Wednesday, February 28, 2007

'Chinky' Facchiano, 96, pleads guilty

Ninety-six-year-old Albert "Chinky" Facchiano reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors today and admitted to racketeering conspiracy in Florida and to conspiracy to tamper with a witness in New York, according to an Associated Press report.

Facchiano was charged in Florida along with other reputed members of an aging Genovese Crime Family wing. Prosecutors accused him of participating in rackets involving robberies, money-laundering and bank fraud between 2000 and 2003. He was also indicted last year in New York on charges of trying to locate and intimidate a government witness in 2005.

In declining health, he is likely to receive a sentence of house arrest. Sentencing is scheduled for May 25, according to a story by Jessica Gresko of the AP.

Six other Florida co-defendants, including Genovese capo Renaldi Ruggiero, 73, have pleaded guilty. Ruggiero admitted to his position within the crime family as part of a plea deal. He has not yet been sentenced. The guilty plea excludes Facchiano from an extensive New York case, involving more than 30 alleged members of the Genovese Family.
Facchiano's arrest record dates back to 1932. He was convicted of racketeering in 1979 and served eight years of a 25-year sentence.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Hells Angels on trial in Seattle

Jury selection began today for the racketeering trial of four current and former members of a Hells Angels chapter in the State of Washington, according to a story by David Bowermaster of the Seattle Times.

Defendants in the case are Richard "Smilin' Rick" Fabel, Joshua Binder, Rodney Rollness and Ricky Jenks. Fabel served as president of the Washington Nomads chapter and as leader of the Hells Angels west coast region. Binder and Rollness were reportedly members of the Nomads until 2003. Jenks reportedly is still a member.

The four are charged under the RICO anti-racketeering statute with participating in a criminal enterprise that has engaged in murder, kidnapping, witness tampering, extortion and other crimes. Rollness and Binder are specifically charged with the murder of Michael "Santa" Walsh on July 21, 2001.

The prosecution case is expected to involve more than 125 witnesses and consume about 10 weeks.

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RICO guilty plea from Brighton Brigade members

Three members of the Syracuse NY-based Brighton Brigade gang have pleaded guilty to racketeering offenses and face up to life in prison when sentenced, according to a press release from the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York.

Karriem "Calo" Williams, 28, Andre "Dre Dre" Robinson, 30, and Bobby "Pino" Everson, 20, were charged with racketeering involving multiple acs of drug trafficking, attempted murder, robbery, witness tampering, and monopolization of crack cocaine distribution within a specific territory within Syracuse. Prosecutors say the gang used hand signs, tan and gray-colored bandanas and tattoos to identify members.

The three defendants each could be sentenced to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Cases against 11 co-defendants are pending.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rio's 'Carnival of Death'

A recent story by Jens Glusing of Spiegel Online International explores the violence of this year's Carnival season in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

According to the story, dozens of mutilated corpses have been discovered within stolen cars. The victims had been tortured, possibly due to a violent rivalry between competing drug gangs. Those gangs have also engaged in recent firefights in city streets.

The violence reportedly did not disturb Rio's enormous pre-Ash Wednesday parades and other celebrations.

Governor Sergio Cabral said he will consult with Colombia, which has had success battling gang violence in Bogota and Medellin, on methods for resolving the problem.

Brazil's Finance Minister, Guido Mantega, was briefly taken hostage when hooded gunmen broke into the home of businessman Victor Garcia Sandri during a Carnival barbecue on Tuesday, according to an Associated Press story. About 10 guests were with Sandri at the time. The gunmen threatened a "bloodbath" if the guests did not give them money. Authorities say the assailants did not recognize Mantega.
Sao Paulo is also experiencing violence. FoxNews reported that two teenage couples were killed by unidentified gunmen at a plaza in the city's eastern section yesterday. Three of the teens were killed immediately. The fourth died at a local hospital. They were sitting at the plaza having a conversation when gunmen opened fire from an automobile.

Four Florida police face life in prison

Four police officers from Hollywood, FL, face life prison sentences as the result of a federal sting operation, according to a story by Brian Haas and Vanessa Blum of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Federal authorities revealed the details of "Operation Tarnished Badge" on Friday. They say the four officers protected and transported diamonds, artwork, bonds and heroin for what they believed was a New York-based crime family. The crime family was actually an undercover operation by federal agents.

Detective Kevin Companion, 41, is charged with being the ringleader of the group. After meeting with the undercover agents in December 2004, he allegedly recruited Sgt. Jeffry Courtney, 51, Officer Stephen Harrison, 46, and Detective Thomas Simcox, 50, to aid him in a criminal enterprise. All the officers have been charged with extortion through the misuse of their public positions and conspiracy and attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Simcox remained at large of Friday (he is expected to turn himself in to authorities tomorrow), as the other three officers were brought before U.S. Magistrate Lurana Snow. The magistrate set bond for Companion at $350,000, for Courtney at $375,000, and for Harrison at $300,000.

Three of the four officers were previously investigated by the police department, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Los Niches Cartel leader gets 30 years

A Colombian drug lord has been sentenced to 30 years in prison plus five years of supervised release for shipping 50,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Jorge Eliecer Asprilla-Perea was sentenced in Manhattan yesterday by U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa. Asprilla-Perea, 51, was the reputed head of a cocaine distribution organization known as the "Los Niches Cartel."

He pleaded guilty to cocaine importation and distribution charges in May 2002. In a post-plea stipulation, he admitted to trafficking cocaine valued at more than $1 billion.

Authorities say he operated his organization from inside a jail cell in Cali, Colombia, before being extradited to the U.S. late in 2000, with full diplomatic assurances that neither the death penalty nor life in prison would be sought by prosecutors.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Details of Mele's death revealed

During a recent bail hearing for a reputed Bonanno Crime Family underboss, prosecutors referred to the Jan. 16 death of Louis "Louie Cigars" Mele, according to stories by John Marzulli of the New York Daily News and Stefanie Cohen of the New York Post.

Mele (right), believed to have been a soldier in the Bonanno family, reportedly died of a heart attack during a Texas Hold 'Em poker game at a private social club at Long Island's Alpha Plaza. He was 71. Supervising that poker game is one of the charges federal prosecutors have brought against reputed underboss Nicholas "Nicky Mouth" Santora and reputed consigliere Anthony "Fat Anthony" Rabito.

Mele's death was mentioned in court after Santora's lawyer asked to have his client freed on bail because of recent heart surgery. Prosecutor Greg Andres noted that the heart surgery had not prevented Santora from attending Mele's wake. Andres tossed in the comment: "He actually died, I believe, at the Texas Hold 'Em game."

Mele's claim to fame was serving as driver for the late Bonanno chieftain Carmine "Lilo" Galante, who was shot to death at Joe & Mary's Italian American Restaurant on July 12, 1979.

No autopsy was performed on Mele, as the death was not suspicious.

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Authorities nab Hong Kong DVD pirates

Customs officers in Hong Kong arrested 14 people and seized 120,000 pirated DVD movies last week, according to a report by the Bangkok Post.

Two days of raids at 20 locations concluded a year-long investigation into the piracy ring. The individuals arrested included 11 men and three women. Albert Chan, the officer in charge of the raids, linked the piracy ring to traditional Chinese criminal organizations known as Triads.

The DVDs were reportedly made in mainland China and smuggled into Hong Kong. Officials in Hong Kong have made cracking down on illegal disk copying a priority.

EU: Bulgaria must act against mobsters

Franco Frattini, justice commissioner of the European Union, said today that new union member state Bulgaria must act quickly against organized criminals in order to avoid sanctions, according to a Bulgarian news agency story.

Frattini noted Bulgaria's progress in passing laws related to organized crime and governmental corruption. "Now the courts have to speed up trials," he said. "Arrests aren't enough. We are waiting for sentences."

And it seems the European Union won't wait much longer. The organization cold impose sanctions - including withholding financial help and preventing Bulgarian court rulings from being recognized in other European states - as soon as June.

Bulgarian authorities are criticized for securing no convictions to date of organized criminals connected with a wave of gangland murders. More than 150 killings have been attributed to organized crime since 2001.
After some hesitation related to Bulgaria's handling of its rampant organized crime problem, the European Union officially welcomed Bulgaria into its ranks last month.
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Gangs reach into the suburbs

The growing influence of violent street gangs in suburban neighborhoods is described in a Feb. 19 report by WCBS-TV in New York.

According to the report, gangs are deliberately recruiting children in affluent areas because of their access to money and vehicles.

Parents were warned to be on the lookout for signs of gang involvement by their children: a change in friends, the wearing of extemely baggy clothes aways with the same color combination, and secrecy about activities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Former Adams henchman tells of UK crime family

U.K.'s Sunday Mirror contained an interesting report on North London's Adams Crime Family, based upon the recollections of a man who served as an Adams associate for a decade. Reputed boss Terry Adams was recently jailed. The article documents some of the 23 murders charged against his gang, also known as the "A-team."
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Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon
Click for more information or to order.

Triads suspected in seven Germany murders

Police investigating the shooting deaths of six people in a Chinese restaurant in northern Germany lost their only witness last week, when a seventh victim succumbed to his injuries, according to a story published by Spiegel Online International.

The male victim had been taken to a local hospital in critical condition after the Feb. 4 shootings. He died the next day.

The six other victims - three men and three women - were killed in a apparent gang execution in the "Lin Yue" restaurant in Sittensen, near Hamburg. Some of the victims had their hands tied. All of them were shot in the head. Among the victims were the husband-and-wife owners of the establishment.

A two-year-old girl was found alive in the restaurant as the bodies were discovered shortly after midnight.

Authorities are considering whether the murders might be the work of a Triad Society, an ethnic Chinese organized crime entity. Triads are active in Hong Kong and mainland China but have also worked their way into Chinese communities around the globe.

According to the online report: "Rumor has it that the presence and size of a fish tank in a Chinese restaurant is an indication of whether it pays protection money, and how much. The more fish in the tank, the more money the restaurant has to pay. In the US, Triads are believed to have extorted restaurant owners by charging $500 per fish for fish food. A dead fish found floating in the tank is a warning to the owners."

The "Lin Yue" restaurant has an indoor pond with fish in it.

Harlem underworld featured in new book

A retired professor of library sciences has penned "Gangsters of Harlem: The Gritty Underworld of New York's Most Famous Neighborhood."

Ron Chepesiuk's latest work earned the notice of Karen Blair of the Rock Hill (SC) Herald this week. According to Blair's story, "Gangsters of Harlem" deals with early Mafia influences, the Prohibition Era and the later black gangsters.

For the book, Chepesiuk interviewed two of the more famous 1970s-era Harlem gang lords, Leslie "Sgt. Smack" Atkinson and Frank "Superfly" Lucas.

Chepesiuk previously wrote, "Drug Lords: The Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel." He said he is now working on a book on black gangsters in Chicago.

Informant Mercurio dies at 70

The death of Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio (right), a New England mobster who turned into an informant and helped the FBI listen in on a Patriarca Family induction ceremony, was revealed by a family member this week. A story by David Abel and April Simpson of the Boston Globe said Mercurio died on Dec. 11 of a pulmonary embolism. He was 70.

Mercurio's cooperation with the FBI led to the first-ever bugging of a Mafia induction ceremony. In October 1989, electronic devices were placed in a Medford, MA, home, and agents listened in as the New England Crime Family initiated four new members. The family reportedly was led at that time by Raymond Patriarca Jr. (left), who attended the ceremony. Sixteen other mobsters attended. Patriarca was jailed in the early 1990s, winning his release in December of 1998.

Working with both the Boston branch of the Mafia and the non-Italian Winter Hill Gang in the underworld, Mercurio also ran Vanessa's Italian Food Shop in the Prudential Center. In the late 1980s, the FBI bugged the shop, acquiring enough evidence against Mercurio to convince him to work for the now-notorious FBI handler John J. Connolly (also handler for James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi).

In addition to providing evidence against his fellow Mafiosi, Mercurio eventually helped convict Connolly of racketeering. Connolly is now serving a 10-year sentence on a 2002 convicion. Mercurio's work on that case caused a judge to reduce a 110-month prison sentence against him.
Mercurio went into the federal witness-protection program. He spent his last years in Little Rock, Arkansas. His mother-in-law, Judith Gopoian, brought news of his death to the press, according to a story in the Providence Journal.

Friday, February 9, 2007

19 alleged Bonanno racketeers indicted

The federal assault on the Bonanno Crime Family continues. This week, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York unsealed an indictment against 19 alleged Bonanno members, including reputed acting underboss Nicholas Santora, according to a press release dated Feb. 6.

The New York Daily News reported in November that Salvatore Montagna, 35, is the new boss of the Bonanno Crime Family.

The superseding indictment alleged crimes including racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, illegal gambling, extortion, loansharking, securities fraud and narcotics distribution against:
  • acting underboss "Nicky Mouth" Santora, 64;
  • reputed acting consigliere Anthony "Fat Anthony" Rabito, 73;

  • reputed family captains and former captains Jerome "Jerry" Asaro, 48; Joseph "Joe C" Cammarano Jr., 47; and Louis "Louie Electric" DeCicco, 60;

  • alleged Bonanno soldiers Giacomo "Jack" Bonventre; Michael Cassese; Paul "Fat Paulie" Spina; and Michael Virtuoso;

  • and alleged Bonanno associates Tracey "T-Bone" Badgett; John Compono; Anthony DeFilippo; Anthony "Nino" DiGiovanna; Christopher Merz; Joseph Rossetti; Robert "Cash Deals" Schwichrath; Patrick "Patty Boy" Tarsio; and Anthony "the Bookmaker" Vivelo.
The indictment press release also mentioned an extortion charge against Agostino Accardo.

According to prosecutors, Asaro, Cammarano, Cassese, DeCicco, DeFilippo, Merz, Rabito, Santora, Spina, Tarsio, Vituoso and Vivelo face maximum terms of 20 years in prison if convicted of racketeering or racketeering conspiracy. Rossetti and Schwichrath face up to 20 years if conviced of securities fraud. Accardo, Compono and DiGiovanna face up to 20 years if convicted of extortion. Badgett and Bonventre face maximum terms of five years if convicted of illegal gambling.

Cassese and Virtuoso were already in custody, charged with extortion from Howard Beach housewife Yvonne Rossetti (left), according to Newsday. The latest charges are believed to be the result of cooperation by Rossetti's husband Vincent. Rossetti is accused of conning racketeers through a phoney real estate deal.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mark J. Mershon said, "The results of the FBI's assault on La Cosa Nostra have been nowhere more visible than with the Bonanno family. But the need for continued pressure and continued vigilance is also nowhere more evident. As each administration is swept up and sent away to long prison terms, a new hierarchy assumes the reigns of leadership in the family. Our efforts have the mob reeling, but our objective is to deliver the knockout punch."

Law enforcement has won convictions against 13 reputed Bonanno family administrators and against more than 70 accused members and associates of the family in recent years. Since March 2002, three reputed bosses of the family - Joseph Massino, Anthony Urso and Vincent Basciano - have been convicted on racketeering-related charges. A fourth alleged acting boss, Michael Mancuso, is awaiting trial.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Colombo attorney scoffs at racketeering charge

In his closing argument in Manhattan federal court yesterday, Chris Colombo's attorney Jeremy Schneider acknowledged that his client has run a successful gambling business but insisted that there was no evidence of an extended criminal enterprise or of any attachment to the mob, according to a story by Oliver Mackson of the Times Herald-Record.

Federal prosecutors charge that Chris Colombo and his brother Anthony were engaged in gambling, loansharking, extortion and bribery, as part of a racketeering organization they dub "the Colombo Brothers Crew." The prosecutors claim that the brothers used the perception of an attachment to the Mafia family once ruled by their late father, Joseph Colombo, to terrorize their victims.

"He has wire rooms," Schneider admitted. "He has customers dying to lose money. Does it make any sense that he would hurt his customers?"

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Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca
and the Birth of the American Mafia

by Thomas Hunt and
Martha Macheca Sheldon

North London gang boss jailed

Terry Adams, 52, reputed leader of a North London, England, gang known as the "A-Team" is now behind bars after a 10-year investigation that could have cost law enforcement as much as $95 million (US), according to a report by Ian Hepburn of the U.K. Sun.

Adams (right) reportedly admitted to conspiring to hide the proceeds of illicit enterprises. He faces up to 14 years in prison.

The underworld organization is believed responsible for the deaths of 23 people, while it engaged in drug-trafficking, gambling and money-laundering.

Mafia killing conviction could be overturned

Anthony DeSimone, 40, could be freed from prison due to a federal judge's ruling this week, according to an Associated Press report published in the Boston Herald.

U.S. District Judge Charles Brieant said that, during DeSimone's 2000 trial, the Westchester County NY district attorney's office failed to turn over important evidence to the defense. That evidence pointed to the guilt of another party, noted Brieant.

DeSimone was convicted of killing college student Louis Balancio, 21, during a gang fight on Feb. 4, 1994, outside the Strike Zone bar in Yonkers NY. The fight reportedly involved the Tanglewood Boys gang, an organization believed to be affiliated with the mob. Balancio was stabbed at least a dozen times.

Lucchese Crime Family figures were associated with the crime and were believed to be working to silence witnesses. Anthony and Alfred Santorelli were convicted of aiding DeSimone after the killing.

It took three years for prosecutors to secure an indictment against DeSimone, and then another two years to track him down. He turned himself in to Yonkers police in November 1999, according to the New York Times. DeSimone was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Judge Brieant threw out the conviction in 2005. A federal appeals court later reinstated the conviction but asked Brieant to review the material prosecutors withheld from the defense.

Brieant has allowed prosecutors just 20 days to win a stay from an appeals court in order to keep DeSimone in prison.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

NYC police dig for gang victims

New York Post photo
New York City Police dug up a Brooklyn back yard yesterday, investigating a report that victims of gang murders were buried there, according to a story by Larry Celona and John Doyle of the New York Post.

The police were acting on a tip from a defendant in a drug case. The informant reportedly stated that his father buried three bodies in an old cesspool behind #724 Drew St. in Brooklyn. The site is just blocks away from the Ruby Street and Blake Avenue location where authorities discovered the remains of Alfonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato in 1981 and of Philip Giaccone and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera in 2004.

With bloodhounds standing by, police excavated a 3-foot-by-5-foot area of the backyard. No human remains were found. But police said they were considering returning to the site with a backhoe.

Bonanno Crime Family boss Joseph Massino was convicted of the murders of Indelicato, Giaccone and Trinchera - the "Three Capos" - in 2004.

Mass. father, son charged with running gambling ring

Elias Samia, 41, and his father Edward Samia, 68, were arrested yesterday for running a gambling ring in Worcester, MA, according to a story by Milton J. Valencia of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

The two men, both residents of 1 Carleton St., Rochdale, were arrested at the English Social Club, 29 Camp Street, in Worcester. Edward Samia is listed in Massachusetts records as the president and clerk of the social club. Elias Samia, according to police, has been linked with notorious figures in the local underworld. Detectives seized $10,000 in cash at the club.

Edward was charged with five counts of registering bets; setting up, promoting, permitting a lottery; selling lottery tickets; and permitting public gaming. His son was charged with registering bets; setting up, promoting, permitting a lottery; and selling lottery tickets.

Elias Samia is a suspect in the 1994 disappearance and probable murder of Kevin Harkins. He has previous arrests for drug charges and motor vehicle violations. He has been linked with convicted drug trafficker John R. Fredette and with Matteo Trotto, now jailed on a 1999 conviction on drug and gun charges. Trotto was shot in an apparent gang-related attack in 2004. Police believe he was targeted by a group led by Eugene A. "Gino" Rida, Jr., which was attempting to take over Massachusetts factions of the New England Mafia Family.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Ruggiero admits to being Genovese capo

Renaldi "Ray" Ruggiero, 73, admitted yesterday that he was a Genovese Crime Family capo in charge of operations in South Florida, according to a story by AP writer Curt Anderson published in the Miami Herald.

The admission came as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Ruggiero had been charged with participating in racketeering offenses, including extortion, robbery, money laundering and possession of stolen property. The aging and ill Ruggiero signed a deal after his attorneys failed to have FBI wiretaps and tape recordings ruled inadmissable in the case.

Prosecutors have indicated that the FBI listened in on more than 12,000 telephone calls. They say the Palm Beach Gardens resident became the leading figure in local Genovese operations in 2003.

Ruggiero did not agree to cooperate with investigators. He faces a possible sentence of 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine when sentenced on April 27.

Four other defendants charged with being part of a Genovese crew in South Florida have pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. Two other defendants, including 96-year-old Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, are awaiting trial. Fiacchiano is also named in a New York indictment.

Fiacchiano's attorneys have requested that the federal cases be consolidated. It is believed that the attorneys are workin on a plea deal, according to a story by Vannessa Blum of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. That story indicates that a plea deal, already approved by the Department of Justice, would call for Facchiano to serve any sentence under house arrest instead of in prison.

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About Me

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; 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.