When Loyal Luchese Wiseguys Made Their Move: The Rise Of The Brooklyn Faction

This is the third story in a series based on information provided by former Luchese wiseguy John Pennisi....

At some point in recent years -- probably when law enforcement started making arrests for the 2013 murder of a Luchese associate in the Bronx—“guys in the (Luchese) family’s Brooklyn crew started to discuss making a move," Pennisi said.

Boss Vic Amuso and Gaspipe chat with capo Frank Lastorino Sr.

Ever since official boss Vittorio (Vic) Amuso was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1992 following his conviction on 54 racketeering charges, including nine hits, he relied on wiseguys in acting positions and on a ruling panel to run the family for him. One man who was part of Amuso's ruling panel for years is Matthew (Matty) Madonna, who was made acting boss -- until he was nabbed for ordering the slaying of Micheal Meldish, the Luchese associate murdered in 2013 in the Bronx. (This year Madonna and three others were sentenced to life in prison without parole.)

Despite Bronx mobster Madonna having the top acting position, the wiseguy with the most power in the family -- the family's number two man, after Amuso, was Bronx-based Steven (Stevie Wonder) Crea, Vic's longtime underboss and main representative (until Crea also was convicted and sentenced this year to life in prison for the Meldish murder). 

The family knew something was coming. As far back as 2014, when Luchese soldier Christopher Londonio (alleged wheelman in the Meldish murder) and Terence Caldwell (the alleged triggerman) were arrested, there was a belief that eventually Crea could face serious prison time, and the Brooklyn faction knew it would have a rare opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and move the family's base of power back to Brooklyn, where it was after Amuso's elevation. 

"The idea that we would start losing our whole administration is when guys in the family's Brooklyn crew started making their voice heard," Pennisi said.

"Stevie was very respected. Matty had shortcomings. We looked at Stevie as the boss. Matty was not. Matty was a junk dealer put in the acting slot by Vic because Vic wanted someone that he could control in the position." 

Madonna was a longtime associate who wasn’t made until after he finished serving about 20 years of a 30-year sentence for narcotics trafficking after he was convicted in the 1970s for running dope to Harlem drug lord Leroy Nicky Barnes, who Madonna met in prison in 1959.

"Matty was very loud and boisterous, and he got a little greedy. He's a nice guy, 100 percent for the life. I respected him but didn't see him as boss material. We looked to Stevie as our guy. Unofficially he was our guy." (As for Crea's capo son's standing in the Luchese family, Pennisi said, "Stevie Jr is not meant for the life.")
Mike DeSantis, left, Matty Madonna
Meet the new (acting) boss: Mike DeSantis, left, Matty Madonna.

"They (the guys in Brooklyn) weren't so happy with answering to the Bronx," said John Pennisi. "There has always been a love and hate relationship with the Bronx." (For time immemorial, it seems, wiseguys from the other boroughs and Long Island hated the drive to the Bronx.)

The Brooklyn crew made its move prior to May 2017 when Crea was arrested and held without bail along with consiglieri Joe DiNapoli. Madonna was already in jail in New Jersey on other charges when the Meldish murder indictment landed.

The Luchese crime family has crews in the Bronx, on Long Island, in Manhattan, in New Jersey, and in Brooklyn, though some members of the Brooklyn crew relocated to Tottenville, Staten Island and are under the purview of John (Big John) Castelluci. But some members of the Brooklyn crew also remain in Brooklyn, and some of these Brooklyn-based wiseguys were workhorses who carried out hits for and remain intensely loyal to Amuso. (Amuso and his former underboss, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso were from Brooklyn when they ran the family.) 

The Brooklyn guys have no interest in deferring to Big John, who earned his button and standing in the Luchese family by saving an elderly Luchese wiseguy's life while both of them were in prison. Big John quickly got medical attention for the longtime Luchese mobster after a heart attack felled him, Pennisi said.

The Brooklyn crew in this case includes wiseguys like now acting boss Michael (Big Mike) DeSantis and George (Georgie Neck) Zappola, Both Luchese wiseguys are trusted members who killed for the family and stood up to long prison sentences.

Pasquale (Patty Red) Dellorusso had a role to play in the transition, but was not really part of the Brooklyn crew, Pennisi said. "Patty is from Long Island and had his nose up Mikey's ass. He used to be with Louie Daidone in Queens."

Louis Daidone
Former acting boss "Louie Bagels" Daidone.

Former Luchese acting boss Louis (Louie Bagels) Daidone, 74, who stuffed a canary in the mouth of dead gangster Bruno Facciolo, who Amuso decided was a rat, is serving life without parole for murder and currently resides at Allenwood USP.

"Mike, Patty, Georgie Neck -- a whole bunch of guys felt that they should get a message to Vic that there was a void at the top. So, they came to me," Pennisi said. "Mikey asked Patty to go see me about getting Little Joey to get Vic a message."

Little Joey is Joseph DiBenedetto "my childhood friend, and he’s also a made member and he’s Vic’s son in law. Patty asked me to get a message to Vic from Mike. The message was, “There are guys out here loyal to you who want to bring the family back to Brooklyn.”

Pennisi drove to Queens to chat with his longtime friend. “Joey and I walked right past Vic (Amuso)’s house, which is next door to his in Howard Beach to talk. He started complaining that Boopsie (Big John's brother, Eugene Castelle) and others kept giving him messages to give to Vic. Joe is complaining that they should go through their capos. Then Joe tells me he hasn’t visited Vic in 15 years. He thought the Feds would put a bullseye on his back if he visited Vic. 

"When he’s done with all his complaining, I go back to Patty. I told him ‘forget it, Joe is bitching and moaning that Boopsie is sending him all these messages.'

Georgie Neck Zapolla.
Georgie Neck Zapolla.

"So Mike DeSantis -- he wrote Vic, maybe in code. He somehow got a message to Vic in prison, how he did, I don’t know. A letter came back saying that Mike had Vic’s permission to go see Stevie and tell him ‘this is what I want.’ So the meeting with Stevie was set up.

“There was no mention of a hit list or anyone getting hurt in Mike or Vic’s letter. Me and Patty go out for drinks and we discuss the letter. We discuss certain people in the Bronx who we know would be a problem if there’s resistance. Patty said if they don’t go along with what we say, we will deal with them in the Bronx. Patty said, Mikey and me know we can count on you. I said absolutely.”

A meeting was set somewhere in the Bronx. Crea would sit down with several heavyweight Brooklyn wiseguys to find out what was on their mind. Crea had to have known, based on certain givens at the time, that there was a chance that the meeting would go bad. Yet he still showed up completely alone. 

Crea's move did not go unnoticed.

“Everyone respected Stevie—who showed up alone at the meeting with Patty, Mike, Georgie Neck, Franky Bones (aka Frank Papagni). He was meeting serious guys and came alone. They showed him the letter, and he said 'absolutely.' Mikey was made acting boss and Patty was made a captain (of the old Brooklyn crew). Stevie would be accepted as our boss if he beat the case." (John said Patty's elevation to underboss "happened while I was gone.") 

The proviso that if Stevie beat the case, he'd remain in power was decided by the Brooklyn faction, Pennisi said. It was not an Amuso decree.

“In reality, if Stevie hadn't gone along with the plan, he was going, 100 percent. We would’ve hit Stevie and his son, but then how much more could we have done? We’d be hot as firecrackers" after killing the two Creas.

Pasquale (Patty Red) Dellorusso
Pasquale (Patty Red) Dellorusso

Also discussed at the time was reinstating the Brooklyn faction, meaning a true Brooklyn crew -- one based in Brooklyn.

"That was when I was going to come in. But Patty knows I would’ve fucking outshined him. He heard Big Mike say that I was the future. Patty always kept that in the back of his mind. When we went anywhere his guys used to stay with me. Patty would always remind me anytime we talked about any of the guys that they were his. They loved me. Patty doesn't have personality."

Speaking about how he managed to win them over, Pennisi said: "I didn't play my position on them -- I treated them as equals. We were legitimate friends, going out every night. Patty saw how close I was with them and he kept reminding me on a weekly basis that "you know, these guys are with me." You should carry yourself differently when you're moved up."

As for Crea's willingness to oblige Vic's request, Pennisi said, "a true person of La Cosa Nostra goes by what the boss says. It wasn't that Stevie was afraid. Stevie was honoring what La Cosa Nostra is all about. The boss sent a message, he honored it. Steve is La Cosa Nostra."

As for Vic issuing threats to go old school--which this blog spiritedly reported too--that is not what happened, Pennisi said. Speaking specifically about Gang Land News, Pennisi noted that, "Jerry Capeci made it sound like they all trembled over Vic's words and quickly conceded."

The reality, he said, is that Crea was simply "taking the order from the boss, and nobody understands that."

Something else incorrectly reported: Dellorusso never drove to the Bronx to talk to Crea's crew after Gang Land broke the news about Vic's message, according to Pennisi. 

Also incorrect, Pennisi says, is the reporting about Amuso making Bronx-based Andrew DeSimone consiglieri as an "olive branch." Rather, that was decided on the street when there was the need to fill that position.

"I wouldn't say it was an olive branch." Rather, he said, it was because DeSimone was a "good guy, even tempered, with a lot on the ball. They picked a guy who deserves it." DeSimone also has the qualities a good consiglieri needs. A consiglieri is the one who handles disputes, including internal family disputes and larger problems with other crime families.

"The consiglieri can't be a hothead. He should actually be like Tom Hagen," the fictional character in Mario Puzo's 1969 The Godfather novel and the later film, Pennisi said.

At the same time, Pennisi isn't certain that DeSimone's elevation to consiglieri will stand the test of time.