Sammy The Bull To Consult For TV Series On Gaspipe Casso's Mafia Cops

The story of the two decorated NYPD detectives who moonlighted as hitters for the Luchese crime family may soon play out on television screens near you. 

Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso
Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso

Emmy Award-winning Boardwalk Empire creator/Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter has “committed” to writing and developing the series that will tell the story of the Mafia Cops, aka Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, a recent New York Post report blared.

Caracappa and Eppolito were former NYPD detectives who worked for the Mafia in New York City, primarily for the underboss of the Luchese crime family, in the 1980s and early 1990s. The two retired detectives were finally indicted in 2005 and then convicted in 2006 of eight counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, plus labor racketeering, extortion, narcotics, gambling, and obstruction of justice. In 2009, Caracappa was sentenced to life plus 80 years and Eppolito to life plus 100 years.

(Caracappa died on April 8, 2017 at age 75 of cancer while reportedly at the federal prison medical facility in Butner, North Carolina. Eppolito died at age 71 on November 3, 2019 while in federal custody at a Tucson hospital. His cause of death has not been disclosed.)

Former Gambino underboss Sammy (The Bull) Gravano will be a consultant for the now-in-development series, which will be based on Friends of the Family: The Inside Story of the Mafia Cops Case, the 2003 book coauthored by former NYPD detective Tommy Dades.

“This case was a team effort where everybody involved was instrumental in the arrest and conviction,” Dades told The Post.

“Caracappa and Eppolito disgraced their badges like no one else in NYPD history,” said Winter.

“This will be an amazing story with a lot of big Mafia names,” Gravano told the Post. “The investigators involved did a great job, but I have the behind the scenes stories that they didn’t know.”

There is a history of animosity between the Bull and former Luchese underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, who paid the Mafia Cops a $4,000 a month stipend to provide information and help set up murders. Gaspipe also paid the two detectives extra in order to get them to assume a more hands-on role in murder contracts, including either $45,000 or $70,000 (Gaspipe wasn’t sure which amount) for hitting Gambino capo Eddie Lino, who Gaspipe suspected was involved in a failed assassination attempt on him.

The detectives, driving behind Lino one night in November 1990, used a flashing domelight to pull him over to the side of the Belt Parkway Service Road. (Or that’s how Casso later said he suspected they got the unsuspecting Gambino wiseguy, then 48, an arch killer who otherwise would have been difficult to kill, to pull over.) Lino—who lived in Fort Salonga in Suffolk County on Long Island—was found shot to death in the driver's seat of his black Mercedes. In a 2003 interview, Casso said Lino was killed for the simple reason that Vincent (Chin) Gigante wanted to weaken the hand of his hated rival, then Gambino boss John Gotti. Chin wanted payback for the hit on Gotti predecessor Paul Castellano.

“He (Lino) was one of John’s strengths, a stronghold that we wanted to take down,” Casso said.

He added: “We were not that worried about Sammy.” 

In 1987, Vittorio Amuso and Casso inherited from Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corallo one of the nation’s most affluent borgatas, the Luchese crime family, which fell under their command.

Five years later, the Luchese family was in ruins, with more than 60 wiseguys—about half of its membership—imprisoned, slain, or cooperating with the government.

The downhill slide only accelerated when Casso and Amuso went on the lam after they were tipped off about a May 1990 indictment charging them and others (including wiseguys in the Gambino and Colombo crime families) with bid rigging and making labor payoffs to control New York City's window-installation industry, aka “the Windows Case.”

Whether Casso and Amuso needed to lam it over the Windows Case is a good question.... Though it was positioned as a sort of Mafia Commission Case 2.0, the Windows indictment was a failure: five defendants were acquitted and three convicted on only two charges following the high-profile trial. Casso and Amuso went into hiding when they learned about the pending pinches because, as Gaspipe confided to his acting boss, they wanted Luchese-appointed defense attorneys to have the chance to study the strengths and weaknesses of the government's case. Then, Casso and Amuso presumably would emerge from hiding, take the arrests, and put their freedom in the hands of attorneys with intimate knowledge of the indictment's ins and outs. Though the attorneys likely would have had no illusions about what might happen to them should they lose the trial.

But lam it, the two top Luchese bosses did.... Amuso was nabbed first (along with a bodyguard) in July 1991 when FBI agents seized him moments after he hung up a payphone at the Fairview Mall in Scranton, PA. (He was decked out in suburban dad shorts and a t-shirt.) Federal law enforcement officers made the arrest after an anonymous caller tipped off the FBI’s New York City office. Law enforcement was never able to locate Amuso’s last safe house, the one he lived in at the time of his Pennsylvania arrest, which could highlight that whoever dropped the dime on him didn’t know much other than a date, time, and location where Amuso could be grabbed. 

Vittorio (Little Vic) Amuso
Vittorio (Little Vic) Amuso

Underboss Casso then became de facto boss (according to sources other than Casso apologist Philip Carlo). It was only after Amuso was convicted and sent away for life that FBI agents and prosecutors started to understand the power and homicidal tendencies of Anthony Casso, who exerted influence both inside and outside the Luchese family. Informing them about Casso were Luchese turncoat capos Al D’Arco, Anthony (Tumac) Accetturo, and Pete Savino.

“He is the most dangerous, cunning and ruthless Mafia leader left on the streets,” Andrew Maloney, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, declared. “He is number one on our hit parade of wanted criminals.” 

“We consider him the most dangerous organized-crime figure in our scope,” prosecutor Gregory O’Connell said, “the one who is responsible for countless murders and could do the most damage to the public.”

Fear of Gaspipe’s murderous reputation stopped Sammy the Bull Gravano, who testified against his own boss, Gambino boss Gotti, from testifying against the Luchese underboss.  

Gravano knew Casso (at the very least) from construction rackets once shared by Gambino and Luchese wiseguys, and Sammy asked to be excused from testifying against Casso, should the major Luchese family power be nabbed and dragged into court. 

Sammy feared that Casso would target his relatives, as the-then Luchese underboss had done to Pete Chiodo, a 500-pound Luchese capo who had formerly been a Casso confidant/shooter. In 1992, while Casso was still ducking law enforcement by laying low in safe houses and growing a mustache, Chiodo was considered by the Feds to be a valuable turncoat who helped them convict at least some of the defendants in the complex six-month Windows trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. In addition to ordering a hit on Fat Pete himself (he was shot 12 times but was protected by his blubber), Gaspipe went after his beloved. In March 1992, Chiodo sister Patricia Capazzalo, a married mother of three, was shot in the back and neck and seriously wounded. A year later, the body of Chiodo uncle Frank Signorino was found by police stuffed in the trunk of a car parked in East New York, Brooklyn. He had been shot in the head multiple times.

The shooting of a turncoat's family members, including his sister—an innocent woman—stunned even the most jaded observers and remains one of the American Mafia's most ignoble moments....

Such events prompted Jim Fox, then the head of the New York FBI office, to call Gaspipe “a psychopath whose name should be Mad Dog.” 

Edward Wright, the then chief investigator of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force, said of the Capazzalo shooting: ″Apparently they’re sending a message in the Luchese family to informants: They may be able to protect themselves, but not their relatives."

Criminologist Howard Abadinsky, professor in the Criminal Justice department at St. John's University - Jamaica/Queens, and author of an organized crime textbook, said the mob’s tangled web of kinship ties, not chivalry, explained its rule against harming members’ wives or other female relatives. ″If you shoot someone’s wife, you might be shooting another guy’s sister or cousin." ... He said the Chiodo relative shootings were more typical of Colombian ″cocaine cowboys″ who operated in the US in the 1970s than Brooklyn wiseguys... ″Their (the Colombian cocaine cowboys) attitude toward someone who crossed them was, ’If we can’t kill you, we’ll kill your wife, and if we can’t kill her, we’ll kill your cousin.‴

To notch up the heat on the lamming Gaspipe Casso, FBI agents and NYPD detectives followed Casso associates and tapped their phones. After D’Arco told them about the intricate telephone-booth message system Casso used to stay in touch with loyal lieutenants on the street, investigators in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office intercepted and traced suspicious calls made to the cellphone of newly elevated consiglieri Frank Lastorino from a home in Mount Olive, New Jersey, which was owned by a Casso girlfriend, as investigators learned. The house, located in a woodsy, sparsely populated section, was then put under surveillance.

On the morning of January 19, 1993, after the woman left, an FBI SWAT team crashed through the front door with a battering ram and nabbed Gaspipe as he emerged from a shower wearing only a towel. The Mount Olive split-level residence was one of several "safe houses" in the New York Metropolitan region that Casso supposedly had been using.

In addition to the charges in the Windows Case that had spurred him and Amuso to go on the lam, Casso was now facing a superseding RICO indictment built largely on information provided by Luchese defectors including Chiodo, D’Arco, and Accetturo. It included 25 murder and attempted murder accusations, plus extortion and labor-racketeering counts.

Casso systematically planned various strategies to thwart trial and escape from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan. Then a sudden development stopped him cold in his tracks: Amuso, who was still official Luchese boss (and remains boss today), issued an edict stripping him of the underboss title. Amuso also declared Casso persona non grata. According to investigators and prosecutors, Amuso had eventually concluded that Casso had double-crossed him and was the FBI tipster who gave him up. Amuso believed Casso had been working toward launching a hostile takeover to seize the title of boss and gain absolute control of the Luchese family for himself—which was a complete repudiation of everything that Cosa Nostra was supposed to be about.

An “unmade” man, Casso faced lifelong prison for several murders and was headed for a trial that would’ve featured testimony from Luchese capos who had flipped primarily to avoid getting caught in Casso's killing fields (also see: the ENTIRE New Jersey-based Luchese family crew circa 1992). Note: Though the mere threat of it was sufficient to inspire some stone cold wiseguys to cop out, former Garden State Luchese strongman Tumac Accetturo never would’ve testified against a single defendent, according to prosecutors. Tumac once evaded prosecution on race-fixing charges by claiming to have Alzheimer’s disease. Years later, he fell in a shower at a federal prison hospital where he was being evaluated and claimed he was suddenly cured. The “cure” notwithstanding, prosecutors said they never would have put him on the stand with that kind of fcked up mental health  history.

Bereft of the embrace of the New York Mafia, Casso was depressed and about two weeks before his trial was to begin, he finally made a move. He enlisted a relative to deliver a message to the lead FBI agent in his case. The arrangement was formalized on March 1, 1994, at a closed hearing presided over by Eugene Nickerson (the judge who Casso had conspired to kill). Casso pleaded guilty to 14 murders and a litany of RICO racketeering and extortion charges. (Charles Rose and Gregory O'Donnell, two of the lead prosecutors on the case, later noted that they were relieved when Casso copped out. Both admitted there was a chance Casso could have escaped their noose via acquittal or hung jury had the former underboss rolled the dice at trial: the prosecutors didn’t have a single incriminating recorded conversation by way of evidence. But then Gaspipe plead out and they had him all tied up. Before his capture, prosecutors implicated him in 14 murders; he then told of additional murders when he was debriefed. In the end, he confessed to carrying out or having a hand in 23 additional murders for a grand total of 37 murder victims.)

After he flipped in 1993 and while still on good terms with his captors, Casso revealed that he'd had two cops on his payroll. He identified Eppolito and Caracappa and said they had done work (including "work") for him. Shadowy allegations about the two detectives had swirled around New York City for years, but would have to continue to swirl for about 15 more years because prosecutors had no idea what to believe about Casso's information.

A regular Mutt and Jeff, Eppolito and Caracappa made it to retirement, though both left the force under a dark cloud. They moved westward to Las Vegas and became neighbors. They seemed to enjoy life among the casinos in the sunny climes of Nevada. At least until a Jewish racketeer from Brooklyn flipped.

Burton Kaplan, a former New York garment dealer/longtime mob associate, was nailed for masterminding a $10 million marijuana ring.In 2004, Kaplan decided to flip after serving eight of his 27-year prison sentence. (In his 70s and suffering from multiple health ailments, Kaplan didn’t relish prison life and realized he'd rather see his granddaughter than die alone in the can.)

Gaspipe Casso and Burt Kaplan
Burt Kaplan, on right, was emissary to Mafia Cops for Luchese underboss Gaspipe, on left.

So in 2004, he sat down with DEA agents and told them about the two detectives, noting that from 1986 to 1993, he had met with them many times to deliver the $4,000 monthly payoff money from Casso in exchange for confidential information on police informants and investigations. Casso also had paid Eppolito and Caracappa premiums to assist in eight murders. The cops allegedly received about $375,000 in all. Casso took their information and plotted to have the impending threat (which was usually posed from within the mob) wiped out. Once, the info from the cops lead to the shooting of an innocent man (who unluckily shared the same name as the true intended target). Kaplan also noted that at least three times, the short, fat Eppolito and tall rail-thin Caracappa had actively participated in murders, including in the case of Eddie Lino, the Gambino wiseguy killed in Brooklyn on the Belt Parkway.

As for Casso, from the moment he defected, the FBI advertised the Luchese underboss as a prized catch equal to Sammy the Bull Gravano. But years passed and prosecutors never used him a single time--not as a witness before a grand jury to obtain an indictment nor at trial to help win convictions. Gradually, the cooperation deal unraveled.

And in August 1997, prosecutors revoked their agreement with him and removed him from the Witness Protection Program. Anthony Casso remains the only major Mafia defector who was ever tossed out of the program. According to prosecutors, this was because of Casso’s duplicity, lies, and crimes committed after he signed the cooperation agreement. Also fueling the decision to expel Casso from the program was his attempt to discredit both Gravano and D’Arco.

Shortly before Casso was booted out of the program, he sent prosecutors a letter challenging testimony offered by Gravano and D’Arco. Casso claimed Sammy the Bull lied about never having trafficked in narcotics. In the 1970s, Casso said, he sold large amounts of marijuana to Gravano, and Gravano offered to sell him heroin from China for $160,000. Casso also accused Gravano of ordering the stabbing of the Reverend Al Sharpton in January 1991 while leading a protest march through Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. (Prosecutors noted that on the day of the assault and for months afterward, Sammy the Bull was in a cell awaiting trial as a codefendant in Gotti’s RICO trial.)

As for D’Arco, Casso ripped his testimony as rife with lies.

Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito
Louis Eppolito, left, Stephen Caracappa.

Prosecutors dismissed Casso’s claims as “a litany of false accusations.” They also said Casso had been withholding information and misleading them and, based on two lie-detector tests, he had been deceptive about a range of things during debriefings. 

He seemed to be partly vindicated, however, when the two Mafia Cops were finally arrested after Kaplan decided to cooperate. While prosecutors had no intention of ever calling Gaspipe to the stand during the trial, Casso still was able to make his mark on the case by (of all things) writing letters and sending them to the New York Post. He claimed Caracappa and Eppolito were innocent of all charges. 

“I, Anthony Casso, hereby confess to have personally participated, as part of a three man team, that shot and killed Eddie Lino in Brooklyn’s Gravesend section,” he wrote in the letter, dated March 4, 2006. “Detectives Eppolito and Caracappa are falsely being accused of this crime.”

Another letter to the Post dated July 10, 2005, revealed that (according to Casso, anyway) Al D’Arco, knew nothing about the detectives. (Both were still convicted and sent away for life.)

Sammy the Bull also seemed to support some of Casso’s assertions about drug dealing when he was arrested while in Arizona for running a large Ecstasy drug ring.

Nevertheless, in the end, Casso was sentenced to 13 consecutive life sentences.

Today, age 78, Casso still has no slated release date. It just says LIFE. He is housed at Tucson USP, according to the BOP. He has been known to keep a meticulously clean cell that he wipes down every morning upon rising at 5:00 a.m. Gaspipe had previously been a guest of the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," or the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, which also has housed Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, and former fellow wiseguys Gregory Scarpa Jr. and Salvatore Gravano. (See some of its other residents here.) In 2009, Casso had been allowed to "escape" the oppressive fortress in Colorado when he was diagnosed with cancer and sent to a medical facility for a while.

In later years, Mafia investigators attributed the fall of the Luchese crime family to Casso’s endless machinations to absorb as much power and riches as humanly possible for himself. They say that while Amuso was the official boss, it was Casso, the true power behind the throne, who rained down the chaos that tore the family apart. 

Based on trial testimony, FBI reports and intel, and Mafia turncoats, Casso was the master manipulator behind a years-long string of deadly violence. Five Family author Selwyn Raab dubbed him the “lago” who steered a “malleable Amuso.” 

“Gaspipe was more dangerous than Amuso and more responsible for the mayhem that fortunately for us ruined the family,” said O’Connell, who worked with Charlie Rose to prosecute Casso, Amuso, and other Luchese gangsters. 

They learned, mostly while debriefing Casso himself, about his diabolical history, which later inspired them to dub him “Lucifer” in their own private code. 

“He had boundless enthusiasm for conspiracies and for murder,” O’Connell remarked. “I prosecuted drug dealers, organized-crime bosses, and terrorists, and the only one I feared who was clever and vindictive enough to reach out from prison and come after me was Gaspipe.” 

Accetturo, the former longtime chief of the Luchese family’s New Jersey faction, singled out Gaspipe as the single major figure behind the disintegration of the Lucheses. 

Casso and his people had no training, no honor,” Tumac said. “Look at the trail he left behind. He’d sell his soul for money. He threw the old rules out the window. All he wanted to do is kill, kill, get what you can, even if you didn’t earn it. That’s the main reason why we fell apart.” 

(Casso also has talked about an FBI mole on his payroll, an assertion supported by his defense lawyers, who confirmed that he had told them about a corrupt FBI agent in New York. As late as 2003, Casso said he had identified the FBI traitor to bureau agents who debriefed him. He claimed he was warned not to reveal the reputed agent’s identity or existence when questioned by prosecutors. Casso claims he kept quiet for years because of this.)