer, Carmen Policy.

     Dependent on the illegal sports gambling industry, the Cleveland and Pittsburgh families always maintained close links with the sport of football. According to Dan Moldea in his book "Interference," an exhaustive expose on the links between Professional Football and the Mafia, Youngstown native Edward DeBartolo Sr., who in 1977 bought the San Francisco 49ers football team for his son Edward Jr., was a gambling partner of Ronnie Carabbia and the two made frequent trips together to the Tropicana casino in Las Vegas. DeBartolo had built his fortune in the Mob-influenced construction industry and his company facilities were bombed 6 times between 1952-1954. In 1970, the senior DeBartolo was linked in a Justice Department memo as an associate of organized crime figures Meyer Lansky, Carlos Marcello, and Santos Trafficante. These mobsters had for many years been involved in a scam in which quarterbacks on college football teams were bribed to "shave" points in favor of the Mob's point spread. Because college athletes do not earn the huge salaries of professionals, because many are from low-income backgrounds, and also because by shaving points the bribed athletes do not cause their teams to lose, such athletes are easy targets for recruitment by the Mob.

     In 1980, with Danny Greene out of the picture, the war between Cleveland and Pittsburgh took a new turn when a man named James Traficant announced he would run for Sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio. Charlie Carabbia, Ronnie's brother, who had known Traficant for years, saw this as his opportunity and approached Traficant with the offer of $163,000 in bribe money to finance his campaign. This was a substantial amount of money in 1980, and reflected just how lucrative the gambling rackets were in the Youngstown area. The money was from both the Cleveland and Pittsburgh families, who believed it necessary to bribe the man who might be next elected Sheriff so that those rackets could be protected. Traficant accepted the Mob's money, agreed to protect their gambling rackets, and was elected Sheriff. Then, on the afternoon of December 13, 1980, just weeks after Traficant's election, Charlie "Crab" got a phone call from someone who asked to meet him at a local donut shop. 24 hours later his car was found abandoned in Cleveland, the keys in the ignition. Charlie "Crab" has not been seen since.

     Authorities were convinced that Carabbia had been murdered and that the Pittsburgh Family was responsible, despite his car being found in Cleveland. One hallmark of the Pittsburgh Family was to take the measures so that the bodies of their victims would never be found. Law enforcement concluded that Charlie's body was buried in a body of water, probably Mosquito Lake in Ohio. The investigation into this apparent murder took a strange twist when the FBI discovered that Carabbia had secretly recorded conversations with Sheriff-Elect Traficant for the purpose of blackmail should that become necessary. On the tapes, recorded just days before Carabbia disappeared, Carabbia expresses to Traficant his concerns about whether he can trust him. Traficant had spent a few years as Quarterback of the highly successful University of Pittsburgh football team, which potentially subjected him to being recruited by the Pittsburgh Family. Traficant states: "I am a loyal !!!!!", "and my loyalty is here!"(with the Cleveland Family) "And now we've gotta set up the business that they've (Pittsburgh) run for all these !!!!!!! years and swing that business over to you . . .That's why you financed me!"

     Traficant and Charlie "Crab" also talk about how Traficant laundered $10,000 of the Mob's money through Ed Flask, a partner in the Youngstown law firm of Flask & Policy. When Traficant expresses his concern that Flask knows that he has been bribed by the Mob, Charlie "Crab" tells Traficant not to worry, as he has in his possession "prejudicial, compromising photographs of Flask which would ensure his silence!"

     "Do you know what kind of pictures I'm talking about?" Crab asks Traficant.

Carabbia does not elaborate as to the contents of the photographs, but it is clear to Traficant at that point in the conversation that Charlie, in addition to being a briber, gambler and racketeer, is also a blackmailer.

     On August 9, 1982, Sheriff Traficant was indicted by the U. S. Attorney's office for accepting bribes from organized crime figures. The indicted Sheriff then turned to attorney Carmen Policy, Ed Flask's law partner, to represent him in his bid to escape jail time. However, Traficant then called a press conference to spill the beans about the widespread corruption and Mob activity in Mahoning County; an outraged Carmen Policy then dropped Traficant as his client.

     Sheriff Traficant then made a bold, gutsy move; he decided he would act as his own attorney in his bribery trial. As such, Traficant told the jury he only accepted the bribe money from Charlie Carabbia so he would know whom to arrest for corruption once he took office as Sheriff. Incredibly, the jury bought this and Traficant emerged a local folk hero. Traficant turned his notoriety to his advantage, and was elected to Congress in the elections of 1984.

     A few months after Traficant's acquittal, Cleveland Underboss Big Ange Lonardo, who along with Godfather Licavoli had been convicted in Federal Court on racketeering charges, quietly 'flipped' and became a co-operating witness for the United States government. Pre-shadowing the later flipping of Gambino Family Underboss Sammy the Bull Gravano, it was the highest-ranking defection amongst the Mob up until that time. Big Ange would not disappoint the government, helping convict many Mobsters, including "Fat Tony" Salerno, Godfather of New York's Genovese Family in the "Commission Trial" run by Rudolph Giuliani.

     Lonardo also revealed to the Feds that James Prato and Joey Naples had confessed to him they had murdered Charlie Carabbia on behalf of the Pittsburgh Family. The two men also revealed they had an accomplice, but did not mention who he was by name.

     The war between Pittsburgh and Cleveland continued off and on after the murder of Carabbia. In 1986, Father Joseph Iati, a Catholic Priest, was found dead of a gunshot wound to his head, an alleged suicide. In 2000 Patrick Ungaro, a former Mayor of Youngstown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Father Iati had offered cash bribes to him on a few occasions, and that he was certain the money was coming from Joey Naples, his close friend. The Mayor turned down the offers of bribe money. In August, 1991, Joey Naples was blown away by an assassin laying in wait for him in a cornfield across the site of the construction of his retirement home. The assassin used a rifle, an unusual method for the Mafia, even the Pittsburgh Family.

     In 1997 Edward DeBartolo, Jr. had to resign his position as owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team after the Media reported his impending indictment with former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards on Federal illegal gambling charges. Once indicted, DeBartolo pleaded guilty to a single count, paid a $1 million fine, and testified against Edwards, who was convicted.

     The President of the San Francisco 49ers was Carmen Policy, who would later serve in the same capacity of the Cleveland Browns professional football team, and after that reinvented himself as a master winemaker. Policy was never accused of a crime, but his former law partner Ed Flask accepted a plea bargain in 2000 in which he pleaded guilty to felony charges in regards to his rip-off of nearly $2 million while running the public water utility in Youngstown.

     The case against Flask was just one of an extraordinarily successful prosecution in Youngstown which began in the late 1990s and resulted in the convictions of over 70 local officials, including Charles O'Nesti, who served for 13 years as Congressman Traficant's Chief of Staff of his Youngstown office. O'Nesti pleaded guilty to Perjury and racketeering charges regarding his efforts with Pittsburgh Mobster Lenny Strollo to bribe Mahoning County Sheriff Philip Chance and to extort money from Mahoning County contractors.

     Before these prosecutions began, the Media in Ohio was very slow to take on the then-popular Congressman Traficant. The one, lone outspoken critic was a radio talk show host, Louie B. Free. Youngstown residents responded pretty much the way many of the college students at Penn State did when their scandal broke; with hostility towards the messenger. In Free's case, supporters of Traficant succeeded in getting Free fired from his job; not once, not twice, but three times from successive employers. Free is also a victim of abuse by a Pedophile priest and has been outspoken in the pedophile scandals that have emerged in recent years.

     In the end Louie Free prevailed in his campaign against Traficant and Traficant was indicted - again - on Federal Bribery charges and convicted in 2002, whereupon he was sent to prison until 2009.

     Mob figure Lenny Strollo, however, was not ready to go to jail. Instead, Strollo "flipped" and became a co-operating witness for the Feds, detailing how the Pittsburgh Family maintained their control of crime rackets throughout Pennsylvania and also took over the rackets from the Cleveland Family, the only major American Mafia Family to have become extinct through murders, prosecutions, and defections.

     Strollo also confessed to a crime that is shocking even by Mafia standards, in which the Pittsburgh Mafia Family brazenly ordered the assassination of an honest District Attorney, Paul Gains.


     In 1998, Ray Gricar, the District Attorney for Centre County, Pennsylvania, launched an investigation of Jerry Sandusky, the Defensive Coordinator for the Penn State Football team. In 1977, Sandusky had founded a non-profit, "The Second Mile," the aim of which was to provide counseling and recreational opportunities for troubled or neglected youths. Gricar's investigation focused on the possibility that Sandusky was sexually abusing young boys he procured through his Foundation. The allegations involved inappropriate touching of the boys who were showering with Sandusky, claims identical to those in the current Indictment.

     Gricar did not have enough evidence to charge Sandusky, and so the matter did not proceed any further. A few years later, in 2005, Gricar had decided to retire. His friends said he seemed happy, and was devoted to his daughter and his girlfriend. On April 15th, 2005, Gricar called his girlfriend and told her he was going shopping for antiques in a town several miles away. His car was found abandoned in the parking lot of such a shop. His office laptop was later found in a nearby river. Gricar's body has never been found. There is some evidence which suggests suicide; on Gricar's home computer were the web searches on how to permanently delete files from a hard drive, and the role water might have in damaging such hardware. Gricar's brother Roy had himself drowned in a river a decade earlier in Ohio,which had been ruled a suicide. An electronics company was not able to retrieve files from Gricar's office laptop, which presumable contained files on criminal investigations. What the files were about can't be determined; they could have been about himself, or could have been files containing information of his investigations, the possession of which he may have believed put himself in danger. Gricar's daughter later had him declared legally dead and the matter would never have been revisited had not the current Penn State scandal become public. (8)

     There are those who believe that D. A. Gricar was murdered. It is very uncommon for criminal gangs to murder a District Attorney, but it has happened before; 9 years before Gricar's disappearance, the Pittsburgh Mafia Family put out a murder Contract on Paul Gains, the District Attorney of Mahoning County, Ohio. The Mafia had for decades made certain that the authorities in Youngstown were under their control - the Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and Judges. So when Paul Gains, an "Untouchable" police officer, announced he would run for D. A., nobody took him seriously. To the Mafia's surprise, however, Gains won, and vowed to clean up Youngstown.

     Lenny Strollo would not allow Gains to bring down the crime rackets he had inherited - and built up - over the course of many years. So Strollo assembled a three man hit team to murder Gains, and it was decided to kill him on Christmas Eve, the theory being that Gains would let his guard down, not suspecting the Mob would commit such a heinous crime on one of the Holiest days of the Christian calendar.

     Thus, when Paul Gains walked into his home that night, Mark Batcho, the hired killer was waiting. Batcho was a football coach who had learned the art of killing while in the Marine Corps. Batcho stepped out of the shadows and shot Gains once with a handgun. The D. A. fell to the floor and lost consciousness. Batcho fired a second time, but missed. The Mafia assassin then leaned down and placed the barrel of his gun to Gains' head and pulled the trigger a third time.

     The gun jammed.

     Batcho pulled the trigger again and again but it refused to fire. In a panic, Batcho fled to his two accomplices awaiting outside in their getaway car.

     Paul Gains recovered from his gunshot wound and had the satisfaction of seeing everyone involved in this case brought to Justice. Well, not exactly everyone. Lenny Strollo, who ordered the murder of Gains, accepted a Plea Bargain, testified against various criminals, and now walks the streets of America a free man with a new identity, courtesy of the Witness Protection Program. But Michael Genovese, Strollo's Godfather of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family who approved of the murder contract on District Attorney Gains, was never charged. Genovese lived out his life at his Pittsburgh area home until his death in 2006 at the age of 87.


     As shocking as the current allegations out of Penn State are, this narrative details that crime in Pennsylvania is nothing new. As to whether organized crime figures played any role in the various allegations at Penn State, that remains to be seen. But if no such charges come forth, if those accused in this case face no further allegations, they should not expect an apology from anyone in law enforcement, nor anyone in the Media, in regards to this, this reporter included.


Related Features by this author:

Christmas in Murdertown

America's Children and the American Mafia

The Trials of Traficant: Part Eight



1. "Penn State Students Clash with Police After Paterno Announcement," The New York Times, November 10, 2011.

2. "The Long, Colorful History of the Mann Act," by Eric Weiner, National Public Radio, March 11, 2008.

3. "80G 'Addicted to Love' Gov," the New York Post, March 12, 2008.

4. "Eliot Spitzer: Wall Street's Top Cop," by Adi Ignatius, Time Magazine, December 30, 2002.

5. "Foes of Sex Trade are Stung by the Fall of an Ally," The New York Times, March 12, 2008.

6. "Call Girl Linked to Spitzer Knew Reputed Mob Afiliate," The New York Times, March 29, 2008.

7. "Stolen Innocence: Whitey Bulger Exploited Teenage Schoolgirls: A Special Report by Maggie Mulvihill, Jack Sullivan, Jonathan Wells, and Jack Meyers," The Boston Herald, April 9, 2001.

8. "Penn DA who Passed on 1998 Charges Disappears," by Christian Red, The New York Daily News," November 8, 2011.

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