Italy’s Mob Extends its reach

 Organized crime in Italy has extended its reach into nearly every aspect of life, from coffee to livestock—and the recession is only making it stronger.

Every four hours, seven days a week, one of Italy’s organized-crime syndicates commits an unforgiveable offense against the environment. The crimes by the eco-mafia and agro-mafia run the gamut from the blatant dumping of toxic chemicals on protected national parkland and working farmland to the more subtle influence the mob has on everything from trucking and transportation to the illicit importation of fillers used in coffee, pasta, and even sugar.

“Coffee, water, fruit, bread, milk, meat, cheese, and even biscuits are all products of organized crime,” says author and journalist Roberto Saviano, who lives under police protection after receiving death threats from the Neapolitan Camorra, one of Italy's Naples-based organized-crime syndicates. Other groups include Sicily's Cosa Nostra and Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta. “The breadbasket of the Camorra, Cosa Nostra, the 'Ndrangheta touches every aspect of a typical day of an ordinary citizen. Every gesture, from the first that we do in the morning until dinner, may enrich the clan without our knowledge.”

Earlier this month, Italy’s foremost environmental group, Legambiente, issued its annual eco-mafia report on the mob’s illicit impact on the environment in 2011. Not only did eco-mafia crimes grow by 10 percent over the previous year but new categories were created, meaning the mob’s tentacles have reached even further into the fabric of Italian society thanks to a burgeoning economic crisis.

When banks and financial institutions are unwilling to help out small businesses, the mob fills the vacuum. Collectively, Italy’s various mob rings earned €16.6 billion in 2011, an astonishing figure considering the country’s deep recession. Nearly 20 local governments across Italy were taken over by mafia infiltration, according to the report, and there is a worrying increase in the illegal trafficking of art and lifestock, not to mention the rogue burning of over 150,000 acres of land to clear the way for illegal construction. According to Saviano, who wrote the preface for the eco-mafia report, no one cares. “The clans’ impact has been forgotten, removed, erased from the collective memory,” he says. “No one even remembers when this phenomenon started, it is so common now, like a faraway ghost.”

Saviano painted a disturbing picture of just how integrated the mob has become in the lives of citizens by tracing its imprint on everything an average Italian consumes in one day.

In all, there were 33,817 known infractions against the environment in 2011, mostly centered in Italy’s southern provinces of Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily. But despite the increase in crimes, there was a decrease in investigations and arrests–especially in the illegal trafficking of waste, which is the mob’s primary business. Both Naples and Rome are teetering on the edge of serious garbage crises, unmanageable by the local governments that are unable to build adequate landfills and incinerators because of the dense population in the cities’ hinterlands. The report suggests the mob may be holding both cities hostage, which it says explains why the number of investigations into known crimes like the illegal dumping of toxins may be down.

Another worrying indicator underscoring Italy’s complicated relationship with organized crime is the steady increase in allegations of crimes within the gastronomic sector. Last week, Giuseppe Mandara, often called the “Armani of Mozzarella” for his influence in shaping the wide popularity of buffalo mozzarella in the global market, was arrested on suspicion of Mafia collusion for allegedly entering into an illicit business arrangement with the Camorra’s powerful Casalesi clan. Mandara’s group, which exports the famous cheese worldwide, is one of Italy's most important mozzarella makers. The $123 million company was seized by Italian police last week, stopping production and exports. In addition to being accused of mafia collusion, Mandara is also under investigation for threatening public health by allowing the contamination of two tons of mozzarella with ceramic fragments from a broken piece of machinery. He is also accused of cutting corners in the production of his famous cheese, in some cases using cow’s milk instead of the richer buffalo milk that gives the cheese its creamy texture.

In an article in Monday’s La Repubblica, Saviano painted a disturbing picture of just how integrated the mob has become in the lives of citizens by tracing its imprint on everything an average Italian consumes in one day, starting with a cup of espresso coffee, which, he says, has likely been mixed with illegally imported coffee beans. Even the sugar is contaminated or, at the very least, illegally imported. Saviano says Italian durum wheat in the pasta is actually from somewhere else, and the meat Italians eat has likely been raised on contaminated land or butchered by someone mob-affiliated.

“The clans have their feet firmly rooted in this country, its provinces, in the land, in its things,” Saviano says. “Starting with our basic needs like food and daily bread … a sad fate for Italian excellence.”


Gambino Crime Family Captain Sentenced

 Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that Alphonse Trucchio—one of the youngest mobsters to be made a captain in mafia history—was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 121 months in prison for his crimes as a member of the Gambino Organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Gambino crime family”). Trucchio previously pled guilty on February 17, 2012, to racketeering, narcotics trafficking, assault, illegal gambling, loansharking, obstruction of justice, and extortion in connection with two indictments before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who also imposed sentence on July 26th.

Of the 22 defendants who were arrested in connection with U.S. v. Joseph Corozzo, et al., as part of a nationwide organized crime takedown on January 20, 2011, Trucchio was the 20th to be convicted. He was also charged in U.S. v. Alphonse Trucchio, et al. with 19 other individuals on November 30, 2011, for participating in a scheme to recruit illegal immigrants to work in adult entertainment clubs controlled by the Gambino Organized crime family.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Alphonse Trucchio rose to a leadership position in the Gambino crime family at a young age, and his future may have seemed bright—but now the life he chose has led, as it has for so many others in the mafia, to living behind bars. Today’s sentence should remind anyone who aspires to follow in his footsteps that they should think again, because we will do everything within our power to catch you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law.

According to the Indictment, other court filings, and statements made at court proceedings:

Alphonse Trucchio became a “made” member of the Gambino crime family in the early 2000s, when he was in his 20s. After Trucchio’s father, Gambino crime family Captain Ronald Trucchio, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005, Trucchio, who was 30 years old at the time, was promoted to the rank of captain. He was the youngest of the Gambino crime family’s captains, and one of the youngest captains in the history of La Cosa Nostra. In that capacity, Trucchio was responsible for supervising crews of street level members, also known as “soldiers,” and associates. From 2005 until his arrest in 2011, he assembled and led the Gambino Family’s largest, youngest, and most active crew. At least 14 other defendants who have been convicted in this case were either soldiers or associates in Trucchio’s crew.

Trucchio routinely participated in the illegal affairs of the Gambino crime family. Although the mafia traditionally purports to prohibit drug trafficking, Trucchio nonetheless presided over a large drug importation and trafficking ring, primarily located in Queens, New York. Trucchio and others distributed cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and Vicodin pills, generating millions of dollars in illegal proceeds for the Gambino family. He also participated in the systematic extortion of multiple strip clubs in Queens and ordered numerous violent assaults. Trucchio and others further engaged in loansharking—making and collecting on extortionate extensions of credit, sometimes making threats and committing assaults in order to collect payment—and illegal gambling. In his plea agreement, Trucchio also conceded that he had obstructed justice by destroying evidence.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Berman sentenced Trucchio, 35, of Howard Beach, New York, to five years of supervised release, $100,000 in forfeiture, and ordered him to pay a $500 special assessment fee.

Ten other defendants have been sentenced in connection with U.S. v. Joseph Corozzo, et al.: Gambino family captain Louis Mastrangelo; Gambino family soldiers Michael Roccaforte, Anthony Moscatiello, and Vincenzo Frogiero; and Gambino family associates Todd LaBarca, Christopher Colon, Frank Bellantoni, Michael Kuhtenia, Frank Roccaforte, and Michael Russo. Nine others have pled guilty and have sentences pending: Gambino family consigliere Joseph Corozzo and fambino family associates John Brancaccio, Salvatore Tortorici, Christopher Reynolds, Keith Croce, Sean Dunn, Salvatore Accardi, Robert Napolitano, and Anthino Russo. Charges are pending against the remaining two defendants—Gambino family ruling panel member Bartolomeo Vernace and Gambino family associate Robert Bucholz. Two other defendants who were charged with Trucchio in U.S. v. Alphonse Trucchio, et al. have pled guilty. The charges and allegations are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Five defendants who were associates of the Gambino crime family and charged as part of the January 2011 takedown in a separate indictment, U.S. v. John Cipolla, et al., have also pled guilty; four have been sentenced.

Mr. Bharara praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elie Honig, Daniel Chung, and Natalie Lamarque are in charge of the prosecution

Gambino capo gets 10 years

A rising star in the Gambino mob was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for racketeering and other crimes, including extorting two strip clubs in Queens.

“They can’t take my honor,” said capo Alphonse Trucchio, 35, as marshals escorted him from the courtroom after sentencing in Manhattan Federal Court.

Trucchio pleaded guilty in February to racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, assault, loansharking and gambling in exchange for a sentence of 8 to 10 years in prison.

He was one of more than 100 mobsters busted in four states in January 2011 in the biggest Mafia takedown in FBI history.

In November, he was charged with 19 others with participating in a scheme to smuggle women from Russia and neighboring countries into the U.S. on fraudulent visas to work at strip clubs controlled by the Gambino crime family.

Italian government in the dock as landmark Mafia trial begins

Prosecutors in Palermo have indicted 12 men for alleged Mafia crimes, including the two most feared recent heads of Cosa Nostra and a former Interior Minister, in a case that has once again turned the spotlight on the relationship between Italian politics and organised crime.
The 12 indicted this week are arraigned on charges ranging from Mafia association to threats to the body politic. But behind all the accusations lies the same imperative, one which has stained and shamed much of the political history of post-war Italy: a compulsion on the part of political leaders to reach accommodation with organised criminals who over and over again proved themselves too ruthless, determined and united for the state to put them behind bars.
The highest-profile name on the charge sheet is Nicola Mancino. Now 81, Mr Mancino, a Christian Democrat who was Interior Minister at the time in question, and went on to become Speaker of the Senate, the second highest position in the state.
The charge sheet alleges secret talks between the Italian state and the Mafia in the early 1990s aimed at bringing a campaign of murder and bombing to an end. Mr Mancino is alleged to have withheld evidence revealing the existence of the talks. After the indictment was published he commented that he would prove his innocence and his "loyalty to the state".
But the case and its implications were brought bang up to date when it emerged from prosecutors' wiretaps earlier this month that Mr Mancino had telephoned President Giorgio Napolitano to urge him to get Italy's chief anti-Mafia prosecutor involved in the case – in an attempt, it appeared, to derail the local Palermo prosecutors' decision to indict him. The effort has clearly failed.
The murder in 1993 by the Sicilian Mafia of the courageous anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, followed a couple of months later by that of his close colleague Paolo Borsellino, revealed the Sicilian gangsters at their most ruthless and ambitious. By killing the two men who had been most effective in challenging the Mob's power on the island, the then capo di capi Salvatore "Toto" Riina threw a gauntlet down to the state.
As well as killing their pursuers, the Mafia launched attacks on monuments in Rome and Milan: by borrowing the tactics of the ultra-left Red Brigades, Riina hoped to bend the state to his will. The plan was foiled by a surge of public fury against the Mafia.
In their last months alive, Falcone and Borsellino became aware that their official protection against the Mob was weakening – that the state they were seeking to defend was toying with the idea of betraying them. If the indictments in this case are proved, the substance behind those fears will become clearer. It is claimed that political leaders including Mr Mancino were seeking to do a deal with the very people Falcone and Borsellino were trying to put away.
Also indicted is Marcello dell'Utri, Minister of Defence in Silvio Berlusconi's first government and co-founder with the media magnate of his first political party, Forza Italia. Despite winning a recent legal victory against Mafia association charges, a disturbing new wrinkle was added to Mr dell'Utri's CV last month when he went on trial accused of having extorted huge sums from Mr Berlusconi as the price of silence about the latter's claimed Mafia links. Mr dell'Utri denies the charges. Magistrates questioned Marina Berlusconi, the former premier's daughter, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing and spoke to them "as a victim and as a person with knowledge of the facts", according to the Berlusconi family lawyer Niccolo Ghedini.
The other politician on the list of Palermo indictments is Calogero Mannino, a former minister who is still an MP in the lower house. Far better known are the names of the Mafiosi indicted, who include Luca Bagarella and Giovanni Brusca, both serving life sentences. The convicted killer of Falcone, Brusca was dubbed during his years on the outside as "the Pig" and "the Christian killer" for his homicidal compulsions.

Tit-for-tat Mob killings spark fears of new turf war in Rome as Neapolitan gangster Modesto Pellino is gunned down

Fears of a Mafia turf war in Rome and the surrounding areas have being re-ignited after a Neapolitan gangster was gunned down in busy square in front of dozens of people.
The cold-blooded hit follows more than two dozen execution-style killings on Rome's streets in the past 12 months, as mobsters from the capital and elsewhere fight over territory and the lucrative trade in drugs and extortion.
The latest victim, Modesto Pellino, 46, had a criminal record and known links with the Moccia clan of Naples's Camorra. He was shot seven times at 5.30pm on Monday in the busy central square in Nettuno near Rome. Experts said the killing indicated how organised crime in Rome was flourishing.
"This is the umpteenth episode of tit-for-tat in an area where the clans have been jockeying for dominance for some time," Zaratti Filiberto, chairman of the Lazio region's security and crime prevention commission, told La Repubblica newspaper.
"After some months of silence the gunfire has returned … The brutality of the murder, carried out in broad daylight in one of the city's main squares shows how worryingly powerful organised crime has become in this area." He said that the killing underlined warnings by police chiefs that parts of Rome and Lazio were becoming a volatile patchwork of rival gangs from different Mafia groups. The upsurge in violence may in part be down to younger elements in Rome's resurgent Magliana gang fighting over the drug trade, possibly in conflict with members of southern Mafia groups such as 'Ndrangheta, and Camorra.
Opposition politicians have accused Rome's Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, of failing on his promises to clean up the capital, which they say has become the new "Wild West" – a term previously reserved for some of the most lawless southern parts of Italy, such as Calabria. In return, Mayor Alemanno has admitted the city was seeing an "assault by organised crime, the like of which we haven't seen since the 1970s".

Literary Festival in Italy Gives Residents Voice in Fight Against Mafia

 LAMEZIA TERME, Italy — Historically, neither the pen nor the sword has been particularly effective when it comes to combating the ’Ndrangheta, the criminal organization that smothers the southern region of Calabria. But a literary festival in this mob stronghold is helping to breach an ingrained wall of silence, bred of a mixture of fear and resignation.

Mob-related crimes continue in Lamezia Terme, blood still occasionally spills on the town’s dusty streets and investigators periodically catch up with residents accused of colluding with gangsters. But the organizers of “Trame” (“Plots” in English), a festival of books about the Mafia, crow victory when they gaze on the town’s squares packed with residents who have come to listen to authors — often journalists, prosecutors or other anticrime operators — talk about their books.

On a warm night in late June, residents jostled to occupy plastic chairs set up in a central square. Others strolled along the main street, leafing through books and browsing amid the anti-Mafia paraphernalia.

“Fighting the Mafia can take different guises. Even talking about it makes you stronger,” said Tano Grasso, who started the festival last year when he was the councilman for culture here. (Mr. Grasso founded Italy’s first antiracket association in 1991 and has lived under police protection ever since.)

The ’Ndrangheta has long extended its tentacles into the social fabric of this city, flexing its control over public works and manifold private dealings and social transactions. That is why it will never be defeated solely by prosecutors or law enforcement officers, but must be uprooted from Calabria’s culture, said the festival director, Lirio Abbate, a journalist who has moved with his own armed escorts since the 2006 publication of a book about political collusion with crime syndicates in Italy.

“Calabria today is Palermo 30 years ago, where you couldn’t say the word Mafia out loud,” Mr. Abbate said, referring to the Sicilian city. “That’s why we came here, to bring magistrates, journalists, authors and try and break the wall of omertà,” the code of silence that has frustrated law enforcement in clan-dominated regions.

The book festival also capitalizes on what one publisher called a “literary boom” in Italy of books about the Mafia and its regional counterparts: the Neapolitan Camorra, Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia, and the local ’Ndrangheta variety.

“It’s a market phenomenon, a fad,” said Florindo Rubbettino, an editor who dated the growing interest in mob literature to Roberto Saviano’s best-selling 2006 book, “Gomorrah.” His family’s company has been publishing books about the ’Ndrangheta since the 1980s, a sign of civic commitment, perhaps, but also a challenge in a region where the entrepreneurial spirit is constantly taxed by “criminal conditioning” and administrative hurdles, he said.

The festival could have been held in any major city in Calabria, a region of two million that produces only 2.2 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product, where youth unemployment reaches peaks of 39 percent in some cities and organized crime offers an alternative to joblessness.

In the context of the economic crisis, the ’Ndrangheta is the “only business that has money,” and providing jobs creates social consensus, Mr. Abbate said. “We want to show that there are alternatives.”

That is true of Calabria in general, where there is a “diffuse Mafia mentality,” said Manuela Iatì, a journalist for Sky TG24 television who was born and raised in Calabria and has written about the ’Ndrangheta. “It doesn’t mean that people are Mafiosi but that they’ve accepted the way of favors and indebtedness to others, because the state and the services it should offer don’t function.”

“Corruption is Italian,” she said. “But here it is shored up by organized crime.”

But Lamezia Terme is emblematic in its own way. Two town councils have been dissolved in the past 20 years, on suspicion that they had been infiltrated by the ’Ndrangheta.

“There actually aren’t that many Mafiosi,” said a local priest, the Rev. Giacomo Panizza, who has been a frequent target of clan violence because of his outspokenness. “Their power derives from the fact that people cooperate and allow them to maneuver.”

In the past six months there have been three attacks against homes where Father Panizza runs projects that assist disabled people, immigrants and recovering drug addicts. “It’s because we have consensus, but they want to show they are in control,” he said.

The mayor, Gianni Speranza, has put the steady hemorrhaging of Lamezia Terme’s youth at the top of his agenda, even if he cannot offer them work.

Looking at a group of young men and women sitting rapt during the presentation of “Mafia Brotherhoods: Camorra, Mafia, ’Ndrangheta: The Rise of the Honored Societies” by John Dickie, a professor of Italian studies at University College London, Mr. Speranza sighed.

“If the young kids here tonight remained in Calabria for university and then found work, Calabria would change from this to this,” he said, flipping his hand over, palm to back. “Instead they leave because there’s nothing for them here.”

“Trame is a signal of commitment toward change,” said Mr. Speranza, whose name means “hope.” It is also an attempt to build social cohesion, he said. (Indeed, events scheduled on the final night of the festival were postponed because of the Italy-England quarterfinal match in the European soccer championship, shown on a large screen used the night before to show a documentary on the killings of Mafia-busting prosecutors and lawmakers by the mob — notably the top anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were murdered 20 years ago this year).

“You get a sense that there is hunger for the rule of law here,” Mr. Dickie said.

In the 1980s, Italy “looked like it was going the way of Mexico today,” he said, but it has managed to carry out important measures to fight crime. That said, he added, the continued presence of crime gangs indicates that on a deeper level, “repression can also be just gardening unless there is a will to change among the population.”

Judge may lift gag order on documents in mob case

BOSTON (AP) - Mobster James "Whitey" Bulger's (BUHL'-jurz) lawyer says he's pleased that a magistrate judge indicated she may unseal some documents in the case.

Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler said in court Tuesday that she will give prosecutors two weeks to indicate which of the hundreds of thousands of documents in the case should remain sealed. After that, she will give Bulger's defense team a chance to object. Then, she'll review the documents herself and decide which should remain sealed and which Bulger's defense team can share with outside lawyers, pre-trial focus groups or other third parties.

Bulger's lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., said the protective order now in place prohibits him from sharing the documents with anyone other than lawyers in his firm or witnesses. He said the order has hindered his ability to discuss trial strategy or get outside feedback on the case.

Gambino mob associate gets 23 years

He wanted to live like a wiseguy. Now he will — by spending the next two decades in a federal pen.

A reputed Gambino crime family associate called “the ultimate mob wannabe” got 23 years today for such crimes as setting up a childhood pal to be killed for control of a pot-smuggling racket.

Todd LaBarca, 41, was awaiting induction into the Mafia last year when he was bust­ed, instead.

He was so enamored with the gangster life that he talked about recruiting his teenage son and the boy’s friends into his crew, said Manhattan federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

“Chasing the mob life,” Honig said, “you turn on your friends, if they don’t turn on you first, you abandon your family, and you throw away your life and the lives of others.”

Judge Richard Berman, lamented that more than 60 of LaBarca’s friends and relatives had packed the courtroom to see him off.

“The only conclusion one can draw is that the criminal behavior is facilitated through this support,” the judge said.

New York mob boss's paralegal sends him scantily-clad pictures in prison... while she works on his appeal

New York mob boss's paralegal sends him scantily-clad pictures in prison... while she works on his appeal

A paralegal working on the defense of Vincent 'Vinny Gorgeous' Basciano has been sending the former New York mob boss scantily-clad photos of herself, along with her letters to him in prison.

Belinda Rossetti, 47, mailed a picture of herself wearing a g-string thong to the onetime head of the Bonanno crime family because she 'owes him.'

Ms Rossetti, however, doesn't seem to be shy and posted several other risque photos of herself on her Twitter feed, as well as on various websites, including a fan page for rock star Kid Rock.

The New York Daily News obtained copies of the prison correspondence between with Basciano, who is serving two life terms at the federal Supermax prison in Colorado after being convicted of two murders.

When contacted about the photo, Ms Rossetti's response was: 'Oh dear, I was chunkier then.'

It's unclear why Ms Rossetti is helping out Basciano. Post made under her name on numerous online stories about the mob rail against the Italian organized crime families.

'All the Genovese, Bonanno and Columbo members that I was in contact daily and still even now (you can’t be Italian in New York and not be exposed to it) belong in cages,' she wrote.

She also claimed to be in relationships with other mobsters and inside knowledge about federal investigations of organized crime in New York.

Ms Rossetti is coy about her relationship with the mobster. She says she has been working on appealing his convictions and has been cleared for a 'legal visit.'

'There’s a couple of things I promised him I’d do,' she told the Daily News.

'I kind of owe him.'

However, the letters Basciano wrote from prison show he views the relationship as more than just professional. He writes about his sexual frustration after being behind bars six years.

'You telling (a U.S. marshal) that I wouldn’t know what to do with you. HaHaHa!! All that pent-up energy you have that lead (sic) you to your "anger issues"!!! LMAO…Let me put it this way (politely) - you wouldn’t need any anger management classes! So think about that girlfriend,' he says.

In the letters, he comments on the photo and how he'd like her to smile and wishes her buttocks was thrust toward the camera.

The picture was apparently a birthday present for the 52-year-old mafioso.

This isn't the first time Basciano has demanded his women wear g-strings.

In 2006 letters to Debra Kalb, his mistress with whom he fathered a love child, he asked her to wear similar attire.

'I’m so in love with you do ya know that you little f****,' he told her.


Alleged Deer Park Crime Boss Pleads Guilty

Alleged Deer Park Crime Boss Pleads Guilty

Published reports say Nicholas Santora facing up to 22 years in prison for racketeering extortion charges.
An alleged underboss of the Bonanno crime family from Deer Park faces up to 22 years in prison as a result of a guilty plea in a Brooklyn Federal Court.
According to a report in the New York Post, Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Santora, 70, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering extortion charges. He admitted in court that he took part in a Mafia shakedown from 2006 to 2008 to recoup debt, the Post reported.
His sentencing is scheduled for October.
Santora was one of five alleged members of the Bonanno crime family arrested in January and charged variously with racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
In press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s office issued early this year, federal officials charged that Santora participated in his charged crimes following his prior conviction and incarceration and while on supervised release.
“Members of organized crime continue to exploit their victims the old-fashioned way – through violence, threats and intimidation. Learning nothing from their incarceration, two of the defendants allegedly sought to regain their money and influence on the street while still under federal supervision,” said Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney.

50 genius facts about GoodFellas

50 genius facts about GoodFellas

Is this funny to you?

Don’t consider yourself a GoodFellas expert until you’ve digested all of this invaluable trivia.

The F-bomb is dropped 296 times during the film, averaging twice per minute. About half of them are by Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). After Pesci’s mother saw the film, she said she liked it but asked if he had swear so much.

Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway character is based on real-life mobster Jimmy Burke, aka Jimmy ‘The Gent’ or ‘The Big Irishman’, an ex-bricklayer believed to have orchestrated the $6m Lufthansa heist in 1978 and then killed 10 of those who took part. To portray him, De Niro plundered writer Nicholas Pileggi’s unused notes and obsessively asked the real Henry Hill for details about the real Jimmy — how he held his cigarette, used a ketchup bottle, reacted to various situations, etc.

When Pileggi pitched the title of his book Wiseguy (that GoodFellas is based on), his publishers suggested he changed it as they had never heard the term before — at that point, it was not widely known.

Horses’ heads were left in Ray Liotta’s dressing room, by both co-star Robert De Niro and Frank Sinatra’s daughter Nancy, as a Godfather homage and welcome to the world of Mafia films.

Driving to the set each day, Liotta listened to tapes of FBI wiretaps of the real Henry Hill to help him get into character for the day’s filming.

Pesci wrote the “Funny how?” scene himself, at Scorsese’s request. Pesci had once seen a similar incident occur between drunk mobsters in Chicago. During the scene, Scorsese chose not to film any close-ups, and packed Mob members around Pesci and Liotta, specifically so that you could “see the affect on those around them”.

For the famous montage scene set to Derek & The Dominos’ Layla, Scorsese played the piano coda himself during the shooting of each scene, so they could get the rhythm and movement of the camera right, matching up certain bars of the song with specific shots.

After Henry is released from prison and Paulie (Paul Sorvino) warns him off drug-dealing, Sorvino improvised the slap to Liotta’s face — so Liotta’s surprised reaction is real.

As you may expect, there are many connections between GoodFellas and The Sopranos. They share two-dozen actors, notably Lorriane Bracco and Michael Imperioli. Sopranos creator David Chase says, “GoodFellas is the Koran for me.” Christopher [Tony’s nephew] lists it as one of his screenwriting inspirations. And when watching films with Father Intintola, [Tony’s wife] Carmela mentions Tony preferring Godfather II to the original, and the priest asks Carmela where Tony rates GoodFellas.

Scorsese originally intended to make GoodFellas two years earlier, but when funding for his pet project The Last Temptation Of Christ finally materialised in 1987, he decided to shoot that and postpone the gangster flick.

The dinner scene with Tommy’s mother is largely improvised, including Tommy asking if he could borrow her butcher’s knife and the paw/hoof debate.

Paulie’s razor-blade garlic slicing isn’t actually very practical. It tends to brown too quickly unless you put it in lukewarm oil. It’s usually easier to mash it with a fork. Still, certain Italian cookbooks suggest you slice the cloves “GoodFellas thin” and to cook them “low and slow”.

For a film renowned for violence, GoodFellas has a relatively low body count of 10.

At the 1991 Oscars, GoodFellas was up against Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. GoodFellas only won one — for Pesci as Best Supporting Actor.

During recording of the film’s narration, Liotta made the sound man sit directly in front of him in the studio so that he could tell the story to someone.

The legendary Steadicam tracking shot through the nightclub kitchen was an accident. Scorsese (right, with De Niro), who didn’t even like using Steadicams at first, had been denied permission to go through the front door and had to improvise another plan. He decided to do it in one long shot to symbolise “Henry’s whole life being ahead of him, doors opening to him. It’s his seduction of Karen and it’s also the lifestyle seducing him”. The shot had to be redone eight times — not because of complications choreographing it, but because it ends on comedian Henry Youngman performing, but Youngman kept fluffing his lines, spoiling the close of the scene.

Tommy DeVito was based on real-life gangster Thomas ‘Two-Gun Tommy’ DeSimone, renowned for his violent temper. According to the real Henry Hill, Pesci’s portrayal was “90 to 99 per cent accurate”, with two notable exceptions. Firstly, DeSimone was a big, burly enforcer, standing 6ft 2in and weighing 15 stone. Secondly, the film states that Tommy was shot in the face so his mother couldn’t give him an open-casket funeral, but the real DeSimone’s remains were never recovered.

The are several anachronisms in the scene captioned ‘Idlewild Airport 1963’: Henry leans on a 1965 Chevy Impala, the Swissair jet is painted in Eighties livery and a Boeing 747 flies overhead, even though the plane didn’t enter service until 1970.

When Billy Batts and Tommy exchange “shoeshine” insults in the bar, Billy’s lips aren’t synchronised with the dialogue. He says “What?” and then “Salud Tommy” without his lips moving.

Scorsese’s parents both appear in the film. His mother Catherine (below) plays Tommy’s mother during the dinner scene. His father Charles plays the prisoner who commits the cardinal sin of putting too many onions in the tomato sauce. They came on to set every day, and Scorsese let them press all the gangster’s shirt collars, as according to him, only they “knew how to do it properly”.

In test screenings, the film received the worst response in Warner Bros history, with audience members leaving in droves, disgusted by the violence, drugs and language. Scorsese said, “The numbers were so low, it was funny.”

After the film’s premiere, the real Henry Hill was so proud that he went around revealing his true identity and boasting that the film was about him. The FBI had to remove him from its Witness Protection Programme.

Paul Sorvino nearly quit before filming, as he thought he’d ruin the film as he considered himself a “total pussycat” and a “softie”.

Young Henry (played by Christopher Serrone) is right-handed. Older Henry (Liotta) is left-handed.

When Tommy stabs Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), he clearly uses a rubber prop knife with retractable blade. He plunges it into Batts several times, but gets no blood on his hands or the knife.

Scorsese edited the scene where Hill is driving, high on cocaine, specifically for The Who’s version of Magic Bus from Live At Leeds.

In the first series of The Sopranos, Tony’s nephew Christopher (Michael Imperioli) shoots a bakery employee in the foot for making him wait. As he leaves, the wounded bread-seller yells, “He shot my foot!” and Chrissy replies, “It happens.” It’s a nod to Imperioli’s character Spider getting shot in the foot by Pesci a decade earlier in GoodFellas.

When he read Pileggi’s book, Scorsese says he knew straight away how he wanted to shoot it: “To begin like a gunshot and have it get faster from there, almost like a two-and-a-half-hour trailer. It’s the only way to capture the exhilaration of the lifestyle and get a sense of why people are attracted to it.”

When Janice the babysitter pulls an airline ticket out of her handbag, there’s a black bar covering it because producers couldn’t get permission to use the American Airlines logo. The company didn’t want to be affiliated with the depiction of drug trafficking.

During the scene where the mobsters are celebrating with the spoils of a robbery, Paul Sorvino told a different joke for eight takes just before the director called “action”, so the laughter you see is real.

There were five taglines used on various posters: ‘“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster” — Henry Hill, Brooklyn, NY. 1955’, ‘Three decades of life in the Mafia’, ‘Murderers come with smiles’, ‘Shooting people was “No big deal”’ and ‘In a world that’s powered by violence, on the streets where the violent have power, a new generation carries on an old tradition’.

Frank Vincent is claustrophobic, and had to overcome his phobia when playing Billy Batts to be shut in the car’s boot.

When Jimmy makes the phone call about Tommy being made, you can spot the reflection of the camera in the phone booth.

The pacy energy of the film was influenced by Scorsese’s love of French New Wave cinema, especially François Truffaut’s doomed love triangle classic Jules Et Jim. He wanted a similar voiceover to open, along with extensive narration, quick cuts and freeze frames. He called it a “punk attitude” towards film convention, mirroring the attitude of the gangsters in the film.

Sean Penn was considered for the role of Henry.

There are three GoodFellas nods in Swingers. Trent (Vince Vaughn) asks the Vegas cocktail waitress to meet him at the Bamboo Lounge — a reference to a bar Tommy and Henry burn down in GoodFellas. The scene where the boys enter the basement of the Derby is a recreation of Scorsese’s famous Steadicam scene. They even sit around a table discussing films and cheekily dismiss parts of Reservoir Dogs as steals from GoodFellas.

Scorsese wanted to depict the violence as “cold, unfeeling and horrible”, but had to remove 10 frames of blood in order to ensure an R rating.

To help psyche himself up for the scene where Tony shoots Spider Pesci asked the props department to use fully-filled blank rounds in the gun. “I wanted full loads so I could hear the echo and feel the gun kick like a real .45,” he says. “The silence after that last shot was more deafening than the shots themselves.”

The painting that Tommy’s mother holds up during the dinner scene (Tommy: “One dog goes one way and the other goes the other”) is based on a photo from the November 1978 issue of National Geographic, and was painted by Pileggi’s mother.

Scorsese was wowed by Liotta’s performance as a maniac ex-con in Something Wild and immediately wanted to cast him as Henry Hill, but producer Irwin Winkler was unconvinced, claiming that he didn’t have enough “charm” for the role. It took eight months for Liotta to finally land the part — he wanted it so badly, he approached Winkler in a restaurant and asked for a minute alone in the bar to tell him why he thought he was perfect. Winkler called Scorsese the next day and told him to go ahead.

Al Pacino was offered the role of Jimmy Conway but turned it down due to fear of typecasting. Ironically, later that same year he ended up playing a gangster, Big Boy Caprice in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. He admits regretting the decision.

Filming the scene in which his character Spider (Michael Imperiolo) is killed by Tommy, Imperiolo cut his hand on a broken glass and had to be rushed to hospital. Doctors saw what appeared to be a gunshot wound in his chest and tried to treat it. When Imperioli told them it was make-up and what was really wrong, they sent him to the back of the ER queue and he had to wait three hours. Director Scorsese loved this anecdote and told Imperioli that one day he’d be telling that story on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. A decade later, that prediction came true.

Scorsese first heard of Pileggi’s book Wiseguy when he was handed an early proof copy while shooting The Color Of Money in Chicago. Although Scorsese had sworn off making another gangster flick after Mean Streets, he immediately called the writer and told him, “I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.” Pileggi replied, “I’ve been waiting for this phone call my entire life.” They agreed to co-write it there on the phone.

De Niro frequently takes drags of his cigarette but never exhales any smoke.

Liotta turned down the role of District Attorney Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s Batman to make GoodFellas. The Dent role went to Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian from The Empire Strikes Back).

The final shot of Pesci shooting at the camera is a nod to milestone 1903 Western short The Great Train Robbery, which ends with the bandit leader, played by Justus D Barnes, shooting straight at the camera.

Berlin-born director of photography Michael Ballhaus — a long-time Scorsese collaborator — had to leave before the shoot wrapped to work on Postcards From The Edge. Barry Sonnenfeld, who went on to direct Men In Black and Get Shorty, took over for the last few days of filming.

Comic Henry Youngman, ‘King Of The One-Liners’, who plays himself in the club scene, was born in Liverpool. His family emigrated to Brooklyn when he was a child and he started out writing gags for greeting cards.

The part of Sixties crooner Bobby Vinton, who sings Roses Are Red in the Copacabana club, was played by his son Robbie, who lip-synched to his father’s recording.
The film was shot in 72 days between 3 May and 9 August 1989 — over here, the period known as ‘The Summer Of Rave’ or ‘The Second Summer Of Love’


While the chance of us actually being in a movie is diminishing by the day, it's not going to stop us from trying to blur the line between us and them as much as Hollywood possible.

Which is why we're starting a new feature whereby we get an expert chef to recreate iconic movie meals and then tell you exactly how to do them at home. To kick things off, we spoke to Dave Watts, head chef at The Cotswold House Hotel, who's helped us to bring the classic behind-bars pasta meal from Goodfellas to life.

After you've cooked it in your non-prison kitchen (we hope), let us know at the bottom what movie meal you'd like to see us feature next.

Serves 4, (well)

Preparation time: 20 – 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hrs 30 - 3hrs 30, longer if you have time or want to wait


6 onions peeled and finely diced

75g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil

A teaspoon of salt

300g minced beef

300g minced pork shoulder

300g diced English rose veal flank

30g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil

250g beef or brown chicken stock

10 cloves garlic peeled

100ml white wine

150g tomato puree

750g ripe vine tomatoes (chopped) or equivalent weight of quality chopped tinned tomatoes

A pinch of salt

Good grind of black pepper


Just like Vinnie [picture 3], I’m a big fan of onions, and I like to start with lots of them, but the secret is to unlock all of their wonderful sweetness. Start by placing a large pan onto a medium heat, put the first amount of oil, diced onion and a teaspoon of salt into the pan. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down to a medium low heat, stirring it every three to five minutes. Keep cooking this until the onions are completely soft and translucent. This will take around 25 – 30 minutes. Be patient, you have time and it’s worth it.

Whilst the onions are cooking you need to peel and finely, finely, finely slice your garlic. Remember super-thin is best to get great flavour and sweetness from it. To do this I like to use a truffle slice, this gets it really thin and is just slightly quicker than Paulie Cicero’s razor blade. Once you have sliced all of your garlic move onto dicing your tomatoes, or just opening the tin.

Because your onions are still cooking nice and slowly and you’ve sliced your way through the garlic you now need to move on to the meat. Take a large frying pan (preferably non-stick) and place it onto a high heat. You will need to use one third of the second amount of oil to fry each of the minced beef, pork and diced veal in separate batches, ensure your pan is really hot to get a good colour/caramelisation on all of your meat. Drain each batch of meat into a colander, over a bowl to catch any juices and if you're not watching your weight you can add these into the ragout when you add the meat for extra taste.

Once you have fried your last batch of meat, place it back onto a medium heat and add your finely sliced garlic. Cook this for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to break down. Now add the white wine, boil and reduce to almost nothing, then add the stock. This needs to reduce by half so turn up the heat to do this quickly. Just as Vinnie says, the pork is really important to this dish, and gives it lots of flavour. If you can’t find veal, I’d say substitute it with more pork.

Now that your onions are really, really soft and tender, you need to add the tomato puree. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring continuously for 1 to 2 minutes. Add your tomatoes (fresh or tinned), caramelised meats and the garlic liquor from your frying pan, stir this through, place the lid back onto the pan and cook on a really low slow heat for 2-3 hours. Finally add a pinch of salt and the ground black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning to your liking.

Just like the guys in Goodfellas, I like to serve this with a char grilled 34 day aged hanger steak cooked medium rare, a bottle of Chianti and good crunchy country bread ( to soak up all those wonderful juices and flavours).

Dave Watts is head chef at the Cotswold House Hotel. Rooms start from just £120 per person, with main courses at The Cotswold Grill ranging from £9.50 to £23.00. The Dining Room (fine dining restaurant) reopened in May. For further information, hotel and restaurant reservations, visit or call 01386 840330.


The late Henry Hill was the mafia rat who inspired GoodFellas. Jon Axworthy finds out how the former gangster managed to make it to the age of 69 without being fitted for concrete boots.

The American mafia has plenty of names for those who join its ranks. From the wiseguys and goodfellas on the street to the capos, consiglieres and godfathers who sit at the head of their sprawling crime families.

However, the Mob only has one word for those who turn on them: ‘rat’, so named because a rat will do anything to survive, including testifying against their former colleagues in court.

This is exactly what Henry Hill did when he became a government witness and gave evidence against the Lucchese family, which he had been a part of since he was 11 years old.

Traditionally, the fate of a rat was a bullet to the head and a shallow grave – if they were lucky. But Hill died peacefully in a hospital bed last month, aged 69, after a long struggle with chronic illness. So just how did the most famous rat in mafia history manage to die of natural causes? That answer lies with the effectiveness of the US Department Of Justice and the mythical power of the Mob.

Hill regularly saw the Lucchese family on the corners and cabstands of his neighbourhood in Brownsvillle, New York, and by the age of 16 had given up school for a street education. He earned thousands of dollars a week doing the Mob’s dirty work: collecting gambling debts, holding up delivery trucks and selling stolen cigarettes.

When caught red-handed offloading one hijacked shipment, Hill refused to cooperate with the police, which earned him the respect of lethal hit men Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Burke and Tommy ‘Two-Gun’ DeSimone, as well as underboss Paul Vario. Together they became known as the Robert’s Lounge Crew, named after the saloon where they drank and gambled. By Hill’s own admission, he was bringing in huge profits at the height of his power.

“The government said a couple of hundred million dollars went through my hands. But I just blew it on slow horses, women, drugs and rock’n’roll,” he once claimed. “I was making $15,000 to $40,000 a week.” His last heist with the crew was in 1978 when they targeted the Lufthansa depot at JFK airport, and walked away with £3.2m in untraceable bills. Following the robbery, the Robert’s Lounge Crew was put under 24-hour surveillance by the FBI. The scrutiny became too much for Burke who had planned the heist; as the Feds turned the screw, Burke began to murder everyone involved with the robbery.

Hill realised he was a target and so, after he was arrested on a drugs charge in 1980, he agreed to testify against members of the organisation, which led to 50 convictions and long sentences for Burke and Vario. For his betrayal, the mafia put a bounty on his head that was reportedly more than $1m. Not that it mattered to Hill – he disappeared into the Witness Protection Programme (WITSEC) before anyone could claim the money.

Protecting Hill

The US Marshals Service, which runs the programme, is one of the main reasons why Hill lived to see old age. “To date, none of the witnesses in WITSEC have been murdered in retaliation for their testimony,” reveals the former chief of the FBI’s Organised Crime section Matthew Heron. “During Hill’s trial he would have been housed at military bases such as Fort Knox.”

Every opportunity for a security leak is minimised by the Marshals Service, including the use of fake credentials, which are backstopped so that they carry no traceable history. Hill was moved more than 10 times and lived under different aliases such as Peter Haines and Alex Canclini.

“His first fake names would have been constructed using the same first name,” says Heron. “This ensures that if a witness starts writing their old name on a document they can usually catch it in time to start writing their new one without arousing suspicion.”

However, the biggest problem that the Marshals Service has in protecting ex-mafia witnesses is making sure they don’t get bored. “Bear in mind these guys are used to the high life,” adds Heron. “It’s estimated that one in five witnesses return to a life of crime.”

This is why the service allowed crime journalist Nicholas Pileggi to chronicle Hill’s life in his 1986 book Wiseguy, to keep Hill from slipping back into his old ways. However, it wasn’t enough and Hill was arrested on drugs charges and released from witness protection in the early Nineties after continually breaking the conditions of his protection.


By the time he came up for air in1992, Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, based on Pileggi’s bestseller with Ray Liotta in the lead role, had already become a modern gangster classic and Hill, who reassumed his realname, was suddenly a celebrity.

He appeared in photoshoots, sold artwork on eBay, opened a restaurant called Wiseguys, launched a brand of spaghetti sauce and even set up his own website; ‘Threat Of The Week’ became a regular feature on, highlightingthe numerous death threats he would receive. One ‘winner’ read: “Regarding your corpse goodbye rat.”

Of course, how potent the threats were is debatable. They could just as well have been written by a teen in Australia. It was almost as if Hill were more use to the modern-day Mob alive than dead. “The reality is that the mafia today is in free-fall,” reveals Heron. “Four of the five New York bosses are in prison, and the guys on the street don’t want the title. The Lucchese family that Hill belonged to doesn’t even have a boss any more. It’s ruled by committee to spread the risk of prosecution.”

However, every time Hill appeared in a documentary or guested on The Howard Stern Show, he alluded to a Mob that still held his life in the balance. In reality, there have been no mafia-related murders in recent years, helped in part by a federal statute that makes murder in aid of racketeering a crime eligible for the death penalty.

“Hill got a pass because he was good PR for a crumbling mafia, whose authority, territory and businesses were now being overrun by Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican gangs,” says former Gambino crime family member Andrew DiDonato. “Although, who’sto say they could have got to him anyway? The organisation is full of suburban mobsters these days. They don’t want to kill anybody.”

Ray Liotta’s final lines in GoodFellas bemoan the fact that he became “an average nobody” after testifying, living the rest of his life “like a schnook”.

Lisa Caserta was Hill’s partner for 14 years of that “schnook” life and she claims he was proud of what he had done: “He put a lot of bad men in jail,” she says. “He had his demons, which he over-medicated with Jack Daniel’s and cigarettes, but he passed away with love, not violence.”

He had outrun the Mob’s gunsand outlived the gangsters who could have pulled the trigger. In the end, life caught up with Henry Hill, not a hitman’s bullet.