Colombocare: The Stabbing Of Walter Samperi

The following is shared via The Colombo Crime Family Blog:

As far as career paths go, joining the Mafia is a pretty risky one. There is no set wage, no 401k, as well as the looming threat of incarceration. And, as Colombo crime family associate Walter Samperi discovered the hard way, there's no health insurance either.....

From: The Colombo Crime Family Blog

The Italian-born Samperi stood at over two metres tall, making him a useful enforcer for powerful Colombo family figures like Teddy Persico Jr. and Tommy Gioeli. But for all his physical might, Samperi was powerless to retaliate when he was stabbed not once, but twice, in two separate incidents by a fellow Colombo associate and then, years later, by a Gambino. On neither occasion did Samperi get any sort of retribution, according to tape-recordings made in 2009 and 2010 by FBI informants.

Samperi first came to the feds' attention in 2004, when he was spotted hanging around Colombo prince Theodore "Skinny Teddy" Persico Jr., who was released from prison that April. With Skinny's cousins - father-and-son Colombo bosses Carmine and Allie - both behind bars, Skinny Teddy was eyed as the heir apparent to take over the family. First, he had to re-adjust to life after sixteen years behind bars, and then he had to re-establish his power in the underworld. The FBI were one step ahead of him. Kenny Gallo, a Los Angeles-based mob associate and FBI informant, started hanging out with Skinny Teddy's closest confidantes, hoping to snare the mob scion before he could ascend to the throne. Gallo was tight with Teddy's brother Danny, and his right-hand-man Eddie Garofalo Jr.

Kenny Gallo was there the day Skinny Teddy left Greenhaven Correctional Facility and hopped into a limousine filled with his Mafioso buddies back to Brooklyn. In his book, Breakshot, Gallo didn't have much to say about Samperi other than that he was a "neighbourhood guy," friends with Teddy's brother Carmine L. Persico. Walter was a loyal, albeit dim-witted associate, who worked as a loansharking collector for some of the family's less-intimidating shylocks. Like many members in the crew, Samperi also distributed marijuana in Long Island, and Gallo recalled that he may have sold pills with Carmine L. But Samperi's most memorable moment with the Persicos came on May 25, 2004, when Skinny Teddy allegedly wanted to murder an associate of a rival wiseguy.

Skinny Teddy had heard through the grapevine that Georgie Fanelli, a drug-dealing Brooklyn associate, had been fooling around with Skinny Teddy's latest fling, Dayton Raines, a porn star introduced to him by Kenny Gallo himself. Court documents from Persico Jr.'s 2010 racketeering case wrote that Skinny Teddy had also heard that Fanelli had called either him or his friend Eddie Garofalo "half a rat," for reasons unknown. Regardless, Gallo wrote that Skinny Teddy's hatred of Fanelli and his superior, Colombo soldier Craig Marino, was simply an unhealed wound from years earlier. Little Craig Marino had been an active gunman in an internecine family war from 1991-93. He was part of a crew of rebel hitmen who participated in a number of shootings against the ruling Persico faction, including Skinny Teddy's own father. Gallo wrote in Breakshot:

"This was not ancient history to Teddy or anyone else in Brooklyn: Teddy believed that Craig had, at the very least, attempted to kill his friends and family."

According to court papers, Persico Jr. was contemplating taking "violent action" against Fanelli. Gallo, who was on the scene wearing a wire, described it a little more vividly:

"As we were driving, it dawned on me as I listened to Teddy rant that his chosen target was not Georgie but Georgie's boss Craig Marino. This, in other words, had nothing to do with Dayton… that had simply been the stimulant that angered Teddy enough to take out his pent-up on a completely unrelated target."

Teddy Persico

Hours before his anticipated meeting with Marino, Skinny Teddy and Eddie rummaged around Teddy’s mom’s apartment bedroom for a gun while Kenny Gallo kept Mama Persico occupied downstairs, feigning interest in the albums of baby photos shown to him. When they couldn't find a gun, Teddy's brother Carmine and Walter Samperi arrived at the scene. They brought with them what Gallo described as: "a beat-up Walther PPK, a .38 caliber revolver with no bullets, and a shitty off-brand pistol. I am not exaggerating when I say I have to this day never seen sorrier weapons. One gun had no bullets to shoot, and the Walther PPK looked like it was missing screws and had never been oiled or cleaned. It would jam, and if it shot, it would not shoot straight. The pistol wasn't a good piece, but it looked like it would fire."

Even more embarrassingly, nobody had bothered to clean the gun's bullets of DNA before putting them in the clip. Walter Samperi tried to do a makeshift job of cleaning them before giving them to Teddy, but the powerful Colombo scion was less than impressed, as caught in vivid detail on Kenny’s tape-recorder.

T. Persico: Where's the thing? Go get it for me, bring it to me…

Samperi: What you could go better. I didn't get a chance to clean…

T. Persico: I don't need you to clean. Just give me the thing.

Garofalo: No, you ain't carrying (UI)

Samperi: Now you got my prints all over it, you're gonna need (UI)

T. Persico: I'm not gonna leave the gun anywhere. My prints are on it.

Samperi: Yeah, it's an automatic, the thing could fly out.

T. Persico: Hey, Walter, I know how to shoot. Give me the gun.

Samperi: What, do you catch the shells after they, they…?

T. Persico: Just give me the gun. Where's the gun?

Garofalo (on the phone): Tell him to meet us over there and sit in the car. They know what's up. Somethin' happens, they get out of the car.

Samperi: What happened? I don't know what happened.

T. Persico: Some kid is talking shit. I'm gonna go talk to him.

T. Persico: ...Yeah, alright, just give me the gun and don't worry about it. What is the problem?... I don't clean the thing.

Garofalo: He drives, you clean?

Samperi: You gotta clean the bullets.

Garofalo: He drives, you clean.

Unsurprisingly, the murder never actually went down. The carload of bumbling gangsters headed down to the 101, a Bay Ridge bar where Craig Marino spent his afternoons. En route, Samperi sheepishly noted that none of them had any gloves, making the whole act of fingerprint-cleaning moot. Skinny Teddy was fuming at his underlings' incompetence.

"What? Use your socks then! You assholes don't know how to use your socks? Come on!" he barked, according to retelling of events in Kenny Gallo's autobiography.

At the 101, Skinny Teddy was forced to defuse the situation after he noticed police cars and paramedics already at the scene. It's unknown exactly who tipped the feds' off to the impending showdown, but Gallo speculated in his book that it could've either been Eddie Garofalo himself, reading the writing on the wall for the disastrous hit, or Eddie's uncle Manny, whom Gallo spotted circling the 101 bar in his Porsche that day.

Samperi never got the memo that the hit was called off. According to Gallo, Samperi and Carmine L. Persico dutifully stood across the road, socks on their hands, as Skinny Teddy held a brief, cordial walk-talk with Little Craig. Gallo was forced to intercede to stop the two hapless associates from committing one of the most poorly-planned hits in Colombo history.

"Without thinking about how I would look, I rushed out into the street and started waving for the two idiots to stop. They saw me - and possibly so did Craig. Teddy left Craig by 101 and walked up to me.

'Everything should be cool with Craig,' Teddy said with his old, easy-going tone."

Despite the hilariously mismanaged Marino plot, Walter Samperi continued to be entrusted as muscle for the Colombo upper management. Kenny Gallo found this out in October that year, when he was called to a meeting at a Coney Island diner with Manny Garofalo, Eddie's uncle, a mobbed-up construction tycoon. Manny accused Gallo of talking about their criminal affairs to others in the family. At face value it seemed like a minor accusation but in the Colombo borgata, everybody was lying to one another about their income to avoid kicking up the required tribute. The meeting lead to a tense stand-off in a private section of the diner, and Kenny broke the stalemate by departing the restaurant altogether and heading for his vehicle. He surmised that Manny's invitation to bring him back to his nephew's dingy truck lot for a "meeting" was a set-up. In his book, Gallo wrote:

"If Manny wanted to persuade me to get into his car, suggesting that we visit his burly, born-killer nephew Eddie at his infamous truck lot in Staten Island was not a wise strategy. More than any other place I've ever visited, that truck lot smelled of death."

As Gallo went back to his car, he spotted what he could only figure was Garofalo's back-up plan. Walter Samperi and a mob associate named Frankie, two "Bay Ridge goombah idiots who did strong-arm work for the family" were sitting in a small Honda, likely stolen, parked in an abandoned gas station across the road. Whatever Manny's plan was, it apparently didn't anticipate the street-smart Kenny rejecting his invitation for a meeting, and rushing back to his car to flee the scene. As soon Kenny was back in his car, the mobsters knew they had picked a fight they couldn't win. Nobody wanted a two-way shootout in the middle of Coney Island, and Kenny left the diner to the welcoming arms of the FBI, where he concluded his years-long cooperation and turned over his tape-recordings.

Prosecutors never charged Teddy with conspiring to kill either Marino or Fanelli, but the "dirty bullets" debacle did lead to his arrest on firearms charges, among others, in August 2005. Walter Samperi never faced any charges for providing those sorry-looking guns to Ted, but he suffered his own sort-of karma - Samperi was subsequently stabbed by another Colombo loanshark on record with Teddy Persico Jr. and the family's Long Island street boss, Tommy Gioeli. The reasons for the stabbing and the assailant's identity remains a mystery to cops since Samperi refused to name his attacker.

Kenji Gallo

The hulking enforcer nursed his knife wounds and waited around until Persico left prison in 2008 so a sit-down could be convened. He didn't lift a finger in retaliation, not wanting to rustle any feathers in the underworld. Samperi was certainly capable of such a beating, but he described his pacifist rationale to another FBI informant, Colombo associate Tommy McLaughlin, on July 31, 2009. In their discussion, Samperi explained how the shylock who stabbed him had "money on the street" for Skinny Ted, and was worried that retaliating could only inflame the situation:

"…And the other kid might never, might never (get) a beating. (UI) could slap what's it called? 'Cause you know sometimes it sucks, you go to run around, like (UI). Look at my life, my friend supposedly, like you know, the guy, like, look I got stabbed. I went to a sitdown, I had to accept, I had to shake the kid's hand that stabbed me."

"Who went for him?" McLaughlin asked, referring to who represented Samperi's rival in the sit-down.


McLaughlin: Who went to go sit?

Samperi: Your cousin (Tommy Gioeli) and ah… Skinny…McLaughlin: Went for him?

Samperi: They called him out because they said, "This is Teddy's friend," this and that, and your cousin told me, 'This is Teddy's friend. What do you want to do?" I said, "Listen." I said, "This kid is obviously, he's friends with, you know, he's friends with you guys."

McLaughlin: This is before you got friendly with them, right?Samperi: No, I was friendly with them already, but, but, you know, I was already. No, with - Teddy, I was already, I've been friends with Teddy, but…

McLaughlin: No I'm talking about with Skinny and uh --

Samperi: Tommy?

McLaughlin: Yeah.Samperi: No, I already knew Skinny and them. But I told Skinny "Listen, it's gonna make a headache 'cause I know he has money on the street for you, this and that. But it's not gonna do, it's not gonna un-ring the bell. He already stabbed me. If I beat him up, what's that gonna do? I said, "Whatever," I said, "You want me to squash it? As a favour to you I will squash it." I could have been a dick about it (UI) this one and that one and make sure that I gave a beating for that. I said, I said, to your cousin (Gioeli), "Listen, I respect you a lot and I want to respect you, I know you and Uncle Teddy, Teddy's father, are close friends and you and Teddy are (UI). So." I said, "If you guys want me to shake his hand, I'll shake his hand." I said, "I… I'm gonna be honest, I'm not happy about it, but I'll do it, because I respect the rules and you know, I'm a team player, you know. (UI) him and Teddy were at this… (UI)… at the same time. But, uh, you know, obviously, you know? That's weird, right?

McLaughlin: (Chuckles)

Samperi: Teddy's like a kid (UI).

Samperi's show of humility was apparently only an invitation for other mobsters to pick on the gentle giant. In May 2010, it was déjà vu for the mobster when he was stabbed once again by another neighbourhood wiseguy. This time, Samperi was trying to help his stepson, who was being antagonized in the park by other boys playing basketball. When the frightening-looking Samperi stepped onto the scene, the bullies' fathers - associates of the Gambino family - intervened. Samperi recognized the guys from the underworld, and things got personal. He ended up in a tussle with one of them who maneuvered a knife into Samperi's spine during the melee. As the Gambinos fled the scene, Samperi was left bleeding on the pavement, paralyzed and unable to walk. In the hospital, Samperi swore to the cops that he didn't see who stabbed him. Naming his assailant would be a violation of omerta, the sacred code of silence, even if Samperi was in the right. The 31-year-old was discharged from Lutheran Medical Centre two weeks later, since he had no insurance to cover his stay. From there, he made the Mafia equivalent of a complaint to HR. Big Anthony Russo, a burly Brooklynite, was stepping in as acting captain for Teddy Persico, as Skinny Teddy was indicted once again in 2010 for a labor racketeering scheme. Walter pleaded his case to Big Anthony, and the Colombo powerhouse vowed to get to the bottom of it. Russo made a "beef" to the highest levels of the Gambino family, an influential Sicilian member of the ruling panel named John Gambino, aged 70. An official "sit-down" was held on June 4, 2010. The Gambino associate’s immediate superior, an unnamed acting captain, promised to pass on the bill for Samperi’s medical treatment to the family of the Gambino who stabbed him. He even assured Russo that Samperi could get patched up in one of the mob-run clinics the Gambino family controlled. But after a month, nothing was done. Confined to a wheelchair, Samperi lost the one attribute that made him a living - his ability to tower over loansharking debtors, and nobody was willing to front the costs of his physical rehabilitation. On June 29, Big Anthony reported the situation at a regular Colombo family "captain's meeting," held in a Staten Island home.

Skinny Teddy’s onetime fling, Dayton Raines

"Captains meetings" were a monthly affair for the Colombo family after their newly-appointed 76-year-old acting boss, Andy "Mush" Russo, attempted to re-energize the beleaguered organization and confer with its caporegimes on a regular basis. Mush required the utmost security for these meetings, making sure participants arrived and left in intervals so the FBI couldn’t keep track. But Andy Mush’s hands-on approach to running a Mafia family was doomed from the start by a low-key, Long Island-based acting captain named Paul "Paulie Guns" Bevacqua, who had agreed to wear a wire for the feds. Bevacqua showed up to every captain's meeting strapped with a wire, and the old-school Colombo administration didn’t pat anybody down. Everything was caught on tape.

At the outset of the June 29 meeting, Andy Mush admonished Big Anthony Russo - no relation - for attending a sit-down with another crime family without first notifying the administration. Mush noted that Big Anthony, who normally held a reputation as a particularly violent bruiser, should have first "gotten even" with the Gambino culprits before using their diplomatic channels to convene a sit-down. The five captains at the meeting then pondered their next options. Billy Russo, Andy Mush's preppy son nicknamed "the Paralegal," debated whether Samperi should sue the city for failing to protect him, or file for disability. Big Anthony shot that down, noting that Samperi lacked the lacked the legal status in the United States to do so. The wiseguys all agreed that for Samperi to sue his culprit would make him a "snitch" in the eyes of the underworld.

"I need help, what do you think?" Andy Mush stammered.

"They're worried about retaliating," noted captain Joe Carna. The captains then started spit-balling ways they could shake their Mafia rivals down, and finally settled on a $150,000 fine to cover Samperi's treatment. $100,000 of that, they agreed, would come from the Gambino family's share of the annual Figli di Santa Rosalia, a mob-controlled Italian feast held on 18th Avenue.

Unfortunately, Samperi couldn’t wait around for the feast to get patched up and regain his ability to walk. He flew back to Floridia, in Syracuse, Sicily, where he had not lived since he was five, to take advantage of the nation's free healthcare in August 2010. But as Walter enjoyed his serene stay over in the old country, prosecutors in New York were working on their largest racketeering case against the Colombo family yet, and Samperi was inadvertently caught in the middle. All of the chatter about Samperi from the top levels of the Colombo brass spurred the FBI to look into the Italian-born associate, and laid extortion and marijuana charges against him dating back to 2004. On January 20, 2011, staff of the Italy's Squadra Mobile, with help from Interpol arrested him pursuant to a United States indictment unsealed that day.

After being detained in Italy for a few months, Samperi was shipped back to New York to plead guilty and face the music in front of Federal Judge Frederic Block. At his sentencing on April 19, 2012, Judge Block read Samperi's extortion charge aloud, and remarked: "I imagine if the defendant showed up at my doorstep, just to look at his size, I would turn over everything I own to him on the spot." Samperi, facing sentencing guidelines of 18-to-24 months and a guaranteed deportation back to Italy, apologized to the court:

"I definitely learned a lesson, I ain't never going to get in trouble again," he said, the court transcriber noting that he was wincing from pain.

"You really mean it?" Judge Block cracked; "I go to Italy once in a while, I'm not going to run into you, am I?"

"I'll be there," Samperi replied.

"You'll take good care of me if you see me in the streets of Rome?"

"Yeah, definitely," Samperi promised, cracking a smile.

"So, Count One will be time served," said Block, giving Samperi a downward departure from the standard sentencing guidelines. He had a final warning before Samperi's return to Italy:

"I just want to caution you that if you do come back to this country, it’s not going to be 15 months next time, it is going to be years. I just want to warn you because I get people that come back and say, 'I didn't realize the consequences.'… I'm giving you this warning right now, you're going to face many years of jail time."

With that, Samperi returned to Sicily and the Colombo crime family lost a loyal recruit, a rarity these days. Big Anthony Russo ended up flipping in January 2011, after he too was busted alongside the administration of the Colombo family who tried in vain to collect Samperi's medical bills. Colombo acting boss Andy Russo, acting underboss Ben Castellazzo, and consigliere Richie Fusco were among those charged with "extorting" the Gambino family for the rehab costs, and prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes cited comments from the Colombos that showed they planned on squeezing money from the Gambinos under the threat of violence.

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