Monday, May 30, 2011

'Mob Wives' 7: Brawls, Reconciliation, Online Dating

From Staten Island Live website:

This episode picks up right in the middle of lasts week’s brawl at Renee’s house. Renee’s idea of a drama free evening clearly didn’t go as planned and (shockingly) it was all her fault. Instead of keeping her mouth shut about Carla’s boyfriend she insisted on embarrassing Carla by harping on the subject some more.

Cosa Nostra Smuggled Drugs From Mexico in Post-War Period

"Virginia Hill, a woman sent to Mexico by the Cosa Nostra, infiltrated the highest levels of the Mexican government in the post-war period and turned that country into a large-scale supplier of drugs to the United States, journalist and writer Juan Alberto Cedillo told Efe.

"Mexico became one of the main suppliers of drugs in the 1940s for the consumers of its powerful neighbor to the north and this beautiful woman was the key piece in this adventure," Cedillo said during a discussion of his new book, 'La Cosa Nostra en Mexico (1938-1950),' published by Grijalbo Mondadori.

Hill, who was the girlfriend of mobsters Joe Epstein, Frank Nitti, Charles Fischetti, Frank Costello and Joe Adonis, was sent to Mexico by the Cosa Nostra, the most powerful of the Italian-American organized crime groups operating in the United States, to obtain protection for its drug business, Cedillo said in the article.

Grand Jury: Philly's Cosa Nostra 'Alive and Well'

"Philly's La Cosa Nostra, once deemed 6 feet under, is alive and well, grand jury report shows," according to Newser.com.

Lichtman Show Casts Retired FBI Agent DeVecchio in a Dark Light

Jeffrey Lichtman, on his May 13 radio show on AM 970 The Apple, interviewed writer Frederic Dannen about former FBI agent Lin DeVecchio, who for years was under fire -- but in the end, formally exonerated -- for providing former Colombo mobster Greg Scarpa, now years-deceased, with "inside information" to help Scarpa find enemies and earn.

This interview takes the view that DeVecchio was guilty, though it in and of itself provides little substance to back its assertions. And though we do indeed believe DeVecchio is innocent of these alleged crimes, in the interest of fairness (and the fact the producer hooked us up), we'd like to provide the Lichtman-Dannen interview here. Note -- they switch gears from DeVecchio-Scarpa to discuss Demjanjuk, the accused Nazi guard.

Lichtman provided this biased Facebook blurb for the show:... We'll have on writer Fredric Dannen to discuss FBI agent Lin DeVecchio's crooked relationship with mafia killer Greg Scarpa, as well as the conviction of Nazi guard John Demjanjuk.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mob Home-Invasion Robber Violates Release Terms

A Mafia-connected robber who once duct-taped a woman in a lucrative home invasion robbery is back in trouble, accused of violating the terms of his release from federal prison, according to SILive.com.

Kyriakos Evangelou, 28, of Merriman Avenue in Castleton Corners, was taken into custody on a federal warrant yesterday, after he failed three separate drug tests, fell behind on his restitution payments and acted out during drug treatment meetings, public records show.

He’s since been released, but not before his family members put up $50,000 bail to get him out from behind bars.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Neighborhood Restaurateur Reopens Famed Monte's Venetian Room

Monte’s Venetian Room in Gowanus will reopen with a new owner after closing three years ago after 102 years in business, according to NY1.com.

A landmark Brooklyn restaurant known as a mecca for everyone from entertainers to mobsters, Monte’s hopes to be open for business by June 1.

Going farther back in time, the restaurant was a speakeasy during Prohibition and even hosted the famous partying Rat Pack in later years.

New owner Dominick Castelvetre spent his boyhood across the street from the restaurant and "used to park cars for the restaurant" (shades of Goodfellas?), according to NY1.com.

The new Monte's will feature homemade pastas and brick-oven pizza. It will also feature the restaurant’s legendary Italian ricotta cheesecake, "which the new owners were able to obtain the recipe for."

Reputed Philly Mob Boss Indicted

"Reputed mob boss Joseph 'Uncle Joe' Ligambi was all about money, not murder, say law enforcement and underworld sources who have tracked the surprisingly long tenure of Philadelphia's low-key, circumspect Mafia don," wrote George Anastasia in an article published in the Christian Science Monitor (of all places!).

Read the FBI's press release on the indictment.

CSM article continued: On Monday, in a move that could signal the end of Ligambi's run, the alleged mob kingpin, 71, and a dozen other reputed members and associates of his organization were named in a 50-count indictment built around gambling and loan-sharking operations that sources say may have generated millions of dollars over the last 10 years.
Ligambi departs courthouse in 2001.

But the indictment contains no alleged acts of violence: no murders, no beatings, no assaults. Instead, the allegations — centered on illegal sports betting and video-poker-machine businesses — allude to threats of violence, fear and intimidation, the tools that authorities allege Ligambi used to maintain order, solidify his control, and line his pockets.

Mafia arrests: Four of the most famous mob busts in history
Ligambi was charged with heading a crime family that U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said used the threats of "force and violence to instill fear and exert power in order to make money."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

'Mob Wives': Other Views

Drita makes husband Lee a calendar.
While we find "Mob Wives," a guilty pleasure, and we must admit we are in love with Drita since seeing her photo shoot on tonight's episode,  we can't stand Karen. Here are a couple of interesting stories we found about the show that, for some reason, seem to find Karen the focus.

"Of all the women on VH1′s new show Mob Wives... Karen Gravano tries to present herself as the most removed from the alleged mafia lifestyle. Ironically however, it appears Karen has a very complicated past, and was arrested as part of a massive ecstasy ring in 2000. It appears Karen has managed to get her hands pretty dirty in the past." Read the rest on Hollywood Life here.

SI Live has been following the show pretty closely, and has written an interesting piece about a demographic that seems to have been forgotten in all the hoopla -- that demo being people whose loved ones were murdered by mobsters -- primarily Sammy Bull Gravano.


Poll: Majority Will View 'Gotti' Theatrical Release

A majority of readers of this website plan on seeing "Gotti: Three Generations," which is probably still two years away from being released -- the script isn't even written yet, and the much-touted cast may not even appear in the film (although it is confirmed that John Travolta will indeed play John Gotti), according to a recent interview with the director, Barry Levinson.

Levinson replaces the previous director, Nick Cassavetes (why Cassavetes dropped out has not been believably explained). It has been reported that, aside from Travolta, screen luminaries Joe Pesci and Al Pacino (and Lindsay Lohan) also were taking roles in film, though Levinson has said that this apparently is not engraved in stone. (Maybe the contracts aren't signed yet, who knows.)

WILL YOU GO TO THE THEATER TO WATCH "GOTTI: THREE GENERATIONS"?



According to a Cosa Nostra News poll, a majority, 64%, or 88 respondents, said they would definitely go to the theater and view "Gotti: Three Generations," which will probably be released in 2012. Twenty seven percent, or 38, said they would definitely not see the film, and 8%, or 11, said they haven't decided.

This was an unscientific poll, to which anyone could add a response, though they could enter only one; a total of 137 people participated.

Former Fed Confirms Scarpa's Role in '60s Civil Rights Case

It's been confirmed. Gregory Scarpa, Sr. (May 8, 1928 – June 4, 1994), a fiercely loyal capo in the Colombo crime family and a top informant for the FBI nearly the entire time he was in the mob, did indeed help the Feds when he played a pivotal role in solving the 1960s murders of civil rights workers down in Mississippi.

So writes former FBI agent Lin DeVecchio in his ironically titled memoir, "We're Going to Win This Thing." He was the agent under fire for a time for supposedly giving too much information to Scarpa. When a key witness was discredited, the trial was tossed out -- by the D.A., not the judge. We will never know if he was guilty or not.

DeVecchio confirmed the role Scarpa played in finding the three murdered civil rights workers -- a historical moment in the Civil Rights movement on which the film "Mississippi Burning" was based.

"... I learned from a confidential source that in 1964 Top Echelon informant Greg Scarpa was enlisted in a Klan case... The FBI brought Greg Scarpa to the [Klan member involved in the murders considered most likely to turn]." Scarpa "blackjacked" him, and took him to remote cabin, where Scarpa "convinced him to cooperate by putting a gun in his mouth... giving him an option: 'Tell me the fucking truth or I will blow your brains out.'" The Klansman told the truth.

Known as "The Grim Reaper," Scarpa was Colombo boss Carmine Persico's chief enforcer, doling out the proverbial dirt nap to whoever defied the administration before dying of AIDS, contracted from a crew member during a blood transfusion.

In my post about junior hitman John Pappa, who also fought in the war on the same side as Scarpa, I wrote he'd be a great subject for a book or film; Scarpa would be an even better one.

Scarpa, in an interesting tie-in with what former Bonanno boss Joe Massino said on the witness stand during the Basciano trial, also said there was no formal Commission going back to the early 1990s; he said this was a key reason the Colombos went to war when "Little" Vic Orena tried to take over the family from jailed boss Persico. This also is in DeVecchio's book, a must-read for any true mafia aficionado.

Here is a clip from the Curtis Sliwa show in which Lin discusses the book.




Saturday, May 21, 2011

Little Italy Isn't So Italian These Days

The big surprise in Little Italy: The latest New York census found that not a single Italian lives in the home of Mafia legend, the U.K.'s Independent reported.

The US Census Bureau reported earlier this year that, "of the 8,600 residents interviewed in the two-dozen-square block area of Lower Manhattan that might still be deemed Little Italy – determining its borders is another area of contention – not one was actually born in Italy," the article noted.

"And descendants of immigrants from Italy (Italian-Americans) made up only 5 percent of the area's population.

"It is a stark demographic evaporation which has been going on for decades. In 2000, the US Census Bureau found 44 Italian-born people in the neighbourhood and a 6 per cent share for Italian-Americans. Back in 1950, there were 10,000 New Yorkers residing in the area and nearly half were considered Italian-Americans."

Also worth noting -- and we posted a story about it months ago -- non-Italian boutique owners are moving to have the San Gennaro festival that crowds Mulberry Street each September curtailed on the grounds that it was hurting businesses.

Director: Forget What You've Heard About 'Gotti' Cast

Apart from John Travolta, it seems, all the other actors said to be part of the "Gotti" film apparently are not.

That is according to Barry Levinson, who is directing and writing the film, in a story posted on the U.K.'s Guardian.

"I told 'em when I got involved, I got to write the screenplay first. I can't write to a previously announced cast. I guess I could bullshit you, but I'm not going to entertain every name bandied about," he said in the article.

"Look, Travolta is Gotti. That's confirmed. It's hard to do the Gotti film without Gotti. There are certain things you understand, and you write to that, but I can't deal with any of the other components until the script is done."

Nevertheless, Levinson does seem enthusiastic. "I met with John Gotti Jr. [Gotti's son], and the conversations I had with him gave me insights into the crime family. I see it as an opportunity to do something more than just knocking out a mob movie."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lohan Cast In Another Mob Film

A happy foursome: Two actors, one
gangster and one --- what? Novelist?
Reality show star? Former columnist?
Fiore Films seems to be giving the struggling Lindsay Lohan a new lease in life.

In addition to playing the role of Kim Gotti, in the pending "Gotti: Three Generations," she is now starring in another Fiore Film that also takes place in the world of Cosa Nostra, called "Mob Street."

(Is Monsieur Marc(k) a bachelor, we are starting to wonder... )

Based on a true story centered on the mafia’s involvement in Wall Street during the ’90s, the movie will focus on mobsters entrenched in the financial world who “lived like movie stars, drinking Cristal and walking arm in arm with the most beautiful women in the world. Money, sex, cars, yachts, magnificent mansions, and beach homes were at their disposal… until everything came crashing down," according to the production company’s website

Did Big Bust Burst? -- Fourteen Get Light Sentences


More than a dozen mobsters from New York's Italian-American mafia have been sentenced as part of a wide-ranging assault by the authorities (which has since quietly reduced its focus on organized crime to near nothing following the major January bust), according to a report on News.com.au

The 14 ranged from former Gambino crime family boss, Daniel Marino, to capos, soldiers and associates, the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan said. Nine were sentenced this week and five over recent months.

"Illustrating the authorities' principal strategy against secretive mafia groups in New York, the 14 were handed light sentences after they admitted guilt," the report cryptically adds, meaning, "Mafia members in plea bargains with prosecutors are often handed reduced punishments in return for co-operation with investigators against former comrades, including testifying against them in court."

It should be noted there is a major difference between accepting a plea bargain and becoming a witness for the prosecution.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For Decades, Federal Government Co-Opted Mob Rackets

Jimmy Breslin, in his fantastic book, "The Good Rat," notes how many rackets the Mafia had formulated and profited from were made illegal by the Feds -- then co-opted by the Government.

Play Lotto? There's your version of the Italian lottery, which was operated as a racket by the American Mafia. The Italians who'd come up with the nickels and dimes to play the lottery had to be able to trust in the game, so winning numbers had to be credibly chosen. In some places, the winning number was determined by the last digit of that day's New York bond sales. The money the mafia made from these illegal lotteries was used to finance more profitable enterprises, such as loan sharking and, to the mob's ultimate detriment, drug dealing.

Today, many state lotteries offer similar "daily numbers" games, relying typically on mechanical devices to draw the number. The state's rake is typically 50% rather than the 20%-40% of the mafia numbers games. The New York Lottery and Pennsylvania Lottery even use the words "Numbers" and "Daily Number", respectively, according to Wikipedia.

"Despite the existence of legal alternatives, some gamblers still prefer to play with a bookie for a number of reasons," Wikipedia notes. "Among them are the ability to bet on credit, better payoffs, the convenience of calling in one's bet on the telephone, the ability to play if under the legal age, and the avoidance of government taxes."

Ever pay $2 or $3 just to be able to gain access to your own cash through an ATM machine? There, Breslin notes, is your "shy," as in the fat interest rate paid to loansharks when a loan comes due.

According to Mafialife Chris, on his mafialifeblog.com: Mafia Talk Radio #3: The Government IS The Mafia!: "There are tons of cases where the government stopped the mob from racketeering certain industries, and took the businesses over for themselves. Do they take the mob’s ideas when the mob comes up with a racket that works, and lock the criminals up for doing the same crime they organize later on in a slightly different way to call it their own?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pacino To Play "Neil" Dellacroce in Gotti Film

Pacino to play Neil Dellacroce.

"Gotti: Three Generations" will reunite director Barry Levinson with his "Bugsy" screenwriter, James Toback, and is set to feature such big-screen luminaries as John Travolta, Joe Pesci, and (ok, we'll include her in the list) Lindsay Lohan.

Now we learned we can add to that lineup the one and only Al Pacino, who has signed to play an important role in the mobster biopic, according to ScreenRant and other published sources.

"That’s all the more fitting, seeing how producer Marc Flore has boasted before about the Gotti flick being 'the new ‘Godfather’,” the article noted.

Former Fed-Under-Fire DeVecchio Speaks Out on Sliwa Show

Lin DeVecchio, whose written a new book focusing on his career and the accusations against him (which include that he aided the Persico faction of the Colombo crime family during that family’s war) spoke with Curtis Sliwa this morning on AM 970 The Apple.

Listen to the audio here:


'The Boss' Took Orders: Steinbrenner Informed on the Mob

Now-deceased former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner assisted the Feds in supposedly two investigations, at least one focused on the mafia, in the years leading up to his pardon by President Ronald Reagan on a campaign-contributions conviction, according to FBI released documents reported on by the New York Times.

The Associated Press and other news organizations requested the FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act following Steinbrenner's death in July. The first release was made last December. The two releases combined totaled about 800 pages, the Times reported.

Yes, "The Boss" took orders. Steinbrenner was a secret FBI informant from 1978 to 1983, and even authorized Yankee Stadium to serve as a platform on which to conduct mafia arrests., according to website LA Late.

A 1988 FBI memo says that Steinbrenner agreed to use Yankee Stadium for the staging of over 500 gambling raids against a major organized crime syndicate in New York City. A different site was ultimately chosen.

In total, it appears Steinbrenner was involved in “two national security matters” and one “sensitive security matter,” according to FBI reports.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Toback Reteams With Levinson on 'Gotti' Rewrite

James Toback, who worked with "Gotti: Three Generations" director Barry Levinson on the Oscar-nominated "Bugsy," starring Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, is retooling the screenplay, reports The Wrap's Deal Central.

Levinson replaced director Nick Cassavetes, who left the project because of scheduling conflicts, earlier this month.

Variety has confirmed that Barry Levinson will climb into the director’s chair.
The movie will center on the relationship between John Gotti Sr. (John Travolta) and his son, John Gotti Jr., who turned his back on mob life. Joe Pesci supposedly will play Gotti’s deputy Angelo Ruggiero, while Lindsay Lohan will play John Gotti Jr.’s wife, Kim Gotti. And in a nice little bit of nepotism, Travolta’s 11-year-old daughter Ella Bleu also has a role in the film.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mob Wives Recap: Karen Unmasked

UPDATE: As for last night's episode (the May 15th one), we once again see the manipulative Karen Gravano, believing only what goes on inside her own head matters, drop in on Drita to demand an apology for "stealing" Karen's boyfriend, or so she says, like 20 years earlier. I was glad the show juxtaposed Drita's phonecall with husband Lee, the one who supposedly dated Karen and left her so scarred (never mind daddy was a serial killer.) Lee's bleeped-out characterization of Karen said it all -- even if we don't know most of what the hell he said.

And Renee, where would she be in life if she couldn't forever introduce herself as, "Anthony Graziano's daughter?"

LAST WEEK's SHOW: "Mob Wives” this evening was all about drama but then when isn’t it? This episode revolves around Renee and what Renee wants and what Renee does…ever the mafia princess and drama queen! First, she finds out that Junior was arrested for gambling on probation and is out on bail. A sigh of relief is temporarily breathed, but she knows he is going back into jail, so is gearing up for the same old thing!," reads a review of tonight's episode of the show Mob Wives on CMR.com.

"Drita texts Renee to set up a dinner date to discuss what happened at Carla’s birthday party and Renee accepts – until Karen refreshes her memory that Drita stated she wanted to ring her “dumb tw** neck?” Renee goes all gangster and calls off the dinner date at the last minute, leaving Drita hanging who calls Carla to go out for drinks. Next week, we find out how that goes and it is looking like Drita is once more out of control!"

READ REST of Wives Recap: Junior to the Rescue...AGAIN!

MY TWO CENTS: Karen, you are really unmasking yourself, playing both ends against the middle, a walking, breathing plot device, an unattractive manipulative shrew. You knew Renee and Drita were going to make nice-nice, but a nicely placed visit by you in which you carefully pushed Renee's buttons by reminding her of what Drita said the first night, when she (Drita) went to bat for you (Karen) against Renee. You can "try to make amends" with as many people as you want, but if they really see who you are, they will stay away from you -- ah, you are your father's daughter...

Friday, May 6, 2011

'The Godfather' Prequel Focuses on Vito Corleone's Rise to Power

Mario Puzo’s bestselling mafia novel is getting a prequel, announced the book's publisher Grand Central yesterday. 'The Family Corleone,' as it has been titled, will be written by Ed Falco, a playwright and author of three novels (and, ironically, uncle to HBO Sopranos star Edie Falco.)

Based on an unproduced screenplay written by the late Puzo, the book will tell the story about how Vito Corleone rose to power in Depression-era New York.

The book has been authorized by the estate of Puzo, who died 12 years ago, having penned the Oscar-winning screenplays for 'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather II.' His original book, 'The Godfather,' was first published in 1969 and has sold over 21 million copies.

The big question we at Cosa Nostra News are asking ourselves: Will Francis Ford Coppola direct a film based on the work... There is a good chance, considering Puzo has a script floating around. In many a DVD commentary, Coppola has expressed hesitance on working on anymore films in the Corleone saga without Puzo by his side.

READ MORE

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Travolta's Wife Preston Joins 'Gotti: Three Generations'

John Travolta's wife Kelly Preston has joined the cast of "Gotti: Three Generations."

The actress -- who has previously starred in "Jerry Maguire" -- will play John Gotti Sr.'s wife Victoria alongside her husband as the New York mafia don in the movie, set to be directed by Nick Cassavetes, Radaronline.com reports.

In addition to Preston and Travolta in the film, their real-life daughter, Ella Bleu, 11, will play their on-screen daughter, Angel Gotti.

Also confirmed for the film is Lindsay Lohan, who told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show last week she's “very excited to be working with the people I'll be working with,"

Lohan told Leno she actually met the real John Gotti when she was just 3-years-old.

READ STORY

New York Mob Bosses Lose Bid for New Murder Trial


"A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the convictions of two Colombo family crime bosses jailed for life for the murder of one of their captains in an alleged struggle to control the New York Mafia family," Reuters reports.

"The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to vacate the guilty verdicts of accused Colombo family acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, and underboss John "Jackie" DeRoss for the 1999 murder of William "Wild Bill" Cutolo Sr., said to be a high-ranking Colombo captain.

"A federal jury convicted the two men in 2007 on charges they orchestrated Cutolo's murder, fearing Cutolo was planning to take down Persico. They also were found guilty of tampering with witnesses, including Cutolo's wife and two children.

"A three-judge panel was not won over by the argument that the post-trial discovery of the body buried in upstate New York debunked prosecutors' theory he was dumped in the sea after his murder by a Colombo family soldier on Persico's order.

"The court found what it called "considerable other evidence" to tie the two to events preceding the death, including phone records and testimony from Cutolo's wife that he went to meet Persico right before he disappeared.

"Persico and DeRoss disputed the decision by the Brooklyn district court to let Cutolo's wife testify that he often met Persico at the Brooklyn address where Cutolo last was seen -- as well as the government decision to let Cutolo's wife keep $1.65 million in cash from her late husband's alleged illicit activities."

READ MORE

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mob Wives: Renee Graziano Learns Ex Part of Big January Bust

"She has already earned a reputation of being a drama queen ...

"So there was no doubt that the moment Mob Wives' star Renee Graziano found out her ex-husband had been picked up by the FBI would bring anything less than a meltdown.

"The star's ex-husband Junior was part of the highly publicized January mob bust in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- when 127 arrests were made relating to racketeering, murder, illegal gambling, extortion, and narcotics trafficking."

READ MORE ON U.K.'S DAILY MAIL, WHICH INCLUDES VIDEO EXCERPTS

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