Godfather


'The Godfather' Anniversary: Fact and Fiction
"My Mafia is a very romanticized myth," said "Godfather" novelist Mario Puzo, who claimed that he had never met any actual mobsters when he wrote his bestseller, and that his accounts of lurid crimes were based on archival research and imagination. Nor did Francis Ford Coppola have any direct knowledge of mob life when he and Puzo adapted the novel into a screenplay. Yet 40 years later, "The Godfather" is widely considered one of the most accurate movies about the Mafia, even though all its characters are fictional. Part of that is canny mythmaking on the part of Puzo and Coppola, but much of it comes from the real-life Mafia lore that is only thinly disguised in the movie. Which of the movie's notorious deeds are based on fact, and which are invented out of whole cloth? Read on.

The Don
Aside from big events like his daughter's wedding, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is a quiet man who keeps a low profile, running his crime empire from his unassuming olive oil import storefront. Coppola has said he's a combination of mid-century crime bosses Vito Genovese (who like his fictional counterpart, eschewed drug dealing) and Joe Prifaci. Another likely inspiration is Carlo Gambino, another quiet, unflashy man who, through assassinations and betrayals, became head of the mob family that bears his name and the most powerful Mafioso in New York. LIke Brando's character, Gambino lived on a suburban estate outside Manhattan and died peacefully of a heart attack when he was old and still a free man.

The Five Families
The business meeting where Vito calls together the heads of the mob families (the five New York families and others from around the country) is based on similar real-life meetings. "The Commission" was the name the Mafia gave to the ruling council that included the five New York families and the families from other territories. As in the movie, the Commission existed to settle disputes. Unlike in the movie, there was no moral squeamishness among Commission members over drug dealing, and mob-related narcotics busts were frequent. There were occasional bans on drug trafficking, but only because sentences were so severe that they were an incentive for indicted mob soldiers to turn state's evidence.

The Restaurant
The turning point of "The Godfather" comes when Michael (Al Pacino) lures two of his enemies to an outer-borough Italian restaurant and shoots them with a gun planted in the bathroom. That's more or less how one of the most pivotal hits in mob history went down. In 1931, Lucky Luciano met old-time boss Giuseppe Masseria at a Coney Island eatery called Nuovo Villa Tammaro. He excused himself to go to the bathroom, and that's when the hit happened. Luciano wasn't one of the shooters; the assassination was carried out by Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, Albert Anastasia, and Bugsy Siegel. That whacking made Luciano and his hit squad the new leaders of organized crime in New York and gave rise to the modern Mafia.

The Exile
After the hit, Michael flees to Sicily. He seems to be emulating Vito Genovese, who ran off to Italy in 1937 to evade murder charges. During the war, however, he helped U.S. Army Intelligence by putting local black marketeers out of business (and secretly taking control of their operations). The government dropped the charges against him, allowing him to return to America. Lucky Luciano also went to Italy, having been deported in 1946. He never returned to America, but he continued to exert influence from abroad, working with Meyer Lansky to invest in casinos in Cuba (as Michael Corleone did with Hyman Roth, the Lansky-like character in "The Godfather Part II"). Like Michael, Luciano fell in love with a much younger Italian woman and lived with her until her death. Unlike in "The Godfather," they were never married, and she died of breast cancer, not a car bomb.

The Casino Mogul
Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) is credited in the movie with helping to build Las Vegas. He's clearly an analogue for Bugsy Siegel, the Jewish mobster who was an associate of Meyer Lansky's (as Greene was with Hyman Roth), and who is credited with putting Las Vegas on the map by building the Flamingo, the hotel/casino/nightclub that was the model for every modern-day resort on the Strip. In the film, Greene is famously shot to death through the eye at his casino for having moved against the Corleones. In real life, Siegel was shot over the cost overruns of the Flamingo, and he was killed by four shots from a sniper while sitting on the living room couch of his girlfriend's home in Beverly Hills.

The Barbershop
One of the climactic murders of the Corleone rivals takes place in a hotel barbershop. That's an apparent reference to the 1957 murder of Albert Anastasia, shot in a barber's chair at New York's Park Sheraton hotel while he relaxed with his eyes closed. The hit was ordered by Vito Genovese and organized by Carlo Gambino, who would take over from Anastasia as head of the crime family. The chair is currently on display at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which opened just last month.

The Crooner
Was Johnny Fontane -- the crooner who set bobby-soxers' hearts fluttering, but who enlisted the Godfather's help to win a movie role that would revive his flagging career -- based on Frank Sinatra? Sinatra certainly thought so. He sued to stop production of the movie and, upon meeting Mario Puzo at Chasen's restaurant in Hollywood, threatened to break the author's legs.

It's certainly true that, in the early 1950s, Sinatra's career was in the dumps. Then he won the coveted role of bullied soldier Maggio in Columbia's "From Here to Eternity." The part earned him an Oscar and put him back on top of the showbiz heap for the rest of his long career. "Godfather" viewers have seen similarities between Jack Woltz, the Hollywood mogul who initially refuses to hire Fontane, and Harry Cohn, the Columbia studio chief who, like Woltz, had a fondness for young starlets. But there's no evidence that anyone coerced Cohn to get Sinatra the part. The horse's head in the bed? That's an invention of Puzo's.

There's also a story Michael tells Kay about Fontane that may be closer to the truth, a story involving the Godfather sending scary Luca Brasi to threaten a bandleader who wouldn't let the singer out of an unfair contract. That echoes a story often told about Sinatra's release from his contract with Tommy Dorsey, who initially refused to let the singer buy his way out of their pact for $60,000 in 1943. According to at least one SInatra biography, Dorsey was visited by three gangsters, one of whom may have been New Jersey boss Willie Moretti. They stuck a gun in the bandleader's mouth and made him what Vito Corleone would call "an offer he can't refuse." Soon, Dorsey let Sinatra buy out his contract -- for $1.

Al Martino, the crooner-turned-actor who played Johnny Fontane, insisted that the character was actually based on him. He, too, was a teen idol who had a No. 1 single, "Here in My Heart," in 1952. As Martino recounted in a 2009 interview, that was the year that two thugs turned up on his manager's doorstep, threatening him until he gave them Martino's contract for free. Martino tried to fire them as managers, but they beat him when he was booked at a mobbed-up nightclub in Atlantic City. He signed an I.O.U. for $80,000, then fled to England, staying there for six years until he negotiated with another mob boss for his safe return.

Martino even claimed to have pulled a Johnny Fontane in order to get the role of Johnny Fontane, asking "my Godfather, Russ Bufalino" (the Philadelphia crime boss) to pressure "Godfather" producer Al Ruddy to hire him. Coppola's choice had reportedly been crooner Vic Damone, who backed out, supposedly after learning that the Mafia was officially backing Martino for the role.

Martino complained, however, that his part had been trimmed. He blamed pressure from Sinatra, in the form of the Chairman's lawsuit against the producers and physical threats to Puzo. But Coppola said that "Johnny Fontane's role was only minimized by [Martino's] inexperience as an actor."

The Sequels
Much of the plot of "The Godfather Part II" involves Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), who, like the real Meyer Lansky, claimed to be a mere Florida pensioner, rather than one of the architects of the modern Mafia. The flashback parts of the movie, in which young Vito (Robert De Niro) rises to power in Little Italy by killing an old-school don, aren't inspired by any particular Mafioso, though there were many who terrorized the neighborhood as members of the so-called "Black Hand." Unlike Don Fanucci, they weren't flashy and conspicuous but preferred to operate in the shadows.

A major plot strand of "The Godfather Part III" centers on a banking scandal involving the Vatican and the Italian Mafia, something that happened in real life in the 1980s. There's also the character of Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna), a well-dressed mob capo who seems clearly modeled on "the dapper don," 1980s New York crime boss John Gotti.

The ultimate irony of the "Godfather" films is that real-life mobsters began to emulate the characters -- for instance, drressing better and dropping their "dese-dem-dose" locutions for the more formal, cultivated speech patterns of the Corleones. "The Godfather" might not have been based entirely on reality and truth, but eventually, it became real and true.

Guilty-conscience mob rat commits suicide




By JOSH MARGOLIN, REUVEN FENTON and TODD VENEZIA

He was a mob rat who needed redemption.

A guilt-ridden Gambino crime family member who spent two years wearing a wire for the FBI was found dead in an apparent suicide before he could testify against a bunch of his underworld cronies — including two bosses, sources said yesterday.

But Nicholas “Nicky Skins” Stefanelli, 69 — who was found dead on Feb. 26 at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel in Rutherford, NJ — finished one more piece of murderous Mafia business before he went.

Two days earlier, Stefanelli shot and killed Joseph Rossi Sr., a Bloomfield, NJ, businessman he blamed for the 2010 drug arrest that forced him to become a turncoat, the sources said.

Stefanelli’s death, which was first reported by Gang Land News, has thrown several mob prosecutions into chaos.

He made secret recordings of wiseguys from Philadelphia to Providence while mostly operating in New Jersey — but was also needed to testify against the targets.

While some cases have been crippled, the feds will try to use his recordings to prosecute Philadelphia-area mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and former New England boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.

Sources told Gang Land News that federal agents believe Nicky Skins was having second thoughts about betraying fellow mobsters.

“After cooperating for two years, he had pangs of guilt and decided to kill himself to make things right,” a source told the Web site. “But first, he just had to get even with the guy he thought had fingered him.”

A law enforcement source told The Post the FBI is furious over his death.

“They are not happy about it,” the source said. “They had a lot of cases going. They were not thrilled about this at all. ”

Nicky, who was a made member of the Gambino crime family, turned rat after both he and his son, Nicholas Stefanelli Jr., were arrested in 2010 in connection with a drug operation.

The elder Stefanelli agreed to don a wire so his son wouldn’t be hit with charges, according to Gang Land News.

Stefanelli’s body was found around 11 a.m., when a woman believed to be his daughter called the Renaissance hotel front desk to say he was unconscious, the general manager Toni Pinto said.

“She was totally hysterical and crying and screaming. She kept saying that he wasn’t breathing. That’s all she was saying. So we immediately called 911,” Pinto said, adding that Stefanelli appeared to have been dead for a few hours.

“He died peacefully, that I can tell you,” he said. “There was no foul play. The room wasn’t disturbed. There was nothing.”

Officials do not believe Nicky Skins was murdered and are awaiting toxicology reports to confirm his death was a suicide.

Federal sources believe he likely died from a drug overdose.

Sources told The Post that Stefanelli had “paid for his own funeral three or four days before” he died — further evidence of a suicide.

Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to figure out how Nicky Skins managed to kill Rossi.

The 58-year-old was gunned down inside a Bloomfield building where he operated a coin-operated machine distribution business.

Sources said there will be an internal review of the investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department to determine how a federal informant was able to go out and kill someone without being stopped.

Stefanelli was not under federal watch at the time of the Rossi killing.

“You can’t keep somebody locked down 24/7,” a source said. “The FBI has thousands of sources all over.”

Another source said: “This is sensitive. It’s ugly. It’s bad.”

It was also all for nothing.

If Stefanelli hoped his suicide would earn him forgiveness from the mobsters he backstabbed, he was dead wrong.

An underworld source told Gang Land that the wiseguys still think “he was no good.”



Mobster’s ‘hit’ tricks




By MITCHEL MADDUX and DAN MANGAN

So, like any good artisan, a coldblooded mob killer turned government witness was quick to correct a badgering defense attorney when he failed to mention a tool of the trade.

“How many people have you killed?” asked defense lawyer Sam Braverman yesterday in Brooklyn federal court — where his client, Dino “Little Dino” Saracino and alleged Colombo acting boss Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli are on trial in six gangland murders, including the rubout of a cop.

“I’ve had involvement with eight — I personally killed three,” former capo Dino “

Calabro has said he and his cousin murdered NYPD Officer Ralph Dols on Gioeli’s orders in 1997.

Braverman later asked, “You used your hands, you used bats, you used guns, you used pipes . . . ?” — prompting Calabro, 45, to interject.

Braverman, Calabro indicated, was leaving out another weapon he had used — a piece of lead wrapped in leather.

“I bought it in a head shop,” he said of the bludgeoning tool.

“It’s what police carry,” Calabro said, as he fumbled and mumbled but couldn’t come up with the name of that weapon — blackjack or sap.

While Calabro couldn’t recall its name, he did readily remember using it to wallop someone over the head with it.

But all that’s in the past, Calabro assured Braverman.

“I committed horrible, heinous crimes,” the Sicilian-born killer testified. “I’m ashamed of them.”

Asked what motivated him to cooperate with the FBI, Calabro, who is hoping for leniency in his sentencing, said, “Who wouldn’t want to be home with their wife and children?”

“I’m working on changing my life, sir,” he added.

In addition to ratting out his own flesh-and-blood Saracino, Calabro’s testimony could doom Gioeli — his mob mentor, close friend and literally the “godfather” to two of Calabro’s sons.

Evidence of Calabro’s close, personal ties to Gioeli were entered into evidence yesterday — several photographs of the two men together, with children at Disney World, at a restaurant and in other social settings.

“These photographs were stolen by your wife, isn’t that right?” Gioeli’s lawyer, Adam Perlmutter, asked the turncoat.

Calabro — though he earlier freely admitted he was a murderer — muttered that his wife was not a crook.







New Jersey law enforcement group gives citizenship award to reputed mobster Frank DiMattina

He's a convicted gun-toting extortionist and a reputed mobster, but that didn’t stop a New Jersey statewide law enforcement group from saluting a local caterer as “honored citizen of the month.”

Frank (Frankie D) DiMattina was nominated for the award from the New Jersey Honor Legion — a nonprofit with more than 6,000 members in law enforcement — on Feb. 1, three weeks after his Jan. 6 conviction for using a gun to shake down a rival bidder for a Staten Island school lunch contract.

In a bid for leniency on the extortion rap, DiMattina has sent a copy of the plaque he received — and a video of the Feb. 22 award ceremony — to Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein.

Sentencing on the conviction is set for Monday, and DiMattina could face up to seven years.

Local cop Kim Latkovich nominated DiMattina, the owner of Ariana’s catering hall in Woodbridge, N.J., because he and business partner Joseph Barrile had “consistently answered the call to open their facility and staff for the benefit of police, fire, EMS and the community in general,” according to court papers his lawyer submitted.

Federal prosecutors have a less rosy view of DiMattina. They allege he is a mobbed-up caterer linked to powerful Genovese capo John (Johnnie Sausage) Barbato and former underboss Venero (Benny Eggs) Mangano.

The award has raised questions about the police honor legion’s first vice president, Jeffrey Marsella, a sergeant with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The Genovese crime family has had deep hooks on the docks for decades, and both Barbato and Mangano are longtime waterfront racketeers.

“It’s very embarrassing,” said a Waterfront Commission source.

But Waterfront Commissioner Executive Director Walter Arsenault said Marsella contends he had nothing to do with picking DiMattina for the honor.

“Upon learning of this matter, the commission commenced and is conducting an internal investigation,” he said in a statement.

“Sgt. Marsella has indicated to us that he has not personally met, written a letter on behalf of, or presented any honorary plaque to Frank DiMattina.”

DiMattina, 44, who aspired to star in a reality TV show featuring his catering hall, is facing foreclosure of his home and owes the government millions for small-business loans, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Dennehy said in court.

Hard up or not, DiMattina traveled to Brooklyn Federal Court each day of the three-day trial in a chauffeured limousine.

Defense lawyer Lawrence Schoenbach acknowledged the Honor Legion’s award is “remarkable” for its timing shortly after DiMattina’s conviction.

DiMattina, who denies he’s a mob associate, has filed a motion to set aside the verdict, claiming he now has an alibi for the day he was convicted of threatening the extortion victim.

His lawyer has submitted sworn affidavits from catering hall employees stating that DiMattina was in New Jersey and not Staten Island on the day rival school-lunch bidder Walter Bowers was threatened.

At the time of the extortion, DiMattina was licensed by the NYPD to carry a firearm because he had been robbed.

Marsella, Latkovich and Honor Legion President James Kostoplis could not be reached for comment. The honor legion’s website was taken down Friday after The News made inquiries about DiMattina’s citation.




Firefighter, three geriatric gangsters accused of running gambling ring for Genovese crime family

 'They’ve been using the same simple formula since 1975'

A New York City firefighter and three geriatric gangsters were busted in the Bronx Thursday for allegedly running a $2 million-a-year gambling and loansharking ring for the Genovese crime family.

Mob associate Joseph (Joe Sass) Sarcinella, 77, who prosecutors say ran the sports book, has been busted twice before — once in the mid-1970s for running a $50 million operation for Vincent (The Chin) Gigante.

“They’ve been using the same simple formula since 1975,” said one source involved in the Bronx probe.

In 2001, the wiseguy was nailed again for running a $10 million gambling ring in Bronxdale. He pleaded guilty the next year, and served four months — one weekend at a time.

In the 73-page indictment, the Bronx district attorney charged that the eight-man crew — three older than 75 — levied exorbitant interest, sometimes 100% of the bet. The old men sometimes met at Veniero’s on E. 11th St.

"They would summon their loan shark victims to come and settle up," at the pastry shop,”where they nibbled pastry and talked business police said.

Bruno (Cola) Totino, 81, Dominick (Pepe) Pietranico, 81, John D’Abrosio, 54, Frank Mastracchio, 56, Dominick (Whitey) Totino, 44, and Thomas McMahon, 29, were all charged with loansharking and promoting gambling and racketeering - a felony carrying a maximum 25 prison stretch.

McMahon, 29, a seven-year vet of the FDNY assigned to Ladder 38 in Belmont, acted as a runner, collecting bets on the streets and paying out winnings, according to the indictment. He was suspended for 30 days, the Fire Department said.

Prosecutors caught the gangsters on wire tapes shaking down sports gamblers for big money.

“They specialized in football but they took bets on everything,” the source said. “These guys have been doing this for a hundred years. “These are old hands for the family. They’re old pros.”

The operation ran between 2009 and 2011, taking the action through a social club and two offices in Pelham Gardens and Fordham Heights.

McMahon’s uncle, Mastracchio, 56, was also busted for criminal possession of a weapon after cops found a sawed-off shotgun and a pistol in his Bronx home.

McMahon could not be reached for comment..

Murray Richman, the lawyer for all the men except the firefighter, declined to comment.

In the social club on 1480 Mace Ave. Thursday night where bets were allegedly collected, five guys were screaming at each other over the bust.

One man was slammed his hand against the wall and screamed at another “You know how much f--king money that is!”

“You should have f--king known!” a second guy screamed.

But they calmed down when approached by a News reporter.

“Talk to the lawyer,” one of the men said. “There wasn't anything illegal happening here.”

Another man headed to the nearby bodega where he purchased 15 scratch tickets.

Julius Bernstein was the last Jewish mobster





Julius Bernstein was a relic of a different era: Raised in the Depression, a genuine World War II hero — and the last of New York’s great Jewish gangsters.

While the Brooklyn native connived for decades in anonymity, his once-secret FBI file — obtained by the Daily News — exposes for the first time a life devoted to earning crooked cash with the Genovese family.

Pages of confidential documents provided via the Freedom of Information Law detail Bernstein’s extraordinary mob life and times:

l Shaking down the Sbarro restaurant chain for cash payoffs across four decades.

l Seizing control of a bus drivers’ union to amass an illegal fortune.

l Working side-by-side with legendary Gambino family capo Matthew Ianniello.

When he finally flipped and became a federal informant shortly before his October 2007 death, no one was more surprised than the gangster known as Spike.

“Wiseguys trust me,” he said on his first day as a turncoat. “That’s why sitting here is killing me.”

Bernstein was born in 1922, before New York’s five Mafia families even existed, and lived long enough to see both the rise and not-quite fall of La Cosa Nostra.

He grew up in gritty East New York in the 1930s, when it was an Italian/Jewish neighborhood and underworld breeding ground.

Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel partnered with Italian mobsters like Charles (Lucky) Luciano. Louis (Lepke) Buchalter ran Murder Inc., a franchise of Jewish and Italian assassins.

Bernstein, after storming the beach at Normandy with U.S. forces on D-Day, formed his own alliance in a midtown restaurant owned by a kindred spirit: Matthew Ianniello.

To his Genovese crime family friends, Ianniello was known as Matty the Horse, a mob up-and-comer who would someday control most of the strip clubs and bars in Times Square.

The two fast friends shared an imposing presence: The 6-foot Spike looked like a longshoreman, while the 6-foot-1 Matty was built like a refrigerator.

Matty served as best man at Spike’s wedding, but there was one thing he couldn’t do for his pal: Bring Bernstein into the Mafia. His Jewish heritage meant Spike would never be a made man.

Bernstein served instead as an “associate,” one of the hangers-on who generate much of the cash that funds organized crime.

“I’ve been a thief all my life,” Bernstein once bragged.

Bernstein was busy doing what he described to the FBI as “street stuff” when his big criminal break came in 1971.

The Genovese were seizing control of labor unions to fatten their bankroll, and Spike was installed at Local 1181 — a school bus drivers’ union that became a crime family ATM.

Over the next 35 years, Bernstein squeezed every illegal penny possible out of the union. His salary ballooned to $216,000 a year, and he drove a union Lincoln Continental.

He shook down bus company owners, uniform makers and a medical clinic.

The mob connection was barely hidden. The Horse was spotted at a union Christmas party, and tooled around in his own union-owned Lincoln.

The friendship was mutually beneficial. Bernstein, after he was “put with” Matty, earned enough trust to manage the bookmaking operation of the then-Genovese boss Frank (Funzi) Tieri.

Bernstein says it was Tieri who told him about the family’s decades-long shakedown of the Sbarro restaurant chain.

The now-global Sbarro empire opened in 1959 as a single Italian grocery in Bensonhurst. As it grew, the family focused on placing restaurants in malls and rest stops — a strategy that paid off dramatically.

Sbarro went public in 1977; by 1991, the company was opening 75 to 100 stores each year.

The Sbarro brothers, Mario, Joseph and Anthony, took the company private in 1999, and continued to run it through 2006.

Bernstein told the FBI that the “protection” payoffs began in the 1960s. By 2004, they were paying $20,000 a year — money that Bernstein paid to recent Genovese boss Dominic (Quiet Dom) Cirillo inside the bathroom of a City Island seafood restaurant.

Bernstein said Cirillo ordered him to take over collecting the two annual payments of $10,000 from someone named Angelo. When Spike met with Angelo, the man gave him $10,000 cash and told him the money was from the Sbarro brothers.

Law enforcement sources confirm Angelo was Angelo Aquilino, a Genovese associate later convicted of shaking down a bakery and a contractor — but not the Sbarros.

The payments appeared to have ended soon after Bernstein met with Cirillo.

Before Christmas 2004, when the second payment was expected, Angelo told Bernstein the Sbarros were refusing to pay and asked for help in collecting.

Bernstein, fearing Angelo was now an FBI cooperator, told Cirillo about his concerns and the matter was quickly dropped.

The Sbarro brothers sold the chain to a private equity firm in 2006 for $450 million. An email sent to Mario Sbarro for comment on the tale went unanswered last week.

The Sbarro shakedown was hardly Bernstein’s first foray into extortion. Twice during his 50-year mob career, Spike beat a pair of extortion raps.

In 1968 Bernstein and three others — including Tony the Gawk — tried to squeeze weekly payments from a man named Saul, owner of the Happy Burger. Saul was told if he didn’t cough up $100 a week, his “head would be put through a cigarette machine.”

After a Brooklyn district attorney’s detective showed up at Happy Burger to interview Saul, Tony the Gawk and Spike returned.

“I ought to cut your heart out for talking to the cops,” an FBI memo quotes Tony as saying.

Cops found two guns in Spike’s car, with Bernstein and his cohorts arrested first by the Brooklyn district attorney and then by the FBI.

FBI records obtained by the News show that — for reasons unexplained — all the state and federal charges against Bernstein were dropped.

In 1975, Bernstein and Ianniello, were charged with shaking down a trucking firm and coat company in Manhattan’s Garment District.

Both companies were actually law enforcement fronts.

Ianniello, Bernstein and two others took the case to trial — and won acquittals.

FBI records from 1977 show the feds dropped yet another investigation of Bernstein, this time involving participating in alleged shakedowns of city restaurants via the Italian American Restaurant Employees Union Local 711.

The gangster’s luck finally ran out in July 2005 when Spike had reached the long-past-retirement age of 82.

After his arrest for union corruption, Bernstein faced up to 20 years in prison — a life sentence at his age.

He pleaded guilty to several extortion charges in 2006 — including the Sbarro shakedown — and made an extraordinary decision:

Bernstein decided to spill his guts to the FBI.

But he never quite reformed. Eight months after flipping, Bernstein took a $20,000 payment from a bus company owner inside a bathroom at the Staten Island Hilton.

At 7:04 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2007, Bernstein died at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. He was 85, and was buried days later in the New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island.

He died without ever taking the witness stand to implicate his cohorts

How Colombo not-so-wiseguy got too big for his britches and Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli ‘de-pantsed’ him

Jurors at mob slay trial hear that accused killer Gioeli let blabbing baker off with a dressing down

BY JOHN MARZULLI / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Colombo boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli humiliated a baker who was falsely saying he was a made member of the family to "go in the corner ... and don't come out. I want you to behave," a witness told jurors at Gioeli's murder trial.

JURORS IN A Colombo crime boss’ trial Thursday heard the never-before-told story of how Louie Cannoli got creamed.

The Bronx baker should consider himself lucky that he didn't end up the seventh DOA on crime boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli’s alleged hit parade of victims who crossed the crime family.

In what may be a fate worse than death for a mobster, though, Louie Cannoli got “de-pantsed” — humiliated — for his transgression, a turncoat witness testified at Gioeli’s trial.

“Cannoli,” whose legal name is Calogero Borgognone, was blabbing that he was a made member of the Colombo family when he was actually a mere mob associate, witness Reynold Maragni explained.

Gioeli summoned Borgognone to a sitdown at La Palina restaurant in Brooklyn sometime in 2007 where he dressed down the baker.

“(Gioeli’s) exact words were he was told to, ‘Go in the corner and stay there and don’t come out. I want you to behave.’ ”

“That’s enough to embarrass a man and de-pants him,” Maragni said, explaining that the rebuke was delivered in front of five Colombo made men.

Defense lawyer Sam Braverman, who represents co-defendant Dino Saracino, asked the witness what the penalty is for claiming you’re a goodfella when you’re not.

“It could range from a kick in the pants to whatever,” Maragni said.

Borgognone, who makes the pastries at his son’s restaurant Patricia’s on Morris Park Ave., could not be reached for comment.

But his son Alex Borgognone said, “I don’t even know what the Colombo family is, have a good day,” before hanging up.

Then Alex Borgognone called back to say: “I’m sure my father was never in any meetings at restaurants, and it’s coming from a witness that’s a rat.”

Maragni acknowledged that he has no personal knowledge of Gioeli’s involvement in gangland murders except for secretly taping soldier Vincent Manzo, who revealed Gioeli’s role in the 1999 rubout of capo William (Wild Bill) Cutolo.


'Mob Wives' reality show star Renee Graziano has meltdown in federal court

'Mob Wives' reality show star Renee Graziano has meltdown in federal court

BY JOHN MARZULLI / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"Mob Wives" reality show star Renee Graziano cried a river in federal court Tuesday for her wiseguy father, who was secretly recorded by his scheming former son-in-law.

Graziano, wearing a plush fur coat, covered her face with both hands and wept when the prosecutor discussed her ex-hubby Hector Pagan’s taping of Bonanno gangsters — including her capo father Anthony (TG) Graziano and the crime family’s reputed boss, Vincent (Vinny TV) Badalamenti.

PHOTOS: WOMEN AND THE MOB

Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, Graziano looked straight ahead and did not glance at the relatives of the other indicted gangsters sitting around her in the courtroom.

“I don't feel uncomfortable around anybody,” Graziano said later. “I send my apologies and I feel horrible, but I’m not responsible (for Pagan’s treachery). I didn’t do anything.

“But I can understand they may feel uncomfortable around me,” she added.

Her surprise appearance at a routine status conference surprised some observers.

 “She’s the one with the fake face and the black shoe polish hair, right?” snipped a lawyer.

A gossip Web site had reported that she suffered a panic attack last month when prosecutors unsealed the indictment against her father, although Pagan’s double-crossing had been known since Anthony Graziano’s arrest two months ago.

Pagan wore a hidden wire since at least last August, recording incriminating conversations about extortions and the armed robbery of a Bonanno-controlled illegal social club, according to court papers.

But Renee Graziano insists she’s not a drama queen.

“This is real life — this is reality,” she said. “If I had known what (Pagan) had done, I would have told my father, 100%.

“He (Pagan) is dead wrong,” she continued. “My son loved his dad. He’s destroyed by this.”

Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri disclosed in court that the feds have a reality show of their own — a videotape of federal agents executing a search warrant at Badalamenti’s social club in Bensonhurst two years ago.

Renee Graziano’s co-stars include Karen Gravano — the daughter of mob rat-of-all rats Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano, who testified against the late John Gotti — and the wives of a couple of Mafia wannabes. The show was created by Renee’s sister Jennifer.