EXCLUSIVE: The feast, run by a not-for-profit charitable organization, took in $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012, the Daily News found. Only $210,500 of that was given to charity. When the Mafia ran the festival and shook down organizers and vendors, only 3% was donated.
BY GREG B. SMITH
As far as charitable donations go, this feast is a famine.
The charity running one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city — the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy — gave away only a tiny fraction of the more than $4 million it raised from 2007 to 2012, a Daily News investigation has found.
Over those years, the group Figli di San Gennaro took in $4.4 million in gross revenue, but gave up only $210,500 of that to charity. That’s about 4.7% — just slightly better than when the Mafia was running the feast.
Back in 1996, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani kicked out the previous charity, saying it was giving out only 3% of what it took in to charitable causes.
At the time, the Genovese crime family was actually in charge, stealing everything in sight — even some of the dollars tacked to the statue of St. Gennaro, patron saint of Naples, that’s paraded down Mulberry St.
That year, the feds busted a gaggle of gangsters, including one named Tony Waterguns who ran a game at the fair, alleging they’d skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the festival for years.
The feds installed a monitor. The charity running the feast back then was kicked out. And Figli di San Gennaro was put in charge.
Shortly after Figli arrived, the amount of charitable giving increased dramatically, from $7,700 when the mob ran things to $185,000 when the new charity took over.
Giuliani promised, “It’s going to be a feast that actually delivers to charity. It will help children.”
Since then, even with a monitor overseeing things, the feast and the charity have had their share of troubles.
The current treasurer, Vivian Catenaccio, was allowed to stay on after it was revealed that her brother, Frank, was identified by law enforcement as a made member of the Genovese family. Frank has since died.
In 2000, the late Anne Compoccia, then head of the charity, was charged with skimming money from Mulberry St. merchants. She later pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.
In 2004, the charity’s chairman, restaurateur Perry Criscitelli, resigned after he was identified as a soldier in the Bonanno crime family. A mob informant, Richard (Shellackhead) Cantarella, testified Criscitelli was paying him “tribute” of $15,000 a year.
The next year, federal prosecutors alleged that the late Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello maintained some “control” of the feast and “receives benefits.” The monitor, Richard Mark, said he saw no signs of this.
Then, in April 2012, the feds charged Conrad Ianniello, a capo in the Genovese family, with a host of crimes, including shaking down San Gennaro vendors. He pleaded guilty to other crimes in 2013.
In its promotional material, Figli di San Gennaro bills itself as a “not-for-profit charitable organization” that over the last 18 years has donated “more than $1.8 million from the feasts to causes supporting children and education.”
In recent years, this altruism has all but evaporated.
In fact, in two years — 2007 and 2009 — the group gave zero dollars to charity, tax forms reveal. In 2012, the last year for which tax forms are public, Figli took in $768,000 and gave out $55,000. That’s 7%.
Of that, $50,000 went to the Most Precious Blood Church in Little Italy where the Mass celebrating St. Gennaro takes place. Another $1,000 went to a scholarship named after the former Figli chairman, the late Frank Macchiarola.
The 88th Annual Feast of San Gennaro is going on now through Sept. 21.
Nonprofits like the San Gennaro group generally donate at least 60% of what they raise to charities, according to Daniel Borochoff, of Charitywatch, a group that monitors charitable giving. Well-run charities usually give 75%, he said.
Where all this money is going is difficult to discern from the group’s tax filings. The feast makes almost all of its money from rent charged to vendors. And because it’s a nonprofit that doesn’t have to pay taxes, it’s supposed to lay out how that money is spent.
Figli’s tax forms for 2007 through 2012 spell out clearly where about $1.5 million of $4.4 million went — insurance, legal fees, a minimal payment to the monitor, and a fee to the city that’s 20% of whatever the group takes in.
But during that time Figli listed another $3 million simply as “direct expenses” with no further explanation.
Board members said those expenses include the cost of running the event, such as erecting the ornate lights hung over Mulberry St. and the bill for picking up all that trash.
Discussing the 2012 donation, Figli board member John Fratta said, “When you deduct all those figures, you’re left with $55,000 for charity.”
“We raise money for charity, but our real purpose is to continue the tradition we’ve had for years in honoring the patron saint and celebrating our Italian heritage,” said Fratta, whose grandfather was co-founder and first president of the feast 88 years ago.
He said the group gave more in 2013 — about $113,000 — and hoped to do the same after this year’s event.