Thursday, December 31, 2015

Taboo Topic? Mafiosi and the Church

In America, it's with a heavy dose of pragmatism that many Cosa Nostra members seemingly turn to their faith.
Frank Costello's mausoleum, with the front gate blown apart. "Lilo" heralding his return to the streets....
This is a revise of an old story that I've been sitting on entirely too long....
Italy has exported two global entities -- the Mafia and the Catholic Church. Ironic.

Made men generally are Roman-Catholics. Still, not much has been generally written about Mafiosi making (or not making) peace with the New Testament God before shuffling off this mortal coil.

At the same time, Sicilian or Italian mobsters are very dedicated to their faith. In fact, some of them study the bible. "In Italy, there is not a single Mafioso who isn't religious," Padre Nino Fasullo, an anti-Mafia priest in Italy, once said. "For a phenomenon like the Mafia, which has no intellectual justification at all, religion may represent the only ideological apparatus to which it can refer. ... We're all in the church. Even the Mafia. Unfortunately. The church is embroiled in it. But regrettably not everyone in the church is convinced that opposition to the Mafia is necessary."

Giving Friends of Ours Blog Due Credit

Vito Genovese may have single-handedly done more
damage to the Mafia than any other mobster.
Taking a cue from my good friend over at Friends of Ours, who did this on the appropriate date, I am posting, for posterity's sake, the New York Daily News's original 1957 article on Appalachin. 

The Friends of Ours blogger, Philip Crawford Jr., has an excellent book available now: The Mafia and the Gays. It is an historical analysis of the Mafia's control of gay bars in major U.S. cities, including New York and Chicago.

The unjust illegality of such establishments essentially green-lighted the Mafia to come in and cater to that demand.

Monday, December 28, 2015

New England Mafia "Sleeps with the Fishes?"

Two New England Mafiosi in their 70s, including the alleged acting Patriarca Family boss, are going to prison
Reputed New England boss "Spucky" Spagnolo is 72.

Two New England Mafiosi in their 70s, including the alleged acting Patriarca Family boss, are going to prison after copping to a years-long extortion scheme in federal court. 

On December 16, Antonio “Spucky” Spagnolo, 73, and Pryce “Stretch” Quintina, 75, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to affect commerce by extortion, reported

Prosecutors alleged that Spagnolo, of Revere is the acting boss of the New England Mafia. Co-defendant, Quintina, also of Revere, reported to Spagnolo, prosecutors said.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Linda Scarpa's Mafia Daughter Memoir Debuts

But few books have truly captured mob life the way Linda Scarpa has in her new book “The Mafia Hit Man's Daughter.”
Linda Scarpa's memoir about life with the mob hitter
known as the Grim Reaper aka Greg Scarpa.
Click on the cover to purchase....

By Nick Christophers, guest contributor, editor of Mob Candy (see his website):

We have been inundated with books, films and TV shows on the subject of the Mafia over the years. Wives, girlfriends and daughters have taken to the pen to expose their experiences. Yet many of them have either “sugar-coated” their stories or they really had no knowledge of “the life.”

One of the earliest books that delved deep into the life was “Mafia Marriage” by Rosalie Bonanno, who was married to Salvatore Vincent “Bill” Bonanno, the son of Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Bonanno.

Since then there have been many attempts to expose the true meaning of living in that world, e.g., “This Family of Mine” by Victoria Gotti, daughter of John Gotti, former boss of the Gambino crime family; “The Godfather’s Daughter” by Rita Gigante, daughter of Vincent Louis Gigante, also known as “Chin,” one-time boss of the Genovese crime family; and “Mob Daughter” by Karen Gravano, daughter of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, a former underboss of the Gambino crime family.

Anastasia's Home with "Strange Tiled Room" for Sale

The former Anastasia estate was to set for a Dec. 8 auction, which was reportedly postponed due to an ongoing renovation project.
Anastasia's home in Fort Lee includes a "strange tiled room."

In North Jersey's Fort Lee sits a mansion for sale that was once owned by one of the most powerful and feared Cosa Nostra bosses in the American Mafia's history: Albert Anastasia.

Described as a sprawling Mission-style estate, it's located at 75 Bluff Road and, according to a recent published report, it hasn't changed much since Anastasia had it built in 1947. The house was bigger than others in the area back then. In fact, the 25-room luxurious spread ruined the scenic view of Manhattan for at least one family, though they aren't known to have complained.

North Jersey has been described as a gangsters paradise. The list of previous North Jersey residents includes the enigmatic Joe Adonis, Willie Moretti and Longie Zwillman, though the last owner was the "most famous and feared of all, the head of Murder Incorporated, Albert Anastasia," as the New York Times noted. New Jersey itself was and is a key area of activity for many crime families; in fact, as noted, at least seven were known to have operated there.

The former Albert Anastasia estate was to set for a Dec. 8 auction, which was reportedly postponed due to an ongoing renovation project. The wealthy Mafia aficionado might be able to pick it up for a song considering the $5 million minimum. (The seven-bedroom, 13,500-square-foot estate next door, built in 2007, sold this past June for $18.9 million). Trucking and ferry mogul Arthur Imperatore Sr., is the current owner looking to sell the mansion.

Anastasia's view of Manhattan.

After his infamous 1957 barbershop execution, Anastasia's family departed the estate.

Del Webb, the powerful Southwestern developer and former Yankees owner, helped buy the 25-room property for friend Buddy Hackett.

Imperatore, 90, decided to sell after his wife's death this year. "Part of the reason for the home’s relatively modest price could be that the Anastasia estate is remarkably intact, perhaps too much so," the Times reported.

Slot machine located in the basement, along with other things.....

The Hacketts and the Imperatores left the house as it was, making few changes. It hasn't even gotten a paint job, so the original paint is peeling. The plaster also is crumbling I places. 

Some of the original parts of the house are in excellent condition, such as a tiled roof and marble fireplace. Also preserved are the estate's grounds.

The Times article also notes that some "plush carpeting and single-pane windows will probably go, but the views stretching from the George Washington Bridge to the World Trade Center cannot be replaced." Anastasia's power over others may be exemplified in the home's "vintage kitchens and bathrooms have almost as much tile as Pompeii."

Anastasia was dubbed "the Lord High Executioner"
by the press but was better known as Don Umberto.

Anastasia's Connections
“Given his connections, I could see Anastasia going down to the tile union, and before you know it, a dozen of their best guys were up here,” Arlan Ettinger, the president of Guernsey’s and Imperatore friend, said during the Times's tour last week.

The report also noted that, despite its breathtaking facade, the home includes "some details [that] betray its violent foundations."

The stucco exterior walls are at least a foot thick, and every room has two or more doorways, for quick getaways. Sandy Hackett, the comedian’s son, recalled a false wall in his sister’s closet that led to a guest bedroom (the passage itself appears to have vanished today), and there were rumors of a tunnel into the cliffside. The basement could rival most homes in size and opulence, with a dozen rooms, including one that the elder Mr. Hackett converted into a screening room, complete with a bar and fake candy stand...
And then there was the strange tiled room with a drain in the floor and nothing else. The younger Mr. Hackett said his father turned it into a dark room for developing film, but when he asked about it as a child, he was told it was originally used to carve up deer after hunting trips. 
“Whenever you went in there, it was always five degrees colder, just chilly and eerie,” Mr. Hackett said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I don’t know about deer, but they were definitely slaughtering something in there.” The Imperatores replaced it with a sauna and Jacuzzi room.

Joe Adonis

Who Was Joe Adonis?
Adonis was probably Anastasia's closest neighbor. As I haven't written much about him and Zwillman on this blog, I thought I'd include some basic background information.

Adonis eventually settled in Fort Lee as well, on Dearborn Road, about a quarter-mile from Anastasia's house.

Born in Italy's Montemarano, which is near Naples and within the province of Avellino, he arrived in the U.S. with his family as a child. A longtime Brooklyn mobster, he was affiliated with such Mafia luminaries as Frankie Yale and Anthony Carfano -- aka "Little Augie" Pisano. In fact, following Yale's murder, Adonis --along with Pisano, Vito Genovese and Mike Miranda -- were among the most prominent Neapolitans working within Giuseppe Masseria's organization in 1920s New York.

Adonis was known to have directed activity on the Brooklyn docks alongside Anastasia. He also ran a Brooklyn eatery, Joe's Italian Kitchen on Carroll Street and Fourth Avenue.

He was among a select group of non-Sicilian gangsters targeted for elimination by Maranzano following the Castellammarese War in 1931, when New York's "official" Five Families were established. Maranzano was assassinated before he could strike first.

Known to be a major player in the reorganized underworld, amazingly few basic details are even known about Adonis.Also unknown is precisely which crime family he belonged to and what rank he'd held -- though sources narrow his affiliation down to either the Brooklyn-based Mangano crime family or Luciano's Manhattan-based borgata. Whatever crime family he was formally tied to, Adonis's primary allegiance remained with longtime personal friends Luciano and Frank Costello.

Adonis went on to run a range of rackets that included booze, gambling, drugs and labor racketeering. He and Costello, along with Meyer Lansky and Benjamin Siegel, owned the Colonial Inn casino in Miami Beach. Adonis also shared a gambling empire in New Jersey with Mafioso Willie Moretti.

Colonial Inn advertisement

Threatened by legal troubles in 1953 that grew progressively worse, he voluntarily deported himself to Italy. (See famous headline about this here.) Otherwise, he'd have faced a perjury charge from his discourse at the Kefauver Committee hearings. (How bad would a perjury pinch have been?) The Italian government wasn't crazy about getting Adonis, either. So he found himself in an exile-within-an-exile position. On June 20, 1971, a Milan court ordered him to stay within the confines of the town of Ancona, where Adonis died months later, on Nov. 26, 1971.

His remains were returned to the United States and buried in Fort Lee's Madonna Roman Catholic Cemetery.

"Longie" Zwillman
Abner "Longie" Zwillman was among North Jersey's most powerful and influential figures during the Prohibition Era and beyond. Known as the "Al Capone" of his state, he also was known as a political powerhouse. Zwillman amassed a fortune through rum-running, gambling and coin-operated machines.


On Feb. 26, 1959, Zwillman was found dead in his West Orange home. That morning, his wife discovered his lifeless body suspended from its neck by a loop of electrical cord tied to a basement rafter. She told police she recalled her husband getting up in the middle of the night complaining of chest pains.

The Essex County Medical Examiner Dr. Edwin Albano almost immediately ruled the death a suicide by hanging. Zwillman's stepson revealed that the racketeer had been depressed for some time and worried about the jury bribery cases. Zwillman had reportedly battled deep depression since Senate investigators recently began examining his role in the jukebox industry.

An estimated 150 mourners paid their respects on the evening of Feb. 26, and Zwillman's funeral was held the next day. Reporters identified Manhattan restaurateur Toots Schor and movie producer Dory Schary at the funeral.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mobster Left His Life in San Francisco

Why did the Lanza family execute DeJohn?

The American Mafia lost a few members in 1947, some well known, some not so well known.

Among that year's deceased were Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro, a New York-based labor racketeer who worked with Louis "Lepke" Buchalter (executed in 1944); Al Capone and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. (On the other side of the legal fence, Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York who very publicly targeted New York's Mafia, died in 1947.)

Nicholas DeJohn died that year. Ever hear of him? He was a mobster who came up in the Outfit then hauled ass for San Francisco, where he found a role in the local organized crime landscape. He died brutally in 1947; he was strangled to death, in fact. His body fermented in a trunk of a car for two days before it was discovered. The murder was never solved -- but a piece of evidence showed up in a certain pawn shop that puts an interesting twist on DeJohn's story....A hint -- Gurrah, Lepke and Bugsy had all been a part of it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Insider: John Alite Talks Terror, the Mafia

John Alite has been talking terrorism laterly

John Alite, former Gambino crime family associate, offers part two of his discussion centering on "the link between the Italian Mafia, ISIS and how buying drugs lines the pockets of terrorists."

"They both work off the same methods, which is fear and laundering money from drug sales," Alite said.

He notes that terrorists he met while in prison seemed to be "misfits, insecure and vulnerable when brought into" organized terrorism groups.

DISCLOSURE: I write for The Insider Magazine.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Clemenza "Never" Would've Testified, Actor Said

It was downright criminal that Richard Castellano didn't reprise his great role for Godfather Part Two.
Richard Castellano - the last name ring a bell?

One of the best things about The Godfather was Richard Castellano, aka Peter Clemenza, a caporegime under Don Vito Corleone.

Never mind that the film likely served as one of the mob's greatest recruitment tools ever. And if you're wondering, I did ask a couple of wiseguys what they thought of The Godfather. One, who asked to be referred to as anonymous, told me that Don Vito actually was based on a composite of all five titular family bosses. Also, he revealed, a made guy was murdered as a direct result of the film's release, a story I'll save for another time (it had something to do with the actor who played Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo -- "a top narcotics man," in consiglieri Tom Hagen's words).

Former Gambino capo Micheal "Mikie Scars" DiLeonardo was succinct. "Epic," he described the first two Godfather films.  As for the widely despised third offering: "I walked out of the theater when the helicopters started shooting everyone. I had had enough at that point, the film had become a Bruce Willis film."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cop Caliber Slugs in 4 Slain in Waco Biker Brawl

The Cossack and Scimitar MCs are affiliated with the Hells Angels, adding new dimension to the story.

Four of the nine people who died as rival biker gangs began brawling outside a Waco, Texas-based Twin Peaks restaurant were killed with the same caliber used by Waco police rifles.

This is according to a Waco Trib report based on evidence obtained by the AP "that provides the most insight yet into whether authorities were responsible for any of the deaths and injuries."

Two of the four dead had wounds from only that kind of rifle; the other two were shot by other kinds of guns as well. The ballistics reports show that the rest killed were shot by a variety of other guns. It was not clear whether any bikers had similar guns to the police. Twelve long guns, which could include rifles, were seized by law enforcement on that day.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Luchese Boss Matty Madonna's Longtime Criminal Career

Luchese mobster Matthew "Matty" Madonna allegedly ordered what is considered the last bona-fide Mafia murder: the 2013 Michael Meldish murder.

Madonna, 80, of Seldon, N.Y., has been named a "person of interest," by law enforcement officials investigating the murder. The powerful Luchese boss is actually an interesting person for anyone following developments in organized crime in America: Decades back, in 1970s Harlem, while New York's Purple Gang was murdering and dismembering, Matty Madonna was driving a car loaded with heroin to a notorious black drug kingpin.

Matty Madonna's roots go back to 1970s Harlem-based drug kingpin  Nicky Barnes.
Matty Madonna's roots go back to 1970s Harlem-based
drug kingpin  Nicky Barnes.
The alleged murderers of Meldish have been arrested. Madonna copped to 2010's Operation Heat case involving a gambling ring and prison-smuggling operation, then to another case, and is slated to serve five years.

Meldish was offed with one shot to the head in November 2013. His body was found in his car, slumped over in the driver's seat, head back and mouth open.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vinny "Ocean" Palermo: Life Afterward....

Ex-Boss Vinny "Ocean" Palermo in the good ol' days....

Vincent Palermo, former acting boss of New Jersey's only homegrown crime family, was a major Cosa Nostra player. The field was wide open for him at his ascension.

He and many DeCavalcante members and associates were eventually done in by the Fed's for the murder of a Staten Island businessman.

(What Vinny's been up to is exactly what I hoped to discover, only this interview never reached fruition.)

When last we heard about him, Vinny was set up in Texas rather nicely. He continued in one longtime business of his, running a strip-joint called the Penthouse Club. (See video, below.)

In 2011 newspapers were making hay out of a particular court case involving Vinny Palermo, a former resident of Island Park in Nassau County, one town over from where I live, in the five-towns enclave.

He arrived in Houston while in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Allegedly, the model for the fictional Tony Soprano character defaulted on payments on a $1.3 million promissory note. Vinny Ocean wanted to buy out a partner in a strip club and missed a payment, the partner alleged.
Vinny Palermo, former DeCavalcante acting boss

Vinny Ocean's club was across the street from Baby Dolls, a rival topless sanctuary (as I consider them). The street in question here, Westheimer, is a major thoroughfare in Houston. Lisa Hansegard owned Baby Dolls and had agreed to sell it to Vinny for around $850,000. But first she and Vinny formed a partnership, and Vinny took control of Baby Dolls.

Then, "tbrough mid-2007, the parties had an increasingly contentious relationship," wrote Courthouse News Service.

Hansegard was "denied access to the business and its records" and wasn't getting a dime from Vinny.

Under their arrangement, Hansegard was to be paid $1.3 million in weekly payments of $2,500, according to the complaint, which cited the Bill of Sale and Promissory Note.

Hansegard received two payments.

But "during the negotiation process for the sale, Hansegard learned that [her partner's] former name was Vincent Palermo and that he was a former member of the DeCavalcante organized crime family in New Jersey," the complaint states.

Bottom line, the newspapers exposed Vinny "Ocean" and highlighted where he was living and what his new name was.

Read my stories on the formation of the witness protection program (Stefano Magaddino was instrumental to the program's creation) here and here.

Timeline of DeCavalcante Crime Family Bosses

New Jerseys first mob boss supposedly was Filippo "Phil" Amari, a major drug trafficker who died in 1957.

Nicholas Delmore took over after Amari's short reign.

After Delmore the crime family was run by the man who gave it its longtime name. "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante led the family for years.

I've written extensively about DeCavalcante, as well as John Riggi, the next boss, who died this year.

Riggi appointed a very unpopular captain, John D'Amato, to acting boss. John Gotti told D'Amato that DeCavalcante enforcer Gaetano "Corky" Vastola was a rat and he should be killed D'Amato immediatly agreed. (Gotti was later convicted for this murder conspiracy; Vastola is still alive and reportedly has never cooperated. On May 3, 1988, Vastola was convicted of extortion and two counts of racketeering conspiracies and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In late 1990, Vastola lost his final appeal and was sent to prison. In May 1998, he was released.)

Then D'Amato's girlfriend told Anthony Capo that the acting boss was a homosexual. See story here.

In November 1991 D'Amato was shot and killed by bodyguard Capo with associate Victor DiChiara as the driver. His body has never been found.

The next street boss was Giacomo "Jake" Amari. An old-timer who was a labor racketeer like boss Riggi. He lead the family until his death in June 1997.

The man who replaced him as street boss was Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo. His interests were a gambling boat, strip clubs and construction industries. Palermo knew how to be legitimate but he knew when he needed to be a gangster.

There s the case of Joseph Masella, a degenerate gambler, who some thought was going to cooperate.

 Vinny Ocean ordered his death.

DeCavalcante associate Ralph Guarino started ratting on January 20th 1998. (Fritzy Giovanelli, a longtime Genovese mobster known for his access to law enforcement paperwork (he also was with a crew known to have shot an NYPD detective to death in Queens in January 1987), had been whispering news about an informant in New Jersey.)

Vinny Ocean was finished, along with many wiseguys, primarily due to John Gotti's order to hit a suspected informant.  Though other crews not directly involved were implicated, Vincent Palermo and James Gallo were the actual shooters (and Anthony Capo the wheelman) in the Fred Weiss murder.

Arrests were made in December 1999 when a federal indictment was handed down. It named many of the New Jersey crime family's members.

Anthony Capo was the first to cooperate. Longtime Soldier Joseph "Tin Ear" Sclafani DID NOT BECOME AN INFORMANT as some sites reported. He did his time and got out in 2005.

Anthony Rotondo and "Vinny Ocean" Palermo flipped following Capo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mob Boss's Appeal Calls Witness "Bulger"

Arthur Nigro, former Genovese crime family acting boss, was found guilty of the Adolfo Bruno murder and other crimes.
Adolfo "Big Al" was a boss for the Genovese crime family's Springfield outpost.

April 1st, 2011, April Fool's Day, held no jokes for Arthur Nigro, the former Genovese crime family acting boss found guilty of murder and other crimes following a three-week trial in New York, as noted.

Nigro, of the Bronx, N.Y., stood trial with enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas, of West Springfield, Mass., and his brother Ty Geas, of Westfield, Mass. Facing the trio was a litany of crimes that put them in prison for life.

The headline charge was the 2003 murder of Genovese boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, the murder of a suspected informant as well as the attempted murder of a union boss, plus and a series of extortion attempts spread across Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Manhattan.

New York's Five Crime Families Still Exist

The OGs... Members of the early American Cosa Nostra stand for the camera.

The mob is exposed when law enforcement makes arrests. Then newspapers print stories about men with colorful nicknames and their “alleged” acts of murder and racketeering.

Such stories are in short supply these days. When the newspapers do cover a mob story, it generally details elderly men who committed crimes going back decades. Take the Vincent Asaro trial, which was billed as the big Lufthansa Heist case, which was spotlighted in the cinematic classic Goodfellas film.

The trial ended in a shocking acquittal for the 80-year-old defendant, who was once pals with James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke.

Friday, December 4, 2015

DeCavalcante Associates Cop to Drug Charge

DeCavalcantes in an undated surveillance photo.

It won’t be a very Merry Christmas for John “Johnny Balls” Capozzi and Mario Galli.

The two DeCavalcante associates admitted they distributed more than 500 grams of cocaine, the FBI’s Newark office reported.

Capozzi, 34, of Union, New Jersey, and Galli, 23, of Toms River, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls to one count of distribution of more than 500 grams of cocaine. The count carries a mandatory prison sentence of between five and 40 years.