Monday, April 19, 2010

New Jersey's 'Eagle' Gatto dies at 65

Genovese Crime Family lieutenant Joseph "the Eagle" Gatto died April 9 in Hackensack, NJ, according to a story by Justo Bautista of the Bergen County Record. He was 65. The cause of Gatto's death was not made public.

A native of Paterson, NJ, Gatto was the son of the late Louis "Streaky" Gatto, a Genovese crew leader and manager of lucrative gambling rackets in northern New Jersey. The younger Gatto reportedly inherited those rackets when his father was convicted of racketeering and murder conspiracy and sentenced to 65 years in prison in June 1991. "Streaky" Gatto was reportedly friendly with late Genovese boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. Joseph Gatto's brother Louis Jr. died in federal prison in 2000. Their father "Streaky" died in prison in 2002 after suffering with prostate cancer.

Gatto was convicted of gambling and loansharking in 1999. He was sentenced to serve 61 months in prison. He was paroled from Ray Brook Federal Prison in upstate New York in October 2003, after serving 53 months of the sentence.In 2003, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation identified Joseph Gatto as a capodecina of one of the five larger crews of the Genovese Crime Family in New Jersey.

Gatto and 43 alleged accomplices were arrested in December 2004. They were charged with racketeering and gambling charges as a result of a state and local police investigation dubbed Operation Jersey Boyz. According to authorities, the group ran a massive offshore gambling operation that generated millions of dollars for the Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno and Gambino crime families of the New York area. As they raided the operation, police seized 25 firearms and $1.3 million in cash. (One of those arrested in connection with the case was Frank Lagano, 67, of Tenafly, NJ. Lagano was shot to death in April 2007 outside a diner he owned in East Brunswick. Police believe the murder was a mob hit.)

As the Jersey Boyz arrests were made, Gatto was charged with violating the terms of his parole.
While prosecutors said Gatto controlled the Catalina Sports wire room in Costa Rica, a grand jury refused to indict him in the case last year. Problems in the Jersey Boyz case dated back to 2005, as prosecutors were criticized for their handling of informants.

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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.