Lee D'Avanzo

First, read our stories on Lee D'Avanzo, husband of mob wife Drita D'Avanzo:

Leaked Court Records Expose D'Avanzo Mob Ties

Lee D'Avanzo, Not Tall Guy, Behind "Mob Wives" Reboot

As per the Miami New Times' information dump on him, according to hundreds of pages of sealed court documents — including interviews he gave to his government handlers — that New Times obtained from a confidential source,Chris Paciello's snitching to the FBI was far more extensive and damaging to the Mafia's interests than previously reported.

Between December 2000 and May 2001, the FBI met with the fallen club king eight times and conducted 15 hours of interviews. During those meetings, Paciello detailed not only his own criminal history, but those of dozens of his Mob colleagues.

Some of the secrets contained in the documents that the former Madonna flame divulged to FBI agent Gregory Massa include:

• A 1997 plot involving Paciello and Colombo crime family boss Alphonse Persico to try to kill a dissident Mafioso. Paciello secretly pleaded guilty and got off virtually scot-free.

• The 1994 kidnapping of a Staten Island businessman from an auto body repair shop by Paciello and a Bonanno family soldier.

• The million-dollar robbery of a Westminster Bank in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that provided the start-up capital for Paciello's first Miami Beach nightclub.

• The burglary of more than 30 bank night safety boxes in four states by Paciello in alliance with members of a Bonanno-affiliated gang called the New Springville Boys.

Most significant, Paciello fingered two made members of the Bonanno family, which led ultimately to the takedown of almost the entire upper echelon of the organization, including family boss Joseph "Big Joe" Massino. This is something that even undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone, AKA Donnie Brasco (whose exploits were described in the eponymous 1997 movie starring Johnny Depp), never managed to achieve during his six years infiltrating the Bonanno family in the 1970s.

Paciello's cooperation with the federal government was "unprecedented," according to a March 2004 letter by his then-lawyer, Ben Brafman, to the court. Brafman estimated that "more than 70 people" had been "prosecuted directly and indirectly as a result of [his] cooperation." This was largely confirmed in a subsequent letter sent by the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.

During Paciello's 2004 sentencing hearing at federal court in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres spelled out the important behind-the-scenes role Paciello had played in crime boss Massino's conviction. "Mr. [Paciello]... provided us with information that led to the arrest and later cooperation of made members of the Bonanno crime family. Prior to December of 2002, [none of them] had ever cooperated. In the last 14 months, we've arrested virtually ever criminal supervisor in the Bonanno family. Those prosecutions resulted in part from the cooperation of Mr. [Paciello]."

So why is Chris Paciello still breathing today? And what does it say about the dwindling power of the Italian Mafia that instead of being turned into alligator food in the Everglades, he not only just opened a pricey restaurant, but last Monday debuted a swanky nightclub, the FDR Lounge, at the Delano Hotel — all in the full glare of the public spotlight?

During a May 2001 interview with the FBI, Paciello described how after his father departed, his family moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island. That's where he first met Lee D'Avanzo, the leader of the New Springville Boys, a ragtag group of wannabe wise guys whom the government would later characterize as a "farm team" for the Bonanno crime family.

D'Avanzo was a meaty tough guy with a cleft chin, piercing eyes, and jet-black hair. A cousin of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, he was the son of a car thief and loan shark who was killed in 1977 after trying to run down an FBI agent. (The younger D'Avanzo achieved notoriety last year as the husband of Drita D'Avanzo in the VH1 reality series Mob Wives.)

Paciello worked with a number of overlapping Mafia cliques in Brooklyn and Staten Island, but the members of D'Avanzo's crew, the New Springville Boys, were the nearest to being his real friends.

These relationships didn't prevent him from spilling the dirt to lawmen about the range of D'Avanzo's criminal activities, from ripping off banks' night deposit boxes to burglarizing stores to breaking into drug dealers' homes. Paciello also exposed D'Avanzo's loan-sharking operation; D'Avanzo once confided to him that he had as much as $100,000 on the street at any one time.

Wrote FBI agent Massa: "D'Avanzo always had guns. He would keep a shotgun next to his bed. Whenever [Paciello] needed a gun, D'Avanzo would provide one."

Sometime in fall 1992, one of D'Avanzo's buddies was picking up drugs on Richmond Terrace in Staten Island when he saw a group of men loading bales of marijuana into a U-Haul truck, according to the FBI documents. He called D'Avanzo and together they followed the truck to a secluded location in New Jersey. They then phoned Paciello, who headed over from the city, broke into the vehicle, and drove it away. When the trio arrived back in Staten Island and jimmied open the U-Haul, they could barely believe their eyes. It was literally a ton of marijuana.

Paciello sold his portion of the pot to a low-level mobster after placing a tracking device in the load. He then stole it back.

Word soon reached Bonanno Mob capo Anthony Graziano, a stocky, brutish man with a permanent smirk, about the huge haul. Soon Paciello was ordered to deliver $50,000 in a brown paper bag. (Documents that describe this incident only list Paciello as "source," but it is clear from the context that this is Paciello.)

According to the FBI report: "[Paciello] went to Graziano's house and met in the garage with Graziano. Graziano questioned [Paciello] about how much money [he] had from the score. [Paciello] lied and said only $150,000. [Paciello] told Graziano that [he] had used the money to purchase a home for his mother."

Graziano must have sensed a lie because he instructed one of his soldiers "to deal with this kid." The soldier pulled Paciello aside: "You want to be around for all the weddings, but none of the funerals," he reprimanded him. It was a thinly veiled threat.

Over the next six months, Paciello acknowledged to the FBI and federal prosecutors, he and the New Springville Boys pulled off several bank jobs. In one, a gangster strapped a fake bomb to his chest and walked into a bank, where he threatened to blow up the building if the tellers didn't give up the money. They did: $300,000.

In December 1992, Paciello helped stage a $360,000 robbery of a Chemical Bank branch in the Staten Island Mall. Fourteen months later, in February 1994, he teamed up with seasoned bank robber Eddie Boyle to take down a Westminster Bank in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. This heist was meticulously prepared, according to testimony Paciello gave at Boyle's 2005 trial. The future club owner cased the bank for a full month, watching the comings and goings of employees and clocking the exact time the armored car arrived to pick up money.

The morning of the robbery, an empty work van was parked six blocks away in case the robbers needed a place to hide. While Paciello waited outside in the "crash car," three masked accomplices entered the bank's basement through an adjoining laundromat and handcuffed two employees who were preparing the money for transport.

When Paciello saw the armored car approaching in his rearview mirror, he radioed his accomplices. They quickly burst out of the front door of the shuttered laundromat carrying two black garbage bags stuffed with bricks of money and drove off in a stolen SUV.

Paciello's job was to trail the getaway car, and if he spotted the police, to ram the pursuing vehicle with his Ford Explorer.

By 1997, Paciello's relationship with Lee D'Avanzo had seriously soured. FBI agent Massa wrote after an interview on May 10, 2001: "[Paciello] stated that he didn't care much for D'Avanzo and that he became jealous of Paciello's success." Things had grown so bad between Paciello and the New Springfield Boys that D'Avanzo's friend Danny Costanza approached Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano and asked for permission to kill Paciello. Graziano refused, possibly thinking it was more profitable to keep the club owner alive now that he was making major money in Miami. It was a decision he would come to regret.

Paciello soon gave up the Mob capo to the feds, providing damaging details about a Florida pot business that subsequently led to Graziano's conviction for drug distribution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres wrote in a letter dated September 10, 2004: "[Paciello] provided detailed information that led to the indictment of Graziano for marijuana trafficking."

Eleven members of the New Springville Boys were eventually indicted, then convicted of bank robbery, loan sharking, and drug dealing based in large part on the inside dope that Paciello had given the FBI.

D'Avanzo was sentenced to 62 months in prison.

The most likely explanation for Paciello's equanimity is that he, more than most, realizes the contemporary Italian Mafia is a parody of its former self. These days, La Cosa Nostra's fabled ability to exact vengeance on informants is more a cinematic myth than reality. The old loyalties are gone, along with the old neighborhoods. Snitches and their families don't get stitches anymore; they get book contracts, reality TV shows, and movie deals.

"You can't trust a soul," says one erstwhile mainstay of the Staten Island criminal underworld, who became so disgusted with his fellow mobsters informing on each other that he quit the life, moved to South Florida, and got himself a straight job as a telemarketer. "Whatever happened to the oath of Omerta? It's like being a rat is accepted in criminal society.

"Chris isn't even going to get slapped for what he did," he adds. "It wouldn't surprise me if some of the same people he snitched on, when they get out of prison, stop by his restaurant to say hello."

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