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This Week In Gang LandMay 13, 2010

Secret FBI Files: Bingy Was Primed To Flip Two Years Ago

A Gang Land Exclusive

Bingy ArillottaIt’s really no surprise that Genovese crime family big Anthony (Bingy) Arillotta decided to switch sides in the war on crime this year. 

Secret FBI documents show that back in June of 2008, when Arillotta had just gotten out of prison, things were so bad for him that it’s almost a wonder that he didn’t immediately apply  to join Team America back then. 

For starters, Bingy  was a key suspect in the murder of capo Adolpho (Big Al) Bruno, the Springfield Massachusetts mobster whose spot Arilotta had taken atop the Genovese family’s New England rackets when Bruno was whacked in 2003.

Then there was a long list of gut-wrenching problems – ranging from money to troubles with both his families – that, in the summer of 2008, Bingy laid out to a fellow gangster. 

Big Al BrunoAs it happens, his sympathetic listener was recording everything for the feds. But, as described in a series of secret FBI memos obtained by Gang Land, here are a few of the things weighing heavy on Bingy’s mind right after he finished up a three year state prison stint for gambling and loansharking:
·        
Because he’d been locked up at the time, he’d only been able to spend a single day with his father who was dying of cancer at the time. His dad died the day after his visit.
·        
He came home to learn that the family business, B & A Produce, was doing lousy. He was fighting with his mother and his two sisters who controlled the business. He worried that if his mother “didn’t do the right thing,” he’d lose his home. And his wife wanted “to get out of Springfield.”
·        
Federal and state officials were listening to all his calls and, thanks to his parole restrictions, he couldn’t talk to any “felons,” which meant most of his pals.
·        
A guy named “Jimmy the Fag” who ran a strip club wasn’t “doing anything for anybody” as the FBI reported it. (We’re willing to bet that the actual words were more along the lines of “nothing for nobody” – the term of art in Gang Land for ingrates.)
·        
Even a hooker at the club had “connections with the feds.”

He had every right to be worried. State and federal probers were, naturally, looking to bring Bingy down for whacking his predecessor. They had already indicted and jailed Fotios (Freddy) Geas, the mob associate Bingy had assigned to handle the hit. As a result, the law was watching Arillotta like a hawk. This made it almost impossible for him to reap the benefits – namely the cash – he felt he rightly deserved for having overseen Bruno’s murder, and then taking over his slot.

To make matters worse, his New York superior, capo Arthur (The Little Guy) Nigro was reaching out to him from his own prison cell, and ordering him to meet up with his emissary for some important high-level mob discussions.

Then there was the trusted old pal from New York who, unbeknownst to Arillotta, had already fingered him for Bruno’s murder, according to the FBI documents.

Some nine months before Arillotta was released from prison, longtime Genovese associate John (Big John) Bologna had implicated Bingy in Bruno’s murder. Big John was Nigro’s emissary from New York and he had spent many days in Springfield with both Bingy and Bruno (before he was whacked). Records show that as early as September, 2007, Big John Bologna & Big Al BrunoBologna  began tape-recording talks with Nigro and other cohorts. (Big John towers over Big Al in 2002 state police photo.)

So when Bingy arrived home the following June, the FBI sent Big John out to see him. The wired-up associate began reaching out to Arillotta at his home and at his family-run wholesale fruit and vegetable business where he ostensibly worked, according to reports by agents Joy Adam and William Inzerillo.

"I can’t talk or hang around any felons,” Bingy whined when Big John finally reached him on July 14, 2008. “I got state probation, state parole, federal supervised release. I got three different ones. They’re all over the place and they’re waiting for me to reach out and talk to somebody so they can violate me,” he said. 

After several phone conversations in which Arillotta begged off meeting Bologna – including one call in which Bingy first pretended to be a guy named McDougal who didn’t know where Anthony was – Bingy finally agreed to meet Big John at the last westbound rest stop on the Mass Turnpike on September 14. But he didn’t show. 

Two weeks later, at a scheduled meeting at a mall about 40 miles from Springfield, Bingy sent an emissary who told Bologna that Arillotta, apparently concerned that Nigro was looking for tribute money, had instructed him to tell Big John that he needed “time to get back golden.” 

“Money is not the issue,” replied Bologna, stating that he was “under the gun” to get answers from Arillotta to important questions from Nigro and that he was not authorized to discuss the matter with anyone except Arillotta. 

Arthur Nigro“In this life,” said Big John, “even if you have problems, you have to go to give answers.” 

After his own arrest, Bingy quickly learned how he’d been played by his pal Big John. Between that, the failing business, the nagging family members, and the damn feds who just would not go away well, it’s enough to make even a true tough guy start singing. Which is what he did.  

These days, Bingy Arillotta is spilling his guts about mob murders and mayhem from New York to New England. Last month, he led the FBI to the body of a low level gangster who was killed a few months before Bruno. In November, he is expected to be a key witness against Geas and Nigro, a former acting Genovese boss charged with orchestrating Bruno’s November 23, 2003 killing.

Accused Mob Sex Trafficker Linked To Mob Robbery Crew

Anthony ManzellaGang Land hears that a mob associate who was accused by the feds in Manhattan last month of being an important member of a Gambino family sex-trafficking ring that employed a 15-year-old hooker, will soon be charged by Brooklyn federal prosecutors with practicing another old-fashioned mob trade: shoot-and-grab robbery work. 

Sources say that Anthony Manzella, who is also charged with gambling, loansharking and extortion for the Gambinos, has been implicated as a member of a gang of young thugs aligned with the Luchese crime family who allegedly invaded homes, and robbed  business people and drug dealers in New York and New Jersey. 

Manzella, and others, will be added to a racketeering indictment that currently accuses nine members and associates of the Bonanno and Luchese crime families with a potpourri of racketeering charges, including gambling, loansharking and extortion, as well as the gunpoint robbery of a Brooklyn appliance store owner and his wife, according to usually reliable sources. 

Joseph CutaiaManzella, 31, was allegedly part of a crew of young mob associates under Luchese soldier Salvatore Cutaia that pulled off a number of violent armed robberies along with Cutaia’s son Joseph, (right) a longtime Manzella cohort, in recent years. 

In the charged Brooklyn robbery, which took place last November, a codefendant, Nicholas Bernardo, fired several shots at the couple, none of which found their mark, according to FBI agent Thomas Kennedy. 

Sources say a third member of the holdup team, John Paul Cruz, has cooperated with the FBI and provided assistant U.S. attorney Rachel Nash evidence that links Manzella and the father and son Cutaias to numerous robberies they pulled off in recent years. 

Danny CutaiaSources say the feds were unable to link longtime Luchese capo Domenico (Danny) Cutaia, (left) who is charged with loansharking in the case, to the violent robbery ring that involved his son and grandson. 

That may be because such disreputable shenanigans are beneath the old-school mob captain. “If he had known about it, he probably would have put a stop to it,” said one knowledgeable source. 

In the Gambino case, prosecutors say Manzella had “extensive involvement” in the sex trafficking aspect of the indictment and “was in charge of advertising, using Craigslist and other websites to solicit clients.” He also served as a right-hand-man-in-crime to the mobster who allegedly oversaw the crime family’s use of the teen prostitutes, Thomas Orefice. 

Manzella, who is Orefice’s brother-in-law, “recruited women, including an underage girl, whom Manzella personally brought to a meeting with Orefice for Orefice’s approval,” wrote assistant U.S. attorneys Elie Honig and Steve Kwok. 

Jude Buoneto“Manzella also drove the women to appointments,” wrote the prosecutors. “Manzella even advised the women, including the underage girl, how to deal with difficult customers. For example, in August, 2009, when the underage girl did not want to perform certain sexual acts requested of her by a customer, Manzella spoke with her on the phone and suggested ways for her to handle the situation – a conversation recorded by the FBI.” 

“He denies all the allegations regarding sex trafficking, and he has no knowledge of any of those robberies,” said Manzella’s attorney, John Meringolo. 

Last week,  defense lawyers for two other defendants told Gang Land that the FBI’s cooperating witness in the case, Jude Buoneto, a convicted sex offender, was the driving force behind the sex-trafficking aspects of the case. 

 

Judge Evokes Churchill In
Denying Bail For Wiseguy

Thomas OreficeTeachers often use courtrooms as places where their students can learn some fundamental facts about the justice system. The other day, Manhattan Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan demonstrated that courtrooms can also be good places to pick up a few quick facts about world history.

The lesson was offered at the bail hearing for Orefice. (left) Attorney Seth Ginsberg began by stating that his client was no more dangerous today than the cooperating witness in the case was when the government allowed him to remain free even though it was aware that he was involved in sex-trafficking involving a minor. And in any event, a $2 million bail package would assure the safety of the community. 

Kaplan quickly interrupted, shooting down that argument with an anecdote and an analogy to the German blitzkrieg of the English city of Coventry in 1940. 

Judge Lewis Kaplan“The government has to make a judgment in many cases about where the greater good lies, just as Winston Churchill in World War II knew that the Germans were about to launch a firebombing raid on the city of Coventry,” said Kaplan. “The British and Americans had broken the German code and he allowed the German raid to go forward for fear if he interfered with it the Germans would understand that their codes were broken and would be even greater damage to the Allied war effort. No comfort to the people of Coventry. But the decision the government has to make in a case like this is not unlike that.”

“I’m familiar with that bit of history,” said Ginsberg, who recognized the uphill battle he faced.  “I must confess that if your Honor is analogizing the danger that Mr. Orefice poses as the same that the Nazis posed to the free world, I’m not very optimistic of my chances here, but nonetheless I will continue with my argument.”

He did, and the well-read judge denied bail.


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MAJOR GANG TAKEDOWN
78 Bloods, Latin Kings Indicted
 
05/13/10 



Suspect with FBI agents (Play Video)
In the pre-dawn chill of upstate New York, nearly 600 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers assembled at the armory this morning to prepare for one of the area's largest gang takedowns in recent memory.

Indictments were unsealed against 78 members of two violent street gangs—the Bloods and the Latin Kings—and many of the unsuspecting gang members were about to wake up to SWAT teams, handcuffs, and a variety of federal drug charges.

“There are a number of neighborhood gangs in Newburgh, but these two national gangs are responsible for much of the drugs and crime in the city,” said Special Agent Jim Gagliano, who headed a 16-month, FBI-led Safe Streets Task Force investigation that culminated in this morning’s raids.

“Today’s arrests will severely disrupt and dismantle both organizations in Newburgh,” Gagliano said. “We are taking most of the local leaders of the Bloods and the Latin Kings off the streets. Some of them will likely be put away for so long they will never return to the city.”

FBI personnel at operations center.

FBI mobile command posts staged at the armory in Newburgh.

Newburgh is located about 70 miles north of Manhattan. For a relatively small city of 29,000 people, it has an unusually large crime problem. When Gagliano arrived there two years ago, Newburgh led the state in per capita homicides, and everyone agreed that drug-related gang violence was at the root of the problem.

Hands forming the word blood

                Gangs at a Glance

  • Approximately one million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active within all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2008.
  • Gang members are increasingly migrating from urban to suburban areas.
  • Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities.
  • Much gang-related crime involves drug trafficking, but gang members engage in a wide variety of criminal activity.
  • The original Bloods were formed in the early 1970s in Los Angeles. Membership nationwide is estimated to be as high as 30,000.
  • The Latin Kings were formed in Chicago in the 1960s. Membership nationally is estimated to be 20,000 to 35,000.

    Source: National Gang Threat Assessment.

  • The Bureau established the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force in April 2009—which now consists of about 20 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies—and began dual investigations on the two gangs, dubbed Operation Blood Drive and Operation Black Crown. The plan was for the task force’s cooperating witnesses and undercover officers to make small street-level drug buys—mostly crack cocaine—from gang members over a period of time.

    In all, the task force made nearly 100 drug buys, totaling more than five kilos of crack cocaine. “The majority of these buys were done while we recorded video and audio,” Gagliano said. “Not only did we get the subject’s voice on tape, we also see the exchange.”

    He added, “In a city as small as Newburgh and as violent—there have already been four homicides this year, all directly related to gang violence—these arrests will have a substantial effect on the crime rate in the city.”

    After an early-morning briefing, agents and officers fanned out over the city in teams. Those arrested were brought back to the armory for processing and booking. Of the 60 members of the Bloods and 18 members of the Latin Kings who were indicted—some were already in jail on other charges—approximately 61 were in custody by early this afternoon. The sweep also netted four guns and a large amount of cash. The search for those still at large is ongoing.

    George Venizelos, acting assistant director in charge of our New York Field Office, had nothing but praise for today’s operation and the Safe Streets Task Force. “I have never been involved with a task force that had this many different member agencies who worked so well together,” Venizelos said. “It’s been a terrific partnership, and the proof of our success can be seen in today’s arrests.”


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    This Week In Gang LandMay 20, 2010

    Persicos Finally Win One;
    Michael Persico Goes Home

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Michael PersicoIt’s been a long time since anyone named Persico has won anything in the never-ending court battles the family has been waging for more than half a century all around the town.

    But this week, Michael Persico, the businessman-son of jailed-for-life Colombo crime boss Carmine (Junior) Persico won a pretty big victory – for himself, as well as for any defendant with an otherwise clean record and no allegations of violence pending against them.

    Yesterday afternoon, following ten weeks behind bars after having been judged too dangerous to be released, Persico returned to his Brooklyn home. He immediately began preparing for his upcoming trial on racketeering and extortion charges under the relative luxury of house arrest.

    Judge Carol AmonTuesday, Brooklyn Federal Judge Carol Amon (left) heeded the arguments of lawyers Sarita Kedia and Henry Mazurek and made the official ruling that sent Persico home yesterday, after his friends and relatives posted $5 million in property as collateral and he agreed to pay for the cost of the electronic monitoring that would be in place 24/7.

    The 53-year old widower returned to the Dyker Heights home he shares with his two teenage daughters.

    Amon’s ruling was not unexpected. It came a few days after three federal appeals court judges in Manhattan ruled that the judge who had kept Persico behind bars was clearly wrong on the law – and probably wrong on the facts too – and sent the matter back to Brooklyn to be dealt with properly.

    The really puzzling thing is what Judge Sandra Townes was thinking when she ruled that Persico was “presumed” to be dangerous, and that even under the very prosecution-friendly Bail Reform Act that he did not have to be accused of at least one violent crime in order for her to detain him as a danger to the community.

    She was wrong on both counts, wrote Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jon Newman, John Walker and Gerard Lynch, stating that Townes “erred in presuming Persico to be dangerous” and that her “erroneous” finding “at the very outset” of her analysis wrongly colored her ultimate decision.

    Judge Sandra Townes“The Bail Reform Act allows a court to presume dangerousness only if it finds probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed various specific crimes,” none of which Persico was even alleged to have committed, the judges wrote, ordering Townes (right) to reconsider his bail application.

    Even the government had conceded in its arguments before the panel that the judge had erred on the law, wrote the panel, agreeing with the remedy proposed by Persico’s attorneys Sarita Kedia and Henry Mazurek.

    In its unusually critical five-page opinion, the appeals panel indicated quite forcefully that while it did not address the merits of whether the safety of the public could be assured if Persico were released, his argument on that score was quite persuasive, and it was likely to reverse Townes if she reconsidered her ruling and still found that no bail conditions could secure the safety of the community.

    “Significantly,” wrote the panel, “the government offered no evidence that he ordered others to use violence. Although the government claims to have recorded 800 conversations related to this case, none of those conversations capture Persico ordering violence.

    “Indeed, Persico argues that the recordings show that whenever others asked him whether to use violence, he discouraged them. He also cites recordings reflecting that he told his co-defendants to stop threatening debtors with violence, and that the only threats he ever considered were threats of legal action.”

    Teddy Persico Jr.In one conversation relied on by the feds and Townes, but not mentioned in the appeals court ruling, Persico’s gun-toting, hot-headed cousin Theodore (Skinny Teddy)Perisco Jr. (left) was overheard saying that when it comes to adversaries, he prefers to “get a gun and shoot them, or stab them, or beat them up” and was going to seek his cousin Michael’s permission to act on his desires. But, as the high court noted, that never happened.

    In March, Townes upheld an initial ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein to detain Persico – whose only prior bouts with the law involved getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired. The magistrate’s ruling went against the findings of the U.S. Probation Department which stated that the safety of the community would be assured by a posting of significant bail.

    Townes was saved from having to reverse herself. She indicated last week that she would be away a few days, and referred the bail hearing to Judge Amon. His lawyers had requested a speedy resolution because of a medical emergency involving Persico’s stepson, Joseph, who underwent thyroid cancer surgery a few hours before Michael Persico’s bail hearing.

    If Persico were released, the lawyers wrote, Joseph intended to live at home with his stepdad and Michael’s two teenage daughters following the surgery at NYU Medical Center.

    For the record, the last time a Persico family member achieved a courtroom victory was back in 1994, when Michael’s brother Alphonse (right) walked out of prison after he was acquitted of murder and racketeering charges. Five years later, Alphonse was back in prison, where he’s been ever since. Dad Carmine, 76, is living out his days at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina.

    Cutaias Best Persicos
    In Mafia Preakness

    Anthony CutaiaThe Mafia had its own Preakness this week, although the stakes weren't anything to brag about. The horse race was nip and tuck between two prominent mob families – that’s families with a lower case “f” – to see which one could have the most relatives behind bars at the same time.

    The winner, by a head, was the Cutaia clan of the Luchese crime family (think capital “F”), with the aforementioned Persicos coming in close behind.

    The intrigue began Tuesday when Anthony and Salvatore (Little Sal) Cutaia Jr. were arrested on federal gun and robbery charges as members of a violent Luchese armed robbery crew. They immediately joined their older brother, their father, John Baudanzaand their grandfather as defendants in the same case. This phenomenon, five blood relatives in the same mob indictment is unprecedented, according to a quick and dirty Gang Land investigation.

    Anthony, 22, and Sal Jr., 29, were each charged with serving as drivers in gunpoint robberies that were carried out last year by brother Joseph and other armed thugs. Add in Luchese soldier John Baudanza (right) – who married into the Cutaia family – and that makes six Cutaia clan members behind bars. For those keeping score, add Grandpa, Danny Cutaia Daily News PhotoDomenico (Danny) Cutaia, (left) and his son Salvatore, to round out the sextet.

    The Persicos did their best, coming in a close second, with five of their illustrious clan, including the four family members mentioned above, and the elder Teddy Persico, a capo who’s due out in three years.

    With nephew Michael now out of the clink, the Persico head count fell to four, making them closer to your average criminally disposed Mafia family unit .

    The Cutaia clan incehed ahead in the race after the feds moved to detain the newly arrested brothers as dangers to the community and flight risks because they faced upwards of ten years in prison as drivers in robberies in which guns were used.

    Salvatore Cutaia Sr.Anthony allegedly used a van he was driving to help trap a Brooklyn electronics store owner they had targeted on the street in front of his home. The feds say that after shots were pegged at the store owner and his wife, Anthony helped his brother Joe and two other gunmen escape. Unfortunately, the other cohorts – John Paul Cruz and Nicholas Bernardo – later began cooperating with the FBI.

    Prosecutors charged that Little Sal was the driver in the robbery of a drug dealer during which the victim was beaten in the car. The dealer was forced to let the assailants into his home where they stole money and drugs. Little Sal also used a police scanner and served as a lookout to sound an alert if the cops showed up.

    Little Sal CutaiaSal Jr. caught a big break, however, after U.S. Magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky sided with federal defender Michael Padden, who argued that his client was a minor player in the overall case, and was named in just one, very defendable, incident. The judge released Little Sal under strict house arrest provisions on a $500,000 bond secured by his mother-in law’s home.

    Late yesterday, Anthony’s lawyer told Gang Land he's worked out a similar deal for his client. “I anticipate Anthony's release on Thursday, with the consent of the government,” said his attorney, Scott Leemon.

    Meanwhile, the feds added mob associate Anthony Manzella (we told you about him last week), to the indictment. Manzella is charged with the May 13, 2008 armed robbery of money and drugs from a Staten Island pharmacy. This caper occurred, according to court records, a few months before Manzella became an alleged key player in the Gambino family’s sex-trafficking ring that employed teenage prostitutes.

     

    Cutaia Bros. Back Story Stars
    Big Joey From The Bronx

    Big Joey LubranoThe back story on the Cutaia Brothers’ robbery crew is even more fascinating than the family’s prison head count: The gang leader is a little known, Bronx based Luchese mobster who has spent three stretches in upstate New York prisons for an assortment of home invasion and similar crimes that began with a Christmas Day Brooklyn burglary back in 1974, Gang Land has learned.

    Meet Big Joey From The Bronx, a 59-year-old fugitive gangster who used three different names while spending 11 plus years in state prisons between 1975 and 1991. Big Joey later relocated to the Belmont section of The Bronx where he opened up a social club on Cambreleng Avenue and East 188th Street.

    But that’s about the only thing that investigators are sure about. They are fairly positive that his real name is Joseph Lubrano, but even that’s not a sure thing. Along the way, while serving time for robberies and burglaries in Brooklyn and Staten Island (he also attempted escape by posing as another inmate) he has also used the names Jack Lubrano and Joseph Lurano.

    In any event, according to the feds, Lubrano supervised the robbery crew and regularly met with Joseph Cutaia and another crew member at his social club to collect his share of the loot that his young prodigies earned in scores that took place, according to one law enforcement source, “almost every week.”

    Joseph CutaiaIn return, Big Joey, who stands about 6-foot-four, protected his prolific young hoodlums in disputes with other mob-connected gangsters and assured Joe Cutaia (left)“that he would propose and support him for induction into the crime family,” said one source.

    Sources say that Lubrano made good on his promise to protect Joseph Cutaia from rival wiseguys on at least one occasion, when Cutaia and the two crew members who later cooperated, Cruz and Bernardo, robbed a drug dealer with ties to the Bonanno crime family.

    “Big Joe intervened and protected Cutaia from retaliation” at a sitdown, said one source.

    Meanwhile, the slippery veteran mobster has given the feds the slip. Over the last two days, FBI agents, armed with an arrest warrant that charges Lubrano with a slew of racketeering charges, have been unable to nab Big Joey at his usual haunts, or though his relatives or a former attorney.

    Said FBI spokesman Jim Margolin: “The FBI is actively looking for Joseph Lubrano, and we know he’s aware of that.  It’s only a matter of time before he’s in custody, so there really isn’t any point to his prolonging it.”


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    This Week In Gang LandMay 27, 2010

    Turncoat Son, Death Behind Bars, Haunt Sonny Franzese

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Sonny FranzeseAfter running the clock out for nearly two years, the end game has begun for John (Sonny) Franzese. And it won’t be fun. The legendary Colombo family wiseguy will be the first New York mobster to have his son testify against him.

    He is not charged with murder, but his stated expertise as a mob hitman – as well as the very real possibility of his own death behind bars if he is convicted – hang like a dark cloud over Sonny  as he gets set for his final stint before the bar of justice. At 93, he is the oldest mobster to go to trial on racketeering charges. 

    On Tuesday, Brooklyn Federal Judge Brian Cogan is scheduled to lay out the ground rules for the trial that is slated to begin the following week for Franzese, who recently professed seeming indifference to the thought of dying in prison. 

    “Who cares? I gotta die someplace,” said Franzese, after he pleaded not guilty to new extortion charges that prosecutors added to his indictment in an effort to beef up the case and insure that he spends his final days in a federal prison hospital.

    Franzese, who was indicted in June of 2008 on racketeering, loansharking, and extortion charges involving a Long Island pizzeria, has been free on $1 million bail since Christmas Eve of that year. 

    Sonny Franzaese circa 1967“I die outside; I die in jail. It don’t matter to me,” said Franzese, who has spent about 25 of the past 40 years behind bars for a controversial bank robbery conspiracy conviction back in 1967. Sentenced to 50 years, Sonny has been paroled, and sent back to prison five times. If he were to somehow beat the current indictment, it’s a sure bet that he’d get sent back at least one more time, since he will remain on parole until 2020, until age 103.

    The nonagenarian gangster has some difficulty hearing, but he is still pretty spry. He spoke briefly to reporters earlier this month following his arraignment for penny ante shake downs of free drinks from the Hustler and Penthouse strip clubs from 2004 to 2006, while he was the crime family’s underboss.

    Over the years, Franzese, who had a piece of the porn classic, “Deep Throat,” has earned millions of dollars through secret interests in entertainers, nightclubs and record companies. But, said one law enforcement source: “Sonny always feels he has it coming to him and should never have to pay when he goes out.”

    Or, in the words of a respected Gang Land source on the other side of the street who has seen Sonny in action: “He’s a cheapskate. And he doesn’t know that it’s all passed him by.” 

    Franzese’s attorney Richard Lind has taken a similar position regarding the government’s efforts to use Sonny’s tape-recorded boasts that he “killed a lot of guys” over the years but was “never caught.” Lind says that his client’s words about “alleged murders” were old news, had nothing to do with the case, and were so “far more serious” than the charges against Franzese that jurors would be unable to render a verdict based solely on the evidence if they heard them.

    John (Sonny) Franzese Prosecutors counter that Sonny’s murderous words about modern day mob killings are current, and relevant, especially his assertion that it was wise to dispose of victims rather than “leave them on the street.” Franzese, they noted, told a wired-up turncoat that a good way to dispose of bodies was to cut up the corpse “in a kiddie pool” and then dry the “severed body parts in a microwave before stuffing the parts in a commercial-grade garage disposal.”

    Franzese, who sees himself as the consummate tough guy gangster, may actually be indifferent to the possibility of dying in prison, like so many of his peers have in recent years.

    But his efforts to downplay the import of another touchy subject to Daily News Reporter John Marzulli fell flat. When asked about son John Franzese Jr., who fingered him for the feds, tape-recorded conversations with him for the FBI, and is slated to testify against him at trial, Sonny shrugged and said: “What do I know about him? I don’t even know where he is.”

    Franzese may not know where John Jr. is, but he knows where he’ll be and what he’ll be doing at his trial: He’ll be on the witness stand, pointing a damning finger at his old man. No matter what he says about that, Sonny is devastated by that betrayal, and surely distraught at being the only New York mobster in Gang Land’s memory to have his son take the witness stand against him.

    Joseph DiGorga“It’s kind of an embarrassment, pretty embarrassing for a son to be testifying against the father,” conceded attorney Lind. He quickly added that it was “equally embarrassing for the government” to be using the troubled son, who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as a witness against his father.

    Scheduled for trial with Sonny on various racketeering charges are local mob associates, John (Johnny Cop) Capolino, 41, and Joseph DiGorga, 69, who is also charged in the strip club extortions, as well as Los Angeles-based cohorts, Christopher Curanovic, 28, and Orlando (Ori) Spado, 65.

    Meanwhile, Cogan gave prosecutors five more weeks to decide whether to seek capital punishment for co-defendants Joel (Joe Waverly),Cacace for the execution slaying of police officer Ralph Dols, and for mobsters Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli and Dino (Little Dino) Saracino for other death penalty-eligible slayings.

    Loretta LynchNewly appointed U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who took office earlier this month, has agreed to meet with defense lawyers for the three gangsters before submitting her recommendation to the Justice Department, according to court papers filed this week. 

    “I think it is refreshing that the new U.S. Attorney is taking the time to reflect on an appropriate and informed position instead of shooting from the hip,” said Cacace’s lawyer, Susan Kellman.

    Big Joey From The Bronx Was Wronged In Manhattan Case

    Big Joey LubranoLuchese mobster Joseph (Big Joey From The Bronx) Lubrano flew the coop when he figured out that the FBI would look to arrest him as the ringleader of a violent armed robbery crew that included a fellow wiseguy and three of his sons. 

    But when you look at it from Lubrano’s perspective, it’s not hard to grasp why he decided to make himself scarce last week.

    Back in the late 1990s, Big Joey, a tough guy who had spent about eight months in jail for a gun rap in 1993, served nearly three years behind bars for a violent crime that he did not commit.

    Worse still, according to several reliable sources – including law enforcement officials – some FBI agents knew when he was sentenced to prison that he hadn’t done it, and even after state prosecutors learned that they had the wrong man, they refused to set him free for an additional 18 months. 

    Lubrano’s problems began when he was arrested along with members of the Tanglewood Boys – young wannabe wiseguys who generally terrorized folks who lived and worked in The Bronx and Yonkers, near the shopping mall where they hung out – and was charged with the robbery and assault of an off-duty cop outside a Manhattan bar. 

    The other defendants, including Darin Mazzarella, who would later cooperate with the feds, copped plea deals but Lubrano – he really didn’t have anything to do with it – went to trial and was convicted and sentenced to 5-to-10 years for what was described as a racially motivated assault against the cop, and a bouncer, who were both black. 

    On March 25, 1997, when his sentence was meted out, 26-year-old Big Joey From The Bronx cried like a baby. He was then dispatched to the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, NY, where he remained, bitter but quiet, until the following year, when FBI agents told the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that they had gotten it wrong. 

    The FBI knew, they told the prosecutors, because Mazzarella, who had admitted numerous violent crimes and fingered many of his friends, had stated categorically that Lubrano – whom he knew from prior confrontations in The Bronx – wasn’t involved. The real culprit, they told the DA’s office, was Alfred (Freddy Boy) Santorelli, the son of a Luchese mobster. 

    Mike McAlaryHere’s how Mazzarella explained it to my former Daily News colleague, the late Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Mike McAlary, on May 22, 1998, a few days after the FBI told the DA’s office about the screwup:

    “We go into this place on the West Side. It’s me, Freddy Boy Santorelli and this dead mobster’s son . . . the Anchor Bar on Amsterdam Ave., and 83rd St. We were having a good time talking to girls and drinking vodkas as big as my forearm. The bouncer, a black guy, pushed one of us and said, ‘I’m not in the mood for you guys tonight.’

    “We were dressed like college pukes, not gangsters, you know, stuff from The Gap. So bleep him. We went outside and slugged him in the face. Guys were yelling racial stuff. This other black guy, one of the bouncer's friends, was there on a bike. He got into it too. But when Freddy pulled this guy's shirt over his head, we saw the badge on a chain. His gun fell out of the shoulder holster. Freddy picked it up and ran like hell. Threw the gun in the bushes. We escaped in separate taxi cabs.

    Lubrano wasn't there. Unfortunately, the poor bastard just looks like Freddy Boy. They picked the wrong guy out of the lineup.

    Eighteen months later, according to the State Correction Department, Lubrano was released on an otherwise unexplained court order. 

    Lubrano’s attorney at the time, Murray Richman, was out of the country yesterday, and could not be reached by Gang Land. FBI spokesman Jim Margolin declined to comment, as did Manhattan DA spokeswoman Jennifer Kushner, noting that all the records about the case were sealed.

    Cain v. Abel; Mafia Style

    Charles BolognaIt was literally brother against brother once the feds flipped mob associate Big John Bologna.

    Gang Land has learned that the turncoat who helped the feds lodge murder charges against onetime acting Genovese boss Arthur (The Little Guy) Nigro wore a wire against his own brother, and tape recorded incriminating conversations that linked his sibling to a family bookmaking operation.

    According to secret FBI documents, Bologna, a longtime Nigro crony, taped several discussions with Charles Bologna, who is described in the documents as an important player in gambling ventures linked to the Genovese and Luchese crime families.

    Several times during a 12-month stretch in 2007 and 2008, Big John drove to his brother’s house, used his cell phone to announce his arrival and got Charles to come out and talk Arthur Nigrofreely in the comfort and security of his car, according to FBI documents obtained by Gang Land.

    On Sept. 18, 2008, for example, Big John delivered Charles $1600 from accused bookmaker Marcus (Mark) Caio and duly recorded it for his FBI handlers. He even kept the wire running as the brothers tried – without success – to recall Caio’s phone number for the absent minded bookie, who had forgotten it. 

    Coincidentally, a month before that episode, Charles was arrested on unrelated gambling and money laundering charges by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, and released on $100,000 bail. Unlike Caio, who is a codefendant of Nigro, Charles Bologna has not been charged in the Manhattan Federal Court indictment.

    Big John Bologna & Big Al BrunoFBI spokesman Jim Margolin declined to answer any questions about the Bologna Brothers Tapes. Neither would Charles Bologna’s attorney, Brian Gioffre, who said he had “heard rumors” that Big John had tape recorded his client, but could not confirm whether it was true. (Big John Bologna with capo Big Al Bruno in 2002, a year before Bruno was whacked.)

    Meanwhile, said Gioffre, his client, who was indicted this month on the state gambling charges, was planning to plead innocent to the New Jersey charges in the coming days.


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    This Week In Gang LandJune 3, 2010

    Feds: Oust Lawyer Corozzo; Check Out Mob Lawyer Fees

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Lawyer Joseph CorozzoAs they do virtually every time he picks up a client in a Gambino family case, the feds have moved to oust mob lawyer Joseph Corozzo from the Manhattan racketeering indictment that accuses mobsters of using a 15-year-old prostitute in a sex-trafficking operation.

    Last week, however, in addition to repeating many allegations they have tossed at Corozzo over the years– and adding a couple new ones – prosecutors also cited possible conflicts of interest for six other attorneys in the case. They also petitioned Judge Lewis Kaplan to determine exactly who hired the lawyers for all 14 defendants in the case – and who is paying their legal fees.

    Prosecutors also asked Kaplan to inquire whether any defendants were coerced to retain certain attorneys by other defendants through illegal cash payments, threats or promises. Such a “third-party fee arrangement” could push a lawyer’s primary allegiance to the person who paid the fee rather than the attorney’s official client, say assistant U.S. attorneys Elie Honig and Steve Kwok.

    Jo Jo CorozzoIn court papers, the prosecutors also question whether the hiring of Corozzo – whose dad, also named Joseph (left) and known as JoJo, is the family’s consigliere – by defendant Michael Scarpaci was really an effort by the mob to determine whether Scarpaci won an unusual prison furlough to attend the christening of his daughter because he was “cooperating with the government.”

    This kind of request by the feds is unheard of in Gang Land, but prosecutors say it is also based on the fact that three other defendants who claimed to be indigent and in need of a court-appointed attorney when they were first arrested, later announced that they had retained their own lawyers.

    “Although there is nothing  per se improper about a defendant obtaining help from third parties to help defray legal expenses, courts have recognized that third-party fee arrangements – particularly if the third party is a codefendant – may give rise to a conflicted representation,” the prosecutors wrote in their request for a full-blown hearing on the issue.

    Thomas OreficeAnother factor that called for a judicial inquiry was a tape-recorded remark that mobster Thomas Orefice (right) made last year, prosecutors wrote. On March 6, 2009, Orefice told a turncoat that years ago he had hired Vincent Romano – who represents codefendant Suzanne Porcelli in the current case – to defend a cohort arrested by police on Staten Island, where many of the defendants live.

    “Vinny Romano was the lawyer that we used. I hired him for the kid,” Orefice told the wired-up undercover operative whom Gang Land has previously identified as a convicted sex-offender, Jude Buoneto.

    Romano has told the government that he represented Orefice about 15 years ago, but “does not recall whether Orefice ever paid Romano’s legal fees to represent another person,” according to the court papers. Prosecutors say that in order for Romano to remain in the case, both Orefice and Porcelli would have to waive their right to contest any negative outcome due to a possible conflict of interest the lawyer may have in representing Porcelli in the current case.

    Prosecutors say that five other defense attorneys have similar conflicts of interest involving their prior representation of witnesses or other Gambino mobsters that require the defendants to waive any future claim that the conflict affected them adversely in the event they are convicted at trial.

    The most glaring of the other conflicts involves attorney Mathew Mari. He represents mob associate Onofrio (Noel) Modica, who is charged with racketeering and a 1987 double homicide. In the late 1990s, Mari represented Buoneto, then 19, and wangled a no-jail, misdemeanor plea deal following his indictment on felony sexual abuse charges involving a young girl.

    Jude BuonetoModica and Buoneto know each other, but because Mari has promised not to use or disclose any confidential information he gleaned from his representation of Buoneto, and has agreed to allow co-counsel Gerald McMahon to cross-examine the turncoat at trial, prosecutors are not seeking to bounce Mari from the case.

    The same goes for attorney James DiPietro, who represents an extortion victim in the case as well as a defendant charged in an unrelated extortion, and for three lawyers who represented John (Junior) Gotti in three of the four trials at which the former Junior Don stymied the government’s efforts to convict him of racketeering and other charges.

    The possible conflicts of interest involving the three attorneys – Charles Carnesi, who represents the top mobster in the case, capo Daniel Marino; Seth Ginsberg, the attorney for Orefice, as well as John Meringolo – can all be waived by their current clients, wrote Honig and Kwok.

    The conflicts involving Corozzo, however, are too many and too serious to overlook, say the prosecutors, who allege:

    Corozzo is a mob associate and “house counsel” for the Gambino crime family; he has obstructed justice in the past; a former client will be a witness at trial; prosecutors intend to play a recording in which Marino states that “Corozzo might be arrested shortly,” and his father and uncle Nicholas are leaders in the “charged racketeering enterprise,” the Gambino crime family.

    Elie HonigBesides, write Honig (right) and Kwok, his client “will still have at least two other retained, conflict-free attorneys of his own choosing” to represent him in the case.

    “We’re going to fight it,” said Corozzo, telling Gang Land that he will soon file papers opposing the government’s motion. “My client tells me he has compete confidence in me. I believe he is innocent, and I wish to represent him.”

    Other lawyers either declined to comment or said they would respond in court. Two attorneys, who each asked not to be identified, said asking lawyers about their fees was “reasonable” in the cases of the defendants who switched from court-appointed to retained counsel but that a blanket query regarding fees to all lawyers in the case was “unreasonable.”

    Judge: No Murder Talk At
    Franzese Racketeering Trial

    John (Sonny) Franzese Prosecutors will have to convict Colombo mobster John (Sonny) Franzese of racketeering and extortion charges based on evidence concerning the crimes he is charged with in this Millennium – not the legendary gangster’s ramblings about his prowess as a mob hitman decades ago.

    Brooklyn Federal Judge Brian Cogan also ruled that prosecutors will not be able to use any of Sonny’s macabre suggestions to dispose of murder victims by chopping up their bodies and cooking the severed body parts in microwave ovens before carting them off to a dump.

    The ruling banning all murder talk between the nonagenarian gangster and cooperating witness Gaetano (Guy) Fatato seemed to pave the way for a separate trial for codefendant Orlando (Ori) Spado, a Los Angeles-based gangster who was on the outs with the 93-year-old Franzese.

    When Franzese’s lawyer Richard Lind sought assurances that Spado’s attorney would not question Fatato about tape recorded conversations in which Colombo capo Michael Catapano stated that he had gotten “authorization” from Sonny,  purportedly to whack Spado, his attorney, Kelley Sharkey, objected, stating that was a crucial aspect of her defense.

    Michael CatapanoAnd if the government, which has been implying it might opt to introduce the tapes without calling Fatato, did decide not to call him to the stand, Sharkey assured Cogan that she would call him as a witness. Sharkey raised the issue of a severing her client’s case from Franzese’s trial.

    “I’m sure the government’s position is that I should let the murder evidence in, and we wouldn’t have this problem,” said Cogan, anticipating objections from prosecutors, before adding, “But I’m not, so we do.”

    Cogan said he would issue a final ruling on the matter this week, after reviewing last-ditch papers from prosecutors, which were due before the close of business yesterday.

    Jury selection is slated to begin Monday.

     

    Junior: I'm Open Minded Now

    Junior Gotti60 Minutes aired its second installment of the Junior Gotti story (as told by Junior Gotti) last Sunday, and while there were no new and exciting revelations, the self-described “loyal son” did share a couple of anecdotes about himself and his father during his 45 minutes on the little screen.

    The biggest difference between the Junior Gotti of days gone by and now?

    “I’m more open minded with regard to a lot of things. The old me? My wife wasn’t permitted to get on the phone and talk business with a guy, for crying out loud. If she had to call up the exterminator, and it was a guy, I would have told her – in the past – ‘Doesn’t he have a secretary you can talk to? What do you have to get on the phone with a guy for? There’s no need for this. No! Don’t do it again.’ That’s the old me. That’s old school, and that’s the way I was raised.”

    We didn’t learn too much about his new age progression, but we did learn that years before he married his wife Kim in 1990, while he was an up-and-coming wiseguy, he was a pretty tough guy, who was instructed by his old man, “never to take a backward step” during a fight.

    John GottiThe lesson was accompanied by a few slaps and cracks by his father and his cronies at the Bergin Hunt And Fish Club after they learned that Junior and his friends had turned and ran when they were getting their asses kicked in a barroom brawl.

    “My father turns and looks at me, and says, ‘You don’t EVER take a backward step. You don’t EVER retreat. You understand me! You get into a situation like that, you leave it there, or you let them leave you there. That’s the way it works. You fight until you can’t fight no more.'”

    Back in the day, after that learning experience from his dad, he said with a bit of a swagger, he was “never known to take a backward step” and could handle himself in the streets.

    “Was I a tough guy? I thought I was. I thought I was pretty good. I had a reputation in the neighborhood. I was good with my hands, very good with my hands. I had my father’s temper, I would guess. Yeah. Sure.”

    He conceded that there was more than one reason why other bigger, and maybe even tougher guys, may not have taken him on, though:

    “I guess there were multiple reasons. A) You knew you were going to get into a fight….And B) Because, I guess, my father, my uncles, the name.”

    John AliteGotti, who lost his cool during his last trial and exploded in fury against key prosecution witness John Alite, (left) and who called Alite a “trash pail” who was chased from Howard Beach earlier in the show, conceded that when push came to shove, he was still the same guy as he was in the day.

    “I don’t think that’s changed. I still got my temper, unfortunately.”


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    This Week In Gang LandJune 10, 2010

    Nice-guy Tico Pays The Price

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Even in the Mafia, no good deed goes unpunished. 

    At least twice, aging Genovese capo Anthony (Tico) Antico (right) pulled Michael (Mickey) Souza’s mob chestnuts out of the fire. Once he even went to bat for the Colombo wildman after Souza outraged rival gangsters by dropping his pants in a mob nightclub. 

    Thanks to his generosity, Antico, 74, is now likely to have Souza as a key witness against him in his upcoming trial. Gang Land has learned that the feds have very quietly drafted Souza, a violent Colombo soldier, to play on their team and that they are planning to unleash him next month at the trial of the elderly Genovese wiseguy who is charged in the botched robbery slaying of a jeweler two years ago.

    Souza, a Staten Island gangster who was arrested a few days after he was heard testing a new silencer he was going to use to whack a rival thug, has no details that link Antico to the killing of jeweler Louis Antonelli, according to court papers filed in the case.

    Louis AntonelliInstead, prosecutors say they have enlisted the turncoat mobster to testify about several lesser, older charges they have recently added to the indictment, including a 1996 extortion of a deli-owner and gambling charges. Souza, 42, will also relate how Antico helped the then-budding wiseguy escape “various organized crime disputes” with rival gangsters over the years, including two that could easily have ended with him dead.

    The ex-Colombo soldier  is also likely to talk about lots of mob violence form the witness stand, but most of it will be stuff that he carried out or ordered.

    On December 7, 2006, for example, a few days after he told a Bonanno family rival, “I am going to smash your fucking head in,” he was tape recorded telling a cohort that  his test earlier that day of a new silencer-equipped handgun he was going to use to kill his victim, had gone very well.

    “Souza noted that the silencer sounded ‘beautiful, like an air duct,’” according to a detention memo written by assistant U.S. attorney John Buretta, when Souza and nine underlings were arrested a few days later and DEA agents seized the brand new silencer under the dashboard of a Souza’s 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

    Charged with racketeering, drug dealing, home invasions, and the murder plot – and facing a mandatory minimum of 30 years behind bars if convicted – Souza was ordered detained as a danger to the community. Last November, according to court records, Souza was quietly released on a $500,000 bond, and subsequently disappeared from the federal prison database.

    Sources say Souza, a close associate of turncoat Colombo capo Dino (Big Dino) Calabro, (right) secretly pleaded guilty last year and is cooperating with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Antico’s case and in several other pending investigations.

    When Souza takes the stand, however, he’s sure to get some tough needling by Antico defense attorney Gerald McMahon about his own outrageous conduct. He’ll surely ask Souza  about the time in the 1990s when Antico interceded with DeCavalcante mobsters who were planning to kill Souza following a knife fight at Beaches, a Staten Island nightclub.

    During that same time frame, Tico also had to save Souza from retaliation by Bonanno and DeCavalcante wiseguys after he exposed himself at the same nightclub. The government’s new recruit was “engaging in a lewd act which offended patrons of Beaches,” according to prosecutors Jack Dennehy, Nicole Argentieri and Stephen Frank, who detailed both incidents in court papers.

    The FBI, DEA and prosecutors declined to discuss Souza. Antico attorney, McMahon, who is pretty good at getting government cooperators to blow their cool on the stand, said: “He certainly ain’t no smoking gun when it comes to Antony Antico. They are pulling out all the stops, and it smacks of desperation. We feel good about the case and are confident of an acquittal.”

    Salvatore ManiscalcoAntico, who was implicated in the robbery-killing of  jeweler Louis Antonelli soon after the slaying but not charged until March, has maintained all along that he had nothing to do with the caper. Sources say that during several talks with FBI agents, who quizzed him improperly while he was in prison, Antico emphatically denied allegations by turncoat Salvatore (Sally Fish) Maniscalco (left) that Tico had orchestrated the robbery.

    In the first place, Antico told the agents, the jeweler was a friend who would give him anything Tico asked him for. And if he did want to rob him, Antico told agents George Khouzami and Jennifer King, he would never have selected a bunch of young, trigger happy thugs who shot the jeweler to death and then ran off leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewels lying alongside his body.

    In court papers, prosecutors denied any prior knowledge of the agents’ questioning of Antico and agreed not to use the  gangster's remarks at trial after defense lawyers McMahon and Mathew Mari charged they were illegally obtained from their client and petitioned Judge Carol Amon to suppress them from the case.

    Son Betrays Sonny Franzese

    Sonny & John Jr. FranzeseLooking around, listening to John Franzese Jr. tell the “famous story” about the time his father put two guns in his pocket, kissed wife Tina goodbye – in case he never came back – and left to help Crazy Joe Gallo put an end to the 1960s Colombo war, it was almost as if the smiling Franzese and his family was reminiscing about the good old days back in Roslyn, Long Island.

    His brother Michael, the onetime Yuppie Don, who tutored John Jr. abut “the life” until he was 16, was there with two of his sons. His mother, other relatives and close friends were there, including cousin John (Johnny Cap) Capolino, who was sitting at the table with Sonny, the legendary Don of the Franzese clan. Even cousin Michael Catapano stopped in for a quick visit.

    Michael CatapanoBut Junior Franzese’s trip down memory lane yesterday was the worst fate that a powerful mobster like John (Sonny) Franzese could ever suffer – even if he goes down to defeat on the racketeering charges for which he currently is on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.

    The betrayal – the first time that a New York wiseguy suffered the indignity of having his son testify against him – became official when Junior, now 50, looked over at his 93-year-old father, pointed a damning finger, and said: “He’s sitting there in the yellow shirt.”

    He became an FBI informer in the mid 1990s in an effort to help his father, he testified.

    “I was hoping to give my father more time without getting arrested” for violating parole by associating with fellow gangsters, he said. “The FBI kept telling me a certain group they were interested in. If I gave them up, my father wouldn’t be immediately be arrested.”

    Michael FranzeseBut young Franzese, who “had a brand new car every year” and never wanted for cash, suffered from the rich kids disease brought on by cocaine and alcohol. 

    “I kept getting high,” he testified during his first day on the stand.

    In 2001, he moved to Los Angeles, where he lived with his brother, Michael, (right) a former Colombo family capo who had disgraced his father back in the 1980s, when he cooperated with the feds. But Michael, who now preaches against the wiseguy life, but didn’t give the feds any dirt about his old man, and never testified against any mobsters, has made his peace with his father.

    Several times, when Sonny got up to visit the men’s room during his son John’s testimony, he walked slowly out of court with one hand on a cane and the other on Michael’s shoulder.

    “I was always very close to my dad,” he said during one break. “I always wanted to make peace with him.”

    Johnny Cap CopolinoHis father’s buddies and reputed crime family associates also seem to have made their peace with Michael. He exchanged pleasantries with his cousin Michael Catapano, who pleaded guilty earlier in the case, and two of his dad’s codefendants, cousin Johnny Cap, and his father’s associate, Joseph DiGorga.

    DiGorga, by the way, uttered one of the best lines of the day when Pulitzer Prize winning Author/Columnist Jimmy Breslin growled, “How you doing?”

    “How’m I doin? I’m sitting in a chair, waiting for them to lock me up,” DiGorga smiled.

    Michael Franzese was obviously not happy about his brother’s actions, but declined to criticize him, stating, “He’s my brother, and I love him.”

    Their mom, Christina Capobianco-Franzese, 75, and still feisty, expressed undying love and support for John Jr., who, she said, lives with his daughter by his girlfriend.

    “He told me he’s not testifying against his father, he’s testifying against that life,” she said.

    Once the most ardent outspoken supporter of her husband, Tina says she tossed Sonny out of her life, and told reporters she was very upset with his lawyer, Richard Lind, who said in his opening statements that Sonny was a washed up underling whom she beat up and otherwise abused.

    “I don’t slap,” she said. “I’d rather knife him.”

     

    Mob Lawyer Rips 'Fearful' Feds

    Lawyer Joseph CorozzoHis lawyer colleagues sat on their hands, but combative mob lawyer Joseph Corozzo came out swinging against prosecutors who are seeking to oust him from a major 14-defendant racketeering case involving murders and sex trafficking charges involving a 15-year-old girl.

    The pugnacious attorney, whose imprisoned father Joseph (JoJo) is the reputed consigliere of the Gambino crime family, obviously took it personal last week when Manhattan federal prosecutors alleged, among other things, that he was “house counsel” to his father’s crime family.

    Corozzo, who represented the late family boss John Gotti during his final years, ripped the feds for making erroneous, disingenuous, and “malicious claims” that have been “raised previously and rejected by other courts.” He also suggested that the feds are just plain scared to go up against him.

    “The last client represented by counsel facing similar charges in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) and prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorney Elie Honig resulted in a full acquittal of any wrongdoing,” Corozzo said in his reply to a government request to disqualify him from representing a defendant in the case.

    Ciro Perrone“Counsel has a long and successful track record of defending clients in both the federal and state courts,” wrote Corozzo, citing an acquittal he won for Paul Kahl, the son-in-law of Genovese capo Ciro Perrone, (left) at the conclusion of a hard-fought racketeering trial of Perrone and three others in 2006.  The jury acquitted Kahl and a second defendant, but hung 10-2 for acquittal on Perrone and the fourth defendant.

     “To detract from this success” by spouting “wild speculation and conjecture” that he had been hired by the Gambino crime family to stop a mob associate from cooperating “is an affront to every criminal defense lawyer,” wrote Corozzo.

     The attorney asserted that the allegations raised by Honig and co-prosecutor Steve Kwok against him are stale, disproved or irrelevant. He asked Judge Lewis Kaplan to reject the government’s effort to get him out of the case.

    Any potential conflict of interest that Corozzo might have due to his prior representation of wiseguys or cooperating witnesses – just like the conflicts of six other lawyers in the case – could be easily waived by his client, mob associate Michael Scarpaci, said the attorney.

    In the final analysis, wrote Corozzo, “Mr. Scarpaci remains in the best position to decide whether counsel is fit to represent him.”

    Prosecutors Honig and Kwok (right) fired back, scoffing at the notion that they have anything to fear from Corozzo's courtroom prowess.  The feds said that they would prefer him to remain on the case, but were moved to disqualify him for legal reasons, not for any tactical advantage.

    They cited their own scorecard of three guilty verdicts, including Perrone’s retrial, that they won against Corozzo’s law firm. “This record indicates that, were strategic or tactical considerations relevant, the government would, if anything, prefer that Mr. Corozzo and his firm not be disqualified here,” they wrote.

    Gang Land isn’t the referee in this fight, but it’s worth noting that Corozzo wasn’t representing the defendants in the three government wins cited by prosecutors. The real ref, Judge Kaplan, has yet to schedule a hearing about the matter.

    Meanwhile, none of the other lawyers for the 14 defendants – a total of 17 all together – have chimed in on the government’s unusual request that the judge question all of them about who hired them and who is paying their legal fees. This includes just arrived heavyweight defense attorney Gerald Shargel – who has joined Charles Carnesi as co-counsel for Gambino capo Daniel Marino – the lead defendant in the case.

    That’s a hearing worth attending.

     

    G-Man Prosecutor Scored In 1995 'Shameful' Murder Case

    Remember Michael Vecchione, the chief rackets prosecutor for Brooklyn D.A. Joe Hynes who used a half-baked story from a mob moll to indict an FBI agent for four mob murders?

    Vecchione was back in the news this week when a federal judge in Brooklyn called the DA’s  office “shameful” in its handling of the 1995 prosecution of a young Brooklyn man, Jabbar Collins, for the slaying of a rabbi.

    Unlike retired G-man Lyndley DeVecchio, whose indictment Vecchione was forced to toss mid-trial when his key witness was exposed as a storyteller whose facts changed over the years, Collins was found guilty and spent 16 years behind bars before Hynes threw out his indictment this week. Reporter Tom Robbins has all the details in two recent accounts he did for the Village Voice.


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    This Week In Gang LandJune 17, 2010

    Songbird Son Slams Sonny;
    Mom: It's Redemption For Both

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Sonny Franzese

    A big hurdle the feds have to overcome in their prosecution of legendary gangster John (Sonny) Franzese is getting jurors to look past whatever disdain they acquired for the mobster’s spoiled-rotten, drug-addled, stool-pigeon son during his four days on the witness stand.

    As distasteful as it may have been to listen to John Franzese Jr. spew out convoluted and conflicting reasons for his testimony against his father – and admit that he co-authored a tell-all book to cash in on his family lineage – the jury also heard Sonny acknowledge, from his own lips, his Mafia ties. Jurors also heard the legendary 93-year-old Mafioso implicate himself in a few crimes as well.

    There wasn’t a whole lot of evidence – there was no so-called “smoking gun” confession from the senior Franzese. But his turncoat son managed to capture some significant admissions for his FBI handlers while wearing a wire against his trusting dad five years ago. For example:

    n   In the earliest conversation that was played, a March 10, 2005 chat,  Sonny discerned correctly that Bonanno wiseguys who had disappeared had not been killed, but were hiding out because “they must have got information” that the feds were about to make a bust. Sonny also told his son to closely monitor the shakeout from a major FBI takedown of Gambino mobsters: “It’s not a question that we’re interfering with their business,” he said. “It’s a question of their business could affect us…all five families could get locked up.”

    n  That same day, talking about an overdue extortion payment that John Jr. failed to collect, Sonny said angrily, “I would have grabbed Carmine and told him, ‘Look, you motherfucker rat bastard, go out there and get the money and bring it here. No twenty five (hundred). Five Thousand.’ And if he don’t give it to you, leave him on the floor.”

    n  Sonny was also implicated in shakedowns of an Albertson, Long Island pizzeria and two Manhattan topless joints in tape recorded conversations in which John Jr. snared two codefendants – cohort Joseph (Joe D) DiGorga and second cousin John (Johnny Cap) Capolino.

    John Franzese Jr.During a discussion about the extortion of the Penthouse strip club in Manhattan, jurors also heard Sonny, along with Joe D, explain to John Jr. (left) that successful shakedowns require finesse, not bravado. First, said DiGorga, they will float the idea that other mobsters were moving in on the club, “and let it hang there,” and then let the club owner seek Sonny & Company out to pay them to keep the imaginary hoods away.

    They completed their lesson about modern-day extortions almost like a longtime husband and wife team might, with Sonny completing DiGorga’s thoughts and finishing his sentences.

    “You can’t go in and bang their brains out,” said DiGorga.
    “No,” said Sonny.
    “You gotta go in,” began DiGorga.
    “Slow,” ended Sonny.
    “You gotta make yourself be known, you gotta be nice and easy, you gotta take it easy,” said  DiGorga.
    “Yeah,” said Sonny.

    Crazy Joe GalloThe last taped conversation prosecutors played for the jury, one John Jr. recorded on October 28, 2005, led to his courtroom recollection of the “famous story” that Gang Land mentioned last week, about the time that Sonny put two guns in his pocket, kissed his wife goodbye, and went to see Crazy Joe Gallo, (right) prepared for the worst back in the1960s.

    In that discussion, Sonny proclaimed: “Oh yeah, he shot, Joe killed guys, no questions about it,” at the end of the excerpt that Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan ruled could be played for the jury, over the objection of defense lawyer Richard Lind, who has managed to keep all references to murders by Franzese out of the case.

    Unable to get any mention of killings by Franzese into evidence, prosecutors Rachel Nash and Cristina Posa have gotten other murder talk into the case, but that conversation could turn out to be a double-edged sword for the feds. The main thrust of the discussion can easily be viewed as duplicitous efforts by John Jr. to snare his father for benefactors who have forked over more than $400,000 in support payments – most of it in medical expenses – to him between 2005 and 2010.

    Jurors heard Sonny utter the “Joe killed guys” words at the end of a talk that began with John Jr. reporting how he had just seen and heard Albert Gallo, the lone-surviving Gallo brother, berate and abuse his nephew, Stevie, for no reason. Then jurors heard Sonny express support for Larry Gallo’s beleaguered son, and disgust for his abusive uncle.

    Sonny & John Jr. Franzese“I was embarrassed for him. It was horrible dad,” said John. Jr.
    “That’s because he was a mutt, John.”
    “Albert?”
    “Naturally, John. What the hell, would I do that to you, John?”

    Obviously, Sonny wouldn’t. Even after learning that his son had fingered him in 2000 – the fourth of his five federal parole violations – Sonny took his HIV-positive son back into the fold. In return, John Jr. betrayed him again, and caused his father’s fifth parole violation, and 18 more months behind bars, as well as the indictment for which he is now on trial.

    There are more witnesses to come, and additional discussions in which Sonny was tape recorded in allegedly incriminating talk by turncoat mob associate Gaetano (Guy) Fatato.

    When it’s over, Brooklyn prosecutors hope Sonny ends up like Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese Sr. did three years ago when Frank Calabrese Jr. tape recorded his father and then took the stand against him at trial in the Windy City – convicted and behind bars for the rest of his life.

    Tina Franzese, who hijacked Sonny’s wheelchair last week and implored him to plead guilty and spare their son any further ordeal, was banished from the courtroom. She voiced support for her son this week as she watched the case proceed on a TV feed in a small unused office six floors beneath the courtroom, where her son admitted writing his unpublished work, The John Franzese Story: Family, Crime, Drugs, Redemption.

    “This is his redemption, and it’s his father’s too,” she said, noting that for all the ways that Lind and lawyers Kenneth Paul and Raymond Colon had impugned her son’s motives, they could not alter the tape-recorded words that just might sink her estranged husband.

    Tina FranzeseWitnesses, she said, “They lie on those witness stands. My husband was framed [for a bank robbery conspiracy in 1967,] everybody knows that. But did you notice that no one caught him (John Jr.) with a lie? It’s all on tape.”

    That may be true. But there’s one more hurdle the feds have to overcome. In order to find Sonny Franzese guilty, a panel of savvy New York jurors will have to be willing to impose a death behind bars sentence to a very old man whom they have watched struggle out of his chair about eight times a day – and with the help of an aide and a cane – hobble to the bathroom to pee.

    Editor’s Note: Veteran newsman Tom Robbins spent a few days watching the trial – and talking to Tina Franzese – the family’s spitfire matriarch, and filed an insight-filled report about the dysfunctional Franzese clan in this week’s Village Voice.

    Turncoat: Some Funny Stuff Happened At Funeral Home

    Michael Souza

    Turncoat Colombo mobster Michael (Mickey) Souza, the latest wiseguy defector we told you about last week, will disclose some violent activity that aging Genovese mobster Anthony (Tico) Antico allegedly ordered when he takes the stand next month.

    The alleged victim? A funeral parlor. 

    Souza, Antico and another mobster, John Giglio, enjoyed a few laughs after the Souza crew finished wrecking the joint. But it was no laughing matter for the butt of the joke, mob associate Robert Dacunto. Prosecutors say he was “accidentally knocked unconscious” at the funeral home on the Bronx-Yonkers border.

    In court papers they wrote that Dacunto, who was one of 120 defendants in the huge “Mob on Wall Street” bust in 2000, was collateral damage a few years earlier, when, at Tico’s direction, Souza and “others entered the funeral home’s office and broke furniture and various objects in the funeral home.”

    The court papers do not say whether Dacunto, 48, a longtime Genovese associate who served 16 months in prison for securities fraud in the 2000 case, was part of Souza’s crew of funeral home marauders, or was at the otherwise unidentified location for other reasons when it was trashed. And neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers would discuss the issue.

    As Gang Land disclosed last week, Souza, 41, will testify that Antico, 74, protected him from retaliation from rival wiseguys several times during the 1990s, including the time that DeCavalcante and Bonanno mobsters were looking to punish him for dropping his pants and “engaging in a lewd act” at a mob run, Staten Island nightclub.

    In addition to Souza, prosecutors also plan to trot out the FBI’s oft-used turncoat Gambino capo, Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo, in an effort to convict Antico for the 2008 botched robbery killing of jeweler Louis Antonelli on Staten Island at a racketeering trial that is set to begin on July 6.

    Mikey Scars will establish, prosecutors say, that while Antico has always been a little-known, low-key wiseguy, DiLeonardo learned firsthand, shortly after he was inducted into the Gambino family on Christmas Eve in 1988, that the Brooklyn mobster was a powerful capo.

    Mikey Scars DiLeonardoIt happened a day or two after Mikey Scars threatened to throw a guy who just happened to be the son of a “powerful high-level member of the Genovese family” through a window because he was dating a woman whom a DiLeonardo buddy was also seeing.

    Tico approached Mikey Scars “to extract an apology” for his actions, and while the court papers don’t say what happened next, it’s safe to assume that DiLeonardo apologized profusely, no matter what he says about his confrontation with Antico on the witness stand.

     

    Appeals Court: Wiseguy Did It;
    But Not Guilty As Charged

    Victor CollettiA rich and powerful – but very low key Genovese crime family soldier from Queens – received some good news from a state appeals court the other day, even though the high court ruled that prosecutors had submitted plenty of evidence to prove that he was guilty of enterprise corruption.

    The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn threw out the conviction of Victor Colletti, 74, because Queens prosecutors failed to properly identify the name of the bookmaking operation that he was charged with heading in the five year old indictment.

    In a unanimous five-page ruling, the intermediate appeals court heeded the arguments of attorney Sarita Kedia, threw out Colletti’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

    Unless the Queens District Attorney’s Office wins an unusual reversal of a unanimous Appellate Division decision from the state’s highest court – the Court of Appeals in Albany – prosecutors will have to win a second trial in order to put the aging gangster behind bars for the first time.

    Colletti, who had the mob juice to win a lucrative Forest Hills car service from the Bonanno crime family at a sitdown during the 12-year reign of that family’s then-powerful boss Joseph Massino, (left) was charged with heading “the Genovese-Bonanno Gambling Organization” in the 2005 indictment that went to trial in 2008.

    At a hard-fought, 10-day trial, however, the justices wrote, “no fact witnesses or wiretap evidence, which clearly demonstrated the defendant’s involvement in illegal gambling,” mentioned the wordy title of the operation that was used in the indictment.

     

    Colletti,who allegedly ran a lucrative, far-flung bookmaking business in conjunction with the Bonannos for many years, was the only one of 17 defendants in the indictment to fight the charges at trial. Colletti, who remains free on bail, had been sentenced to one-to-three years in prison.


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    This Week In Gang LandJune 24, 2010

    Feds: Sonny Asked Mob Pal
    To Help Whack Turncoat Son

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Sonny & John Jr. FranzeseWe thought we’d seen it all in the trial of John (Sonny) Franzese: There was the son, John Franzese Jr., who spent four days testifying about how he wore a wire for the FBI against his own father; there was the mother, Tina Franzese, who showed up in court to support her son against her estranged 93-year old husband. There was the mini-riot that broke out in the hallway between feuding family members, with Franzese Sr. in a wheelchair in the middle, cursing both sides.

    But the most stunning moment yet was the revelation by the feds this week that, a few months after he learned his son was a snitch, Sonny Franzese asked a mob associate to help whack his own off-spring.

    Fortunately, the hit never took place, and the testimony which cooperating witness Gaetano (Guy) Fatato was set to offer, was never heard in court. Once Franzese defense lawyer Richard Lind learned what the witness would say he wisely decided not to call him to the stand.

    But sources confirm to Gang Land that the first known instance of a father looking to have his son killed took place just as federal prosecutors described it in a letter to the court this week.

    John Franzese Jr.The legendary gangster’s fury against his stool pigeon son had been building for months, but it reached a fever pitch on a cold morning in January three years ago, the sources say. That’s when Sonny Franzese allegedly decided to whack his double-crossing namesake son.

    He never got the chance, but according to court papers filed this week by federal prosecutors at his racketeering trial – which resumes Monday with closing arguments – Sonny told a cohort he trusted that he “wanted to kill Franzese Jr.” and asked the underling to be on the hit team.

    Ironically, sources say, Franzese, who was then the “official” underboss of the Colombo family, exploded in anger because he was not arrested for his fifth parole violation in 25 years a day earlier during a scheduled visit the aging mobster had with his parole officer.

    Sources tell Gang Land that Sonny expected to be sent back to prison again because several months earlier, he and his cohorts had been alerted by FBI agents that John Franzese Jr. – who had fingered his old man for the FBI in 2000 but had earned his way back into his father’s graces – had betrayed him again.

    Sonny FranzeseSo when Franzese wasn’t arrested that day, sources say the always scheming mobster believed that the FBI – the longtime nemesis that he has long insisted framed him for a 1950s bank robbery conspiracy – was behind a diabolical plot to encourage his mob cronies to whack him.

    “The FBI is smart,” he railed to an old prison buddy he had taken under his wing, Guy Fatato, explaining that by not arresting him the feds were in fact “letting everyone in the family think” that he okayed his son’s decision to cooperate with the FBI, said one source familiar with the discussion Franzese allegedly had with Fatato.

    “I don’t care,” said Sonny, adding “I’m gonna carry two guns and kill everyone if I have to,” according to the same knowledgeable source.

    Unfortunately for the elderly Franzese, at the time he allegedly uttered those words, Fatato was 15 months into his own  two-year-long sting during which he would ultimately record more than 1000 hours of talk with Sonny & Company on 242 separate occasions, according to testimony by FBI agent Vincent D’Agostino, the “case agent” at Franzese’s trial.

    The alleged murder-plot conversation was not recorded, D’Agostino testified, because Sonny “showed up in his bedroom unannounced and he wasn’t able to activate the device in time.”

    Sonny Franzese & Guy FatatoThe agent gave no details about the conversation, but sources say Fatato was home ill at the time and Franzese stopped by to check on him. The gangster was led to his bedroom by Fatato’s wife, who knew Sonny was an important close associate of her husband.

    During their bedside talk, sources say Franzese cocked his hand in the shape of a gun and told Fatato he might have to “call his son,” and that if the dirty deed had to be done, he wanted Fatato, whom he had been schooling and grooming for his Mafia induction, “to help him do it.”

    In court papers, prosecutors Cristina Posa and Rachel Nash, who were prohibited from introducing evidence about prior murders that Franzese had committed, asked judge Brian Cogan to permit them to bring up the plan to kill his son if the defense called Fatato as a witness, as it had threatened to do.

    Rather than subject Fatato, a duplicitous drug dealer with substantial “baggage” who had a less-than-stellar showing in his only prior stint as a government witness to a grilling by the defense, prosecutors opted to use a smattering of the tape recordings he made while working for the FBI, and not call Fatato as a witness.

    By telling him to stay home, prosecutors ended up with the best of both worlds – especially when defense attorney Lind decided against calling Fatato: They were able to use the tape recorded words of Franzese and his codefendants against them, without permitting his own crimes, and his credibility, to become an issue in the case.

    Sonny Franzese & Guy FatatoAmong many things, the jury heard Sonny tell Guy about the family’s official boss, Carmine (Junior) Persico, identify capo Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli as a major player in the crime family, and discuss his own rank as the “official” number two man in the family, its underboss.

    “I wanna groom you,” he told Fatato in the earliest recording played for the jury, a December 5, 2005 talk. “It takes time, and it’ll take a little time…but I want you to meet everybody.”

    Lind was able to get agent D’Agostino to buttress a contention he offered the jury in his opening statement, and words he is likely to repeat in his closing remarks next week: that Sonny was a very old man who was beaten up and abused by his much younger wife Tina.

    When asked whether Franzese “would be kicked out of his house by his wife,” the agent said he “became aware of that on several occasions.”

    Queried whether Franzese’s “wife would berate him and beat him up,” D’Agostino stated that he hadn’t personally observed that, but “did become aware of that through the tapes,” and later confirmed that through follow up inquiries.

    Tina Franzese“You heard her hitting him, correct?” said Lind.

    “It sounded like that,” he said.

    For the record, Tina Franzese adamantly denied to reporters that she ever struck her husband. “I don’t slap,” she said when she showed up to hear her son's testimony against her husband. “I’d rather knife.”

    NY Bar Owner Tells Of Violent
    Assaults By Sonny's Pals

    Chris CuranovicAs the son’s betrayal of the father and various subplots involving the dysfunctional Franzese family played out during the two week trial, the normal ingredients of mob trials – fear and the threat of violence were understated and unspoken about – right up until the end of the government’s case.

    That’s when prosecutors used dramatic testimony to paint Franzese codefendant Chris Curanovic as a violent mob goon who pummeled two Lower East Side nightclub owners with his fists and tried to nail the hand of one of them into his office desk with a rusty screwdriver.

    The testimony also linked Franzese to the violence – even though he is not specifically charged with extorting Peter Dupre, the owner of Rue B.    

    “He was so angry that he was looking around my office and he spotted a screwdriver that was sitting on a small refrigerator opposite my desk and he picked up the screwdriver and he tried to grab my hand and on my desk he was trying to stab my hand into the desk,” Dupre testified.

    As he pulled his extended hand back towards his chest, Dupre showed how he managed to prevent an enraged Curanovic from driving his hand into his desk: “I, of course, was pulling it (away), you know, recoiling, if you will.”

    Curanovic, who had been to the small Alphabet City club with Franzese several previous times, had showed up at the club unannounced in 2007 with another reputed mob associate, Danny Celaj, and demanded $1500 a week in protection payments, Dupre testified.

    “I instantly reacted with great alarm – because the business doesn’t make enough money to be able to afford that and I tried to explain to them it was a tiny, you know, bar and restaurant,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly pay that much money, just simply didn’t exist, and there was great going back and forth and they kept saying then, ‘What can you afford, how much can you give us.’ And at one point I said maybe $500.”

    After emptying his safe of $200 in singles and fives and scrounging up $300 more from his pockets and the register, he came up with the cash, but his problems were far from over, he explained.

    Several weeks later, when Chris and Danny came for their weekly payoff, and Dupre asked his business partner, Allan Fusco, to be there for moral support, Chris savaged his business partner and threatened him with a knife for some supposed disrespect at the bar a few minutes earlier.

    “The money that we were supposed to give them – the $500 – was downstairs in the safe and so after a period of small talk Danny said, ‘Let’s get the money,’ so we went downstairs,” said Dupre.

    “Chris came down the stairs into the area outside of my office and he was enraged and he grabbed Allan by his shirt and spun him around and jacked him up against the doorway of my office and was roughing him up quite a bit and yelling, and he was accusing him of talking to someone at the bar, and eventually he pulled out a knife,” said Dupre.

    Peter DupreIt had a “rather substantial” blade, he added, about six inches long.

    Following that encounter, Dupre (right) called the cops, who brought in the FBI, who gave him $500 a week to keep the gangsters off his back, he testified.

    Under cross-examination by Curanovic’s lawyer, Marion Seltzer, the bar owner conceded that he made none of the seven payments that totaled $5000 – three were $1000 double payments – were memorialized on the “cameras and recording devices” that the FBI installed in his office to record them for later use at trial.

    In an apparent effort to infer to jurors that Dupre’s account of his terrifying experience was overly dramatic and well-rehearsed, Seltzer brought out that Dupre had an acting role in the long-running TV soap, “As The World Turns,” and numerous big-screen credits, including roles in “Annie Hall,” “Taxi Driver,” and an unmemorable Charles Bronson film in 1972.

    The defense attorney also got Dupre to trumpet his acting abilities when she questioned whether he merely appeared in “crowd scenes” and whether any of the “small independent films” he appeared in during the 1990s were “actually released?”

    “Well, I did one film, for example, called Penny Dreadful which won a series of awards,” he recalled. “It was a 30 minutes film and I had a major speaking part in the credits.”

    Prosecutors hope that the 12 jurors who will decide the fate of Franzese, Curanovic, and codefendants John (Johnny Cap) Capolino and Joseph (Joe D) DiGorga viewed Dupre’s testimony as riveting and true to life when they begin their deliberations next week.

     

    Capo Charged In '92 Rubout

    Genovese capo Anthony (Tony D) Palumbo, the accused leader of the family’s New Jersey rackets, was charged last week with the 1992 murder of a lowly mob associate who made the fatal mistake of robbing social club card games that Palumbo controlled in The Bronx.

    Palumbo, 61, allegedly ordered the execution of Angelo Sangiuolo – a rubout that was carried out by two underlings who shot the victim to death in a moving van on Westchester Avenue as a roaring No. 6 train passed overhead and drowned out the sounds of gunfire.

    Tony D’s indictment for the Sangiuolo murder – which was sanctioned by the family’s late boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante – was not a surprise. Gang Land reported last month that the feds were zeroing in on Palumbo, who was implicated in the murder during the trial of capo Angelo Prisco. Last year, Prisco was convicted of supervising the slaying and driving the getaway car, and sentenced to life in prison.

    Johnny Balls LetoThe triggerman in the hit, mob associate John (Johnny Balls) Leto, testified that at a Russian nightclub in Brooklyn a few months after the killing, Tony D “hugged and kissed” him as a show of appreciation when Prisco introduced him to Palumbo as the “shooter in the situation.”

    Palumbo is set for trial for the murder, as well as unrelated racketeering, extortion and gambling charges that have been pending since 2008, in Manhattan Federal Court on October 25. All 11 codefendants, including former acting boss Daniel (The Lion) Leo, have copped plea deals in the case. Palumbo’s attorney, who must  manage to lose Gang Land’s number whenever we call for comment, told The Post last week that the new murder charges were “more of the same nonsense.”


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    Great reading admin

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    Quote:
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    Great reading admin

    Female Gangster Glad you're enjoying these posts Frankie. You know Admin - I aim to please! I appreciate your feedback too


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    This Week In Gang LandJuly, 1 2010

    Albert Aronne, Legal Mensch
    To The Mob, Dies At 88

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Albert AronneAlbert C. Aronne, a colorful lawyer who played cards on Mulberry Street with the late John Gotti, but who earned his Gang Land bona fides in the social clubs and courthouses of Brooklyn over 50 plus years, died at Cornell-Presbyterian Hospital last week after a short illness. He was 88.

    Aronne never argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court – in fact, Gang Land cannot recall him trying a case in any court in the 30 or so years since we first made his acquaintance – but during his heyday, Aronne used guile, street smarts, moxie and charm to save countless clients many years behind bars.

    “If there’s ever a Hall of Fame for criminal defense lawyers, Al Aronne makes it on the first ballot,” said James DiPietro, a noted Brooklyn-based attorney who worked closely with Aronne from the mid 1980s until he retired a few years ago.

    “He was a great guy and a good lawyer,” said Gustave Newman, one of the many attorneys who paid their respects at the Marine Park Funeral Home before Aronne was laid to rest on Saturday at the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island.

    Over the years, Aronne – who graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1951 and was admitted to the bar the following year – was so well known in downtown Brooklyn that it was impossible to walk alongside him for a block without someone stopping him to say, “Hi Al,” or “Good afternoon Mr. Aronne.”

    On one such stroll, after he had exchanged greetings with a judge, a prosecutor, and a court officer, Aronne said matter-of-factly, with a wink, that the court officer we had just passed had once referred a “connected” relative with a legal problem to him, something that was a bit unusual, Aronne said.

    “I know everyone around here, and everyone knows me, but I get most of those clients on my own,” he said.

    Aronne, who often joked that he became a lawyer because he had so many friends who were criminals, saw his potential pool of clients multiply in the 1970s when he purchased a car wash in the heart of Bensonhurst on 86th Street near 18th Avenue, a cross roads for the Bonanno, Gambino and Colombo crime families.

    Not only did the car wash flourish – no self-respecting wiseguy would be caught dead in a dirty Caddy or Lincoln – the business venture brought him a large number of clients he did not know from his old neighborhood, Marine Park. Gambino family heavyweights Sammy Bull Gravano and Jimmy Brown Failla and Bonanno family stalwart Anthony Spero (left) were among the many car wash customers who met Aronne thereand sought him out about legal clean-ups for themselves and their cohorts.

    At the car wash, and at the social clubs and bars that dotted the area, Aronne always found a way to mention that he was a lawyer, and was quick to hand out a business card with a smile. “Just in case you need it,” he would say, “call any time – day or night – the service will find me.”

    And when the calls came, Aronne always took  the call, and would get to the courthouse.

    “He always did whatever it took to get there, and get there quick, to scope things out, and figure out what the case was really all about, and if he could figure a way to get the guy, whoever he was, a good quick deal,” said one old colleague.

    Sammy Bull Gravano“Every client trusted him implicitly,” said DiPietro. “Al was very loyal to his clients and they in turn were very loyal to him.”

    One reason for the loyalty was his reputation for straight-shooting. He pulled no punches about his clients’ chances at trial. Likewise, if no plea deal could be worked out, he was keenly aware of his own limitations as a trial lawyer.

    “People really came to rely on him,” said Newman. “They knew they could trust him, and his judgment. And they knew he would always bring someone in to try the case who he felt would do the best for his client.”

    “He was a character, the kind of guy who did not forget the friends he grew up with when he became a lawyer,” said Aronne’s son Louis, an attending physician at Cornell-Presbyterian and author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Skinny On Losing Weight Without Being Hungry.”

    “I always encouraged him to write his memoirs, but he would have none of that,” said Dr. Aronne.

    Albert AronneNo surprise there.

    In the private law office in downtown Brooklyn where Aronne met with clients and an occasional newsman, Aronne had hung a blue sail fish with a long beak that he had stuffed after he allegedly boated it on a trip to Acapulco. Pointing at the fish, he’d smile and chortle, “Ooof, if that fish could talk.”

    In addition to his son, Louis, Aronne is survived by his wife of 59 years, Terry, his daughter Adrienne, and four grandchildren.

    Rising Mob Star Dimmed By Too-Good-To-Be-True Scams

    Just two short summers ago, Felice (Phil) Masullo was a rich and rising mob star destined for big things in the powerful Genovese crime family. For the next three-plus years, however, Masullo, 38, will have plenty of time to ponder about what might have been if he hadn’t been snookered by a tapped-out gambler with easy-money schemes. The scams, as Masullo should have known, were too good to be true.

    That was back in 2008 when Masullo, who had been proposed to be “made” a year earlier, was driving around the leader of the family’s extensive New Jersey rackets. His business also had him  meeting regularly with family bigwigs including then-acting boss, Daniel (The Lion) Leo.

    At the time, Masullo, was running lucrative family loansharking and bookmaking operations out of an Italian eatery he and his brothers Anthony and Angelo owned and operated near their homes in the revitalized Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His problems started when  a neighborhood horseplayer Vincent (Vinny Shakes) Marchione, walked in the door. In short order, it all fell apart for Felice, as well as for his helper brothers, Anthony 40, and Angelo, 35.

    Angelo MasulloMarchione was something of a local celebrity: He was praised on Kentucky Derby Day as the guy who turned around the career of Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Derby winner Big Brown. He quickly snared the Masullo brothers in tape recorded conversations that ultimately linked them to drug deals that Vinny Shakes was pretending to take part in.

    Posing as a brokester in need of a stake for a quickie drug deal, Vinny Shakes borrowed $6000 from Masullo the day before the big race. He paid back $7500 on Derby Day. That amounted to  a staggering 25% profit on a one-day loan – an annual rate that shakes out to be more than 9000% interest, something even Bernie Madoff wouldn’t try to sell.

    Anthony MasulloNailed on a variety of drug, money laundering, loansharking and other racketeering charges carrying a maximum of 20 years behind bars, Masullo, and his brothers, opted to take relatively sweet, sentencing guideline plea deals and put the entire Vinny Shakes matter behind them.

    But Manhattan federal prosecutors didn’t want them to forget their dealings with Vinny Shakes Marchione, and reminded them – and the sentencing judge – about the details surrounding the plea deals as well as Felice’s status as an “up-an-coming” Genovese mobster in a hefty 24-page sentencing memo.

    The court papers include a list of proposed members that includes Felice’s name, and the picture below of the Masullo brothers hobnobbing with top family wiseguy Anthony (Tony D) Palumbo (second from left) after a Christmas party thrown by Genovese family elder statesman  Frank (Punchy) Illiano, a former member of a three-capo panel that ran the crime family.

    In the end, things didn’t shake out as badly for the Masullos as they might have.

    Felice, who could have gotten 56 months, was sentenced to 41 months and fined $7500 by Judge Richard Holwell. Anthony took a year and a day, and a $4000 fine; Angelo, who like brother Anthony, faced up to two years behind bars, got seven months and a $4000 fine. All three Masullo brothers will begin doing their time on July 12.

     

    Sonny Should Have Heeded His Own Words & Shut Up

    Sonny Franzese“It doesn’t matter who it is, don’t trust anyone.” – John “Sonny” Franzese

    Now, if Sonny Franzese had just listened to his own advice – he wouldn’t be sweating out a jury verdict on a racketeering charge that could send the 93-year-old mobster back to prison for the rest of his life.

    Franzese uttered his ironically telling words to turncoat gangster Gaetano (Guy) Fatato on September 23, 2005. They were standing in front of Sally D’s, a restaurant in Huntington, Long Island, at the time, according to a secret FBI document obtained by Gang Land. And he was talking about his own son John Junior, who, as mob historians will recount in amazement for years to come, was working as a stool pigeon for the FBI – just like Fatato. 

    John Franzese Jr.The bizarre conversation took place shortly after Sonny introduced Fatato to his son, who had never met Fatato but who had made phone calls and done other favors for him while Fatato was incarcerated at Otisville federal prison with the elder Franzese in the late 1990s, according to a report by FBI agents Joseph DeStefano and Vincent D’Agostino.

    When Fatato thanked John Junior for his help, mentioning in passing that Sonny and Fatato had been behind bars together for two years, to his surprise, he was dressed down for talking out of turn.

    “Sonny immediately pulled him aside and rebuked him for admitting that they had been in jail together,” according to the agents’ report.

    Sonny Franzese & Guy FatatoFatato, who was interested in remaining in the elder Franzese’s good graces, apologized profusely for his gaff, explaining that he “didn’t think it was a problem since he had only been talking to Sonny’s son,” who knew that his father and Fatato had been imprisoned together, the agents wrote.

    That’s when Sonny gave his tough advice, words so true that they’re worth repeating: “It doesn’t matter who it is, don’t trust anyone,” said the usually sage and legendary  gangster. Like John Gotti and so many other wiseguys over the years, though, Sonny often talked a good game instead of keeping his mouth shut


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    This Week In Gang LandJuly 8, 2010

    FBI Agents Fleeced By FBI-Sanctioned Scam Artist

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    It turns out that even FBI agents get hoodwinked by Madoff-style scam artists.

    FBI Director Robert MuellerA self-described retirement expert who hired top federal law enforcement officials to work for him, and who used his alleged friendship with FBI Director Robert Mueller as a sales pitch, fleeced hundreds of federal agents out of at least $34 million in a Ponzi scheme, Gang Land has learned.

    After admitting that his investment schemes were a sham, Wayne McLeod – a Jacksonville, Florida broker, was found shot to death, an apparent suicide. McLeod, 48, killed himself two weeks ago after admitting he was a scam artist. For more than two decades, he had used a mini-Madoff-style scheme that preyed on FBI, DEA and ICE agents so he could enjoy a lavish lifestyle that included luxury homes, cars and a 38-foot boat named “Top Dawg.”

    All told, according to a court-appointed representative for the victims, as many as 300 current and former federal agents in 28 states were ripped-off by McLeod, who was hired by the FBI – as well as the other agencies – to conduct retirement planning seminars that gave him a steady stream of potential victims to steal from.

    Mueller, who did not invest his money with McLeod, vacationed several times at a luxurious condominium that McLeod owned on Amelia Island, an exclusive resort area off Florida, about 30 miles northeast of Jacksonville. But Mueller spokesman Michael Kortan told Gang Land that Mueller paid for his stays at McLeod’s condo, and that the vacation spot was selected and arranged by a travel agent, not Mueller, who did not know McLeod.

    The FBI spokesman left many questions unanswered, but issued a sharp denial that Mueller had any ties to McLeod. Here’s Kortan’s full statement:

    Wayne McLeod“Director Mueller contracted with a property management company to rent vacation condominiums on Amelia Island occasionally over the past several years. The management company may at times have provided a unit owned by Wayne McLeod, as well as units owned by other individuals at other times. The units rented by Director Mueller were assigned by their availability and no other criteria. The Director had no personal or professional relationship with Mr. McLeod, nor did he engage in any financial dealings of any kind with him.” 

    Kortan wouldn’t say who approved using McLeod as a retirement speaker, how much he was paid, or how many seminars he gave over the years.

    Overall, it’s a pretty embarrassing moment for the agency charged with protecting the rest of us from scam artists. Sources say several New York based FBI agents invested money with McLeod, who conducted FBI-sponsored retirement seminars in New York and New Rochelle in 2006 and 2007. Several agents invested with McLeod, but Gang Land was unable to reach them.

    Jeff  Westcott, a spokesman for the Jacksonville FBI, told Gang Land that there “are FBI agents at various levels” who were taken by McLeod, but he declined to identify them, their positions, or where they worked. The FBI, added Westcott, is still investigating the scam, and among other things, searching for assets that McLeod may have hidden away.

    “It’s outrageous that the FBI gave this guy entrée to hard-working men and women,” said one retired New York mob-busting agent whose former colleagues attended a seminar and invested their “hard-earned” money with McLeod.

    “He would tell people that Bob Mueller was a friend of his,” said another retired agent who spoke only on condition that his name not be used. “The guy was a real charmer. He would say that he and Bob were best of friends and that Bob and his wife used to stay at his place all the time. The worst thing about this is that this creep scammed hard-working GS13s and GS14s,” he said, using the official government classifications for street agents and supervisors.

    In 1988, according to an SEC complaint, McLeod began offering investors “guaranteed, tax-free returns of eight to ten per cent annually” in return for long-term investments in a bond fund that was managed by his company, Federal Employee Benefits Group, Inc.

    “In reality, the purported bond fund, which McLeod called the FEBG Bond Fund, did not exist,” said the SEC complaint, which noted that McLeod “simply used new investor funds” to pay interest to other investors and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle until the bubble burst last month.

    Government agencies paid as much as $15,000 to hire McLeod for a seminar, said the SEC complaint.

    “Between 2005 and June, 2010 alone, McLeod spent more than $1 million on promotional expenses to bolster his image in the community, including paying for box seats and an annual trip for him and 40 friends to the Super Bowl,” said the complaint. A tireless self-promoter, McLeod got a local Fox TV station to do a feature about his trip to the Super Bowl in February, even as some investors began to question McLeod’s FEBG Bond Fund.

    “He was the devil,” said DEA agent Tony Marotta, a supervisor in the Detroit office of the DEA, which had many more victims than the FBI.

    “He’d name drop all of those top people whose names you knew. He was the DEA’s retirement expert. How could you not trust this guy,” Marotta said this week, according to the Jacksonville Times Union, which broke the story and continues to investigate and report on the case.

    Wayne McLeodOn June 22, some five days after he admitted to SEC investigators that his FEBG Bond Club was a fraud, McLeod was found shot to death in his car, a shooting that authorities have said was self-inflicted.

    Meanwhile, the future is bleak for the law enforcement officials who were taken by McLeod.

    Less than $10,000 remains in the coffers of Federal Employee Benefit Group, according to Michael Goldberg, a Ft. Lauderdale attorney who was appointed to represent McLeod’s victims, and is working to locate and freeze any McLeod assets for dispersal among his victims.

    “But the assets appear to be minimal when you compare it to the amounts that were stolen,” said Goldberg, adding that there may be $4 million in assets, including insurance, that he can seize for his clients. “Nearly 98 per cent of them,” he said, are current or retired FBI, DEA, or ICE agents.

    Goldberg says he is also investigating whether any former McLeod employees were involved in the scheme, and whether there is a way he can obtain reimbursement from government agencies whose officials put their employees in harm’s way by hiring McLeod to give retirement seminars.

    “We will look at anybody who may have liability,” he said.

    Sonny Guilty; In Prison Again

    Sonny FranzeseAfter 18 months as a free man, legendary Colombo family gangster John (Sonny) Franzese is back behind bars again – and this time it sure doesn’t look like a frameup.

    Franzese, whose only other federal rap – a 1967 conviction for heading a bank robbery conspiracy – has long been disputed, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges that included loansharking and the shakedowns of the Penthouse and Hustler clubs in Manhattan in 2006.

    The 93-year-old mobster, who technically faces up to 20 years in prison, was remanded after the jury verdict, which came during the fifth day of deliberations at the end of a three week trial.

    The trial featured the dramatic testimony by his son John Franzese Jr., a mini-riot in the halls when his mother Tina hijacked Sonny’s wheelchair while he was being rolled to the bathroom, and the appearance at the trial of Sonny’s son Michael, a onetime capo who quit the mob, and now preaches against it, but who backed his father in his last fight against the law.

    Sonny Franzese & Guy FatatoBut in the end, it was Sonny's own words that brought him down.

    In tape recordings made by John Jr., and another turncoat, Gaetano (Guy) Fatato, the elder Franzsese was heard pronouncing his position as the family’s official underboss and key aide to then-street boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli, and with taking part in loansharking and extortions he was charged with.

    In one excerpt, jurors heard Sonny and cohort Joseph (Joe D) DiGorga instruct John Jr. on the art of the shakedown, with Sonny completing DiGorga’s thoughts and finishing his sentences.

    “You can’t go in and bang their brains out,” said DiGorga.
    “No,” said Sonny.
    “You gotta go in,” began DiGorga.
    Joseph (Joe D) DiGorga“Slow,” ended Sonny.
    “You gotta make yourself be known, you gotta be nice and easy, you gotta take it easy,” said  DiGorga.
    “Yeah,” said Sonny.

    DiGorga, who quipped, “How’m I doin? I’m sitting in a chair, waiting for them to lock me up,” on the day that John Jr. took the stand, turned out to be a bit of a prophet.

    Like Sonny, DiGorga was escorted directly to the federal lockup in Brooklyn following his conviction for racketeering charges that included the Hustler and Penthouse shakedowns.

    John (Johnny Cap) Capolino, who was found guilty of extortion conspiracy charges for coercing a loanshark victim to pay a rival wiseguy a debt that Johnny Cap had vouchedJohnny Cap Copolino for, was allowed to remain free as he awaits sentencing.

    “Save me a spot in there,” Capolino told his Uncle Sonny as he hugged him in court before Franzese, hobbling on a cane, was taken away by marshals. A few minutes later, Capolino stood outside the courthouse smoking a cigarette. “That was a crucifixion in there,” he said. “That’s what that was.”

    Chris CuranovicLast but not least was mob associate Chris Curanovic, who was convicted of racketeering, a home invasion during which a gun was used, and extorting payoffs from the owner of the Rue B, a Lower East Side bar whose owner was the last witness called by prosecutors Cristina Posa and Rachel Nash. Curanovic, who’s been behind bars for two years awaiting trial, faces the heaviest prison stretch on sentencing day because the federal gun rap mandates that he get five years added to his sentence for racketeering.

     

    Bittersweet Verdict For Tina

    John Franzese Jr.The conviction of Franzese was bittersweet for Tina Franzese, who voiced strong support for her son John during the trial and tried to convince her estranged husband to plead guilty and spare their son any further angst on the witness stand – the first time that the son of a New York wiseguy has testified against his father.

    The family matriarch is happy that her son John’s redemption is complete – even if jurors didn’t believe what he said on the stand, they couldn’t dispute the tape-recorded conversations he made – but she was saddened that the only man she ever truly loved is back behind bars.

    “He is the father of our children. My husband was always very much in love with me, and I was always in love with him – not his life,” she told Gang Land yesterday, after the jury had spoken.

    “Our problem was two-fold; he was convicted of crimes that he didn’t do, and they put him in jail for it,” she said, referring to the controversial 1967 bank robbery conspiracy conviction and the 50-year-sentence that Sonny got for it, a term that has so far included five parole violations. (Since Sonny still has 10 more years remaining on the sentence – it began in 1970  – he could get hit with at least one more parole violation rap if he were to get a short sentence for yesterday’s conviction and survive it.)

    For her part, Tina thinks her hubby can do it.

    In the first place, she doesn’t think that Sonny, or any 93-year-old man for that matter, should be sent to jail, unless he’s “really dangerous, a serial killer or something,” something that her hubby is not, she says.

    “He’s an amazing guy,” said Tina. “He’s genetically inclined to live long. In 1955, he was taking vitamins. Who knows, he may go to 100, or even 110. I hope he does.”


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    In 2009, more people were killed in Chicago gang-related violence than U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This statistic could be applied to other big cities, for it's as big an epidemic as anything else in America. Powerful and heart-wrenching, "The Interrupters" captures how neighborhoods have turned into war zones and spotlights an organized effort to stop the killings. It just might be the most important film released this year.

     

    Revered documentarian Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") spent a year on the mean streets of his hometown. He and his courageous crew had remarkable access to gang turfs and put themselves in harm's way on more than one occasion.

     

    They followed three members of CeaseFire, activists committed to changing the vicious circle of violence leading to retribution leading to more violence. These ex-cons were once gang members, and spent time in prison for their actions.

     

    Today, they are "the interrupters," monitoring gang activity, mediating conflicts, and trying to anticipate violent acts before they happen. They're trusted and negotiate with rival factors to prevent more deaths. Ameena Matthews, whose father was a major gang leader, is a compelling dynamo.

     

    She knows how to talk to kids, who crave someone to listen to them. She's candid about her early days of drugs, parties, and crime. The others -- Tio Hardiman, Cobe Williams, and Eddie Bocanegra -- have been down those same paths, and eventually turned their lives around. They want to prevent urban youths winding up six feet under, and their attempts to make a difference are stirring. The riveting images and poignant words of this documentary will sear into your brain -- the innocent victims, the mourning families, the tough-talking gangbangers.

     

    Gary Slutkin, a University of Chicago professor, founded CeaseFire in 1995. He relates that crime is an epidemic that should be treated like tuberculosis. This film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival at a nearly 3-hour length, but James has edited it down to about 2 hours for wider release. Based on a 2008 New York Times Magazine article by Alex Kotlowitz, who serves as the film's producer, the effect is undeniable.

     

     

    James, a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, dares to tell what's really going on, and in the process, leaves us with hope. For these persuasive messengers of change can be effective, and that's a start.

     

     


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