Tuesday, March 13, 2007

NJ man arrested for 1977 mob hit

Michael Coppola
Michael Coppola (left), reputed member of the Genovese Crime Family, was arrested March 9 in New York City and charged with a 30-year-old murder, according to stories by Celanie Polanick of the Home News Tribune and Michelle Sahn of the Asbury Park Press.

Known as "Little Mike," Coppola is to be arraigned in Somerset County NJ Superior Court this afternoon for the April 10, 1977, murder of John "Johnny Cokes" Lardiere (right). Authorities hunted for Coppola for more than a decade. He disappeared after investigators called him Aug. 13, 1996, to submit to DNA testing in connection with the case. His last known address was Morris Avenue in Spring Lake NJ.

John LardiereLardiere is believed to have been a Mafia lieutenant serving boss Gerardo Catena in New Jersey's arm of the Genovese Family. After refusing to testify before a state investigations panel looking into racketeer influence in the garbage hauling industry, Lardiere was held at a prison in Clinton NJ. During an Easter holiday furlough on April 10, 1977, he was met by a gunman outside the Red Bull Inn on Route 22. Lardiere was found dead with five bullet wounds, two in his head.

Authorities pieced together the events of that day through interviews with mob informants. Coppola, allegedly carrying a .22-caliber pistol called Lardiere's name. When the victim turned, the weapon jammed. Lardiere reportedly laughed and said, "What're you gonna do now, tough guy?" Authorities say Coppola pulled a .38-caliber handgun from an ankle holster and put the five holes in Lardiere.

Tommy Ricciardi, a former Lucchese Crime Family member who turned government informant, reportedly witnessed the crime.

Lardiere is believed to have offended Ralph "Blackie" Napoli, a bigshot in the Philadelphia Mob, during his stay in Clinton.

While Lardiere was in custody, his wife Carolyn died of arsenic poisoning. She reportedly consumed enough arsenic (dissolved in a bottle of soda) to kill 700 people. Her death was ruled a homicide. It remains unsolved.

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Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related Yahoo discussion group. Author of Wrongly Executed? Coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime. Writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.