Mobsters in the News: Gotti Underboss Fights for Audiotapes He Says Prov...: By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.MAY 6, 2016 One evening in December 1989, John Gotti had a conversation with his acting underboss, Frank Locas...
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.MAY 6, 2016
One evening in December 1989, John Gotti had a conversation with his acting underboss, Frank Locascio, about murdering a troublesome underling in the Gambino crime family who had failed to show up to a meeting.
“Louie DiBono,” Mr. Gotti said. “You know why he’s dying? He’s gonna die because he refused to come in when I called. He didn’t do nothing else wrong.”
Mr. Locascio predicted Mr. DiBono would be bringing Mr. Gotti a large sum of cash the next day. “But I wouldn’t take nothing,” the crime boss answered, affirming in colorful language that Mr. DiBono’s days were numbered.
That taped conversation, along with the testimony of the family’s third-in-command, Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, was enough to convict Mr. Locascio of conspiring to murder Mr. DiBono, who met his end violently in a parking garage 10 months later. Mr. Locascio receiveda life sentence for murder and racketeering.
For years, Mr. Locascio, who is 83, has insisted that he tried to talk Mr. Gotti out of killing Mr. DiBono. He claims he tried to broker a deal that Mr. DiBono would pay Mr. Gotti $50,000 to make peace.
And he contends the same audiotapes used to convict him, if enhanced with modern digital techniques, would prove he is right. Many of his words are inaudible during the conversation with Mr. Gotti, swallowed up in music and background noise.
Having exhausted his other avenues of appeal, Mr. Locascio is now locked in a legal battle with the federal government over access to two of the tapes, which were sealed by Judge I. Leo Glasser in 1998. He has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Washington seeking to force the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hand over the tapes so his audio expert may analyze them with digital tools.
He faces more than legal obstacles. Justice Department lawyers said in February that the original seven inch reel-to-reel recordings made by F.B.I. agents had been damaged beyond repair when Hurricane Sandy flooded the agency’s storage facility in New Jersey. In court papers, the Justice Department has also said officials searched the 151 boxes of records from the trial and could not find copies of the two tapes Mr. Locascio is seeking.
Even if undamaged copies of the recordings are located, the Justice Department contends it does not have to release them under the FOIA, according to court papers. Though the tapes were played in court and the transcripts have been published in a book, they are now under seal and are no longer in the public domain, the government argued in court filings.
Complicating matters, F.B.I. officials in Washington handed over a redacted copy of one of the tapes on a compact disc in late March, only to ask for it back a few days later, saying they had made a mistake. On Monday, prosecutors went into Federal District Court in Brooklyn and asked Judge Glasser to order Mr. Locascio’s lawyers to return the CD.
The suit is the latest in a long series of unsuccessful attempts by Mr. Locascio’s lawyers to get a new trial. Judge Glasser and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit have repeatedly upheld his conviction — five times.
In 2011, Judge Glasser also rejected Mr. Locascio’s request to unseal the tapes, noting that his lawyers were given copies of the original recordings at trial. The judge said he had ruled against Mr. Locascio at trial when he tried to call on an audio expert to interpret the tapes for the jury. That ruling still stood, he wrote.
“This is a thinly disguised effort to re-litigate a ruling made during the trial upon which Locascio and his counsel can only be described as fixated,” he wrote.
Mr. Locascio’s lawyer, Ruth M. Liebesman, said Mr. Locascio should be able to analyze the original tapes with modern audio techniques, just as other defendants have been allowed to re-examine old DNA evidence with advanced technology. “Why shouldn’t we be able to do that with tapes as well?” she said.
The recordings were made with a bug placed in an older woman’s apartment above the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street in Little Italy in Manhattan, where Mr. Gotti held court. The jury never heard the original reel-to-reel recordings. Copies were made on cassettes, and the originals were put back in the F.B.I.’s safe at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, an agent, George Gabriel, testified.
The agent also testified the tapes had not been enhanced or altered before the jury heard them, a contention Mr. Locascio’s audio expert disputes.
Even if Mr. Locascio obtains the original tapes and can tease out a clearer recording of his words by digitally filtering out distortion and background noise, he is unlikely to persuade the courts to grant him a new trial. For starters, Mr. Gravano testified that no murders were committed without the agreement of both Mr. Gotti and Mr. Locascio.
The jury also seemed to be persuaded by an F.B.I. agent’s testimony that the December 1989 conversation between Mr. Gotti and Mr. Locascio showed the decision to kill Mr. DiBono had already been made, and no payment he might make would change the plan. Judge Glasser highlighted this point in a 2005 opinion denying Mr. Locascio a new trial.
In a 2011 affidavit supporting his request to unseal the tapes, Mr. Locascio remembered things differently. “It is my clear recollection that, after telling Gotti that ‘I predict that he’s going to bring you fifty,’ I told Gotti, in sum and substance, to take the money and forget about his anger with DiBono,” he said, adding: “I had nothing to do with the DiBono’s murder.”
For Mr. Locascio, time is growing short. Had he been convicted only of racketeering, the maximum sentence would have been 20 years and he would now be free. But the murder conviction means he will die in prison, just as John Gotti did in 2002.
Mr. Locascio is incarcerated in a prison hospital, the Federal Medical Center Devens in Ayer, Mass. To pay legal bills, his family has sold an upstate horse farm he owned. He uses a wheelchair, has emphysema and cannot stand on his own. Most days, Mr. Locascio maintains an old street tough’s optimism about his chances of release, despite the long odds, his nephew, also named Frank Locascio, said. Other days are darker.
“I only heard him down in one visit,” his nephew said. “He was saying ‘I’m the little fish in the fish tank and the water’s evaporating.’”
Angelo Bruno, Philadelphia's mob boss in the 1960s and 1970s, was killed by a shotgun blast in 1980 as he sat in a car in front of his house on 934 Snyder Avenue.
The grisly story is no doubt a point of fascination for Mafia aficionados, but it wasn't enough to land the address on Philadelphia's list of historical designations.
On Thursday, a historical landmark advisory board committee said the home of the mobster known as the "Gentle Don" was not significant enough to merit the landmark status, reports Bobby Allyn with NPR member station WHYY.
Author Celeste Morello nominated the home for inclusion on the designated list last month, positing that Bruno was an important historical figure, whose underworld dealing helped shape the way police tracked and prosecuted organized crime.
"And it's an interesting story, and the history affects all of us," Morello said, according to Allyn's February feature on the home.
"If Bruno didn't do things to make law enforcement notice him, I doubt that Philadelphia would have been one of the first organized-crime law enforcement units with a 'strike force' in the country," she said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
The logic sounds like a joke to David Fritchey, the recently retired chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force in the U.S. Attorney's Office. The newspaper wrote:
"[He] burst out in laughter last week when the Daily News informed him that Bruno's house could become a landmark.
" 'That's a little unorthodox,' he said. 'It's not like he was William Penn or Ben Franklin.'
"Bruno, who ran the Philadelphia mob through the 1960s and 1970s, was a shrewd businessman with a reputation for preferring diplomacy over violence - at least compared with bloodthirsty Nicodemo 'Little Nicky' Scarfo, who took over as mob boss in 1981.
" 'That's sort of like saying the Visigoths were nicer than the Huns,' Fritchey said of Bruno. 'He had his share of bodies.' "
At the hearing, Morello said Bruno's FBI file is part of the John F. Kennedy assassination record, and includes transcripts of conversations in which Bruno says he wanted the president killed.
"That's big. That is very significant," Morello said, according to Allyn, who reported that the committee was skeptical of Morello's reasoning:
"Committee member John Farnham said the nomination presented 'a serious of temporal coincidences involving Bruno and law enforcement developments, but doesn't really ever provide any direct link between Bruno and those developments.'
"Farnham further contended, 'Bruno may be notorious and infamous, but he is not necessarily a person of significance.'
"To that, Bruno's daughter, Jeanne Bruno, sitting in the front row of public seating, objected with an interruption.
" 'Excuse me,' Bruno said. 'I don't like the word infamous, not with my father. They could never prove murder or anything. He was against that.' "
The Mafia chief's 74-year-old daughter who still lives in the family home, said she would consider the designation "an honor" and wondered if it would warrant any tax breaks, according to The Associated Press.
The Daily News writes that other cities have historically designated buildings with certain shady histories, but not to honor criminals:
"Damaris Olivo, spokeswoman for New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, said the city has some landmarks associated with unsavory characters 'but that's not the reason why they were designated.'
"Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development, said its city council had given landmark status to buildings affiliated with gangsters such as Al Capone (the Lexington Hotel) and John Dillinger (the Biograph Theater). But, as in New York, those mob ties didn't play a role in the designation, he said.
" 'A person's affiliation with the underworld is not considered a significant contribution to the development of the city,' Strazzabosco said."
Morello, who wrote a biography of Bruno in 2005 called Before Bruno and How He Became Boss, is undeterred in her quest for recognition for the late gangster and his former home.
Allyn says Morello asked if she could "resubmit the application" with a stronger argument.
Committee member Jeffrey Cohen, a Bryn Mawr College professor of architectural history, said "I don't think you see a lot of encouragement here."
BY JOHN MARZULLI
John Gotti must be spinning in his coffin.
The late Gambino crime boss’ so-called “adopted son” Lewis Kasman is claiming credit for the FBI raiding the Florida home of a former deputy sheriff on Monday.
A spokesman for the Miami office of the FBI confirmed a search warrant was executed, but declined further comment.
But Kasman, 59, bragged to The Daily News that he had secretly recorded the ex-deputy, Mark Dougan, for the authorities in Florida.
“I did it because it was the right thing to do,” Kasman said, claiming that he suspected Dougan might be planning to harm the current sheriff and deputy sheriff of Palm Beach.
Dougan laughed off Kasman’s assertions.
“He’s a f-----g wack job,” Dougan told The News. “I knew he was recording me. That was seven months ago. He kept setting his phone on the table with the microphone toward me. He's a moron.”
Dougan said the feds and the local authorities are after him because someone hacked the personal information of law enforcement officers and dumped it on a website he previously owned.
“Kasman doesn’t know what he’s talking about," he said.
Several years ago, the feds revealed that Kasman had been a deep undercover mole, passing along information to the FBI about the Gambino family and wearing a wire that picked up Gotti’s widow Victoria, his daughter Victoria, Jeffrey Lichtman, the lawyer for Gotti’s son John, and assorted mobsters.
Licthman was amused by Kasman's latest claim of fame.
“Lewis Kasman is the kind of guy who takes credit for the sun rising every morning," Lichtman said. “He’s also the kind of guy who secretly taped and attempted to entrap me, his own lawyer, at a courthouse urinal in the middle of a trial. ... My only regret in even providing this comment is that I'll be forced to decline ten of his phone calls tomorrow."
Kasman said he helped the Florida feds to "save lives," just as he did in the past when he heard the Gambinos were going after journalists and the warden of the prison where John Gotti was serving a life sentence.
“John Gotti wouldn't be spinning in his grave for me,” Kasman insisted. “He would be spinning because of his children and their behavior.”
Bonanno mobster Ronald Giallanzo back in prison after violating release terms with appearance at Staten Island mafia Christmas bash
BY JOHN MARZULLI
The party's over for a Bonanno gangster who was caught mingling with mobsters in violation of his supervised release.
Ronald Giallanzo, a made man and the nephew of acquitted Lufthansa airport robber Vincent Asaro, was sentenced Friday to a year and one day behind bars.
The jail term was an early Christmas present for Giallanzo, 45, who was caught on surveillance camera attending the Bonanno crime family's holiday party at Bocelli's restaurant on Staten Island in December as well as three other prohibited meetings with fellow gangsters, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Gerdes.
Giallanzo, convicted of racketeering and extortion in 2007, admitted that he was meeting with people on his "do not associate list" under the terms of his prison release.
Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who has presided over the criminal cases against scores of Bonannos, said he understands full well what goes on at mob get-togethers.
"Doesn't everyone have parties in December where they pass around envelopes of money?" he said sarcastically. "You think I just got off the boat from the South Sea islands and I don't know what's going on?"
Giallanzo and his infamous Uncle Vinnie both sport the same "Death Before Dishonor" tattoos.
The prosecutors were seeking a two year term while Giallanzo's lawyer argued for the same year-and-a-day sentence that capo John Palazzolo got last year for a similar violation. But Palazzolo got a break from Garaufis because the 77-year-old mobster was afflicted with a medical condition that rendered him unable to stop urinating.
Take a tip from the Mafia: It pays to stay in school.
Mobsters with more education enjoy significantly higher earnings, according to a new paper that digs into the history of Italian American organized crime. Just one extra year in school has typically increased a gangster’s income by about 8 per cent.
The authors of the paper – Nadia Campaniello of the University of Essex, Rowena Gray of the University of California at Merced and Giovanni Mastrobuoni of the University of Essex – want to make it clear that they’re not recommending lives of crime for PhD students. But their research, presented Monday at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference in Brighton, Britain, does shed surprising light on the real-world value of school. Among other things, their findings suggest that hours spent in the classroom do generate tangible benefits later in life. That holds true even if your chosen profession happens to be on the wrong side of the law, where nobody cares if you got an A in calculus.
“The study is really about the payoff from education,” Prof. Mastrobuoni said in an interview. “We found that the extra earnings related to more years of schooling were quite large, especially in more sophisticated areas of crime.” Gangsters who engaged in more cerebral forms of larceny – fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion and counterfeiting – enjoyed an income bump of approximately 16 per cent for each additional year of education, according to the new research paper, entitled, “Did going to college help Michael Corleone?”
The starting point for the study were files compiled by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics that contained details about hundreds of Mafioso, or Mafia members, operating in 1960. “The FBN was really the first law-enforcement agency to systematically study mobsters,” Prof. Mastrobuoni said. “Back then, the FBI was busy tracking down Communists.”
The researchers painstakingly matched up the criminals listed in the old FBN files with people listed in the 1940 U.S. census, resulting in a sample of about 300 mobsters. Thanks to the census information, they could compare the criminals’ education levels, declared incomes and home values (or rent paid) against those of their non-Mafioso neighbours as well as against each other.
This rich data set also offered ingenious ways to circumvent gangsters’ propensity for not declaring all their income. The researchers could use both housing quality and neighbours’ incomes as guides to what the Mafioso were probably pulling in.
Over all, the results were clear: An extra year or two of education was linked to higher incomes for mobsters – much more so than for Italian immigrants in the legitimate U.S. economy. However, the payoff from education varied widely depending on what types of crime a mobster specialized in.
The lower-level Mafioso – the knee-cap breakers and hit men in the FBN files – derived relatively low returns to education that were roughly in keeping with those of Italian immigrants in the legal economy. In contrast, so-called business criminals, who engaged in white-collar crimes such as fraud, loan sharking and gambling, enjoyed much higher paybacks.
“These results are very consistent with our narrative that mobsters have surprisingly high returns to education because of the complex nature of the crimes and criminal network they are involved in,” the authors write.
To be sure, the results are based on findings from an era where many people didn’t finish high school. Moreover, they date from a time when ethnic discrimination was rampant, limiting the potential payoff from education in the legal job market.
However, there’s no reason to think that the payoff from education has disappeared for criminals, especially for those who operate in highly centralized hierarchies such as the Mafia, the researchers say.
“Many of the skills students acquire at school are likely to be useful when setting up a racket (i.e. extracting the optimal rent), a loan sharking business (i.e. weighing interest against default risk), a drug dealing system (i.e. setting up supply chains), etc.,” they write.
The bright spot, at least for law-abiding citizens, is that other research indicates more education also reduces a person’s risk of pursuing a life of crime in the first place.
“I like to think that the preventive effect of education is stronger than the effect we’re measuring in this study,” Prof. Mastrobuoni said.
By Mira Wassef |
MANHATTAN, N.Y.— The money flowed up to the "old boss."
Any proceeds from gambling and loansharking activities eventually made its way through the Bonanno crime family hierarchy and landed in alleged mob boss Nicholas Santora's hands, the prosecution claimed during the Bonanno mob trial Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Santora, 73, along with three alleged Bonanno associates -- Anthony "Skinny" Santoro, 52, of Great Kills, Vito Badamo, 53, and Ernest Aiello, 36 -- are on trial for enterprise corruption, including loansharking, gambling and drug dealing. They were busted in July 2013.
Detective Angelo Barone testified that Santoro and Badamo would take care of collecting money from the alleged illegal activities before giving it to "Captain Crunch" or "iron boss," which were Santora's nicknames.
"The money goes up," the detective testified. "Santoro collects the money, gives it to Badamo and a piece goes to Santora."
The state claims Santora is the crime family's ringleader. The prosecution says he was in charge of an Internet gambling site, sold prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and Viagra, on the black market, and the other three defendants were his underlings.
In a series of audio recordings, texts and surveillance, Santoro and Badamo were caught either talking about the gambling debt owed to them or exchanging money during their alleged meetings, Barone said.
In one recording, Santoro says he will take Badamo to the house of the man who owes them cash and in another wire tapped call Santoro refers to "iron," which is a mob reference to cash, the prosecution alleges.
In another conversation, Santoro and Badamo discuss taking care of the situation before it got to "front street."
"That means they wanted to take care of it before Santora got involved," Barone said.
Michael Alber, Santora's attorney, questioned Barone's analysis of the evidence and how he determined the money flow went to his client.
"Did you see anyone give Santora money?" Alber asked.
"No," Barone replied.
"When you recovered all materials from all the search warrants at the respective houses, did you see any reference to "Captain Crunch" in any of the documents you recovered?" Alber asked the detective.
"No," Barone said.
Santora, Alber also argued, is not shown in any government surveillance.
Badamo's attorney, Joseph Donatelli, said the state recovered no evidence of gambling activity when they searched his client's home and car.
"You believed you would find evidence?" Donatelli asked Barone.
"I was incorrect," the detective replied.
But, Badamo, nicknamed "Uncle Chap," was recorded talking to another Bonanno associate, Dominick Siano, about the raid.
"Uncle Chap, we got big problems," Siano says on the tape. "They got my computer, It shows I went onto the site (the alleged illegal Internet gambling site the Bonanno's ran.)
"Who else was hit by the search warrants?" Badamo asks.
Badamo's reply, the prosecution says, proves he knew about the illegal gambling site.
Testimony resumes Wednesday morning.