The young mobster, who carried himself more like Brett Favre than like John Gotti, was wearing a wool J. Crew sweater and a green rain slicker against the sweeping winter wind. As he stepped off the U.S.S. Nautilus, the nuclear submarine docked in Groton, Connecticut, the low sky was gray and cold. This aging monument to a world below the surface, I thought, was the perfect place to meet the latest gangster turned rat.
Run silent, run deep.
To see the new face of the mob, look no further than 27-year-old Darin Mazzarella. He is slope-shouldered, about five feet ten and 180pounds, with reddish hair. Like a retired quarterback with ruined knees, he has horrific scars and a severe limp -- the legacy of an incident two summers ago, when he took fourteen bullets from a mob rival outside a crowded Bronx playground. Instead of wearing sharkskin suits and listening to Frank Sinatra, the new young mobsters favor Eddie Bauer jeans and Annie Lennox CDs while committing their mayhem. The Goodfellas days of Henry Hill and the Roberts Lounge in South Ozone Park, Queens, are long gone. Until last year, Darin Mazzarella, along with the sons of gangsters who were his lifelong buddies, hung out not in social clubs in Little Italy and on Staten Island but at a low-rent strip shopping center in Yonkers. Theyre suburban rats.
When I meet him for the first time in Groton, he is still jail-pale after being held for eight months without bail in the 1994 murder of a Westchester politicians kid. Mazzarella and his vicious brother, Nicholas, had been in protective custody for a month. The FBI had sprung Darin from a county jail cell, ostensibly to marry his high-school sweetheart, and then made it look like the suspected killer was under house arrest so he could wear a wire around his pals.
A former high-school baseball star and community-college engineering student, Darin Mazzarella is a keen but barbed character who talks philosophically about the future of the gangster soul. Like John Gotti Jr., he is where New Yorks mob story is headed.
For four years, I had been following Mazzarella and a wanton crew called the Tanglewood Boys who had been terrorizing Yonkers and the Bronx and had recently extended their brutal reach to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One day last fall, after he became a protected federal informant, Darin called me at home saying he wanted to talk face-to-face. Mazzarella, who is now in the witness-protection program along with his brother and their wives, suggested we meet at the submarine base.
I was gonna send you e-mail from a public library near where the FBI has my family stashed, but the computers they got arent modern enough, Darin explained when we met. I used one of those phone cards the mob is selling now to call you. We wound up in a Ground Round restaurant, sitting at a wooden table, surrounded by sailors. The Jets were playing the Minnesota Vikings at the Meadowlands, and with the televisions blaring, no one seemed to notice us at first.
Back when I was locked up, I saw Sammy Gravano talking on television with Diane Sawyer, Mazzarella said. I was left to twist in the wind by guys who hired high-priced lawyers like Ben Brafman. I was in jail protecting wiseguys who werent doing shit for me. The guys in my own crew aint even paying my fiancée money they owe me. Then I see Gravano on television. Heres a boss who ratted, kept his money, wrote a book -- and Im thinking, What the fuck am I doing? Im gonna be the last stand-up guy? Fuck that. Like politics, the gangster culture has bottomed out. Even the mob bosses we aspire to be have movie deals.
Mazzarella was talking too loudly, and I was concerned that a couple of sailors nearby had him on their radar. The waitress coughed. Darin lowered his voice to a whisper.
You know, when you were writing about the Tanglewood Boys all the time, I was gonna come down to Manhattan one night and baseball-bat you, he confessed. You were in one of our clubs, and I got beeped. McAlary is in here right now, with his wife. This was a big going-away party for somebody from your newspaper.
I was jolted into remembering a dark, velvet-covered room.
Yeah, thats our place, he continued. The Genovese capo who used to run hiring at the Javits Center is the secret owner. At the same time the Daily News is screaming about the Javits mob, youre renting our nightclub!
We didnt know.
I didnt come down and whack you because I realized, hey, if I ever get in trouble, you know, maybe Ill need you. We could be partners.
Partners? In what?
You know, partners in a book-and-movie deal.
On December 13, 1997, as the federal collar tightened on Junior Gotti and 40 others, including Tanglewood Boys past and present, Darin surfaced again at the submarine base, this time wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt. He and his brother had just pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in White Plains and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Even though news of the arrangement wouldnt get out for nearly two weeks, Darin wanted to tell me about the crimes he had committed between 1989 and 1995 with several generations of established Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese gangsters.
Before he is sentenced for racketeering, Mazzarellas keepers say, he will testify against his old boss, Anthony Blue Eyes Santorelli, in a half-dozen state and federal trials covering a wide variety of crimes, including mob murders, assaults, armed robberies, hijackings, loan-sharking, and ruthless mob extortion schemes involving union jobs and building construction. Although most of his testimony will focus on his involvement with the Lucchese family, some of his best friends were arrested on January 21 with Junior Gotti, including several charter members of the Tanglewood Boys. Junior was also found, the government charges, with a list of names the prosecutors have called The Holy Grail. The list included names of two Lucchese mobsters -- Joseph Cosentino and Anthony Magana -- who executed John Petrucelli, the father of Darin Mazzarellas best friend.
The Tanglewood Shopping Center on Central Park Avenue in Yonkers is a dingy thirteen-store, one-pay-phone, gray-and-maroon backwoods strip mall just across the street from Nathans Famous restaurant, where the nice kids hang out. I first began receiving letters from a guy in the Tanglewood gang in 1994, after writing about the murder of Louis Balancio, a student at Mercy College. The writer called himself Jack and wrote single-spaced, severely misspelled letters. He seemed to know a great deal about murders, assaults, arson, and bookmaking operations. In 1993, FBI agent Dave Calore and his supervisor came to see me about the letters. It turned out Jack used to write to the FBI but quit them for me. The agents showed me an advertisement theyd placed in the Daily Newss classified section trying to communicate with him. I shared Jacks letters with the FBI, about eight of them. Some of Jacks information was good. Some of it was wrong. The identity and motive of the mysterious mob letter-writer was baffling.