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Breaking the Code

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On that late-June evening, a rich guy, Gene Gallo, whom another crew used to front them loan-shark money, parked his Mercedes and walked into the park. Johnnie Boy Petrucelli threw a bottle at him, and Gene Gallo left. A couple of minutes later, Gallo came back with a Genovese hit man they all knew as Hippy -- Michael Zanfardino. When Hippy asked, “Who threw the bottle?,” Petrucelli replied, “I did.”

“At this stage in my life, I’m like 25, I don’t hang out in parks,” Darin said. “I had shorts on. We were drinking beer and bustin’ balls. I know this guy Gallo well. He’s a pussy. One of my guys beat the shit out of him once and got Gallo to say, ‘I’m a pussy.’ Which shows how much of a pussy the guy is. He’s driving his convertible Mercedes. He wants desperately to be a wiseguy, but the Genovese crew just used his money for shylocking. We all hate him. He leaves and comes back with Hippy in his mother’s Jeep. Hippy tells Johnnie, ‘This guy is a friend of mine. He’s with me. You’re making me look stupid.’ So at that point I know they are up to something. He is trying to get Johnnie Boy in the street. I said, ‘Johnnie, I just got beeped.’ I know Johnnie has a gun in his car, and I want to get it. On the way to the car, I hear something. It’s Hippy. He says, ‘Hey. How’s Freddy Boy doing? Give him my best,’ and I just turn around. Hippy opens fire on me. I don’t know how many bullets I was hit with, because there are so many in-and-outs. I make it halfway down the street running. Finally, my leg collapses, because it’s shattered in a couple of spots. They throw me into a car and take me to the hospital.

“Johnnie went back alone to get his car. On the way to the car he sees Gene Gallo’s cousin, Paul Cicero. He stabbed him once and said, ‘Give this to your cousin, Gene.’ The kid bled to death.”

In January I also visited Paul Cicero’s parents and brought a transcript of Darin’s admissions. One comment stood out. “By being stupid, Gene Gallo got his cousin killed.” Joanne Cicero is a strong, even heroic woman. She raised a good boy who worked at the corner grocery. His room has been untouched since the day he died. There are posters of Don Mattingly and Mickey Mantle on the wood-paneled walls. His closet is still filled with sports jackets and baseball clothes.

“My son was selling firecrackers a couple of weeks before this with Johnnie Petrucelli,” Cicero said. “He never told the cops who stabbed him. He believed in the false gangster bullshit: Don’t be a rat. Paulie figures he’s going to recover and come back as a hero. He died instead. His father gave him $100 to see Batman Forever that night. We have the bill upstairs -- a bloody bill forever.”

In time, Darin Mazzarella got strong again. Nick was released from prison. Hippy was working for a crew headed by the former Javits Center boss, Ralphie Coppola, who was hit with a federal fraud-and-money-laundering indictment last year, set up in Manhattan by the two angry factions from the opposing Genovese and Lucchese families. The old wiseguys may be weak, but they are the only law that matters.

“It went on for awhile and eventually went to the top of the families, the Luccheses speaking for me and the Genoveses speaking for him,” Darin said. “The Genovese bosses told our bosses, ‘Hey, listen, we got a dead kid here, you’ve got a kid who is injured. Youse already won. It’s even. Leave it like that.’ So rather than Hippy getting killed, it got squashed.

“We all met on 86th Street in Manhattan. Me, Freddy, Freddy’s father, and another wiseguy. Hippy came with Ralphie Coppola and another wiseguy from that crew. We stood on the street corner. And Ralphie said, ‘I’m happy you both picked this life and that you are going to let us settle this instead of the authorities. He says he respects us both for that. Ralphie said Hippy was 100 percent wrong for what he did, but because of things that happened afterwards with Gallo’s cousin, it’s going to be a dead issue. I felt betrayed by my Lucchese friends. I am still going to kill Hippy, but I am going to wait.”

Following his release from jail in August, Darin went to work for the FBI. Now he is looking for a partner, someone to write his story. It won’t be me. On the day before Junior Gotti surrendered on a Yonkers street, I met with agent Dave Calore again in the parking lot of a deserted Nassau County golf course. I needed to tell him -- as I promised Mazzarella I would -- that I had been meeting secretly with the FBI’s newest witness. The Tanglewood chase, it seemed, was perfectly completed. After getting beeped, the federal agent sped away to help round up the son of the most famous mobster in the world, along with New York’s next generation of gangsters.


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