Friday, August 29, 2008
John "Big John" Contello, 55, of Brooklyn; Vincent "Vinny Bionics" Disario, 47, of Manhattan; and Michael Carucci, 38, of Staten Island, were arrested early yesterday morning in New York City for racketeering and conspiracy. Their indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court. The three men could face 20 years in prison if convicted. Contello is alleged to be an acting captain within the Bonanno organization. Prosecutors say that Disario is a Bonanno soldier. Authorities did not state what relationship, if any, Carucci had to the Bonanno organization.
Gerald "Gerry" Chilli (right), 74, of Graniteville, Staten Island, also alleged to be a captain in the crime family, was charged with extortion. He was already in federal custody in Florida on unrelated charges. According to a Feb. 3, 2005, story by ABC-10 in Miami, Chilli was arrested following a 14-month undercover investigation of Bonanno operations in Florida. At that time, Chilli was charged with violating probation, as well as racketeering conspiracy, dealing in stolen property, bookmaking, money laundering and possession of illegal slot machines. Chilli had been out of prison for two years when he was arrested in 2005. During his incarceration for earlier crimes, he was convicted of running a fraudulent credit card ring from behind bars. Federal authorities investigated Chilli in the wake of the Feb. 28, 1989, murder of DEA Special Agent Everett E. Hatcher. Chilli was not charged in that case. (Chilli associate Costabile Farace was believed responsible for the killing. Farace's body was found on a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, street on Nov. 18, 1989. Police believe was shot to death by members of the Bonanno crime family.)
George Miller, 68, alleged Bonanno associate, was arrested near the Canadian border on racketeering charges related to the collection of unlawful debts. Chilli and Miller also could be sentenced to 20 years if convicted.
Richard Cendali, 40, of Annadale, Staten Island, was arrested and charged with running an illegal gambling racket. Indicted on a similar offense but not yet apprehended was Anthony Zeni, 46, of Manhattan and Brooklyn addresses. Authorities believe Zeni is in Florida. Cendali and Zeni, reputed Bonanno associates, according to the Staten Island Advance, could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted.
Contello, Disario, Carucci and Cendali all pleaded not guilty at arraignment hearings yesterday afternoon. Contello, Carucci and Cendali were released on bail amounts between $250,000 and $500,000. Disario was held without bail. A hearing for Miller is scheduled today.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The 44-year-old Gotti, dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, did not speak during his 5-minute hearing. His attorney Charles Carnesi entered the plea for him.
Prosecutors say Gotti led a crew of the Gambino Crime Family operating in Florida. He has been charged with trafficking in cocaine and with participating in three racketeering-related murders between 1988 and 1991.
Gotti was previously convicted of racketeering and served time in prison. Since then, he has avoided conviction in three major racketeering trials in New York City. He has stated that he left the crime family years ago.
No date has yet been set for the trial.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Caggiano, son-in-law of former Genovese acting boss Dominick "Quiet Dom" Cirillo, pleaded guilty to running the ring. He faces 1.5 to 4 years in prison plus a $176,000 fine when he is sentenced on Nov. 3. Maleton admitted being a runner for the numbers and sports betting ring. He is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 10 to a year in prison and a $591 fine.
Caggiano, Maleton and nine other men were arrested in November 2006 and charged with participating in the ring. Authorities said the operation generated $200,000 a year in profits. Ten of the initial defendants have pleaded guilty. Robert Russo, alleged leader of the ring, maintains his innocence and is scheduled to go to trial next month.
Philomena Gotti was born in Naples, Italy, where she married. The Gottis entered the U.S. in the 1920s, settling first in the Bronx and later in East New York, Brooklyn. She resided in Valley Stream, NY, at the time of her death.
She had more than a dozen children (WNBC reported she had 13, while Newsday said 16). In addition to John J. Gotti, four other sons were also linked to organized crime. Gene and Peter Gotti are serving extended prison sentences for racketeering convictions. Richard V. Gotti was jailed in 2003 for racketeering and other crimes. Vincent Gotti is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in connection with the FBI's crackdown on the Gambino organization, according to the television report. (John J. and Peter Gotti shown at right.)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
William Marcucci of the Bronx, NY, was shot to death in Saddle Brook, NJ. His body, with a single bullet wound behind its left ear, was found in Marcucci's Cadillac outside a Bennigan's restaurant.
The New Jersey newspaper, The Record, reported that Marcucci "was a Genovese Crime Family associate who had a role in the organization's bookmaking operations."
Silvi and Tunks were arrested as they left their home at 734 E. Costilla Street. Colorado Springs Police said yesterday that Silvi could have had a financial motive for allegedly hiring his brother-in-law to kill Marcucci.
Coluccio, convicted in absentia of drug, weapons and conspiracy charges, was a fugitive since 2005. He was arrested Aug. 7 near Toronto, Canada, and was flown to Rome's Ciampino Airport yesterday morning.
The 'Ndrangheta is a Mafia-like criminal organization based in Calabria, the southernmost region of the Italian mainland.
Papers filed this week by federal prosecutors indicate that the Fresca's by the Bay restaurant on Staten Island (right) operated under the protection of reputed Bonanno soldier Gino Galestro and his associates.
Galestro (left), who will turn 40 later this month, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to ordering the killing of Bonanno associate Robert McKelvey on the grounds of the Kreischer Mansion on Staten Island. Galestro was indicted for ordering that murder and for other racketeering-related crimes back in May 2006. Joseph "Joe Black" Young, reportedly a former bouncer at Fresca's by the Bay restaurant, is accused of stabbing and drowing McKelvey and is scheduled to come to trial soon.
Fresca, 66, was shot seven times outside of his restaurant just after midnight on July 30.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
According to defense attorney Elizabeth Macedonio, "the Nose" is still broke. The attorney stated that her client has no assets and suffers from many health problems. She disputed prosectors' contention that D'Amico was a leader of the Gambino Crime Family. Macedonio and members of the D'Amico family asked Judge Jack Weinstein for a lenient sentence.
The two year sentence was within recommended guidelines for extortion.
D'Amico was among the 62 people rounded up by federal authorities in February. D'Amico, reputed acting boss of the Gambino clan, pleaded guilty May 28 to shaking down the cement company for $100,000.
Monday, August 18, 2008
According to a story by Nick Pisa of the UK Telegraph, the Berlusconi administration has been cracking down on prison privileges formerly extended to convicted Mafiosi. Among the measures recently instituted, inmates are prohibited from singing. Officials noted the possibility that convicted crime bosses could communicate orders through their songs.
Prison socializing has also been curtailed. It is common for Mafiosi deemed dangerous to be locked in their cells for 23 hours each day and to have only limited exposure to family, friends and attorneys. The government has a list of 570 prisoners it feels are threats to society.
"We have evidence that in the past orders and messages were passed on and we have also stopped them mixing with each other as well. They will spend the majority of their day alone in their cells," Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said.
Ellen Knowlton, former special agent in charge of the local FBI office, leads a non-profit group working with Las Vegas on the project. Sitting Bureau officials are reviewing the plans to ensure that accurate portrayals of mobsters and crimefighters.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (left), a former attorney for accused racketeers, has been the major force behind the museum proposal.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said Pica and Prince were members of a robbery crew controlled by the Genovese Family.
According to the indictment, the defendants targeted jeweler Louis Antonelli on April 29, expecting him to be in possession of valuable jewelry. The indictment states that Pica and Prince identified Antonelli and alerted Santiago and a fourth unnamed accomplice when the jeweler exited a basement storage area below a restaurant on Staten Island. Santiago and the unnamed man confronted Antonelli. Santiago is charged with shooting the jeweler to death. The attackers then fled without any jewelry, said the indictment.
Antonelli's bodyguard, retired police Sgt. Jason Aiello, was inside the restaurant at the time of the attack. He was questioned by police but not charged. Aiello began behaving erratically. On July 22, police heard that Aiello was armed and possibly holding his family hostage. Officers approached Aiello and attempted to handcuff him, but he pulled a gun and fled. He reportedly shot in the direction of police a total of eight times. Officers shot him to death.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Yesterday, Venezia argued for a light sentence, saying he was a mere pawn of the Outfit as he collected cash from video poker machines. U.S. District Judge James Zagel explained the 40-month sentence: "Without the Joseph Venezias of the world, the enterprise of which he was a part... would, in fact, crumble."
Prosecutors said Venezia oversaw a portion of a gambling business owned by brothers James (right) and Michael Marcello and also served as a front man for an Outfit-run lounge in Cicero that was used for prostitution.
Two of the pleas were entered yesterday. "Little Nick" Corozzo (left), 68, reputed lieutenant in the crime family, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 26, 1996, slaying of an underworld rival. He could face 12 years or more in prison when sentenced. Vincent DeConiglio's guilty plea to lesser charges could result in a year or more behind bars.
Prosecutors say that Corozzo was part of a three-man committee formed in 1994 to assist John A. "Junior" Gotti in running the Gambino Crime Family during his father's imprisonment. John J. Gotti died in prison in 2002.
One defendant remains of the 62 arrested on Feb. 7. Charles Carneglia (shown on the New York Post cover at right), 62, has said he intends to go to trial and to testify on his own behalf, according to a story by John Marzulli of the New York Daily News. He is charged in connection with five killings.
U.S. attorneys in Brooklyn have been criticized for a broad attack against the criminal organization, which has resulted in few extended prison sentences. The defendant with the highest reputed rank in the crime family, acting boss John "Jackie Nose" D'Amico, could be sentenced to less than two years in prison after pleading guilty to extorting $100,000 from a cement company. His attorney said prosecutors' willingness to cut short-sentence deals showed "a lack of evidence and quality of evidence."
Some note, however, that the approach might have profoundly shaken the crime family. "It disrupts the family and creates an environment of insecurity," said one former prosecutor. "They essentially took out an entire organization in one fell swoop."
Geas (left), 41, is accused of paying $8,000 to Frankie A. Roche to kill Bruno. Roche pleaded guilty in April to shooting Bruno to death in the parking lot of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society after a card game. Roche is cooperating in the continuing investigation.
Defense attorney Stephanie Page submitted supporting documentation titled, "A Grand Jury Would Indict Anything, Even a Ham Sandwich," with her motion to dismiss. The documents are sealed. She said she intends to fully argue the motion in open court.
Investigators have linked the murder to the rise of Anthony J. Arillotta, Bruno's reputed successor as head of the Springfield branch of the Genovese Crime Family. Though Arilotta has not been charged with the killing, the FBI has said that he got approval for the mob hit through higher-ups in the Genovese Family.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A Canadian immigration board has decided that Giuseppe Coluccio poses a danger to the public and will remain in prison until a full hearing can be held, according to a story by the Canadian Press.
Coluccio (right), a 41-year-old fugitive from Italy, was arrested last Thursday outside a Toronto-area strip mall. If he is returned to Italy, he faces up to 16 years in prison.
He allegedly fled Italy in 2005 when he was being investigated for drug trafficking. Canadian authorities believe he entered their country with a fake ID, according to a story by Rob Lamberti of the Toronto Sun. An immigration warrant was issued for him in 2006.
Italian law enforcement officials say Coluccio is related to Rocco and Giuseppe Aquino, leaders of the Gioiosa Jonica clan of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta criminal society. According to the officials, Coluccio has been involved in cocaine and heroin shipments, using links with the Cutrera-Caruana Mafia clan and Turkish crime groups.
Coluccio was reportedly convicted of narcotics trafficking in Italy in 1993. He served 10 years of a 12-year prison sentence.William Willoughby, member of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, told Coluccio yesterday, "I believe that releasing you now would pose a danger to the Canadian public. I believe that you are involved in organized crime, and specifically, the head of a Mafia organization."
Cefalu, 61, was sentenced by Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn federal court. Prosecutors asked for a sentence that would reflect Cefalu's alleged high rank in the crime family. Defense attorney Joseph Ryan contested the prosecution's portrayal of Cefalu's lofty status, noting that he had worked as a $42,000 a year bakery supply salesman, drove a 1999 sedan and lost his apartment in Bay Ridge after his February arrest. Ryan said Cefalu will be forced to move in with his elderly mother when he is released from prison.
Judge Weinstein settled on a sentence that was just three months more than the 21-month minimum.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Acting boss Michael "Mikey Nose" Mancuso, 53, and Bonanno soldier Anthony "Ace" Aiello, 31, admitted participating in the murder of Randolph Pizzolo on Nov. 30, 2004. Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, 61, and Anthony Donato, 50, pleaded guilty to the Feb. 15, 2001, slaying of "gangland wannabe" Frank Santoro, according to prosecutors.
Aiello admitted to being the triggerman in Pizzolo's slaying. Prosecutors said Pizzolo was lured to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and killed there. That murder was ordered by Mancuso when he was merely a soldier in the Bonanno clan. The U.S. Attorney's Office reportedly will seek next year to convict former Bonanno boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano (left) of initiating the Pizzolo hit. Basciano is currently serving a life prison sentence on murder, attempted murder and gambling convictions.
When sentenced, Mancuso could receive 15 years in prison, and Aiello could get 30 years.
While walking his dog near his Bronx home, Santoro was shot to death by gunmen in a passing car. Indelicato and Donato admitted they were in the car, which belonged to Donato. Prosecutors said Basciano ordered and participated in the Santoro shotgun slaying because he believed Santoro was plotting to kidnap one of Basciano's sons. Basciano was convicted March 31 of his role in the Santoro killing.
When sentenced, Indelicato faces up to 20 years in prison, and Donato faces up to 25 years.
Vincent Basciano succeeded to the leadership of the Bonanno clan after previous boss Joseph Massino was convicted of racketeering. Massino subsequently cooperated in a federal investigation of Basciano. Mancuso is believed to have moved into an acting boss role after the jailing of Basciano. Authorities have indicated that the family's current acting boss is Salvatore Montagna.
A motion filed by the prosecutors indicated, "There is presently insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
Delvescovo was one of 62 people rounded up in February for alleged ties to the Gambino Crime Family. He pleaded not guilty to a charge that he extorted money from a trucking company owner. Delvescovo's defense attorney said his client was "wrongly accused on insufficient evidence."
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The story indicates that Alite, after serving two prison terms, is hoping to avoid a third by testifying against his old friend.
Alite served three years in prison starting in 1995 when he was found to be in possession of a handgun. A previous conviction for aggravated assault made it illegal for him to carry a firearm. He was later sentenced to three months behind bars when he was found to be helping inmate Antonio Parlavecchio smuggle his semen out of prison in order to impregnate Parlavecchio's wife.
In 2004, criminal charges were lodged against Alite and other members of a Gambino crew based in the Tampa, Florida, area. Alite's trial was delayed. He was in Brazil and fought extradition to the U.S.
In 2006, he reportedly communicated with the St. Petersburg (FL) Times while held in a Rio de Janeiro lockup. The conversation should have been a clue to Gotti and associates that Alite was preparing to aid prosecutors: "I've lost everything," Alite lamented. "...Am I bitter? Yeah, I'm bitter. Who wouldn't be?... Was I friends with John Gotti? Yes. Am I friends with him now? No."
Gotti was arrested at his New York home yesterday on federal charges related to three murders and an alleged Florida drug trafficking operation. Three federal racketeering cases against Gotti in 2005 and 2006 ended in mistrials.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The latest Gotti indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Tampa and sealed on July 24.
Gotti was arrested this morning at his home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, and he was taken to Manhattan federal court for a hearing of the charges, according to a report by WNBC-TV. Gotti faces a possible life prison sentence if convicted of the charges against him.
An attorney representing Gotti, Seth Ginsberg, told the press, "We're confident that there is no strength to the allegations and that he will prevail once again." Ginsberg said he expected Gotti to be transported to Tampa for arraignment.
Gotti has admitted to participating in the leadership of the Gambino Crime Family once bossed by his father John J. Gotti. "Junior" Gotti pleaded guilty to racketeering offenses - bribery, extortion, fraud and gambling - back in 1999. He served his time and was released in 2005. The younger Gotti insists that he left the Mafia life years ago - beyond the statute of limitations for more recent federal racketeering charges. Three trials between September 2005 and September 2006, which involved accusations that Gotti ordered the kidnapping of radio personality Curtis Sliwa, ended in mistrials.
The murder conspiracy charges could present a more difficult problem for Gotti and his attorneys, as the statute of limitations will afford no protection.
George Grosso was killed Dec. 29, 1998, in Queens, NY. Louis DiBono, Gambino soldier and construction contractor, was found shot to death inside of a Cadillac sedan at the World Trade Center in early October 1990. He had been shot seven times - four times to the head. John J. Gotti was convicted of ordering that killing. Bruce John Gotterup was killed Nov. 20, 1991, at the Boardwalk at the Rockaways in Queens.
In addition to the charges against Gotti, the Tampa-based prosecutors revealed related charges against alleged Gotti associates John A. Burke, 47, now imprisoned in New York; James V. Cadicamo (right), 33, of Tampa; David D'Arpino, 33, of Howard Beach, NY; Michael D. Finnerty, 43, of Oceanside, NY; and Guy T. Peden, of Wantagh, NY.
- Booth, Jenny, "Alleged Mafia boss John 'Junior' Gotti up in court on murder charges," TimesOnline (UK).
- Dienst, Jonathan, "FBI: 'Junior' Gotti arrested in connection with mob hits," WNBC-TV.
- Blumenthal, Mitchell L., and William K. Rashbaum, "Gotti arrested in murder conspiracy," New York Times.
- Rashbaum, William K. and Mitchell L. Blumenthal, "Gotti arrested in murder conspiracy," International Herald Tribune.
- East, Chip, "Gotti Jr. indicted for murder conspiracy," USAToday.
According to the release, Nicosia demanded payment of tens of thousands of dollars from a Manhattan-based contractor for work that he had not completed. When the contractor did not pay, Prisco underling Peter Rizzo allegedly attacked the contractor's business partner. Years later, Nicosia once again demanded the same payment. Nicosia and co-conspirators threatened the contractor and his family. The contractor made the demanded payment of $50,000. Nicosia and his associates divided the money among themselves, sending $10,000 as tribute to Prisco.
Eight men were initially charged in the case. Seven have been convicted of various related offenses - Michael Iuni, John "Rocky" Melicharek, Dominick "Shakes" Memoli, Louis Pipolo, Dardian "Danny" Celaj, Ened "Neddy" Gjelaj, and Nicosia. The eighth, Gjelosh "Jimmy" Krasniqi, remains at large.
Nicosia faces a possible prison term of 40 years when he is sentenced at the end of October.
Just after midnight, Fresca was shot seven times in the torso, once in the back and once in the head. Police believe his killer was waiting for him in a row of bushes behind the Fresca by the Bay restaurant (right). As the shots were fired, Fresca was heard calling out for a business partner. That man rushed to Fresca's side and later told investigators, "There was nothing I could do."
Authorities recalled that Fresca was severely beaten and was shot at by four men who burst into his restaurant back in 2005. One of his attackers in that case has been identified as Joseph Catapano, who accused Fresca of having a relationship with Catapano's estranged wife. The relationship between Fresca and Kelly Catapano reportedly continued.
Restaurant employees noted that Fresca had not paid some of them in more than a month. They also said the restaurateur seemed worried about business and about his security. He had hired a bodyguard and had been losing weight.
The medical examiner's office had not been properly notified when Schweihs died in custody at Thorek Memorial Hospital the previous Wednesday. The law requires an examination of all those who die in custody. On July 28, the medical examiner tracked Schweihs' remains to Salerno's Galewood Chapel and ordered them transported for examination.
Schweihs' family and friends, many of whom were already upset that they could not be with him during his last minutes of life, were gathering for a funeral service at that time. Facing trial on racketeering charges this October, Schweihs died of complications from cancer. He had recently battled lung cancer and a brain tumor.
Schweihs was one of the original defendants in the Family Secrets case. His poor health kept him from being tried with the rest of the accused.
- Thomas Hunt
- 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 email@example.com.)
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website Mafiahistory.us; 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.