Mass Media: WSJ Repackages Colombo Bust

Mismanagement, dingbat recruits, and poorly conceived succession plans are among the challenges facing the American mob in late 2021.

Reputed Colombo boss Andrew Russo.
Reputed Colombo boss Andrew (Mush) Russo.

That's according to a recent WSJ report (the site requires a subscription, however, which is why we give a shoutout [and owe a beer to] this guy). 

The following is our take on the gist of that story....

The report uses last month’s widely reported Colombo busts to offer a largely superficial glimpse into the New York mob. Informing the article is input from sources including former FBI agents, an anonymous former Colombo wiseguy, former government researchers (lots of formers, which is part of the problem with this story) as well as—this being the WSJ—a crisis management consultant (who also was a former FBI agent) and a professor emeritus. The WSJ references the (supremely disappointing) Many Saints of Newark, though the connection to the Sopranos prequal was enough of a stretch that we comfortably ignore it here.

The story notes the reduction in mob violence and murder, a truth most would claim obvious enough it need not be said. (The last mob hit, the 2019 murder of Gambino underboss Frank Cali, wasn’t even a mob hit.)

“They certainly don’t kill people like they used to,” said one of the former FBI agent sources, Michael Gaeta, who probed OC in New York for more than a dozen years.  “At the end of the day, it draws too much heat.” 

Try telling the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York that the mob cut down on the violence and murder. The USAO fought to keep Colombo boss Mush Russo (and all the wiseguys and associates in the case) locked up while awaiting trial by introducing transcripts that, the Eastern District alleges, showcase the 87 year old as the menace he truly represents to polite society.

Those recordings “were more than a decade old,” however, Jeffrey Lichtman, Russo’s attorney, told the WSJ. 

Russo and the others in the case were nabbed on September 14 (except the reputed consiglieri, who squeezed in a few more days by the swimming pool) for allegedly looting a New York City construction workers’ union and its health fund. The bust—which included all the crime family's key wiseguys: the administration and top capos—basically cripples the Colombos (and leaves it vulnerable to frustrated Orena loyalists?) 

Scott Curtis, a former FBI agent who investigated the Colombos but departed the FBI and wasn’t involved in the recent bust and is currently employed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., where he is a vice president of investigations (MSG investigates people?), offers what at first seems to be criticism of Russo. (It really isn't.)

Russo was a micromanager who didn’t want to let go of his job, said Curtis. (“I can’t walk away. I can’t rest,” Russo was recorded saying. What is unsaid in the WSJ story: Mush couldn't walk away and rest until Skinny Teddy Persico's supervised release ended, though the bust moots all this now.)

Russo, who reportedly has seven previous convictions, ignored the best practices established by preceding bosses who put as much distance as possible between them and certain criminal activity.  

Failing to follow those earlier bosses is “why you see some of these guys getting arrested repeatedly,” Curtis noted. “They have to get their hands on all these minute details of the plan.“ 

(Well that and those old school bosses you praise didn't face what wiseguys today face: an entire criminal justice apparatus that didn't exist decades back and that includes a super-aggressive FBI, which has at its fingertips all the latest surveillance tech. They will soon be planting bugs up peoples' asses--or that is what yet another former FBI agent supposedly said. We're kidding about that: we said that and it is completely made up).

But read that WSJ story a little further and Curtis says the micromanaging is actually not so much a flaw of Russo's as something that the modern day Cosa Nostra boss has to do in order to address another supposedly growing problem: the stupidity of “lower-level members.” (The WSJ reporter seems to mean associates, not members. Members are members whatever their level.)

What is it with the new guys? For that, the WSJ brings on those former government researchers, who surprisingly offer the story its money-shot: The newbies lack all applicable business experience. Also, today’s young wiseguys (and/or associates) have mostly grown up in the suburbs, which has made them “softer, dumber, and not as loyal as gangsters of the past. Also, they are always texting.” (Everybody is always texting.)

“Everything is on the phones with them,” the former Colombo member, who reportedly knows some of the accused in the current case, needlessly said.

The WSJ notes that a Colombo associate accused in the case used his cellphone to send threatening texts to a union official. (“Hey, this is the second text, there is not going to be a third.”)

Aniello Dellacroce, late Gambino underboss
Aniello Dellacroce, underboss to Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

We don't have the knowledge (or data) to judge the accuracy of the WSJ's claims about low-level guys (which newspapers around the world continue to trumpet), but we know that older wiseguys have always been aggravated by the coming generation over what they viewed as an ongoing erosion in respect and ability. 

All the way back when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth (in 1985), Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce, the Gambino underboss, was secretly recorded as he berated an underling who had gone over his head about something. 

''I'm through with you,'' Dellacroce said. ''You understand? I don't want to say hello to ya.''

Later, he told the man he had got off easy. ''Twenty years ago, they woulda found you in some [expletive ] hole someplace.''

''You're right, Neil,'' the contrite lower-level guy replied.

''You know what I mean?'' Dellacroce said. ''But things change. Things change now because there's too much conflict. People do whatever they feel like. They don't train their people no more. There's no more—there's no more respect. If you can't be sincere, you can't be honest with your friends—then forget about it. Ya got nothin'.''

Amen to that, Neil.

This may be the first in an occasional series on how the mass media reports on the mob.


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