Spiro, Alleged Greek Mafia Boss, Declares Innocence

Nick Christophers -- whom I have interviewed in the past -- is the well-known editor of Mob Candy. He has done me the honor of writing a guest blog about Spiro Velentzas, who the feds allege was the boss of the Greek Mafia. He is also the one whom then-Gambino boss John Gotti was referring to when he famously declared: "You tell this punk, I, me, John Gotti... will sever your motherfuckin’ head off!"

Spiro is serving life in prison. Christophers, for one, doesn't believe the feds had the goods to support their allegations, nor to impose such a draconian prison sentence. Spiro, now in prison 25 years, still declares his innocence. And I agree that there is more to this than meets the eye, as well. "Fat Pete" Chiodo is the main reason Spiro is behind bars. Fat Pete became a rat after the Lucheses (unjustly) had decided he was an informant and moved to assassinate him. 

But they didn't call him Fat Pete for nothing. His blubber protected him, and then he did turn on his amici nostro (who had also tried to whack Chiodo's sister, a sad moment in Cosa Nostra history.) The bottom line is the entire Windows Case and all its resulting convictions hinge on Fat Pete's credibility -- so the feds have ample reason not to rock that boat...

Christophers is currently working on a book and script about Spiro's life and I hope to get him to write some more about this "Greek Mafia," which, Christophers writes, "doesn't exist."

Well, neither does the Italian one, bro!

For the past 20-plus years Spiro Velentzas has been incarcerated for a crime he swears he did not commit. And he has good reason. Many, in fact, believe him. 

Throughout the annals of organized crime history we have long heard stories regarding "high profile" figures sent to the "big house" with little or no evidence to support convictions prosecutors were able to squeeze out of juries.

The case of Spiro Velentzas screams injustice, some say, just as loud as the John "Sonny" Franzese conviction in 1967 for allegedly masterminding a series of bank robberies.

Mr. Velentzas is not well known among the American public. He arrived in this country with his parents, sisters and a brother in the late 1940s, for the same reason other immigrants have come here for time immemorial, to better their lives. His father ran a restaurant in Boston where the family lived before moving to New York in the late 1950s to settle in "Greek Town," an area of Astoria, Queens. Opting not to follow his father into the restaurant business, Spiro opened his own "kafenion" (basically a Greek social club for men).

In the club he ran a dice game called "barbut," which is popular among Greeks and Arabs. But he could not run it peacefully unless he would allow the local Italian Mafia crime family their slice of the piece. In this case, the Lucchese family was hankering for a cut of Spiro’s revenue. Associates from the family dropped by and brokered a deal with Spiro. It was an order that the wily son of Greek immigrants would have rather refused. He was required to fork over 10 grand a month for “protection.” Then he could operate his game in peace. 

This deal worked out fine for about 20 years. Spiro paid Lucchese soldier Peter "Fat Pete" Chiodo a fortune – and in return the obese made man would later bury Spiro under a mountain of lies.

“Fat Pete” would rat on Spiro, as well as many others in the New York Mafia, especially his own family, the Luccheses, who were at the time going through a bit of an upheaval that accompanied the family’s transition to new management: the team of boss Vittorio “Little Vic” Amuso and his underboss, Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.

The so-called “Greek Mafia” never really existed as a formal organization. They were just a loose knit crew of gamblers and tough guys that dabbled in various businesses. There was never any hierarchy; it is alleged by law enforcement, however, that some of the Greeks, and not only in New York, had ties to organized crime. Nevertheless, Spiro and those he ran with were all put in the limelight, and probably on the FBI's radar, thanks to those wiretaps placed where Gotti talked mob business with his underlings.

“Spiro is the boss of the Greeks,” Sammy Gravano can be heard saying to John Gotti on one such wiretap.

Spiro was certainly a force in his community (a Godfatherly-type who helped those of his people in need), no doubt, but was he at the level and power of a John Gotti? Not at all, he claims.

Spiro became another part of Gotti history, though, when John said those famous words to Sammy that have forever been played on TV shows about the mob: "You tell this punk, I, me, John Gotti...will severe your motherfuckin’ head off!"

John went into his rant while complaining to Sammy about how Spiro had opened up a dice game a stone’s throw away from a Gotti-owned gambling den, which obviously hindered Gambino profits.

Spiro apologized and moved the game—after an attempted hit was sanctioned.

But, all in all, Spiro could not be considered a Mafia boss in any way, shape or form. He was businessman who offered a service. In essence he was a glorified gambler who catered to other gamblers.

He was convicted in 1992 on gambling and racketeering charges and he would have gladly served his time. But the government did not stop there and soon trumped-up the charges—sealing Spiro’s fate in the process.

He is now serving life they for the murder of gangster Sammy “The Arab” Nalo.

Sammy was a career criminal who was arrested and served time for numerous robberies. Spiro knew him, and was, unfortunately for Spiro, on the telephone with The Arab, who was blasted away in his travel agency. He was murdered on October 25, 1988.

Allegedly, the story goes that Chiodo went to Vic Amuso for the “green light” to take Nalo out, since he was a threat to Spiro’s business; that meant, by extension, he was a threat to Chiodo’s business.

Fat Pete cover his mouth to hide his lips.

To law enforcement it was obvious Spiro was responsible. This was despite the fact that there was not a single witness, no gun was ever recovered, no fingerprints dusted—and basically not a single shred of evidence connected Spiro to the crime.

Then, during his trial, a parade of rats took the stand and pointed the finger at Spiro to save their own asses.

And the biggest rat was Fat Pete, the man who had actually ordered the hit on Nalo. In fact, one of the shooters, Mike Spinelli, admitted in court that Fat Pete had given him the order, along with another hit man, Richie Pagliarulo. This is only one example of how far the government will go to convict someone they have set their sights on.

Spiro was no saint. But to sentence a man to life in prison for a crime that he did not commit—there was no evidence, the hit man testified that Chiodo had given the order, not Spiro, and as for motive, there was ample enough reason for Chiodo to have decided on the hit because he too profited from Spiro’s business, as noted.

Even now, after 21 years in his small cell at the Allenwood Federal Corrections Complex in White Deer, Pennsylvania, Spiro still holds to his story.

“I was framed by the government and Fat Pete. Was I a gambler? Yes, but not a murderer!"

Another textbook example of "the end justifies the means," a motto the FBI seems to live by.


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