Feature Articles

January 2018
FBI Microphone Tapping of Cosa Nostra

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus

Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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Under the law in the United States and most state laws there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation or giving permission for calls to be recorded or for permitting your telephone line to be tapped.

�Even if he is not with us, he�s still a friend of ours. � (Samuel de Cavalcante)

One of the FBI�s great feats was a successful phone tap of Samuel de Cavalcante (known as Sam the Plummer), producing over 2000 pages of transcripts, and running from 31 August 1964 to 16 June 1965. His office was a plumbing and heating business in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Samuel was the mafia boss of Union County, NJ, from 1961 to 1965. He made a careful study of the structure of Cosa Nostra. With Frank Majure as underboss, they commanded a 60-man family in New Jersey. Samuel, businessman/Boss, was devoted to his plumbing, to his numbers, loan-sharking, other enterprises, and to the wife he loved and the mistress he greatly missed.

What follows is one of the telephonic conversations recorded by the FBI on 31 August 1964. Persons: Sam de Calvalcante and Joe S. Ferra:

JOE: So what�s new?

SAM: Oh�a little trouble over there in New York.

JOE: New York?

SAM: Yeah, close the door. No one is supposed to know.

JOE: Sam, if you don�t want to tell me you don�t have to.

SAM: It�s about Joe Bonanno�s Borgata. The Commission don�t like the way he is comporting himself.

JOE: The way he�s conducting himself, you mean?

SAM: Well, he made his son consiglieri. The son, he don�t show up. And they want to throw Joe out of the Commission. I feel sorry, you know, he�s not a bad guy.

JOE: How old is he?

SAM: 60, 62. He is still a friend of ours.

JOE: He�s got a lot of nerve.

SAM: There are amica nostra that belong with us. They get laid off. I want them to get working. I want a good relationship with the Commission. Our Borgata is small. We could do things as well as anyone else. And I told you, as long as they are amica nostra I don�t want them to go to the Hall. I want them to keep working like everyone else.

FOOTNOTES: Borgata is Italian for village. Borgatas combined form a Mob. Amica nostra translates as Our friend and used both in the singular and plural. Commission is the ruling body. Hall is the State employment center. Consiglieri is Italian meaning advisors. The transcripts are based on what the FBI allegedly heard, and they may have heard incorrectly. Also the speakers did not have a full command of Standard English, not to mention the probable use of code words. One could imagine that there was a limited lack of schooling, as well as an inadequate knowledge of the Sicilian language. Each Sicilian village had its own unique dialect. Joe Bonanno (1905-2002), in his day, was well-schooled; his family had local prominence in their quaint fishing village in western Sicily, La Castellammare del Golfo (present pop. 5,250), which I visited. Joe was not just another one of the boys. Meeting Charles �Lucky� Luciano (1897-1962), he denounced him as a crude ignoramus; rude perhaps, but true.

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