After the mob killed Frank Piccolo on a Bridgeport street corner September 1981 Thomas DeBrizzi of Bridgeport assumed control of the Gambino Crime Family operations in Connecticut.
DeBrizzi was a longtime associate of Frank Piccolo and had been a Made member of the Gambino family at least since 1966 and was a member of a crew within the Gambino operation run by Tommy Gambino which also included George Remini, Carmine Sciandra, Petey Castellano, Tony Megale and Giuseppe Gambino. DeBrizzi had spent the past twenty years building up a $3 million-a- gambling and loansharking operation in Stratford, Bridgeport and West Haven.
His record, which went back to 1941, included arrests for his arrests and convictions on illegal gambling, loan-sharking, racketeering and weapons charges. In 1952 he was arrested for transporting a woman from Augusta, Ga., to Richmond. Va., for the purpose of prostitution. In 1958, he was found guilty on charges of assault and breach in connection with two separate disturbances. In 1969, a federal "anti-loansharking" statute was used for the first time in Connecticut against DeBrizzi and his partner in crime Angelo D. DeStafano. A three-count indictment charged the two. The statue had been used only several times throughout the country. In April of 1984, state police raided six homes in a crackdown on illegal gambling including DeBrizzi’s Stratford home at 111 Hollister Street where the cops confiscated $77,000 in cash, three handguns and betting slips.
In 1985 he was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of illegally possessing firearms, two .38-caliber and a .44-caliber. At the time he was serving a 90-day sentence at the Community Correctional Center in New Haven on state racketeering and professional gambling charges. Possession of the unregistered guns…. DeBrizzi was a convicted felon and not allowed to own any weapons, registered or not……cost him 24 months in state prison.
Since DeBrizzi was released from federal prison in Danbury in August after serving 18 months for firearms violations, he had been slipping quietly into retirement. Cooking became his principal hobby and the 5-foot-9 gangster had put an additional 70 pounds. His appearance, once natty, was no longer so, he often used a cane, and he kept a much lower profile.
His base of power had also eroded while he was jail. "He had no muscle," said Stamford Deputy Police Chief George Mayer. "His guys were either in jail or they had gotten old. He was all alone." Seeing that, Megale started taking control over some of DeBrizzi's bookmaking and sports-betting operations in Stamford
For several years no one in law enforcement and very few in the underworld knew why DeBrizzi, a high ranking big earner Gambino Capo was killed. The only thing that was certain was that his murder was sanctioned by the Gambino command.
The Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano, John Gotti's hand-picked successor, stepped forward as a cooperating federal witness said that Gotti authorized DeBrizzi murder.
Gravano said that DeBrizzi “has to go” because he “failed come in when he was called”another words, Gotti had summoned DeBrizzi down to New York to see him but DeBrizzi refused to go. Gotti later added that DeBrizzi had not “conducted himself properly when he was in jail”
Gambino headquaters in New York where DeBrizzi was supposed to report every Tuesday
Gotti called in George Remini and said that he had called in DeBrizzi three times and DeBrizzi never came in because in the past the family underboss, Tommy Bilotti, gave DeBrizzi the choice of coming or not coming in. But Gotti had killed Bilotti (below) and the rules had changed.
Gotti was also upset because Phil Loscalzo and Giuseppe Gambino were helping DeBrizzi's run his operation in Connecticut without Gotti’s consent. Remini is supposed to have argued on behalf of DeBrizzi, urging Gotti to demote the old man from Capo to solider.
But Gotti wouldn’t hear it. He wanted DeBrizzi dead because he wanted to send a message within his family that when John Gotti spoke, they were to listen and do as he commanded.
At midday on January 30, a Saturday, DeBrizzi arrived at his wife Veronica’s dress shop with of his closest ally and associate, Harry Riccio, a one-time prizefighter with a record for receiving stolen goods, loan sharking and gambling. He was also one of Tony Megale's subordinates in the Fairfield County Gambino crew. Megale would eventually take over all Gambino operations in Connecticut. In 1990, Riccio would be sentenced to 57 months in jail plus a $55,000 fine for gambling and loan sharking.
On that day, DeBrizzi told his wife that he and Riccio were going shopping for a Super Bowl dinner he planned. In fact, he may have actually gone shopping because later, investigators noted that a case of soda had to be removed from the car's trunk and placed in the back seat to make room for DeBrizzi's body.
Riccio, of Bridgeport, told investigators he last saw DeBrizzi at a Howard Johnson restaurant in Stamford where they had stopped to eat. There. DeBrizzi borrowed a car belonging to a friend of Riccio, said he needed it for a half an hour and asked Riccio to wait for him at the Howard Johnson’s.
On February 5, 1988, DeBrizzi’s frozen body was found in the trunk of the car he had borrowed in Trumbull Shopping Park. He had been shot six times. Twice in the head and four times in the back and chest.