Pondering 'Little Al' While Reading 'Mob Boss'

We are reading the book "Mob Boss" about former Luchese street boss Al D'Arco. Until we finish and can write our take on the book and its subject, we are rerunning a well-read controversial previous story in which Al played a central role. Many took umbrage with my opinion on rats... wonder if that's changed, though I doubt it.


An old Cosa Nostra News poll was focused on the views of regular law-abiding citizens (whom I presume make up the bulk of my readership) regarding whether all informants should be given the denigrating rubric of "rat."

I was quite shocked that 77% of you believe all government informants are rats.

A key problem is that we have creeps like Sammy Bull Gravano, Vinny Palermo, and Hector Pagan to serve as shining examples to guide popular opinion. But not all informants are created equally, I believe. There are some informants -- admittedly in the minority -- whom I would not classify as being among the aforementioned members of the genus Rattus.

Gravano clearly wanted to save his own ass, and was playing a game with the government, no matter how sincere many of those federal officials thought he was, time tells us it was bullshit: the Bull went back to crime, dealing E, specifically, as soon as humanly possible -- and didn't even go to great lengths to hide it.

Sammy Bull threw away the second chance
the government gave him.

Then we have the case of Vinny "Ocean" Palermo, a former boss of the New Jersey DeCavalcante crime family who eventually became a government witness. On September 14, 2009, the New York Daily News exposed Vinny Ocean's new life in Witness Protection as a strip club operator in Houston, Texas.

Vinny Palermo was a mob boss (only in
New Jersey, though). After he rolled, he tried
to build a strip club/drug ring empire.
Palermo had grown a goatee and the paper ran photos of him. He has been living under the name "Vincent Cabella". Palermo's new strip clubs were called "The Penthouse Club" and the "All Stars Mens Club" and Houston Police say they were a source of drug dealing and prostitution in the Houston area. Palermo claims that many of his Houston friends already know who he is because he was featured in an A&E television special. He lived in a multimillion-dollar gated mansion.

Palermo's son, Vincent Jr, is said to be involved in the day-to-day running of the strip clubs. Local Houston television station KPRC broadcast an expose on Vinny Ocean on September 15, 2009.

Just 40 days later, Palermo put his Houston mansion up for sale, first for $4 million, but then over the following two years he reduced the price to $2.45 million but it still would not sell so he took it off the market on June 3, 2011. He originally bought the mansion for $895,000 in the early part of the decade.

Another mobster, for whom turning state's evidence was a business transaction, not a promise to tell all he knows, but then walk the talk, lead a new life as a law-abiding citizen.

As for Pagan, his story is well known as he was part of the cast of the hit reality show "Mob Wives." But to recap, he is the gangster/ex-husband of the show’s star, Renee Graziano, one of the daughters of currently imprisoned Bonanno big shot TG Graziano.

Hector “Junior” Pagan, who had become the DEA's bitch, wore a hidden microphone to tape conversations with at least six organized crime figures after he agreed to flip last summer, amid the taping of "Mob Wives."

Federal prosecutors, however, became reluctant to use Pagan -- to put him on the witness stand and such, owing to the lies he was caught in. For example, Pagan said that another member of his crew murdered the mafia associate they were robbing, which was initially the crime he was nailed for. As it turns out, Pagan himself was proven to have been the shooter who committed the murder, and not the man he pointed the finger at.

John Alite, another informant, was yanked to the States from down in Brazil, presumably where he was working out and sunbathing. A former Gambino associate and one-time close friend of John Gotti Jr. in the 1980s and 1990s, he was extradited in 2006 and convicted in Tampa, Fla., on several counts of murder conspiracy, racketeering and other charges stemming from allegedly running a Gambino crew in Florida. In 2011 he got 10 years in prison -- but then he was plucked from his cell and flown to New York -- where he emerged as a prosecution witness prepared to testify against former associates, primarily Junior Gotti.

After 11 days of deliberations, the jury sent word that they were deadlocked. The judge was forced to declare a mistrial in what was the fourth and final (so far) attempt to send Junior Gotti away for life. Interviewed after the trial, jurors said that they had not trusted prosecution witnesses, particularly Alite, The New York Times reported.

A motley assortment, or maybe on this blog "crew" is the better word. (I know there are a lot more, but this post is getting long enough and I think you all get the idea here, in any event.)

Al D'Arco, former 
Lucchese acting boss.
But what of Little Al D'Arco?

D'Arco was living in a very real nightmare. As acting boss for the Lucchese family -- Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso were in the wind, having gotten word that the hammer was coming down -- D'Arco had to hold the family together while carrying out the wishes of the hiding bosses. The only problem was that their wishes were becoming increasingly erratic and bloody, and Little Al was probably wondering if Amuso and Casso were both insane. They were whacking members of their own family for any reason. Casso's police informants revealed someone was a rat, someone was stealing, someone was a "creep" -- left and right, Lucchese hit men were killing their own. At one point Casso wanted the entire New Jersey faction of the family killed, after their capo, Tumac, figuratively gave Vic and Gaspipe the finger.

Al watched all this happen in front of him and probably wondered what the hell had happened... how had the Mafia fallen to these depths?

Eventually, Al knew it was only time before bullets would come flying his way. The reason: he knew that Amuso and Casso blamed him for a failed attack on Pete Chiodo, a family soldier who was incorrectly identified as a turncoat. A botched shooting left a very overweight Chiodo full of bullet holes (his blubber literally saved his life), but very much still breathing. So a hit team shot up his sister, who also survived. Chiodo did indeed flip then. (Is Chiodo a rat, too?)

First some background on Little Al.

D'Arco became a Lucchese associate during the 1950s when the family was led by boss Tommy Lucchese. In the 1960s, D'Arco was convicted on drug-related charges and spent several years in prison. After his release, D'Arco returned to the Lucchese family, which was then run by boss Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corralo. On August 23, 1982, D'Arco became a made man in the Lucchese family and a soldier in the Brooklyn-based crew of caporegime Paul Vario, of Goodfellas fame (under the fictional name of Paulie Cicero).

Flash forward: D'Arco correctly believed Amuso and Casso were waiting to kill him because of the Chiodo screw up. In July 1991, Amuso and Casso replaced D'Arco as acting boss with a four man panel of capos. On September 18, 1991, D'Arco attended a meeting of Lucchese leaders in Manhattan's Kimberly Hotel.

As Wikipedia relates:

D'Arco noticed that one man had a bulge under his shirt—a sure sign that he was carrying a gun. The man then went to the bathroom—and when he came back, the bulge was gone. D'Arco realized this was a classic setup for a hit; the next person to go into the bathroom was likely to come out blasting. Convinced his life was threatened, D'Arco rushed out of the hotel. His driver was nowhere to be found—another indication that D'Arco had been marked for death.

Too fearful to go to the main FBI office in Manhattan because of the unknown extent of Casso's tentacles into corrupt law enforcement, D'Arco went instead to an FBI office in New Rochelle, New York and offered to become a government witness. Except for $55,000, D'Arco was forced to leave his fortune behind. But he got to take his family.

I believe he is the only mobster to ever become a government informant of his own volition; he had not been arrested, had not been indicted, the police weren't pressuring him to 'fess up. He was compelled by the simple fact that the Mafia as he knew it no longer existed; it was finished. He read the writing on the wall faster than many others, and accurately knew that the downfall had begun and was gaining steam. There was no life for him in "the life" anymore, and he knew it. So he got out, with his family. 

Over the next 10-plus years, D'Arco testified in a dozen trials along with many grand jury hearings and other legal proceedings. His testimony helped convict Amuso (a psychopath, but not as bad as his buddy, Casso), acting Colombo crime family boss Victor "Little Vic" Orena (ending the Colombo war), Bonanno crime family consigliere Anthony SperoGenovese crime family consigliere James Ida and Genovese boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. D'Arco also testified at the trial of Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, the two corrupt NYPD detectives who provided Casso with information.

D'Arco is participating in the federal Witness Protection Program. According to government sources, D'Arco has been an excellent witness and has not committed any more criminal acts.At one of his trials, we get via Wikipedia, a prosecutor asked D'Arco if the mob life was worth it, and received this reply:

"No, I'm 65 years old. What has it gotten me? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Yes, I have my wife and I have my son. But I was the one who got my son into the Mafia. And what did I accomplish by doing that? My son is a drug dealer. No, I've got nothing to show for it. What a waste of my life."

If a psycho like Gaspipe Casso was gunning for you for no reason, and your only escape was the Feds, and you took only your family and the shirt on your back -- and if you stood by the informant's agreement and didn't use it as a "reset" button to start up your old life in another part of the country under an assumed name -- then, let me ask you, are you a rat? Do you consider Little Al D'Arco a rat?

I, for one, do not.


  1. It is the LUCHESE FAMILY in La Cosa Nostra -- I will correct the spelling when I have the time to. Tommy LUCCHESE, the man's name, is deliberately spelled differently. Tommy Lucchese apparently had mixed feelings about having his crime family named after him. This is explained in more detail in Capeci's D'Arco book. I am planning a post about it soon, as well.

  2. At the time Amuso and Casso were out of control. They wanted to whack the whole Jersey crew and had them on the run. I don't know if I have the chronology down correctly, but maybe Little Al should have made a pact with the Jersey crew and
    whacked out Amuso, Casso, and whoever remained loyal to them, which wasn't much. The Bronx faction hated these guys. Casso was a coked up lunatic.
    Anonymous Old-School

    1. You're really on the right track. For example, Richie Pagliarulo, clipped dozens of guys for Gaspipe. Had he been a little more bright he would have stopped the madness by turning his gun on his boss. But he was blindly loyal and cavalier about what had happened even till he got to Lewisburg. Vowing he would win an appeal, he was there for a relatively short time when he died from a heart attack.

      Read more in my review of the book "Gangbusters" in "Sonny Girard's Mob Reader."


    2. Sonny, thanks for the reply and the invite. I read Gangbusters myself; I'm not a big fan of Ernest Volkman. I don't know if you read this book on Al D'Arco, but this title is wrong. He was never a mob boss, just acting; and he was horrible at that. Imagine taking liberties with the real boss' money?
      He's in his 20's making coffee for wiseguys and enjoying their stories. That's usually done in your teens. Then they put him to work with Petillo, I assume to make his bones, and then you goes crying to his uncle when its time to do a piece of work. He mentions some rules I've never heard of. He says that the real rat is not the rat, but the guy who calls someone a rat who is not a rat is the rat, and he's still in the mob, just an outlaw. This guy is definitely in denial. Joey Gallo was an outlaw, but rats are not outlaws they are rats. The only good
      thing this guy has done in my opinion is ask the Lord for forgiveness and attend church and pray. He should have never been made.
      Anonymous-Old School

  3. In the case of Pete Chiodo, he had a right to flip and couldn't be considered a rat. He was actual loyal until they decided to try and whack him. Gravano definitely a big Rat

  4. Interestingly I don't think I fully agree with this story - I wrote it over a year ago but I think I'll be editing and revising this when I have a chance. And why would I use a poll that only 8 people responded to?

  5. they would of stashed the gun in the bathroom or somewhere else in the hotel and if they were gonna kill him in the room the guy with the gun would have just pulled it out when he got the signal, no need to hide the gun. Vic and Casso were wild and I think they caused wide-spread paranoia in the family on all levels

    1. Funny u say that - Al said he noticed one guy was strapping until the dude went to the john. When he returned without the piece Al said he saw the classic GF1 setup - that's why he split. The book is loaded with details....

    2. Also Wikipedia is wrong - All had sons and daughters according to the book "Mob Boss."

    3. I don't think there is anything to ponder. This guy not only is a rat, he should have never even been made. They would have never killed him in the hotel room; I don't think they were going to dismember him there and make such a mess; and it would have looked kind of strange carrying him out in a body bag through a hotel. The easy place to whack this guy would have been his restaurant or on the streets of Little Italy late at night. Dress in black, ski masks, two behind the head and done, either location, quick, in and out. Getting back to my first couple of sentences, this guy used to make coffee for old timers and like to listen to their stories; he never really earned consistently as an associate and that's why he was turned down to be made the first time; but then again Casso and Amuse should never have been in charge either; they showed their lack of judgment by making this Al an acting boss; they could have used Migliore, Baratta or Avellino, in my book.
      Anonymous-Old School

  6. I always wondered if Anthony Corallo ever regretted his decision. He didnt die until 2000 so he was alive well past all the shit Amuso and Casso did

    1. People in all walks of life regret bad decisions. Ducks would have been no different. The difference is that some realize they can't change the past and move forward day to day with errors on a back burner.


    2. Didn't Ducks choose another guy for the big seat - only he got dead shortly thereafter by Gas n Amuso?

  7. Yeah, buddy luongo. With him dead and others on their way to prison he may not have had many to choose from.

  8. I saw a tv docu the other night that had Tony Ducks in several scenes going into or out of the courthouse. Each time he would spit -- on the sidewalk, on the steps. Was this some kind of "I hate the feds" trademark of his?


Post a Comment