Bonanno Racketeering Trial In Manhattan's Southern District Goes To Jury

Summations began on the morning of March 11, and the jury was handed transcripts of the audio recordings played during trial.....

John Zancocchio
John Zancocchio leaving court last month.

From 2012 until last year, Joseph Cammarano Jr. and John Zancocchio were powerful Mafiosi who profited from a mob-controlled dump on Staten Island while overseeing a group of underlings who strong-armed and terrified people into paying up.

So Federal prosecutors have been alleging in Manhattan Federal Court the past few weeks.

They also allege that Cammarano is the  boss and Zancocchio the consiglieri. Cammarano, 59, who lives in Long Island, is charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit extortion. Zancocchio, 61, of Staten Island, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, attempted assault and conspiracy to commit extortion. If convicted, Cammarano faces 40 years in prison and Zancocchio, 45.

If you ask their attorneys, however, you'd understand that the two men were hauled into court because they're Italians and look like it.

This trial has barely been covered by the media. Time was, Mafia racketeering trials were splashed across the pages of the tabloids on a near-daily basis. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, empowered by aggressive use of the RICO Act (and for several years, an overzealous DA in Manhattan), law enforcement used super-aggressive prosecutions to decimate the leadership of the five New York crime families. The Bonannos were probably hit the hardest: in 2004, longtime boss Joseph Massino decided to flip and cooperate after he was convicted of committing/ordering seven murders. The Last Don would even testify against his own acting boss, Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano, among others. He also implicated the man reputed to be the official boss of the Bonanno crime family in a murder.

Michael (Mikey Nose) Mancuso, who's getting out of prison today, is allegedly official boss. One wonders how long his reign could possibly last.

Manhattan prosecutors have been presenting evidence in court that they allege proves Cammarano has been controlling what's left of the Bonanno crime family as Mikey Nose's acting boss. (Cammarano also is allegedly the official underboss of the Bonanno crime family.)

“These two men led a sophisticated criminal organization that took whatever they wanted from whoever they wanted through intimidation, through threats and through violence,” assistant United States attorney Gina Castellano, told jurors.

Construction company owner Steven Grzic testified that two men showed up at his office unannounced several years ago to tell him to accept a small settlement in a lawsuit with a company that's allegedly affiliated with the Bonannos.

When he told them that lawyers were handling the matter, not him, one of the two men told him to say hello to his father.

“My father was a victim of a violent crime, so I understood that as a means of intimidation,” Grzic said.

He later hired a bodyguard.

Cammarano and Zancocchio also are accused of illegally dumping toxic waste on a tract of land on Staten Island.

“Everyone involved in that dumpsite lost money — except the mobsters and those working with them,” Castellano said.

Zancocchio’s lawyer, John Meringolo, suggested that investigators' cultural misunderstandings about body language may have contributed to creating an inaccurate impression about the defendants.

He pressed NYPD Detective Anthony Votino about his testimony that he'd seen Zancocchio and another man in “animated conversation.”

“It wasn’t angry but there was a lot of — there was some hand movements and physical touching,” Detective Votino said. “Not fighting. Just making sure that they got their point across.”

On cross, Meringolo suggested that the two men were victims of ethnic stereotyping.

“And that’s because people like us, we talk with our hands and he was talking with his hands, right?” Meringolo said.

Prosecutors objected.

“And did they kiss each other when they departed?” Meringolo asked.

“I don’t recall."