Bell Tolls for Genovese Crime Family's Springfield Crew

Ralph Santaniello punched Craig J. Morel  in the face during their initial meeting and told him he was dealing with the boss of the "Springfield Crew" which had "New York" behind it....

Two members of the Genovese crime family's Springfield crew, including its boss, face sentencing on Tuesday in federal court in Worcester.

Ralph Santaniello
Ralph Santaniello, alleged boss of Springfield crew in August 2016.

Giovanni (Johnny Cal) Calabrese and crew boss Ralph Santaniello were convicted following a wide-ranging probe into Mafia activity in western Massachusetts.

They were among five area residents convicted for loansharking and the 2013 shakedown of tow company operator Craig J. Morel for $20,000. In testimony, Morel detailed how three generations of wiseguys with the Genovese crime family had sought since 2000 to extort his towing business, which was awarded with a lucrative municipal contract.

Also turns out Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino wasn't the first member of the East Coast LCN Enterprise to go to trial. Last December, a member of the Springfield Crew was dramatically handcuffed and walked directly from court to a jail cell after the jury convicted him.

Richard Valentini, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and extortion in December.

Federal defendants granted pretrial bail typically have a month or more of freedom until they are formally sentenced. However, federal law dictates that those convicted of specific crimes of violence must be immediately jailed.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman "looked grim as he ruled Valentini must be immediately taken into custody," Stephanie Barry reported on masslive.

"Mr. Valentini, I'll tell you right now if I (had a choice) you'd remain on bail. But I don't think I have a choice. I'm sorry," the judge said.

Valentini, 52, of East Longmeadow, was among four charged with the 2013 shakedown of tow company operator Craig J. Morel for $20,000.

Valentini is set for sentencing on March 12.

The 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 alleged wide-ranging Mafia-related activity in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida (and New Jersey).

Santaniello, Calabrese, Gerald Daniele, Francesco (Frank aka Sammy Shark) Depergola, and Valentini are the five.

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

Prosecutors say Calabrese and Santaniello threatened to cut off the towing company owner's head if he didn't pay kickbacks.

Calabrese, 54, is seeking leniency, asking a judge for probation rather than prison time. He says a part-time job at a Springfield strip club led to falling in with "the mob."

Last November, Santaniello and Calabrese both pleaded guilty in Worcester federal court.

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.

The maximum sentence for extortion is 20 years in prison, though Valentini reportedly faces 63 to 78 months behind bars.

"Valentini did not appear to react as jurors delivered their verdicts shortly after 3 p.m. after just three hours of deliberations. Jurors began mulling the case around noon on Monday after four days of testimony and arguments," as per masslive report.

Detailed account of shakedown
Santaniello and Calabrese on Sept. 30, 2013, drove up a long gravel driveway to a remote plot of land in Hampden where Morel was rebuilding a home that burned down months earlier.

They demanded thousands in "arrears" of "street taxes" from Morel who had been paying late mob boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno before Bruno was murdered in 2003.

Morel testified for four hours about the three different Genovese crime family "regimes" who had leeched onto his large towing business since he launched it in 2000.

The business was centered on a lucrative municipal towing contract.

Bruno represented himself as critical to the survival of the contract and collected a $5-per-tow monthly kickback for three years -- amounting to thousands in monthly cash payments -- until Morel temporarily lost the contract in 2003. He then refused to continue the payments.

Bruno was killed a month later.

For the next decade, Morel built the towing company unmolested by the Mafia. Then Santaniello and Calabrese showed up. They threatened to kill Morel and cripple his business if he didn't comply.

Morel began working with Massachusetts State Police after Santaniello punched him in the face during their initial meeting. He also told Morel he was dealing with the boss of the "Springfield Crew" with "New York" behind it. .

Morel made 16 recordings for law enforcement, and Valentini was featured in one. During it, Valentini promised Morel he'd receive better treatment than under Bruno's watch.

"You'll get Cristal," Valentini quipped, referring to the high-end champagne that is the flagship cuvée of Champagne Louis Roederer, created in 1876 for Alexander II, tsar of Russia. Contents.

So it seems to be true....
The Mafia does play good-cop-bad-cop...

During the government's closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Wagner told jurors the notion of the Springfield Crew demanding "protection money" was laughable.

"Why would he need protection? The only people Mr. Morel needed protection from was the Springfield Crew," Wagner argued to jurors.

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.

Former Springfield boss Arthur Nigro controlled the Springfield faction from the Bronx. Nigro, a Genovese family acting boss, gave the nod for Bruno to be removed from his position (as well as life on this earth). In 2011, Nigro and enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas, of West Springfield, Mass., and his brother Ty Geas, of Westfield, Mass., were found guilty of murder and other crimes following a three-week trial in New York.

Arthur Nigro
Arthur Nigro, former Genovese acting boss, was once a member of the 116 Street Crew.