Friday, September 26, 2008

Rochester's Frank Valenti dies at 97

A longtime boss of the Mafia in Rochester, NY, Frank J. Valenti died Sept. 20 at a Houston, TX, nursing home, according to a story by Gary Craig of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He was 97.

Valenti (right) and his brother Constenze "Stanley" Valenti were attendees of the 1957 mob convention at Apalachin, NY. In Rochester, he is believed to have supervised gambling, extortion and prostitution rackets. Authorities say he steered clear of involvement in narcotics. While he was regarded as leader of the Rochester underworld, he reportedly took his orders from Stefano Magaddino, Buffalo-Niagara Falls-based boss of the western New York Mafia.

In 1961, Valenti moved to Pittsburgh after a Rochester conviction for voting fraud. He returned to Rochester in 1964. In the 1970s, younger racketeers attempted to seize control of the Valenti organization. Valenti left Rochester and headed west, living first in Arizona.

The Houston Chronicle reports today that Valenti died at Sugar Land Nursing Homes. The Chronicle says Valenti was connected to the Bonanno Crime Family of New York and Arizona.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New England killer could win early release

After serving almost 20 years of his 33-year prison sentence, Gaetano J. Milano could win an early release on Oct. 8, according to a story by Stephanie Barry of the Springfield MA Republican.

Territory of the New England MafiaMilano, 56, was sent to prison in 1991 for the 1989 Mafia execution of William "Wild Guy" Grasso. Milano was a member of the New England Mafia organization known as the Patriarca Family. Grasso, a 62-year-old New Haven, CT, native, was a big shot in the same organization and is believed to have been striving for leadership of the group when he was shot to death inside a van driving down Interstate 91. Grasso was leader of the family's Connecticut crew and underboss of the regional organization. His body was found June 16, 1989, on the banks of the Connecticut River in Wethersfield, CT.

Evidence indicates that the FBI helped to conceal the involvement of mobster Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio in the killing because Mercurio was an FBI informant. Mercurio allegedly set up the Grasso murder by telling Milano that Grasso was preparing to kill him. A recent Milano motion for resentencing in light of that federal impropriety was approved.

In December 2006, a Milano accomplice was granted an early release on similar grounds. Louis Pugliano drove the van and aided in the disposal of Grasso's body. He had served 16 years of his life sentence when he was released.

Nicolo Rizzuto could go free next month

Sources tell the Montreal Gazette that Montreal Mafia big shot Nicolo Rizzuto (left) may be released on the same October day he is sentenced. Rizzuto, 84, recently pleaded guilty to two charges linking him with the Canadian underworld. He faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. However, the Gazette expects an Oct. 16 sentence of time served plus probation. Rizzuto is the father of Vito Rizzuto, 62, reputed boss of the Montreal Mafia. Vito

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nicolo Rizzuto, 5 others, plead guilty in Canada

Six alleged leaders of the Montreal Mafia pleaded guilty today to racketeering-related offenses, according to stories by the Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette. One of the six defendants was Nicolo Rizzuto, 84-year-old father of reputed Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.

The other defendants pleading guilty were Rocco Sollecito, Paolo Renda (a Rizzuto in-law), Francesco Arcadi, Francesco DelBalso and Lorenzo Giordano. Prosecutors say the six men supervised the activities of the Montreal Mafia since 2004, when Vito Rizzuto was imprisoned. The six will be sentenced next month.

Nicolo Rizzuto and Paolo Renda, 69, pleaded guilty to possession of the proceeds of crime and to possession of the proceeds of crime for the benefit of, the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization. Arcadi, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, overseeing drug smuggling and trafficking, bookmaking and illegal gambling. DelBalso, 38, and Giordano, 45, pleaded to the same charge as Arcadi, plus extortion.

The men were arrested as part of Project Colisée, a four-year drug trafficking investigation which resulted in more than 70 arrests in November 2006.

NYers charged as part of Mexico cocaine ring

Brothers Vincenzo Schirripa, 41, and Giulio Schirripa, 37, have been arrested in connection with a cocaine smuggling operation in New York City, according to a story by Thomas Zambito and Tracy Connor of the New York Daily News. Authorities say the two men served as middle men between a Mexican drug cartel and the 'Ndrangheta criminal society of southern Italy.

A crackdown on the "Gulf Cartel" this week has resulted in the arrests of 175 people on both sides of the Mexican border, according to a story by Jason Trahan of the Dallas Morning News.

Mafia Cops convictions reinstated

A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated the murder convictions of the so-called "Mafia Cops," former New York Police Department detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, according to stories in the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

Eppolito and CaracappaA jury two years ago found Caracappa (to the right of the photo) and Eppolito (to the left of the photo) guilty of racketeering conspiracy, involving mob-related murders and the leaking of information to underworld connections in the Lucchese Crime Family. Judge Jack B. Weinstein acknowledged overwhelming evidence against the two defendants and said he was prepared to sentence them to life in prison. However, the judge decided that the major racketeering-related offenses of the two men occurred outside of the five-year statute of limitations . Judge Weinstein overturned the convictions.

Prosecutors appealed the judge's decision. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled yesterday that Judge Weinstein took a too-narrow view of the racketeering conspiracy and reinstated the convictions. The panel included Judges Amalya L. Kearse, Robert D. Sack and Peter W. Hall.

Caracappa, 66, and Eppolito, 60, still jailed as they awaited a decision on the appeal, are likely to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Eppolito's attorney Joseph Bondy already has promised to appeal the latest decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1980s, the two former detectives teamed up with Lucchese Crime Family lieutenant Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. They supplied Casso with information about ongoing investigations and aided him in eliminating a number of his rivals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ex-FBI agent portrayed as 'just another' gangster

Prosecutor Fred Wyshak told a Florida jury Monday that ex-FBI agent John J. Connolly (right) functioned as "just another member" of the Boston area Winter Hill Gang in the 1980s, according to a story by Edmund H. Mahoney of the Hartford Courant. Connolly, 68, convicted in 2002 of racketeering and serving a 10-year prison sentence, is now on trial for murder and conspiracy.

Wyshak, U.S. attorney working with Florida state prosecutor Michael Von Zamft on the case, delivered the trial's opening statement. Wyshak said Connolly spent time with gang leaders, vacationed with them, shared information with them and profited from their illegal activities.

Connolly is charged with helping to set up the 1982 assassination of former World Jai Alai president John B. Callahan. According to prosecutors, Connolly informed Winter Hill Gang chiefs James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi that Callahan was preparing to cooperate in an investigation of an earlier gang murder. Gang hitman John V. Martorano then killed Callahan to prevent him from talking to authorities. Flemmi and Martorano have pleaded guilty to participating in Callahan's murder. They are expected to testify against Connolly. Bulger remains at large.

Defense attorneys argued that the gang needed no help to decide that Callahan was about to aid investigators. Attorney Manuel Casabielle defended Connolly's relationship with Bulger and Flemmi, saying the former FBI agent recruited them as informants and used the information they provided to dismantle the New England Mafia.

Casabielle charged that prosecutors have accused his client of various wrongdoings spanning a quarter century in the hope of winning convictions. "It's not fair to take a bunch of mud and throw it at an individual and hope some of it sticks," he said.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Informer issue 1 available for free download

The first electronic issue of Informer: The Journal of American Mafia History is now available for download (5.9mb PDF file). Issue #1 is available free of charge. Beginning in January 2009, quarterly electronic issues of Informer will be available only to subscribers.

Informer combines carefully documented historical articles with coverage of significant current events in American organized crime.

Informer issue 1Contents of Issue #1:
  • The Mob's Worst Year: 1957
  • Capone's Triggerman Kills Michigan Cop
  • Newspaperman Reveals Lynch Mob Role
  • A Look Back: 100 Years, 75 Years, 25 Years
  • Ask the Informer: KC's DiGiovanni
  • Book News and Reviews
  • In the News
  • Deaths
For more information on this new electronic periodical, visit the web page:

U.S. escorts Mafia boss back to Italy

U.S. immigration agents today turned reputed Sicilian Mafia big shot Giuseppe Baldinucci, 65, over to police officials in Rome, Italy, according to a report by the Italian AGI news service. Baldinucci had been a fugitive from Italian justice for 11 years.

Believed to be a leading member of the Vitale Family of Partinico, in the Palermo region of Sicily, Baldinucci will serve an eight-year solitary prison sentence for the crime of Mafia association. Baldinucci helped to hide Giovanni Brusca from authorities back in 1996. He became an intermediary between the U.S. and Sicilian Mafias during the "Pizza Connection" operation, according to AGI.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Family Secrets sentencing dates approach

Sentencing dates for a number of Family Secrets Case defendants are coming up, according to a blog entry by Steven Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times. Sentencing dates have not yet been set for several key defendants. Warmbir drew the following information from the docket of Judge James Zagel's U.S. District Court at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.

Nicholas Calabrese, Sept. 24, 2 p.m.
Anthony Doyle, Oct. 1, 2 p.m.
Thomas Johnson, Oct. 6, 11:30 a.m.
Frank Calabrese Sr., date not set.
Joseph Lombardo, date not set.
James Marcello, date not set.
Paul Schiro, date not set.

Already sentenced:
Nicholas Ferriola sentenced yesterday to 3 years in prison.
Dennis Johnson sentenced to 6 months in prison.
Michael Marcello sentenced to 8 and a half years in prison.
Joseph Venezia sentenced to 40 months in prison.
Frank Schweihs died before trial.

Chicago's Ferriola will serve three years

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel yesterday sentenced reputed Chicago mobster Nicholas Ferriola (right), 33, to three years in prison for racketeering, gambling and extortion, according to reports published by CBS-2 Chicago and the Chicago Tribune. Ferriola was also ordered to forfeit more than $9 million and to pay a fine of $6,000.

Ferriola, a defendant in the Family Secrets case, pleaded guilty on the eve of trial. He admitted to regularly collecting a "street tax" payment from a pizza restaurant and to operating a gambling racket that generated $160,000 a month in profits. The "street tax" was a protection racket reportedly run by Frank Calabrese Sr. Prosecutors described Calabrese as Ferriola's mentor.

Ferriola's father, Joseph, was a leader in the Chicago Outfit, according to Steve Warmbir of the Sun-Times.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Court tosses three 2003 racketeering convictions

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Manhattan has rejected the 2003 racketeering convictions of three men accused of ties to the DeCavalcante Crime Family of New Jersey and it has ordered that the defendants be given new trials, according to a story by John Eligon of the New York Times.

Giuseppe Schifilliti, Philip Abramo and Stefano Vitabile were sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of racketeering conspiracy, murder and murder conspiracy charges. They were the only defendants - out of more than 20 arrested in a crackdown on the DeCavalcante Family - who went to trial. Most of the others accepted plea deals.

Plea deals were at the heart of the appeals court rejection of the guilty verdicts. During the trial of Schifilliti, Abramo and Vitabile, prosecutors introduced as evidence statements given by eight alleged co-conspirators who had taken plea deals. A Supreme Court decision in 2004 made such statements inadmissible as evidence.

Schifilliti, 70, was reputed to have been a powerful lieutenant of the DeCavalcante organization. He reportedly became a made member of the crime family in the mid-1970s, when the organization was run by Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante (died of natural causes in 1997). Some sources indicate that Vitabile, 72, served in the position of consigliere for the crime family and possibly was named acting boss for a time. Like Schifilliti, Abramo, 63, reputedly served as a lieutenant in the family.

FBI doubles reward for Bulger information

James Whitey BulgerTwo million dollars is now offered for information leading to the arrest of fugitive New England gang boss James "Whitey" Bulger, according to a news release from the FBI's Boston field office. With announcement of the reward - just doubled from $1 million - the FBI is circulating new "age enhanced" photos of Bulger.

(Watch video.)

Bulger, formerly leader of a Boston-area Irish gang, has been in hiding since his racketeering indictment early in 1995. He was also charged on Sept. 28, 2000, with participating in 19 murders during the 1970s and 1980s.

Authorities say Bulger cooperated in FBI investigations of his Italian underworld rivals while continuing his own criminal career.

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.