Loansharking & Assault, Hello! Trial of Two Alleged Top Street Bonannos Begins In Southern District

The Bonanno racketeering trial kicked off this week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein (who is asking some great questions).

Joseph “Joe C” Cammarano Jr. allegedly has good hair..... 

On trial are accused acting Bonanno boss/official underboss Joseph (Joe C) Cammarano Jr., 59, and alleged consiglieri John (Porky) Zancocchio, 61. To win an acquittal, the two must get past the testimony of not only two mob turncoats who defense attorneys are reportedly planning to discredit for being "too cozy" with the NYPD and FBI, but legitimate business owners and others.

The two top bananas of the Bonanno crime family face charges related to extortion and racketeering conspiracy.

Former Bonanno capo Peter (Pug) Lovaglio and associate Steven Sabella are slated to testify against the two alleged gangsters.

Also slated to testify are owners and employees of a demolition company, a construction company, and a Staten Island dumpsite. They will detail for the jury alleged shakedowns by Cammarano and Zancocchio.

Lovaglio follows a well-tread path; about 20 former Bonanno family members have testified against the crime family and are "living openly." (One, Richard (Shellackhead) Cantarella, even had his own reality show.)

Cammarano and Zancocchio were busted in January 2018 with a slew of wiseguys including Eugene (Boobsie) Castelle, Albert (Al Muscles) Armetta, Joseph (Joe Valet) Sabella, George (Grumpy) Tropiano and Joseph (Joey Blue Eyes) Santapaolo.

Castelle and Armetta will be tried separately, while all the others took plea deals. (PDF download of original indictment also available below.)

Before the jury, Assistant US Attorney Gina Castellano (interesting surname) described Cammarano and Zancocchio as violent mobsters who loan-shark and extort people and are guilty of committing “crime after crime.”

“These two men led a sophisticated criminal organization that took whatever they wanted from whoever they wanted through intimidation, through threats and violence,” Castellano told jurors in her opening statement.

Lovaglio has already taken the stand and has so far discussed a range of topics, including a 2015 meeting at which he described how Cammarano was elected acting boss.

"That was the day we had the meeting to vote Joe in,” he said as the jury saw photos of alleged members of the Bonanno crime family entering a garage.

Lovaglio testified on cross about how the NYPD had "deactivated" him as a confidential informant.

And why was that?, he was asked.

He replied that it was for withholding information.

On assaults he had committed?

"Loan sharking and assault, hello," quipped the former capo

Lovaglio, who is now serving an eight-year sentence, also discussed how he was once insulted by the stepson of the owner of a sushi restaurant on Staten Island. Lovaglio retaliated and supposedly earned a new nickname in certain select circles: "Petey The Eyeball."

"I assaulted him with a glass," Lovaglio explained.

Indeed he did. 

Lovaglio struck the owner of Takayama Sushi Lounge in the face with a glass around 2:30 a.m. on November 1, 2015, cutting his cheek and left eye, ultimately blinding him in that eye. The Takayama Sushi Lounge is in Richmond Valley, Staten Island. The victim, 52 at the time of the incident. was taken to Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, where he underwent several surgeries on his face and eye.

Murray Weiss, reporting for DNA Info, sadly now defunct, once noted that the restaurant owner had been standing near the bar when someone called his name. When he turned to reply, he was blindsided with an exploding cocktail glass. The attacker "repeatedly hit his face."

911 was called and the police arrived, but Lovaglio had already made his exit, and was later picked up one morning after the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigation Division eventually identified him via a photograph of the suspect. 

Lovaglio, who is from Tottenville, already has several federal prison stints under his belt in addition to his current sentence  

Lovaglio is suing his NYPD handler for telling him not to take a lesser plea in the assault case for assuring him he wouldn't do a day in jail. He has said he is in a "private detention facility."

Judge Hellerstein asked what that meant.

A private prison.

Pug Lovaglio

After several audiotapes Lovaglio recorded while wearing a wire for the government were played, he was asked to confirm that the Bonanno crime family used hand signals to refer to some people: an ear tug, the chin, and for the named defendant Joe Cammarano, a hand sweeping over the top of the head.

Why?, Judge Hellerstein asked.

"Because he has nice hair," Lovaglio shrugged.

Laughter reportedly erupted in the courtroom from Cammarano and some supporters sitting behind him. (Apparently he does have nice hair....)

Lovaglio discussed making a $200,000 loan at 4% a week interest and mentioned a "Johnny Sideburns."

When a photo of John Sideburns was put onscreen for the jury to see, apparently he lacked  his supposed signature trait (sideburns), prompting the judge to ask: "Where are the sideburns?"

"We just give nicknames," Lovaglio said.

Hellerstein then noted that a weekly interest rate of four points was 100% a year.

"I think it's more," Lovaglio replied.

On Monday, the first day of trial, "the hulking Cammarano, one of two alleged wise guys on trial on racketeering and extortion charges, came to court... sporting gray slicked-back hair a la Frank Vincent — the late “Goodfellas” and “Sopranos” actor — along with a spotted navy blue blazer, light blue dress shirt, striped-tie and gray pants," The New York Post reported.

"He capped off the ensemble, naturally, with a massive silver ring on his left hand."

Asked by The Post if he thinks he looks like a movie mobster, Cammarano — who’s previously served time for extortion — said no, but joked: “I’ve got the map of Italy on my face.”

Cammarano’s defense lawyer said Lovaglio has even earned another nickname: “Petey BS.”

“Pete has lied over and over again,” said lawyer Jennifer Louis-Jeune, adding he also has prior convictions and a “decades-long history of sheer mayhem.”

Her efforts have been partly focused on building the story that: “Once upon a time in a land far away there was this thing called the mafia … Once upon a time. Not now."

John Zancocchio.
Alleged consiglieri John Zancocchio.

Zancocchio’s attorney defended his client over allegations he beat up another government witness, strip club-owning associate Stephen Sabella.

“[He] didn’t do it for the Bonanno crime family, he did it for the Zancocchio family,” said John Meringolo.

Filings by Zancocchio attorney John Meringolo alleged that prosecutors improperly shared information with Lovaglio and failed to stop Sabella from posting vile racist comments on Zancocchio's daughter's Facebook page.

An FBI agent on the case was captured in a wiretapped conversation with Lovaglio describing the Verrazzano Bridge as the "g----a gangplank," and Meringolo wrote to the court that it was "an obviously prejudicial reference to Italian-Americans such as the defendants in this case."

Judge Hellerstein rejected defense efforts to have the case dismissed over the cooperators' interactions, but the defense is using this in their trial strategy.

Cammarano, who once served in an elite Navy patrol unit on a nuclear submarine, is accused of running a conspiracy that allegedly relied on extortion, drug dealing, and violence.

Zancocchio is accused of loansharking and extortion and involvement in the racketeering conspiracy.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Alleged Racism Highlighted
Earlier this month, Stephen Sabella, the former Bonanno associate who is slated to testify, posted a series of racist, typo-filled messages on Zancocchio's daughter's Facebook page.

Sabella also referred to Zancocchio as a “f-g coward” and that “horse tooth father of yours.”

“Also, if dad ever has balls to meet up with me ono [sic] on one I would love it but he a f-g blow jog that be hind bars for a while lol,” Sabella wrote.

Sabella, 52, was outed as one of the turncoats slated to testify by Gang Land News a week prior to the racist postings.

Sabella secretly pleaded guilty to unspecified racketeering charges on Jan. 22 after serving as an FBI confidential source for three years, according to Gang Land News.

In 2014, Zancocchio and former co-defendant Joseph “Joe Valet” Sabella allegedly assaulted Stephen Sabella. The Sabellas are unrelated.