Mob Boss's Appeal Calls Witness "Bulger"

Arthur Nigro, former Genovese crime family acting boss, was found guilty of the Adolfo Bruno murder and other crimes.
Adolfo "Big Al" was a boss for the Genovese crime family's Springfield outpost.

April 1st, 2011, April Fool's Day, held no jokes for Arthur Nigro, the former Genovese crime family acting boss found guilty of murder and other crimes following a three-week trial in New York, as noted.

Nigro, of the Bronx, N.Y., stood trial with enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas, of West Springfield, Mass., and his brother Ty Geas, of Westfield, Mass. Facing the trio was a litany of crimes that put them in prison for life.

The headline charge was the 2003 murder of Genovese boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, the murder of a suspected informant as well as the attempted murder of a union boss, plus and a series of extortion attempts spread across Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Manhattan.

"A treasure trove of new information" about the "workings of the Springfield mob" has come to light thanks to's Stephanie Barry, whose been dutifully writing up revelations regarding this Cosa Nostra family. (Personally, I didn't find any revelations so far to be earth shattering, but this is an ongoing series.)

Freddy" Geas, and "Artie" Nigro, of Bronx, NY, filed fresh motions asking U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan to vacate their life sentences. One of the appeals, anyway, highlights "new details about government witnesses," including New York's John Bologna and Springfield-based strip club magnate James Santaniello. 

Also, retired FBI Agent Clifford Hedges, was prompted to provide details regarding a report he wrote about Bruno that is described by some "as the final trigger that sent the Bruno murder conspiracy in motion," as Barry reported.

Nigro had control over the Springfield faction from the Bronx, which is said to be a Mafia stronghold to this day. It was Nigro who gave the nod for Bruno to be removed from his position (as well as life on this earth).

This case nearly annihilated the mob's overall presence in Greater Springfield.

First page of an FBI report on statements Bologna made  -- as well as details he withheld.
See more documents.

All these years after the verdicts -- and one of two recent appeals seems to have ruffled feathers.

Freddy Geas filed a motion to vacate his sentence in May -- but it's "rudimentary and boilerplate, clearly written by the hand of a penniless inmate serving a life sentence in a high-security prison in West Virginia with the possible assist of jailhouse lawyers."

It's the other motion, filed by Nigro's lawyer, that has shot some figurative flack at the FBI. "Persuasively written and carefully prepared" by a high-profile Wall Street lawyer named Ruth Liebesman, it was filed in June and is said to offer a rare glimpse into law enforcement's handling of informants: namely two: John Bologna, "a mid-level New York gangster who bounced between crime families while an informant for the FBI" and James Santaniello, a local man known for his "wealthy, stealthy and somewhat reclusive" ways -- all while also serving as an FBI informant. 

Nigro received inadequate defense, his motion proclaims. Federal prosecutors "dumped thousands of pages of witness testimony "on the eve of trial" with hidden gems of exculpatory evidence inside, which were all but unmanageable given the timeline," Barry reported.

New information about Santaniello, including his business holdings and tight relationship with law enforcement officials, raises some questions about Nigro's guilt, the motion says. Also spotlighted:  Bologna's uncanny ability to deceive both mobsters and FBI agents.

Cross-examination of Bologna (Nigro's former lieutenant who worked for the Feds as a snitch since 1996, all while living the lifestyle of a violent criminal committed to Mafia life. In addition, the Feds  "took 14 years ... to disavow him, and, only after his role in the Bruno murder conspiracy came to light through other witnesses."

"Bologna was the FBI's New York office's answer to Whitey Bulger," the wily ex-boss of Boston's Irish mob crew known as the Winter Hill Gang. He lammed it for decades -- but was finally caught and is serving life for 19 murders. Bulger "committed crimes unchecked while acting as an informant for the FBI and feeding federal authorities information on his rivals in the Italian Mafia."

Bulger's former FBI handler/childhood buddy John Connolly is serving a 40-year prison sentence due to his links to Bulger and other Winter Hill members. Convicted in 1999 for tipping Bulger off about to pending investigations and indictments, he was blamed for causing Bulger to take off in 1994. Bulger went on to find his place on the FBI's Most Wanted list until 2011, when he and his girlfriend were arrested on the West Coast, in California.

There have been no accusations that the FBI in New York knew about Bologna's specific criminal dealings in Western Massachusetts. An agent testified at Nigro's trial that Bologna simply hid things and lied to the agency during dozens of briefings. However, previous reports law enforcement indicate Bologna was tipped to an investigation into Mafia figures in Greater Springfield, where he had been regularly visiting in 2002, and abruptly stopped traveling here.
Liebesman argues in her motion that Bologna was the one who ordered the hit on Bruno - not Nigro - and orchestrated a myriad of extortion schemes in Springfield after Bruno was appointed boss of the city.

Santianiello, who ran local strip clubs and nightclubs, was detailed as having extensive business holdings in his family members' names. The agreement he signed with federal authorities in 2010 carried "unspecified benefits."

Santaniello somehow managed to live in the real world as well as the underworld. Despite a range of questionable activity he was never prosecuted. All the while he was compelled to pay to various mob figures thousands of dollars on a week basis.

Masslive noted:
Santaniello was cited as a victim of extortion in two trials: the prosecution of Nigro and the Geases plus a subsequent 2012 trial of Emilio Fusco, a co-conspirator who fled to his native Italy and delayed his own proceeding. Fusco was acquitted of the Bruno and Westerman murders but convicted of racketeering, extortion and other crimes and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

And despite his dealings with mobsters, he offered "little or nothing" in terms of evidence against Nigro.

"As law enforcement was well aware - at least in Massachusetts - Santaniello was Bologna's victim. He had nothing to say about Arthur Nigro," the imprisoned Bronx boss's lawyer wrote.

Bruno and Gary Westerman were killed by a group of upstart gangsters looking to usurp power from Bruno, a longtime figure in Western Massachusetts' organized crime landscape. Fusco won permission from New York crime bosses (Nigro, namely)  to kill Bruno after he showed them a court document that revealed Bruno had discussed Fusco's standing in the Genovese family with an FBI agent in 2002. Fusco also equipped the chosen hitman with the .45-caliber gun used to kill Bruno.

Turncoat witness Anthony J. Arillotta, Bruno's successor before flipping in 2010, led the charge against Bruno and Westerman, who disappeared in 2003. Arillotta's brother-in-law, Westerman was viewed as untrustworthy after he was seen speaking with police.

Arillotta testified in a previous trial that he and Fusco were among the four who brought Westerman to the location where he was killed. Told they were going on a home invasion, he was led to a property where he was shot and bludgeoned then buried in a wooded lot behind the house.

Westerman's remains were only found in 2010; Arillotta led investigators there after his arrest in the Bruno case. His testimony was critical against "Freddy" Geas, Ty Geas  and Nigro. The Geas brothers previously had served as Arillotta's enforcers. They had assisted him in his vast efforts to take over Springfield's underworld.