Last Luchese Standing: Underboss Steven Crea Sentenced To Life

Steven L. Crea, the underboss of the Luchese Family, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish.


Steven (Wonder Boy) Crea
Stevie Wonder Boy during 1980s arrest.

The sentenced was announced last Thursday by Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She also ordered that Crea pay a $400,000 fine and forfeit $1 million.

At the end of this story is a chart with details on all the defendants involved in the case.

A jury convicted Crea and three co-defendants on November 15, 2019 following a six-week trial before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel, who also imposed the sentence.

Strauss said: “Steven L. Crea – the underboss of the Luchese Family – is the last of a dozen made men arrested in 2017 to be sentenced for his crimes. For his role in the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish and other crimes, Crea will now spend the rest of his life behind bars. Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and NYPD, we continue our commitment to render La Cosa Nostra a thing of the past.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, the admissions of defendants who pled guilty, and other court documents:  From 2000 to his arrest in 2017, Crea helped lead the family, which made millions of dollars in profit from crimes committed by the Family’s members and associates in New York City, Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and elsewhere. In 2013, Crea helped orchestrate the murder of Michael Meldish.






In May 2017, charges were filed against 12 members of the Luchese Family, including the Acting Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, four captains, and five soldiers, for their commission of a wide array of crimes with the Mafia from at least in or about 2000 up to and including in or about 2017. 

With the exception of one captain who died before his case was resolved, every Luchese Family member charged in this case either pled guilty or was convicted at trial, the Feds say. 

 With Crea's sentencing, all have now been sentenced by Judge Seibel. 

 The defendants were convicted of being leaders, members and associates of the Mafia, and committing crimes including the murder of Michael Meldish; three attempted murders – including the attempted murder of a former witness against the Mafia; multiple assaults; trafficking oxycodone, cocaine, and other drugs; extortion; millions of dollars in fraud against a public hospital in the Bronx; loansharking; operating illegal gambling businesses; and other crimes. 

Luchese boss Matthew (Matty) Madonna, 84; soldier Christopher Londonio, 45; and associate Terrence Caldwell, 61, were sentenced to life in prison on July 27.

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. As part of his plea deal, Crea Jr. 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.

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.

Suspects were never in short supply regarding the Michael Meldish murder. The former Purple Gang boss was offed in November 2013 in what's described as a classic gangland hit tableau. His body, expensively attired, ensconced in a camel-colored leather jacket, was slumped over in the driver's seat, his head back, his mouth agape.

“Michael was a stone-cold killer,” Joseph Coffey, former commanding officer of the NYPD’s organized crime homicide task force, has said.

Coffey spent years trying to pin murders on Meldish, though acknowledged that he faced one insurmountable obstacle: “We couldn’t get any witnesses," Coffey has said. "They had the people so terrified they just wouldn’t cooperate.”

Meldish is believed to have committed as many as 10 mob-related hits, and was never prosecuted for a single one. His brother and longtime street partner Joseph Meldish has been serving a 25-to-life sentence for a 1999 slaying. Joseph is believed to have committed as many as 70 contract killings.


Michael Meldish murder
Investigators at the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish.


Both Michael and brother Joseph were leaders of the notorious Purple Gang. Joseph, is serving his sentence at Shawangunk Correctional Facility for murder in the 2nd degree for the 1999 mistaken identity execution of Joe Brown inside Frenchy’s Bar, formerly located in Throggs Neck. According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Meldish will be eligible for parole on September 22, 2032.

The Purple Gang roamed the South Bronx and Harlem where members were involved in the large‐scale distribution of heroin. They also whacked people -- and in many cases, dismembered their victims, of which there reportedly were 17 by December 1977. (Many of the 17 had been active informants for law enforcement when slain.) Purple Gang members essentially cut their teeth as glorified coffee boys in decade-long apprenticeships. They stepped up their game when the competition was wiped out -- meaning, they filled a huge niche after law enforcement cleared away many local narcotics trafficking rings, including the one known as the French Connection. The Purple Gang entered the contract killing business after it got into drug trafficking.

Most Purple Gang members were raised on Pleasant Avenue between 110th and 117th streets and were related to known Mafia figures or had been allied with local drug traffickers.

In 1979, Coffey, who died in September 2015, said that the Purple Gang was suspected of involvement in multiple unsolved .22 caliber killings -- many of which were allegedly carried out with the same weapon. 

"Publicity Joe"—as The Westies, the West side Irish mob once allied with the Gambinos, dubbed him—was among the 1970s-era investigators who probed the gang. The killings were spread out geographically in the Northeast, Midwest, and elsewhere. (The murder of Outfit Don Sam Giancana was reportedly among the murders involved in that investigation.) The small .22 was perfect for hits, as stories noted, for many reasons (among them: the pistol can be easily muffled with a silencer).

As reported last November, after a jury trial, Madonna, Crea, Christopher Londonio, and Terence Caldwell were convicted of murder, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and other felonies.  

Londonio is a made member of the Luchese Family. Acting under the orders of Madonna and Crea, Londonio helped setup Meldish—a personal friend of Londonio's—to be killed, and acted as the getaway driver for the murder. Londonio also carried firearms and other weapons, beat an associate of a rival crime family with a baseball bat, and personally participated in extortion, operating illegal gambling businesses, and drug-trafficking, among other crimes.

Caldwell is an associate of the Luchese Family, who participated in its crimes but was not formally inducted as a member. On May 29, 2013, Caldwell ambushed a member of the rival Bonanno Family in Manhattan. Caldwell fired several shots into the victim’s car at close range and struck him once in the chest, but the victim survived.

On November 15, 2013, Caldwell carried out Madonna's and Crea’s orders to kill Michel 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.



DEFENDANT

AGE

CITY OF RESIDENCE

CHARGES OF CONVICTION

SENTENCE

Madonna, Matthew

84

Incarcerated

Racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, aiding and abetting use of a firearm to commit murder

Life in prison

Crea, Steven L.

73

Crestwood, NY

Racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, aiding and abetting use of a firearm to commit murder

Life in prison, $400,000 fine,

$1 million forfeiture

Londonio, Christopher

46

Incarcerated

Racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, aiding and abetting use of a firearm to commit murder, conspiracy to distribute narcotics

Life in prison

Caldwell, Terrence

62

Incarcerated

Racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm to commit murder, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm during a crime of violence

Life in prison

Datello, Joseph

69

Staten Island, NY

Racketeering conspiracy

168 months' imprisonment

Crea, Steven D.

48

New Rochelle, NY

Racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, attempted assault with a deadly weapon in aid of racketeering

156 months' imprisonment, $50,000 fine

Bruno, Vincent

36

Incarcerated

Attempted murder in aid of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy

136 months' imprisonment

Vaughan, Brian

54

Matawan, NJ

Racketeering conspiracy

84 months' imprisonment

O’Connor, Richard

66

Staten Island, NY

Conspiracy to distribute narcotics

72 months' imprisonment

Garcia, Carmine

Deceased

Hawthorne, NJ

Racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering

60 months' imprisonment, $250,000 fine

DiNapoli, Joseph

84

Bronx, NY

Racketeering conspiracy

52 months' imprisonment, $250,000 fine

Castelucci, John

60

Staten Island, NY

Racketeering conspiracy

37 months' imprisonment, $150,000 fine

Maffucci, James

72

New York, NY

Extortion, Extortionate extension of credit

37 months' imprisonment

Corso, Tindaro

59

Staten Island, NY

Racketeering conspiracy

30 months' imprisonment, $10,000 fine

Venice, Joseph

59

Yonkers, NY

Racketeering conspiracy

18 months' imprisonment, $10,000 fine

Cassano, Paul

41

Yonkers, NY

Conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering

18 months' imprisonment

Camilli, Robert

63

Briarcliff Manor, NY

Extortionate extension of credit

One year supervised release; $35,000 fine

Incatasciato, John

45

Elmsford, NY

Extortionate collection of credit

Two years' supervised release; 100 hours' community service

 






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