Recalling Bad Times for the Bonannos

Richard Cantarella, aka Shellackhead, recently contacted me on Facebook. Or at least I think it was him. In this online world of ours, one can never be too certain.

He asked if I could help put him in contact with Sal Vitale.  I'm going to work my sources, but if Good Lookin Sal were to contact me, it'd be somewhat easier and I guarantee confidentiality.

Richard Cantarella was star of his own reality tv show.
Richard Cantarella. Pre-Shellackhead

Moving right along, I am sharing here part of a chapter from the short-format ebook I wrote with former  Bonanno capo Dominick Cicale, Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire.

The chapter, of course, has to do with Cantarella.

Henry Hill eventually says in the film Goodfellas: “These were the bad times.”

Likewise, the bad times had arrived for the Bonanno family. Unable to penetrate Bonanno boss Joseph Massino’s operation via conventional investigative routes, the FBI got inventive, turning loose forensic accountants from financial fraud. In 2000, they hit pay dirt.

A Manhattan parking lot magnate named Barry Weinberg was found to be the weak link in the long chain leading to those close to Massino. Raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn in a Jewish family, Weinberg had reaped a fortune in the parking lot business. A chatty chain smoker, Weinberg also was a sharp businessman who held a lifelong fascination for the Mafia. When Weinberg was able to partner with a wiseguy, he loved it, believing it would benefit him because he’d have more clout in his business dealings.

Weinberg went on record with Bonanno capo Richard "Shellackhead" Cantarella, who first got involved in crime back in the late 1970s working with a Manhattan city councilman with whom he eventually earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from lease scams in the Staten Island Ferry terminals, among other things. Cantarella murdered the former councilman after he believed the man had become addicted to drugs, which would have left them both vulnerable.

Cantarella went on to extort wealthy businessmen. He had, in fact, once kidnapped a businessman and stole everything of value in his home. Cantarella then forced the same man to continue to pay him protection money. Cantarella was known to resort to violence whenever it helped to serve him, even in his legitimate businesses. When an underling supposedly complained about the level of violence, Cantarella said, “This is the Mafia—I don’t care.” 

Shellackhead had his eyes focused on the family’s top job. Cicale, who didn’t know Cantarella very well, nevertheless related one revealing anecdote about Shellackhead. “He’d wear Boss-branded sweatshirts and in one encounter with Vinny Gorgeous, “Shellackhead” pointed to the brand’s logo on his chest and said: That’s gonna be me.”

When he met Weinberg, Cantarella leaped at the opportunity to enter the parking lot business—or rather steal as much money from it as humanly possible. The only problem was that Weinberg had left himself vulnerable to the Feds by not reporting millions of dollars of income he’d earned over the years. The FBI nabbed Weinberg and told him that they had enough evidence to put him in prison for the rest of his life. Or, he was told, he could wear a wire for the Feds and incriminate every Bonanno with whom he spoke. Weinberg—and one of his business associates—agreed to cooperate, eventually generating hundreds of incriminating discussions with Shellackhead, as well as various members of his crew. 

In October 2002, armed with this evidence, the government brought a 24-count RICO indictment against 21 Bonanno soldiers and associates. The biggest names on the indictment were Cantarella, who was acting underboss while Vitale was awaiting sentencing for loansharking and money laundering, and capo Frank Coppa. Vinny Gorgeous and Dominick Cicale were among the family members on the street wondering what was going on. “Before we knew it the playing field in the Bonanno crime family was changing at a rapid pace. People were getting locked up left and right,” said Cicale. “Most of the arrests were out of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The Feds finally, after more than 60 years of Mafia history, were able to break the code of silence within the Bonanno crime family. In 2002, a made man in the Bonanno family agreed to cooperate with the government. That man was Frankie Coppa.” 

Coppa would directly implicate Massino in the murder of Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, and also implicated Cantarella and Vitale in the 1992 murder of a New York Post delivery superintendent who was a Bonanno associate. Not very long afterward, Cantarella also agreed to cooperate and testify against Massino and Vitale. Cicale, along with other members of the Bonanno family, found the defections particularly difficult to swallow.

“Out of the five New York City crime families, we were the only one that never had a made man rat,” Cicale said. “We would puff our chests out to the other families, who by that time had many cooperators with the government. It felt great; no one could say shit about us. The only thing they could say was that in the early days we had an undercover cop infiltrate our organization. When Massino was finally arrested on January 9, 2003, we had Anthony “Tony Green” Urso running the show.” Urso’s tenure proved to be short but memorable. Little is known of his early life, except that he was dyslexic. He moved to New York City and eventually hooked up with the Bonanno crime family. In the 1970s, Urso became a made man in the crew of Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano.

Following Napolitano’s 1983 murder, Urso was placed in Massino’s crew. Eventually, he grew close to Massino and drove for him. By 1988, it is believed that Urso was elevated to capo. In the 1990s, then-underboss Vitale grew increasingly jealous of Urso's new power in the family and attempted to persuade Massino to murder Urso based on fabricated accusations. “Vitale was my biggest enemy within the family, so much so that on several occasions he attempted to have me killed by bringing false accusations against me,” Urso later stated in a letter prior to his sentencing. “These accusations were dismissed as ridiculous by Massino because he knew of the jealousy on Vitale's part, and Massino knew that I was a loyal friend to him.” Urso commanded the Bonanno family and had major resources to back him up.

Anthony ‘Tony Green’ Urso was also interested in attractive young ladies—to a fault. On street corner meetings, he was known to suddenly lose interest in the topic of discussion whenever a fetching young woman happened into his field of vision. “Tony thought he was God's gift to every woman who passed him by,” Cicale said. “He’d make it so obvious too, looking a woman up and down.”

“Urso was single and in his late 60s-early 70s. He looked good for his age,” Cicale said. “Tony Green stood about 5-foot-8 and weighed around 170 pounds and was always hanging out at the gym, the tanning bed, and nightclubs.”....


  1. he s probably trying to set up sal ..he s no good a total fraud..


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