Luchese Trio Go Down For Life For Gangland Hit In The Bronx

Former acting Luchese boss Matthew (Matty) Madonna, 84; soldier Christopher Londonio, 45; and associate Terrence Caldwell, 61, were sentenced to life in prison on Monday, July 27, following their 2019 jury conviction for the Bronx murder of Michael Meldish, among other crimes.

Cops examine car in which Michael Meldish was killed in the Bronx in 2013.
Cops examine car in which Michael Meldish was killed in the Bronx in 2013.

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the sentences, which were imposed by U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel, as per a media release.

Steven L. Crea, the Underboss of the Luchese Family, who also faces a life sentence, will be sentenced at a later date. According to Gang Land News, he will be sentenced next week. As per Gang Land the reason for the delay is that, at the time of the hearing, which was conducted remotely due to COVID-19 precautions, "no court appearance slots were available for inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center," where Crea is being held.

Crea's son, Luchese capo Steve Crea Jr., a 47-year-old New Rochelle resident, pleaded guilty in White Plains federal court in August 2019 to racketeering from 2000 to 2017, murder conspiracy in aid of racketeering and attempted assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering in late 2012.

Stevie Crea, Matty Madonna.
Stevie Crea, left, for whom the bell will toll next week; Matty Madonna.

As part of his plea deal, Crea is expected to be sentenced to 13 years behind bars. He also faced a life sentence.

Strauss said: “Matty Madonna, Christopher Londonio, and Terrence Caldwell – respectively, the Acting Boss, a soldier, and an associate of the Luchese Family – were responsible for the execution-style murder of Michael Meldish seven years ago. Madonna ordered it, Londonio set it up, and Caldwell pulled the trigger. Now all three have been sentenced to serve the rest of their lives in federal prison.”

Until his arrest in this case, Madonna was the Acting Boss of the Luchese Family of La Cosa Nostra, one of the “Five Families” that constitute the Mafia in the New York City area.

In 2013, Madonna became displeased with Michael Meldish, a longtime organized crime associate who had refused to collect debts owed to Madonna. Madonna ordered Meldish killed. Acting under the orders of Madonna and Crea, Londonio helped set up Meldish – a personal friend of Londonio's– to be killed, and acted as the getaway driver for the murder. Caldwell carried out Madonna’s and Crea’s orders to kill Meldish.

Caldwell met Meldish and drove with him to a Bronx neighborhood to meet Londonio. As Meldish got out of his car, Caldwell shot him once in the head, killing him instantly. Caldwell then drove off with Londonio. For their participation in the Meldish murder, Madonna, Londonio, and Caldwell were each convicted at trial of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, and use of a firearm in furtherance of murder in aid of racketeering.

Madonna, of the Bronx, Londonio, of Hartsdale, New York, and Caldwell, of New York, were also convicted of racketeering conspiracy; Caldwell was convicted of attempted murder in aid of racketeering and discharging a firearm in furtherance of attempted murder in aid of racketeering arising out of his May 29, 2013, ambush of a member of the rival Bonanno Family in Manhattan; and Londonio was convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

According to Gang Land, Londonio attorney Louis Freeman sought to take some of the weight of the lifetime sentence off his client by mentioning Londonio's willingness to cop a plea and accept a 30-year sentence as part of a global plea deal package the Feds had floated prior to trial. They withdrew the deal when some of the defendants rejected it.

He asked Seibel to declare that his client's mandatory life term violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and inhuman punishment." He urged that she "sentence him to a term of years that would give him hope for the future."

He also noted that Londonio has been behind bars for five years now, and that he has been a model prisoner -- for two of the five years, at least.

Seibel shot down the request by saying that while his client was "acquitted" of escape charges she had concluded that Londonio "was at least planning to try to escape from prison."

She also noted that Londonio had no one but himself to blame in that it had been his decision to join a crime family in the first place.

She had no glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel to offer Londonio.

She did spy a shred of potential salvation in that Londonio's horrible situation could "be a lesson to others who are thinking of taking an oath to a crime family."

Christopher Londonio
Christopher Londonio

Chris Londonio faced a separate charge for having conceived of and prepared to execute a plan to escape from Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. He reportedly planned to use dental floss as a cutting tool. He also began to secretly amass sheets and blankets to use as a rope.

Other detainees reported Londonio's alleged plan to authorities.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim said at the time the plot was uncovered: "Athough sounding like a script for a made-for-TV movie, the charges allege yet another serious federal crime against Londonio. ... with this latest chapter in his years-long life in the mob, Londonio adds to the string of crimes he must now face, in a criminal justice system he was desperately seeking to escape.”

Londonio's younger brother had hitched his wagon to the Genovese crime family and quickly became a millionaire -- before he was shot to death after making a stand when law enforcement arrived serving a no-knock warrant.

Michael Londonio — Chunk — was shot dead following a "furious exchange" of bullets with police in December 2005.

Chunk allegedly ran a drug operation in the area that generated $1 million during the five-month run-up to the date of his attempted arrest. Chunk was shot to death by police poised to arrest him as part of a series of predawn raids marking the culmination of a three-year investigation of the Genovese crime family in the Bronx, East Harlem, and Westchester County. The probe reached acting boss Liborio (Barney) Bellomo.

The day after his brother was killed, Chris Londonio stood on Revere Avenue shouting epithets at the police. During the outburst, he punched his wife and was arrested for harassment. (The wife herself had gotten into the action, pushing a television camerawoman to the ground.)

At the start of the Luchese trial for the Meldish murder (plus racketeering, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling and other acts of violence) last October, prosecutors alleged that Madonna ordered the Meldish hit because Meldish, allegedly a Luchese associate (and former Madonna pal), had failed to repay a $100,000 loan and that he also told Madonna to "fck off."

Prosecutor Celia Cohen told jurors that Madonna and Crea ordered the murder of the former notorious Purple Gang leader.

“Not repaying a boss is a dangerous game,” said Cohen, adding that Londonio and alleged triggerman Caldwell subsequently executed Meldish as he sat in his parked car in the Bronx in November 2013.

“Michael Meldish is dead because of these four men,” said Cohen.

Lawyers sought to denigrate the witnesses waiting to testify for the Fed's, saying, “They have lied, stolen, cheated — they put their own personal interests above all else."

Caldwell’s lawyer George Goltzer emphatically denied that his client killed Meldish — noting the two were such close friends that Meldish routinely drove Caldwell (who has terminal cancer) to the hospital for chemotherapy.

Jurors heard testimony from a mother and daughter who in 2013  had stumbled onto Meldish’s body after her been shot in the head while seated in his car.

“We saw a car door and someone’s leg hanging out of the car,” retired nurse Janet Forbes testified. She drove the car around the block, and pulled up alongside to investigate, thinking he might be in a booze-induced stupor.

“When I saw him up close he didn’t look drunk, he looked dead,” said Forbes.

When Bronx-based Luchese associate/reputed former Purple Gang boss Michael Meldish was shot to death in front of his home on 2nd Avenue near 111th Street in East Harlem on November 15, 2013, at the age of 62, he was suspected of running a protection racket in the Edenwald area of the north Bronx.

Initially law enforcement focused on that racket as a possible cause of the shooting. 

Meldish was known to have had a steady supply of enemies going back decades.

He'd been arrested five times in the 1970s on various charges including assault and weapons possession, and he had other convictions throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He was suspected of committing as many as 10 murders.

According to neighbors, he lived alone, was occasionally visited by a son and grandson, and was considered affable by many who knew him in the neighborhood. One neighbor claimed that Meldish held a job in construction.

"He was always a hardworking guy," said another neighbor, who had known him since she was 8. "Very friendly with everybody, but he was always keeping himself to himself."

Police believe his younger brother Joseph carried out dozens of contract murders for the Purple Gang, which was involved in the heroin trade in the Bronx and Harlem, as well as contract killings for the Bonanno, Luchese and Genovese crime families.

“We heard of over 70 different homicides, from the Bronx to Harlem, all the way up and down the East Coast all the way to Florida,” retired Bronx Homicide Detective Kevin Tracy once said.

Tracy arrested Michael Meldish's brother Joseph Meldish in 2007 for the 1999 mistaken identity murder of Joe Brown inside the now defunct Frenchie’s Bar on Bruckner Blvd. at E. Tremont Avenue.

“One of the reasons we believe both (Meldish) brothers weren’t killed a long time ago was that they’re related to Angelo Prisco, a capo in the Genovese family,” said Tracy. “A lot of people feared Michael and Joe. If you killed one, you’d have to contend with the other.”

Angelo Prisco died in June 2017.

“The Purple Gang pretty much doesn’t exist any more,” said another police source. “They moved on to other ‘careers’ with the Lucchese and other mobs.”