Monday, January 21, 2008

Bus drivers union boss admits shakedowns

Salvatore "Hot Dogs" Battaglia (right), 60, admitted last week to extorting three New York-area bus companies out of tens of thousands of dollars, according to a story by Thomas Zambito and Greg B. Smith of the New York Daily News. The admission came just days before Battaglia was scheduled to go on trial for racketeering.

Battaglia served as president of the 15,000-member Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers union. He faces between 57 and 71 months in prison when sentenced on May 16.

A federal investigation into the local's activities resulted in charges against Battaglia, other union officials and Genovese Crime Family bigshot Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello. An independent investigation of the union local decided that "organized crime has infiltrated and controlled it."

Ianniello acknowledged in 2006 that he had arranged illegal payoffs for the union leadership. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Ann Chiarovano, who served as the local's pension fund director, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about mob influence in the union local. She was sentenced last January to five months in prison. Julius "Spike" Bernstein, secretary-treasurer of Local 1181, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and cooperated with the federal investigation.

Additional charges filed against Montreal mobsters

Alleged Montreal mobsters face up to 100 additional charges, as a result of paperwork filed in a Canadian court last week, reported the CBC News of Canada.

More than 100 people were arrested in the Montreal area in November 2006, including several alleged leaders of the local Rizzuto Crime Family. "What we did in November 2006 is lay a general account [of charges]," prosecutor Yvan Poulin explained on Thursday. "Today, we focused on specific events that occurred during the investigation."

The additional counts are related to extortion, bookmaking and possession of the proceeds of crime. A dozen additional charges were lodged against alleged crime family bigshot Nick Rizzuto (left), 83. He is the father of crime boss Vito Rizzuto, now jailed in the U.S. after admitting a role in the murders of three Bonanno Crime Family capos in 1981.

Sicilian Mafiosi sentenced to 400+ years

Palermo Judge Piergiorgio Morosini sentenced 38 Sicilian Mafiosi today to a total of more than 400 years behind bars, according to a story published by the Makfax daily Internet newspaper.

The defendants, arrested in 2006, included the alleged leaders of 13 Sicilian Mafia clans. The longest prison sentences - 20 years apiece - were given to Antonio Rotolo, boss of the Pagliarelli organization, and Franco Bonura, boss of the Uditore organization.

Both organizations are based in the outskirts of Palermo. Uditore is a community to the northwest of the center of Palermo City. Pagliarelli lies to the southwest of the city center. The Uditore clan was known to be close to Corleone-based Sicilian boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano, who was captured by Italian authorities in 2006 after four decades as a fugitive.

According to a report from Independent Online in South Africa, the leaders of the Sicilian crime families were caught through a combination of Provenzano's records and electronic surveillance at a Palermo garage where the bosses regularly met.

Sicily's governor, Salvatore Cuffaro (right), was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday for aiding Mafia leaders by supplying information about ongoing investigations, according to a report by Reuters.

Cuffaro, member of the right wing Catholic political party, pledged to remain on the job during the appeal process, which could take years. He has served as governor for seven years, winning reelection to the post two years ago. His trial has gone on through the past three years. If the conviction is upheld, Cuffaro will be barred from holding public office.

A co-defendant, Michele Aiello, was sentenced to 14 years for associating with members of organized crime, leaking classified information and illegally accessing law enforcement computers, according to a story by the BBC.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NJ bust links Lucchese clan to Bloods street gang

Mid-December arrests of Lucchese Crime Family members and associates revealed an underworld alliance between the Mafia organization and the Bloods street gang, according to a press release from the New Jersey Attorney General.

Ralph V. PernaThe release dated Dec. 18 announced the arrests of 27 individuals, including top-ranked members of the Lucchese family, for allegedly running a lucrative gambling operation that used extortion and violence to collect on debts. The ring is believed to have dealt with $2.2 billion in bets through a 15-month period. Those arrested included two of the three men believed by authorities to be serving on a ruling panel of the crime family, Joseph DiNapoli, 72, of Scarsdale, NY; and Matthew Madonna, 72, of Seldon, NY. (According to published reports, the third member of the ruling panel - and perhaps its senior member - is Aniello Migliore, former underboss to Antonio Corallo.) Also arrested was Ralph V. Perna, 61, of East Hanover, NJ. Authorities claim Perna (left) is a top capo for the New Jersey faction of the Lucchese clan. Perna's three sons were arrested with him.

Attorney General Anne Milgram noted, "We have disrupted the highest echelon of the Lucchese organized crime family in both New York and New Jersey... We also broke up an alarming alliance between the Lucchese crime family and the Bloods street gang to smuggle heroin, cocaine, marijuana and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through an allegedly corrupt prison guard."

The smuggling scheme allegedly involved corrections officer Michael T. Bruinton, 43; Lucchese leaders and members of the Nine Trey Gangster set of the Bloods street gang.

The Attorney General's Office released the following list of defendants and charges:

  • Joseph DiNapoli, 72, Scarsdale, N.Y. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Matthew Madonna, 72, of Seldon, N.Y. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Ralph V. Perna, 61, East Hanover. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Joseph M. Perna, 38, Wyckoff. Promoting gambling, money laundering, racketeering, extortion (second degree), aggravated assault (second degree), conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree) and bribery (second degree).

  • John G. Perna, 30, West Caldwell. Promoting gambling, money laundering, racketeering, extortion (second degree) and aggravated assault (second degree).

  • Ralph M. Perna, 35, West Caldwell. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Martin Tacetta, 56, East Hanover. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Michael A. Cetta, 41, Wyckoff. Promoting gambling, money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree) and bribery (second degree).

  • John V. Mangrella, 65, Clifton. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Alfonso “Tic” Cataldo, 65, Florham Park. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Antonio “Curly” Russo, 70, Bloomingdale. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Elliot Porco, 45, Bronx, N.Y. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Gianni Lacovo, 32, Elmwood Park. Promoting gambling, money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault (second degree), and criminal usury (second degree).

  • James Furfaro Jr., 28, Parsippany. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • John N. Turi, 28, Clifton. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Michael T. Ramuno III, 33, Philadelphia. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Robert A. Romano, 29, Brick. Promoting gambling, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault (second degree) and racketeering.

  • Ron Scrips, 44, Staten Island, N.Y. Promoting gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

  • Samuel A. Juliano, 62, Glen Ridge. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).

  • Edwin B. Spears, 33, Northern State Prison. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).

  • Michael T. Bruinton, 43, Ringoes. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).

  • Dwayne E. Spears, 28, Neptune. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).

  • Francine Hightower, 50, Tinton Falls. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).

  • Kristen A. Gilliam, 24, Farmingdale. Racketeering, conspiracy to distribute heroin (second degree), bribery (second degree) and money laundering (third degree).
See also: Smalley, Suzanne, "Unholy Alliance," Newsweek Web Exclusive, Dec. 21, 2007.

'Special measures' remain for jailed Basciano

"Special administrative measures" will remain in place for jailed crime boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, according to a story by John Marzulli of the New York Daily News.

Basciano (right), boss of the Bonanno Crime Family since early 2004, is held under restrictions normally reserved for terrorists. He must remain in his cell 23 hours each day. Strict limits are placed on outside contact, even with family members.
Ephraim Savitt, Basciano's defense attorney, had hoped the restrictions would be eased as he and his client prepare for an upcoming capital murder trial. Judge Nicholas Garaufis yesterday sided with prosecutors who want the special measures to continue. "I find that there is sufficient evidence of Basciano's dangerousness to justify the government's safety concerns," the judge wrote.

Already imprisoned on a May 9, 2006, racketeering conviction, Basciano was convicted July 31 of the February 2001 racketeering-related murder of mobster Frank Santoro.

In September 2006, jailed Basciano was found to be in possession of a short list of names. Prosecutors charged that it was a list of people the crime boss wanted killed. The list included Judge Garaufis, a federal prosecutor and some Bonanno Crime Family turncoats. Basciano denied the charge, arguing that he was urged by a fellow inmate to compile the list as a sort of religious magic charm. The special administrative measures were imposed immediately after discovery of the list.

Prosecutors say Basciano has managed to do considerable harm while in custody and must be isolated as much as possible. They claim he ordered the 2004 murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo while behind bars. (Joey Massino, an earlier boss of the Bonanno Crime Family, aided in the Pizzolo murder investigation by wearing an electronic surveillance device during a meeting with Basciano.) Basciano's approaching murder trial is related to the Pizzolo hit. Prosecutors also charge that, while in prison, Basciano plotted against Bonanno acting boss Michael "Mikey Nose" Mancuso. Mancuso (left) also is currently facing murder charges for the Pizzolo murder.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Detroit mobster Meli dies at 87

Vincent Angelo Meli, reputed member of the Detroit Mafia, died of bone cancer Jan. 7 at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Michigan, according to a story by David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press. Meli (right) was 87 years old.

Meli was born Jan. 2, 1921, in San Cataldo, Sicily. He came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He acquired citizenship through his father, Frank, who was a top man in the Mafia of Detroit. Meli's uncle (Frank's younger brother), Angelo Meli, is believed to have served in a leadership role over the Detroit underworld "Partnership" from his home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, beginning in the Prohibition Era. Other members of the Partnership's command panel were Bill Tocco and Joe Zerilli.

In 1984, Meli was sentenced to a three-year prison term for extortion. He was convicted of using threats to collect payments from truck drivers. Authorities say he was a key figure in the underworld monopolization of the vending machine industry. He and his father owned and operated the Meltone Music Company and White Music Company, suppliers of jukebox machines. He was also associated with the Ace Automatic Company and with the Bel-Aire Lodge in Saginaw, Michigan.

During World War II, Meli served his adopted country as a captain in U.S. Army intelligence. He and his wife Grace Mercurio Meli had six children. He is survived by those six children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He is scheduled for interment today in the Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Monday, January 7, 2008

NYPD gives Petrosino the nod

Joseph Michael Petrosino, 22, is heading into the family business, according to a story by Alison Gendar of the New York Daily News.

The great-grandnephew of Lieutenant Joe Petrosino (1860-1909), founder of the New York Police Department's Italian Squad and the only city police officer to be killed in the line of duty while overseas, Joseph Michael Petrosino has been approved for appointment to the force. He could be appointed as early as this week, as a new Police Academy class is sworn in.

Joseph Michael's father, also named Joseph, has been an organized crime prosecutor in Brooklyn.

Lieutenant Petrosino (right) was sent to Italy in 1909 to gather evidence on Italian fugitives believed to be living in the U.S. He was murdered in Palermo's Piazza Marina as he awaited an underworld informant. As many as 200,000 New Yorkers lined city streets for his funeral.


Badges in Little Italy: Joseph Petrosino and New York's Italian Squad.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bill Bonanno, son of crime boss, dies at 75

Salvatore 'Bill' Bonanno
Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno (left), son of late crime boss Joseph Bonanno, died yesterday morning, according to reports of Arizona television stations KVOA-4 and KOLD-13. The 75-year-old Tuscon resident and author reportedly succumbed to a heart attack on New Year's Day.

Bonanno was the subject of the Gay Talese work, "Honor Thy Father," and went on to write, "Bound by Honor," an account of his experiences as a leading figure and short-time acting boss in the Bonanno Crime Family. He and Joe Pistone - the former FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno Crime Family in the 1980s - collaborated on a Mafia-related novel, "The Good Guys," in 2005. During his father's 1960s disappearance, Bonanno engaged a rebellious faction of the family in a struggle that became known as the Banana War.

Recently he posted messages to a blog at The last entry was a Christmas message dated Dec. 20. An Aug 23 post explained his involvement in the Space is Special Foundation, introducing high school special needs students to NASA Space Camp. Two posts in mid-June touched on a Newsweek article by Talese. That article updated the lives of the children of Bill and Rosalie (Profaci) Bonanno. Rosalie is the niece of late crime boss Joseph Profaci. She also penned her memoirs.

Bill Bonanno went into federal prison twice, once related to a stolen credit card charge. He claimed to have retired from the Mafia in 1968.

According to a report by Enric Volante of the Arizona Daily Star, Bill Bonanno's survivors include his wife of 51 years, Rosalie; sister Catherine R. Genovese of California; sons Charles and Joseph of Phoenix, AZ; son Salvatore of Scottsdale, AZ; daughter Felippa Pettinato of California; 18 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Funeral services have reportedly been scheduled for Monday in Tucson, AZ.

Joseph Bonanno and sonsJoseph Bonanno Jr., the younger of the crime boss's two sons, died two years ago at the age of 60. He was living at his 20-acre horse ranch in Ione at the time a heart attack took his life on Nov. 2, 2005. The senior Joseph Bonanno died in 2002 at age 97.

(Photo at right: Joseph Bonanno and his sons in 1984. Bill is on the right.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Police: DeSimone killing not mob-related

New Jersey police believe Thursday's daytime shooting murder of Frank DeSimone Jr., 41, was related to a personal dispute and not to the Mafia, according to a story by Jason Tsai and Kibret Markos of the Record.

While some of DeSimone's relatives, including his 75-year-old father, have Mafia connections, police have not linked Frank Jr. to the underworld organization. Frank DeSimone Sr., however, is a made member of the Lucchese Crime Family. Another relative, Tommy DeSimone, was the inspiration for actor Joe Pesci's character in the 1990 movie Goodfellas.

Roosevelt Withers, 43, of Manhattan, has been charged with Frank Jr.'s killing. A parolee with an extensive criminal history, police say Withers shot DeSimone in his car at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. Police are investigating connections between the two men. DeSimone, a used car salesman, is known to have recently sold a Dodge Durango SUV to Withers. Withers was convicted of drug dealing in 1990 and of armed robbery in 1993. He was paroled last March.

Police apprehended Withers about 20 minutes after the DeSimone shooting. Withers was driving toward New York City, when he crashed his car in heavy traffic at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge. He fled on foot and was caught near a toll booth.

Withers pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Bergen County Superior Court on Friday (see photo above from Dec. 28 issue of The Record).

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.