Feds Arrest Todaro Nephew As Probe Into Buffalo Mafia Heats Up

The nephew of the alleged boss of the (possibly resurging) Buffalo Cosa Nostra family was arrested this week and indicted for bribing a former DEA agent to help stymie law enforcement. The indictment also references “sex trafficking” and efforts to distribute 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and cocaine on the streets of Western New York. 

Katrina Nigro with then-husband Peter G. Gerace Jr.
Katrina Nigro with then-husband Peter G. Gerace Jr., owner of Pharaoh's Gentlemen's Club.
Photo provided to Buffalo News by Ms. Nigro.

Peter G. Gerace Jr., 53, owner of the Buffalo-based Pharaoh’s Gentleman’s Club, was arrested in Broward County, Florida, late Sunday night and charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs and commit sex trafficking and for bribing a public official.

In U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale at a hearing on Monday, he pleaded not guilty.

The indictment, which was unsealed Monday, is the latest in an investigation into organized crime in Buffalo. Several individuals have already been arrested in the probe, including retired DEA Agent Joseph Bongiovanni, a Buffalo high school teacher, and Gerace’s brother Anthony, who is awaiting sentencing on drugs and weapons charges. 

The two Geraces are nephews of alleged Buffalo mob boss Joseph A. Todaro. Todaro and his late father, Joseph E. Todaro, always denied involvement in Mafia activity, and the allegations about them being at the helm of the Buffalo crime family reportedly have never been proven in court. 

Gerace Jr., described for the court Monday his arrest, saying that he was checking into a hotel room (reportedly on vacation) when agents from Homeland Security grabbed him and awarded him the metal bracelets.

“I was going to check in,” he told Judge Alicia Valle. “But they checked me out.” 

At that hearing, Federal prosecutors in New York and Gerace’s defense attorney told the judge that they’d reached a deal to allow Gerace to walk free without paying any bond. 

The judge found the deal unusual, saying, “This was an interesting case, but for the government’s recommendation you’d think detention would be warranted.” 

Gerace, to stay out of the slammer for now, must avoid visiting his strip club and refrain from contacting his ex-wife, Katrina Nigro, who told the Buffalo News on Monday that she testified for a grand jury against him. 

“I’m gonna try to get a nonstop flight out of here,” Gerace told the Judge as she approved his release. 

Gerace’s strip club near Buffalo was at the center of a drug and sex trafficking operation that lasted at least a decade, according to the indictment. 

Gerace allegedly bribed the DEA agent to protect his establishment. Bongiovanni is alleged to have accepted a quarter of a million dollars in bribes. Bongiovanni has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Federal agents raided Pharaohs in 2019.

The indictment charges Gerace with five separate crimes, including bribery of a federal official, manufacturing and distributing narcotics, sex trafficking at least 40 people and conspiracy, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Cullinane. 

Among the more serious penalties he faces if convicted are a maximum of 15 years in prison for bribing the DEA agent, a maximum of 20 years for the drugs, and a minimum of 15 years for the human trafficking.

Giuseppe (Joe) Violi and Domenico (Dom) Violi
Giuseppe (Joe) Violi, right, and Domenico (Dom) Violi.

Years back, in 2017, a slew of arrests, including of alleged members and associates of the Gambino and Bonanno crime families as part of a sweeping investigation into the fentanyl trade in Canada and New York, seemed to highlight the fact that the Buffalo crime family was alive and well.

At the time a source sent us the following information about the Buffalo borgata, which allegedly had members as far away as Las Vegas and Canada.

Frank BiFulco

Joe Violi (Canada Faction)


Victor Sansanese

--Frank Falzone
Six soldiers, took over BiFulco crew

--Anthony Todaro
Eight soldiers, took over when his brother Joe Jr retired

--Natale Luppino
Hamilton, Canada
Nine soldiers, took over crew when Violi was moved up to Underboss, who in turn had taken over when Vincent Luppino passed away in 2009

--Bruno Monaco
Toronto, Canada
Five soldiers, took over when Dante Gasbarrini passed away. Gasbarrini became Capo when Paul Volpe was killed, and to get away from Giacomo Luppino and John Papalia of Hamilton

--Russell Carcone
Six soldiers

--Loren Piccarreto/Anthony Chirico- Rochester
Five soldiers

When Thomas Marotta came back in the 1990s, he decided to join the Bonanno family and took half of the independent family with him to the Bonanno family. After what happened up in Hamiliton with John Papalia, Rene Piccarreto decided to be more friendlier with Buffalo. When Joe "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro retired in 2006, Angelo Amico decided to rejoin the Buffalo Family.

--Robert Panaro
Las Vegas
No soldiers, Panaro is direct with the family administration and other capos.

"About 12 to 15 members are retired," our source noted.

In November 2017, following coordinated raids in New York City and within and beyond the GTA, 13 alleged members of organized crime were arrested as part of "a sweeping investigation into the fentanyl trade," the RCMP said. Four mobsters tied to the Gambino and Bonanno families were arrested.

Seventeen were named in the indictment altogether.  The arrested in Canada include members of the reputed Todaro crime family, established by the now-deceased Joseph (Lead Pipe Joe) Todaro, Sr., who took over after the death of Stefano (The Undertaker) Magaddino.

As part of the coordinated Canadian-US takedown, police secretly recorded a 2015 Mafia induction ceremony in Canada in which a defendant sponsored a confidential informant to become a full-fledged member of the Bonanno crime family, prosecutors said.

The National Post's Adrian Humphreys reported that the CI is an undercover police agent who "was formally inducted into the Mafia in Canada while authorities secretly videotaped the initiation ceremony, an unexpected highlight in a large drugs, guns and money probe snaring alleged mob figures on both sides of the Canada-U.S. borders."

Humphreys added: In November 2015, a mobster in the Bonanno crime family — one of the infamous Five Families of the Mafia in New York City — traveled to Canada to conduct the induction ceremony, according to U.S. authorities.

The new member was told to report back to a captain in the Bonanno organization, prosecutors allege.

What the gangsters didn’t know is the recruit was an undercover agent cooperating with police on both sides of the border and video and audio of the ceremony was secretly recorded.

The induction, involving at least five men, was allegedly presided over by Damiano Zummo, 44, an acting captain in the Bonanno crime family.

Humphreys reported that during the recorded making ceremony, Zummo told the unnamed inductee:

"It’s already — from this guy, this guy, this guy — everybody approved it, so from this day forward, you’re a member of the Bonanno family. Congratulations,” said Zummo

“Thank you,” the recruit said.

The new member was then formally introduced to other members using the traditional Mafia code of calling a made man a “friend of ours,” and then told the internal hierarchy and who he reports to...

“And now I want to introduce you to John. John, friend of ours with the Bonanno. John, (name of agent deleted), friend of ours with the Bonanno. Now, your captain is (name deleted.)”

“Okay,” said the recruit. 

“He’s our skipper. (Nickname of Bonanno member deleted), is our acting… You’re gonna be in our regime,” Zummo allegedly said. 


"You only answer to the Bonanno family."

Acting US attorney in Brooklyn, Bridget Rohde, called the recording "an extraordinary achievement for law enforcement."