That Time Luchese Wiseguy John Pennisi Was Thrown Under The Bus

If certain words are music to a street guy's ears ("Yes, I got your money"—"Do you know why you're here?"), then others are most definitely not. "I gotta throw you under the bus." You don't even have to be in the mob to hear that one and not like it.

John Pennisi
Former Luchese wiseguy John Pennisi on one of many podcasts you can see him in.

Anthony (Little Anthony) Caponigro, a Bonanno associate at the time, told John Pennisi, a former Luchese wiseguy, that he had to throw him under the bus after Caponigro talked out of school and backed himself into a corner. Or that is how John tells it in one of his SitdownNews podcasts. 

That's right, star wiseguy witness John Pennisi, who testified at three major trials and about whom we've written a multi-part series, has launched a podcast that leverages his SitdownNews blog, where he offers a steady stream of peeks behind the curtain at goings-on in the Luchese family—as well as other crime families. Pennisi started SitdownNews last October, complete with tagline: "The hunters will no longer be glorified when the lion becomes the author."

The SitdownNews podcast is one of many John is involved with. A separate podcast series he does is the MBA and the Button Man (see podcast below). He also appeared with Vlad TV and Gary Jenkins, who operates the excellent Gangland Wire

John is only the latest former mobster to create a YouTube channel. Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano debuted a podcast that we've been hearing about for two years. 

Former Colombo capo Michael Franzese does a podcast and has had some big names on, including former NYC Mayor/attorney for President Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani (who, as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, led numerous 1980s Federal prosecutions against New York City mobsters, including Mafia bosses in the Commission Case).

Former Gambino associate John Alite—formerly of the Johnny & Gene Show, which launched in March 2020 and featured John and former Bonanno associate Gene Borrello—has been doing a podcast under his own name since his partner Gene encountered legal problems (not unrelated to podcasting).

Pennisi, who was inducted into the Lucchese crime family in 2013, started cooperating about three years ago after certain happenings on the street convinced him the Luchese family had him wrongly pegged as an informant and marked him for death. Pennisi walked into the Manhattan FBI headquarters in 2017 after he said he had spotted two guys parked on the street near his home in Levittown. Pennisi has done time for manslaughter and weapon possession, among other things.

We talked to John recently about his newly launched blog career. John knows how to write, as we could tell from reading his blog, but also from reading the emails he sent before he launched SitdownNews. Some may recall John contacted us about factual inaccuracies in our content, which led to us doing that series of stories with him.

How did you learn to write? Is it a natural ability or something you worked to perfect?
I always enjoyed writing while in prison. Letters and I wrote my kids two stories, one on drunk driving and the other on 9/11. I wanted to teach them, especially my son who started to drive of the hazards a equated with drinking and driving.

What kind of books do you read?

When they dissolved the college program in prison I went to the library and ordered books online. I would read up to three books at one time. I enjoyed all kinds of topics, True Crime, fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, literature, history, biographies and the last few years got into self- help books. Inspirational and books on religion also peeked my interest.

Walk us through your process for writing a story for SitdownNews.
When I come up with an idea for the blog I carry a small notebook with me and jot my notes down. It is not the most organized system but I do my best to piece it all together. I know the stories can be edited more efficiently but I do my best.

Tell us about the various podcasts you're doing. How are they different?
Tom La Vecchia reached out to me, we conducted a few interviews, his followers suggested we team up and create our own podcast. Never expecting it to get to the level it did, the numbers are rising everyday and the feedback is 99.8% positive.

The difference between my blog and the podcast Sitdownnews is I give more detail behind the stories. I will also discuss topics I did not personally write about. For example: I spoke of a chapter out of Mob Boss about Al D’Arco.

The show with Tom has a different dynamic, people feel we mesh well together.

As for the stuff about the bus at the top of this story, in 2013-2014, Pennisi heard rumors that the Sicilian faction was taking over the Gambino family and shelving certain wiseguys who had been in John Gotti's inner circle. The Sicilians supposedly shelved longtime Gambino wiseguy Lenny DiMaria.

John mentioned the rumor about DiMaria to Little Anthony Caponigro, noting that he didn't believe it. But Little Anthony mentioned the DiMaria shelving to others anyway, which led to him throwing John under the bus. Listen to the podcast below for all the twists and turns.

By way of corroboration for some of those rumors John heard: 

In March 2015, 10 members and associates of the DeCavalcante crime family were busted on various charges, including drug dealing, prostitution, and murder. Complaints linked to the case revealed that the New Jersey family is run closely with the Gambinos in New York and that both have Sicilian members in leadership positions today.

Surveillance image of former DeCavalcantes.
Surveillance image of DeCavalcantes.

As DeCavalcante capo Charles (Beeps) Stango confirmed in conversation with an undercover law enforcement agent: 

"Milk, Milk [referring to the family's street boss who was not charged in this case] his whole f**kin', Milk's family was the root of the tree. Oh he started this whole thing. [lt's been around a while now]. See his uncle the underboss of consiglieres since the beginning of time. They come right from Sicily to here. This is Sii- ... okay this proves he's the oldest crew in the country. They start, they originated the five families. Okay? And now we run under the f**kin' Gambinos."