Profile Of Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, Luchese Underboss Who Copped To 37 Murders

A virus claims the life of a murderous ex-wiseguy

After spending a month on a ventilator, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso died of complications from COVID-19 on Tuesday, December 15, at age 78. The former Luchese underboss was first diagnosed with coronavirus on November 5 at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson.

Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso
Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso

Casso was one of two inmates at Tuscon USP who died of COVID-19 yesterday. (The other was a 73-year-old convict serving a 25-year sentence for sex trafficking and weapons charges.)

On Thursday, November 5, Casso tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in medical isolation at the United States Penitentiary Tucson. Institution medical staff provided treatment and monitored his condition.

On Monday, November 9, he was transported to a local hospital due to respiratory distress.

On Tuesday, November 17, his condition declined and he was placed on a ventilator.

On Tuesday, December 15, Casso, who officials say had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease, was pronounced deceased by hospital medical staff.

BELOW is video from the 1998 60 Minutes episode that features Gaspipe discussing his life and crimes and (some) murders. If you watch it, you will probably understand why the Feds called him "Lucifer"—which was their private nickname for the ex-Luchese underboss--and by extension, why they let him die in prison... You will hear Gaspipe discuss what happened to James Hydell... Hydell was a Gambino associate Casso suspected of involvement in a plot to kill him.

Casso brings Hydell to "a place I had prearranged." Gaspipe had had the Mafia Cops kidnap Hydell because "I wanted to know why I was shot" and "who else was involved and who gave you the order to shoot me." (Casso, who was wounded during the attempt, suspected some major Gambino wiseguys had passed the order to Hydell.)

"I didn't shoot him in the head," Gaspipe confesses to veteran newsman Ed Bradley. "I was in somebody's house, you'd make a mess (shooting a guy in the head in someone's house). I shot him a couple a times..." Though a couple, he admits a few beats later, was "maybe 10, 12 times.... could've been 15...." (Casso actually smiles during the televised exchange.) "I wanted to beat him with the gun when it was empty. He tried to kill me... that was the law of the Mafia....."

Later on in the 60 Minutes interview, Gaspipe shows emotion, weeping like a baby, when he describes telling his daughter he flipped.

Casso was sentenced in the Eastern District of New York to a life sentence for Racketeering, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Murder, Conspiracy to Bribe Union Leaders, Conspiracy to Commit Extortion, and Conspiracy to Commit Income Tax Evasion.

He had been in custody at USP Tucson since March 25, 2020.

On Nov. 25, Casso’s defense lawyers filed a compassionate release motion in which they noted that the wheelchair-bound Casso was sick with coronavirus and also suffered from various preexisting health conditions, including prostate cancer, coronary artery disease, kidney disease, and bladder disease.

Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block rejected the lawyer's bid, noting that "the nature and extent of defendant’s criminal history (means) that he remains a danger to the community.”

Federal prosecutors previously also had opposed the request for release, noting "all defendants sentenced to life in prison will, at some point, begin to succumb to one disease or another, or suffer from failing health due to old age."

Screenshot of BOP inmate locator site.
Screenshot of BOP inmate locator site.

We recently wrote an in-depth profile about Casso in a story about the pending television show about the Mafia Cops case. 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. Emmy Award-winning Boardwalk Empire creator/Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter has “committed” to writing and developing the series, which will tell the story of Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, the former NYPD detectives who worked 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.

Casso, 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.

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.”

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito
Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito who worked for the Luchese underboss.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.”

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.