Genovese Family's Springfield Crew Prospered Under Skyball

In 1961, from a telephone booth at Providence Hospital, a Roman Catholic nun dropped the proverbial dime on Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli, then a young hoodlum whom she apparently earmarked for redemption, at least so it seems, based on the good sister's actions.

The more immediate prompt for the call was that the nun knew that Scibelli was running an illegal gambling ring.
Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli
"Skyball" Scibelli 

Apparently, divine intervention and the related jail time weren’t enough to dissuade him from running the rackets for the Genovese crime family in Springfield, Mass., which included parts of two bordering states as well.

Scibelli was a low-profile gangster who ran the Genovese crime family's outpost quietly during a time of relative peace and prosperity, neither of which lasted very long after the old-school Cosa Nostra boss died.

Scibelli’s criminal record dates back to 1932. Among the crimes he went to prison for were extortion, illegally selling liquor -- and providing illegal "gaming on the Lord’s Day,” according to law enforcement documents.

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli took over the Genovese crime family's Springfield Crew following the death of Salvatore "Big Nose Sam" Cufari.

But that would come later. Back in the early 1960s, Scibelli and one of his cohorts had to go through the courtroom process of grinning and bearing it. The good sister dropped the dime, remember?

Skyball was vilified in the courtroom -- subjected to the lawful equivalent of the fire-and-brimstone sermon, by a furious judge who didn't like the Mafia or mobsters or gangsters or whatever you wanna call them.

"We don’t want bookies," Judge William E. Nolen thundered at Scibelli (and co-defendant Paul "The Penman" Cardaropoli.)
"We don’t want cheap ones or prosperous ones here, and we aren’t going to have them."

But they did have them; law enforcement did all it could to stop that simple fact, but failed.

Even today, nearly 70 years later, there's enough guys ready, willing and quite able to assume control of that longtime outpost of the Genovese crime family.

Both Scibelli and Cardaropoli were sentenced to 19 months in jail each back in 1961. Not even two years, the sentence was considered "stiff" for the time.

Kingpin of Organized Crime in Massachusetts

Scibelli grew up in Springfield’s South End neighborhood.

He ignored the judge’s admonition and eventually went on to run "Springfield" for the New York-based Genovese crime family from the early 1980s until 1998, two years before his death in 2000 at the ripe age of 87 of natural causes.

But he was arrested at least once more prior to his ascension. Convicted of illegal gambling again, he got one month less than in his 1961 sentence.

By 1978, Scibelli was winding up the last three months of the sentence in a Hartford halfway house.

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli prospered as boss of the Springfield Crew.

Some thought his reign had reached its conclusion about 10 years before it actually did.

The Hartford-Courant seems to have believed Skyball was finished when it published what reads suspiciously like the Springfield crew's obituary. However, it dutifully noted that the Genovese mobster was clearly taking a dive to save his brother.

"I'm going to fight this the American way. With lots of lawyers and lots of money."
--Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli

Officials Say Scibelli Sentencing Ends Era For Mob was the headline of the Dec. 14, 1987, story, that proclaimed: "75-year-old Francesco "Skiball" (sic) Scibelli showed he was the loyal Mafia lieutenant he once proclaimed.

"In an unusual plea-bargaining session this fall, Scibelli, an old man with a history of cancer and other ailments, agreed to plead guilty to racketeering charges and go to prison for a maximum of nine years on the condition that he would not have to admit being a member of the New York-based Genovese crime family or even acknowledge the existence of the secretive La Costra Nostra, or Mafia.

"Part of the plea bargaining with federal prosecutors also resulted in a promise that his younger brother, Anthony "Turk" Scibelli, 73, who has even more serious health problems, would receive a suspended sentence for his admitted role in a multi-million-dollar gambling operation that extended beyond western Massachusetts to eastern New York and northern Connecticut."

"As relatives wept, Scibelli, a short, conservatively dressed man with thinning white hair, showed little emotion Thursday as he was sentenced in Springfield's U.S. District Court to six years in prison.

"In a gesture of holiday good will, U.S. District Judge Frank Freedman allowed the family man to begin his term on Jan. 11."

"Don't worry about nothin'. I'll be OK," the older Scibelli told a well-wisher while strutting out of a packed courtroom.

Scibelli's sentencing "ended an era for organized crime in the three-state area, at least as it concerned his faction of the mob, which authorities said controlled illegal gambling here for the past decade."

The case against Scibelli and his crew -- a total of eight men -- resulted from a 1984 FBI investigation that utilized wiretap recordings in both Springfield and at a New York City Genovese crime family social club. None of the evidence was ever played in court for the jury because all the men had copped to plea bargains.

Conversations caught on tape included one meeting between Scibelli and Genovese front boss Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno during which the former bragged to the latter. Skyball was making generating steady cash for the crime family's coffers.

"We're doing good up there," Scibelli told Salerno, according to the FBI tapes."You know, running the thing there, you got me. I'm being a good capo."

In another discussion recorded for posterity, Scibelli talked about gamblers who weren't making good on their losses.

"We oughtta break their heads."

Read Springfield Mob Shooters Needed "'to Get Better at Head Shots"

By 1975 Scibelli was overseeing a large illegal gambling operation based out of the Terra Mar Yacht and Tennis Club, in the shoreline town of Old Saybrook, Conn., where he owned two homes.

State troopers raided the Terra Mar gambling site and Scibelli made an elaborate escape (he went out the back door).

He was not charged in connection with that operation.

Scibelli, who didn't say a word during any of the formal proceedings gave the Courant an interview from the Terra Mar club (which no longer exists).

"(The police) have harassed me all my life, just because my name's Scibelli," he said. "I'm not a bad man. I live for my kids I want them to start life off right. They are all going to be lawyers."

During the same interview, it was noted that the federal grand jury indictment had named him the "kingpin of organized crime in Massachusetts."

To which Skyball replied: 

"I'm going to fight this the American way. With lots of lawyers and lots of money."


  1. Read the article and then enjoy the reader comments. Wow.


Post a Comment