Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cicale: 'Gorgeous' ordered 2004 murder

Dominick Cicale, former lieutenant in the Bonanno Crime Family, testified yesterday that acting Bonanno bosses Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano and Michael Mancuso ordered the November 2004 murder of Randolph Pizzolo, according to a story by Anthony M. DeStefano published on AM New York.

Pizzolo was shot to death after Basciano (right) was arrested on racketeering charges. Cicale testified that Mancuso, standing in for Basciano as boss, approved the hit, while Bonanno soldier Anthony Aiello carried it out. The murder was called for, Cicale said, because of Pizzolo's indiscrete talk and actions.

Basciano, 47, is now on trial for the February 2001 racketeering murder of Frank Santoro in the Bronx. A capital murder trial on the Pizzolo murder is scheduled for next year. Mancuso and Aiello face racketeering trials, which include the Pizzolo murder charge.

Cicale noted that Basciano's personal involvement in the murder of Santoro left the mob bigshot with a bad bruise on his jaw, the result of a shotgun recoil, according to a story by Stefanie Cohen of the New York Post. Cicale said he, Basciano and another mobster drove up to Santoro as he was walking his dog on Feb. 15, 2001. Cicale and Basciano shot the man in the street.

That hit was ordered by Basciano because he learned that Santoro, a drug addict, planned to kidnap one of Basciano's children for ransom.

Cicale, 40, was an acting crew leader in the Bonanno clan. During cross examination, he acknowledged lying at times to avoid going to jail.

In earlier testimony, Cicale explained that Basciano was paranoid that an underworld associate might be working with law enforcement, accoridng to a story by John Marzulli of the New York Daily News. During a meeting with the boss in 2004, he demanded that underlings strip down to their underwear so he could be sure none were wearing a "wire."

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Colombo got no-show job for pal

Four months after a federal mistrial on racketeering charges, Anthony Colombo pleaded guilty Tuesday to setting friend Philip Dioguardi up with a no-show job at EDP Construction from 1999 to 2000, according to a story by Kati Cornell of the New York Post.

Through a plea bargain, Colombo could be sentenced up to 18 months for defrauding the Manhattan-based construction firm.

EDP owner Dominick Forti claimed that he also paid a $600 a month salary and $24,000 in bonuses to Colombo's wife Carol, who did not in fact work for him. Forti said he did so fearing the wrath of Colombo, son of the late mob boss Joe Colombo.

Secrets: Shakedown video and the Clown's driver

Jurors in Chicago's Family Secrets trial on Tuesday were shown a videotape of an Outfit "street tax" collector at work. Frank "the German" Schweis, whose case was severed from the current trial because he is ill, was shown trying to persuade adult-bookstore owner William "Red" Wemette to pay the $1,100 a month tax, according to a story by Jeff Coen of the Chicago Tribune.

Cooperating with authorities, Wemette told Schweis (right) that an underworld competitor was already taking protection payments from him. Schweis suggested that no one would dare to compete with the Outfit. He recalled one competitor who was eliminated: "Lumbo made it real [expletive] clear to him."

Prosecutors say "Lumbo" is a nickname for Family Secrets defendant Joseph Lombardo.

On Wednesday, the jury heard from a former driver for Lombardo (left). Alva Johnson Rodgers, 78, was brought into the Outfit in 1973 after helping Chicago gangster Marshall Caifano in a successful legal appeal. Rodgers, a habitual criminal, and Caifano once shared a cell in Atlanta federal prison, according to a Coen story in the Tribune.

Rodgers recalled when Lombardo was promoted over Caifano within the Outfit. Rodgers then went to work as Lombardo's driver. Soon after, Rodgers and Caifano started a peep-show business in Chicago and moved to monopolize the porn industry in the city under Outfit control.

Prosecutors on Wednesday also played an audio tape of Lombardo threatening the life of a casino owner who failed to pay back a loan.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

CIA papers show partnership with Mafia

Agency and Mob cooperated
in effort to kill Castro

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency released documents today detailing its early 1960s cooperation with organized crime figures in failed efforts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, according to a Reuters story by Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan.

CIA Director Michael Hayden ordered the release of the documents, many of which had already worked their way into public knowledge.

CIA operatives actively encouraged Chicago gangster Johnny Roselli to orchestrate an attack on Castro (right). The Agency also approached Chicago organized crime boss Sam Giancana and Tampa boss Santo Trafficante. Giancana reportedly suggested the use of a poison pill.

'Secrets' witness provides Outfit history

Al Capone in 1925
Jurors in Chicago's "Family Secrets" trial were briefed yesterday on the history of the local Outfit by James Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, according to a story by Jeff Coen of the Chicago Tribune.

Wagner's history went back to the Prohibition Era and the reign of Al Capone. Wagner is a former FBI supervisor who spent his career investigating organized crime. He participated in investigations of the Genovese and Gambino Crime Families in New York before being assigned to study the Chicago Outfit beginning in 1976.

Wagner described the one-way membership of the organization, saying, "There are no provisions for getting out once you're in." That statement could be important to the prosecution of five accused Chicago mobsters.
"There are no provisions for getting out once you're in."
At least one defendant, Frank Calabrese Sr., could employ a statute of limitations defense. In an opening statement, Calabrese's attorney Joseph R. Lopez argued that Calabrese left the Outfit back in the 1980s.

Prosecution witness William "Red" Wemette described what Chicago businesses gained by paying the "street tax" assessed by the Outfit: "Basically it's permission to be in a business without being hurt by someone or possibly being burned down." Wemette said he split the profits from his Wells Street "peep show" business with defendant Joe Lombardo because he didn't want to have an "accident."

The other defendants in the case are James Marcello, Paul Schiro and former police officer Anthony Doyle.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Opening statements at 'Secrets' trial

Opening statements were heard today in the case of U.S. vs. Calabrese, et al., better known as the Chicago "Family Secrets" trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully opened for the prosecution, speaking for just under an hour. He outlined the crimes detailed in the indictment against five alleged racketeers.

An image of each of 18 murder victims was projected onto a screen in front of the jury as Scully described the murders and indicated who among the defendants the government believes is responsible. Thirteen of the murders were attributed to defendant Frank Calabrese Sr. (left).

"This is not 'Sopranos,'" he told the jury. "This is not 'The Godfather.' This case is about real people and real victims." The Chicago crime family known as the Outfit, he said, is "corrupt, it's violent, it's without honor."

Curiously, the prosecutor named John DiFronzo as a conspirator in the 1986 murders of the Spilotro brothers. DiFronzo was not indicted in the case, though he is widely regarded as a leader of the Chicago Outfit. (See televised report by NBC5 in Chicago.)

Calabrese's defense attorney Joseph R. Lopez, apparently using the same statute of limitations defense that was employed successfully in the John A. "Junior" Gotti trial last year, insisted that his client has been out of organized crime since the 1980s.

Lopez attacked two close Calabrese relatives who are to testify for the prosecution. The attorney charged that Calabrese's brother Nicholas, who has confessed to multiple murders and turned informant, was the real mob boss of the family.

"People reported to Nick Calabrese," Lopez said. "When Nick Calabrese was in prison, crew members came to see him."

Lopez stated that his client's son, Frank Jr., was motivated by greed to testify against his father.

Rick Halprin, attorney representing defendant Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, postponed his opening statement until the start of the defense case. That could be some time off. The trial is expected to last through the summer.

Joining Lombardo, 78, and Calabrese, 70, at the defense table are accused racketeers James Marcello, 65; Paul "the Indian" Schiro, 69; and Anthony Doyle, 62. Doyle, a former police officer, has not been charged in any of the murders. All five men insist they are innocent.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

'Gorgeous' back in court

Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano was back in court today, as his racketeering-murder retrial opened in Brooklyn, according to an Associated Press report by Tom Hays.

The 47-year-old reputed boss of the Bonanno Crime Family is accused of murdering underworld rival Frank Santoro in 2001. Defense attorney James Kousouros's opening statement focused on the prosecution's turncoat mobster witnesses, who he called "admitted degenerate liars."

A federal jury convicted Basciano, left, of racketeering, gambling and attempted murder last year. The Santoro murder charge resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors say Basciano took command of the Bonanno organization after then-boss Joseph Massino was sentenced to life in prison in 2005.

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Chicago 'Secrets' trial opens

Jury selection began today in Chicago's "Family Secrets" trial. The racketeering conspiracy trial of five defendants is expected to take up to four months and to involve evidence of 18 gangland murders, including the 1986 beating deaths of the Spilotro brothers.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel ordered that jurors' identities remain secret.
Most of the original 14 defendants in the case have reached plea deals with prosecutors. The remaining defendants are: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, 78; James Marcello, 65; Frank Calabrese Sr. (right), 70; Paul "the Indian" Schiro, 69; and Anthony Doyle, 62. All five have pleaded not guilty.
Frank Calabrese's brother Nicholas, earlier named as a codefendant in the case, is scheduled to appear as a witness for the prosecution.
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Speculating on the Outfit's current boss

Law enforcement sources are unsure who currently commands the Chicago Outfit, but they point to two possibilities, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Al "Pizza Man" Tornabene, 84, could be running the organization, they say. Tornabene (above), former owner of a pizza restaurant, is believed to be a longtime bigshot in the Outfit. The FBI revealed that his name came up in recorded prison conversations between brothers James and Michael Marcello. The FBI has never arrested Tornabene.

John "No Nose" DiFronzo might be calling the shots, authorities say. In his late 70s, DiFronzo is believed to be a rival of the Marcellos, and, so, not particularly unhappy about the federal Family Secrets case.

Schweihs severed from 'Secrets' trial

Ferriola, Venezia reach plea deals on eve of trial
Frank "the German" Schweihs will not be with his Family Secrets case codefendants when trial begins in Chicago tomorrow, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times. Due to Schweihs' poor health - he reportedly has cancer - he was severed from the case and could eventually stand trial separately.

In Family Secrets, Schweihs (left) was charged with the 1974 killing of Daniel Seifert. Prosecutors also suspect him of involvement in the 1985 murder of Pasquale Ricciardi and other killings.

The Sun-Times also noted that Family Secrets defendants Nicholas Ferriola, 32, and Joseph Venezia, 64, reached plea deals removing them from the case today. They pleaded guilty to gambling-related charges. That leaves five defendants for trial starting tomorrow. Four other defendants have already entered guilty pleas.

Fourteen men were indicted in April 2005 in connection with the federal Family Secrets investigation. Last week, Michael Marcello and Thomas and Dennis Johnson pleaded guilty to paying hush money to a murder witness. In May, Nicholas W. Calabrese, 64, admitted involvement with 14 killings. He is expected to testify against the remaining defendants, including his brother Frank Calabrese Sr.

The remaining defendants are:
- Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, reputed former boss of the Outfit.
- James Marcello, who prosecutors say was the reigning Chicago boss at the time of his arrest.
- Frank Calabrese Sr., an alleged member of the Outfit's 26th Street crew.
- Paul "the Indian" Schiro, alleged loan shark.
- Anthony Doyle, former Chicago police officer.

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Chicago mobster paid hush money

Michael Marcello, 56, pleaded guilty last week to paying a murder witness $4,000 a month to keep silent, according to an Associated Press story published in the International Herald Tribune.

Marcello and two other men admitted to racketeering and other charges in connection with the hush money payments. The other defendants were Thomas Johnson and Dennis Johnson. Marcello faces up to 35 years in prison. Thomas Johnson could be sentenced to 10 years. Dennis Johnson faces up to five years. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Former Chicago Mafioso Nicholas Calabrese (right) received the payments for not linking Michael Marcello's brother James to a series of unsolved underworld murders. James Marcello is one of eight defendants in the Family Secrets trial scheduled to start in Chicago tomorrow (June 19). Prosecutors say James has led the Melrose Park crew of the Chicago crime family.

Calabrese is to testify for the prosecution in that case.

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Hit target DeCicco won't cooperate

from New York Post

Though he was targeted in a recent botched mob hit, Robert DeCicco isn't cooperating with authorities, according to a story by Alison Gendar and John Marzulli of the New York Daily News.

DeCicco (right), an alleged Gambino Crime Family associate and the son of former John Gotti ally George DeCicco, was shot three times on June 5 outside his father's social club in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

A law enforcement source told the Daily News, "It's fair to say he's not being very cooperative."

According to the news story, the DeCicco family is no longer as important to the Gambino organization as it was during the "Teflon Don's" reign. George DeCicco has since been demoted from capo to soldier. Robert DeCicco has never been formally inducted into the crime family.

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Polish police bust arms ring

The Justice Ministry in Poland has announced the arrest of 23 suspected members of an international weapons smuggling ring, according to a story published on The alleged arms dealers were rounded up on June 2 in central and southern Poland. Weapons and explosives were seized in police raids.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Palermo Mafia boss shot down

Nicolo Ingarao, 46, reputed Mafia boss in Palermo, was shot and killed in his Sicilian home city in broad daylight today, according to a report published by the Agence France-Presse news agency. (AFP indicated that it was quoting an earlier ANSA news agency story.)

Ingarao was shot at least four times as he left a police station where he was required to report each day as a condition of his house arrest.

Authorities labeled Ingarao the underworld boss of an area in central Palermo. He was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial on charges filed against him in June 2006. His trial was scheduled for next April.

Sicilian authorities are concerned that Ingarao's killing could trigger a Mafia clan war.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ratting out the Outfit

WLS-TV (ABC7) in Chicago this week provided a preview of the Family Secrets Trial testimony of ex-mobster Frank Culotta. Culotta (left), an ex-convict, turned on his former Chicago Outfit associates 25 years ago and has been a professional government witness since that time. The Family Secrets case involves 14 defendants, including Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.

( Click for video )

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Suspected mobster, 74, shot to death in Brooklyn

Suspected mobster Rudolph Izzi, 74, was found shot to death in his Brooklyn apartment at 2:30 yesterday afternoon, according to the International Herald Tribune. The apartment door looked to have been kicked in.

Izzi was reportedly beaten in his home by an unidentified man in 2001. At that time, Izzi was identified as a reputed soldier in the Genovese Crime Family.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

None guilty of Calvi murder

An Italian jury acquitted all five defendants charged with the 1982 murder of financier Roberto Calvi, according to an Associated Press story published in the UK Guardian.

Calvi (left) had been known both as "God's banker" for his close ties to the Vatican.

Calvi's body was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge with rocks and cash stuffed into his suit. The death was initially ruled a suicide, as it coincided closely with the scandalous collapse of Calvi's Banco Ambrosiano establishment. The collapse also involved the Vatican's own bank.

Italian prosecutors eventually charged Giuseppe "Pippo" Calo with ordering a hit on Calvi. Calo, known as the "Mafia's cashier" because of his money-laundering efforts, is currently serving a jail sentence for unrelated Mafia charges. Prosecutors theorized that Calvi and Calo partnered in money-laundering deals until Calo became convinced that Calvi was pocketing some funds.

Also charged were Flavio Carboni, Ernesto Diotallevi, Calvi's driver Silvano Vittor and Carboni's ex-girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig. Prosecutors abandoned their case against Kleinszig.

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Botched hit on reputed Brooklyn mobster

A reputed associate of the Gambino Crime Family was wounded yesterday morning during a drive-by shooting in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, according to stories published in the New York Times and the New York Post.

Slugs struck the arm and the leg of Robert DeCicco, 56, son of alleged Gambino lieutenant George DeCicco. Another grazed his head, as he sat parked in his car in front of 1678 Bath Avenue, at the corner of 17th Avenue (photo). He was treated and later released from Lutheran Medical Center.

The DeCicco family is well acquainted with violence. Robert DeCicco's cousin Frank was killed by a car bomb in Bensonhurst on April 13, 1986.

Robert and George DeCicco were indicted along with 11 other alleged mobsters of the Gambino and Lucchese Crime Families, charged with racketeering, loan-sharking, extortion, money-laundering and other offenses.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Appeals court backs Peter Gotti conviction

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the 2004 racketeering conviction of Peter Gotti, according to an AP story published in the International Herald Tribune.

Gotti, 67, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy. He contested the verdict, arguing that the trial judge acted improperly by allowing evidence of Gambino Crime Family murders with which Peter Gotti was not charged.

Peter Gotti, who reputedly served as acting boss and boss in the Gambino Family, was charged with ordering the death of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a mob turncoat whose testimony led to the conviction of Gambino boss John Gotti. The hit was never carried out.

Peter Gotti was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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'Lion' caged without bail

Danny "Lion" Leo, 66, alleged boss of the Genovese Crime Family, was charged with four counts of extortion May 30 and held without bail, according to stories by Kati Cornell of the New York Post and Thomas Zambito of the New York Daily News.

Leo (see Daily News drawing at right) pleaded not guilty to the charges in Manhattan federal court.

Also charged with extortion was Joseph Tricario, who allegedly set up meetings between Leo right-hand-man Charles "Fat Charlie" Salzano and a shakedown victim. Tricario was released on $5 million bail. Salzano reportedly pleaded guilty to related charges last month.

Prosecutors say Salzano was caught on tape threatening a taxi company owner in order to extract a payment. They say Leo also extorted money from an East Harlem gambling operation.

U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said, "At trial, the government would prove [Leo] is the current boss of the Genovese Crime Family, perhaps the largest and most violent crime family that exists. Two hundred or so members of this violent, ruthless criminal organization can only commit acts of violence with the approval of the acting boss, and that's the type of power he holds."

Leo resides in a $2 million home in Rockleigh NJ, a Bergen County suburb.

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Italy arrests 10 funeral racketeers

Ten people, including the reputed head of the Sinesi clan in southern Italy, have been arrested in connection with an organized crime racket controlling funeral homes, according to a report in the UK Telegraph.

The suspects were charged with extorting money from 13 funeral homes in the city of Foggia while building a monopoly in funeral arrangements and transport.

Authorities track the growth of the racket to the release from prison last February of Robert Sinesi, 45, and Raffaele Tolonese, 48. Tolonese is regarded as a senior capo in the Strisciouglio family. The Sinesi and Stirciouglio clans are said to be key elements of the Sacra Corona Unita, Italy's fourth largest crime syndicate.

Police are investigating the involvement of hospital personnel in the racket. Nurses, ambulance drivers and security guards are believed to have passed death count information on to underworld contacts and to have helped direct grieving families to connected funeral homes.

Biker gang violence escalates in Australia

Australian police are cracking down on outlaw motorcycle gangs, according to a story by the Marlborough Express. Strike Force Ranmore, drawing police officers from a variety of specialty squads, will conduct regular checks of gang clubhouses and business and motorcycle licenses, as well as covert operations.

There are 35 outlaw groups in Australia, according to an Australian Crime Commission 2006 report, and those include an estimated 3,500 members. Twenty-six new chapters were opened last year.

Gangs like the Nomads, Rebels, Commancheros and Bandidos are believed to be engaged in a violent struggle for territory. There has been a noticeable escalation of violence on the streets of Sydney.

Some gang members are involved in organized crime, murder, prostitution, arson robbery, drug trafficking and production, and money laundering, according to the crime report.

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.