Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown: Updates On Legal Proceedings For Two Colombo Bosses

Reputed Colombo boss Andrew (Mush) Russo, who was among the indicted in the recent case related to the longtime pilfering of a labor union, was to be released from jail last week on $10 million bond, while Vic Orena, the Colombo acting boss who opposed Russo and other Persico loyalists in the bloody 1991-92 Colombo war—and who is so deranged these days, he believes he is the president of the United States (that derangement seems to be getting around)—will remain locked up at Federal Medical Center Devers in Massachusetts.

Victor Orena, former Colombo acting boss
Colombo acting boss Vic Orena in his heyday.

Russo's release and the denial of Orena's compassionate release were set forth in separate Brooklyn Federal Court rulings, both of which were highlighted in a Daily News report last week by Noah Goldberg and Larry McShane.

Helping spring Russo, 87, from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center was about $7 million in property that was put up as collateral. He was allowed to bond out after Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak ruled that Russo posed no threat to the community (because of health issues, which include dementia, she noted).

The terms of Russo's release include home confinement, GPS monitor, and a ban on contact with his 13 codefendants (and anyone linked to the Mafia).

Russo should've been released last Thursday, the News reported, following the completion of perfunctory paperwork and a doctor's evaluation.

As for Orena, who is wheelchair-bound and suffering from dementia, Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Eric Komitee denied his compassionate release filing, which details the 87-year-old Orena's various health problems, which include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, glaucoma, and heart problems.

As per the News, Komitee noted, “I have considered Orena’s arguments ... (and) I am left with the inescapable conclusion that any sentence short of the life term imposed ... would insufficiently reflect the seriousness of the offense conduct here and fail to provide just punishment."

Komitee described Vic Orena as “a singular figure in the annals of the Colombo family.”

“He rose to a leadership role, becoming acting boss in 1988, and his efforts to cling to power triggered a bloody war,” the judge wrote. “Orena oversaw a campaign of violence that resulted in a swath of death and serious injury.”

Orena’s son Andrew said the family’s attorney would appeal the decision.

Andrew Russo, alleged Colombo boss
Reputed boss Russo got out on $10 million bond.

Recent Colombo Indictment
In September, 10 members and associates of the Colombo family were nabbed for various offenses related to an alleged 20-year effort to loot a Queens-based labor union. Arrested were  the family's official boss (Russo), underboss, consiglieri, and a bevy of top capos.

The 19-count indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Federal court charges 14 defendants, including the 10 linked to the Colombo family and one member of the Bonanno family, with various offenses, including labor racketeering, extortion, and money laundering conspiracy. The charges relate to multiple schemes in a long-running effort by the family to infiltrate and control a Queens-based labor union and its affiliated health care benefit program, which provides medical benefits to the members of the union, and to a conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with workplace safety certifications.

Charged with racketeering alongside Russo: alleged Colombo underboss Benjamin (Benji) Castellazzo and consigliere Ralph DiMatteo. Also charged are alleged captains Theodore (Skinny Teddy) Persico, Jr., Richard Ferrara, and Vincent Ricciardo, soldier Michael Uvino, and associates Thomas Costa and Domenick Ricciardo. Alleged Bonanno family soldier John Ragano also is named and charged with loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking offenses.

According to the Feds, the scheme kicked off around 2001, when capo Vincent Ricciardo — aka Vinny Unions— began to demand part of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Ricciardo was imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, his cousin continued to collect those payments. 

Starting in late 2019, the top bosses of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which expanded its money making efforts to include manipulating the selection of health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family and diverting more than $10,000 from the fund to the family each month.

The Feds learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote. With help from a confidential informant, investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped conversations and conducted surveillance of meetings among the accused. Ricciardo and his associates were repeatedly recorded threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

Background on Little Vic
In December 1992, a jury convicted Orena on all the counts the government had charged him with. The  court later sentenced him concurrently to three life sentences for racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and the murder of reputed Colombo soldier Thomas Ocera—plus additional years for various other counts.

As per evidence presented at Orena's trial, in early 1991 Carmine Persico announced that his son Allie Boy, upon his release from prison in June 1993, would become boss of the Colombos. The announcement raised tensions between family members loyal to Orena and those loyal to Persico.

Orena suggested that Colombo consigliere Carmine Sessa disparage Persico to Colombo captains. Specifically, Orena told Sessa to call Persico a "rat" who should be "knocked down."

Sessa reported Orena's slur to Allie Boy's brother, and Colombo captain, Teddy Persico.

Upon learning of Sessa's disloyalty, Orena planned to kill him at a "making" ceremony for new Mafia members.

In an attempt to build support on the Commission for his moves, Orena launched a campaign to destroy Carmine Persico, calling him a "rat" because Persico had violated the prohibition against admitting the existence of the Mafia code of omertá. He also criticized Persico for providing information to a New York Daily News journalist and for talking to a reporter with CBS's 60 Minutes about appearing on that show.

According to Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the accusations were the sort that would lead the Commission to label Persico "no better than an informer," a black mark in mob circles that was also fatal.

Alphonse (Little Al) D'Arco and Gravano testified that Orena approached them with a request for assistance in murdering Colombo capo Greg Scarpa, who Orena suspected was fiercely loyal to Persico. (He was.)

D'Arco was unwilling to provide such assistance without permission from Luchese boss Vic Amuso and underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, both of whom were fugitives at the time. Gravano was, on Gotti's instructions, to assist Orena. Therefore, his crew monitored Scarpa and was prepared to kill him. They never followed through, however, because Orena retracted his request, having decided that having another family eliminate Scarpa would not look good for him as the boss.

The third Colombo war began in earnest after Carmine Sessa and others made a move against Vic. They waited in a car outside Orena's home on the night of June 20, 1991. Orena spotted them and drove off unharmed.