Life Sentence Turns Page In Lucchese Family History Book

The recent sentencing of former underboss Steven (Stevie Wonder) Crea to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Michael Meldish (though the Feds never bothered to prove Crea's involvement in the murder at trial in White Plains) marks the closing of a long chapter in Lucchese crime family history.

Vittorio (Vic) Amuso and Anthony Gaspipe Casso
 Vittorio (Vic) Amuso, left, and Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso running Lucchese family.

Since the arrest of the longtime underboss in 2017, much of the power in the Lucchese family has moved from Crea's Bronx bailiwick to Brooklyn, where acting boss Michael (Big Mike) DeSantis and underboss Pasquale (Patty Red) Dellorusso are based (though the Brooklyn crew is actually in Staten Island, confusing the situation). The Lucchese crime family retains a powerful presence in the Bronx, however, where consiglieri Andrew DeSimone lives.

In addition to being underboss, Crea, who reportedly earned multiple millions from construction industry labor rackets, served as the primary representative on the street for the family's longtime imprisoned for life official boss, Vittorio (Vic) Amuso, who took the helm of the crime family in the mid-1980s after the arrest of the salty, stoical old-school Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corallo (though not immediately after Tony Ducks). Corallo died at age 87 in 2000 while serving a 100-year prison sentence for being a member of the Mafia Commission.

Amuso, who was arrested in 1991, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1992 following his conviction on 54 racketeering charges that included nine murders.

In 2017, Crea, his capo son, and longtime Lucchese consiglieri Joseph DiNapoli were all arrested in a sweeping Federal roundup of members and associates of the Luchese crime family. Acting boss Matthew (Matty) Madonna was already in prison in New Jersey on gambling charges when he also was named in the blockbuster indictment, which detailed a spectrum of federal crimes going back to 2000, including murder and racketeering.

Madonna, Stevie Wonder Crea and Stevie Junior were all charged with ordering the 2013 murder of Meldish, the former boss of the Purple Gang. Lucchese soldier Christopher Londonio and associate Terrence (T) Caldwell had been arrested and indicted for carrying out the Meldish murder earlier.

Crea Jr. copped a plea deal that didn't include charges related to the Meldish murder. All the others went to trial -- and were convicted last year. Madonna, Caldwell, Londonio, and Crea Sr. were sentenced to life in prison. The Feds alleged and proved that Madonna ordered the hit, and Caldwell and Londonio carried it out, Caldwell as the shooter and Londonio as the getaway car wheelman. Members of the jury, however, were privy to no evidence linking Crea Sr. to the Meldish murder. Stevie Wonder was convicted by virtue of his belonging to the hierarchy as underboss at the time of the Meldish hit, reportedly Crea's first murder charge, though over the years, the Lucchese wiseguy -- who got his button in the 1980s -- has been known to forcefully argue that killing mob turncoats is a worthy endeavor to protect lucrative Lucchese rackets.

DiNapoli copped a plea and is currently at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (where he's been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even though he's a Type 2 diabetic who turned 85 in July and who, last we heard, hadn't been receiving his weekly prescribed meds). He will be in prison until October 20, 2023, according to the BOP website. 

Last year, a Lucchese turncoat witness from Long Island revealed that both Crea Sr. and Madonna had been relieved of their positions prior to the Meldish indictment. The change was ordered by Amuso in a coded missive sent from prison in 2017. The letter contained orders for Madonna to accede the top slot to DeSantis or else people were going to start dying, including Stevie Wonder, his capo son, DeSimone, and other members of two Bronx Lucchese crews. Amuso's letter was in reaction to a communication he received from some capos complaining about how the Luchese family administration had shifted to the Bronx; some Amuso loyalists very much wanted the family’s seat of power shifted back to Brooklyn.

John Pennisi, who began cooperating in 2016, discussed Amuso's effort, among other things, while testifying in May 2019 at the Manhattan federal racketeering trial of Luchese soldier Eugene (Boobsie) Castelle. (Castelle, 60, was later convicted on one count of conducting an illegal gambling business and one count of racketeering conspiracy.) Pennisi also detailed recent Luchese family history, including his induction ceremony on his wife's birthday. 

When on the street, Madonna was not a violent tough guy, according to sources. One told us: "Madonna was a f---ing p--sy." Madonna's mettle notwithstanding, Crea had no reason to doubt Amuso's sincerity. Stevie Wonder knew what happened the last time the same boss harbored suspicions about wiseguys in the Bronx: Some of those wiseguys died violently..... All told, more than a dozen Luchese members were wiped out during that stretch of internal unpleasantness in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Amuso and former top lieutenant Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso ran the family.

Crea also would've recalled that two of the murders of Luchese members were the work of DeSantis, who served 18 years in prison for the hits. Big Mike also was part of an alleged murder plot to kill a third individual at a Luchese family meeting in September 1991 in midtown Manhattan's Kimberly Hotel. That third target was Alfonso (Little Al) D’Arco, then acting boss for Amuso and Casso (who were lamming it at the time). Little Al outsmarted Big Mike by picking up on his bad intentions and beating a fast retreat, and thereby evading a bullet with his name on it. 

A suspicious D'Arco walked into the meeting with his antenna up. He had previously heard rumors that Amuso and Casso might have added his name to the hit list. Then Big Mike showed up at the Kimberly wearing a thick, bulky sweater (to cover his bulletproof vest and a large handgun) on an unseasonably warm September evening, Little Al didn't waste much time pondering things. 

As Gang Land has detailed, instead of gunning Little Al down immediately, DeSantis first went into the bathroom to stash the weapon (for reasons beyond us). The delay enabled Little Al to exit the hotel with his life. He'd flip and testify at 16 trials (including against Amuso).

Pennisi testified that Amuso approved shifting administration positions to Brooklyn and also revealed that “in the event that (Madonna, Crea, and the Bronx crew) balked or they wanted to hold their positions... we would deal with the guys from The Bronx” by killing them.

Crea and Madonna didn't need to be told twice. Both stepped aside. 

When Jerry Capeci reported Pennisi's disclosures — in Gang Land and the New York Post — acting underboss Dellorusso drove to the Bronx to talk to Crea's crew. Dellorusso told them that Amuso "loves Steve" and that when Crea's racketeering and murder case was resolved and he was released from prison, he would formally be given his old official underboss slot. Dellorusso, in his discussions with Bronx crew members, stated that "Vic is rooting for Steve" but that while his case is pending, Patty Red would function as acting underboss. He was made official when Crea was convicted for murder, which guaranteed the life sentence. (Naming DeSimone consiglieri was Amuso's "olive branch" to the Bronx crew as well.)

Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corallo
Tony Ducks Corallo, the powerful Lucchese boss who died in prison in 2000.

At the Castelle trial, Pennisi testified that the Luchese family currently has seven crews in total —two in the Bronx, two on Long Island, one in Manhattan, one in New Jersey, and John (Big John) Castellucci’s nostalgically but inaccurately named Brooklyn crew (which is not based in Brooklyn; it's in Staten Island's Tottenville section).

Pennisi discussed how he had a change of heart regarding his continued participation in the Luchese family shortly after the Amuso letter was sent, when some wiseguys marked him for death as a suspected informant. One day, Pennisi testified, he noticed two suspicious-looking individuals sitting in a car parked outside his Levittown, Long Island home. As he tried to get a better glimpse, one member of the duo pulled a baseball cap down over his eyes and turned his head to prevent Pennisi from recognizing him. 

Pennisi, realizing the two were there to clock his routine for a later hit attempt, decided he knew enough about the duo and took a stroll into the Manhattan FBI headquarters to offer his cooperation.