Hidden History of Genovese Crime Family's Springfield Crew Alluded to in Capo's Prison Sentencing

The boss of the Genovese crime family’s Springfield crew, Eugene "Rooster" Onofrio, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison earlier this month, referenced an unknown part of the story of the Genovese crime family's control of the West Mass, city.

Eugene "Rooster" Onofrio
Onofrio, during a 2014 recorded call, referred to himself as "the skipper" of Springfield -- meaning the crew's capo. 

Springfield "was given to him" he added, though he never named by who. It is likely that he took over the crew sometime after 2011, when former Springfield chief Arthur Nigro -- who ran Springfield from the Bronx and had also been a Genovese family acting boss -- was sent away to prison for murder. Nigro had given the nod for Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno to be removed from his position running the Genovese family's Springfield crew (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. The case nearly annihilated the mob's overall presence in Greater Springfield.

Onofrio also said that he had "four or five guys" in Springfield -- and that he'd planned to sponsor one more for formal induction into the Genovese crime family. He didn't identify the associate either. (It's likely Ralph Santaniello.)

Some internal animosity in the Springfield crew also was uncovered.

Onofrio was among 45 mobsters bagged in part by the wire-wearing Rubeo, who was frequently with a man who was really an undercover FBI agent pretending to be JR's old high school buddy.

Onofrio was ordered to begin serving his sentence in September, according to court records.

The aging Genovese capo's defense strategy was as simple as it was ineffective.

Rooster's attorney argued that his client was merely a senior citizen living a "modest life" and supplementing his fixed income "by making extortionate loans, accepting "tribute" from gangster underlings and selling untaxed cigarettes," as MassLive recently reported. (And those happened to be the crimes to which Onofrio pleaded guilty on Feb, 28, 2018, in federal court in Manhattan. He was sentenced on July 19.)

Genovese acting boss Artie Nigro ran Springfield from the Bronx.

New York federal judge Richard Sullivan rejected that argument. In a letter the judge read, Onofrio said he was eking out a living by collecting disability for the past 15 years. Everything was just fine and dandy. Then turncoat John "JR" Rubeo ensnared him in what turned out to be a five-year FBI-run undercover probe.

Onofrio, 76, in his letter, wrote to the judge: "In 2013 I met Mr, Rubio (sic) and we spent a considerable amount of time together. During this time he suggested several opportunities for financial gain with me. Given my age and living on such a fixed income I saw this as my last opportunity for financial gain unfortunately took it and made some bad judgement calls,"

He expressed regrets to the judge, seeking a 20-month sentence in home confinement.

The undercover FBI agent drove Onofrio around for a while, including one time to a pizza shop in Chicopee, where he arranged for a $30,000 loan with help from Springfield wiseguys Ralph Santaniello, allegedly the crew's street boss, and Francesco "Frank" Depergola. 

Santaniello punched a tow truck operator in the face at their initial meeting and told him he was dealing with the boss of the "Springfield Crew," referring to himself, which had "New York" behind it.

Santaniello and Depergola were also arrested in the sting and were convicted of extorting that tow truck company operator. The two are serving 60- and 38-month sentences, respectively. Santaniello is at a federal penitentiary at Schuykill in Minersville, Pennsylvania. and Depergola is at a low-security facility in Fort Dix, New Jersey, as per the BOP inmate locator site.

During pretrial bail hearings in the Springfield mob case, an FBI agent testified that Santaniello was up for sponsorship and Depergola was angry that Santaniello was ahead of him, given that Santaniello was younger than him and had less time on the street under his belt, MassLive reported, adding that the books were "closed" for the Genovese family at the time, as the agent told a federal judge. 

MassLive included transcripts of a conversation submitted by prosecutors in advance of Onofrio's sentencing, noting that they seem to bolster the agent's theory:

Onofrio: "Everything's shut down."

Rubeo: "He doesn't put anyone up."

Onofrio: "Yeah he does."

Rubeo: "Never."

Onofrio: "I do."

Rubeo: "He don't." (apparently referring to Danny Leo, a top Genovese boss)

Onofrio: "I already put a guy up from Springfield, Mass. ... You know, Springfield was given to me."

Rubeo: "Yeah, you told me."

Onofrio: "I got four, five guys up there. One I love to death."

Rubeo: "Why don't you move me up there? Can I make money?"

Onofrio: "I know he is a gangster, I know he's got balls, he's got heart. He, his name is already in. When they open up, I'm definitely putting him in, because I can't travel from New Haven to Springfield all the time."

When Depergola was sentenced to 38 months in prison, the tow company owner operator blew off quite a bit of steam.

Ralph Santaniello, allegedly the crew's street boss

Depergola, 61, of Springfield, was the last defendant to be sentenced in the extortion case focused primarily on a scheme to shake down Craig "C.J." Morel. Events commenced in September 2013, when  Santaniello cracked him in the face and threatened to bury him on his property.

Depergola's co-defendants Santaniello and Giovanni "Johnny Cal" Calabrese arrived at Morel's remote home in Hampden demanding $50,000 in "back taxes" and $4,000 monthly going forward in "tribute" for a new mob regime.

The new Springfield Crew had learned about Morel paying tribute to capo Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno. In fact, he'd paid the doomed Genovese skipper $50,000 annually -- until Bruno's 2003 murder. 

Bruno bullshitted with the best of em, but still was whacked.

Depergola was then Bruno's bag man, Morel told the judge during the hearing. Bruno had shrewedly shaken down the new business owner, somehow convincing him that by paying the Springfield crew, he was really paying off City Hall. It was pure bullshit. But Morel, who had a million-dollar municipal contract, believed that by paying Bruno, he was paying off city officials who could help him.

Then Morel learned he wasn't paying City Hall. He had unwittingly gotten in bed with the powerful Genovese crime family and he didn't have a clue how to get out.

Ten years later, however, Morel  had grown into something of a seasoned operator when the wiseguys came calling. He went to the state police who convinced him to secretly record and film 16 meetings held to "negotiate" a $20,000 payment.

There was much discussion during Depergola's sentencing hearing about who was actually in charge of the new crew.  Santaniello had presented himself as the leader -- see what he said, above, when he smashed Morel in the face. 

Yet assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Wagner made the argument that Depergola actually was the one with the most juice due to close ties to New York mobsters. Also, in 2006, Depergola was sentenced to two years in prison for loan-sharking to a pizza shop owner.  

In that case, Depergola and Bruno were videotaped chasing a man for interest payments.

"That sentence had absolutely no deterrent effect. ... He's back with the Genovese crime family," Wagner had said.

In the Morel case, Depergola's defense attorney argued his client had been serving as a sort of ombudsman trying to protect the business owner (that's a good one!). 

Francesco "Frank" Depergola.

Depergola was among Bruno's closest confidants and the only eyewitness to Bruno's gangland-style shooting in a parking lot on Nov. 23, 2003. Bruno was killed by a paid hit man hired by rival gangsters, some of whom were dealt 25 years in prison.

Morel quoted Depergola from a recording made during a meeting at his auto shop in East Springfield.

"Frank called me his 'friend' too. ... Am I going to be the next murder victim?" Morel asked.