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Breaking the Code


Jack knew about bookmaking operations being run by Darin Mazzarella, his friend Alfred “Freddy Boy” Santorelli, and their underlings. He gave me a complete list of the gang, which included the Santorellis, the Mazzarellas, the DiSimones, Johnnie Boy Petrucelli, and ten others. The FBI used this information, and the bookmaking phone numbers Jack provided, to make a 1995 raid near Yankee Stadium, arresting Darin Mazzarella.

“Jack made us be more careful,” Darin said. “But we figured it was the FBI writing the letters to you anyway. Only after I agreed to cooperate did I realize Jack actually existed.”

Mazzarella has since helped the FBI identify Jack, who is also being protected. “Jack helped us break up Tanglewood and solve three murders,” said Dave Calore. “He was the real deal.”

Darin Mazzarella was living the jock life at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers until 1988, his senior year, when he broke his wrist and had to quit the varsity baseball team. He lived with his mother and Nicholas, now 29, in the Crestwood Arms Apartments, behind the Dumpsters in the Tanglewood shopping center. He was from a broken family, the son of an electrical engineer with a union job in the city. The Mazzarella brothers used to hang in the mall near the deli, where they carved their names in the redbrick. Darin also had the word TANGLEWOOD tattooed on his calf.

No cops came around then, but today there is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the shopping center, and last month I counted ten Yonkers cops stopping by for coffee in one hour. The strip includes a couple of delis, a pizza store, a Laundromat, a dry cleaner, a Chinese restaurant, and some hairdressers. It’s working-middle-class -- the stickers on the rear windows of the cars parked there read NEW PALTZ, ALBANY STATE, and NEWBURGH.

By 1989, Darin said, he had abandoned the jock life for the gangster life. In quick succession, he’d dropped out of community college, grabbed a mob construction job in Manhattan, and dreamed of becoming a gangster like the ones in the movies he rented from Tanglewood Video. Instead of playing baseball, he began stealing rare baseball cards, selling Mickey Mantle and Henry Aaron rookie cards to Lucchese mobsters for as much as $6,000 each. By then, there were about twenty Tanglewood Boys hanging out in the parking lot, listening to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN or Hot 97 FM and selling stolen goods, splitting gambling receipts, loan-sharking, or robbing local supermarkets and fast-food stores with guns.

“We were like every mall kid you ever saw in the nineties, only we got the sons of six gangsters in the Tanglewood parking lot almost every night,” Darin told me. “We got Anthony DiSimone and Freddy Boy Santorelli from the Lucchese family. Johnnie Boy Petrucelli is the son of a guy who got whacked for hiding a guy who killed a federal agent. Stevie Crea is the son of the Lucchese underboss. There is Craig DePalma, the son of a Gambino capo; Greg DePalma, who is with Junior Gotti. Pasquale Parrello is around, too. He’s the son of a Genovese soldier, Patsy Parrello. The kid got whacked after his father slapped Torrie Locascio, the son of Frank Locascio, the Gambino underboss guy who went away with John Gotti. We would hang out there before we went to the clubs, listening to music. We liked everything from Springsteen and Billy Joel to Neil Diamond and even the black gangsta rap. Anything but Metallica . . .

“We used to go to clubs all over Westchester and the Bronx and beat the shit out of people. We were just raging through the night. We intimidated the old wiseguys. We got free drinks, and if we started a fight, the other guys got thrown out. We dressed like clean-cut college kids, and we even used to make fun of gangsters in those stupid white-on-white shirts and silk suits. Our heroes were Phil Simms, Don Mattingly, and John Gotti. How could you not like the way he dressed? We would do robberies and go shopping at Take Six and Century 21 in Manhattan. Mostly we wore Gap clothes or Nike outfits. We thought we looked better than the old-timers.

“Out of high school, I had a brand-new Cougar, and Freddy Boy had a brand-new maroon iroc Camaro convertible. You sleep till noon. You got girls and cash. You go on vacations whenever you like. Anybody that doesn’t like it got to be insane. We played softball and football, and when guys owed me and Freddy money, we took their rice rockets too -- red, white, and blue Kawasaki motorcycles. Once, Freddy took this guy’s girlfriend. He just called this guy down to Tanglewood and told him, ‘If you see her again, I’ll break your legs.’ Freddy even got engaged to the stolen girl. We didn’t give a shit about wiseguys, though we respected them because they were older. They had guns. We had guns. We had fathers to protect us. So we did what the fuck we wanted. It’s great until you go to jail. Then the betrayal starts.”

Darin’s first and closest mob friend was Johnnie Boy Petrucelli. Because of his deal with the prosecutor, Darin had to give Petrucelli up in three murders, including the 1995 stabbing of a 17-year-old in the Bronx. In the eighties, he and Johnnie Boy would do gangster sleepovers at Petrucelli’s mother’s house in Ardsley. They also frequented a New Rochelle restaurant where John Petrucelli Sr., who liked cocaine and silk suits, hung out five nights a week in the back room. John Sr. was a big partyer but a rebel gangster who never wanted to go to Brooklyn to his boss.

For as long as there has been a Mafia, its story has been one of fathers and sons. The senior Petrucelli was a convicted Lucchese hit man who shot two guys in a Bronx bar in the late sixties. He claimed it was an argument over heroin, but it was a classic mob hit. He fled, and the mob, of course, protected him. But eventually he went to trial, and was out on bail waiting across the street from the Bronx Criminal Courthouse when someone relayed the guilty verdict. Petrucelli fled again. After nearly ten years on the lam, he was captured in Florida and shipped to Green Haven. Sometimes Petrucelli’s sons -- Johnnie Boy and Joey -- would travel upstate to see him. The kids were enthralled with the gangster’s life and charmed by their father’s notion of fealty. It is all romantic fable, but the Petrucelli boys took it for truth.

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