Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Editorial: Justice must put a stop to leaks

Though we seldom if ever find ourselves siding with John A. "Junior" Gotti on an issue, this time we have to admit he has a point. Last summer's federal government leaks relating to Gotti plea bargaining sessions in 2005 were inappropriate and probably criminal. We feel there is reason to believe that they were also a premeditated effort to terrorize Gotti into a guilty plea.

Obviously, federal prosecutors did not have the best possible case against Gotti. They failed three times with essentially the same evidence against him. They must have known that the statute of limitations on racketeering would be an enormous obstacle, as most of the evidence of Gotti racketeering is related to events of long ago.

It appears that some individual or group decided that chances for a guilty verdict would be improved if Gotti could be made to fear his old underworld friends. Information about plea bargaining sessions was leaked and possibly altered to make it seem that Gotti had already flipped to the side of law enforcement and was ratting out his old buddies to the FBI in exchange for a light sentence. Given the history of the case, it now appears that leak was entirely false.

Similar rumors and suspicions previously have caused crime families to go after those believed to be cooperating or on the verge of cooperating with authorities. And, at times, they have caused defendants, suddenly finding themselves targets of gangland discipline, to rush into genuine cooperative arrangements in order to protect their lives.

We cannot know for certain that terrorizing Gotti into a plea deal and a cooperative mood was the motivation behind the leaks. However, it is difficult to see any other reason.

The Justice Department should condemn such tactics, as they put in jeopardy the lives of defendants and their families. We note also that, should harm come to Gotti as a result of this leak, some person or group on the side of law enforcement would be as guilty of murder conspiracy as many of the racketeers prosecuted by the department.

- View Gotti-Carnesi discussion with the press (WCBS-TV New York)

Gotti furious over fed leaks


Facing the possibility of new federal charges, John A. "Junior" Gotti (left) yesterday launched into a tirade over year-old federal leaks indicating he ratted on fellow mobsters, according to a story by Thomas Zambito of the New York Daily News.

Gotti went to great lengths to cut a deal with federal agents in 2005, according to a June 15, 2006, story by Kati Cornell of the New York Post. The Cornell story indicated that Gotti confessed to a number of crimes and provided the FBI with information against a number of underworld colleagues. Gotti refused to admit guilt to the most serious charges against him, and federal prosecutors decided not to reach a plea deal with him, the story said. Gotti was tried in federal court three times, each ending in mistrial.

Yesterday, Gotti blasted federal agents for leaking reports on the plea bargaining and making it appear that the former boss of the Gambino Crime Family had turned on his old friends.

"It put my children in harm's way," Gotti said. "It put my family in harm's way - 100 percent. My family lives in fear."

Federal prosecutors are looking into the possibility of bringing new charges against Gotti, son of the late Gambino Crime Family boss John J. Gotti. Defense attorney Charles Carnesi told the press, "If, in fact, somebody is so misguided as to bring charges on the basis of liars and murderers who are looking to get themselves out of jail, then we'll address them at that time..."

Prosecutors are also seeking to have Gotti returned to prison for the alleged violation of an earlier probation. They say Gotti failed to pay the government $200,000 in back taxes. Gotti denied the allegation and said he recently made a tax payment of $80,000 that was borrowed from friends and family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wife testifies against Cutolo's accused killers

Marguerite Cutolo took the witness stand last week to point an accusing finger at reputed Colombo Crime Family boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico (right), according to a story by John Marzulli and Corky Siemaszko of the New York Daily News.

Mrs. Cutolo stepped out of the witness protection program in order to testify in the retrial of Persico and former Colombo underboss John DeRoss for the murder of her husband, William "Wild Bill" Cutolo. She had entered witness protection in 2001.

On the stand last week, she stated that her husband was on his way to meet Persico in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on May 26, 1999, when she last saw him. Cutolo has been missing since that date and is presumed dead.

On cross examination, defense attorneys suggested that William Cutolo is still alive and that the Cutolos have hidden as much as $2.7 million in loanshark earnings. Mrs. Cutolo admitted to possessing $1.65 million in cash at the time of her husband's disappearance. She said government officials were aware of the money and allowed her to keep it to take care of her children.

She denied the defense assertion that William Cutolo remains alive, according to a story by Selim Algar of the New York Post. "My husband never ran away," she said. "...I'm appearing here for my husband, for his death."

Mrs. Cutolo did not testify when Persico and DeRoss were first tried for the murder last year. That trial ended in a hung jury.
Prosecutors charge that Persico waited six years after a ceasefire in a bloody Colombo Crime Family civil war to eliminate his rival for power, William Cutolo (left). "The Colombo war never really ended, at least not in the minds of men like Alphonse Persico," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Goldberg said in his opening statement on Nov. 6.
Defense attorney Sarita Kedia countered, "There is not a single piece of evidence to prove to you that Billy Cutolo is even dead."

Brooklyn DA tries Fortunato, Polito for murder


The Kings County District Attorney's Office is taking a shot at prosecuting Mario Fortunato and Carmine "Pizza' Polito for the Nov. 29, 1994, murder of Sabatino Lombardi and attempted murder of Michael D'Urso, according to a story by Scott Shifrel and John Marzulli of the New York Daily News.

Fortunato, partner in the Fortunato Brothers bakery of Williamsburg, and Queens pizzeria owner Polito were convicted in federal court. But that conviction was subsequently thrown out. The pair now face state charges.

D'Urso, who survived the hit despite being shot in the head, has testified that Fortunato wanted him dead as payback for a beating he once gave Fortunato. Prosecutors say Polito was motivated to eliminate D'Urso and Lombardi because he owed them $60,000. The two defendants allegedly planned the attack in the San Giuseppe social club on Graham Avenue.

D'Urso, a former mob associate, became a government informant years ago. He helped federal agents build cases against 70 Genovese Crime Family members, including former boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante.

Chicago Crime Commission looks back in new book


Drawing from 80 years of archives, the Chicago Crime Commission has released a 293-page hardcover book entitled, "Friend and Foe," according to the commission's website. The volume tells the story of crime and law enforcement through a century of Chicago history. It reportedly includes developments in the recent Family Secrets trial of the local Mafia leaders and explores topics like public corruption, street gangs and the evolution of crime fighting. The book sells for $30 direct from the commission. (A package deal with the commission's "The Gang Book" costs $45.) Friend and Foe is expected also to be available in bookstores soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Apalachin forced FBI to act against mob


The discovery of a meeting of Italian and Sicilian racketeers from around the U.S. 50 years ago today pushed the FBI into a fight against organized crime.
Many of the nation's reputed crime bosses attended the mid-November 1957 convention at Joseph Barbara's home in rural Apalachin, NY (above right). When police, alerted by State Police Sergeant Edgar Croswell, crashed the party, they found mob bigshots like Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci, Santo Trafficante and Russell Bufalino.
Though there were insufficient grounds to hold any of the more than 60 mobsters rounded up, the documented presence of so many underworld characters from so many U.S. regions made the existence of a nationwide network of crime undeniable. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who had repeatedly insisted that there was no such network, was compelled address the problem.

Italy arrests LoPiccolo lieutenants

Italian police reported the arrest yesterday of five high-ranking lieutenants of supreme Palermo Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, according to a story published by the Reuters news agency. Lo Piccolo was arrested last week after a quarter century as a fugitive.

The police characterized the suspects as "military commanders" of the Mafia. The five were charged with drug trafficking, arms trafficking and extortion.

A story in the International Herald Tribune indicated that four men - not five - were arrested. It identified the suspects as brothers Nunzio and Domenico Serio, 29 and 28 respectively, Vincenzo Mangione, 28, and Andrea Gioe, 40.

At the same time, the police moved against the Bottaro-Attanasio crime family in Syracuse. Arrest warrants were obtained for 70 suspected members of that criminal organization.

CT legislator resigns over mob link


Connecticut State Senator Louis DeLuca (above) resigned from the legislature yesterday, just hours before a Senate panel was to acquire subpoena power in its investigation of DeLuca's relationship with an indicted trash hauler, according to a story by Mark Pazniokas and Christopher Keating of the Hartford Courant.

The panel sought subpoena power in order to acquire FBI surveillance tapes of a meeting between DeLuca, 74, and an undercover agent posing as an associate of western Connecticut trash czar James Galante. Galante has been charged with overseeing a monopolistic property rights scheme in the hauling industry. He maintains his innocence.
The undercover agent failed in an attempt to bribe DeLuca, but reportedly won his agreement to protect Galante's interests in the legislature. DeLuca has insisted that he agreed with the request in order to end the meeting.
DeLuca received the FBI tapes of the conversations as he reached a plea bargain with federal investigators. He refused to turn them over to the state.

A Republican from the town of Woodbury, DeLuca served in the state senate for 17 years. He pleaded guilty in June to asking Galante to threaten his granddaughter's husband, Mark Colella. DeLuca said he believed Colella was abusing his granddaughter. Colella has denied the charge.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Schiro says DA's office betrayed her


Linda Schiro, the key witness in the recently abandoned case against former FBI supervisor Roy Lindley DeVecchio, feels betrayed and tossed aside by the Kings County District Attorney's Office, according to an interview with Sarah Wallace of WABC-TV.

Schiro's testimony in the DeVecchio trial connected the former FBI supervisor with four gangland killings. A reporter subsequently came forward with details of a Schiro interview that contradicted her testimony. Kings County prosecutors quickly dropped the case against DeVecchio and stated that Schiro (left) could face perjury charges.

In Schiro's interview with Wallace, she insisted that her court testimony was accurate and that the prosecutors were earlier aware of the apparently conflicting interview. She complained about how the DA's office has treated her. "I told the truth... I'm hurting because like I said, I can't believe what they did. I really can't."

During the WABC interview, Schiro recalled the FBI assistance provided by her longtime mobster boyfriend Gregory Scarpa. In 1964, Scarpa persuaded members of the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan to provide information on the murders of three missing civil rights workers. For many years, Scarpa secretly cooperated with the FBI.

DeLuca panel seeks FBI tapes


A Connecticut Senate subcommittee looking into allegations of impropriety against State Senator Louis DeLuca voted this week to seek subpoena power to obtain FBI tapes now in DeLuca's possession, according to a story by Christopher Keating of the Hartford Courant.

The subcommittee decided that DeLuca (right) "brought dishonor on his office and the institution of the state Senate" but refused to make a recommendation to the full Senate until it could listen to the full tapes of DeLuca's Sept 5 and Sept 7, 2006, conversations with an FBI agent posing as an associate of Danbury-area trash hauler James Galante. Excerpts from the tapes were transcribed into an arrest warrant affidavit. The U.S. Attorneys office gave copies of the full tapes to DeLuca's attorney. The state senator pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of conspiring with Galante to threaten DeLuca's granddaughter's husband. (See related story.)

One of the excerpts suggests that DeLuca would be willing to do favors in the legislature for Galante. DeLuca's attorney has pointed out that other statements on the tapes portray DeLuca in a more favorable light. The tapes reportedly show that DeLuca immediately turned down an offered bribe from the undercover agent. However, DeLuca stated last month that he would not turn over copies of the tapes.

"The recordings are not publicly available information and will not be disclosed," he said.

Galante has been indicted in connection with a property rights racket in the western Connecticut waste hauling industry. Federal prosecutors say he supervised a non-competitive affiliation on hauling companies that sent regular payments to a New York Mafia family. Galante says he is innocent of the charges.

The six-member subcommittee investigating DeLuca can recommend expulsion, censure, reprimand or no action.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Italy nabs top Mafia boss Lo Piccolo

The Italian police this morning arrested Salvatore Lo Piccolo, 65, reputed leader of the Sicilian Mafia, according to stories by Jeff Israely of TIME and Elisabetta Povoledo of the International Herald Tribune.

Lo Piccolo (right) had been a fugitive since 1983, when he was convicted of murder. Italian authorities believe he became the most powerful boss of the Sicilian Mafia after the April 2006 capture of Bernardo Provenzano near Corleone.

Lo Piccolo, his son Sandro, 35, and two other associates - Andrea Adamo and Gaspare Pulizzi - were arrested in homes in the town of Cinisi, just west of Palermo. Three dozen police surrounded the house. The four men surrendered after police fired warning shots.

During the arrests, police discovered weapons, cash, fake identification and the small handwritten notes that Provenzano used to communicate to other Mafiosi.

Police believe Lo Piccolo served as Provenzano's top lieutenant in the Sicilian underworld. They believe the mob boss was actively involved in strengthening ties between the Sicilian and American branches of the Mafia.

Matteo Messina Denaro, 45, of Trapani, long considered a contender for supreme boss of the Mafia, might take the opportunity of Lo Piccolo's arrest to seize control of the criminal society, investgators say. Also wanted by authorities, Denaro's location is not known.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Reputed crime boss Leo faces up to six years

Daniel Leo
Daniel Leo, 66 (left), reputed boss of the Genovese Crime Family, faces up to six years in prison and $75,000 in fines after admitting today to engaging in an extortion racket, according to stories in the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

New Jersey resident Leo admitted that he ordered underlings to extort money from an East Harlem gambling enterprise and from taxi company. Prosecutors say Leo threatened harm to the taxi company owner if he did not pay back $150,000 owed to Leo-affiliated creditors.
His nephew, underworld confidant and codefendant in the federal case, Joseph Leo, 45, could be sentenced to more than four years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of extortion. Sentencing for the pair is scheduled for Jan. 31 in Manhattan Federal Court.

Federal investigators believe Daniel "the Lion" Leo, of Rockleigh, NJ, took the reins of the Genovese clan after the 2005 death of Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. His name surfaced in news reports one year ago. The extortion case was based upon FBI electronic surveillance. Agents placed a listening device in Joseph Leo's car after failing in more direct attempts to listen in on Daniel Leo's conversations. Daniel Leo was initially charged May 30 with four counts of extortion.

Witness's apparent perjury clears DeVecchio

State prosecutors dropped their murder case against retired FBI supervisor Roy Lindley DeVecchio today and began looking into the alleged perjury of witness Linda Schiro (right), according to stories by Scott Shifrel and Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News and Michael Brick of the New York Times.

Schiro, 62, the prosecution's star witness, was a longtime girlfriend of Colombo Crime Family bigshot Gregory Scarpa. She testified that DeVecchio provided information to Scarpa about a fellow gangster who was secretly cooperating in a federal investigation and aided Scarpa in setting up four mob killings. After hearing of Schiro's testimony, reporters Tom Robbins and Jerry Capeci came forward with 10-year-old audiotapes of conversations they had with Schiro to research a book. In those conversations, Schiro reportedly contradicted her sworn testimony in the DeVecchio case.

The reporters had promised Schiro confidentiality. Robbins said he felt he had to come forward after noting the contradictions in her testimony. Robbins described the contradictions in an article for the Oct. 30 Village Voice. In the taped interviews, Schiro did not link DeVecchio (left) with three of the four murders. She said nothing of DeVecchio's alleged involvement in the murder of Mary Bari and expressly excluded him from involvement in the murders of Joseph DeDomenico and Lorenzo Lampasi.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione asked Justice Gustin Reichbach to dismiss the case against the 67-year-old DeVecchio. Vecchione said the case would not have gone to trial "had we been provided these tapes much earlier in the process."

As Capeci noted in his online Gangland column today, the dismissal of the charges in such a high profile case is a public relations nightmare for Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes (right). There was no announcement related to the case on the prosecutor's website today. Hynes reportedly told the press, "There's no way we would have brought a prosecution if we had that kind of information."

During the investigation for the case, Hynes publicly blasted federal agencies for their slow response to Kings County requests for information. Federal prosecutors had investigated the charges against DeVecchio earlier but decided not to prosecute. Current and former FBI agents came out in support of DeVecchio.

In the 2005 election, Hynes had to defeat primary election challengers from within his own Democratic party in order to run for reelection.

About Me

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Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related Google+ community and 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.