Friday, August 29, 2008

Seven Bonanno members and associates charged

Federal prosecutors yesterday announced indictments against seven suspected members and associates of the Bonanno Crime Family, according to stories by Christine Hauser of the New York Times and Scott Shifrel and Ethan Rouen of the New York Daily News and a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern Division of New York.

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.

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.