Jack Falcone on Why the Mafia Still Stands Strong

Jack Garcia actually has served as an undercover agent in over 100 operations (
Gregory DePalma went from 70-year-old
brokester to high powered capo.

Joaquín "Jack Falcone" García's book, "Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family" starts off with a scene in Bloomingdale's in White Plains, New York.

Jack had been an FBI agent for over 20 years when he infiltrated the Westchester-based crew of Gambino family capo Gregory DePalma.

Jack actually has served as an undercover agent in over 100 operations (even during the Gambino op he also worked other cases). His name "Falcone" was tribute to the famous Italian mob buster Giovanni Falcone, who'd been murdered with his wife and bodyguards a couple of years prior, by "Toto" Riina and his Corleone, Sicily-based Cosa Nostra clan, which was at the top of the pyramid at the time and waging a bloody war with law enforcement.

"Jack Falcone" was a self-described Sicilian jewel thief and drug dealer from Miami who worked with DePalma for nearly three years. He was about two weeks away from getting his finger pricked and actually becoming a made member of the Gambino family when the FBI decided to pull him out in 2005. (He seems to agree with the call, but I could sense he was still rankled about it.)

The scene at Bloomingdale's took place a few weeks before the end of the operation, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of 32 mobsters, including top members of the Gambino crime family, such as Arnold Squitieri and Anthony Megale. In 2002, after Peter Gotti's arrest on racketeering charges, Squitieri became the new acting boss and Megale acting underboss.


This was the first Gambino family administration to not have a Gotti in it since John's mid-1980s coup. When Jack first went undercover in 2002, Squitieri, on parole for a previous drug conviction, had appointed a couple of guys to run things for him on the street. Squitieri's main man on the street was his nephew, Louis Filippelli. Filippelli was a soldier under Gambino capo Alphonse "Funzi" Sisca, who was Squietieri's brother-in-law and buddy, so following protocol Funzi had the power formally, but Filippelli represented "Zeke" as street boss. We incorrectly reported that Squitieri had established a three-man panel that included Funzi, Filippelli and Chris Sucarato. Sucarato was then an associate also in Funzi's crew; Chris was also good friends with both Filippelli and Funzi.

Updated version of the upscale Kosta Boda
Connecticut Candlestick holder..
The scene in Bloomingdale's is intriguing in that it illustrates two interesting points that Jack made during our discussion regarding why the Mafia has outlasted so many other criminal groups.
Greg had Jack drive him and Gambino soldier Robert Vaccaro to the upscale department store to find Petey Chops, who supposedly lunched there on weekdays.

As Jack writes in his book: "We arrived at Bloomingdale's and didn't know where the hell the restaurant was. There were housewares and rugs all around us. By nature, we weren't the kind of people conversant with the layout of department stores. Mob guys don't buy retail. The three of us definitely didn't look like shoppers. We looked like Mob guys -- dressed to the nines, manicured and barbered to perfection."

They finally found the restaurant -- and no Peter Chops.

Ralph Lauren Equestrian collection knives;
far as we can tell, the collection only includes
butter knives now. Would've been a painful
and bloody death for Petey Chops...

They waited there for about 15 minutes.

That's when one of the waiters recognized Greg. The waiter had the slick look of a guy comfortable leaning on the rail of a racetrack or hanging around a Vegas sports book. If you had any reason to be in contact with organized crime in Westchester County, you knew Greg DePalma, and this guy certainly did.

"You guys want a table?" the waiter asked Greg cautiously. Everybody was cautious around Greg, who, even in his seventies, would reach out and slap someone he considered disrespectful.

"We just ate," Greg explained, disgusted that Petey Chops wasn't there.

Meanwhile, Greg muttered under his breath, "That cocksucker, where is he?" He called the waiter over. Whenever we were in public, he comported himself with stereotypical Mob guy behavior.

"You know my friend Pete that eats here on Mondays?" Greg growled.

The waiter nodded. "He usually comes in with his girl," he replied carefully, not knowing what answer might be the wrong answer.

"When this guy comes here again," Greg told him, "tell him that he is to see me tomorrow at the nursing home in New Rochelle."

The Big, Big Guy: Jack "Falcone"worked
about 100 cases as an undercover agent
for the FBI and is now retired.
[The nursing home, the United Hebrew Geriatric Center, was where Greg's son Craig lay  comatose; he had attempted suicide in prison because, convicted along with his father in the shakedown of the Scores upscale topless nightclub, he had flipped for the Feds in exchange for less prison time. Greg scribbled a note and had it smuggled into his son's cell; whatever Greg had written, it shamed his son into wanting to take his own life. His attempt was a failure, though; it had put him in an  irreversible coma instead of killing him.

Greg regularly did Mafia business there, in his son's room, believing that the FBI wouldn't bug it. He was correct; they didn't.]

The waiter nodded.

Greg glared at him. "Tell me what I just said!" he said menacingly.

"Meet you at the nursing home in New Rochelle," the wide-eyed waiter repeated.

Greg nodded, and we figured that was that. Petey wasn't showing, so we left the restaurant and began to make our way out of the store.

That's when they ran into Petey Chops. The beating that followed has been well-documented: Vacarro grabbed a glass Kosta Boda candleholder, nearly a foot in length, from the nearest display and whacked Petey over the head with it. When it connected, I heard a pop like a broken cantaloupe. Bystanders gasped. Petey Chops dropped to the floor, unconscious, blood gushing from his head.

Not knowing when to stay down, Petey Chops got up and followed them out of the store. At one point, so angered, Vaccaro grabbed a knife from a tabletop display of Ralph Lauren Polo place settings.

What had Petey Chops done to earn the beating from Greg? It's more a question of what he hadn't done: he hadn't kicked up the cash he was supposed to, and he failed to attend meetings. These were two major no-nos in the mob; John Gotti had had his people killed if they didn't come in when he called.

Squitieri and even DePalma were not as bloodthirsty as Gotti was, so Greg had just gone there to talk to Petey Chops.

As for the beating, Greg had no other recourse: a soldier was not only disobeying and disrespecting him, but had raised his voice, too. It's kind of incredible how far Petey Chops pushed Greg before Vacarro grabbed the candlestick.

But let's step back and replay what happened right before the beating.

It's kind of funny, in a Sopranos kind of way...

As Falcone wrote: Greg walked up to Petey, who kissed him on the cheek...

Greg and Petey leaned against the wall and started to talk. Their conversation was quiet at first. Meanwhile, Robert and I were looking over the items for sale. ...

"What's the matter with you?" [Greg] demanded in a voice loud enough for Robert and me to hear. Shit, half of Bloomingdale's could have heard him, he was so loud.

Petey said nothing.

"You ain't showing up!" Greg exclaimed, his anger rising. "I'm asking you over and over to come in, and you ain't reporting to see me!"

"I can't show up, I'm telling you!" Petey said, looking uncomfortably at Greg, Robert, and me.

"I want the money that's owed me!" Greg insisted.

Of all things, Petey, who ran a lucrative gambling operation for the family in Westchester had been stupid enough to invest his income in a marble mine in Guatemala. The mine had gone under. Petey lost a fortune and was trying to hide from the crime family.

"I'm being watched," Petey replied belligerently, his voice rising, "and I don't want to be seen meeting anyone!"

He was loud and he was animated. In my twenty-four years as an undercover agent, I had never seen a subordinate speak so inappropriately and disrespectfully to a boss. At that moment, had I been a real wiseguy or Mafioso and not a member of law enforcement, I would have given him a crack! I was thinking, What a fucking asshole Petey Chops is! Listen, if you wanna be in the Mob, you gotta pay your dues! You're getting protection, you gotta pay up!... 

"Keep it down," Greg ordered him. He must have been equally surprised by Petey's belligerence. After all, Greg was the capo, and Petey was a soldier, and people were around. We were in a very public place.

"This is bullshit," Greg snarled. "You gotta start coming in. You gotta start reporting."

"I don't want to be seen!" Petey said, increasingly nervous. "What do you want?"

"What do I want!" the Old Man exclaimed, as if he had just been asked the stupidest question in history. "I want you to start reporting like you're supposed to!"

Now the discussion became even more animated. This wasn't going down in some back alley somewhere. We stood in the housewares section of Bloomingdale's in White Plains at 6:15 P.M. on Presidents' Day. People were everywhere, shopping, milling around, whatever. I was clueless -- I knew this guy was acting disrespectfully, but I still had no idea where all this was headed.

"I want you to meet someone," DePalma said, motioning toward Vaccaro, the new acting capo in our crew. An "acting" or "street" capo represents the interests of the boss in public places, sparing the boss the risk of detection by law enforcement. Many crime family leaders are on parole for one violation or another and could be returned to prison if seen in the company of other known criminals.

"I don't want to meet anyone," Petey protested, but the Old Man didn't care. I watched warily, knowing that the situation could turn violent at any moment.

"No, you gotta meet him," DePalma insisted. "This is Robert. He's a friend of ours." That expression -- "a friend of ours" -- is the special way of introducing one made man in the Mafia to another.

"He's good friends with the boss," Greg added, to emphasize Robert's importance in the Gambino family.

"I don't give a fuck who he is or what he does or who he knows," Petey responded. "I'm not reporting. This is bullshit."...

"Fuck you guys!" Petey shouted as shoppers and clerks turned to look.

I was surprised. Nobody talked like that to a skipper like Greg.

That set Robert off. He grabbed a solid glass Kosta Boda candleholder... and the beating followed.

"You cocksucker!" Greg shouted, getting into it....

"What did you do that for?" Petey Chops asked, coming to. He was completely dazed and blood continued to gush out of his head.

"You're gonna get shelved!" DePalma snarled at him.

This meant that he would be stripped of all Gambino family protection for his criminal operations. Another Gambino could take over his business. The punishment was not permanent, but its revocation depended on his demonstration of remorse for his actions. Short of getting killed, this is one of the worst things that can happen to a mobster....

Petey sat up, covered in blood. He asked Vaccaro and DePalma again, "Why did you do that for? Come on, I was only kidding!"

"You weren't kidding," DePalma replied, disgusted. "You were being a jerk-off."...

I finally got Robert and Greg on the down escalator, away from Petey; otherwise Vaccaro would have stabbed Petey in the eye or in the heart. But Petey kept coming. He bled all over my fucking coat and yelled as he approached us on the escalator, "What did you do that for! I don't understand what you did that for!"

"Listen, asshole," I told him, "get the fuck outta here, 'cause you're gonna get hurt."

Petey jumped on the escalator behind me, getting more blood all over me. Somehow he spun me around -- and how a little guy like that did that to me, I'll never know. He got close to Vaccaro and DePalma.

"You're gonna get hurt!" I shouted at Petey. "Stay the fuck away!"

Too late.

Vacarro cold-cocked Petey with one punch, just dropped him...and now Petey sat on the down escalator, unconscious, blood still streaming out of his head from the blow with the candleholder. The only thing missing were those little cartoon canaries spinning and chirping around his head. I didn't know what to do. Interfere and risk blowing my cover? Or do nothing and let a man be beaten to death in a public place, before my very eyes?...

At the bottom of the escalator, security people scrambled toward us. DePalma, thinking quickly, didn't miss a beat. He pointed to Petey and yelled at the guards, "Hey, this poor guy just fell down the steps! He's gonna sue you!"

I've got to give Greg credit. That was a good line....

With that, Vaccaro, DePalma, and I took off from the store, but not before DePalma looked back at Petey and yelled, "That's it, you're shelved!"

OK, the two interesting points here are: Despite what Petey had done, disrespect a capo in public, Greg didn't react as he probably would've 20 years earlier. He didn't have Petey whacked; he had him shelved. And even during the argument, he still only went as far as to threaten shelving him. The beating there is nothing, doesn't even count as for what the old Mafia would've done to a soldier in that situation.

But Cosa Nostra has learned from its past -- it is much less prone to murder, which is one way it stays under the radar. It knows murders mean big headlines and big headlines turn the heat on. And they hate heat.

The other interesting example is the waiter. Three -- two, really -- mobsters walk into a suburban department store and run into a waiter who is a mob groupie, a guy with connections, a guy who wants to be with someone... The Mafia has been able to entrench itself so deeply into America because there is a huge group of otherwise legitimate people who just love the glamour of mobsters and the life.

It's guys like the waiter in the story-opening scene of Jack's book who have allowed the mob to work its tentacles so far and wide.

"The mob wants a quiet, smooth-running operation," Jack told me. "It's not the wild west anymore. Everyone involved [the mob and, say, the small business owner who does business with them] all know the repercussions. They've done their homework and have learned from the past.

"It's a whole different world. The mob [mostly] only works with people who want to do these things. It's not like it was in the '50s, '60s and even '70s. They've done their research.

"The mob is not weakened," Jack said. He noted that the FBI has had "tremendous success" in holding down Cosa Nostra, but that was when "the mob was their top priority. Now it's terrorism. They lack the manpower [to focus on too many key targets at a time]."

The result: "The mob has grown exponentially," Jack said. "They know no one's watching them. In the old days, if they went to a club they knew the FBI was following them in a car. They knew whenever they were inside a club, the FBI was outside in the car, waiting for them."

Basically, the car is not waiting outside for them anymore. And they know this.

"The mob has gone underground. Nobody knows their out there."

See part two of this interview -- Here


Comments

  1. Wasn't it the Genovese family stripping guys naked?
    Anthony Arillotta testified that when Artie Nigro made him in a Bronx apartment he was forced to strip naked and wear a bathrobe during the ceremony. I've never heard a story about the Bonanno family doing this also but we know that what the Genovese do....the other families eventually copy.

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    Replies
    1. I had thought it was all of them actually. But Jack did say Bonanno and, as a little preview, Greg was furious because his thinking was, if you gotta strip a guy to make him, then you don't know or trust him, so the guy shouldn't be made in the first place. But he did say Bonanno and he seems to have pretty good recall...

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    2. Well I'm looking forward to the second part of the story and hopefully it will contain some detail on this Bonanno making ceremony.

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    3. Just curious - are you the guy who was quoting testimony from the Weasel in regard to my story about Funzi Tieri? I bought the Last Mafioso and read it and even did some research on Fratiano.Wanted to ask you something...

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    4. Indeed I am........shoot.

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    5. Are you researching a book? Shoot me an email; if you are who I think maybe we can help each other out...
      Eddie2843@gmail.com - put Funzi in subject line...

      Delete
  2. Interesting analysis. Although if the mob doesn't go after informants living out in the open, then they are a pathetic organization. For example, joey mook d'amico has a burger joint on the jersey shore, pj pisciotti is living in a manhattan high rise, joey camy is living in the nyc area.

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    Replies
    1. The FBI has given the mob a huge opportunity by making them number 5 on the priority list. Whacking an informant would probably put them back in the no. 1 slot. Think of the headlines it would generate; and there's no percentage in revenge. These guys do their homework. It's almost hilarious that Greg didn't say to Petey Chops: "Your dead!" He said, "You're shelved!" That's the ultimate threat: to strip a guy of his ability to earn. Plus Jack's not a typical informant; he's an FBI agent who was working undercover. This is all part of the going underground strategy. They wanna fade into oblivion. They don't care what anyone thinks about them, they just want to make money...

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    2. Carissìm cumpagn Eduardò...

      There is a limit to your capacity of making money based upon your capacity of staying strong in the streets. If not, you not only worry about Carabinieri but you also have to worry about the competition moving in.

      So, basically, American Cosa Nostra is like an encapsulated cancer ? Can´t expand, and because it does not move, it can be easily be removed. In Italy, in my days, you would not strip guys before la cerimonia d’iniziazione, because guys would live under so much fear of breaking the rules. Plus, in order to get made, you had to be so, so, so deep in with your clan. I believe that is called in America ´making the bones´. Ma, si io ho le ossa grosse, or as I would say in dialecto napoletano: Io teng e' ossà grossè ---- Why would I cooperate at all? The mistake is to offer membership to guys that have never seen or tasted blood.

      Or it is a generational thing.... and now a days, is more important to be only an earner even if you don´t show any respect for the rules. In my opinión the biggest percentage is in the revenge: Is called honor.

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    3. Carissìm cumpagn -- what's that mean, Charley? Well, my take on this is, the American mob is strong, doesn't need to prove it on the streets anymore. Don't get me wrong, I am reporting and synthesizing what I learned from someone who spent three years in a crew. He has a deeper level of understanding of the mob than anyone else I have ever spoken to, because even while he was "in" he was "objective." The mob whacks people -- just read my blog, see all the killing that's taken place in the past two-three years. Look at all the trials/indictments in NYC alone -- all are about murder (gotta look for an update on that). The thing is, the mob only kills its own and even then, you gotta do something really really bad. I am about to write about why the Rudaj organization (Albanian mob) was arrested when they were: the FBI busted them earlier than it had planned to. Why? The Lucheses were loading up and were going to take out every frigging Albanian on the street; it could've been another St, Valentine's Day Massacre -- only the Feds aborted it by taking all of them off the streets before the Lucheses could hit them....I am posting part two today... there will be a third too....have so much info and don't wont to post stories of more than 1,000 words....

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  3. Here is the excerpt from Garcia's book:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=JMURvO2BSPYC&pg=PT74&lpg=PT74&dq=bonannos+family+strip+their+guys+before+they+get+made&source=bl&ots=5Noy9spsV_&sig=j2WwMvBrnAe7zWnsHMBcJQasMAA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XVgmU7ezDsPEyQHWrYCIBg&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=bonannos%20family%20strip%20their%20guys%20before%20they%20get%20made&f=false

    ReplyDelete

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