Pledge Loyalty Or Else: When Straying Colombo Wiseguys Got An Offer They Couldn't Refuse

Okay, can someone tell us something we've been wondering about? What the hell happened to the mob? (We're being facetious; we know what happened: this guy, basically.)
Mush was set to put the Colombos back together.

Still, consider: Longtime Luchese associate Sylvester (Sally Daz) Zottola.... At 71 years old, he should've been slowing down. Instead, he was terrorized for a year -- clubbed, assaulted, and stabbed in the throat; his house had been robbed and his son targeted, nearly shot dead this past summer.

Sally Daz supposedly was in good standing with the Luchese, and he was close to the Bonannos. (One source was baffled by what happened, telling us: "I don't get it. I just don't get it.")

And let's not forget recent history.

There's evidence of wiseguys hiring members of the Bloods and Crips street gangs to do hits for cash. (God help them if they ever ally with Mara Salvatrucha, aka MS-13.)

Genovese associate Fat Sal Delligatti earned a quarter-century sentence for hiring Bronx-based members of the Crips street gang to ambush and murder Bonanno wiseguy Joseph Bonelli outside his home. Delligatti offered to pay them several thousand dollars for pulling off the hit, and provided them with a loaded .38 caliber revolver and a getaway vehicle.

DeCavalcante mobsters were recorded contemplating outsourcing a hit....

The Luchese family has to take the cake though. They were the first New York crime family to forge a formal alliance witte the Bloods street gang. In December, 2007, New Jersey law enforcement arrested powerhouse Matty Madonna and 33 other members and associates of the Luchese family, a result of "Operation Heat." (View indictment, PDF).

The case included a prison-smuggling racket that consisted of an “alarming alliance” between the Luchese crime family and the Bloods street gang, as New Jersey's AG said. The racket smuggled drugs and cellphones to gang members inside a New Jerseyprison.

New York’s crime families have always built alliances with other organized crime groups, including Russians, Cubans and Asians. Also, prison-smuggling rings have gone on for decades.

The Luchese alliance was unique however: "... [L]aw enforcement officials said, the prison scheme provided the first evidence of an organized crime family from New York working with the Bloods street gang, one of the state’s largest. Moreover.... the potential for more cooperation was great, given their shared interests in “violence, illegal drugs and quick profits.”

“What we have here in this case is the realization of what we feared: connecting old-school organized crime, the Mafia, with new-school organized crime, gangs,” a New Jersey law enforcement official said. “We’ve heard anecdotes about overlap, but this is the first time we’ve had a direct link between the two organizations.”

This isn't the Mob we remember....

Back when Gambino capo Michael (Mikie Scars) DiLeonardo was in Brooklyn, Paul Castellano once sent out the word. Certain guys who were finishing up long prison sentences and were due home soon were to be dealt with for committing infractions of mob law. They  were to be killed for dealing drugs. As Paul Zaccaria (one of Mikie Scars' mentors) gravely told DiLeonardo: "We got guys we gotta kill as soon as they come home."

Michael disagreed with Big Paul's edict. "It was a bullshit, hypocritical rule," Michael told us. "I disagreed in silence. Castellano took drug money, as did every other boss." And then of course larger events interrupted things; specifically, John Gotti's December 1985 coup in front of Sparks steakhouse. The planned wholesale killing of Gambino drug dealers never happened. But while Michael personally disagreed with the order, he was prepared to obey Big Paul...

That's what  made it Cosa Nostra... Time was, wiseguys sometimes had to clean house, pistol in hand. As for killing actual enemies -- hiring gang bangers to off rivals in another crime family, instead of going on the street and handling it yourself?


Self-respecting wiseguys would not consider that dignified, we'd wager. They'd probably call it an infamnia....

Lilo would roll over in his grave....

We've been getting tired lately of today's diluted wiseguys and their generic indictments and perfunctory plea deals.... Now, we're not advocating murder. It's just that some of us law-abiders long for the days when wiseguys were, well, wiseguys. Maybe for the vicariousness of it... Maybe because so damn much keeps changing and we simply miss the way things were....

“I don’t hesitate. I’ve never hesitated to hurt an individual who stepped out of line..."
 --Andrew Mush

Colombo wiseguy Thomas McLaughlin, after serving 14 years for drug dealing, flipped after his 2008 release when he was about to go down for a murder he had committed with uncle Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli many years prior. So Tommy wore a wire on uncle Tommy Shots --and he even convinced his brother-in-law, Peter Tagliavia, who was convicted with McLaughlin in the same 1996 case, to also flip and wear a wire against Colombos.

The duo, plus other turncoats recorded numerous wiseguys and mob associates discussing a wide range of crimes including gambling, loansharking extortion, bribery, home invasions, assaults, and murder. Soon enough their evidence was put to use by the feds..

The biggest one-day Mafia bust in US history took place in January 2011 when more than 120 wiseguys were arrested in coordinated raids across New York, New Jersey, and New England.

The investigation spawned 16 indictments involving members and associates of all of New York’s Five Families—the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese crime organizations—in addition to the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante family and the New England Mafia. Those Indictments detailed stories of mob mayhem encompassing murder, drug trafficking, arson, loan sharking, illegal gambling, witness tampering, labor racketeering, and extortion.

Mikie Scars vacationing in Coral Gables.
He got out when the going was good, is one opinion....

Among the Colombos, acting boss Andrew (Mush) Russo was a key target.The Feds didn’t hesitate to paint him as among the most violent wiseguys on the streets, and he was held without bail. (Among the indicted with Russo were 38 members and associates of the Colombo family, including acting underboss Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo, consigliere Richard “Richie” Fusco, captain Dennis “Fat Dennis” DeLucia and acting captain Anthony “Big Anthony” Russo. What were they indicted for? Extorting the Gambino crime family. Yes, one of the five families "extorted" another one of the five families, so said the Feds.)

As per the Feds, Russo succeeded his jailed-for-life cousin, Carmine Persico, as boss in 1995, but was convicted in January of trying to tamper with a Brooklyn Federal Court jury that found his son guilty of murder and racketeering in 1994. (Russo's former lover, lawyer Dorothy Fiorenza, testified about helping Mush. The story of what happened to her once she entered witness protection merits its own separate entry.)

Frank DeMatteo's new book on Junior, Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family, details some of Mush's story, among lots of other stories. The book is a great read, crisply written and highly engaging. Frank, former editor of Mob Candy, and coauthor Michael Benson, a longtime true crime scribe, really did a standout job.

Uncle Frank made the cover of some French magazine.
Was billed over Johnny Depp, too....see?

Russo assumed the acting boss slot in March 2010 after completing three years of supervised release following prison for jury tampering.

He wasted no time getting to work trying to rebuild a crime family torn apart by the 1991-1993 Colombo civil war between Vittorio (Little Vic) Orena's faction and those loyal to Junior.

In court papers, prosecutors alleged that Mush made it “clear that he will not hesitate to personally engage in violence,” as per recordings of Russo’s words.

“I don’t hesitate. I’ve never hesitated to hurt an individual who stepped out of line,” as prosecutors noted. “(Mush) also made clear that he has no intention of disassociating himself from the Colombo family. He stated, ‘I can’t walk away... I can’t rest.’”

In another recording, Russo “admonished” Anthony Russo (no relation) for taking part in a sitdown with the Gambino family over the stabbing of a Colombo associate. First, the Colombos should have “got even,” then, they should have looked to settle the dispute.

At one of those meetings with the Gambinos that Mush presided over, in a Staten Island house (an attendee was wearing a wire, of course), it was decided that the Gambinos would cover Colombo associate Walter Samperi’s medical expenses with a one-time payment of $150,000 — $100,000 of which would come from the Gambino's skim of the proceeds of the annual Figli di Santa Rosalia celebration on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn.

Samperi never saw a dime of said monies. Word is, he hightailed it over to Italy to take care of his medical condition. Italy offers free health-care, after all...

Beginning in March 2010, Mush wanted pledges of loyalty from certain straying Colombo wiseguys, and if any of them even hesitated to comply, Mush spelled it out for them: they'd find their name on a list. And that list was going to be circulated among the entire New York Mafia, all Five Families.

Then Mush tightened the screws by further mandating that any Colombos who backed up Colombos on the list would find themselves on the list too. (Let's be clear: inclusion on that list was not advantageous.)

As Mush explained to one wire-wearing wiseguy: “Yeah, what my intentions are that when I’m finished, who really doesn’t want to come in, I’m making up a list. I’m giving it to all the borgatas and they’re outlaws. Anybody that deals with them is my enemy. I’m making it as clear as that.”

On June 29, 2010 at a meeting on Staten Island, Mush discussed making new guys with his capo son Billy, Benji the Claw, Richie Fusco and Anthony Russo. The kind of men he wanted to induct had to be smart -- and capable of killing and doing time.

Mush spent the bulk of his time meeting with the capos to settle beefs. He approved the spots where the Joker Poker machines were installed. And he supposedly chose pretty good spots, too. ones that raised the family's fortunes from the slot-machine business.

With Mush at the helm, he just might have been able to rebuild the Colombo crime family into a wealthier force to be reckoned with. But then came Mafia Takedown Day -- and that was that, pretty much.....

After his arrest, Russo was supported by friends like James Caan and Sopranos supporting cast member Federico Castelluccio. Caan reportedly said: “My friendship with Andrew Russo dates back over 35 years, and I’ve only known him to be as good a friend as anyone could be to me and my family.”

In March 2013, Russo was sentenced to 33 months in prison for racketeering -- but because he'd been held without bail, he only had to stay in jail until May.

The judge received a round of applause from Russo's relatives for the sentence.

"Your poppy will be home soon," Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto assured Russo's granddaughter, using the child's nickname.

Matsumoto said the mobster had a great family, which prompted the applause.....

Mush was released in 2013, and apparently has successfully stayed under the rader....