Retrial May Be In Cards For Imprisoned Reputed Luchese Bosses Stevie Wonder, Matty Madonna

A recent Appellate Court ruling granting a requested delay has cleared the path for a new trial for alleged Luchese underboss Steven L. Crea, acting boss Matthew (Matty) Madonna, soldier Christopher Londonio, and associate Terrence Caldwell, who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a gangland hit in the Bronx in 2013.

Reputed Luchese associate Michael Meldish was shot to death in the Bronx in 2013.
Reputed mob associate Meldish was shot dead in the Bronx in 2013.

Lawyers for Crea, Madonna, Londonio, and Caldwell filed the joint motion last month to request a delay because, the lawyers say, they found new evidence containing Brady, Giglio, or Rule 16 material—which has to do with the disclosure of exculpatory and impeachment evidence—which they will use in a motion seeking a new trial.

The Rule 33 motion was to be filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, the same courthouse where Crea, Madonna, Londonio, and Caldwell stood trial in 2019 for the murder of alleged Luchese associate Michael Meldish. Crea and his three co-defendants were convicted on November 15, 2019, following a six-week trial before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel, who also imposed the lifetime sentences.

Crea attorney Anthony DiPietro told Defendant Digest that “there are public podcasts/shows made by some of the witnesses that we believe reveal new information that requires a new trial,” and that this information “will be addressed in our prospective filing.”

DiPietro also told the website that the motion, which will be filed “this summer,” will “provide more insight on the issues to be litigated.”

A criminal justice source who requested anonymity and who spoke on background, told Cosa Nostra News that, based on the Appellate Court ruling, "I think (the) Courts will grant a new trial."

Former Luchese wiseguy John Pennisi, who testified at the Meldish murder trial, today told Cosa Nostra News via email that he had "no comment" when we contacted him about this.

Other than alluding to it, we didn’t mention (in the previous draft of this post) Jerry Capeci’s page one New York Post story on John Pennisi, which hit newsstands last Friday and is one for the also is one of the most ruthless, cold blooded hits we’ve seen in years. (Though of course it’s absolutely nothing like the kind of hits that used to happen with startling rapidity in John Pennisi’s former world.) The Capeci story  hammers at something Pennisi told Gangland Wire’s Gary Jenkins—a blogger friend who is a former Intelligence Unit detective with the Kansas City Police Department— about ghosts and poltergeist happenings involving deceased relatives that, Pennisi alleges, fueled his decision to cooperate. We’ve since noticed that the Post story is currently highlighted on Pennisi’s own blog, which, by the way, apparently has a remarkably receptive fan base gathered around it. We noticed that the story published on SitdownNews yesterday, June 7, had three comments as of this morning, all of which are beyond positive and almost fawning in their sincerity. One comment posted at 5:29 am this morning addresses the potential retrial. It’s written as if the commenter, Sanjay, were assuming John Pennisi’s mindset and channeling the former Luchese wiseguy (the comment is banal and incomplete, however). Here’s some of it: “What’s this guy Capeci’s beef with you about, i wonder. Maybe it’s just the easy publicity, easy because you can’t defend yourself from such attacks in your present circumstances. Anyway I’m hoping and praying that things settle down. Hey theres another angle to the Post’s song and dance about your recent podcast- the 3 lucchese defendents are seeking a re-trial in the Meldish case on this basis. Can’t blame them, their lawers are desperate and see this as a straw to hold on to. Whatever, I’m sure you have competent legal aid and (will) manage to stay out of it.”

Jerry Capeci’s page one Post story on John Pennisi
No comment 

As reported, star wiseguy Pennisi, who testified at several mob trials and about whom we've written a multi-part series, launched a podcast last October that leverages his SitdownNews blog. He also appears frequently in podcasts across the blogosphere, most prominently with Tom La Vecchia in The MBA and the Button Man series.)

Pennisi's 5K letter, which this blog recently accessed, offers some new details and insights on the former Luchese wiseguy's assistance. Also touched on is a dispute between the Genovese and Luchese families over an incident that happened in a strip club. The Genovese dispute apparently was in addition to the dispute between the Luchese and Bonanno families that we've covered here previously. Problems with the Bonanno family arose in 2012, when, the Feds alleged, "armed members and associates of the Bonanno family forced their way into a Bronx social club controlled by the Luchese family." During the ensuing melee, Bonanno associate Carl Ulzheimer "acted in a manner that" Crea Sr. perceived as a personal affront. To avenge the supposed offense, Crea Sr. ordered his son, Steven D. Crea, to have the associate killed. Crea Jr. then passed the order to mobsters Paul Cassano and Vincent Bruno. On a subsequent night, the two traveled to Ulzheimer’s Bronx residence, where Bruno, hefting a pistol, tried to find and kill him, but failed.

Pennisi's 5K letter includes pages of redactions; it seems the origins of the dispute between the Genovese and Luchese families are, quite simply, blacked out and can't be read.. (We hope to ask John Pennisi more about this in the future.)

The 5K letter—which is a letter that a federal prosecutor gives to a court to indicate that a defendant cooperated and is the most powerful sentencing reduction tool available in the Federal system—notes that Pennisi testified against Madonna and the other defendants at the 2019 Meldish murder trial in the second week of October 2019. Pennisi was the first cooperating witness called by the Government.

"His testimony was extremely valuable for a number of reasons... Prior to Pennisi approaching the FBI, the Government did not have a made member of the Luchese Family available as a witness, and instead planned to rely on the testimony of several Luchese associates and a made member of the Bonanno Family to prove the charged enterprise. The testimony of a formally inducted member of the Luchese Family about the Family’s structure and rules was much more direct and powerful than piecing that information together through multiple witnesses."

Matty Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Chris Londonio, Terence Caldwell.
From left, Matty Madonna, Stevie Crea Senior, Chris Londonio, Terence Caldwell.

The letter references how Pennisi became affiliated with the Luchese family.

Pennisi first met Madonna and Crea Sr. at the “Coddington Club,” a private social club maintained by the Luchese Family on Coddington Avenue in the Bronx. Early in his period as an associate under (Big John) Castellucci, Castellucci brought Pennisi to the club, where he was questioned by the leaders and senior members of the Family about his background, in a sort of interview or vetting process.

The letter also highlights that Crea Sr. had a "particularly close" relationship with members of the Genovese crime family.

"During the dispute with the Genovese Family over the strip club incident, Pennisi again reported to the Coddington Club, where he met with Madonna and Crea Sr., among others. Pennisi testified about the roles both leaders played in resolving the dispute. Among other things, Crea Sr. told Pennisi what the Genovese Family was claiming about the incident, making clear that Crea Sr. was an interlocutor with that family. This was consistent with other witnesses who testified that Crea Sr. was particularly close with the Genovese through their joint involvement in labor racketeering schemes....

"Madonna told Pennisi a colorful story about how he assured the Genovese family that he had not sent Pennisi and his group to the strip club for purposes of asserting Luchese control there—a story in which Madonna made clear his life-and-death authority over Luchese members and associates."

The letter also adds more details regarding Pennisi's induction into the Luchese family.

"Madonna presided at the ceremony where Pennisi, Guzzo (Guzzo's first name isn't available in the letter -- and must be in the redacted portion [we will refrain from making an educated guess]), and a third man were formally inducted into the Luchese family. As part of the ceremony, a gun was used—the only direct instance of firearms possession attributed to Madonna at trial—as was a knife, which was given to Pennisi as a remembrance. Among other things, during the ceremony, Madonna required Pennisi to agree to kill for the Family before inducting him, thus helping to prove the murder predicate of the charged racketeering conspiracy."

John Pennisi
Former Luchese wiseguy John Pennisi.

In 2013, as the government alleged in court, then Luchese acting boss Madonna grew displeased with Meldish after the longtime associate refused to collect debts owed to Madonna. So Madonna and Crea Senior ordered a hit on Meldish. Londonio helped set up Meldish – a personal friend–to be killed and was the getaway driver. Caldwell was the shooter in the Meldish hit.

In May 2017, charges were filed against 12 members of the Luchese Family, including the Acting Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, four captains, and five soldiers, for their commission of a wide array of crimes with the Mafia from at least in or about 2000 up to and including in or about 2017.

With the exception of one captain who died before his case was resolved, every Luchese Family member charged in this case either pled guilty or was convicted at trial, the Feds say.

The defendants were convicted of being leaders, members and associates of the Mafia, and committing crimes including the murder of Michael Meldish; three attempted murders – including the attempted murder of a former witness against the Mafia; multiple assaults; trafficking oxycodone, cocaine, and other drugs; extortion; millions of dollars in fraud against a public hospital in the Bronx; loansharking; operating illegal gambling businesses; and other crimes.

Crea's son, Luchese capo Steve Crea Jr., a New Rochelle resident, pleaded guilty in White Plains federal court in August 2019 to racketeering from 2000 to 2017, murder conspiracy in aid of racketeering and attempted assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering in late 2012. As part of his plea deal, Crea Jr. was sentenced to 13 years behind bars.

The Feds alleged that “Matty Madonna, Christopher Londonio, and Terrence Caldwell – respectively, the Acting Boss, a soldier, and an associate of the Luchese Family – were responsible for the execution-style murder of Michael Meldish. Madonna ordered it, Londonio set it up, and Caldwell pulled the trigger.”

Suspects were never in short supply regarding the Michael Meldish murder. The former Purple Gang boss was offed in November 2013 in what's described as a classic gangland hit tableau. His body, expensively attired, ensconced in a camel-colored leather jacket, was slumped over in the driver's seat, his head back, his mouth agape.

“Michael was a stone-cold killer,” Joseph Coffey, former commanding officer of the NYPD’s organized crime homicide task force, has said.

Coffey spent years trying to pin murders on Meldish, though acknowledged that he faced one insurmountable obstacle: “We couldn’t get any witnesses," Coffey has said. "They had the people so terrified they just wouldn’t cooperate.”

Meldish is believed to have committed as many as 10 mob-related hits, and was never prosecuted for a single one. His brother and longtime street partner Joseph Meldish has been serving a 25-to-life sentence for a 1999 slaying. Joseph is believed to have committed as many as 70 contract killings.

Both Michael and brother Joseph were leaders of the notorious Purple Gang. Joseph, is serving his sentence at Shawangunk Correctional Facility for murder in the 2nd degree for the 1999 mistaken identity execution of Joe Brown inside Frenchy’s Bar, formerly located in Throggs Neck. According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Meldish will be eligible for parole on September 22, 2032.

The Purple Gang roamed the South Bronx and Harlem where members were involved in the large‐scale distribution of heroin. They also whacked people -- and in many cases, dismembered their victims, of which there reportedly were 17 by December 1977. (Many of the 17 had been active informants for law enforcement when slain.) Purple Gang members essentially cut their teeth as glorified coffee boys in decade-long apprenticeships. They stepped up their game when the competition was wiped out -- meaning, they filled a huge niche after law enforcement cleared away many local narcotics trafficking rings, including the one known as the French Connection. The Purple Gang entered the contract killing business after it got into drug trafficking.

Most Purple Gang members were raised on Pleasant Avenue between 110th and 117th streets and were related to known Mafia figures or had been allied with local drug traffickers.

Luchese wiseguy Steven Crea didn't seem to give much of a fck during a 1983 arrest.

Londonio is a made member of the Luchese Family. Acting under the orders of Madonna and Crea, Londonio helped setup Meldish—a personal friend of Londonio's—to be killed, and acted as the getaway driver for the murder. Londonio also carried firearms and other weapons, beat an associate of a rival crime family with a baseball bat, and personally participated in extortion, operating illegal gambling businesses, and drug-trafficking, among other crimes.

Caldwell is an associate of the Luchese Family, who participated in its crimes but was not formally inducted as a member. On May 29, 2013, Caldwell ambushed Enzo (The Baker) Stagno, a member of the rival Bonanno family in Manhattan. Caldwell fired several shots into Stango's car at close range and struck him once in the chest, but he survived. The shooting of Stagno of Whitestone, Queens, as we noted, was one of the more bizarre twists in the ongoing story of the Meldish killing.

On November 15, 2013, Caldwell carried out Madonna's and Crea’s orders to kill Michel Meldish. Caldwell met Meldish and drove with him to a Bronx neighborhood to meet Londonio. As Meldish got out of his car, Caldwell shot him once in the head, killing him instantly. Caldwell then drove off with Londonio.