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What’s Left of the Mob

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From Gotti to Gigante, the names atop today’s Mafia org charts are old ones. But the times have certainly changed for New York’s biggest families—and not for the better. Mob expert Jerry Capeci, who writes the “Gang Land” column for the New York Sun, looks at the state of the four other clans in the city’s infamous Five Families, plus the Newark-based DeCavalcantes. All have bookmaking, loan-sharking, and extortion rackets. The Genovese family and, to a lesser degree, the Luchese family (like the Gambinos) also have viable labor-racketeering endeavors that let them invest and launder their ill-gotten gains in “legitimate” industries. Every clan has declined of late, some more than others.


The Bonanno Family
130 to 145 members
Boss: Joseph Massino, 62
Underboss : Vacant
Consigliere: Vacant
Last year was a bad one for the Bonanno family—probably the worst in its history. Its boss since 1991, Joseph Massino, was convicted of seven murders dating from the eighties, and the Feds decided to try to execute him for a 1999 mob hit. Two dozen family members and associates, including three capos he selected to coordinate things while he battled the law from prison, were all indicted and jailed on racketeering and murder charges. This fall, Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, the capo he chose to replace the convicted trio and serve as acting boss, was himself socked with murder charges. Since November 19, Basciano, 45, has been awaiting trial at the same federal lockup in Sunset Park as his boss and the men he replaced. In the new millennium, more than 40 family wiseguys and associates have been convicted and imprisoned, including a former acting boss, Anthony Spero, 71. On top of all that, Joseph Massino, the Last Don, a wiseguy who surely amassed millions during his decade on top, says he can’t afford a lawyer and has told a federal judge that he needs a court-appointed attorney.

Meanwhile, Massino is expected to tap an old cohort, capo Anthony “Fat Anthony” Rabito, as his “street boss.” On his mob résumé, Rabito, 70, has a drug rap, a few dead bodies, and a keen business sense, according to FBI documents. He has owned a bakery, a café, and several nightclubs, all on Manhattan’s East Side. Unlike a Las Vegas business venture that failed—a New York–style pizzeria called Fat Anthony’s—his local endeavors were said to be moneymakers.


The Colombo Family
75 to 85 members
Boss: Carmine “Junior” Persico, 71
Underboss : John “Jackie” DeRoss, 67
Consigliere: Joel “Joe Waverly” Cacace, 63
For nearly twenty years—since he was arrested on February 15, 1985—Carmine Persico has run the Colombo family from behind bars. Convicted of racketeering twice—once in the historic Commission trial, when he represented himself—Persico has guided his clan through a bloody two-year war that cost the lives of ten combatants and two bystanders. Housed in a federal prison in faraway Lompoc, California, he has maintained control through a string of acting bosses, including his college-educated son Alphonse, 50. In recent years, however, Alphonse, John “Jackie” DeRoss, Joel “Joe Waverly” Cacace, and Andrew Russo, 70, a Persico cousin who filled in as acting boss for a time, have themselves been convicted and jailed. These days, the family’s “street boss” is Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli, 52, of Farmingdale. Gioeli was a staunch Persico ally during the 1991–93 war. He’s had chronic back problems for decades, but they didn’t deter his effort against rebels aligned with Victor “Little Vic” Orena. On March 27, 1992, he was wounded in a wild car chase–shootout in Brooklyn. “He’s got a crew of shooters who haven’t really gotten touched,” says one police source. The last time Gioeli saw the inside of prison was in 1980, for robbery. A key factor for his strength has been his ability to bridge the gap that exists between mobsters who were shooting at each other a decade ago. His top aide, acting capo Paul “Paulie Guns” Bevacqua, was an Orena supporter, as was Cacace, who paid Tommy Shots the highest compliment in 2000. “If you need to see me, tell Tommy,” he told then–Bonanno underboss Salvatore “Good Looking Sal” Vitale. “Talking to Tommy is just like talking to me.”


The Genovese Family
200 to 225 members
Boss: Vincent “Chin” Gigante, 76
Underboss : Venero “Benny Eggs” Mangano, 83 (Incarcerated)
Consigliere: Vacant
The Genovese clan, long considered the Ivy League of organized crime, is the only family whose heir apparent and official boss seem to be one and the same. Vincent “Chin” Gigante took over around 1982. He’s been in federal prison since 1997. The Oddfather, whose crazy-man strolls in Greenwich Village in his pajamas kept him out of prison for decades, is scheduled for release at age 82, in 2010— if he lives that long.

His genes give him a good shot. His brother Mario, believed by some to function as Chin’s acting boss, is active at 81. Their mom, whose calls of “Cinzini” out her Greenwich Village apartment window gave Vincent his nickname, lived to 95.

Until then, he has a committee of three serving as his eyes and ears: Mario, who ended three years of supervised release in June following a 42-month term for labor racketeering, and two longtime allies who hail from his downtown, or West Side, base: Lawrence “Little Larry” Dentico, 81, and Dominick “Quiet Dom” Cirillo, 75.

“Mario is a gangster in his own right,” says one law-enforcement expert. “He’s Chin’s blood-family connection. Larry and Quiet Dom are trustworthy old-timers who do his bidding with little fear of opposition from within or outside the family.”

As Gigante told a prison guard who wondered if younger inmates were bothering him: “Nobody fucks with me.” Or his disciples.


The Luchese Family
120 to 130 members
Boss: Vittorio “Vic” Amuso, 70
Underboss : Vacant
Consigliere: Vacant
Since 1991, the feds have convicted five Luchese leaders, including Vittorio “Vic” Amuso and acting bosses. Two stand-in leaders, Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco and Joseph “Little Joe” Defede, became turncoats. Another, Louis “Louie Bagels” Daidone, is serving life for murder.

The fifth, Steven Crea, 57, is serving three years for labor racketeering and due out of federal prison in August 2006. Crea, 57, who operates several construction companies, is viewed as the likely successor to the jailed-for-life Amuso.

Currently, the Lucheses have a trio of veteran capos functioning as a ruling committee: Aniello “Neil” Migliore, 71; Joseph DiNapoli, 69; and Matthew Madonna, 69.

Migliore, who served briefly as underboss to Antonio “Tony Ducks” Corallo decades ago, “is the biggest influence on the street,” says one law-enforcement official. “He’s more equal than the others,” says another investigator.

DiNapoli got out of federal prison in 1999 after 29 months for fraud and loan-sharking. Madonna was a major heroin trafficker who supplied notorious Harlem drug kingpin Leroy “Nicky” Barnes in the sixties and seventies. He was “made” following his release from federal prison in 1995, after serving twenty years for drug dealing.


Illustrations by Jack Unruh   

The DeCavalcante Family
40 to 50 members
Boss: Giovanni “John” Riggi, 79
Underboss : Vacant
Consigliere: Vacant
Six years ago, after decades as the ugly stepchildren of the New York mob, DeCavalcante mobsters thought they had finally achieved proper respect from the vaunted Five Families. They had killed a suspected informer for John Gotti and had joint rackets with New York wiseguys. As a crew of the Garden State gangsters drove to a sit-down with New York mobsters, they were taped by the FBI talking about their newfound status—a rise in fortunes that seemed to be reflected on TV.

“Hey, what’s this fucking thing, Sopranos. Is that supposed to be us?” asked soldier Joseph “Tin Ear” Sclafani.

“What characters. Great acting,” responded capo Anthony Rotundo. Unlike Tony Soprano, the DeCavalcante leader has been in prison since 1990. In 2003, John Riggi pleaded guilty to ordering murders both before and after his incarceration, agreeing to take ten more years in prison. Since 1999, nearly three dozen wiseguys and wannabes, including the family’s consigliere and seven capos, have bit the dust on racketeering, murder, and other charges.

The federal onslaught has been helpful for one old soldier, Joseph Miranda, whose family ties go back to patriarch Simone “Sam the Plumber” DeCavalcante. Decades ago, after Miranda robbed another wiseguy, Sam the Plumber spoke up for him at a sit-down and saved his life, according to FBI documents. Miranda, 81, a family loan shark, owns a bar on First Avenue. For years, he’s been griping about not being promoted to capo. Recently, sources say, he jumped a few spots and was elevated to acting boss. He didn’t have much competition, and he doesn’t have much to lead, but, as one law-enforcement official says, “this week, he’s the boss. Next week, who knows?”

The Dumbest Don
Pete Gotti—famously labeled a “moron” by his brother John—wasn’t smart enough to run the Gambino crime family. But given the organization’s long history of high-profile prosecutions, no one else was able or willing. Inside the end of the reign of the Gotti boys.

The Life, By the Numbers
There are procedures and rules that govern the induction of new Mafia members.


Related:

  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Jan 17, 2005 issue of New York
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