Nothing New: Sensationalizing the American Mafia

The huge bust netted 127 mobsters.

On occasion, while researching one story, another story raises its head and says "howdy".... One such story greeted me today courtesy of the New York Post website; it puts an interesting spin on 2011's infamous "Mafia Takedown Day," when 127 gangsters were hauled off to jail.
The story's juiciest stuff is based off anonymous sources. But it also features "on the record" sources, including Joe Pistone (aka Donnie Brasco) and Joaquín "Jack Falcone" García, the renowned former FBI agent who worked as many as five separate undercover cases simultaneously. 
During Operation Jack Falcone, Garcia infiltrated Greg DePalma's Gambino crew. Garcia authored a book about it: Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family. He told me he chose the name based on the Italian magistrate killed by the Sicilian Mafia.

The New York Post story is headlined ‘This will start a mob war’. It details how the 2011 raids were caused by Colombo "rats" who had worn wires on the family's bosses. The story proclaimed that a "bloodbath to avenge the betrayal" would follow.

Yielding such tidbits as "The first targets of revenge would be the informants, and then guys who brought them into the family" may comprise what passes for good tabloid reporting these days, but it certainly isn't logical to those with an informed viewpoint of the American Mafia.

To be fair, the Post's story, which ran only three days after the event itself,  was labeled an opinion piece. And if one crime family were to do anything so nutty it probably would be the American Mafia's most violent-prone clan, which by the way was convulsed by three inter-family wars. Still.... even if the Colombos were hit the hardest, would even the wily Carmine Persico (who sanctioned hits on a cop as well as a federal prosecutor, though in the latter case, the shooters accidentally killed a family member) give the nod to kill informants already under FBI protection?

He very well might have. (In fact, Persico's MO just might have been the stimulus for the anonymous law enforcement sources to tell the Post what they did. A bloodbath would seem to be exactly what The Snake would want...Maybe there was even intel that orders had been given...) 

But as far as is known, he wasn't successful if he sanctioned anything. 

Then again, with the Mafia, nearly anything is possible and there's more than a few unsolved mysteries.

“The respect in the mob only goes up the ladder — it does not come back down."
--Andrew DiDonato 

The Colombos were hit pretty hard, indeed. It's been reported that the family lost many on Takedown Day due to war-related crimes. In fact, the big Mafia bust on January 20, 2011, left the family with less than half the number of made members it had only five years earlier, making it the smallest of the crime families. It was estimated that the Colombos had as few as 40 to 50 full-fledged members on the street as of January 2011.

"They were probably smaller than the DeCavalcante clan," a source said.

More than Five Families Hit
Luigi “Baby Shanks”Manocchio, 83-year-old boss of the La Cosa Nostra crime family in New England was among those arrested in January 2011.

More than 120 suspects were charged, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “The violence outlined in these indictments, and perpetrated across decades, shows the lengths to which these individuals are willing to go to control their criminal enterprises and intimidate others,” he said. “The Department of Justice and our partners are determined to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all, and to bring their members to justice.”

The charges include a wide range of illegal activity, including murder, murder conspiracy, loansharking, arson, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery, illegal gambling and labor racketeering, in some cases occurring over decades.

Here's most of the Post story, which opined on possible consequences regarding Mafia Takedown Day, which occurred on Thursday, January 20, 2011. Mobsters were nabbed in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as in Newark, N.J., and in Providence, R.I.:

Heads will roll.

The Colombo crime family rats whose taped conversations led to last week’s massive federal bust of 127 gangsters will likely touch off a bloodbath in the family to avenge the betrayal.

“I think they’re going to kill people, because the guys running around making the tapes were made members of the family,” a high-ranking source close to the investigation told The Post.

“I’ve heard that people are looking to retaliate.”

The FBI arrests took down the entire leadership of the Colombo crime family, two top Gambino family figures, and 34 made members of New York’s five crime families — Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese — and families in New Jersey and Rhode Island....

“I think people in the Colombo family are very much in shock over what happened,” the source said. “That Colombo leadership is a dangerous bunch — they’re reckless killers, and sometimes it doesn’t take much for them to decide someone has to go.”

The first targets of revenge would be the informants, and then guys who brought them into the family. The biggest-ever Mafia sweep hit the Colombos hardest, leaving around 40 made guys on the street, the source said.

Another law-enforcement source, an expert on the Colombo family, said the most important arrest was the de facto leader Andrew “Mush” Russo — which leaves the family rudderless.

“Nobody knows who will take over,” the source said. “There’s nobody left.” Russo, well-liked by the family, was convicted of jury tampering in 1999.

For fellow Colombo Anthony “Big Anthony” Russo, who is not related to Andrew Russo, violence was as easy as spreading butter on bread. In one of the taped conversations by a mob rat, the capo boasted that mobsters “were the only guys willing to go to war.”

In another tape, Big Anthony was getting itchy, telling a confidant he suspected “a rat real close to us.” He swore that when he found the snitch, he would “chop his head off.”

While on parole for a prior racketeering conviction, Anthony Russo was inducted as a made man and soon was promoted to capo. He’s now accused of murder, extortion and loan sharking, among other charges. He faces life in prison.

The relatively unscathed Genovese family, which had only 13 members charged in the bust, is now dominant, said a former law-enforcement official.

“They remain a very powerful group,” agreed Jack Garcia, a legendary FBI undercover agent who posed as moneyman Jack Falcone to infiltrate the Gambino family for three years beginning in 2002. The Gambinos have dropped to No. 2, he said.

“In the Genovese family, you really don’t have that many defectors. They’re still very entrenched in the unions and construction industry,” Garcia said.

The snitches and turncoats who aided investigators underscore a dramatic transformation of the city’s mob from the old days, agents and informants say.

“There have never been so many informants as in the past 10 years, They talk big, but they can’t do the time,” said Joe Pistone, an undercover FBI agent who penetrated the Bonanno crime family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco in 1976.

“With the young guys today, it’s the ‘me generation,’ ” Pistone said. “They want to make their money now and this why so many have gone into the drug business.

“They don’t have the wherewithal to cultivate the politicians and judges. Most of these guys couldn’t point out Italy on a map,” Pistone said.

Former Gambino soldier Andrew DiDonato, who is now living “in Middle America” under a different name, said shaking down drug dealers was a steady source of income in the ’80s and ’90s.

He would approach dealers in Canarsie, Mill Basin and Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, and demand a regular kickback, telling them: “You got one of two choices: We kill you right here, or you pay us weekly.”

And the process of becoming a made man is now just a straight numbers game, decreasing the importance of honor and experience in favor of earning power....

Mob bosses have also rejected the late John Gotti’s flamboyance and public bravado, becoming more secretive.

Gotti held meetings each Wednesday with all his capos at the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy, which helped investigators piece together their criminal enterprise.

“We realized that social clubs and gathering together brought unnecessary heat, and law-enforcement an opportunity to identify the players,” said DiDonato, who turned state’s witness in 1997 and blew the whistle on a double murder and other crimes.

DiDonato said more goodfellas are either becoming snitches or leaving the life entirely to avoid hefty prison sentences. Most fear being double-crossed — or killed — by their own mob families.

“The respect in the mob only goes up the ladder — it does not come back down,” he said.