Genovese Family's Springfield Crew's Fate, Plus Merlino, Rooster Charged in Revised Indictment

Ralph Santaniello, 50, and Giovanni Calabrese, 54, both pleaded guilty yesterday in Worcester federal court.

They faced extortion and other charges, including threatening to behead someone, await sentencing.

Santaniello and Calabrese are among about four dozen Mafia members and associates accused in a federal indictment last August of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that involved five crime families and was based primarily in the Northeast.

Now the Hartford Courant reports that, on Monday, Genovese crime family capo Eugene “Rooster” Onofrio, 75, and Joseph “Skinny Joe” Merlino, 55, were both charged in a revised indictment.

The New York-based Genovese crime family expanded its influence in Connecticut and western Massachusetts over the years, growing in strength as federal law enforcement (with a little inside help) steadily reduced the presence of the region's once dominate Patriarca crime family.

Five reputed members of the Genovese crime family's "Springfield Crew" were arrested in August as part of the "East Coast LCN Enterprise" case that alleges wide-ranging Mafia-related activity in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida (and New Jersey, supposedly).

The one mobster held without bail last November, Santaniello, allegedly was running the Springfield Crew for the Genovese crime family. The previous month he'd been transported to New York City for a hearing. Santaniello was running Springfield reportedly with the backing of his father, Amedeo Santaniello, a longtime Springfield mobster and a former confidante of Genovese boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, now deceased. Also backing the younger Santaniello is longtime area tough guy Albert Calvanese, a convicted loan shark who, like Santaniello, the father, is not charged in the "East Coast LCN Syndicate" case.

Genovese capo Onofrio of East Haven also "was indicted — again — for being one of the leaders of a racketeering enterprise that ran bookmaking offices, swindled medical businesses, smuggled cigarettes and guns and loaned money at extortionate rates from Florida to Massachusetts," the Courant reported.

Merlino and Onofrio face trial in New York, where federal authorities have alleged Onofrio runs a second crew of Genovese gangsters operating out of Little Italy. Onofrio wants to be tried separately because of Merlino’s s alleged reputation for violence (he’s also reputedly running the Philadelphia crime family).

To bolster their argument for one trial, Federal prosecutors have filed papers in court asserting that a secret recording made shows that both Merlino and Onofrio are both quite comfortable with violence.

During the conversation, which was between Merlino, Onofrio, and the cooperator, Merlino reportedly said, “it’s easy to kill somebody.”

“It’s simple,” Onofrio is said to have replied.

“You’re my friend, you trust me, I tell you listen, drive me home right now, get you in the car, I shoot you in the [expletive] head, and it’s over with,” Merlino allegedly explained.

"Onofrio is confined to his home in East Haven on a $1 million bond while awaiting trial. He recently asked the court to leave his home temporarily so he could take his granddaughter, visiting from Florida, to the museum and to other spots."

Genovese Crime Family's Springfield Outpost

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli took over the Genovese crime family's Springfield Crew following the death of Salvatore "Big Nose Sam" Cufari.

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli prospered as boss of the Springfield Crew.

Scibelli was a low-profile gangster who ran the Genovese crime family's outpost quietly during a time of relative peace and prosperity, neither of which lasted very long after the old-school Cosa Nostra boss died.

Scibelli’s criminal record dates back to 1932. Among the crimes he went to prison for was extortion, illegally selling liquor -- and providing illegal "gaming on the Lord’s Day,” according to law enforcement documents.

Scibelli grew up in Springfield’s South End neighborhood. He went on to run "Springfield" for the New York-based Genovese crime family from the early 1980s until 1998, two years before his death in 2000 at the ripe age of 87 of natural causes.

He was arrested at least twice prior to his ascension, for illegal gambling. Both Scibelli and Paul "The Penman" Cardaropoli.were sentenced to 19 months in jail each in 1961. Convicted of illegal gambling again in the 1970s, Skyball got one month less than in his 1961 sentence.

By 1978, Scibelli was winding up the last three months of the sentence in a Hartford halfway house.

Some thought his reign had reached its conclusion about 10 years before it actually did.

The Hartford-Courant seems to have believed Skyball was finished when it published what reads suspiciously like the Springfield crew's obituary. However, it dutifully noted that the Genovese mobster was clearly taking a dive to save his brother.

Officials Say Scibelli Sentencing Ends Era For Mob was the headline of the Dec. 14, 1987, story, that proclaimed: "75-year-old Francesco "Skiball" (sic) Scibelli showed he was the loyal Mafia lieutenant he once proclaimed.

"In an unusual plea-bargaining session this fall, Scibelli, an old man with a history of cancer and other ailments, agreed to plead guilty to racketeering charges and go to prison for a maximum of nine years on the condition that he would not have to admit being a member of the New York-based Genovese crime family or even acknowledge the existence of the secretive La Costra Nostra, or Mafia.

"Part of the plea bargaining with federal prosecutors also resulted in a promise that his younger brother, Anthony "Turk" Scibelli, 73, who has even more serious health problems, would receive a suspended sentence for his admitted role in a multi-million-dollar gambling operation that extended beyond western Massachusetts to eastern New York and northern Connecticut."

"As relatives wept, Scibelli, a short, conservatively dressed man with thinning white hair, showed little emotion Thursday as he was sentenced in Springfield's U.S. District Court to six years in prison.

"In a gesture of holiday goodwill, U.S. District Judge Frank Freedman allowed the family man to begin his term on Jan. 11."

"Don't worry about nothin'. I'll be OK," the older Scibelli told a well-wisher while strutting out of a packed courtroom.

Scibelli's sentencing "ended an era for organized crime in the three-state area, at least as it concerned his faction of the mob, which authorities said controlled illegal gambling here for the past decade."

The case against Scibelli and his crew -- a total of eight men -- resulted from a 1984 FBI investigation that utilized wiretap recordings in both Springfield and at a New York City Genovese crime family social club. None of the evidence was ever played in court for the jury because all the men had copped to plea bargains.

Conversations caught on tape included one meeting between Scibelli and Genovese front boss Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno during which the former bragged to the latter. Skyball was making generating steady cash for the crime family's coffers.

"We're doing good up there," Scibelli told Salerno, according to the FBI tapes."You know, running the thing there, you got me. I'm being a good capo."

In another discussion recorded for posterity, Scibelli talked about gamblers who weren't making good on their losses.

"We oughtta break their heads."

By 1975 Scibelli was overseeing a large illegal gambling operation based out of the Terra Mar Yacht and Tennis Club, in the shoreline town of Old Saybrook, Conn., where he owned two homes.

State troopers raided the Terra Mar gambling site and Scibelli made an elaborate escape (he went out the back door).

He was not charged in connection with that operation.

Scibelli, who didn't say a word during any of the formal proceedings gave the Courant an interview from the Terra Mar club (which no longer exists).

"(The police) have harassed me all my life, just because my name's Scibelli," he said. "I'm not a bad man. I live for my kids I want them to start life off right. They are all going to be lawyers."

During the same interview, it was noted that the federal grand jury indictment had named him the "kingpin of organized crime in Massachusetts."

To which Skyball replied: 
"I'm going to fight this the American way. With lots of lawyers and lots of money."