Defendant Sentenced for His Role in a Racketeering Conspiracy, Including a 1981 Double Homicide of Two Queens Bar Owners Over a Spilled Drink
U.S. Attorney’s Office May 27, 2014 • Eastern District of New York (718) 254-7000
Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Bartolomeo Vernace, a member of the administration of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Gambino family), was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, plus 10 years. On April 17, 2013, following a five-week jury trial before the Hon. Sandra L. Townes, Vernace was found guilty of a racketeering conspiracy spanning 1978 through 2011. The jury found that Vernace participated in all nine racketeering acts alleged as part of the conspiracy, including the 1981 double homicide of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese, heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, and illegal gambling.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
“For more than four decades, the defendant dedicated his life to committing crimes for the mafia. He rose through the ranks to become a powerful Gambino family leader by making money from crime and committing brutal acts of violence, including the 1981 murders of two innocent bar owners over a spilled drink. Though they were taken from their families long ago, Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese—two businessmen who also ran the local Boys’ Club—have not been forgotten,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We hope the victims’ families are able to take some measure of comfort from the fact that, with this life sentence, one of the killers has now been brought to justice.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the FBI, the agency that led the government’s investigation.
“After more than 33 years evading justice, Bartolomeo ‘Bobby Glasses’ Vernace can hide no more. Vernace made a life of being a key player in the Gambino crime family where his activities led to his convictions for heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, gambling, and firearms, as well the vicious double murder. Today’s life sentence ensures the rest of Bobby Glasses’s life will only be seen inside of a federal facility,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.
The evidence at trial established that Vernace, known by various aliases including “Bobby Glasses,” had a long career in the mafia that began in the early 1970s and culminated in his rise to the rank of a captain who served on the three-member ruling panel overseeing the Gambino family. Vernace was arrested on January 20, 2011, as part of a national sweep of almost 100 members and associates of organized crime led by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Among the crimes he committed for the mafia, Vernace, together with two Gambino family associates, murdered Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese in the Shamrock Bar in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens on April 11, 1981, after a dispute arose between a Gambino family associate and others in the bar over a spilled drink. The associate left the bar and picked up Vernace and a third accomplice at a nearby social club. A short time later, the three men entered the bar and gunned down Godkin and D’Agnese—the owners of the bar—as the bar’s patrons fled for cover.
In the weeks after the murders, Vernace went into hiding. He did not reemerge until years later when, having successfully avoided state charges for the murders, Vernace returned to Queens and to an active role in the Gambino family. Over the next two decades, his power within the mafia grew, as he operated a large and profitable crew from a café on Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.
In 1998, Vernace was charged in Queens County Supreme Court with the Godkin and D’Agnese murders but was acquitted after trial in 2002. During testimony in the federal trial in 2013, an eyewitness to the murders testified that he had lied during the state trial about Vernace’s role in the murders out of fear of retribution. The eyewitness testified in the federal case that he recognized all three assailants but that he had been afraid to testify against them because, in his words, “two men were dead over a spilled drink. I think that was reason enough to be afraid.”
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amir H. Toossi, M. Kristin Mace, and Claire S. Kedeshian.