SI Rep. Grimm's Mafia Ties: Truth or Sour Grapes?

Rep. Michael Grimm: the "Gambino Congressman?"

The Mafia controls a lot of unions, especially in the construction industry, which enables them to create revenue streams that flow right into the crime families' pockets.

That's a basic statement regarding a key way that the mob generates cash for its members. This is generic, historical background info -- but it seems to be enough to label any politician who is in some way connected with a union as a puppet of the Mafia.

To wit: Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm. Or "Mikey Suits" as he is called in an article headlined Carpenters Union, Under Fire For Mob Connections, Endorsed And Funded Gambino Crime Family Congressman, Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm, running on

I don't follow local politics, especially congressmen outside my district. So when I read the above article I was not familiar with Mr. Grimm. I did notice something, however, as did a friend of mine, Sonny Girard, who made a note of it in the top comment below.

The story does not offer much support for its very specific charges against Grimm; I would go so far as saying it offers "zero" support.

FBI agent Jack Garcia, who infiltrated the Gambinos.

I went through it closely and the best I could come up with was that Grimm was endorsed and funded by "one of the most corrupt (and right-wing unions)... the Carpenters and Joiners Union." I also read that Grimm is "Staten Island’s Mafia clown," and that "despite Grimm’s mob connections, he defeated hapless Democrat Mark Murphy..." I think the bit about defeating Murphy is more significant than the writer of this story realizes. More on that later.

And the story seems to be basing all these Mafia references on nothing more than generic testimony given by "Donnie Brasco" in Canada recently; it links to this CBC story for backup, wherein we read: "The former FBI agent who infiltrated the New York Mafia and helped convict more than 200 gangsters told Quebec's Charbonneau commission on Monday that the Mob would manipulate the construction industry and rake in large payoffs by infiltrating unions and controlling the supply of raw materials.

Biton hiding face from camera, behind a business partner.
"Joseph Pistone, who spent five years undercover as a Mafia henchman and whose story was made famous in the movie Donnie Brasco, testified at the inquiry about his experience in deep cover, mostly inside New York's Bonanno crime family in the late 1970s and early '80s.

"Organized crime cannot operate without corrupting someone," Pistone is quoted as saying.

"And in the construction sector, that meant gaining control of labour unions — generally by having a Mafia man get elected president or business manager of a local, Pistone said.

"They'll start their own union, or there will be an existing union where they'll have their man, a Mafia guy within the union, become the representative of the union, become the president of the union," he testified.

So since, historically, the Mafia ran many unions, the fact that a union endorsed Mr. Grimm makes him the "Gambino Family Congressman." This is pretty sketchy; there is not a single detail supporting the story's thrust that Grimm is connected to the mob.

I did a little digging and found a recent story posted on that reports: " ...the New York Times and Post reported that the ex-business partner of New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm has close ties to the imprisoned don of the Gambino crime family, according to federal prosecutors. The old partner, whom Grimm started a restaurant with in 2006 after ending his colorful career as an undercover FBI agent, reportedly visits [Staten Island-based Gambino capo] Anthony “Fat Tony’’ Morelli in prison and calls the crime boss his “uncle.” This came out at the bail hearing for Ofer Biton, [who is the ex-partner and] a top fundraiser for Grimm. Biton is charged with immigration fraud and is under investigation by the FBI, as is Grimm himself, for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws, Salon reports. 

The article misrepresents Morelli, who is a capo, or captain, as the don, or the boss -- and unless it's really secret news, Morelli is not boss of the Gambino crime family. However, Salon is likely using the term "don" informally.

So let's stop and recap what we have learned: Grimm is a former FBI agent; his ex-partner visits a Mafioso who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for racketeering and extortion; and Grimm has been charged with allegedly breaking campaign finance laws.

Unless the reporter knows more than he's telling, I don't believe the website has enough information to make its highly inflammatory charge against Grimm seem even probable. He certainly is under investigation but to go so far as practically label him house counsel for the Gambino family in a headline? No; that dog won't hunt, as southerners say.

I did a little more digging and came across the story Michael Grimm, G.O.P. Congressman, Fights Critics from the

"Jack Garcia, a respected retired agent known for infiltrating the Gambino crime family, said Mr. Grimm helped him establish cover as a strip club operator. He said Mr. Grimm, playing a corrupt stockbroker, came to the club with crowds of brokers willing to associate with mobsters and operate in the “gray areas” of the law.

“He played the part perfectly,” Mr. Garcia said. “You could trust him with your life.”

Grimm later helped him "snare corrupt police officers in Florida and politicians in New Jersey. Mr. Grimm, he recalled, was a stickler for documentation and handled large amounts of cash without causing his supervisors to have concerns," the Times reports.

"Grimm left the F.B.I. in 2006 and started several business ventures, none of which seemed to flourish.

"In early 2010, Mr. Grimm asked to meet with former Representative Guy V. Molinari, a Republican political kingmaker on Staten Island. Mr. Molinari said Mr. Grimm’s personal story so captivated him that he not only served as chairman of the Grimm campaign, but also 'kind of adopted him as a son.'”

Agent Joe Pistone while deep undercover in the 1970s.

Grimm, a Roman Catholic, "found his largest pool of campaign donors in an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Manhattan. Much of the political fund-raising in the congregation was done by... Ofer Biton, an aide to its rabbi," the Times reports. The Salon story quoted earlier says the same about Biton, describing him, as we wrote, as "a top fundraiser for Grimm who is charged with immigration fraud and being investigated by the FBI, as is Grimm himself, for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws."

According to the Times, "the F.B.I. is investigating whether Mr. Biton embezzled millions of dollars from the congregation. In addition, followers of the rabbi told The New York Times that Mr. Biton and Mr. Grimm had told them the campaign would accept illegal donations that were over the limit or from foreigners."

These allegations against Grimm surfaced back in January, and since then, the Times reports, "Grimm has gone on a constituent-services offensive. He helped a Roman Catholic nun resolve tax issues. He persuaded the owners of One World Trade Center to light the building red in honor of the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. He told the Republican rally on Staten Island that he had worked diplomatic channels to help a Brooklyn woman leave Yemen to escape an abusive husband.

“'I may be a U.S. congressman, but I’m also a Marine,' he said. 'And I don’t leave American citizens behind.'”

Based on this information, does Grimm sound like a "Gambino Family Congressman?" Obviously the fuel igniting this specific charge are the visits by ex-business partner Biton to the federal lockup in Fort Dix, NJ, to see Morelli.

As for Morelli, "[his] mob assignments included overseeing the [Gambino] family’s investments in pornography, labor racketeering and illegal dumping, law-enforcement sources said," according to the

Pretty lame stuff here, all in all. A big headline with no payoff. I think Grimm's detractors are jealous that he was reelected in spite of "baggage" they see him carrying, which must seem like a pretty big deal to them -- but not to me.

Then again, he's not my representative.


  1. It's early in the morning, and I could have missed it, but I felt like I read half a story. A number of times Mike Grimm was called a Gambino Congressman, but saw nothing other than a union's campaign contribution that made him that. If the writer is going to charge the Congressman like that, he should make sure he backs it up...or STFU. If I missed the direct link, sorry. Will reread it after my morning espresso.

  2. Compared to the Obama Administration the Mafia is small potatoes.

    I worry more about Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano than any wiseguy.

    1. Unfortunately, we are in the minority. The larger group of citizens is blind to the thuggery of the government and signed up for more whippings. When the ignorant outnumber the informed, we as a country are lost.

  3. You are missing a big part of the story. The Rabbi Pinto who accused him of this was himself arrested. Seems like the guy who said Grimm was bad is himself in jail and a wrap.


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