'They Weren't the Same Wiseguys You See Today'

Santora faces 25 years.
Mulling Nicholas "Nicky Mouth" Santora's latest legal troubles -- he is 71 and facing 25 years -- we thought it would be interesting to hear what his ex-girlfriend Belinda Rossetti had to say. Over cappuccinos in one of the few cafes left in Little Italy, she gave us some interesting insight into Nicky and his generation -- men from another age. A golden age, compared with today...

"I was a little taken aback when I heard...although still not terribly surprised. I'd been waiting for this day to come for 4 years. Nicky was always trying to pretend he would and could get out of that life. Back in 2008, he talked about and made plans for a "regular life". I believed at the time, it was more of an effort to try to convince me rather than convince himself. When we were together a few days after his release from prison in July, 2009, while still in a half-way house, Nicky was hustling again. Between the “I promise’s” the “I love yous” and the “I’m not doing anythings”, he was hustling. I couldn't believe it. I figured, if anything, he'd at least lay low since he wasn't officially released from prison. Nicky was always talk when it came to his innocence. Many of his letters took on the same role.

One of Santora's letters to Belinda. 
On July 2, 2009, he was on Supervised Release and living at the Federal BOP halfway house, “Brooklyn Community Correctional Center” on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, which is a community re-entry house. During Nicky’s first week in the halfway house, he had to meet with his probation officer. Since he had been indicted and was sentenced on a federal level of more than one year the Court ordered a term of Supervised Release. I remember that day very well. He was a nervous wreck and he told me he was worried about his “intake” later that morning. I sympathized with him, knowing that the questions his probation officer would be asking him later that morning would, without a doubt, be with regard to crime mapping in targeting patterns of incarceration and recidivism. Although they would pretend to be assisting their new client with his transition from prison into the community and making sure he complies with the conditions of release. They wanted to dissuade him from ongoing criminal activity and the “mob life” – that was their job. I stressed to him that they were going to want to know what his intentions were. Would he stay out of trouble or go back to his life…the only life he knew. However, that didn’t stop Nicky from meeting with a fellow wiseguy – earlier that same morning, to boot. And I was with him when he did.

I officially broke up with Nicky shortly after the arrest of Joseph “Sammy” Sammartino, a reputed Bonanno Captain and 14 others in early-October, 2009. Nicky had come to my home very early that morning after the round-up by the Feds, pleading his innocence of any involvement in that particular incident. Although I had been warning him since the day he got out that he would be on surveillance the majority of the time he was out of his home, he didn’t’ seem to care. He’d make it so obvious, almost trying to mock the FBI and Justice Department. He’d wait for wiseguys on a street corner sidewalk, in front of businesses owned by known, convicted mobsters. Then he’d meet with them in plain sight. Any person with some level of intellect or common sense would, in the very least, go inside…but not Nicky. And he had no qualms about it. At the time, a good friend of mine with NYPD worked with the Narcotics Division, Organized Crime Control Bureau. I’d warned Nicky, without going into detail or discussing my friend, that he was under surveillance and to cut out whatever it was he was doing. Nicky being Nicky, he’d just laugh and say, “Oooooh! I’m scared!” and he’d keep laughing. I’d realized then that he couldn’t get out…not because the mob wouldn’t allow it, but because Nicky didn’t’ know anything else.

Later, on November 16, 2009, I’d met with Nicky at my home. He’d given an “ok” for a friend of his, a

                             Michael Mancuso         (from Belinda Rossetti)
wiseguy, to take me to Little Italy. When I addressed his blatant disregard for his terms of release and his doing things out in the open for the entire world to see, all he said was, “It ain’t easy. Things aren’t like they used to be and I have to make up to get back to where I was.” He was justifying his very public, daily routine, which consisted of criminal activity, criminal activity and a bit of criminal activity. But even though he continued with his activities I knew that deep down he’d longed for something more…something other than the mob life. And it would come out in things he’d say. One day I happened to run into him yet again, waiting for some guy… I teased him, “I knew that had to be you standing on the street corner, pacing up and down the sidewalk. Don't you ever stop? Up to no-good, still?" His response was, "I'm too old for this shit. I'm tired, I'm tired! I'm even fat and have to wear these stretch pants, look!" It was pitiful; what his life had become. I’d wondered about that on occasion - his life of crime, I mean. Here was a kid, 10 years old and an Altar Boy at St. Nicholas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His life of crime began there, stealing blank baptism records from the rectory and selling them. I thought about some of the others – Michael Mancuso…Joseph Massino. I remember how I walked into Federal District Court in April, 2011 despising Joseph Massino, the former Bonanno Boss who made history with his “defection”. I remembered how I sat next to his brother, John, and how I yelled at him for making so much noise that I couldn’t hear what was being said. My scream, of course, had disrupted the court proceedings and everybody turned to look at me.

But I learned something about myself that day and about these guys…those particular wiseguys…the old timers who practically grew up in Cosa Nostra. They weren’t the same wiseguys you see around today. That organization was, not only their life and the only thing they knew…it gave them a sense of belonging. I listened to testimony of crime family Boss, Joseph Massino, the same Joseph Massino who as a 6 year old, used to go down to the construction sites every single morning at 5:30am, without fail, and sell sausage and bread to the construction workers out of a food truck to help his family. I remember having a painful knot in my throat while I sat in the courtroom; something I’d experienced only a few months prior to that day.

Belinda Rossetti
A close friend of Nicky’s and fellow wiseguy had taken me on a “tour” of East Harlem. At the time, I’d wondered what was in East Harlem. The first stop was Rao’s. I’d surmised by then that you couldn’t get a table if you’re a big-time Hollywood celebrity…you had to be a wiseguy to get in. “Tommy” being who he was, we just walked in. Afterward, we continued on our “tour”. He pointed out where he lived as a kid, the school he went to and the church. He showed me the grocers that still stood there and he told me about this tough little kid, his best friend, then and now. He told me about him and that kid living there in East Harlem. I remember how he had driven down another street and showed me where that kid lived and pointed out the exact place but said the building had changed from what it was. I looked over at the building and at the apartment where he pointed and tried to imagine seeing his best friend as a kid, sitting at the table in there, trying to race through his dinner so he could go join his friend, “Tommy”, outside on the corner. Taking this all in, I began to feel a lump in my throat and I felt a stinging in my nose. I imagined that tough little kid inside joining “Tommy” outside and strolling down the sidewalk (cool as they were) to the corner to join the other kids. I thought about what fate had in store for that little kid…that tough little kid named Michael Mancuso. “Tommy” continued driving down the street and pointed to a corner where he and Mancuso hung out as kids with “other guys”. He told me about the type of kids that hung out there and how it didn’t matter what time of the day or night it was, you could hang out there on the corner and “…nobody would bother them! Black, White, Puerto Rican, Mexican, nobody! Nobody would touch them!” Tommy had said to me. He told me that when it came time for a kid to go home, his friend would walk him home and nobody would touch them. I could tell “Tommy” longed for the old days, the “Golden Days”, before R.I.C.O. Nicky as well, had told me time and again that he missed the “old days”. It was clear to me that this was their sense of “belonging” and as kids growing up, that was all they had…and unfortunately…for them, that was all they knew.

So what do I think about the possibility of Nicky spending the next 25 years in prison? It’s medically impossible. Nicky wasn’t in the best of health when he got out the last time and he isn’t in any better condition now. Besides, this time around the Feds and the State want something from Nicky. They wanted it when he got arrested in 2012 but 20 months is…well…only 20 months! He chose to do the time. But who knows…this time it may be 25 years…Hmph! 299 charges? Perhaps the prosecution will get what they want after all. Eric Seidele is a smart guy and clever prosecutor...maybe Nicky will be good to himself this time."


  1. This story is sad to read. Those guys get stuck in their ways and refuse to change even if it means dying in prison. Sure they make a lot of money and live the high life for a while, but is that worth spending years or the rest of your life in the can?

  2. east harlem was great back in the day, 116st and pleasant ave, 108st, Patsys pizza, the Colonial bar, the italian ice place on 1st ave, Moe's candy store on 108th and 1st, Jefferson park just to name a few. Italian harlem was a beautiful place lost in time and when I go there now I see a totally different world with only a handful of Italians left out of the hundreds of thousands who once made up a proud community

  3. Reputed Bonanno Boss Arraigned On New Charges
    Nicholas Santora Allegedly Caught On Wiretap Recordings
    August 21, 2013 5:37 PM


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