We Don't Break Our Capos. We Kill Them

Mob associate Michael (Cookie) Durso flipped against the Genovese crime family and wore a wire hidden within a $3,000 Rolex wristwatch for three years -- all the while recording thousands of hours of "privileged" conversations among high-ranking members of the Genovese crime family.

Mob associate Michael "Cookie" Durso flipped against the Genovese crime family and wore a wire hidden within a $3,000 Rolodex wristwatch
Farby Serpico, former Genovese acting boss

In the end he rode off into the sunset of the Witness Protection Program with wife Vanessa. Financially, the couple was not hurting, either; they were able to bring millions of dollars with them, as Gangland News reported on February 21, 2002.

Durso had been meeting with prosecutors to discuss flipping -- due to his longstanding beef over the murder of his cousin, a Genovese crime family loanshark. Durso was to meet with Mark Feldman, the head of the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Organized Crime unit, and Paul Weinstein, a chief prosecutor, for a third time on June 17, 1998.

He couldn't make that meeting, though, as he was arrested for participating in a 1996 gangland hit. But the very next day, Durso pleaded guilty and began his years-long undercover mission of recording mobsters, "every one of (whom), had they known he was recording them, would have killed him," as Weinstein later said.

Durso dealt the Genovese crime family a serious -- though not a knockout -- blow, uncovering, once and for all, that Vincent "Chin" Gigante was still controlling the crime family from a faraway prison through his son, Andrew. Gigante was three years into a 12-year hitch, when he was hit with additional charges, courtesy of Durso's Rolex, that assured he'd die behind bars.

All told Durso collected dirt on more than 70 Genovese wiseguys, including the late boss, Gigante, (who died in a prison hospital on December 19, 2005) as well as acting boss Dominick "Quiet Dom" Cirillo and the man considered the Genovese crime family's official boss today, Liborio "Barney" Bellomo. Two other former Genovese acting bosses he brought down were Frank "Farby" Serpico and Ernest Muscarella. Also: then-acting capos Rosario "Ross" Gangi, Alan "Baldie" Longo, Sammy "Meatballs" Aparo and Peter "Petey Red" DiChiara.

"For an associate, Durso had unbelievable access to wiseguys who were close to the Administration," said one law enforcement source. Durso "was good, and he was fortunate."

In March 2007, for serving as the wheelman in the 1996 murder of John "Johnnie Boy" Borelli in Queens, Durso was given five years' probation and a $200 fine, payback for his help in taking down some of the New York Mafia's "giant icons."

Law enforcement sources had called Durso an "informant extraordinaire," who recorded 500 tapes -- literally thousands of hours of conversations, some of which were remarkably revealing in their candidness, such as Genovese soldier Paul "Slick" Geraci saying: "If you're not the kind of guy who is capable of hurting someone... you might as well stay home."

Durso's story is quite astounding -- and we're not even referring to the mayhem he caused the Mafia by flipping. We refer here to certain events that happened prior to his flipping.
Rosario "Ross" Gangi, who the Chin wanted killed.

He didn't flip in 1994 after surviving an assassin's bullet, fired at point-blank range into the back of his head. (His cousin, an affluent Genovese loanshark who was the true intended target, wasn't so lucky.)

Durso, who lost hearing in one ear from the wound, decided instead to flip the modern-day Mafia script: He actually sought revenge. The result, however, was more Woody Allen than Godfather. He unsuccessfully tried to kill the man he believed responsible for his cousin's murder -- twice. He never made a third attempt, as Genovese capo Rosario "Ross" Gangi stopped Durso cold in his tracks.

"If we find out it's you, you got a major problem," Gangi warned the half-deaf Genovese associate.
Durso, his life imperiled via a direct threat from a high-ranking member of one of the most ruthless and powerful crime families in the Mafia, didn't flip then, either.

So what finally prompted his decision to leave the underworld in 1997? (Remember, he'd already met with Brooklyn prosecutors twice before his arrest for the Borrelli murder (which actually was a bit of Giannini Crew-related business.)

Durso, in testimony at the trial of former Colombo crime family mobster John "Jackie" DeRoss, told the story himself.

A clerk at a Genovese-run betting parlor seemed to have trouble carrying out certain essential duties of his position. On at least two occasions he failed to actually place the bets for his customers. Durso had placed bets on both occasions and estimated that he was out around $50k, all due to the bookie's ineptness.

Durso was furious with the bookie. Since writing a letter of complaint to the management was out of the question, he seized on the next available option.

"I gave him a beating," Durso said.

Shortly thereafter, presumably within a day or two, his pager went off. (Remember pagers? If not, click here.) Durso called the phone number on his bleating beeper, only to find one hostile SOB on the other end of the line.

The guy who'd called Durso's beeper was "just screaming at the top of his lungs," Durso said. "He says, 'You can't hit my clerk.' 'I says, 'Oh, no? I'm the one who got screwed here,' I says. 'I'll go hit your clerk right now.' "

The man on the other end, furious even before Cookie had said a single word, must've become apoplectic.

"I didn't know at the time who he was," Durso said.

He was Frank "Farby" Serpico (no relation to the former NYPD cop, whom Al Pacino played in the titular film), the new acting boss of the Genovese crime family.

Durso, in testimony, said he'd finally had enough.

He explained:

"I was disappointed, you know, getting screwed for the money, getting shot in the head once before, and my life being on the line again, I decided to reach out to the federal government."...

Farby came from the 116th Street crew, one of the Genovese crime family's most powerful crews, and where the Mafia's true power allegedly resides today. Known as the Uptown crew, many powerful Mafiosi are from there, including Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, who in his day as "front boss" based the crew out of his Palma Boys Social Club at 416 East 115th Street in Manhattan's East Harlem. The crew historically traces its roots back to the 1890s, when Giuseppe Morello and Nicholo, Vincenzo and Ciro Terranova arrived from Sicily and went to work gaining control of East Harlem's Little Italy using "Black Hand" extortion techniques and running illegal gambling dens, among other things.

Fat Tony with "Fish" Cafaro, on the right. Fish said he flipped when Fat Tony
threatened to swat him with his cane during an argument over money.

Serpico had risen in the ranks in the mid-1990s, following the 1992 death of Fat Tony Salerno. The Chin's designated acting boss, Liborio "Barney" Bellomo (alleged official boss today) was imprisoned in 1996, and also was part of the East Harlem crew. (Read here an interesting "Barney" story).

Durso himself later recorded Geraci telling him, Durso, that Serpico wasn't really the boss. (During the conversation the Fed's weren't taking any chances; they even videotaped Slick, so as to capture the anticipated incriminating motion.)

"[Serpico's] still there, but he ain't the guy," Geraci explained. "He never was the guy. This guy is the guy," Geraci said, touching his chin.

At the Bronx home of soldier Pasquale "Patty" Falcetti (with once again, a wired Durso there, as well as FBI surveillance), a veritable roadmap was drawn. Falcetti's words depicted a large red arrow that pointed from the imprisoned Gigante toward his son, Andrew, who spoke for the Chin.

"Whatever the kid [Andrew] says, it comes from him [Vincent Gigante]," Falcetti said, touching his chin. "Who's going to challenge that?"

The conversations occurred three years after Gigante was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 12 years in prison; it marked the end of Gigante's historic reign.

There was much more incriminating information recorded.

While Durso was "undercover," Gigante was rarely referred to in the hundreds of hours of taped conversations. But there were memorable moments.

"Don’t let anyone tell you we’re dead...." as Alan “Baldie” Longo told Durso in October, 2000, while he and Durso met at an Upper East Side cafĂ©. (This was prior to the remarks about Chin using his son Andrew as a conduit to remain in control of the family from prison.)

Longo "believes the Genovese family is so much stronger than the other families in the event there was a war," said an FBI report, adding that Longo said the Genoveses have "30 or 40 quality guys," naming Aparo, Falcetti, and DiChiara, as some of them.

Sammy "Meatballs" Aparo

Longo, heralding how alive the Genovese crime family was, told Durso that he and other "tough guys" would soon be inducted to increase the family's muscle that much more. "Whenever we step out and do something (murder, according to the FBI report ) we going to get the guys we can trust and do it," Longo said.

Durso also was told by Longo that a Genovese hit squad might need him, Durso, to help whack a man believed to have been an informant. "If there’s a problem, the guys . . . we’re going to pull together—you’ll be one of them," Longo said. "If we ever step out and do something, we go to the guys we can trust and do it. We ain’t going to put guys on the line who are going to become rats a day later."

At the same cafe meeting, Longo "reiterates that the Genovese family is the strongest LCN [La Cosa Nostra] family, rivaled only by 'Joe's family,' meaning the Bonanno family headed by Joseph Massino," according to court filings quoted in media reports.

Earlier, in July of 1999, soldier Joseph Zito talked openly about how Gigante once asked him to kill another gangster. Gigante wanted Rosario Gangi killed because he'd heard Gangi wanted to call a family member to testify at a hearing.

This was a blatant infraction of one of The Chin's cardinal rules of secrecy. As a result, Gigante "wanted Ross Gangi killed," court documents stated.

"Zito told how he intervened on Gangi's behalf to explain Gangi did not intend to call "made" members and the whole matter was a misunderstanding. The plan to hit Gangi was dropped."

A second incident, Zito noted, involved a major sit-down between members of the Genovese and Colombo crime families over Colombo capo Joe Beck, who also was accused of disobeying mob law.

"During this meeting, a capo suggested that they punish Joe Beck by breaking him" or suspending his mob privileges, Zito was quoted saying.

To which the Chin replied:
"We don't break our capos. We kill them."