Reputed Springfield Genovese Member Faces Trial in a Week

Five alleged members of the Genovese crime family's Springfield crew were arrested on Aug 4, 2016 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).

From the five arrested only Richard Valentini is going to trial, as of now.

Arrested were Ralph Santaniello, Giovanni (Johnny Cal) Calabrese, Gerald Daniele, Francesco (Frank aka Sammy Shark) Depergola, and Richard Valentini.

In the time since, Santaniello, Calabrese, and Depergola have copped out in this case, while Depergola issued an intent to plead guilty. 

As of November 28, only Valenti faces trial in this case, which the Feds describe as a Mafia extortion case. Valenti's attorney Jared Olanoff, however, is filing a "flurry of motions" to get a change of venue before the jury trial commences on Dec. 11 as scheduled, as Stephanie Barry reported on November 27 on MassLive.

Olanoff argues that his client was unfairly portrayed as a mobster who squeezed Springfield tow company operator Craig J. Morel for $20,000 in "tribute." His argument is that Valenti is only a bystander who was present "in a single meeting" during which his co-defendants demanded Morel (aka "Victim One") pony up $20,000 in "street tax."

What has fueled the perception of Valenti as a mobster, the lawyer has argued, are the "26 stories in The Republican and on chronicling the case" since Valenti's August 2016 arrest. It's chiefly because of the widespread reportage that Olanoff is seeking to move the trial to Worcester. So says the defense attorney.

"The media coverage has been so prevalent and frequent that it will prevent (Valentini) from receiving a fair and impartial trial in the Western Division," Olanoff wrote in a motion, as Barry reported.

His lawyer's pleas notwithstanding, the case in which Valentini, of East Longmeadow, is ensnared "has all the hallmarks of a mob case," Barry's report on MassLive noted. They include alleged shakedowns and death threats, and  political connections for protection.

As for how Morel survived the alleged death threats: "They... settled the dispute for $20,000, provided by law enforcement officials," Barry noted.

 Gerald Daniele

Olanoff also has taken issue with two stories that spotlighted Valenti's 2005 conviction on loansharking charges.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman, in Worcester, said he intends to hold the trial in Springfield.

As per the indictment, Santaniello and Calabrese ambushed Morel on Sept. 30, 2013, in Hampden and demanded $50,000 in "back payments," plus $2,000 a month going forward. Morel had ceased "kicking up" to the local faction of the New York-based Genovese crime family in 2003 when then-Springfield boss Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno was murdered that same year.

Craig... we're going to bury you
Calabrese and Santaniello showed up unannounced at Morel's property in Hampden driving a Braman pest control van when Calabrese told Morel that if he didn't get wise and pay up, they'd bury him in the woods.

Calabrese was wearing a Braman work uniform with his name stitched on the shirt when he issued the threat. 

Santaniello, adding his two cents, that barked: "But we'll cut your head off first." Santaniello then smacked the tow truck company owner in the mouth, Morel told investigators.

Santaniello allegedly was running the Springfield Crew for the Genovese crime family 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.

Santaniello during his arrest as crew chief.
C.J.'s Towing Unlimited, Morel's company, is the largest towing and scrap metal company in Western Massachusetts, according to the report. Its annual revenue is more than $1 million from a single, exclusive contract with the city of Springfield.

Defense attorneys have assailed Morel's credibility. He was a former police officer prosecuted for insurance fraud. He also was fired from the police department for brawling off-duty in barrooms in the late 1980s.

Prosecutors will present to the jury photos of Morel with a split lip when he went to see state police troopers for their help with the Genovese wiseguys threatening him.

Massachusetts State Police ask Morel to wear a recorder, and he agreed to and recorded eight meetings with the defendants about the tribute payments.

All eight meetings also were surveilled by state police with the Hampden district attorney's office. Once, the troopers posed as construction workers.

Valentini was present at one meeting on Oct. 4, 2013, his lawyer argued. And the extent of Valenti's contribution was to basically nod his head.

Olanoff also is trying to quash alleged evidence of "forewarnings" -- which Morel reported he had also received. These consisted of threats that the mobsters were a strike to extort him. Court records do not identify who allegedly threatened Morel with this, however, as Barry reported.

"The alleged victim claims that prior to his first encounter with Ralph Santaniello and John Calabrese on September 30, 2013, he was forewarned by as many as three people that a local group of organized crime members, which allegedly included the Defendant, might try to extort him. However, the source or sources of this information are rumor-based. That is, the people who forewarned him about the impending extortion were conveying 'rumblings' that they had heard from unknown sources," one of Olanoff's motions states.

The government's deadline is December 4 for filing a response to Olanoff's motions.

The Feds have 16 prospective witnesses, of whom Morel is the only civilian. The other 15 are state troopers and FBI agents.

Feds plan to offer exhibits comprising a dozen audio and video recordings made by Morel from Oct. 4 to Nov. 25, 2013. They also have surveillance photos of the defendants at various places in Greater Springfield in 2014, including Buckeye's Smoke Shop and La Fiorentina in Springfield, and Dunkin' Donuts in Agawam.

The next pretrial hearing is set for Dec. 6, when Depergola and Daniele also are scheduled to plead guilty.

Santaniello and Calabrese face sentencing on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, respectively.