Role the Bonannos Played in Luchese Associate's Murder

The shooting of Enzo (The Baker) Stagno of Whitestone, Queens, was always one of the more bizarre twists in the ongoing story of the gangland-style killing of Luchese associate Michael Meldish.

Now, we finally seem to have enough information to piece this big puzzle together. We also know more about why Bonanno boss Michael (Nose) Mancuso was initially named as a suspect in the Meldish murder.

Gangland hit victim Michael Meldish.

The Stagno attempted hit occurred on May 29, 2013, at around 6 p.m., as he was seated in his 2009 GMC Yukon, parked at East 111th Street and First Avenue.

Stagno was chatting on his cellphone when he suddenly heard BANG! The window beside him shattered and a bullet punched into his chest, grazing him. Stagno felt a “pinch” and dived into the backseat -- when the next shot was fired.

Stagno then watched the suspect walk toward Second Avenue where he hailed a yellow cab and drove off. (A witness allegedly saw the shooter jump into a yellow cab, anyways.)

The Bonanno soldier was treated at St. Luke’s Hospital, then taken to the 23rd Precinct for questioning. He eventually admitted he was a Bonanno soldier.

There possibly was some significance in the location of the shooting. Stagno had parked the Yukon about one block from where a Luchese associate had been assaulted nine months prior to the Stagno shooting. The Luchese associate, Michael Meldish, was severely beaten by a Bonanno mobster.

But the beating was nothing compared to what happened to Meldish six months after the attempted hit on the Bonanno mobster. In November 2013, Meldish was found shot to death. The killing had all the hallmarks of a gangland hit: Meldish was nicely attired in a suit and camel-colored leather jacket. He was found in his Lincoln LS in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx on Ellsworth Ave. He was slumped over in the driver's seat, head back, mouth agape.

Based on surveillance video the man who shot Stagno had killed Meldish.

It appears Meldish himself was the guiding force behind the shooting of Stagno; in fact, the shooting of the Bonanno soldier likely was the immediate motive for the killing of Meldish, according to a recent Gang Land News report that noted: "That rash move, sources believe, sparked Meldish's ultimate demise at age 62 at the hands of a two-man hit team, allegedly acting under orders of Luchese family leaders who had had enough of the rogue gangster."

Meldish's Lincoln was parked here when he was killed.

Meldish seems to have wanted serious payback. But then it was not only a beating, it was a very public beating, "in as high-profile a mob location as could be found" which was specifically "outside Rao's restaurant in the middle of the annual Pleasant Avenue Festival that honors Saint Anthony of Padua."

The NYPD's Organized Crime Investigation Division (OCID) learned of the assault. Detectives went to warn the Lucheses against retaliation.

The beating was ordered because Meldish had refused to listen to gangland law and cease his relationship with a former girlfriend of Michael (Mikey Nose) Mancuso. (Mancuso is awfully territorial about his women, apparently. But then this is a man who shot his first wife between the eyes and left her dead body on a bench in front of a hospital. Another charmer.)

Mancuso had once been a member of New York's notorious Purple Gang. Meldish had been boss.

“Michael (Meldish) was a stone-cold killer,” Joseph Coffey, former commanding officer of the NYPD’s organized crime homicide task force, once told the New York Daily News.

Coffey admitted he'd spent years trying to pin murders on Meldish, which was an insurmountable obstacle: “We couldn’t get any witnesses," Coffey said. "They had the people so terrified they just wouldn’t cooperate.” 

Meldish is believed to have committed as many as 10 mob-related hits, and was never prosecuted for a single one. His brother and longtime street partner, Joseph Meldish, is years into a 25-to-life sentence for a 1999 slaying. Joseph is believed to have committed as many as 70 contract killings. 

The Meldish brothers were in fact both leaders of the notorious Purple Gang, which back in the 1970s and 1980s dealt heroin in the Bronx and Harlem and whacked people for the Bonanno, Luchese, and Genovese crime families.

The gang appropriated its named from the Prohibition-era Detroit gang. The "new" Purple Gang had a distinction, however, for dismembering victims' bodies. (The first Purple Gang specialized in kidnapping after Prohibition.)

New York's Purple Gang also may have had links to Latin American terrorists. Based on a DEA intelligence report, the gang allegedly had made a firearms for narcotics trade agreement.

By the late 1980s, members increasingly were apprehended in drug busts. Some of the remaining members then joined the 116th Street Crew, with a few of them landing buttons in three crime families

As GLN noted, "Once upon a time, Meldish, who was four years Mancuso's senior, had the clout to ignore Mancuso, or even to tell him what to do. But things had changed by 2012. Mancuso had become the boss of the Bonanno family, and even though he has been behind bars for murder conspiracy since 2006, he dispatched a trusted emissary to give Meldish the message to leave his former sweetheart alone, sources say."

Ernest Aiello, about whom I've written in Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire, carried out the assault" of Meldish "for what Mancuso considered disrespectful acts toward Mancuso on Meldish's part."

As per GLN sources, Meldish participated in the shooting of Enzo The Baker. 

Meldish screwed the hit up, however. He was supposed to be the wheelman, but instead he somehow drove off and left behind Terrence Caldwell, the Luchese associate charged with Stagno's attempted murder.

A surveillance camera caught Caldwell walking away from the scene.

Caldwell proved to be a more successful shooter when Meldish was the target.

Michael “The Nose” Mancuso is allegedly the Bonanno crime family's "official boss,"  though some sources still contend that Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano remains official boss of the borgata that Joseph built. (I must admit that, personally, I'm somewhat ambivalent about  "official" titles.)
Excellent book on the Bonannos.

"Mancuso’s the boss and he’s running the family from jail,” a law enforcement source has said. The power squarely lies with Mancuso and his Bronx-based underlings.

Mancuso served time in the 1980s for killing his wife. He was arrested after stepping off a plane in Las Vegas in February of 2006 for masterminding the murder of Bonanno crime family associate Randolph Pizzolo.

In December 2008, Mancuso was sentenced to 15 years after he copped to a murder conspiracy charge related to the 2004 Pizzolo slaying. Anthony “Ace” Aiello was sentenced to 30 years in prison for shooting Pizzolo.

Basciano ordered the hit "because Pizzolo had botched a construction job," as The Daily News reported, though the motive is open to debate.

Mancuso also faced life in prison under the original indictment, but following his plea deal, Judge Nicholas Garaufis had to max out the sentence at 15 years. Mancuso is slated to depart prison on March 12, 2019, and is currently housed at Texas's Seagoville FCI.

New Acting Boss/Underboss
Joseph Cammarano Jr. is the top banana on the street for the Bonanno crime family. Cammarano was named acting underboss and is also serving as acting street boss.Cammarano’s promotion has Mancuso's blessing, sources said.

Several Bonanno gangsters were sent back to prison for attending a Bonanno Christmas party in 2015 and violating parole orders. That was shortly after the new acting boss was named.

Known as Joe C. Jr., the 56-year-old Cammarano grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, joined the Navy after graduating from high school and served on a nuclear submarine in an elite patrol unit that conducted classified missions.

His wife, Angela, is the daughter of Bonanno soldier Vito Grimaldi, who owns Grimaldi Bakery in Queens.

Cammarano Jr. “is a unique man,” defense lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio wroten a 2007 extortion case. “He is defined by his sense of selflessness, his strong commitment to family and his endless contributions to his country and community.” And he is known for strong-arming a Colombo wiseguy, for which he served 27 months in prison.

Apparently unencumbered by any murders, Cammarano's reign may prove to be a long and potentially prosperous one, at least until Mancuso is released and the klieg lights are trained on him.

The Cammaranos live in a "modest home" located on Long Island's Glen Cove in Nassau County.


  1. Hey Ed, any indication as to why Meldish tried to hit Stagno, rather than going after Aiello, who actually gave him the beating? Curious if it was just a case of, "Well this guy's a Bonanno button too, so why not"
    Thx, Allie Shades

    1. It sounds like it was a case of "well he's one block away and he's a Bonanno!!! I'm sending the Nose a message!!!! I don't get the part about Meldish driving off without Caldwell though. Meldish definitely want afraid to kill people based on history.

    2. Yea, that is a very weird turn of events, almost like he forgot he was on a hit and decided to go pick up his groceries instead. Almost as crazy as Caldwell just walking away after shooting Stagno and hailing a cab. Maybe the Families should go back to that murder ban; they seem to either screw up most hits these days or they have an informant in on it from the very outset.
      Allie Shades

    3. There are plenty of cabs at all hours where Stango got hit. Maybe that was part of the plan.
      Old School.

    4. Even still, any good detective would immediately get the info for any cabs that were on GPS at that location within an hour timeframe of the shooting, which then leads to the cabbie, and then to the passenger. Seems like way to much of a risk considering the evidence trail that kind of plan leaves. But hey, no one ever accused these guys of being smart, just vicious. If that was the plan though, at least they were smart enough not to use Uber, haha!
      Allie Shades

    5. Allie Shades,

      I get your point but that is still all circumstantial evidence. Being at or near a crime doesn't make you guilty. There are more than a couple of spots that wiseguys and their associates hang out around there. The papers give more status than Meldish deserves. He wasn't as big as they make him. The purple gang were known for whacking people in broad daylight back in the 70s.
      Old School.


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