Wiseguy Jerry Chilli Was a One-Man Crimewave

Jerry Chilli*   died last Saturday from throat cancer; a private funeral mass will be held in Florida, which is where the Bonanno capo spent the greater part of his adult life. (Especially after New Jersey law enforcement officials, in no uncertain terms, told him to depart New Jersey.)

Bonanno capo Jerry Chilli served lots of prison time, which some chalk up to his involvement with the notorious Costabile "Gus" Farace,
Jerry Chilli, at the top of the game.

Chilli was a stone-cold gangster who shunned the limelight, who never "talked" and never took a step back, even when he knew there could be a steep price to pay. He was a tough guy with his fists who made his bones with a gun.

The younger of two brothers (his brother moved up faster and earned more), Jerry Chilli served lots of prison time, which some chalk up to his involvement with the notorious Costabile "Gus" Farace, the mob associate who executed an undercover federal agent on Staten Island in 1989. (A 1991 made-for-television film about Farace is available on DVD featuring several actors who today are high profile, including Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Vincent.)

As was the case with Luchese associate James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, Jerry Chilli was the type of gangster who loved to steal.

However, unlike Burke, Chilli supposedly rarely kicked money up. How did he get away with it? Primarily by keeping a low profile and by forging an aura of fear about him, one source said. Chilli also stayed away from the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, where the Bonanno bosses lived then.

During Chilli's prime, official boss Joseph Massino was away -- leaving on the street Salvatore "Good Lookin Sal" Vitale in Queens and Anthony Spero, who held things together from his perch on Brooklyn's Bath Avenue.

The only thing the cigar-chomping gangster loved more than stealing and robbing was kicking back and guzzling booze and an occasional espresso (plus, a little toot was welcomed).

"That was Jerry Chilli: he'd roll out of bed, go to the bar, get loaded up, then (he'd roar) 'Let's go rob someone'!" said one source who knew Chilli when he lived on Staten Island. (We spoke to three sources formerly affiliated with the New York Mafia; each one knew Jerry Chilli at various times in his life.)

Chilli was a gangster's gangster -- an old-school tough guy who never broke omertà.

He also was something of an innovator, according to another source, who told us Chilli was one of the first wiseguys to truly exploit credit cards (check out the approaching details of the 1989 indictment, which includes link). Chilli also was among the first enterprising New York wiseguys to establish an outpost in Florida (for use as a vacation spot as well as to serve as a new base of criminal operations for incremental illicit revenue streams).

Made-for-television film about Gus Farace.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Vincent, Ted Levine. 

Chilli went through more than his fair share of personal tragedies as well. And due to his unfortunate decision to mentor an up-and-coming drug-dealing associate who went on to gain national infamy, Jerry Chilli likely will be forever associated with Gus Farace. In fact, some say Chilli ended up basically serving life in prison "on the installment plan," meaning he was constantly indicted and imprisoned for the DEA agent Farace killed while under Chilli's flag.


Though he generally was not as violent as other mobsters, Jerry Chilli had his moments -- especially when his son was murdered in a grizzly double homicide. The Bonanno mobster was ready to take out not only those he believed were responsible, but associates and families as well, as the complaint says. "Jerry Chilli wants to take off everybody" due to his "desire to execute the... families" of the two primary killers.

Chilli didn't reach the capo rank until relatively late in his "career." He was only promoted sometime after former Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Massino was arrested. (One reader noted that Chilli was promoted in 2004, which seems to fit this assertion.)

Chilli was a rare mobster in the sense that he didn't seem to really care much about the mob itself, meaning the organized entity. He was more of an independent-minded nimble entrepreneur. He didn't put much faith in things like hierarchies, the commission, the rules -- except for the one about not snitching; he never talked to the Feds or any law enforcement entity, and he was known to always do his time "like a man."

On two occasions he nearly got himself killed, for disrespecting a Gambino associate and a Bonanno capo.

Jerry Chilli almost didn't get made, in fact, due to his lack of respect for Bonanno capo Tony Lisi, who Chilli didn't hesitate to slap in the face.

"Jerry was a fcking maniac who drank, stole and never kicked up a dime," said one mob source, who knew Jerry when he'd lived near the mobster on Staten Island, before Chilli's permanent move to Hollywood, Florida.

Jerry mostly hung and dealt with knock-around guys, preferring not to keep the company of fellow mobsters. He always did his own thing, Jerry Chilli. Getting made, getting promoted -- none of it mattered to him. Jerry did what he did -- and didn't really care about much else.

His chief concern was keeping his pockets filled with cash, which he'd freely spend -- mostly to purchase booze, espresso and maybe some blow.

One area he certainly didn't invest in was his apparel. Jerry Chilli never "dressed up" for a night on the town. He was as far away as one could get from the likes of a John Gotti-style mobster.

He seemed to love the daily grind of "the life." He'd roll out of bed whenever he rolled out of bed... he'd stop inside a local barroom and get loaded.... maybe he'd do a little blow, washed down with cups of espresso.... then it was "back to work," hitting the streets and robbing anyone and everyone.

The mob mentality of slowly milking rackets over time was completely alien to Chilli's way of thinking. Take it all, right now!!! was his attitude. And fck everything else!

"High-class wiseguys wanted nothing to do with him," said a Brooklyn source

Originally, the Chilli brothers (Jerry and Joseph) were associated with the Genovese crime family. Both were due for induction into that crime family. But then Jerry Chilli went and got into a wrangle that culminated with him slapping caporegime Lisi across the face outside of Benjamin "Lefty Two-Guns" Ruggiero's club.

That effectively ended the Chilli brothers' run with the Genovese crime family. After Jerry slapped Lisi, the crime family wanted nothing to do with them.

Enter Carmine Galante's right-hand man, Angelo "Little Moe" Presinzano, who stood less than five feet tall. He was short, but he was vicious, and he helped bring the Chilli brothers into the Bonanno crime family. (Moe wasn't Galante's cousin, however, as has been reported, according to our source; Presinzano was Lilo's most loyal henchman.)

(NOTE: Lilo himself was only five-foot-four-inches tall, and since he tended to walk with a hunch, probably appeared shorter. This is according to a New York Times profile written by Selwyn Raab and published the day after Galante's murder. The piece also noted Lilo regularly jogged along East River Drive. Law enforcement followed him almost constantly. He was known to stroll "like an aristocrat" though the streets of Greenwich Village, where he lived, specifically at 160 Waverley Place, in the last years of his life.)

Numerous reports say he died in 1977, but the source tells us Presinzano didn't die until a few days after the July 12, 1979, Galante hit at at Joe and Mary's Italian-American Restaurant on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In fact, Moe was supposed to have joined Lilo for that open-patio lunch that day, but was home sick.

Jerry's brother Junior was tasked with seeing Moe, who had been Junior's captain. Moe was still sick and laying low at home.

"They want to see you downtown," Junior told Moe.

Moe wasn't interested and had already reached a decision, the source told us.

"You tell them guys my boss is dead. And I ain't going anywhere," Moe replied.

Little Moe proceeded drinking heavily and died later that night, supposedly of natural causes.

Lilo being carried out after his final lunch.

What's WATT with Joe the German...

One night at Joey Palumbo's place on Staten Island's Midland Avenue, Jerry Chilli, not long after he became a made member of the Bonanno crime family, got into an argument with Joseph "Joe The German" Watts, a fierce Gambino earner and shooter.

Chilli didn't "crack" Joe Watts -- he verbally abused him. We misunderstood the source in the prior report, who went through the situation with us again, in greater detail... 

Following that argument, Joe Watts wanted Jerry Chilli dead. Watts, rather than just doing the deed on a whim, took the "proper" route for handling such disputes. He spoke with Gambino boss Paul Castellano, who, in the end, concurred with Watts.

Joe Watts wanted Chilli dead.

"Joe Watts killed 30 fcking guys and brought in mega-dollars -- mega-dollars," the Staten Island source noted. "Paul wanted Jerry's head" for disrespecting Watts.

Castellano gave the job to Gambino underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce (John Gotti's mentor.)

Bonanno family member Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera was Jerry Chilli's captain at the time. Big Trin, along with Phil Giaccone, were part of Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato's faction -- and all three would be killed together in the basement of a Mafia owned club in 1981.

Sonny Red was the one who went to bat to save Jerry Chilli's life.

According to the Staten Island source Dellacroce told Sonny Red that Big Paul wanted Jerry's ticket punched for the confrontation with Watts.

Sonny Red replied: "We're not killing him."

"Then shelve that fcking guy," Dellacroce said.

So Sonny Red shelved Jerry Chilli. (Sonny Red, whatever personal feelings he had or didn't have for Chilli, simply did not believe that a made guy deserved to be killed over an argument with an associate in a bar.)

Chilli also was a lone-wolf type who for whatever reason pulled off a lot of jobs outside the family's purview. He was rarely indicted with other mobsters in his later years, sources said.

Actually, he was glad to be shelved, as he had complete free reign, one source claimed. When they wanted him back, he wasn't very pleased.

That was after the Sonny Red faction was exterminated. Jerry was brought back and placed in Patrick "Patty From the Bronx" DeFilippo's crew.

"Jerry didn't care -- he did what he did no matter what his standing was," the source told us. "Fck those guys in Queens," Chilli reputedly said.

Jerry Chilli an Innovator

He was one of the first mobsters to realize the potential inherent in credit card fraud. (Some younger readers may find this difficult to believe, but credit cards did not always exist. They gained widespread popularity in the late 1970s. (You can read all about the history of credit cards, if you'd like, here.)

A Brooklyn source related a story about how casually Chilli used stolen credit cards.

He pulled over to the side of the road and told his associate to get him a pack of gum.
"I don't got any money," said the associate.  
"Use a credit card," Chilli replied. 
The friend had trouble comprehending that; he seemed befuddled by the very notion.... He asked: "Use a credit card to buy a pack of gum?" 
"Buy a fcking case of gum then!" Chilli replied.

Chilli's love of sunshine led to him becoming one of the first New York-area wiseguys to establish a foothold in Florida, where he eventually moved and lived full-time. (And spent many a night bellied up to Miami Beach's Thunderbird bar.)

Jerry had owned a home on Staten Island and -- because of his love for being out in the sun -- he also had a place on the Jersey Shore. Chilli caused serious, nonstop trouble in the Seaside Heights area, where he lived and hung around. He and his guys routinely brawled in bars, busting places up and sometimes seriously harming someone.

Chilli didn't hesitate to square off with rival mob crews, either. One night at The Top of the Mast, a bar located next to The Aztec, Chilli and some guys got into a brawl with a bunch of Colombos. One of the Colombo guys was thrown off the building's terrace -- and was killed. (A Bonanno associate (not member, as first reported) was later charged with the crime.)

One weekend night sometime afterward, Chilli and his guys were getting ready to enjoy a nice Sunday home-cooked meal when New Jersey cops with members of the state police showed up at the door. "He was basically told to get out of there or they were gonna put him in prison for the rest of his life," said the Staten Island source.

Jerry Chilli actually was part of a cabal of New York wiseguys who'd first set eyes on the Sunshine State during what some consider a Mafia golden age: the 1970s. (If it was, it likely was the mob's last, ever.)

Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo, a former Luchese capo, also was known to have started traveling to Florida. He and Chilli and a few other New York and even some Chicago guys started doing their thing down in the Sunshine State, which for the most part had been deemed "open territory."

"Tumac" Accetturo

Jerry Chilli went through a series of tragedies unique even for a mobster.

In the mid-1980s his son Joseph was brutally murdered in a double homicide.

In 1988, Chilli lost his son-in-law, who was shot to death in an alleged gangland hit inside a Manhattan barroom.

And in 1989, his daughter was charged with harboring fugitive Costabile "Gus" Farace, who murdered DEA agent Everett Hatcher in February that year.

"Farace was a fcking psychopath," who injected steroids to build his vein-popping bulk, said the Staten Island source.

It was there, at the Arthur Kills Penitentiary, formerly located on Staten Island (it's no longer there) that Farace had met Jerry Chilli, who decided to take the young hoodlum on as part of his crew, which was then focused on large-scale cocaine trafficking. (In fact, Hatcher's undercover sting operation had been focused on Jerry Chilli, against whom the DEA was working to build a narcotics-trafficking conspiracy case.)

The Hatcher murder prompted one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history, according to published reports. A federal taskforce consisting of 500 agents began systematically tearing up New York City looking for Farace, who'd disappeared following the fatal shooting.

"They threw a net over Staten Island," said the source who lived there when the Farace manhunt was underway.

As for Jerry Chilli, who'd brought Gus into the Bonanno crime family as an associate (though Farace had ties to the Colombos via Gregory Scarpa Junior, he was considered primarily a Bonanno associate), his punishment for Farace, said one source, was "life on the installment plan."

Costabile "Gus" Farace murdered an undercover DEA agent named Everett Hatcher.

Jerry's brother Joseph "Junior" Chilli also was a longtime Bonanno mobster -- he was made capo in the 1980s. He was the wealthier of the brothers because he controlled a gambling and loan-sharking ring that operated in lower Manhattan's Fulton Fish Market.

Junior also owned around four fish companies on Fulton Street, considered the nation's largest wholesale fish market.

Jerry Chilli's son, nicknamed "Joseph the Blond," was murdered nearly 33 years ago.

On Jan. 15, 1984, Joseph Chilli, 30, and Thomas “Tommy Ruggiero" Sbano, 38, Benjamin "Lefty Two-Guns" Ruggiero's stepson, were found dead, their bodies propped up in the bloodied front seat of a Lincoln Continental abandoned in a parking garage in a Lower Manhattan apartment building. Some reports claim that the car's motor was still running when the bodies were found.

Initial speculation was that the murders had resulted from a drug dispute.

Then on Jan. 23 of the same year, Anthony O`Connor was shot five times while drinking at an Upper East Side bar. He survived the shooting.

Five years later some of these pieces were put together.

In 1989, the Fed's smashed Junior's million-dollar ring apart. Arrested were Junior, his son, Joseph III, and brother Jerry, plus six other associates and members of the Bonanno and Genovese crime families.

They were charged in an 18-count indictment for a range of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy. Among the counts was loansharking, racketeering and credit card fraud (see UPI report) as well as conspiracy to murder O'Connor Jr. and Anthony "The Elf" Bonaventura (who'd disappeared); both O'Connor and The Elf were law enforcement's key suspects behind the Chilli and Sbano murders.

The investigation into the unsolved double homicide was reinvigorated in May of 2004, when it was reported that law enforcement was investigating a "bombshell allegation that the gunman charged in the coldblooded murder of an off-duty medic during a bar brawl in Queens... was the hired hit man who blew away two Bonanno crime family mobsters 20 years ago," the New York Post reported.

An arrest resulting from a “buy and bust” operation conducted eight days previously had yielded the tip, the Post reported.

Anthony O’Connor, then 45, who had been shot five times years previously, was arrested for murdering paramedic Erick Gonzalez in a Sunnyside bar.

O'Connor, according to the informant, was the hit man who killed the two Bonanno mobsters

O’Connor was described as being a rival mobster.

Ultimately, law enforcement was unable to make a case against him for the killing of the two Bonannos. No one was ever arrested for the murders.

As for the murder of Jerry Chilli's son, an FBI snitch had infiltrated Jerry Chilli's crew and was recording various members in conversation while the Chilli crew was preparing retaliatory measures.

'To avenge his murder, the defendants ordered the murder of Anthony O'Connor Jr. and Anthony 'The Elf' Bonaventura,' the complaint said.

O'Connor was shot five times on Jan. 23, 1984, at Dotties Bar on Manhattan's Upper East Side by an unidentified Bonanno associate but survived, the complaint said. Bonaventura disappeared and law enforcement officials have been unable to locate him.

The Chilli family intends to kill both Anthony O'Connor Jr. and his father, Anthony O'Connor Sr.,' the complaint also noted. 
Also, Jerry Chilli "wants to take off everybody" in his "desire to execute the O'Connor and Bonaventura families," the complaint said. 
Jerry Chilli, who was arrested in Hollywood, Fla., also wanted dead two other O'Connor and Bonaventura associates suspected of participating in his son's murder.

As for why Jerry Chilli's son was killed, the FBI snitch had recorded one Bonanno mobster saying: Joe The Blond was "banging guys left and right" and "whacking guys out for nothing."

Jerry Chilli didn't attend his son's funeral; he relied on one of his close associates to make all the arrangements. Asked why he wasn't attending his son's funeral, Jerry allegedly replied. "When you're dead, you're dead."

Joe Chilli, aka Junior, died at the age of 74 in 2008 from various ailments.

Junior's son Joseph Chilli III was released from prison last year. According to the SI source, he still lives on Staten Island and is about due to be upped to capo.

Chilli who served his final sentence for a parole violation, passed away last Saturday, in Miami Beach. According to Gangland News, he'd spent "several months in an area hospital and a rehab facility."

Chilli is survived by his wife and daughter -- and three granddaughters.

*ITEM: A commenter noted that the BOP.gov site lists Jerry Chilli's age as 82; the age is updated to correspond with the person's actual birth date rather than the historical age at the time of release.