Who Killed Phil Coffee Cups? Or Why Organized Crime Is So Damned Difficult

A body is found floating in a body bag on the Hackensack river, five bullets in the cabeza. It’s Luchese acting capo Phil Coffee Cups from Bayside Queens.

Sopranos pondering murder of Cups


From the probe that follows, the FBI believes the hit was orchestrated by someone in another family in north Jersey. Gang Land News gets the scoop and writes up an exclusive, and the FBI view slips into the newspapers, some of which highlight it in stories.

But two years later, a detective with the NYPD says the hit came from within the same family because the boss had a grudge over something (the detective knows not what the grudge was over).

Around the same time, an ex-acting capo in California publishes a memoir that says it was the Gambino family, based on what he heard when, while still an active wiseguy, he visited New York City around the time of the hit.

For the next five years, the different theories have been floating around in the press. Some reports focus on the FBI theory, some on the NYPD theory, some on what the guy in California says. Very few newspapers cover all three theories plus other ones that might be floating around. Gang Land News does.

Then an associate flips and says he helped dump the body and that it was internal Luchese business. He points the finger at Suffolk county-based capo Johnny Wiseguys, saying he gave the order and wiseguys Bobby Red and Bobby Blue were involved, and one of them was the actual shooter.

Another five years pass and Bobby Blue flips but has a massive coronary while sitting on the toilet in a Texas Federal prison and he’s dead before he’s fully debriefed. Gang Land News gets the scoop and writes up an exclusive. Most of the big newspapers focus on what Bobby Blue might have said about Johnny Wiseguys.

Ten years pass and Johnny Wiseguys has become the boss. Later, his Queens-based consigliere, who claims to know details on 15 different hits, flips. Johnny Wiseguys bites the bullet and cops out to 15 years. Dozens of wiseguys also cop out rather than face the consigliere, who testifies only once, against hardcore old timer Anthony Rocks. But that case does not involve the murder of Philly Coffee Cups.

Five years later, the ex-consigliere publishes his memoir and says Cups had been making moves to take over the family, which was why Johnny Wiseguys took him out.

But a year later a wiseguy in another family based in North Jersey flips and starts talking about a completely different motive— Cups had taken over a card game in North Jersey that Cups's uncle-in-law had willed to him. Four wiseguys in the uncle’s crew also had interests in the game. They ask Cups to come down to North Jersey and meet with them to discuss business. In truth, the four got together prior and made plans to take Cups out off the record. Gang Land News gets the scoop and writes it up.

Who killed Phil Coffee Cups? A better question: How should a small blog like this one—which has nothing but internet access and a smart-ass sense of humor—write it up? Hopefully we would have read enough old reports to know the full evolution of the motive and the full cast of alleged participants. Hopefully, we’d describe all the various scenarios and then speculate it was over the card game because of where they dumped him, which makes geographical sense if nothing else.


This was a fictional amalgamation based on various true events as we experienced them. (There's no solution to the murder of  Phil Coffee Cups because none of these guys exist, in other words.)

We’d be remiss if we didn’t thank Lee Cole, one of the mob podcasters we have been watching lately. His About page notes that he interviews "the very people that lived the life" as he seeks to "set an example for those who have turned their lives around," as good a mission statement as we've seen. Lee reaches out and seeks to interview as many people as he can. He also has great fans who have been emailing us and providing us with excellent news tips … (keep em coming, guys!). Lee knows that the search for truth is a journey that also involves lots of research and the weighing of different views. We couldn't help but notice that Lee seems to have unwittingly stumbled into no man’s land, which can happen as part of the difficult, occasionally brutal, learning process involved with doing organized crime commentary. We recall how, one minute, some years back, we were trying to help a recently paroled Gambino associate tell his own story for the first time—something everyone has the right to do, we believed then and still believe now—and next thing we knew, we somehow landed on the frontline at the Battle of Stalingrad, or so it seemed. We have since tossed up the white flag, but John Alite continues to hoist the black one and is still fighting today. John has helped this blog considerably over the years. We say again we were trying to help in a recent story when we provided an opinion he probably won't otherwise hear. We see ourselves like that slave in ancient Rome who was tasked with continually whispering about mortality into the ear of Caesar.




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