Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Feds bust alleged Genovese boss

Danny Leo, 65, reputed acting boss of the Genovese Crime Family, was arrested at his Rockleigh NJ home this morning, according to a story by WABC-TV in New York. He is scheduled for arraignment on extortion charges in Manhattan federal court today.

Authorities say Leo recently took over command of the crime family formerly led by Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. Leo's only known arrest occurred in 1980, when he was charged with criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigation of illegal activity in East Harlem and the Bronx, NY.
Law enforcement officials first mentioned Leo as the new boss of the Genovese clan at the end of November. New York Sun columnist Jerry Capeci shared the information through his Gang Land column on Nov. 30. Jeane MacIntosh and Kati Cornell followed with a story in the New York Post the following day.

Leo is believed to have associated himself with East Harlem's Purple Gang in the 1970s. That organization served as a minor league for a number of later Genovese and Lucchese Crime Family members.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

97-year-old mobster gets 6 months house arrest

Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, 97, was sentenced today to serve six months house arrest followed by 18 months of probation, according to an AP story by Curt Anderson.

Facchiano pleaded guilty in February to racketeering-related offenses in Florida and in New York. Law enforcement officials say he is a longtime soldier in the Genovese Crime Family.

He faced a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison. Due to his advanced age and to medical problems, the court decided to confine Facchiano to his Florida condominium. He is permitted to leave the home only for doctor visits and other necessary travel.

Press reports indicate that Facchiano's first arrest, back in 1932, coincided with Charlie "Lucky" Luciano's rise to power in the American Mafia.

He was one of six members of a Florida-based wing of the Genovese Family to be arrested last summer. The group's acknowledged leader, 73-year-old Renaldi Ruggiero, was sentenced to 14 years in prison earlier this month.

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Panzuto agrees to extradition

Gennaro Panzuto, 32, held in custody in the UK, has agreed to be extradited to his native Italy for trial, according to a report in the Lancashire Evening Post. Italian officials have charged Panzuto with running a criminal organization known as the Pincirillo clan in Naples. UK and Italian police tracked him to Lancashire, where he was arrested last week. He is scheduled to be returned to Italy in about 10 days.

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Rizzuto may serve his time near Canada border

A U.S. judge has recommended that Vito Rizzuto, reputed boss of the Mafia in Montreal and confessed accomplice in the 1981 murders of three Bonanno capos, serve his 10-year prison sentence in an upstate New York institution, according to a CBC News report.

Rizzuto (right), 61, was officially sentenced today, though prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a 10-year prison term as part of his plea bargain earlier this month. He pleaded guilty May 4 to participating in the assassinations of Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato. He said his role in the hit was to shout "It's a hold up!" to cause a gathering of Bonanno mobsters at a Brooklyn social club to momentarily freeze.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis recommended that Rizzuto be placed in Ray Brook medium-security prison near the Canadian border. Prison officials will have the final say in his placement.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

NJ man arrested as Gambino leader

Andrew Merola, 40, of East Hanover NJ, was arrested May 21 and charged with supervising organized criminal activities, with racketeering and with theft by extortion, according to a story by Kareem Fahim of the New York Times.

Law enforcement officials say Merola (whose name was legally changed from Knapik) has been an important figure in the Gambino Crime Family and has worked closely with an ally in the Lucchese Crime Family on racketeering ventures.

Investigators have linked Merola to corruption in Springfield-based Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Newark-based Local 1153 of Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). Two union officials were also arested this week.

Through their influence with Local 825, Merola and his Lucchese Family ally allegedly arranged for a $20,000 bribe from a construction company. Prosecutors have charged Martin Taccetta with membership in the Lucchese clan and with engaging in racketeering with Merola. Taccetta is the brother of imprisoned Lucchese bigshot Michael Taccetta. (Martin and Michael Tacchetta shown at right.) Martin's recent racketeering conviction was overturned, and he is awaiting retrial.
Union officials John Cataldo of Nutley NJ and Joseph Manzella of West Orange NJ were arrested. According to a story in the Daily Record, Cataldo was an organizer for Operating Engineers Local 825, and Manzella was a business agent for LIUNA Local 1153.

"Both men basically surrendered their control of the unions to Andrew Merola of East Hanover, New Jersey, a known soldier of the Gambino Crime Family," said Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Merola is also accused of supervising gambling rings in northern New Jersey and New York State. Those were allegedly run by Merola underlings Ralph Cicalese and Kyle Ragusa. Cicalese is a former investigator of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Before his name change, Knapik was reportedly jailed for almost four years in the 1990s for theft by deception and for distributing a controlled substance.

Genovese capo ordered assault on contractor

Angelo Prisco, 67, pleaded guilty in Newark, NJ, last week to authorizing an assault on an electrical contractor who was competing with a contractor allied to Prisco, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The U.S. Attorney's Office identified Prisco as a capo in the Genovese Crime Family. Prosecutors charged that contractor John Capelli of the Bronx, NY, paid Prisco $2,500 for authorizing an assault on his competitor. Prisco reportedly passed the assignment along to Michael Visconti, who involved an associate already secretly cooperating with the FBI.

Prisco is likely to serve five years in prison. At the time of his arrest, he was on parole for a state arson conviction and on supervised release for a federal extortion conviction.

Chicago mobster admits 14 killings, cooperates

Nicholas Calabrese, former Chicago mobster and key witness to the upcoming Family Secrets trial, last week acknowledged participation in at least 14 mob murders, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 64-year-old Calabrese pleaded guilty to the killings in U.S. District Court on May 18. Under a plea deal, county prosecutors will not try him for the murders and he will not face any charges as a result of his Family Secrets trial testimony. He is expected to serve at least 24 years in prison, but the U.S. Attorney's Office could recommend a shorter sentence if Calabrese is especially helpful in the upcoming trial.

At his hearing before Judge James Zagel, Calabrese admitted to participating in a racketeering conspiracy known as the Chicago Outfit, which engaged in murders, loansharking and extortion.

When the Family Secrets trial opens next month, Calabrese is expected to testify against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Nicholas Calabrese claims to have been present for the 1986 murders of brothers Tony (left) and Michael Spilotro. James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, 64, who the Sun-Times calls Chicago's "top mob boss," has been charged with participation in the Spilotro killings.

Nicholas Calabrese's cooperation with authorities followed that of Frank Calabrese's son, Frank Jr. Nicholas was linked by DNA and other evidence to the murder of John Fecarotta. Investigators believe Fecarotta was eliminated for failing to permanently dispose of the Spilotro corpses. Rather than take the fall for the Fecarotta killing alone, Nicholas Calabrese began supplying information on his underworld associates.

In late April 2005, 14 alleged Chicago Outfit members were indicted for racketeering conspiracy as a result of the Family Secrets investigation. Federal prosecutors linked defendants, including "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "Gumba" Saladino and Paul "the Indian" Schiro, with 18 murders dating back to 1970.

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Organized crime linked to Serbian assassination

Paramilitary police officers and members of the Zemun gang - linked to organized crime - were convicted and sentenced this week for the March 2003 assassination of reformist Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, according to a story by Nicholas Wood of the New York Times.

Milorad Ulemek, former leader of the country's top paramilitary unit, and his former deputy Zvezdan Jovanovic each were sentenced to 40 years in prison for their roles in the killing. Ten other associates received sentences between eight and 35 years.

Djindjic helped topple the Slobodan Milosevic regime in 2000. He was allegedly targeted by allies of the late Milosevic.

Reputed mob chief arrested in UK

Extradition proceedings against reputed Italian underworld leader Gennaro Panzuto, 32, begin in a London magistrate's court today, according to a report by BBC News. Italy filed a warrant of extradition with the UK in order to prosecute Panzuto for alleged organized criminal offenses.

After a cooperative effort by Italian and UK police agencies, Panzuto (right) was arrested last week in Lancashire, UK, according to a report on the website.

He has been charged with association with a criminal network and firearms crimes. He is also reportedly suspected of involvement in four organized crime murders in Italy, of extortion and of establishing businesses in Manchester and London to launder underworld funds. An initial review of the extradition papers was held on May 17.

Vittorio Pisano, a law enforcement official from Naples, Italy, stated that Panzuto was the head of the Pincirillo underworld clan of southern Italy, taking over that group from his uncles upon their arrests two years ago. The Pincirillos have battled the Missos clan in Naples for months. Police attribute 20 killings to the feud.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sicilian mobsters return to power in NYC

Drug-trafficking Sicilian mobsters are returning to positions of influence in the New York City underworld, according to a story by Murray Weiss of the New York Post.
Joseph GambinoWeiss notes that some of the immigrant gangsters jailed in the Pizza Connection drug case have recently been released. He explains that investigators fear Sicilian bigshots like Rosario, John and Joseph Gambino will reassemble their criminal empires.
The three Gambino brothers are related to the late crime boss Carlo Gambino. Joseph Gambino (right) has been deported back to Sicily.

Miami mob boss gets 14 years

Renaldi "Ray" Ruggiero has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, according to reports by CBS-4 in Miami and the Miami Herald. As part of a February plea deal, Ruggiero stated he was guilty of racketeering conspiracy and acknowledged being the leader of the Genovese Crime Family wing in South Florida.

The 73-year-old's sentence also includes two years of supervised release, a $25,000 fine and a forfeiture of $10,000 that was seized by the government.

Ruggiero and six other men were arrested in June 2006, charged with various racketeering offenses, including extortion, robbery, money-laundering and possession of stolen property. The U.S. Attorney's case was supported by wiretaps of thousands of telephone calls by the group.

Five other defendants pleaded guilty to single racketeering conspiracy counts and received sentences between three-and-a-half years and eight years. The one defendant still awaiting sentencing is 97-year-old Albert "Chinky" Facchiano. He was charged in Florida and New York State and pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and to tampering with a witness. Facchiano is scheduled for sentencing the end of this month.

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Split verdict in Pizzonia-DiConiglio case

A federal jury in Brooklyn found a reputed Gambino Crime Family captain guilty of plotting to murder Thomas and Rosemarie Uva in 1992, according to a story by Anthony M. DeStefano of Newsday.

Dominick Pizzonia, 65, remains in prison as his attorney appeals the jury verdict. Because he was also convicted of running a gambling enterprise, he could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy.

The jury did not convict Pizzonia of actual participation in the Uva murders, of participation in the June 1988 killing of Frank Boccia, or of two counts of extortion. Pizzonia's co-defendant in the Boccia slaying, Alfred DiConiglio, 77, was found not guilty.

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TV report previews Chicago Outfit trial

A video report by investigative reporter George Knapp of KLAS-Las Vegas summarizes the U.S. government's case against the Chicago Outfit in the upcoming "Family Secrets" trial.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin today, but it has been delayed two weeks.

Tony SpilotroFourteen defendants - including reputed mob boss "Joey the Clown" Lombardo - have been charged with numerous crimes, including the 1986 murders of Vegas gangster Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro (left) and his brother Michael. The killings were made famous in the movie "Casino."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Franzese, 90, arrested for parole violation

Federal agents on Wednesday arrested John "Sonny" Franzese, 90, charging him with his fifth parole violation in the last 25 years, according to an AP story by Larry McShane.

The arrest occurred at Franzese's regularly scheduled visit with his probation officer. The FBI reported that he had been associating with known mobsters.

Federal agents believe the 90-year-old Franzese, reputed longtime Colombo Crime Family capo, recently became the family's underboss. Franzese was convicted of bank robbery and sent off to a lengthy prison sentence in the late 1960s. He was first paroled in 1978 but violated parole four years later.

Canada nabs Giordano after 5 months

After a five-month search, Canadian authorities arrested reputed Montreal Mafia lieutenant Lorenzo Giordano, 44, on May 8, according to a story in yesterday's Montreal Gazette.

Giordano was wanted in connection with Operation Colisee, in which more than 90 arrests were made last November. He was arrested while working out in a Toronto gym. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion and gambling as well as attempted murder.

He is scheduled to make a court appearance on May 23.

On Nov. 23, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Giordano was an "aggressive lieutenant in the Rizzuto organization." He was questioned in the 2005 murder of John Zanthoudakis, CEO of Norshield Financial Group. He has been named as a suspect in the murder of another man in Montreal on April 18, 2004.

The Montreal Crime Family was believed to have been led by Vito Rizzuto, recently convicted in New York of participating in the slaying of three Bonanno Crime Family bigshots. Last November, Rizzuto's father Nicolo Rizzuto, 82, was among those arrested.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Horse gets two years in trash case


U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns today sentenced Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello to two years in prison for racketeering conspiracy and income tax evasion, according to an Associated Press story. Ianniello learned of the penalty in New Haven, CT, federal court.

Ianniello (left), 86, was also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and more than $250,000 in back taxes. The prison sentence will run concurrent with an 18-month term imposed by a court in New York after Ianniello pleaded guilty of wrongdoing in connection with a bus drivers' union.

GiganteAs part of a plea deal with prosecutors, the reputed Genovese Crime Family bigshot pleaded guilty to participation in a monopolistic property rights scheme in the waste hauling industry in western Connecticut and nearby New York. Prosecutors claimed that waste haulers paid a regular "mob tax" to Ianniello in exchange for Genovese support for the property rights arrangements.

The plea deal allowed for a maximum sentence of two and a half years behind bars. Judge Burns said she lessened the sentence due to Ianniello's poor health.

Ianniello is a decorated veteran of World War II. Law enforcement agencies believe he became an acting boss of the Genovese family after the successful prosecution of Vincent "Vinny the Chin" Gigante (above right).

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Accused 'godmother' returns to UK

Ann Hathaway reached a deal with Italian prosecutors that allowed for her return to Britain last night, according to a story published by the UK Guardian Unlimited.

Hathaway, 44-year-old mother of two and the wife of jailed Sicilian Mafioso Antonio Rinzivillo (the couple appear in the photo above), admitted to Mafia associations and was given a suspended sentence by an Italian court. She was released and returned home to the Middleton area.

Italian prosecutors had arranged for her extradition from the UK by arguing that she managed her husband's underworld empire in his absence. Hathaway has denied the charge.

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Albania intercepts heroin shipments

Albanian police seized a total of 489 kilos in two recent anti-trafficking operations, according to a story published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

The larger of the two operations resulted in the discovery of 428 kilos in a van traveling from Kosovo to the Albanian capital of Tirana. The heroin was hidden in grocery bags.

Albania is reportedly a conduit for Afghan heroin on its way into western Europe.

'Ndrangheta rises to control Milan drug trade

The Calabrian secret society known as 'ndrangheta has risen to control the cocaine trade based in Milan as well as a number of legitimate businesses in northern Italy, according to a UPI story published in the Washington Times.

'Ndrangheta is traditionally a rural gang network in southern Italy. But the story indicates that the network is becoming more involved in urban drug trafficking and violent crime.

During last week's arrest of 20 suspected Calabrian mobsters, including reputed boss Salvatore Morabito, 550 pounds of cocaine were seized.

Pizzonia / Diconiglio trial update

Two women were called to the witness stand in New York Monday to poke holes in the federal case against Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia and Alfred "Freddy Hot" DiConiglio, according to a story by John Marzuli of the New York Daily News.

The two men are accused of the 1998 racketeering murder of Frank "Geeky" Boccia. Pizzonia (to the left of the photo) is individually charged with the slaying of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva on Dec. 24, 1992.

The 78-year-old mother of Pizzonia's mistress testified that Pizzonia could not have committed the Uva killings because he was at her home in Howard Beach helping to prepare the Christmas Eve dinner.

Francine Boccia said prosecutors "overexaggerated" the fight between her mother and her husband in order to create a motive for Boccia's murder. Prosecutors contend that Frank Boccia struck his mother-in-law, the wife of reputed Gambino Crime Family mobster Anthony "Fat Andy" Ruggiano Sr. and was subsequently killed for that offense.

Last week, the Daily News reported details relating to the disposal of Boccia's corpse in the Atlantic Ocean. Thomas "Tommy Flash" Morea described the transportation and gutting of the remains before they were dropped into the water.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Rizzuto pleads guilty to 1981 slayings

Reputed Canadian "godfather" Vito Rizzuto pleaded guilty in a New York court today to participating in the assassination of three Bonanno Crime Family capos back in 1981, according to an Associated Press story.

Rizzuto, 61, will serve 10 years in prison for racketeering under a plea deal with prosecutors.

When Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis demanded that Rizzuto describe the nature of his participation in the 1981 slayings, Rizzuto hesitated. After a conversation with his attorneys, he told the judge that his specific responsibility was to shout "It's a hold up!" so a gathering of mobsters would momentarily freeze. Rizzuto said his co-conspirators then opened fire on Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato.

The murders were reportedly done to eliminate a rebellious wing of the crime family. Joseph Massino, who rose to command the family and has been sentenced to life in prison for racketeering-murder, set up the hit.

See also: Rizzuto Timeline from Ottawa Citizen

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Sicilian mob boss is focus of 3 books

Three new books discuss the underworld career of reputed Sicilian Mafia boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano, according to a story by Steve Scherer of

The books are all written in Italian: "Iddu: La Cattura di Bernardo Provenzano," "Il Codice Provenzano," and "Pizzini, Veleni e Cicoria."

The first book deals largely with the manhunt for the Sicilian boss who eluded authorities for more than 40 years. The second deals with the supposed code used by Provenzano to retain control over his vast underworld empire while in hiding. The third is largely a discussion with Italy's top Mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ianniello asks for leniency

Reputed mob bigshot Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello (above) cited his decorated service to his country during World War II as he asked for sentencing leniency in a New Haven CT federal court today, according to an AP story published by the Hartford Courant.

He is to be sentenced to between 24 and 30 months in prison on May 9. He pleaded guilty in December to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion, acknowledging participation in a property rights racket in the western Connecticut waste hauling industry. Prosecutors say he received regular payments from a group of Connecticut waste haulers who cooperated to set prices in the industry.

Ianniello, who is 86 years old and reportedly suffers from cancer and other ailments, is believed by law enforcement authorities to have been a key figure in the Genovese Crime Family after boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was successfully prosecuted.

Ianniello recently was sentenced to 18 months after pleading guilty to a union racketeering charge in New York.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Court hears of Boccia slaying in 1988

Anthony Ruggiano Jr. related in Brooklyn federal court yesterday the details of Frank "Geeky" Boccia's 1988 murder, according to a story by John Marzulli of the New York Daily News.

Ruggiano, Boccia's brother-in-law and a participant in his murder, was testifying in the trial of Dominic "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia (far left) and Alfred "Freddy Hot" DiConiglio (left). Ruggiano said he, Pizzonia, DiConiglio and the late Anthony "Tony Lee" Guerrieri were jointly responsible for the killing, the result of Boccia beating his mother-in-law (Ruggiano's mother).

According to the testimony, Ruggiano's father and Gambino Crime Family boss John J. Gotti approved the killing. Boccia was lured to a social club run by Pizzonia, where he was shot to death. His body was then taken out into the Atlantic Ocean aboard a mob associate's boat. The body was cut open at the stomach and lungs and then dumped into the water, Ruggiano testified.

Boccia's fight with his mother-in-law occurred after Boccia's daughter's baptism, just a week before his murder.

While Pizzonia and DiConiglio are on trial jointly for Boccia's murder, Pizzonia alone is charged with murdering Thomas and Rosemarie Uva on Christmas Eve of 1992.

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Five charged with scheme to rob union

Five people were charged April 24 with plotting to embezzle more than $250,000 from Local 911 of the International Union of Production, Clerical and Public Employees (IUPCPE), according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Investigators say the scheme was designed to create no-show jobs for family members and friends of August "Augie" Vergallito, 72, of Brick, NJ. Vergallito, a former officer of Local 734 of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), was barred from union activity after being convicted of filing false financial records in 1996.

Vergallito; his daughter Kimberly, 42; his wife Rhoda, 72; an alleged Vergallito business associate Isaac Barocas, 66; and Local 911's finance manager Charles Purcell, 46, were named in the eight-count indictment.

The U.S. Attorney's Office called Vergallito the "de facto head" of Local 911, according to a story in the Asbury Park Press. He reputedly served as an associate of the Genovese Crime Family when he was convicted in 1996, according to testimony in a 2004 LIUNA trusteeship hearing.

Mafia is trafficking in artifacts

The Sicilian Mafia is reportedly involved in the smuggling of stolen archaeological objects through Malta and into the UK and the United States, according to a report by MaltaMedia News.

Authorities are pursuing connections to bank accounts in Switzerland and Malta.

Investigators feel the artifacts smugglers work independent of the Mafia but have been commissioned by that underworld organization.

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.