On December 29, 2018, a Texas teenager who kept kiddie porn in his phone was allowed to tend to a 5 month-old foster infant named Elizabeth Henson, in foster care, alone. The next morning, the child was dead.
Not only was the teen, Christian Richmond, allowed to care for the infant, he was also caring for the dead infant's brother and three other children, two of which were Richmond’s siblings.
Richmond told the police, he fed the infant and eventually fell asleep with her on the couch, with the girl face up on his chest. Richmond’s mother, Nicole Parker, the recognized foster parent in charge, was gone all night.
When Richmond woke up, the child wasn’t breathing and had gone purple. By then, the next morning his mother had returned and the two of them attempted CPR but it was too late.
An autopsy on the baby ruled the death an accident, calling the cause of death “asphyxia due to wedging” a term to describe when someone suffocates from either lying face down or being lodged between a sleeping partner or surface. The medical examiner’s report supported law enforcement’s narrative of events.
Natalie Parker was arrested for causing injury to a child and abandoning or endangering a child. A few days later, her son, Christian Richmond, was arrested for storing videos of kiddie porn on his cell phone.
Parker was hired as a verified foster home keeper through a subcontractor called Kingdom Kids. That was in March of March 2017. Over the next 9 months, state officials site Parker five times for "possible minimum standards violations" and once for leaving her children unsupervised.
It took the death of Elizabeth Henson to get her license revoked.
If you seriously want to pen down books and articles, do it with unconditional devotion
It was a curt reply from the publisher — ‘Declined by Return of Post.’ Jane Austen’s early draft of Pride and Prejudice was thus rejected and lay on her table for the next 16 years before seeing the light of the world. My inbox too began receiving such responses from publishers and I drew consolation from this.
Writing always came naturally to me, it would fill me up with bliss, serenity and peace. I had become ‘writing’s most devoted handmaiden’ as I grew up. With each passing year I began casting an ambitious gaze around me and experienced this tremendous need to be published. I took solace in the fact that Ruskin Bond and Rudyard Kipling also faced such flak in life as they trod that ‘inky’ path to ‘writerdom’.
“ ... you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Rudyard Kipling got this response to a short story he had pitched to a now-defunct newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner.
My folder of rejection slips was called the ‘folder of encouragement’ and sadly enough I had stopped writing for myself ... I had gone astray trying to imbibe what each publisher threw at me or trying to learn the writing techniques of bestselling authors.
A few years later, I met an old acquaintance from school, a mediocre student who managed to somehow weave together cobwebs of inanity during our English classes. One always has this feeling of a deja vu on meeting somebody from school. So, we exchanged notes. She had indeed undergone an image makeover, dressed in a very FabIndian-arty style, kohl-lined eyes and speaking in manner laced with an unnatural borrowed accent ... I couldn’t really identify which country it belonged to.
“You know these books keep me so busy, working on one now,” she bantered. I wondered whether I had missed out on a title she might have written, on the bestsellers’ list. I was so excited that I enquired about the list of books that she had written. Well, the lady just needed a little goading on and there she invited me for a cup of coffee and a very “one-way” conversation, rather a monologue. “I already have a book on that epic for children, Ramayana and another one on Mahabharata, all published by foreign publishers, you know?” Her kohl-lined eyes squinted and her thin lips parted into a conspiratorial smile.
“Three books already in press. To get published all you need is some intelligent socialising, marketing and of course some mythological book in the home. Just do copy of story, change one or two words here and there and one book is ready. And nobody take you to court for plagaring!” Plagaring?
“Oh, you meant plagiarising?” I enquired.
“Yes, yes, that only. And these big publishers having excellent editors, they will do most of your work. Illustrators decorate the books so well.” She pursed her lips again as if she was going to set more author-goals for me, I squirmed under my skin, as I blurted an incoherent excuse to her and sprinted from there. (Ved Vyas and Valmiki must have been turning in their graves furiously!)
Phew! That was some sure-shot recipe to become a “successful” writer, now would I call her a “copy-writer”? This was when I sensed that clarion moment of truth and realisation dawned upon me that I needed to just write for the love of the written word. If you seriously want to pen down books and articles, take it upon yourself as a holy calling, do it with unconditional devotion, without judging oneself by rejection slips.
Well, a rather drastic revision was suggested to F. Scott Fitzgerald, by a publisher, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” About — you guessed it — The Great Gatsby.
Thus, a very Kafkaesque attitude always holds good for all, budding writers and otherwise — “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp
Iggy Step’s Out of Line
John Wiliam Tuohy
John Wiliam Tuohy
Ignazio Alogna AKA Iggy had been a bodyguard to John Gotti boss of the Gambino family. In 2002, a Stamford businessman Harry Farrington came to Alogna attention. Farrington ran two successful and honest strip clubs in Stamford, Beamers on Richmond Hill Avenue and Harry O's Café.
In early 2002, Alogna, who was 72 at the time, came into one of Farrington’s clubs with enforcers Joseph "Joey Mash" Mascia, occasionally of Arizona and his brother John "Johnny Mash" Mascia Jr., and two associates of the Patriarca family, Alfred "Chip" Scivola Jr. and Henry "Hank" Fellela Jr.
Fellela, of Johnson Rhode Island, was an interesting guy. In 2014 he was sentenced today to 48 months in federal prison for making nearly $83,000 in purchases with the use of stolen credit cards belonging to 17 individuals and fraudulently collecting more than $58,000 in Supplemental Security Income benefits by falsely claiming that he had no permanent home address while living with his wife and children in their Johnston residence. His wife was State Representative Deborah Fellela.
Alogna sat Harry Farrington AKA “Oil Can” down and said, "We're taking over the whole East Coast now," and demanded $4,000 a month in protection payments from Farrington. "You've had a free ride for years," Alogna told him and boasted about extorting 50 other New England strip clubs. "Come on, you know the routine, you gotta start paying."
Alogna told him to put the extortion money in an envelope marked "grocery money" at the start of each month. If not, Algona said “someone will come in and wreck the place, and you could get real hurt.”
Farrington went straight to the FBI.
The FBI wired him and rigged his club for sound and film and then directed Farrington to call Connecticut mob boss Anthony Megale for help in dealing with the Alogna demands. Farrington had known Megale for at least 3o years.
Anthony Megale, the so-called Tony Soprano of Connecticut, was a ranking member of the Gambino crime family in New York. Megale was a new generation who hood who held his meetings in Starbuck’s, Home Depot, and McDonald’s or anywhere else he felt free from FBI bugs. Megale went to Beamers, a strip club in Stamford to meet one-on-one with Farrington. During the conversation, and caught on the wiretaps Farrington was wearing, Megale bragged
"They made me the acting underboss of this family. So I'm over everybody."
Farrington asked if he could join the Gambino family.
"What about me bein' a soldier?" Farrington asked. "Your father Italian?" replied Megale.
"No, Indian," Farrington said.
"You're probably better than 90 percent of the guys. But if you were Italian..."
Regarding the extortion payments, Megale was outraged that Alogna, who lived in eastern Pennsylvania, was trying to extort a business in Stamford, Megale's territory.
"I just don't want to be embarrassed," said Megale. "You gonna let a guy from out of town take a guy you know all your life?" and then added "I'm going to make this fucking asshole bleed, though," said Megale about Alogna.
Megale explained on tape that Alogna’s demand for money had not been approved – a particularly offensive affront because Alogna used muscle from Providence. “Everything you do, you’re supposed to put on record, especially when you do things with other families,” Megale told Farrington. Megale then told Farrington he should ignore Alogna and make monthly protection payments to him.
Megale is then heard telling Farrington on the tapes that Fairfield County's bookies are paying "$500 a week" to be allowed to work. "So for two joints, $500 a week ain't bad," Megale told Farrington "I figure maybe we can do a couple thousand a month for both joints and like $5,000 [at] Christmas."
At one meeting Megale told Farrington about a nearby upscale, extremely pricey Northern Italian restaurant in Old Greenwich called Valbella, known in the 1990s for its celebrity clientele. Megale said that one night he sent a crew of Albanian gangster, known for their violence, to slap around Valbella’s owner, the five foot five Dave Ghatan, until he agreed to make extortion payments. Ghatan, an Iranian immigrant, was an American success story. He arrived in the United States with almost no money and eventually opened two very successful restaurants before opening Valbella in 1991.
Megale laughed when explained to Farrington “Yeah, they went over to Valbella’s two months ago. Thirty of ’em. With Uzis. They got $5,000 a month. The guy was in a fuckin’ panic, Dave. a fuckin’ panic.” The Albanians, he said beat up Ghatan and hung him from the ceiling until he agreed to pay out. “The, the guy stayed home three days,” said Megale, laughing. “Fuck, he hadda go to the dentist cuz he was grinding his teeth. That’s how nervous he was.”
Farrington replied, “That’s a fancy place over there. That place fucking does some business.”
Megale replied that he and his crew had been “eating for free at Valbella’s ever since.”
The story that Megale told Farrington was missing some key facts. The reality of that happened was that the extortion began in 1998. The boss over Western Connecticut then was Gambino Capo Gregory DePalma, (Who also had rackets in the Bronx) Tony Megale was on DePalma’s Connecticut crew and took over temporarily after DePalma went to prison on an extortion charge.
When he was released six years later, in 2003, DePalma “went ballistic” when he learned that Megale had allowed Valbella’s to be shaken (He loved the place) and, worse yet, that Megale had brought in Albanians to do and that Megale handed most of the $5,000 payment to the Albanian hoods. Worse yet, DePalma couldn’t even get in on the free food since his parole restrictions prohibited him from leaving the state of New York and traveling to Connecticut to chow down.
The restaurants chef, an Albanian immigrant named Joe Vuli, went on to open his own restaurants, Vuli at the Stamford Marriott and Gusto in Danbury. In a few years later he was found dead, cut up into pieces placed in plastic bags, on a roadside in Bedford, N. Y. The crime remains unsolved. The FBI assumes he either refused to make extortion payments or, more likely, he was in to loan sharks for more money than he could ever pay back.
In a phone call to Alogna, Megale said "Iggy, what's Iggy doing down there? That's why I'm here. I wanna know why. What is he doing in Stamford when I'm there? Ain't he supposed to come check with me?"
At another recorded meeting, Megale explained to Farrington that he had clearance from New York to deal with Alogna and that he had sent one of his crew, Angelo Ricco, to deliver a message to Alogna and the others at a roadside diner: "Stay out of Stamford. I've got a message, it's coming from the boss--stay out of Connecticut." Megale also used his power as underboss to demote Alogna from a captain to soldier.
Chippy Scivola, one of the goons who showed up with Alogna at the first extortion meeting, was made member of the Providence mob. Megale claimed “ownership” of Farrington and his businesses but to keep the peace, he paid Scivola a “settlement fee” to give to Luigi Manocchio acting boss in Rhode Island to have the Patriarca’s to back-off of any further shakedowns.
On July 26, 2005, Alogna pleaded guilty to attempted extortion. Alogna, who faced up to 20 years in jail, was spared prison time and was sentenced to six months home confinement and three years-probation because the judge bought his story that he was a down-on-his-luck retiree and his family's only caregiver in Pocono Lake, Pa. and was the sole caregiver for a 12-year-old grandson, whose parents have narcotics addictions.
Scivola pleaded guilty on February 15, 2005, to two attempted extortion charges and was sent to prison for two years. He was indicted and jailed in 2011 along with Luigi Manocchio and Anthony DiNunzio for extorting Rhode Island strip clubs for approximately a million dollars. He pled guilty and admitted the existence of the Mafia and was sentenced to three years behind bars. He was released on parole and placed on house arrest before finishing out his sentence in January of 2015 and then died in 2017.
John "Johnny Mash," Mascia, was sentenced to a year and a day in jail.
Remarkably, the Government has dismissed all charges against Fellela.
Megale died of cancer in the summer of 2015. Megale’s health declined in the months surrounding his sentencing 2006. He suffered two heart attacks and underwent two heart surgeries in the spring of that year. He e died of a heart attack at 9:30 p.m. on his 62nd birthday on July 21, 2015
Farrington had to sell his bars and move out of Fairfield County under FBI protection.
As for DePalma, the real reason he may have been so upset over the Valbella extortion was that Valbella’s attracted an A list group of actors and television people who lived in the area and DePalma was a food for celebrities. In the 1970s he opened the Westchester Premiere Theatre in Tarrytown, New York and he was soon close friends with Liza Minnelli and Dean Martin, Willie Mays, and Frank Sinatra. It was at DePalma’s Westchester Premiere Theatre in 1976 that Sinatra arrogantly took a group photo with DePalma (of course) Gambino boss Carlo Gambino, future boss Paul Castellano, and slew of other powerful hoods. A year later, in 1977, DePalma was made man in the Gambino crime family. On June 6, 1978, DePalma was indicted for basically robbing his own theater blind and causing its financial collapse. He eventually pleaded guilty bankruptcy fraud and one of the pieces of evidence used against him was the group photo with Sinatra.
In the 1990s, DePalma was named a caporegime which is when he was given control over the Gambino’s Connecticut operations. But in 1999, he and his son DePalma and son were convicted, in a sensational case, for taking over and then extorting Scores, a strip club in Manhattan. He was jailed for 70 months in that case. (His son was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. In 2002, while still in prison, he botched a suicide attempt to hang himself and was left in a persistent vegetative state. Mercifully, he died in December 2010.
In 2003, DePalma unknowingly allowed an undercover FBI agent named Joaquin Garcia, to infiltrate the highest levels of the Gambino operations. Agent Garcia, using the name Jack Falcone got close to DePalma and stayed close to him by flooding him gifts of high quality stolen good. DePalma was taken with Garcia that he considered nominating him for induction into the Gambino family. For two solid years, Garcia wore a recording device and caught hundreds of high level conversation on tape. Several of the those tapes proved DePalma’s obsession with the stars never ended. He told Agent Garcia that he threatened actor Armand Assante shortly before Assante portrayed mob boss John Gotti in an HBO movie, that he dined regularly with singer Mariah Carey and her then-husband Tommy Mottola and that he had forced Liza Minelli’s longtime manager to pay for a Las Vegas vacation and shopping spree for some Gambino bigshots and their wives.
Garcia was also there on February 21, 2005, when DePalma met with Gambino mobster Robert Vaccaro were meeting another mobster, Peter "Petey Chops" Vicini in the Housewares section of a Bloomingdales department store in Westchester County. When Vicini failed to show them proper respect, Vaccaro grabbed a solid crystal candleholder and began beating him on the head until Garcia convinced him to stop. On March 9, 2005, Garcia and other FBI agents arrested DePalma and 32 other Gambino mobsters on racketeering charges. DePalma would die in prison in 2009.
It wasn’t DePalma that made Megale into the Gambino’s. Instead Megale was made in to the mob when he was part of a crew run by Tommy Gambino, the oldest son of Carlo Gambino. Tommy Gambino actually graduated from Manhattan College in the Bronx before following his father into crime, although by then, the Gambino family was rich beyond reason. In 1962, he married Frances Lucchese, the daughter of Gaetano "Tommy Brown" Lucchese, the boss of the Lucchese crime family. Gambino’s personnel fortune was, in 1992, estimated to be near $100,000,000 although many finical experts called the figure low. He owned three homes; one in Florida, another in Lido Beach, New York, and a third on Manhattan's exclusive Upper East Side. He contributed millions to the Gambino Medical and Science Foundation.
Low profile and well hidden behind his front as an honest, successful and well educated business man, few people realized that Gambino ran his own very large Mafia crew. In early 1985, Gambino boss Paul Castellano gave western Connecticut’s gambling rackets to Gambino. Shortly afterwards, Castellano and his driver Tommy Bilotti were murdered in front of Spark’s Steak House on December 16, 1985, Gambino, who was supposed to meet with Castellano, arrived at the scene moments after the killing.
In 1989, Gambino was indicted for obstruction of justice by lying to a grand jury about Gambino racketeering activities. He was acquitted but indicted again the following year on charges of extorting the garment industry. He accepted a plea deal to avoid prison (A guilty admission, a $12 million restitution payment, and a promise to leave the garment trucking business.)
In 1991, Gambino, Gotti, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano and other Gambino mobsters were indicted on charges of racketeering, loansharking, extortion, illegal gambling and 11 counts of murder. He was convicted of two counts of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. He was sent to prison for five years in 1996.
In about 1986, Gambino, who liked Megale, gave almost free reign in the Gambino’s Connecticut rackets, to replace the murdered Frank Piccolo. An interim boss in Connecticut was Mobster John “Jackie Nose” D'Amico, who would later head up the Gambino family. In 1999, D’Amico was charged with pumping money from illegal gambling in western Connecticut to John Gotti Jr. He did 20 months in the can for the charge.
FBI recordings prove that Megale was wired into Tommy DeBrizzi and Frank Piccolo and John Gotti when it came to making decisions in Connecticut. An FBI surveillance on November 14, 1985 captured Thomas DeBrizzi meeting with Megale and Phil “Skinny” Loscalzo in Stamford. Loscalzo, a Gambino man, was the Family’s point man to the Albanian Mafia. Loscalzo’s protegee Nardino Colotti, would continue in that capacity after Loscalzo died.
Megale inherited a Gambino associate from Norwalk named Joe Fusaro AKA Davy Crockett, who was primally a gambler. In March of 1996, the FBI, in a joint raid with the IRS, Connecticut State Police, Bridgeport and Stamford police, struck out hard against the Gambino’s loansharking and sports gambling in lower Fairfield County. The Gambino ring was pulling in at least $10,000 a week in illegal wagers, probably far more than that. On the same day, at the same time, the Fed’s also conducted a crack-down of a Detroit Mob gambling ring as well.
The primary target of the Fairfield County raids was Joseph "Davey Crockett" Fusaro and his partner William DiPastina, from Stamford. They two had run most of their gambling out of two Stamford businesses, Val's Variety Store and Victory Autobody.
When the fed cracked down on Davy Crockett Fusaro’s gambling ring in Fairfield County, Fusaro was in jail in Valhalla, N.Y., awaiting sentencing on a cocaine trafficking charge in which he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. He faced another possible 45 years if convicted on the racketeering and gambling charges in Connecticut.
In 1996, Fusaro was sentenced to twenty years in prison on the drug charge. Fusaro said that after a discussion with his fellow prisoner John Gotti Jr. in the prison barbershop. Fusaro said he wanted to talk to Gotti about collecting a $180,000 in loan-sharking money that he had out on the street, but Gotti turned him down “He was done with that," Fusaro testified. "He said, 'If you have any brains, and I think you do ... do your sentence because this is over."
So Fusaro became a government informant and wrote out a statement that he collected tribute, which he paid to Gotti, from a Connecticut gambling ring. Not that Fusaro’s crossing over to the light surprised anyway. Mobster Michael DiLeonardo later testified that “there was a little suspect that he may have been a cooperator. We had seen some material in a 302 that might have alluded to him”
The shocked asked “You saw a 302? You saw FBI reports. Do you know how you got those?” To which DiLeonardo said “They usually are passed out from lawyers to -- to, you know, on the street”
(Just after his testimony about meeting Gotti in the prison barber shop Judge Kevin Castel asked the bald Fusaro "You use a barber shop frequently?".
"No, not me," replied Fusaro, who turned to take a look at the judge's pate. "Don't think you do, either,"
"Quite right, sir," said Castel.
"I know the feeling," said Fusaro.
Megale also developed a brief working relationship with long time Gambino boss Angelo Mascia AKA Cockeyed Angie. Mascia and his brothers John and Joseph ran a much feared operation out of East Harlem for decades. After he earned his millions, the brothers moved out of Yonkers and up to Hartsdale New York, about 15 minutes from the Connecticut line. Angelo Mascia died in 1986, just after Megale became active in Connecticut and his crew went to Locascio. However, when Megale was busted in 2005, John and Joe Mascia were indicted with him.
Megale, who was born in Italy and attended Waterbury’s Post College for two years with a concentration on recreation sports, would be a different kind of boss. He bought a home 105 Northwind Drive in leafy North Stamford. He held his meetings….walk and talks…. in the aisles of a Home Depot in Port Chester, N.Y. or at the Starbucks in Stamford. He set up sub-crews in Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk and concentrated on extortion of individuals and businesses, loansharking, union embezzlement, illegal gambling, trafficking in stolen property and counterfeit goods and mail fraud.
On March 22, 1989, an FBI agent followed Megale from Stamford to the Cafe Cappuccino on Morris Avenue in the Bronx where Phil Loscalzo "did most of his business . . . almost on a daily basis" and then to the Dynamic Delivery Corporation warehouse on West 24th Street in Manhattan. Tommy Gambino had a controlling interest in the Dynamic Delivery Corporation. He repeated the trip and met with the same people on March 22, 1898. The bureau assumed Megale was dropping his weekly $1,600 payment to the bosses. On one trip Megale took to West 35th Street from Cos Cobb on May 3, 1989, agents stopped him just before he reached New York City and searched his car. Another Special Agent followed Tommy DeBrizzi to the Cafe Cappuccino on January 22, 1986, where DeBrizzi he met with Giuseppe Gambino, his brother Thomas Gambino and Phil Loscalzo.
Megale’s telephone records for the years 1985-1990 also should that the bulk of his calls went to Giuseppe Gambino home, to and from the Romeo Cafe in the Bronx where Giuseppe Gambino conducted business, to the residence of Phil Loscalzo; to and from the Cafe Cappuccino in the Bronx where Loscalzo was frequently found; to Consolidated Carriers on West 35th Street in Manhattan. A series of calls also went to a grocery store three doors removed from the Ravenite Social Club, John Gotti’s club where Megale was spotted “on many occasions” where, when he made a phone call, he made them from his cousin's restaurant located a few blocks from the Ravenite Club.
There was speculation that Tommy Gambino also handed control of Capo Tony Carminati Northern New Jersey crew over to Megale as well Carminati went back decades in the mob and had been close to Carlo Gambino, Tommy’s father. However after Gambino died young Turks inside the Northern New Jersey branch wanted Carminati, a heavy drinker and mean drunk, especially after he unwittingly allowed an undercover police officer to infiltrate a family loanshark operation. However, Megale wasn’t given the crew which instead went to Hillsdale, New Jersey, caporegime John D'Amico.
Three years later, in 1989 Megale, and 21 others, was indicted on charges of racketeering. He pled guilty although Tommy Gambino was paying his legal defense. It was then that John Gotti “went through the roof” over Megale’s plea deal.
“We found out.” Sal Gravano testified in court “John Gotti and myself were sitting there. I believe Frank Locascio came in, who was our acting consigliere, with the newspaper, put it on the table. John read it, handed it over to me. I read it and shortly after that, Tommy Gambino came in and told us that he read the article. We gave him the article. He said he read it. He said if it was so, which he didn't believe it to be so, he would make him withdraw the plea.”
Prosecutor: That Thomas Gambino would make Tony Megale withdraw the plea?
Gravano: . Yes.
Prosecutor: What happened next?
Gravano: He tried to withdraw the plea. (Tony Megale had moved to withdraw his plea on April 25 and his motion was denied on April 30)
Megale was sentenced to six years.
When Megale was pushed out of power and into prison, his boss in the Gambino operation was Arnold “Zeke” Squitieri. Squitieri and Megale were both indicted on 53 counts including extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling and other crimes including threatening and actually beating the owner of Valbella’s Northern Italian Restaurant. A great deal of the evidence gathered in that case was collected by undercover FBI agent Garcia.
Those charges in the indictment were separate from the charges Megale faced in Connecticut for extorting Gas Can Harry Farrington.
After Megale was indicted on the New York charges, Louis “Bo” Filippelli took over supervising Megale rackets and filling in as underboss. In the 2005 indictment Squitieri was sentenced to just over seven years in federal prison. He was released on December 7, 2012.
Squitieri had labored away in the belly of the Gambino family and slowly made his way to the top, largely due matriculation of everyone else above him. Boss John Gotti died in prison in June 2002. Gotti’s brother Peter, who took over as acting boss, was convicted in two trials and sent to jail as was John Gotti’s son and heir apparent, John Jr.
Squitieri, who was from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., had been made into Gambino’s by John Gotti in 1985 and eventually made a Capo. Before that he had been a knock around guy who was arrested on August 18, 1970, for shooting a troublesome garment cutter named Desiderio Caban at First Avenue and 117th Street. Squitieri plowed five bullets into Caban, killing him. The gunplay was heard by a passing patrol car which chased Squitieri for six blocks until finally cutting him of.
Squitieri got out of his car and told the cops, who were from the 25th Precinct, “Don't worry about it, he's only shot in the arm. Let me go; the boys will take care of you.” And they did. A week later mobster Alphonse “Funzi” Sisca met with one of the cops and paid him $5,000 to remove Squitieri's name from the crime report for the Caban killing. (Sisca would eventually go on to become the head of the Gambino operations in New Jersey)
When word got out about the bribe, the cops were indicted (And acquitted — but dismissed from the force after a departmental hearing) and Squitieri, who had two prior convictions and several felony arrests and Alphonse Sisca fled and became fugitive from justice. The New York City Police department, furious over the bribery charged assigned 45 to find the two hoods while federal agents search a 13 state radius for them. At the time, Squitieri was known to police as "an extensive dealer in heroin in East Harlem" and a man who was "utterly without roots in the' community."
They stayed underground until January of 1972, and then surrendered to the police. The prosecutor emphasized that Squitieri and Sisca had surrendered "only when I told (Gino) Gallina (their defense attorney) that there was likely to be a gun fight" if they remained fugitives.
A year later, in 1973, Squitieri, who was known as "Animal" on the streets, and his wife Marie were charged with failing to file U.S. federal income tax returns for three years, concealing at least $200,000 in income. That would cost him four years in federal prison. Shortly afterwards, he pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in Caban murder and was sentenced to eight years in state prison.
Squitieri was released on the Caban murder in May 1981 and within months became the New Jersey drug connection for the Gotti’s. In 1982 Squitieri would meet Gambino lieutenants at a hot-dog stand in Queens to buy heroin for distribution in New Jersey. He sold a kilo of heroin supplied by Gene Gotti outside the Red Oak Diner in Fort Lee for $180,000.
While Squitieri sold Asian heroin in Harlem, he lived in a comfortable white-brick house on a leafy street in Englewood Cliffs and sent his children to Catholic schools. He became a star of the Knapp Commission which was looking into police corruption. In 1986 he was among several mobsters charged in a drug-conspiracy case by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani. Squitieri was acquitted.
Then, in 1988, Squitieri and his old sidekick Al Sisca were convicted on federal charges in New Jersey of conspiring with the Gambino’s to distribute enormous amounts of heroin into Northern new Jersey. At the same time, in 1988, Squitieri and Sisca learned that the owner of a New Jersey pest-control company was bragging about being connected to John Gotti. They checked with Gotti, who didn’t know the man, and took over his company and extorted him for tens of thousands of dollars. Squitieri was arrested for the extortion in 1992 and got five years in the can which ran concurrently with his drug sentence.
Sisca did 11 years in prison on the drug case. When Squitieri was released on the drug rap in the spring of 1999, he was elevated to capo and then acting underboss. "He did 11 years for heroin trafficking and didn't buckle',' so they made him a capo when he got out," a law enforcement source explained "He was a gambling and drinking buddy of Gotti's, and he's a tough guy, That's why John liked him. He's a stone-cold killer," "He's done a lot of bad things for these guys. He's done murders for John Gotti."
According to court records, Squitieri killed Gambino soldier Liborio Milito. (Squitieri was present in a bar owned by Lou Vallario when Milito was killed. Vallario had taken over Sal Gravano’s crew when Gravano was promoted to be John Gotti’s Consigliere in 1986. Milito felt that crew should have gone to him instead of Vallario and made no secret of his unhappiness. On March 8, 1988, Milito was called to a meeting at Vallerio’s bar. Not only was Squitieri present, so was Gene Gotti, Johnny Carneglia, Vallario of course, and Sal Gravano. Gotti, Squitieri and Gravano were playing a card game at the table and John Carneglia was sitting on a couch watching television and Vallario was behind the bar. When Milito stepped up to the bar to drink a coffee he had asked for, Carneglia got up from the couch and shot him through the head with a .380 caliber handgun armed with a silencer, killing him. His body had never been found.)
Elevating a convicted drug dealer to the exalted position of Boss indicated to law enforcement how low the once might Gambino’s had fallen. "He has a very checkered background," one federal lawman said when he found out Squitieri was being considered for boss. "Only 15 years ago you couldn't even get made in the Gambino family if you were involved in heroin. He only got made after John became boss. Before that he could never get made."
Megale (Who was actually known as “Mac” and Machiavelli” inside the mob and “the Brain”) was promoted to acting underboss under at about the same Squitieri was made acting boss. The promotion meant that Megale would be tasked with settling disputes within the family and generally overseeing the family’s criminal interest. The job paid him a portion of the Gambino’s take and made him wealthier than he had ever dreamed of becoming.
If John Gotti were alive at the time, Megale’s promotion never would have happened, Gotti didn’t like Megale steaming from Megale 1990 conviction for racketing. In the plea deal, Megale was forced to admit that he was a member of the Gambino crime family which aggravated John Gotti to no end. Megale received close to 6 years in prison. After he was released in 1995, he was sent back for 11months to jail for associating with known members of organized crime.
Even while Megale was acting underboss, he continued to grow his operations in Connecticut. The feds estimated that Megale and his top man Nic “The Greaseball” Melia, had at least $2,000,000 in cash dedicated to shylocking, out on the street at any given time. At the same time, Megale personally the big dollar poker games in the rich and clustered Greek communities in Stamford and Norwalk.
When Megale went down, just about all his top earners went down with him. Old age eventually took its toll on what remained of the once mighty and expansive Megale organization in Connecticut.
Nicola "The Old Man" Melia, AKA The Greaseball, a Gambino associate, who, the newspapers wrote “had a knack for making hundreds of dollars off a $1,000 loan” and Victor Riccitelli, a Gambino soldier from Bridgeport, who supervised illegal gambling in Fairfield County for decades.
Melia, who was underboss to Tony Megale, was an interesting hood. In the 1990’s, Eugene “The Rooster” O’Nofrio was with the Gambino Family and running a small but wealthy criminal empire that included pieces of Western Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and a few spots in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
O’Nofrio, who dabbled in bookmaking, drugs and loan sharking ran his organization out of The Café Roma in Port Chester New York, just east of Greenwich and minutes from the Connecticut’s western border. He answered to Capo Louis “Louie Bracciole” Ricco who held sway from Brooklyn to the Bronx to New jersey.
Because he operated inside territory owned by Tony Megale, he paid Megale’s operation, he not only paid up to his Capo but to Megale as well. Whatever he was paying to Megale, Megale’s underboss, Greaseball Melia, felt it wasn’t enough and demanded more money out of O’Nofrio.
At a meeting at O’Nofrio’s Café Roma in early 1997, to discuss the increase, things got so hot between O’Nofrio and Melia that Melia threw a heavy glass ashtray at O’Nofrio and others at the meeting had to separate the pair. Melia was so angry he drove to New York and demanded that the Gambino’s toss O’Nofrio out of the organization. The Gambino’s weren’t about that do, reportedly O’Nofrio had carried out some contract killings for them, so they instead transferred O’Nofrio over to the Genovese Family under Matty “The Horse” Ianniello. When O’Nofrio started to pour big time money into Ianniello pockets, in 2003, Ianniello sponsored O’Nofrio to be made into Mafia.
In 2000, Melia did four months in federal prison for under-reporting $150,000 on his 1994 federal income tax return. In March of 2005, two men broke into Melia's home and bound and robbed him at gunpoint. A month after that, Melia’s 39-year-old son, Philip, was arrested on state charges of first-degree assault and third-degree criminal mischief in connection with the beating of a truck driver.
Later that year, when The Old Man Melia was 78-years-old when he was swept up in a statewide crack down that rounded up 18 alleged Gambino mobsters accused of racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. Of the 18 men, Melia was the least important. Still, federal prosecutors told the court that Melia, who owned a Stamford beauty parlor called Continental Coiffeurs III, was a "major-league loan shark." They claimed he was all business and once negotiated a loan in his then-98-year-old mother's room in a Stamford nursing home, at 3% a week and once collected more than $300,000 in interest on a $10,000 loan.
Melia was charged with five counts of making extortionate loans and one count of illegal possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. For the law, it was an open and shut case since most of the evidence prosecutors were prepared to present against Melia came from a small notebook one of his loan shark customers used to record his payments over a period of about nine years.
Melia, a natty dresser who spoke with an almost undecipherable Italian accent, lived in Stamford, pled guilty to racketeering and admitted in court that he collected debts for Megale. On one $2,500 loan taken out at $100 a week interest, Melia, who emigrated from Italy in 1955. He had virtually no formal schooling, was picked up on FBI microphones telling the debtor “I’m going to do what I gotta do” to make the collection. In December of 2011, the 79 year old Melia was sentenced to five years in prison on extortion and weapons charges, his third prison sentence in a decade. Further, he was ordered Melia to pay a $50,000 fine and forfeit $253,800 and a 2000 Mercedes Benz SL 600 to the government.
Harry A. Riccio of Bridgeport was reported to be a Gambino member was a ranking an in Megale’s operation. The feds said that Riccio supervised illegal gambling in the Bridgeport area. However, and despite his severe arthritis and high blood pressure, Riccio said he earned his living as a well-paid itinerant racquetball coach. Riccio had a long record. His first conviction came in 1958 for receiving stolen goods. He was arrested on gambling charges in 1962 and in 1972 he was arrested for interfering with an officer when he threw a batch of gambling receipts written on dissolvable paper in to a puddle of water when he saw the police approaching to rain his house. He was one of the last people seen with Tommy DeBrizzi before he was murdered in 1982.
In 2005, 71 year old Victor Riccitelli, a Gambino solider in Bridgeport, and another key Megale operative, had just gotten over open heart surgery, still had cancer and suffered from a serious heart problem, was denied bail because the judge considered him too dangerous to walk the street. In fact, the judge ruled it was “extremely likely” Riccitelli would commit more crimes if released. Riccitelli, who claimed to be a retired use car salesman, had been indicted for operating the Gambino’s lucrative numbers operation in Bridgeport. He was arrested late in 2005 Riccitelli gambled and rejected a plea deal that would have given him about five years in prison. Instead, he went to trial, where, after four hours of jury deliberations, he was convicted of cocaine distribution and conspiracy and sent away from 13 years.
“I’m not a drug dealer,” Riccitelli, whose criminal record went back to the 1940s, told the court, but in fact, he was a drug dealer. The FBI captured Riccitelli on video and audiotape selling cocaine to an informant in 2003. When agents arrested him he was flushing drugs down the toilet. The feds also seized more than $28,000 in cash from him, including money marked by the FBI as part of the drug buy.
“I only got a few more years left, your honor, if you could take that into consideration,” Riccitelli, shrugging his shoulders, told the court when he was sentenced. However, the prosecutor in the case played audio tapes they said showed him to be violent, unpredictable and dangerous. In one taped conversation, Riccitelli outlined a plan to kill a local drug dealer and steal his cocaine stash: "That'll be our expletive retirement!" Riccitelli yelled in to the recording.
In another conversation, Riccitelli said he planned to kidnap the son of an unidentified Fairfield County businessman and hold him for ransom. 'Two million to him is like a expletive hamburger," Riccitelli said. "He owns all kind of real estate and shopping centers…..as soon as I get better, I'm going to snatch him."
Gerald Gerardi of Stamford, another Megale operative, ran a gambling operation in Greenwich. His record went back to 1963 when he was convicted of conspiring to transport women across a state line for immoral purposes, (The Mann Act) has been sentenced to five years in prison. He didn’t rehabilitate very much since an investigation provide that Gerardi received very special treatment at the jail. By the late 1980s, Gerardi was collecting millions for the Gambino mob with his numbers and bookmaking rackets. When he wa convicted on gambling charges in 1990 and sentenced to serve eight years in federal prison, the trial judge also tacked on a $100,000 fine as well a fairly steep charge for his room and board while being held in jail. In 2006, after his release, a federal judge had Gerardi yanked into court to explain why he has paid only $225 toward the $100,000 fine imposed (Plus $512,350 in interest) on him 15 before. Gerardi, the owner of a mini-mansion in Greenwich, dragged the case out and died in 2009.
Another Megale regular was Vincent Fiore, he preferred Vinny. Fiore was born and raised in the Bronx. He was college educated, holding a bachelor’s degree in finance from Mercy College in Westchester County, New York. He had one conviction, a weapons charge in New York City in the early 1990s. In 1998, Fiore, his wife, and their three children moved to 78 Maple Avenue in Goshen in 1998, a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, double-lot property valued at $595,000 in 2005.
The additional land was approved for 17 new house lots which worked out well since Fiore was also an aspiring land developer and ran a construction and remodeling company, The Venice Land Development, with his wife, Desiree. His lawyer would later tell a court that Fiore made $25,000 to $35,000 a year in taxable income.
That was one side of Vinny Fiore. The other side, so said the federal government was that Fiore was a Made Man in the Gambino crime family and an enforcer for the Megale crew out of Bridgeport who worked under Gambino hood Victor Riccitelli. In a series of recorded conversations, Riccitelli bragged about how he and Fiore were inducted into the Gambino family in July 2003 and referred to Fiore as a soldier in his crew. In another recorded phone conversations Riccitelli berated another Mafia crew chief for using Fiore to handle a dispute with an unnamed Connecticut contractor over some construction equipment.
On August 5, 2003, a month after he was made into the Gambino’s Fiore and another unnamed man, approached a bar owner and demanded $30,000 in cash and $200 weekly protection payments. Exactly what happened isn’t clear, but a fight broke out because the bar owner wasn’t intimidated so Fiore punched him in the head, touching off a brawl. The bar owners elderly father joined in and was struck in the back with a bar stool and was later sent to a hospital. Fiore was chased out of the bar, had his car window broken and his watch stolen and, to make matters worse, the bar owner reported Fiore to the FBI.
A short time later, Nic “The Old Man” Melia, sent two men to assault a contractor in the parking lot of an Off-Track Betting parlor in Bridgeport. Fiore was thought to be one of the assailants but the contractor, whose jaw was wired shut, refused to identify Fiore or anyone else in the attack.
Then, in September of 2004, everything fell apart. Megale, Riccitelli, Fiore and 15 others were indicted on racketeering charges.
During Fiore’s trial his New York attorney, Thomas Lee, who represented a long line of Mafia hoods, was arrested on murder conspiracy and racketeering charges. Lee shuttled messages between an imprisoned Bonanno family boss Joe Massino and the mob’s street soldiers. Massino, facing life in jail, decided to cooperate with the feds and turned Lee in.
Several requests that Lee delivered included direction on killings that various Bonanno bosses wanted to be carried out. Lee told Massino during a prison visit that the Bonanno acting boss on the streets, Vincent Basciano, (Who was later sentenced to life in prison) wanted to kill a Bronx Capo named Patrick DeFillipo (Who would later die in prison) and wanted Massino’s blessing for the contract to be carried out. Lee also brought a request from Basciano to Massino to murder the adult sons of two cooperating witnesses.
Lee would later say that in January of 2004, he delivered a message from the jailed Massino to Vinny Basciano that it was agreed by the Bonanno elders that Basciano should "take the reins of the Bonanno crime family."
"He was excited.” Lee said, “He asked me to repeat several times the exact words that were used by Mr. Massino…..I don't remember the exact words, but they were "something to the effect, 'I love him. I won't let him down. Things aren't going to skip a beat with me out here.'"
After hearing the tapes made by Massino, Lee agreed to cooperate with the government and turn states evidence. His other choice was to face 60 years in prison. Lee would become the first lawyer in American history to enter the witness protection. His wife and family joined him.
Fiore’s wife, Desiree, also pleaded for leniency for her husband and said that with his arrest and the costs of lawyers to defend him that she was forced to rent out their Maple Avenue home and move into a small apartment in the South Bronx. “I don’t want to sound like a snob,” she said. “But I don’t deserve to be in the South Bronx.” But the judge fined Fiore $6,000, to be paid in $175 monthly installments after his release from prison and sentenced to at least two years behind bars
Whacking Frank the Attorney
John William Tuohy
Frank "The Attorney" Piccolo AKA Frankie Lanza was a Capo in the New York-based Gambino Crime family, and was also, arguably, a reigning power in Connecticut’s jumbled underworld.
The police and FBI had different opinions of his precise importance in the states mob circles, but all agree he headed the Fairfield County operations of the Carlo Gambino crime family and shared power with Ralph "Whitey" Tropiano of New Haven, who was regarded by law enforcement officials as the only other mob figure of Piccolo's stature living in Connecticut.
Piccolo was born on July 2, 1921, in Manhattan, the only son of Francesco “Patsy” Piccolo and Fannie Lanza. He was raised in the Italian section of Harlem.
Over the years he did develop a long criminal history. He was arrested in 1948 for running a policy game and was fined $100 and released and was arrested again in 1966 on gambling charges.
In 1953 Piccolo was sentenced five-month term in the Federal penitentiary for income tax evasion. evasion. Also, in 1953, he was arrested on charges of assault in connection with the lunch-counter stool beating of a man John Karantzis, those charges were also dropped when Karantzis vanished, but the charge of possessing a switchblade knife in connection with the same incident was pressed but also suspended.
He was mentioned at the McClellan Crime hearings where Joe Valachi testified in 1963 and 1964. In 1967 he was arrested for failing to pay a $50 wagering tax in New York State and $15,000 in federal tax after won the numbers.
He was arrested in Las Vegas in 1963 for possession of dangerous drugs. In 1966 Piccolo was arrested on charges of violating Federal gambling laws but the charge eventually dropped when the government's key witness, Augustus J. Pace, the owner of a Westport health studio, refused to testify whether he had known Piccolo or had placed a bet with him. Pace said during the trial that he was reluctant to testify for fear that "harm might come to my family."
Most reports are that Piccolo moved to the Bridgeport area from of East Harlem in his late teens, but the New York City Police suspected that Piccolo came to Connecticut from New York with Whitey Tropiano in the very early 1960s or late 1950s. Their marching orders from the Gambino leadership was to reorganize and control the family's operations in Fairfield and New Haven counties.
By 1965, Piccolo was a member of the Genovese family and was running gambling operations in Stamford and Norwalk, according to records of law enforcement agencies in Connecticut and New York. At some point, law enforcement officials say, Piccolo moved over to the Gambino family. However, New York and New Jersey police also list him as a member of the DeCavalcante family of New Jersey, but Connecticut authorities considered him a member of only the Gambino family at the time of his death. The confusion over Piccolo's associations typified the lack of intelligence on organized crime in the state at that time and reflects the fact that Connecticut for years has been roughly divided among various crime families. The Hartford area and the shoreline from New Haven east, were said to be controlled by the Springfield and Providence mobs while New Britain and Waterbury organized crime supposedly was run by the DeCavalcante family of New Jersey. Fairfield County was divided between the Gambino and Genovese families, authorities say, since at least the mid-70s.
In Bridgeport, in the last twenty-five of his life, he played it low and easy and avoided any felony charges. On the record, he was the owner of Piccon Inc., a truck leasing firm in Stratford. He lived in a modest house on Peace Street in Stratford for decades and was married to the same woman for 41 years and was described as an indulgent father to his four kids.
Piccolo stayed in excellent health and at age 58 he looked years younger. He dressed well, played golf, and enjoyed trips to Las Vegas with friends. “He smiled a lot and liked to tease people," an acquaintance said. "He was never rude and was always very nice to women. He was a very personable, warm guy with a fine sense of humor," said another. "He helped a lot of people."
When Whitey Tropiano was murdered, Piccolo became the top guy in the state “"With Tropiano out of the picture” an investigator said “I would say without doubt that Piccolo was the top guy in the mob in Connecticut, but Piccolo's influence had waned in the last few years, but he was still a major target of organized crime investigations"
In 1974, New York City police noted that Piccolo met in New York with Carlo Gambino and Joe N. Gallo, the reputed consiglieri of the Gambino family and that he was among the first to visit Gambino in the hospital after his heart attack. "That makes Piccolo important"
In 1980, FBI wiretaps discovered that Piccolo and David Friend, the would-be Bridgeport Jai Alai promoter who was forced to drop out of the venture because of questions about his associates and business practices, were planning to buy an Italian ocean liner and convert it to a gambling casino so they could skim revenue from the casino.
After that Nicholas Mainiero, the manager of Bridgeport's airport was charged with laundering money for Piccolo and soon afterward, Piccolo himself was indicted for conspiring to obstruct a long strike force grand jury probe of gambling and related crimes.
And then there was the Gambino-Genovese alliance.
Lawmen figured that Piccolo probably answered to John Angelone AKA Johnny Ang, in New York. Angelone was a power in the Longshoreman’s union on the New York-New Jersey waterfronts. Angelone took over the crew that was formed and run by the dour David Amodeo AKA Papa Dave, a highly regarded Sicilian born Capo within the Gambino operation.
When Angelone died in December 1979, Michael Catalano took over control of Connecticut, Between Angelone’s and Catalano’s regimes, the Gambino and Genovese Families entered an alliance in which split up Fairfield County. The Alliance was profitable but Catalano, who was in New York, couldn’t hold the alliance together and Frank Piccolo was one of the primary reason why the alliance was in trouble.
"Piccolo was big in the county. This hit was too sloppy to be sanctioned," the Fairfield County detective said. "He was a family man. If New York did it he'd just disappear. disappear. ... Whoever heard of a hit on Main Street, Bridgeport, in the middle of the afternoon? afternoon? If it was sanctioned, these guys are in a lot of trouble for botching it."
But the fact more than probably was that his murder was, in fact, not only sanctioned by New York, it was sanctioned by the highest mob power in New York, Gambino boss Paul Castellano. Apparently, word reached Big Paul Castellano, the imperial, distant boss of the Gambino crime family that Piccolo was getting greedy and moving in on the Genovese crime family's rackets in the Bridgeport and New Haven area. The local Genovese hoods put up with it because they had too because no one wanted to risk the lucrative constructions rackets and multimillion-dollar gambling operations the Gambino’s shared with the Genovese family
Although Piccolo’s inability to get along with his new partners was probably the primary reason for his extermination, the cops speculated, Piccolo had become sloppy in his day to day dealing. Reports from sources and federal court documents indicated that Piccolo had begun talking carelessly, issuing threats, and had lost status in the Gambino family.
"New York people,” one investigator said “might have been scared because Piccolo was picked up on the wire talking to a lot of people. They'd get rid of him for that"
When rumors started to float that he was a marked man, Piccolo did little out of the ordinary to protect himself. He had no bodyguard and never carried a weapon. However, the FBI noted that he had started changing his routine. He stopped using his office and home phones for business calls because he assumed, correctly that they were bugged. He also assumed that the phones at his favorite restaurant, the Backstage, had been bugged too, so he started having breakfast at the Bagel King on Bridgeport's Main Street and using the sidewalk pay phone across the street.
On September 19, 1981, a Saturday, Piccolo stopped at the Bagel King, and had a cup of coffee. In those days it was an Italian and Portuguese working-class neighborhood about a mile from his home in Bridgeport. His kids had grown, and Piccolo moved to a luxurious penthouse apartment atop the Inwood condominium complex at 3200 Park Ave. in Bridgeport, a complex reportedly built on land in which Piccolo had at one time held an interest and which he later sold for a seven-figure profit.
Just before 2:45 p.m., he walked to the pay phone across the street. He was on the phone, witnesses said, when a maroon (some say red) van pulled up. Piccolo walked over and talked to someone in the van for a few moments. Then two masked men got out, and one shot him three times in the chest with a carbine. Police said that Gus Curcio, an ex-convict whose brother Francis "Fat Frannie" Curcio. Curcio, the police reported was unmasked behind the wheel
The gunmen then jumped back into the van and led private citizens and police on a wild pursuit that ended up in nearby Trumbull. The cops stopped following when the van went up a makeshift path up to the home of Gustave Curcio, disappeared for three days and then, proclaiming his innocence, turned himself into police.
Back at the crime scene, a nurse from the neighborhood tried giving Piccolo mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and that may have kept him alive until police rushed the dying gangster to St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest about 45 minutes later.
Police assumed that his killers had either followed him that morning or that someone scheduled call with him and that whoever scheduled the call with him, set him up for the kill.
Actor and singer Wayne Newton met gangster and dope dealer Anthony Penosi while he was performing at Copacabana Club in New York in the 1960s. A friendship developed and stayed strong over the years. So strong that Newton's office calendar marked Penosi's birthday prominently and Newton spent almost a month with Penosi in Florida. Penosi attended the wedding of Newton's brother. In 1976, Newton flew to Los Angeles with his band to perform for Penosi's son free of charge.
In 1980, Newton approached Penosi for help. Newton had pulled out of a Las Vegas tabloid show called Backstage. As a result, he had been receiving threats from other, yet, unnamed organized crime figures. Penosi contacted his cousin, Frank Piccolo in Bridgeport and Piccolo allegedly solved the problem by going through the bosses in New York.
Newton foolishly assumed that Penosi and Piccolo had taken bread from the table of a fellow Mafioso for free. Piccolo and Penosi later discussed “earning off” of Newton and his ownership of the Aladdin Hotel.
Guido Anthony Penosi AKA The Bull (Born June 4, 1931, in the Bronx) was a narcotics dealer with the Gambino and Lucchese crime families who operated primarily in Los Angeles.
In 1946, Penosi was part of a gang of three, dubbed “The Homicide Kings” by the cops. Penosi, then 15 years old, Carmine Lavia, 17 (Who went on to a life as an insurance scam artist) and Francis J. Kennedy also 17, were arrested for the murder of Samuel Sunshine, a 52-year-old grocer who was murdered by Penosi while the hoods robbed his corner store of $30. Kennedy and Lavia were sent psychiatric examination. The supervising prosecutor in the case was the legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, who was born and raised in Waterbury.
He was arrested again in 1950 for possessing and counterfeiting $10 and $20 bills. At the time he lived at 235 East 105th Street in the Bronx. He had lived there since at least 1945. Oddly enough, the assistant prosecutor in the case was Roy Cohen who later worked for Senator Joe McCarthy.
In 1951, he was arrested in Hollywood by Federal Narcotics agents when Penosi and another hood named Louis Salerno picked up two packages, wrapped in Christmas paper, which contained 35 ounces of heroin. He served three years on the charge.
In 1963 he was identified as a member of organized crime who dealt in narcotics by the US Senate subcommittee.
In 1967, the police regarded Penosi as “A highly placed member of the Carlo Gambino Crime family who is primarily involved in the trafficking of narcotics, counterfeiting and financial fraud.” He was a known associate of the very influential "Sleep-out Louie” Levenson, an international gambler and mob financier.
In 1967, Penosi teamed up with the Florida based Mafia killer Anthony Esperti AKA Big Tony took over a Florida strip motel with the help of counterfeit credit cards. Even by mob standards, Esperti was bad news. A former heavyweight boxer-turned-shakedown artist and thug-for-hire well known to police. He had been a sparring partner for Sonny Liston and Willie Pastrano, two of the hardest hitters who ever enter a ring. When his boxing career came to a lull, Esperti became a burglary and armed robber. He was locked up in 1959 for 10 months in prison for illegal entry.
When he was released, the boxing promoter Chris Dundee lined him up to fight an unknown named Cassius Clay, then a former Olympic champion who was to make his way up the heavyweight ladder. It was Clay’s third pro fight and he beat Esperti on a TKO in third round.
After that, Esperti became a full-time Florida hood with a sadistic streak who racked up 11 arrests ranging from assault and battery to receiving and concealing stolen property. On one occasion, he beat up a petty thief, then shot the man through the foot to “make him remember” the encounter.
On Aug. 25, 1967, police answered a complaint that Esperti and his friends were drinking in the Seven Seas Lounge at the Newport motel in Miami and were walking out without paying. Esperti was arrested and charged with defrauding an Innkeeper, using abusive language, resisting arrest without violence, disorderly conduct and using profane language.
When the cops searched Esperti they found a Diners Club card on him made out to Eugene Pile, and a check with the Diners Club revealed that it was counterfeit. It turned out that Esperti and Penosi were part of a ring which took the Diners Club for $350,000 with phony credit cards. Authorities said that 2,000 cards were stolen, and names embossed on them from a list of legitimate Diners club members also stolen. Where Penosi fit in the scheme wasn’t clear.
After his pinch with Penosi, Esperti fell into a feud with Gambino crew boss Thomas Altamura AKA “Tommy A” and “The Enforcer”. No one is sure what the feud was about, it either involved a woman or was part of a turf war, with each man trying to claim a bigger slice of the extortion and loan-sharking racket in South Florida.
On September 22, 1967, a bomb had ripped through Happy’s Stork Lounge, while Esperti sat at the bar. Miraculously, no one was hurt. In October one of Altamura’s crew beat up friend of Esperti’s. In turn, Esperti beat several of Altamura’s men.
On October 31, 1967, Altamura, nattily dressed in a blue silk suit, walked into the Harbor Lounge in North Bay Village when Esperti, who seated at the bar with a woman, stood up, walked behind Altamura, pulled out a .38, and pumped two bullets into his head, followed by three more shots into his back and sides, killing him. Esperti then calmly grabbed his girlfriend by the arm and walked out of the bar. Esperti was eventually convicted of murdering Altamura and sent to prison for life. He died in 2002.
In 1971, Penosi was convicted of tax evasion for not paying income taxes for several years during the 1960s. By 1980, Penosi was based in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, running his operations from Mirabelle’s restaurant on Sunset Strip. Mirabelle’s was where Quentin Tarantino wrote large parts of the script for Pulp Fiction and interviewed Samuel L. Jackson for the part as Jules Winnfield. Halle Berry was a regular and held her Oscar party for Monster’s Ball there. Jerry Brown ate there regularly, so did Lionel Richie, Madonna and Sean Penn, Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson and his entourage.
The local police considered Penosi “a lone-wolf operator” who brokered big-league drug deals and extorted entertainers when he could. Although LA had its own family, Penosi answered only to the New York Gambino’s and he was reportedly “a cash cow” for the family, but never paid a penny in tribute to the Los Angles Mob.
Piccolo started pressuring Newton’s business advisor to purchase life insurance for singer Lola Falana from a selected insurance agent. Piccolo also told some of his associates in New York that he was going to be a "silent partner" with Newton in his attempt to purchase the Aladdin Hotel and Casino (now called the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino) in Las Vegas.
The FBI was listening and on June 12, 1981, the grand jury indicted Piccolo and Penosi of Los Angeles on charges of conspiring to obtain money from Newton and Falana "with their consent, induced by the wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear."
Piccolo surrendered to police June 12, was free on $50,000 bond and was scheduled to go on trial in the early fall and it didn’t look good for the hoods. The government had more than 600 wiretapped conversations on tape in the case. The first trial resulted in a hung jury and the second trial in 1982 found Penosi not guilty on all charges. Penosi retired to the Arizona desert and died a few years later of natural causes.
The indictment may not have been the reason Piccolo was killed, as the Connecticut Attorney General assumed, but the indictment more than probably added to case of murder him.
Rumors that Piccolo was targeted for a hit had been circulating in the Bridgeport underworld for weeks before the shooting. A few days before they murdered him, two men with guns had been spotted outside a Stratford building where Piccolo was.
His power over Fairfield County and his standing within the Gambino’s had fallen greatly. Proof of that came in May of 1980 when FBI wiretaps and bugs picked up conversations that said Piccolo had become involved in a dispute with Frannie Curcio and three others over a loan to a drug dealer associated with the Curcios.
While the FBI taps were picking up conversations about a Piccolo-Curcio dispute, a separate state investigation was uncovering a plot by Catalano to rob the same Curcio-affiliated drug dealer, but the Catalano people were arrested before the robbery could take place. Piccolo wasn’t aware that Michael Catalano, Piccolo’s boss, who took over control of Connecticut in 1979, was planning a robbery on his, Piccolo's territory, involved the same drug dealer. With that sort of disrespect coming from within the Gambino’s for its own Capo, the Curcios might have smelled blood in the water and assumed Piccolo was open for the taking.
As part of the arrangement between the Gambino’s and the Genovese to divide the southwestern Connecticut market, Piccolo and Francis “Fat Frannie” Curcio, a reputed associate of the Genovese family, had done business together for years gambling, loan sharking and, according to the local newspapers, possibly selling narcotics. However, Piccolo was always the senior and more important partner.
Curcio was reportedly getting restless with the arrangement and was said to be pressing Piccolo who responded, the FBI reported from its bugs, with “a good deal of careless talk and uncharacteristic threats” which were reported back to New York. "Curcio was getting out of hand, moving in. He's not a reasonable man" the Feds reported.
In the end, Gambino Boss Paul Castellano, looked over the big picture of Frank Piccolo’s tangled criminal career and decided enough was enough. Castellano had his own experiences with Connecticut. On July 2, 1934, he drove up from his home Brooklyn to commit an armed robbery in Hartford. At that point, Castellano, 19, a drop out from the fifth grade, had learned the butchers trade from his father who also schooled him to run numbers.
At about 6 p. m. on a Monday Castellano and another young hood walked into a tailor shop on 515-A Zion Street in Hartford, Castellano pulled a pistol on the shop’s owner, Nicholas Leone, took $51 from the cash register, locked Leone in a closet and left. Witnesses said a third teen was waiting for them in the car.
He was arrested eight hours later at his home at 3230 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn because someone had given license plate number of the car Castellano was using to the police. Castellano refused to identify his two accomplices. A judge ordered him to be sent back to Connecticut where he was sentenced to one year in the Hartford County Jail. Castellano served three months, less than three months actually, before being released in December of 1934. A few years later, he was made into the Mangano Crime Family, eventually becoming a capo under boss Vince Mangano's successor, Albert Anastasia.