Ruling Would've Stopped Feds from Bugging Big Paul

Where was this federal judge when the FBI installed a bug inside the home of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano? The article doesn't even reference Castellano.

A federal judge issued a stern rebuke Friday to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's method for breaking up an illegal online betting ring. 

According to published reports a Las Vegas court frowned on the FBI's ruse of disconnecting Internet access to $25,000-per-night villas at Caesar's Palace Hotel and Casino. FBI agents posed as the cable guy and secretly searched the premises.

The government claimed the search was legal because the suspects invited the agents into the room to fix the Internet. US District Judge Andrew P. Gordon wasn't buying it. He ruled that if the government could get away with such tactics like those they used to nab gambling kingpin Paul Phua and some of his associates, then the government would have carte blanche power to search just about any property.

"Permitting the government to create the need for the occupant to invite a third party into his or her home would effectively allow the government to conduct warrantless searches of the vast majority of residents and hotel rooms in America," Gordon wrote in throwing out evidence the agents collected. (To view PDF of the ruling, click here.)

"Authorities would need only to disrupt phone, Internet, cable, or other 'non-essential' service and then pose as technicians to gain warrantless entry to the vast majority of homes, hotel rooms, and similarly protected premises across America."

FBI cut Internet access, sent agents into hotel rooms to fix it without warrants.

The government had urged the court to uphold the search, arguing that it employs "ruses every day in its undercover operations." The government noted that US judges have previously upheld government ruses to gain access into dwellings.

In 1966, the Supreme Court authorized an agent to pose as a drug buyer to get consent to go inside a house. In 1980, an agent posing as a drug dealer's chauffeur was upheld. Seven years later, agents posed as real estate investors to access a bedroom and closet of a suspect. And in 1989, an agent posed as a UPS delivery man to get inside a drug house, the government argued.

But operatives posing as gas company or water district workers seeking permission to enter the premises to check for leaks were deemed illegal searches. That's because the occupants provided "involuntary" consent to enter because they were duped into believing a life-threatening emergency was afoot, Phua's defense pointed out.

In the Phua case, the FBI and a Nevada gaming official clandestinely filmed the rooms while building a case that ultimately accused Phua, his son, and others of running a World Cup soccer bookmaking ring where "hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal bets" were taking place. The investigation started last summer when Caesars Palace staff got suspicious that the men were ordering a substantial amount of electronic gear and Internet connections.

As for Castellano, in March 1983, the FBI obtained a warrant to install secret listening devices in Castellano's house on Todt Hill, the highest natural point in New York City's five boroughs and the highest elevation on the entire East Coast, from Florida to Cape Cod.

Waiting until Castellano flew south for a Florida vacation, agents drugged his watch dogs, disabled his security system, and planted devices in the dining and living rooms.

At least that's the version propagated in the book Boss of Bosses: The Fall of the Godfather- The FBI and Paul Castellano, which is a great read. (A book about Carlo Gambino, who appointed Castellano his successor, has practically the same title: Don Carlo,: Boss of Bosses, by Paul Meskil, 1973. We'd purchase it in a heartbeat, only it's priced from $75 to $150! Also, if you read the Castellano Boss of Bosses and find any interest in Tommy Agro, you should read Joe Dogs The Life & Crimes Of A Mobster, about Joseph "Joe Dogs" Iannuzzi.)

Tommy Agro was a gangster -- listen to the audio below and you will hear a gangster who has no clue he's being taped repeatedly threaten Joe Dogs' life. Agro's threats are not hollow. He had already tried to kill Joe Dogs. On January 19, 1981, Agro and two men found Ianuzzi at the Don Ritz Pizzeria on Singer Island, Florida and severely beat him with baseball bats, nearly to death.

Ignore the one minute of music -- this version is complete and unedited...

Giving it a close reading, we find it difficult to believe. No doubt the FBI wouldn't want it known how they installed "bugs" inside a private residence. The whole scenario -- drugging the dogs creates the risk of overdose, etc. -- seems improbable, down to the "tickle" of the magic marker as the covert-op-readied agent supposedly darkened an exposed ankle.

The official and more believable version is that they knocked out Castellano's cable television and an undercover agent slipped into the house dressed like a repairman who installed a listening device directly under the nose of Thomas "Tommy" Bilotti.

The bottom line is one way or the other they managed to obtain a wealth of incriminating information on Castellano.

With warm thanks to our Facebook friend who pointed this out to us.


  1. Wow. I had read that Agro transcript but never heard it. Wow. Tx for sharing that. And much agreed, Joe Dogs is an excellent read. Boss of bosses was entertaining, but, some of it seemed pretty fabricated. Can't think where I read it, but, had read agents posed as cable guys and convinced Tommy Bilotti that cobwebs were causing the disruption to the cable that the agents were actually doing.

  2. I think it was Jules Bonaventre on one of those Mafia shows who talked about the cable guy ploy. But he kind of had this weird smile while he said it that made me think he was bullshitting!!! But then, in another show, I think the NatGeo series, they had the agent who posed as the cable guy go into more detail about the op..... Not that they won't just home invade someone to plant bugs like they did in the apartment above the Ravenite...

  3. Okay, finally started to seriously work that story I mentioned following that interview... I think it's the one most of you are waiting for. Should be up tomorrow or Sunday....

  4. I saw where they also ruled it illegal for police to make you wait while they call a k9 to search your car if you refuse consent.

  5. Yeah, its totally realistic to think that a court ruling could effect something that happened almost 30 years ago.

  6. Not exactly what I was trying to say. More like I wonder if one day some may look back on the rough and tumble days of get the mob at all costs.

  7. My other point here being: the judge ruled that if the government could get away with such tactics like those they used to nab gambling kingpin Paul Phua and some of his associates, then the government would have carte blanche power to search just about any property.


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