The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered fo

Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:35 am


On the morning of Sunday, November 27, 1989, just after first light, the call came over Detective William Oldham's radio. "Ten-thirty," the dispatcher said. "Robbery in progress, 560 Wadsworth Avenue, cross streets 183 to 184, apartment 5G." Oldham was pulling out of the precinct parking lot on Broadway and 182nd Street in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan on his way to breakfast at his favorite diner. A Sunday-morning robbery was unusual, Oldham knew, and 7 a.m. was far too early for most criminals to be out and about. The call sounded like it matched a pattern of impersonator robberies he had been working for months. Two male Dominicans, mid-thirties, one short and muscular and carrying a large black automatic, the other tall and skinny and armed with a silver revolver, were robbing drug dealers by impersonating NYPD narcotics detectives. They operated first thing in the morning, like real cops out to hit a stash house, giving themselves the element of surprise and the appearance of authenticity. The performance of the impersonators was so convincing that the victims sometimes couldn't tell if they were being stuck up by cops or robbers.

Oldham turned uptown and picked up his radio. "Three-Four RIP responding," he said. The 34th Precinct, or Three-Four, covered the west side of upper Manhattan in a stretch from 155th Street to 225th Street, making it one of the largest precincts in the city. Oldham was assigned to Three-Four RIP, the Robbery Identification Program. In the late eighties, the area known as Washington Heights was the cocaine capital of the United States, making it one of the most dangerous and crime-ridden places anywhere. Crack, the admixture of baking soda and coke that makes a crackling sound when cooked (thus the name "crack"), was invented on the streets of Washington Heights. A predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, the avenues were lined with grand old nineteenth-century apartment buildings fallen on hard times. Known as Little Dominica, the area was densely populated, saturated with restaurants, money remittance shops, and bodegas, many of them fronts for laundering illegal money made by peddling cocaine. Dealers were everywhere, operating openly on stoops and in lobbies and on street corners. The police in the Three-Four were overwhelmed, so there was no shortage of action for an ambitious young detective like Oldham.

A "pattern" amounted to two, three, or more robberies with the same modus operandi and physical descriptions of the suspects. Oldham had been investigating these particular impersonators for months. The last robbery in the pattern had occurred a week earlier, another dawn raid of a drug dealer's residence. Oldham had arrived at the scene of that crime as the ambulance pulled up. The dealer was discovered dead, his back welted with burn marks. His daughter, a five-year-old, had her mouth and eyes duct-taped, and had been hog-tied by her ankles and wrists. Oldham had tests run on the hair and fibers on the duct tape. He had canvassed the streets for witnesses. He had talked to his CIs -- confidential informants. He had used the descriptions of the perps to eliminate other robberies he thought were unrelated -- some of them possibly the work of real cops, in particular a police unit nicknamed "local motion."

The investigation revealed that the pattern crew operated like narcotics detectives. They talked to their snitches in the neighborhood, gathered intelligence on dealers, sat in cars on upper Broadway running surveillance. They went after crack dealers, money launderers, people who ran the local su-sus-the informal banks where the poor people of Little Dominica borrowed small sums of money. The impersonators were often mistaken around the neighborhood for real plainclothes cops. They had detective shields, scanners, NYPD raid jackets, bulletproof vests in case they got in a shootout with the drug dealers-or the cops who came to arrest them. They often forced the doors of apartments, weapons drawn, and entered with the speed and precision of experienced detectives. Once inside, they rousted the bleary-eyed dealers and worked methodically. First they cuffed their victims with the cheap toy metal cuffs for sale in local bodegas -- the cops called them Mickey Mouse cuffs. They duct-taped the dealers' mouths. They gathered the occupants into one room, leaving a member of the crew to guard the prisoners while the others conducted the search for a "trap" -- the compartment built under the floorboards or into a closet or wall where cash and cocaine were stored. Dondi estan Lasdrogas? they yelled. Where are the drugs? Dondi esta la caja? Where is the money box?

Impersonator robberies had become a plague in Washington Heights in the late eighties, going down once or twice a day. It was impossible to know the true numbers because the victims were often drug dealers and they would rarely report a robbery, unless a neighbor called 911 or they were shot or stabbed or a large amount of money or drugs was taken -- and the sums involved were frequently huge, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars and kilograms of cocaine. For the most part, the so-called victims would take care of the problem themselves by trying to find out who had ripped them off and going after them themselves. The main reason the robberies came to the attention of the police at all was that midlevel dealers needed to get a complaint report number from the police so they could prove to their suppliers they had truly been stuck-up. Having been fronted drugs with little or no money down, as was a common practice in the cocaine business, the dealers were terrified that their wholesalers would think they had staged the robbery themselves to avoid payment.

Oldham's crew of impersonators were particularly vicious. If the dealers resisted, or refused to give up their trap, the crew tortured them. The Dominicans -- "Domos," cops in the Three-Four called them -used hot irons and knives heated on stoves to burn the backs of the dealers. Once, they drilled a three-inch drill bit into the back of a man's head and left it there after they fled with his stash. In the end, if the dealers still wouldn't give away their trap, the perps might shoot everyone in the apartment, murdering three and four people at a time.

By mid-November, the impersonator pattern had gone fallow. It was one of three patterns Oldham was working, along with a dozen single robberies of liquor stores and bodegas in the neighborhood. Cases came and went in the normal rhythm of the robbery squad in the Three-Four. Waiting for a break was a big part of police work. There was pressure from superior officers to close cases quickly-to say a complainant was uncooperative, or all leads had been exhausted, or to reclassify the pattern as larceny or burglary so it was no longer on the books of the Robbery Squad. But Oldham dragged cases out. It was his nature. He didn't see the point of getting rid of cases. The aim was to solve the problem, not accumulate good stats or impress the bosses. The longer he had to look at a case the more he would understand the pattern and its elements. Playing for time gave him greater odds of getting lucky. Not an early riser, Oldham had come to work early that Sunday morning by chance but he was still thinking about the pattern and he was ready to take advantage of a break. Luck was like that: you make your own.

The call to Wadsworth and 183rd Street was only three blocks north of the precinct house. Oldham sped through the deserted Sunday-morning streets, making it to the job in under sixty seconds. The building was an eight-story tenement, with a dingy, cavernous yellowed marble lobby covered with graffiti. There was an elevator but Oldham didn't take it; he didn't want the elevator to open and find himself face-to-face with the bad guys. Oldham drew his gun, a five-shot Smith & Wesson, and took the stairs up five flights. He stood outside the door of apartment SG listening. Inside, a man was screaming in Spanish. He was being beaten and pleading for his life.

Waiting for backup, Oldham had no way of knowing exactly what was going on inside the apartment. Two uniformed officers responding to the call emerged from the stairway and joined Oldham in the hallway. Oldham banged on the door loudly and identified himself: Police! Polida! The screaming stopped. A few seconds passed and then the door opened. Oldham and the two other cops backed away, guns aimed at the door. A heavyset Dominican man, bleeding profusely from the head, his hands cuffed behind him, was shoved out and fell to the floor. The door shut again. One of the uniformed cops started kicking and beating the victim for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was probably a drug dealer and, therefore, no victim at all. Oldham turned for a moment and watched the random, brutal violence-the kind of thing that happened in the Three-Four all the time-and returned to the door and the job. Usually, when the police arrived at an apartment, the perps knew there was no way to escape and would give up. This time, it was going to take force to get whoever was in there out.

"The [police officers] that are taking money will more typically be the ones that are giving beatings, yes."

-- Former Police Officer Michael Dowd, Testimony Before The Mollen Commission, September 27, 1993

-- The City of New York -- Commission Report: Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department, by Milton Mollen, Chair

Oldham signaled and stepped aside and let one of the uniformed cops kick the door open with one sharp blow near the lock. A dimly lit twenty-foot hallway lay ahead, bathroom to the left, living room at the end. Oldham and the other cop entered the hallway. Police working Washington Heights made forced entries often. The frequency and routine led to a dangerous nonchalance. Oldham had not waited for more backup. He did not gain cover by taking the bathroom first. The truth was that he was half expecting to find real narcotics detectives in the apartment. Making his way along the hall, the last thing Oldham wanted was to get in a shootout with fellow officers.

Other Cases Not Sent to Prosecutors or Not Officially Recorded

The Commission found evidence of other police corruption cases not being recorded in official IAD files or sent to prosecutors.

First, as evidence presented at the public hearings demonstrated, although the Department is supposed to notify each District Attorney about all serious police corruption cases within his jurisdiction and provide daily "logs" of all allegations of serious corruption, we found this was not always done. Our investigation revealed that during 1991 and 1992, IAD failed to provide approximately 230 cases of serious corruption to prosecutors. These cases ranged from officers associating with and protecting drug dealers, to running license plate checks for organized crime figures and conducting unlawful raids.

Second, although all corruption allegations are supposed to receive "C" numbers [14] and an official entry into Department records we found some serious corruption cases that were given "No C" designations by IAD's commanding officers, including allegations of officers dealing drugs, protecting drug dealers, committing thefts. One "No C" case included an allegation of theft against Alfonso Compres, an officer recently arrested in the 30th Precinct. A "No C" designation means the case does not contain a specific corruption allegation, is for information only, and is not to be sent to prosecutors. Thus, IAD did not forward these cases to prosecutors or enter them in official IAD records. When questioned in a private hearing, an IAD officer who supervised the unit that handled some of these cases, lieutenant John O'Brien, testified that he did not know why some of them were given "No C" designations, which were approved by IAD commanders.

Third, we also found that IAD all too readily classified police corruption allegations as "police impersonation" cases, and sent them to investigative commands outside Internal Affairs where they typically "died on the vine," as Sergeant Webber told us. In past years, approximately 10 percent of all allegations that came through the Action Desk were classified "police impersonations," often on no other basis than the Action Desk officer's uninformed judgment. IAD classified approximately 1,500 police corruption allegations each year as police impersonation cases.

The Commission's review of 4500 police impersonation cases for one year revealed many serious corruption allegations that IAD should not have categorized at the outset as police impersonation cases. Indeed, an early case against a former police officer and convicted murderer, Robert Cabeza, was incorrectly labeled as a police impersonation case. Other allegations classified as police impersonation cases included officers protecting drug dealers, unlawfully raiding apartments, and using drugs -- the identical type of wrongdoing the Commission uncovered through its field investigations. The result of these misclassifications: the total "official" number of annual police corruption allegations is minimized, and many police corruption cases are never investigated as such.

-- The City of New York -- Commission Report: Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department, by Milton Mollen, Chair

As Oldham neared the living room, a man stepped into the hallway and pointed his gun at Oldham's chest. Oldham registered nothing about the man's appearance: he stared directly at the mouth of a black automatic. The man pulled the trigger.

Click. The gun misfired.

It was the clearest sound Oldham had heard in his life.

In a panic, he turned and ran. He had been shot at four times as a cop, and he had shot at perps twice -- and it wasn't the first time he had run away from a man with a gun -- but there was no time to feel anything but blind terror. Tripping on one of the uniformed cops as he fled, Oldham shot wildly over his shoulder in the direction of the bad guy and leapt through the door.

In the hallway, Oldham called the dispatcher. "Three-Four RIP shots fired," he said. "Shots fired."

In minutes, the building was swarmed by police. "We fucked up," Oldham said to the uniformed cop who had followed him into the apartment, both of them out of breath from the close call. The police sent to cover the rear exit radioed Oldham and said they had found an injured male lying in a bloody heap in the courtyard facedown on top of a silver gun. One of the robbers had climbed out the window of the living room onto the ledge in an attempt to hide; he had lost his grip and fallen five floors. So there was one less bad guy in the apartment. "We have to go back in," Oldham said to the two uniformed cops. Reluctantly, they reentered, this time creeping along the hallway and taking cover in the bathroom. Policia, Oldham yelled. Dame la pistola! Give me the pistol!

A gun skittered across the floor of the living room into the hall -- a black automatic.

Oldham entered the room and found Jorge Ramone standing with his hands raised toward the ceiling. An NYPD raid jacket and bulletproof vest and detective shield were on the floor. Ramone was cuffed and taken away by the two uniformed cops, who beat him as they left the apartment. Oldham sat by himself on a plastic-covered love seat and waited for the duty captain to arrive. After an officer discharged his weapon there was always an investigation to ensure the officer wasn't drunk, drugged, psychotic. Oldham felt blessed. He was alive. No one had been shot. The bad guys were going to jail. But he also wondered how his job had turned into such a swirl of contradictions.

"I loved being a cop. I loved everything about it. I loved the uniform when I was in uniform. I was an armed social worker, psychologist, vigilante. People come to New York City from all over the world to become actors and musicians and Wall Street brokers. I didn't want to be famous or rich. I wanted to put people in jail. The attraction for me was the crime. New York was the financial and cultural center of the world, but it was also the criminal center of the world. What made people afraid of the city was the draw for me. Crime was everywhere, but in New York City it was for real. Criminals were smart and resourceful and determined. Crime was organized."

Oldham was an unlikely cop, by class, culture, and education. He had spent his earliest years in the leafy suburbs of Haverford, Pennsylvania, a town along Philadelphia's Main Line, one of the wealthiest areas in the country, while his father went to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. The family then moved to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He attended the prestigious Quaker school Sidwell Friends, along with Bobby Kennedy's kids, and spent his summers at an exclusive suburban country club, which he boycotted as a teenager because it excluded blacks from membership. In the early sixties, Oldham's father went to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the goodwill arm of the State Department, and moved to Vietnam to set up hospitals for wounded civilians. Oldham was sent to high school in Taiwan, where he learned to speak Mandarin, and afterward to boarding school in New Delhi, India. Upon graduating from high school in 1971 and returning to America, Oldham learned his younger brother, Ben, was dying of brain cancer. The two set out with Oldham's best friend, Bim, to travel through Europe together. Always an outsider, required by circumstances to take on the responsibilities of an adult while still a boy, Oldham was forced to learn hard truths early in life. "My brother didn't die quietly. He was angry and difficult and headstrong. I loved him and I knew he deserved better care than I could offer, but that wasn't going to happen. At a young age I was disabused of the romantic ideas of youth." A year later his brother went on to Nepal to die in his father's home.

Back in America, an eighteen-year-old cut loose from his family, Oldham drifted and wandered through the early seventies. He got a job refurbishing antiques for the White House and Smithsonian. He dodged the draft for the Vietnam War, refusing to register. He painted houses and waited tables and managed a stereo store. In 1974, after he was arrested for having an open container of alcohol in a public place, Oldham served three days in county jail in Florida. Soon thereafter, his life took a sudden and unexpected turn. In 1975, he joined the Washington, D.C., police force. "To this day I really don't know why I did it. All I knew about being a policeman came from the movies. I had barely met a cop in my life. I've thought about it a lot and never figured it out. I knew I didn't enjoy being arrested, I wanted to do the arresting. Public service work was ingrained in my family. Doing good, as corny as it sounds, mattered. As soon as I got on the street, I found being a cop was fascinating, especially for a young white kid in a city where black and white rarely mixed -- it was the chocolate city and its vanilla suburbs."

In the seventies a heroin epidemic was burning through Washington, D.C., and people were dying left and right -- Oldham once handled three murders in a single night. He was young-looking, five-eleven, and only 125 pounds. He had the body of a starving junkie. He volunteered to go undercover. Oldham bought heroin from dozens of people. Some of the heroin was so pure the Drug Enforcement Agency started surveilling him to see where he was buying it. "The DEA almost got me killed. They were so obviously set up on me that it tipped the dealers off I was a cop. By the time I was done with that case, thirty-three people were in jail and I had shut down a Thai distribution network operating out of a gas station. But I hated undercover work. I got tired of lying to people and pretending to be friends to people I wasn't. I went back to patrol. Pretty soon I began to see that in D.C. crime wasn't interesting enough. It was the same murders over and over again. Domestic disputes ending in violence. Fights over small amounts of drugs. Killings over street dice games. There was no variation, no story to it. Crime was rampant but organized crime was nonexistent. I wasn't learning anything. I started thinking about moving to New York or Los Angeles, the crime capitals. I applied to both police forces and was accepted by both, but it really wasn't a close decision in the end. L.A. was attractive but the pull of New York was too strong. The close urban structure of the city was appealing. Cultures rubbed up against one another -- legitimate and criminal. If you did a Chinese gang case in New York, it was like traveling to a foreign country. You ate the food, met the women, got immersed in the culture. New York had diversity, variety, and scope."

Oldham joined the NYPD in 1981 and moved to an apartment in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan. The modern age of the gangster was at its peak in the early eighties, before law enforcement and drugs took their toll on organized crime. The city was carved up into territories. Rackets overlapped -- drugs, gambling, loan-sharking, extortion -- but ethnic gangs catered to their respective ethnic populations and the turf boundaries were clear. The Westies, an extremely violent Irish gang who sometimes did "wet work" for the Gambinos, controlled Hell's Kitchen. Uptown, in Harlem, the West Brothers, the Vigilantes, and PC Boys fought for streets and corners. Colombians ran College Point and Elmhurst. The Ghost Shadows and Flying Dragons dominated Chinatown. And in Brooklyn and Staten Island and Little Italy and the Bronx and Queens -- everywhere in the city, and in every racket worth working -- there were the five families of the New York mafia, by far the largest, most sophisticated organized crime enterprises.

From his first day in the police academy in New York, Oldham was an outsider. He wasn't a native New Yorker. He wasn't Italian or Irish, and therefore didn't belong to either of the tribes who ran the law enforcement establishment. As a general rule, uptown and the Bronx were predominantly policed by cops with Irish blood, and Brooklyn and Staten Island were considered Italian territory. Queens was a mix. The smaller but important groups in the force -- black, Hispanic, Asian, women -- all had benevolent associations to look out for their own. As a young WASP male, Oldham was in a tiny minority. He rarely socialized with other cops. Broke, he spent his days off in the reading rooms of the New York Public Library and he went to night school at Hunter College to take courses on logic and Shakespeare and Milton's Paradise Lost-and to meet girls. Oldham didn't go to bars like the Seventeen Steps, so named because it was precisely seventeen steps from the front door of the Three-Four station house. He didn't go to the parties they called ten-thirteens -- radio code for "officer in distress." He didn't go to funerals or barbecues. He kept his work and private life separate. Oldham knew what he didn't want to be under any circumstances -- a rat!

"In the academy in New York, when you're training to become a cop, sometimes 'the brass' takes you aside and asks if you to want to be what they call a 'field associate.' They make it sound like you're going to be a special undercover cop, the eyes and ears of the department, a crusader fighting corruption. They promise you'll quickly become a detective. But really you'll just be snitching on other cops. You'll tell them cops are drinking beer in the locker room. Cops are taking money. Getting laid at lunch. Sticking up drug dealers. I passed. I didn't join the police department to police the police. All I knew was I wanted to arrest bad guys. And New York City had plenty of bad guys."

The seriousness of drug-related corruption must not be minimized. Many have mistakenly characterized today's corruption as cops "merely" stealing from drug dealers -- or, in other words, punishing those who deserve to be punished. This is wrong. Today's narcotics corruption involves not only cops stealing from dealers, but cops using their authority to permit dealers and narcotics enterprises to operate freely and flourish on the streets of our City. Even worse: today's corruption involves officers using their police powers to actively assist, facilitate and strengthen the drug trade. Thus, the victims of corruption are not the drug dealers on the streets of East New York. Indeed, they are often corruption's beneficiaries. The victims of today's corruption are the thousands of law-abiding individuals who live in the high-crime, drug-ridden precincts of our City. They are victimized not only by the crime and drug trade in their neighborhoods, but by the assistance of officers who protect drug dealers rather than provide the police protection and services the public so desperately needs. Furthermore, cops who associate with drug dealers in the open view of the public breed cynicism among citizens. It breeds the sense of abandonment and hostility that poisons relations between the community and corrupt and honest cops alike. And corruption victimizes the millions of law-abiding residents of this City who depend upon the credibility and effectiveness of the police to fight the war against crime that threatens us all.

-- The City of New York -- Commission Report: Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department, by Milton Mollen, Chair

Oldham's first assignment was foot patrol in Times Square. The area was radically different in the early eighties with 42nd Street- "the quarter and the deuce" -- packed with peep shows and perverts and junkies. There were more than two thousand murders a year in New York City in those years, and twenty thousand shootings and stabbings. "I was afraid to walk along 42nd Street -- and I was carrying a gun," Oldham recalled. "Organized criminals weren't the danger. It was the wolf packs gone wilding in the streets, or kids on a crack attack. They would kill you if you weren't careful and smart. I had a six-shot in my holster and I had a five-shot in my pants pocket, but that wouldn't be enough against a wolf pack if they wanted to wrestle you for it. I always had my hand on my pocket gun when I walked patrol."

After six months on a foot beat, Oldham was transferred to the Two- Four, a precinct that covered the Upper West Side of Manhattan from 86th Street to 110th Street. It was supposed to be a favor for a young cop, with the neighborhood's singles bars and reputation for pretty women. The Two-Four had crime but it was tame compared to other parts of the city, and Oldham agitated for more action. Farther uptown, in Harlem, the Two- Eight was the smallest precinct in the city, but in 1983 it had the most murders. The two precincts shared a radio band and Oldham listened longingly to the calls coming in from the Two-Eight -- shootings, stabbings, beatings. He was dying to be in the thick of it. "Then I got lucky. A female officer I knew in the Two-Eight, the only woman in the precinct, was being dogged to death by the other cops. They would give her bad posts, like standing on the corner of 116th and 8th Avenue by herself, which was a truly frightening place to be then. Her partner would take off in the car from a call, as a joke, and leave her standing alone at the scene to walk back to the precinct. If there was a DOA in an apartment, she would be assigned to guard the corpse, and in those days that meant sitting with a putrefying body for twenty-four hours or longer before the meat wagon turned up. The stench was awful. Eventually, this woman took herself hostage in the 'ladies' locker room of the precinct. It was a break for me. I offered to do a 'mutual' with her -- to swap precincts. Nobody was trying to get into the Two-Eight. Everyone was trying to get out. But I wanted to be there. I wanted to be busy. Cops were called 'rollers,' and I wanted to rock and roll."

The Two-Eight station house was at 121st Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, a new concrete, prisonlike, triangular building that took up the whole block; the previous precinct house had been burned to the ground. Inside, the station was a madhouse. A uniformed cop working station house duty at the door named Spuds McCormack would pull his gun on Oldham when he arrived for a shift. "Slap leather or draw!" McCormack would call, with a beer in one hand, and then he actually drew and Oldham was supposed to beat him to the draw. At the desk, neighborhood residents would argue their cases in front of the desk lieutenant who served as the judge and jury. "He decided there and then who was arrested and charged and who was let go. Screaming and fighting and crying and domestic disputes constantly echoed through the precinct house. In the back there was a kitchen where cops drank beer and ate hot dogs. The commanding officer of the precinct was only seen when he would turn up once a week, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, to collect his pay. Downstairs there were bunk beds and lockers and showers, where cops estranged from their wives lived for months at a time. In the basement next to the lounge was an escape tunnel, built in anticipation of the station house being burned down again.

"There were shootouts on the street all the time. 'Exchanges of gunfire,' as we said in police reports. If a perp in a cell was taking a beating, no one would even look up. If a cop was troubled -- too violent, drunk, burned out -- he would be taken off the street and assigned to sweep the floor or work security in the station house. Every precinct had two guys like that-the Mop and the Broom, they were called, the Man on Post and the Station House Sweeper. It was a different time. Cops looked after cops, even if that meant looking the other way. The truth is that I liked cops. A lot made substantial sacrifices. They were away from their families. They got shot. Many of them got hurt really badly -- hit by a car, stomped by a gang, stuff like responding to a domestic disturbance and the old lady throws hot grease on you because she doesn't like the way you're beating her husband who just got through beating her. They weren't heroes, you don't get a medal or a promotion for that, but I really admired those guys."

The NYPD was a society within a society, forty thousand cops living in their own city-size world. In many parts of New York, particularly black and Hispanic areas, the NYPD was an army of occupation. Most of the cops were white, many from towns outside the city, and they had no clue about urban life, few street smarts, and little sense of proportion when dealing with humanity in all of its complexities. Oldham immersed himself in the city, living in Harlem and Chinatown and the East Village. He felt at home. He liked the pace of the streets, the Indian and Chinese restaurants, new-wave clubs on the Lower East Side. His friends were reporters, artists, and dancers -- circles that few cops moved in. He hated it but he was always known as "Bill the cop" by his Manhattan friends. The precinct houses, courts, and Rikers Island jail were part of New York's underworld, little known to outsiders, but Oldham was interested in people of all kinds -- Wall Street brokers, fashion designers, chefs. The endless supply of characters and contradictions drew him ever further into life in New York.

But being a cop in the city did not protect Oldham from the dangers elsewhere. On September 1, 1983, he lost his second brother, John, who was a passenger on Korean Airlines Flight 007, the airplane infamously shot down by Russian fighter jets over the Sea of Japan. "John was a Fulbright scholar. He was a star student at Andover, Princeton, and Columbia Law School. He was flying to China to teach for a year. He was my second brother to die -- I had no others. My brothers meant everything to me. John and I had a close relationship. We were competitive. He was a straight arrow, the smartest kid in class, the one you could rely on. I was wild, lost. I was stricken. They took me off the street until I got better."

In the Two-Eight as part of the duty chart for NYPD patrol, Oldham had to work midnights one week out of every six. Historically, cops who chose to work steady midnights wanted to operate without supervision. The midnight shift at the Two-Eight was no different. Drug robberies, or "rips," by the police were common occurrences and many of the cops on the midnight shift in the Two-Eight wound up in jail. "If the cops knew there was a dealer doing business and there was a lot of money in a particular apartment, they had to invent probable cause to gain entry. They would have their wives or girlfriends call 911 and report, 'There's a man beating his wife in apartment 3D.' The cops sat in their car in front of the building for a couple of minutes. The call went out from the radio operator for a 10-34 -- assault in progress -- in apartment 3D. The cops would pick up the radio and say, 'I'll take it.' One minute later they're in, no warrant, no probable cause, no witnesses. They'd clean it out and take off."

Radio runs provided yet another avenue for corruption. In the 75th Precinct, for example, corrupt officers generated their own radio runs to specific locations by calling 911 with manufactured complaints. This practice provided a cover to justify an unlawful presence or entry into a location. In another precinct, which we are not at liberty to identify, police officers used civilian accomplices, such as drug dealers, to call 911 with false complaints about locations where cash or drugs were stored. After receiving the radio runs generated by their associates, corrupt officers had an apparent justification to enter the premises to steal the contraband.

-- The City of New York -- Commission Report: Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department, by Milton Mollen, Chair

Oldham knew what was going on, or at least he had a good idea, but he was never invited into the inner circles. The truth was that he didn't care. Not really. There was a difference between stealing a drug dealer's money and a cop taking the dealer's drugs and becoming a dealer himself. Even so, Oldham had never snitched on another cop, just as he had never worked on an investigation into police corruption. He didn't aspire to be Frank Serpico, the NYPD undercover cop who risked his life to reveal pervasive corruption on the force in the late sixties and early seventies. Serpico, the movie, had been part of Oldham's inspiration to become a cop. It was the man's independence and integrity he admired, not his self-righteousness nor the crusade to free the NYPD of corruption. The distinction came naturally to Oldham. "I thought of myself as honest. There were plenty of cops sticking up dealers, but most ot them were pretty good cops. I know that doesn't make sense, but there was a lot of gray area and that's where most of us had to live. I didn't have a family, four kids, trying to survive on a patrolman's salary. I wasn't holier-than- thou. "

The cops on midnights at the Two-Eight were always on the lookout for any clue that there was a field associate in the precinct who might rat on them. Oldham seemed a likely sort. He was a loner. They nicknamed him Sid Vicious. He had spiked hair and he was skinny and he had a reputation for being unusual upon arrival. Oldham and his partner were constantly waved off jobs when they worked midnights. It happened so often that Oldham took to keeping a small black-and-white television set in the patrol car. His partner was straight as well, as clean as the night was long, and the two of them would watch movies to while away the hours, biding their time until they were cycled out of midnights.

While he was responding to an overdose in a building at 116th Street and 8th Avenue one midnight, Oldham's TV was stolen from the patrol car. It had to be a desperate junkie; no one in his right mind would be foolish enough to steal from a police car in the Two-Eight. When Oldham's shift ended, the cops going out on the day shift got word of the theft. They shut down 8th Avenue for four blocks and went into the street with "hats and bats" - helmets and sticks. The cops beat everyone: junkies, dealers, kids hanging out on the corner. Oldham's television wasn't the point. Power was the point. The precinct cops were telling the dealers and junkies that they were never ever to fuck with the police. Never. Ever. Oldham got a call that morning from the desk sergeant saying that he had received calls offering expensive color TVs and cash for a replacement. The upheaval in the neighborhood was interfering with the drug trade and the dealers wanted to get back to business. Oldham told the sergeant he just wanted his TV back. He didn't want more than had been taken. Later, there was another call and a cop was sent to an apartment building on West 117th Street. The cop knocked on the door of the apartment. A door down the hall opened and a black hand emerged with a bag containing a small black-and-white TV; brand and size matched exactly to Oldham's. Inside was a note, "If you need accessories call this number."

Nightraiders meet rage

A single spark can start a prairie fire. -- Mao Ze-dong

Prisons are repositories of rage, islands of socially acceptable hatreds, where worlds collide like subatomic particles seeking psychic release. Like Chairman Mao's proverbial spark, it takes little to start the blazes banked within repressive breasts.

I thought of that spark one morning recently when I heard an eruption of violence that hit Huntingdon's B block, snatching the writer from the false escape of dreams.

A white man's rural twang spat out a rhetorical question: "Oh! You like hurtin' people, huh?" Punches, grunts, thuds, and crunches echoed up the steel tiers, awakening the groggy into sudden alertness.

"Getta fuck offa that man!"

"Leave that man alone, you fat, racist pussy!"

A quiet morning on B block was shattered, as much by the yells of fearful rage as by the blams of baton on flesh and bone. Predictably, the beating and taunts continued, until the man was thrown into a locked shower and was able to call up to others also locked in and inform them of what had transpired.

"Who is it, man?" "What's yo name, dude?"

"Tim ... "

"Tim Forrest," he answered, sounding hyped but guarded.

"What happened, Timmy?"

"They rolled on me, man, for fighting that dude, Weaverling."


The voice was familiar, because he recently worked over on B block as a tier runner for several months, lugging food trays and handling other menial block-maintenance chores, working around death row and disciplinary prisoners. I liked the guy -- thirtyish, slight of build, with an outgoing personality -- despite our strong political differences.

"You can't fight these people, Mu," Tim opined, adding "You can't beat the system." I sniffed in strong disapproval, but he ignored my argument. So we rapped music, a common love, and I enjoyed his melodious tenor crooning.

Timmy? Fighting a guard? Fighting a slew of guards?

By Friday, the rumor spread of Tim's treatment at B block, and following midday Jumu'ah [11] services, more than fifty men converged on the prison's center to demand an end to the brutal beatings of cuffed men. Caught by surprise, ranking security officers assured the angry black throng that no such beatings would occur, and urged dispersal. By nightfall, an uneasy quiet loomed over the central Pennsylvania prison. Come Saturday morning, lockdown was launched -- no movement, no jobs, no recreation, no trays served -- a regimen of utter restriction.

Overnight, Pennsylvania's most repressive jail became Pennsylvania's largest "hole."

The weekend passed in lockdown, and on Monday, when a mournful siren sounded, there was confusion, disbelief, and then a smattering of applause as some assumed jailbreak, which usually precedes the sounding of the township-wide alarm.

The foghorn cries faded, then cried again, then faded, and then cried anew. Confusion overtook jubilation, and the applause faded to embarrassed silence.

Walkie-talkies snapped to life, and the ring of keys sounded throughout the jail, as all three shifts converged en masse at dusk. Armed, armored squads went from cell to cell, pulling, cuffing, punching, bludgeoning, kicking, brutalizing naked prisoners. Men were handcuffed, seized, dragged outside, and thrown into cages, naked, beaten, and bloodied. Huntingdon's revenge for Friday's loss of face rivaled Dixie slavocracy for its premeditated racist raids.

Men, naked, unarmed, awakened from deep sleep, fought back against the rural mob, bravely, perhaps none too wisely. By Tuesday morning, unofficial reports put the injured at twenty-seven staff, nineteen inmates, with A block in shambles, as lockdown continued. By Wednesday, the cages were being hosed down, traces of blood washed into drains to feed the Juniata River, washed away.

As of this writing, the lockdown -- no showers, no jobs, no movement, no recreation -- continues, as Huntingdon prison becomes Huntingdon hole. One participant in the bloody fracas, asked to tell what happened, answered, "It's just like Mao said, man -- "One spark can start a prairie fire'!"

October 1989
-- Live From Death Row, by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Corruption was pervasive in the force despite occasional attempts at reform. As a result, corruption inevitably became a factor in Oldham's career path-not as a temptation but as something he had to be careful to avoid. He had long accepted that promotions in the NYPD were based on politics, connections, connivance. To get ahead, a cop needed a "hook"- someone higher in the hierarchy to pull him upward. Oldham's hook was his lieutenant in the Two-Eight. In 1983, the Two-Eight came to national attention when a black Baptist minister was pulled over by the police and badly beaten. A federal congressional inquiry into police brutality followed, which led to the revelation of the corruption of the midnight shift. But before the inquiry began, Oldham's hook had him transferred to the Manhattan North Task Force. It was a way of protecting Oldham from the coming scandal, which could hurt the young cop's reputation. Oldham was moved to the Intelligence Division, working on desks assigned to monitor violence in the Jewish and black communities, and then transferred to the Diplomatic Protection Unit guarding heads of state. He had a spell in the robbery squad in Queens and was shifted back to Manhattan Robbery before returning to the Three-Four RIP.

Oldham was thought of as someone who moved around a lot. He was restless. But he had good numbers -- he had jailed more than a hundred criminals since he joined. Oldham knew the force wasn't a meritocracy. Politicking was how officers frequently got ahead in the NYPD. The way a cop got a decoration or medal was to write a report about his own heroics. The identity of an officer's hook was a closely guarded secret. Oldham did well in the force but he didn't play the game.

Throughout the seventies and eighties, the government of New York City lurched from financial crisis to crisis. The NYPD was often shortchanged, with the consequence that fiscal constraints determined the number of promotions given out. Finally, in June 1987, Oldham was promoted to detective. He had not campaigned for the promotion, as many officers did. He enjoyed uniform work and patrolling the streets. But as soon as he started working as a detective, he discovered he had found his true calling in life. "I was born to be a detective. In my family nothing was ever quite the way it seemed. My father set up hospitals for civilian war casualties in Asia during the Vietnam War. It wasn't said but clearly the projects were funded by the CIA. He had two families, one family in Vietnam and one in a safe haven. My mother later worked for a naval intelligence agency in Washington. She was a Southern belle, with genteel manners, but she knew how to find weakness and exploit it. That is a very useful quality to have as a detective. All the moving around as a kid taught me to size up new environments quickly. I listened, watched, tried to figure how things worked. What piece was missing, or hidden, or illusive. How to lay down the last piece of the puzzle."

Cops and criminals were supposed to be enemies, but in many ways they reflected one another. For generations, the most corrupting influence on the police was crime that seemed victimless: gambling, prostitution, bootlegged liquor. Some cops were grass-eaters, paid to graze on the bribes and look the other way. It was easy for an officer to convince himself that no harm was done by allowing a willing adult to lay a bet or take a drink, and so it followed there was no harm in skimming a few bucks from the enterprise. But every wave of drugs that washed over the city came with its own particular flotsam of crime. By the end of the eighties, the drugs and cash in Washington Heights had brought out the worst in people. Blood and money flowed in the gutters. The sums of money involved in illegal drugs were enormous. While neighborhoods and lives were torn apart, for some it was a gold rush, including members of the NYPD. Grass-eaters became meat-eaters, out on the street hunting money and coke like the criminals.

"The sentences for drugs were severe. If a dealer got banged out for drugs, he was going away for twenty years. This changed the way dealers did business. People snitched and gave people away to save their own skin. In response, dealers went to work in cells. The same thing happened with cops. Guys hung tight in small units. They didn't rely on a pad paid to everyone in the precinct the way it had gone for decades. Corruption was entrepreneurial. It was every cop out for himself. If a cop took a hit and was arrested, he couldn't rat out a whole precinct or shift. The stickups were secret -- but an open secret. I didn't know for sure who was sticking up dealers, and no one was going to tell me. I wondered how many cops came to the Three- Four to make money.

"The atmosphere of corruption infected the force, and cast suspicion over a lot of innocent cops. I never took a dime but was accused of taking money from a drug dealer, after I arrested a dealer named John John Smith at 156th and Broadway. He was one of the original crack dealers, one of the first to use closed-circuit TV to watch us watching him. I fucked with him unmercifully. We would paint the lenses of his cameras. Roust his street touts. His mother was part of the crew. She ran a little candy store on Amsterdam Avenue and I'd spend time there just to disrupt their routine. After a while, when their patience ran out, Smith decided he wanted to get rid of me. The easiest way to get a cop was to make an Internal Affairs complaint, saying he was dirty. His mother made the complaint. She said I had stolen money from the candy store. The complaint was unsubstantiated. That didn't mean it was false, or that I was found not guilty. The finding meant it couldn't be proved or disproved. A lot of things went like that in the Three-Four."

By the end of 1989, Oldham had learned to appear to be turning a blind eye to his surroundings while keeping both eyes wide open. Earlier that year he worked a pattern of knifepoint robberies on the west side of Washington Heights. The perp waited inside the lobby of large apartment buildings standing at the top of the steps to the basement. As a woman entered alone he would run to the basement and push the elevator button. When the woman got on the elevator it would first go down to the basement. The robber would be waiting, knife out, as the doors opened. The pattern included opportunistic rapes and sexual abuse. After a particularly vicious attack, Oldham questioned the victim. He showed her the mug shot books in the Three-Four. She was an extremely motivated witness. She wanted her attacker caught and punished. After an hour of looking through photos she picked a light-skinned Hispanic man named Hector Moreno. Oldham didn't like using the photo books for IDs as a rule; the books were filled with photographs of neighborhood criminals, and the sight of faces was highly suggestive to witnesses. He believed victims too often selected the face in the mug book that most resembled the perp, and not the actual perp.

Oldham found Hector Moreno and arrested him. It seemed a straightforward case. Oldham did a lineup at the precinct. Five "fillers" of similar age and race were collected from a homeless shelter and brought into a room with a two-way mirror. The witness viewed the lineup and identified Moreno. Oldham interviewed Moreno after the lineup. He told Oldham he was a drug dealer -- a rare confession -- but not a robber or rapist. Oldham checked out his story. Everything he said appeared to be true. Moreno had a nice car. He lived in a nice apartment. He had no reputation in the neighborhood as a stickup guy or a sexual predator. The lineup identification by the victim was persuasive but not decisive. Just because Moreno was a drug dealer didn't mean he was a liar, or Oldham's knifepoint-pattern perp.

"I asked myself, 'Why would a drug dealer with money be doing small-time robberies of women in elevators?' The answer was he wouldn't. In all walks of life, in my experience, people stay with what they know. A knifepoint robber may go to guns and murder, but a drug dealer is a businessman. He might escalate to heroin or try dealing pot or go legitimate. But he's not going to do knifepoint robberies. Running a successful drug operation isn't for morons. Moreno would know he faced five to fifteen years for stealing the twenty-five or maybe fifty bucks the victim was likely to have in her purse. Perps who do knifepoints tend to be desperate junkies, teenagers, or idiots. The thing about robbery patterns is you can look at them and know what you're dealing with. If the robberies are daily and sloppy, your perp is probably a crackhead on a mission. If it's more sophisticated and organized, it's probably a professional stickup artist. If the pattern dies, you wait to see if your guy was killed or jailed or moved or hurt. Moreno didn't fit the elevator pattern other than race and gender and resemblance in appearance. It was a case of bad identification. I didn't have a reasonable doubt, I absolutely knew he didn't do it."

Oldham went to see the young Manhattan district attorney who had caught the case and told him he didn't think Hector Moreno was the robber. The DA promised to talk to his supervisor. Before going in front of the grand jury to testify in the Moreno case, Oldham asked the DA what had happened. The DA said they weren't dropping the charges. Oldham asked to see his supervisor, the chief of Trial Bureau 20. The bureau chief suggested they offer Moreno a polygraph. Moreno took the polygraph and passed. Oldham thought the case was done. Days later, Oldham asked the bureau chief if the charges had been dropped. He looked at Oldham and said no.

"The bureau chief was a jerk. In retrospect, he wasn't that old, maybe thirty-five. He thought he knew better than the man on the street, which was impossible because he only knew what we told him. He was convinced he was right. He said the polygraph was for my benefit, to convince me, not them. He said Moreno may have passed the lie detector, but he must be a liar because he said I hadn't read him his rights, and I had testified under oath that I had read him his rights. It put me in an impossible position. If I hadn't read him his rights when I arrested him, and of course I hadn't, I couldn't say that. I was being sandbagged. I knew it. He knew it. Moreno's guilt on the robbery didn't matter. He was a drug dealer and he was going to jail. The one thing prosecutors hate is dismissing an indictment. They think it reflects on them badly because they have presented the case to the grand jury. It's an institutional sensibility and it has nothing to do with reality or justice."

As the trial neared, Oldham approached the judge and told him that as the detective on the case he didn't think Moreno was guilty. The judge said he couldn't dispose of the charges; they would have to let the jury decide. Moreno took the stand and offered the defense that he was a drug dealer not a small-time stickup artist. "The jury was not sympathetic to that argument. He was trying to say he didn't commit one kind of crime by explaining he committed another kind of crime. To the average juror, all they heard was that he was a criminal. They found him guilty of robbery in the first degree. He got five to fifteen years though I was sure he hadn't done it, and the elevator-knifepoint pattern continued without interruption. It was disheartening and instructive. When I started out as a cop in D.C. I was unbelievably naive. For a long time after I came to New York, I put on the NYPD uniform and I went out to do battle for 'truth, justice, and the American way.' But life doesn't always work out like that. Washington Heights muddied my view of police work."

The day before Thanksgiving in 1989, the day after he was nearly killed by the impersonator, Oldham was sent to a department psychologist as required by the department after a shooting incident. He told the psychologist he was feeling fine. But on Thanksgiving Day he was depressed. "I don't feel things a lot of other people do. You don't last in this business if you do. You become pathetic if you're overly empathetic. You're supposed to be someone other people can look to when they need strength. I always thought of myself, rightly or wrongly, as being capable in these situations. I thought I was good at police work. But I realized the bad guy could have killed me. I had lost control of the situation. The adrenaline rush of surviving the raid on the apartment had been replaced with thoughts of how close I had come to death."

The next week, Oldham went to collect the two impersonators in lower Manhattan to take them to be arraigned. The perp who fell five stories was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. The one who had tried to kill Oldham was so badly beaten his head looked like a purple baseball -- his head was shaved and laced with stitches. "He didn't recognize me and I didn't recognize him. It was as though we had never met. It was eerie. It was clear to me that cocaine wasn't worth dying over. I wanted to work for victims who were innocent, not act as a mediator for drug dealers' disputes. I wanted to make my own cases."

That afternoon, Oldham got a call from his lieutenant in the Two- Eight. His hook was now in the police commissioner's office. He had the power to influence the direction of careers, to help a detective rise to an assignment in headquarters or be sent to one of the precincts reserved for malcontents or cops with bad reputations. For years Oldham's hook had been watching his progress. "I see from the twenty-four-hour sheets you were in a shoo tout the other day," he told Oldham. "You don't want to be running around like that anymore. We want you downtown. Pick a command and call me tomorrow."

Oldham knew the offer was both an order and a reward. He called back the next day. He had decided where he wanted to be assigned. ''I'd like to go to the Major Case Squad," he said.
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

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One Police Plaza was nicknamed the "puzzle palace" by members of the NYPD. For Oldham, it represented both a mystery and an opportunity as he arrived for his first day at the Major Case Squad. Riding the elevator up to the Special Investigations Division office on the eleventh floor, Oldham chafed in the new suit he was wearing. He had bought the midnight blue, single-breasted suit off the rack at Moe Ginsburg's, a discount menswear store on 5th Avenue, and it felt awkward. Oldham had worked plainclothes for years and he was used to dressing for the streets. Headquarters was for suits. There were four thousand detectives in the NYPD, but only forty made it to Major Case. It was a select group, one of the hardest assignments to get. "Elite" was the cliche used to describe Major Case. The big time was how Oldham imagined the squad.

"The detectives in Major Case were the sharpest-dressed cops I had ever seen. They were wearing Armani, Hugo Boss, high-end designer suits. The reason, I learned, was that Major Case had a satellite office in the Garment District. There were a lot of burglaries and truck hijackings in that part of the city. When stolen merchandise was recovered there were substantial discounts for 'New York's finest' on the finest in men's clothing. It was against police regulations but that didn't stop anybody. It was the way the job was. Police work didn't pay much but you didn't have to spend much, either."

According to the NYPD detective investigator's guide, the mandate of the Major Case Squad included the most important cases to every cop on the force: the investigation of the murder or wounding of a police officer. Major Case also handled many of the more significant crimes: kidnappings, bank robberies, art theft, burglaries over $500,000, truck hijackings, and safecrackings in excess of $250,000. The squad had the discretion to pull other cases for further investigation -- "enhancement," as it was called. High-profile cases not included in the mandate were often classified as "major." So were seemingly minor cases that had special significance to NYPD bosses, like the theft of the dress Marilyn Monroe had worn in Some Like It Hot. The squad had been formed in the late seventies in response to the ambush and murders of two young officers, Patrolmen Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie, by a group called the Black Liberation Army. Major Case was designed to give the department a unit able to undertake complex, long-term investigations of crimes that transcended geographical and jurisdictional boundaries. The squad also took cases as directed by the chief of detectives, which could mean almost anything from a shadow investigation of another detective unit's investigation to acting as liaison to foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies.

Major Case detectives were given the luxury of time and freedom to develop expertise in specialized areas of crime. Some were detectives who concentrated on the high-tech aspects of investigations, putting up wires and pole cameras and triggerfish (a device that can capture the electronic serial number of cell phones). There were surveillance specialists. Some detectives ran stables of informants from phone companies, banks, cable companies-people willing to give information or pull up records without a subpoena. Oldham considered his capabilities to reside in the human aspect of police work: talking to people, getting people to talk, measuring character, understanding motives.

"As a rule, NYPD detectives investigate crime reported to the police, reacting to events on the streets. Major Case was about creating cases. We were expected to be entrepreneurial. We went looking for crimes. The bread and butter of racketeering enterprises -- gambling, loan-sharking, extortion, bribery, drug robberies, pension rip-offs, no-show jobs -- were crimes usually not reported to law enforcement. The victims were often guys operating on the margins, borrowers on the balls of their ass, who would never turn to law enforcement. Frequently they themselves had gone to the mafia, as the lenders of last resort, and then found themselves in financial quicksand. They'd end up with a wiseguy partner in their business, big vig on a small loan, maybe broken arms. In some ways the crimes were consensual -- they were participants in their own victimization. In Major Case we went prospecting for people in with the mob and in trouble with the mob. We were looking for the man on the ropes. We were looking for the organized crime associate caught with a bag of heroin who could be convinced to flip and become a cooperator in return for a light sentence. We were looking for the guy who wanted out of organized crime before he got killed or arrested. Snitches were the lifeblood of detectives like me. There was nothing more valuable than an informant who could connect the dots. The art was to find someone like that and convince him to cooperate. My strength lay in identifying other people's weaknesses."

Major Case cops operated citywide. They could go into any precinct or borough detective squad room, and there was a good chance they would be recognized by name or reputation. Considered dilettantes by many in the Detective Bureau, peacocks not burdened by the heavy caseload and onerous supervision of a precinct detective, they were flexible, resourceful, experienced, and, indeed, often arrogant. Investigators of the first and last resort, inside the force they were known as the chief of detective's detectives. Major Case had offices in all the five boroughs, and the detectives had a degree of autonomy far greater than that enjoyed by most cops. The squad room on the eleventh floor was open plan, with twenty or so desks arranged in rows in the middle and a wall of windows overlooking City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. The floors were linoleum, the lighting harshly fluorescent, the walls painted a generic police department blue. Captain Barry Noxon, a muscular, red-headed boss, had a comer office. A bench was placed on one side of the room with handcuffs bolted to the wall. It was far from glamorous by nearby Wall Street standards but still upscale for the police department. Normally most detectives were out, apart from whoever was assigned to "catch cases" that day -- to take the next case referred to Major Case.

Oldham spent his first week in the squad attending latent-print school, learning to lift fingerprints at crime scenes. He was taught the rudiments of investigating bank robberies: analysis of demand notes, bait money, the mechanics of dye packs triggered to explode as the robbers leave the bank. Banks set their alarms with a delay of three or four minutes to ensure the police didn't arrive while the robbers were still in the bank; losing a few thousand dollars was far less important than avoiding a shootout and bad-for- business bloodshed. Oldham was scheduled to take the two-day kidnap course at the end of the week.

Before he reported for the class he was grabbed to work on his first truly major case: a kidnapping. Twelve-year-old Donnell Porter was walking from home to grammar school on the morning of December 5, 1989, when he was snatched from the street. Donnell had the misfortune of being the younger brother of a crack dealer named Richard Porter who ran a crew on West 132nd Street. The older Porter had the misfortune of being involved with a major dealer who went by the name "The Preacher." The Preacher had backed Rich Porter in the drug business, providing him the crack to get started, but the relationship had gone bad. The Preacher used kidnapping as a way to collect outstanding debts or extort money, snatching drug dealers or their girlfriends or children and demanding large sums of cash for their safe return.

The Preacher, whose true name was Clarence Heatley, led a gang in Harlem called "the family." He was known as a compelling orator and persuader, and he had a reputation for brutality even in the violent world of crack and heroin dealers. The Preacher's chief lieutenant was a New York City cop named John Cuff. Cuff went by the nickname "Captain Jack Frost," supposedly because he was so coldhearted. Off duty, Cuff was Preacher's bodyguard and driver. On and off duty, he collected drug money. Cuff was the Preacher's enforcer. Cuff strangled his victims, dismembered their bodies. He was said to be the only man the Preacher feared. "It makes you wonder why Cuff joined the police department in the first place. It wasn't like he was ground down by low pay, long hours, watching drug dealers riding around in luxury sedans while he drove a shitbox Datsun. Cuff was never a straight cop. The most insidious cops were the ones who became cops as cover. How often did guys join the police department with the knowledge and the forethought that they were going to use their position as police officers to commit crimes? It was not that easy to become a cop. There was a background check. Six months in the academy. The first assignments could be miserable, walking a foot post in Hunt's Point, a rough neighborhood in the South Bronx, or something equally awful. Internal Affairs had profiles to ID guys who went bad. They looked at cops whose patterns of behavior radically changed --- more absences, complaints of violence, sudden wealth. But it was tough nabbing a guy like Cuff. He started out bad and never changed his ways. The system was vulnerable to a cop like him."

As a Police Officer, tax id#904062, Shield #31187, assigned to Manhattan North narcotics, I was not in favor of my supervisors Lt. Ernest Pappas, and Gaptain Gavin, for filing a formal complaint with OEEO for being forced to plant drugs on people (we framed hundreds, some are still in prison). For this offense I was placed on the "Burn" posts which were punishment. I was forced to stand on a "Fixer" post on the corner of 145th and Bradhurst in Harlem. While doing so I was made aware that a Federal trial was under way of the "PREACHER'S CREW" which involved the leader CLARENCE HEATLEY, and his right hand JOHN CUFF AKA CAPTAIN JACK FROST. The building I was told to not move from in front of had Federal agents being lowered in during the day time to retrieve bodies of victims of the Preacher's Crew. I was forced to stand there from 6:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M. What no one knew was that I witnessed NYC Police Officers putting what I believe were dead bodies into the buildings in the afternoon before the Feds came..... for the Feds to find... to strengthen their case against "JACK FROST", and the bodies where wrapped in tarp. He may have killed people but not "EIGHT"....more like "THREE".

The "Preacher's" Crew, Or The "Black Hand of Death," may have wielded a lot of power in Harlem and the Bronx, but nothing like the power the NYPD wielded in framing them and using Police Officers like me to do it. I was made to feel afraid for even questioning what was going on. I have no idea where the dead bodies came from that the Federal Agents and Police Officers where placing in the building on the corner of 145th street and Bradhurst Avenue. Some of us cops speculated that they may have been suicide jumpers from the George Washington Bridge. The NYPD were and are always finding bodies of suicide jumpers, sneakers with feet still in them and so forth. In any case, Clarence Heatley, AKA "The Preacher," and John Cuff, AKA "Captain Jack Frost," became legends on the streets of Harlem as the Boss and top Henchman of the "Preacher's Crew" that was known for kidnapping, extortion of all street drug dealers, and murder for hire. The fact that religion as a cover was used to disguise "alleged" activity made the "PREACHER'S CREW" all the more notorious. I myself never had any dealing with the "Preacher's Crew" due to their secrecy, and only being known by upper echelon Gangsters, so I have no personal feeling or affection for them besides the fact that John Cuff, AKA "Captain Jack Frost," was a corrupt NYC Police Officer, as I was. I dislike the fact that Clarence Heatley, AKA "The Preacher," became an informant, because it seems that most all BLACK successful criminal enterprises seem to end up this way makes me feel even more sympathetic toward the outcome of John "JACK FROST" Cuff who played by the rules and was sold out by a trusted friend. This repeated story on all levels of BLACK LIFE seems to be what is driving "US" into extinction.

-- "Clarence Heatley AKA "PREACHER" and his Right Hand Man Police Officer John Cuff AKA "CAPTAIN JACK FROST" Unleashed the "Black Hand of Death" onto Harlem for Over 20 Years. Everyone in the "Life" had to pay the "Preacher's" Crew in one way, or the other," by Michael Mickman Gourdine


TROUBLED diva Whitney Houston secretly paid a $400,000 ransom demand to kidnappers who threatened to kill her ex-husband Bobby Brown, a bombshell new book claims.

Brown was snatched and held “naked and hog tied” at gunpoint by members of a notorious New York street gang known as the Preacher Crew, according to author David Collins.

He was later allowed to make one phone call to Whitney, in which he pleaded with her to personally deliver the ransom to an abandoned building in the Bronx.

Disguised in a wig and dark glasses, the terrified singer obeyed, and handed over a duffle bag containing the cash 24 hours later to 6ft 7in gang boss Clarence “Preacher” Heatley, says Collins.

He claims the kidnapping, which was never reported to police, happened in April 1993 when Whitney was at the peak of her fame with her film The Bodyguard and its soundtrack album, both huge hits. Unlike the movie, however, in which Kevin Costner co-starred as her heroic minder, Whitney was forced to face her then husband’s kidnappers alone to hand over the ransom before they were both allowed to walk away free.

Former gang member Collins claims in his autobiography, Preacher of the Streets, that Brown was snatched over a $25,000 debt to a New Jersey drug dealer. Heatley, currently serving life without parole after admitting being involved in 13 gang-related killings, allegedly paid the dealer and “took over the debt”.

Heatley – described by Collins as an eighteen-and-a-half stone “mountain of evil” – then told gang members he had a plan “to make a whole lot more than $25,000”. His henchmen were sent to a Manhattan nightclub, where they allegedly plied Brown with high-grade cocaine, later luring him to a Bronx apartment with the promise of more.

Collins claims Brown was taken to a sleazy, abandoned apartment that had been taken over by Preacher Crew members. There, he was “knocked out with one punch” by one of Heatley’s henchmen. “When he awoke, Bobby was naked and hog-tied, his mouth stuffed with a rag,” says Collins.

“The Preacher then showed up and took the rag out of Bobby’s mouth. ‘It’s a shame we have to kill you,’ Preacher told Bobby. Bobby begged for his life and said Whitney could pay the debt.

“The Preacher left the room and his men then terrorised Bobby for two hours. They kicked him. They told him they would kill Whitney. One of them put a gun to his head. Bobby was weeping when the Preacher came back in the room, begging the Preacher to let him call Whitney.”

This, according to Collins, was the fear tactic Heatley believed would help him score a big financial hit. Brown was allowed to phone Whitney, telling her he would be killed unless she paid the gang. Heatley, according to Collins, then took the phone from Brown.

As Whitney pleaded with him to spare her husband, “they came to an agreement. She was personally going to bring $400,000 to get her man back. The next day, she did just that. She was wearing a wig. She paid the money. Bobby was free to go.”

Collins writes: “Once they were gone, Preacher sat there with the duffle bag of money and split it with his men. Preacher kept over $200,000 of it.” Collins believes both Brown and Whitney were lucky to escape shaken but virtually unscathed.

In his book he recounts his own years as a member of the Preacher Crew, whose income was derived mainly from drug dealing in Harlem and the Bronx and whose trademark was torturing victims who couldn’t or wouldn’t settle their drug debts.

Writes Collins: “Members would slice off body parts of rival dealers or defaulters before killing them.” The gang was eventually busted by police in a series of raids that landed its key figures in prison.

Spokespeople for both Whitney and Brown yesterday refused to discuss the kidnap allegations. But relatives are bound to be horrified by yet another account of the couple’s descent into what Whitney’s 73-year-old mother Cissy described as “a living hell”.

Brown, 40, and Whitney 45, were divorced in April 2007 after a torrid 15-year marriage, during which she went into rehab three times, police were called to their mansion numerous times and child welfare workers threatened to take their daughter Bobbi, now 15, into custody.

At the time of the alleged kidnapping, Whitney was one of the world’s leading singers and a fast-rising Hollywood A-list star.

She still holds the record for the greatest number of consecutive number one hits – seven – and, at the time of the alleged kidnapping, topped the US charts for 14 weeks running with her spin-off single from The Bodyguard movie, I Will Always Love You – still the third-highest-selling song in the history of music.

As her career soared, singer and actor Brown’s nosedived dramatically. Within the space of a few years, hers did too. Whitney’s drug problems finally became public in 2000 when pot was found in her tote bag on a flight to Hawaii.

She admitted the extent of her abuse in a 2002 television interview in which she poured her heart out about snorting coke, smoking pot and popping pills.

After a court battle, Whitney eventually agreed a shared custody deal over daughter Bobbi with Brown, who failed recently in an attempt to launch a television reality show in the US

Whitney, meanwhile, has teamed up professionally again with music mogul Clive Davis, her former mentor, and has been in the recording studio laying down tracks for a comeback album she and Davis hope to release this year.

-- Whitney Houston Pays Off Drug Gangsters, by Mike Parker, 4/5/09

The night of Donnell Porter's disappearance an unidentified caller contacted his mother. The man said they had Donnell. He told the family to wait for another call and warned them not to go to the police. At one o'clock in the morning he called again. This time the kidnappers made a ransom demand of half a million dollars. Richard, the older Porter brother, refused to pay. During yet another call, Rich bargained for a lower ransom and the demand was dropped to $350,000. The kidnappers told the family to go to the McDonald's at 125th Street and Broadway to get proof of life-proof that Donnell was in their possession and alive. The Porters sent a family friend to a bathroom in the rear of the McDonald's, as instructed. A coffee can was taped under a sink. Donnell's severed right index finger lay in the can. There was also a cassette tape. Donnell's voice was heard on the tape. "Mommy, they cutted my finger off," the boy cried. "Please help. I love you, Mommy."

The Porter family went to the police. Detectives in the Two-Six referred the case to Missing Persons who sent it on to the Major Case Squad. Inside One PP, the political implications of the case were immediately apparent in a city suffering tense race relations. If it emerged that an all-out effort had not been made to save the life of a twelve-year- old black child, there would be an outcry. The mayor, police commissioner, and the district attorney were notified of Donnell Porter's kidnapping. They decided to seek a ban on media coverage. Local newspapers and TV stations agreed not to report the snatch in order to avoid revealing the fact that the family had turned to the police. A team of over fifty detectives was assigned, including Oldham. The investigation needed to be led by an investigator with the ability to manage complexity and maintain secrecy.

The case was assigned to Detective Stephen Caracappa. The choice was an obvious one. Caracappa was older, in his late forties, a detective with a reputation for discretion and excellence. Straight-backed and thin, with a neatly trimmed mustache and dark eyes, he dressed in dark, tailored suits with a handkerchief in his breast pocket. The natty appearance was completed by a gold-nugget pinkie ring emblazoned with the NYPD detective shield as the setting for a multi carat diamond. Caracappa was quiet and watchful. He was called "the Prince of Darkness" by the other detectives in Major Case because of his grave, almost funereal presence. He was considered one of the best detectives in the city.

"Caracappa was the go-to guy in Major Case. He was a mafia specialist but he also had a breadth of experience and knowledge. Caracappa had contacts in federal, state, and local law enforcement. He had access to snitches of every kind, from crackheads to investment bankers. He kept a desk at the FBI office in Manhattan. When people were dying of heroin overdoses in Harlem, when John Gotti whacked 'Big Paul' Castellano, when a cop killed himself in his precinct house, the chiefs went to the commanding officer of Major Case and he then went to Caracappa. The younger guys in Major Case tried to emulate his style-aloof, street smart, inscrutable."

Organized crime was one of the most desirable assignments in the NYPD, attractive for the mystique and complexity of the investigations it sparked. Detective Caracappa concentrated on gathering intelligence on the mafia and was highly regarded in the world of organized crime investigations. But he could work virtually any kind of case. To succeed in Major Case, detectives had to be able to transcend stereotypes. In this, it was known in the squad room, Caracappa was a master. His ability to take on roles led him to be assigned unusual and difficult cases, such as the theft of a rare Baroque painting. The work, by Giambattista Zelotti, an Italian master of the sixteenth century, had been stolen from an investment banker's mansion on Long Island and was said to be for sale. Entitled The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn/Annunciation to the Virgin, the painting depicted Gabriel blowing a small curved horn and the Virgin Mary holding a unicorn to pay tribute to the virtues of the mother of Christ. The allegorical combination of Mary and the unicorn, replete with phallic symbolism, made the piece unique. It was valued at a quarter of a million dollars at the time. The price being asked by the man in Chicago fencing it was $150,000.

Detectives Caracappa and Joe Keenan were given a twenty-minute lecture on Baroque allegorical Italian art by members of IFAR - International Fine Arts Recovery, a group of volunteer art historians from Ivy League schools who loved solving cases with cops. Playing the part of experts interested in purchasing black market art, Caracappa and Keenan lured the seller from Chicago to a suite in the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. Caracappa and Keenan were wired with beeper kels -- devices designed to look like beepers and transmit voices -- and an agreed-upon code word was given to signal to detectives in an adjacent room that the deal was done. As soon as Caracappa and Keenan inspected the painting and recognized it as the Zelotti, they said the word and the perps were rushed and busted. The Zelotti was returned to its owner. The NYPD received a round of excellent publicity, and legend spread through the squad room and One PP of the cunning of Caracappa and Keenan.

"Caracappa was an actor. He transformed himself into an art expert, the kind who was looking to buy obscure art. A detective could study for weeks and learn everything about Zelotti, but he wouldn't last a minute if he couldn't play the part. Caracappa clearly knew his way around. Caracappa was self-possessed, controlled, but there was some street left in him. He spoke in grammatically correct sentences, when he spoke, which was rarely, but there was still the 'dis,' 'dems,' and 'dos' of his childhood on Staten Island. Fences dealing in stolen art were wily. They had to be convinced by Caracappa. It was a skill that couldn't be taught. He knew how to make people believe him. "

In the Porter kidnapping, Caracappa quickly took control of the investigation. Three detectives manned the "nest" -- the domicile of the victim. Caracappa and his partner Les Shanahan chose the nest as the place where the most information could be gleaned. The protocol called for a Kevlar ballistic blanket to be nailed over the inside of the front door in case the kidnappers raided the apartment. The kidnap kit included a double-barrel shotgun, a tape recorder, and a pen register. The phones in the Porter apartment were wired to record all incoming calls, and call waiting and call forwarding were disabled. The Porters were asked to surrender cell phones to ensure there were no communications with the kidnappers that the police didn't know about. A command post was established in headquarters. A synopsis of the kidnap was put up on the wall charting biographical information of the victim, known associates, previous arrests and convictions ("raps"), detectives assigned, along with photographs of the hostage and family. The operation ran 2417. The NYPD system for working kidnappings was low-tech but effective.

In a kidnapping, the nature of the ransom demand often betrayed the nature of the kidnapping, Oldham discovered. If the amount was small, a few hundred dollars, chances were it wasn't a kidnapping at all but a junkie pretending to be snatched trying to scam money from family or friends -- a surprisingly common occurrence, particularly for young female addicts. In some ethnic communities, kidnapping was used as a business tool to collect debts or recoup losses on deals gone bad. A traditional ransom kidnapping of a high-profile or wealthy person was rare. Under the circumstances, Donnell's kidnap looked drug-related. Rich Porter was unemployed and lived in public housing in a poor and dangerous part of the city, but he also drove a late-model BMW and traveled to Las Vegas frequently. It was obvious Donnell had not been snatched from the street randomly. The kidnappers thought the Porters could pay $350,000 for his return, and that meant there was drug money involved.

An operational name had to be decided upon so that detectives on the case could identify themselves on citywide radio. "Thunderbird" was the name given to the Porter case. No matter how complicated a kidnapping case became there were three key moments: the pertinent call, the money drop, and getting the victim back alive. Ideally, the victim would be recovered alive before the drop. After the drop, police were working on borrowed time. The kidnappers no longer had a motivation to keep the victim alive. They had the money. The only thing releasing a victim did was provide the cops with a live witness. The penalty for kidnapping and for murder were pretty much the same: twenty-five years to life. The kidnappers needed to make a business decision whether to release the hostage or kill him.

Over the next decade, Oldham would work dozens of kidnappings, but watching Caracappa on the first case made a deep impression. "Caracappa had an imperious quality that came across as self-assuredness. He wasn't a quiet guy in the sense of being shy or dumb or having nothing to say. He rarely spoke. You could spend a twelve-hour shift with him and not exchange a single word. He was the first person to arrive in the office every morning. He got in at five, before dawn. He had the opportunity to go over the previous day's reports before everyone else. They were called 'unusuals.' They were like the NYPD's daily newspaper. The unusuals recorded arrests, injured cops, robberies, murders. It was a way of keeping on top of crime in the city. Caracappa had the jump on everyone."

As a new member of Major Case, Oldham was assigned boilerplate detective work on the Porter case. He was sent to surveil the Porters' apartment building on 132nd Street. He sat in an unmarked van outside the nest -- the shifts were twelve hours on, twelve off - and watched and waited.

On the third day, Caracappa and the detectives working Thunderbird gathered around a table in the Major Case squad room to listen to the tape recording of Donnell pleading and weeping. There was no purpose in butchering the kid's finger, thought Oldham. It seemed more likely to be proof of death than proof of life. No kidnapper would want to sit around all day with a twelve-year-old crying in pain about his finger. "Caracappa played the tape and we all heard the boy weeping and terrified. It was awful. I looked at Caracappa and not a muscle in his face moved. As the tape ended, he smiled and turned and walked away from the table. He didn't say anything. Nothing about canvassing hospitals. Nothing about the urgency of the case. Nothing about how the kid might be killed at any time. It was a small moment but it struck me. As detectives, we had to dissociate ourselves from the victim. Cutting the boy's finger off was an audacious move. Reports from the nest were that the family had little affection for the detectives from Major Case. Caracappa seemed detached from the human component of the case. I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The tape rattled me. Usually investigations started after the crime was over. In murder cases, you go home at night and come back in the morning and the guy is still dead. In kidnappings the victim is always still out there waiting for someone to come and get him - if he is still alive."

Oldham lived in Harlem at the time, a few blocks from the Porter apartment and around the corner from the McDonald's where Donnell's finger had been found. He started to freelance the case off duty. He questioned the kids working the counter at McDonald's. He went to the snitches he had developed when he worked in Harlem and Washington Heights, probing into Rich Porter's crew on 132nd Street. Like the other detectives assigned to Thunderbird, Oldham assumed the older Porter knew more than he was willing to tell about who had snatched his brother. NYPD policy left the decision to pay or not pay the ransom in the hands of the family. Unknown to the police, Rich Porter was negotiating secretly with the kidnappers. Porter considered himself savvy and tough. Oldham followed Porter once when he left the nest but lost him in traffic at the entrance to the West Side Highway at 125th Street; Porter knew he was being tailed and shook him.

Oldham was conducting a shadow investigation, an attempt to retrace steps already taken to see if any stones had been left unturned. Ten days went by and there were no new leads, from the main investigation or from Oldham's. Every passing hour and day the chances of Donnell Porter's surviving grew smaller. The next communication from the kidnappers came on December 10. A boy playing in the street in the Bronx was given a note by a strange woman and told to deliver it to Donnell's aunt. The aunt lived in an apartment across the street. The stranger slipped the kid two dollars and the boy delivered the note without thinking to take notice of the woman's appearance. The note repeated the demand for money. It also said that Donnell needed medical attention. Oldham took this as a further signal the boy was going to die soon, probably painfully and awfully. After the note, there was only silence -- ominous silence -- as a blizzard blanketed the city and the Christmas season arrived.

That year the Major Case Squad holiday party was held at a restaurant called Two Toms on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn. Situated in an Italian neighborhood near the Gowanus Canal, neighbors with two mob-frequented social clubs and the South Brooklyn Casket Company, whose motto read, "Experience a world of difference," Two Toms was popular with gangsters and off-duty detectives. It was a place known for the size of its portions and low prices, not the quality of the food. "I didn't want to go. 1wanted to keep working on the Porter kidnapping, but 1had no choice. The party was held during duty hours and attendance was not optional. When 1got there it occurred to me that this was the only time of year all the detectives in Major Case were together in one room. The detectives gathered in that room knew every trick in the book. They could get a baby out of a parked car on a hot summer day in under five seconds. They could make a rapist rat on himself by questioning his masculinity. They could run a racketeering case without leaving the office. The guys in that room would chase bad guys to the ends of the earth and never take a hard breath."

Oldham elbowed his way to the bar -- "the trough." Two detectives, Irish guys both with the last name of Henry, were giving a roast. They were known as the "two Henrys." As the new detective in Major Case, Oldham was the butt of their jokes. The two Henrys presented Oldham with a statuette of a looney bird on a tiny skating pond. "Skating" was the cop term for avoiding work; it was also the term for criminals getting away with crime. Ridicule was part of the hazing process. In truth, Oldham was already known as a worker.

"I looked around Two Toms and realized I was keeping company with the best. There were legends standing at the bar-detectives who worked the biggest cases in the country. There was Jimmy Graham, who weighed four hundred pounds. He was holding forth on how to bring a hijacked tractor trailer to a halt without firing a shot -- a feat of singular difficulty. He was the only one of us not wearing a suit because they didn't make suits in his size that he could afford. He wore blue jeans with elastic waistbands. He looked like a farmer who had wandered in from the tobacco patch. But he was one of the smartest and most capable detectives I ever met. Detective Gil Alba broke the Son of Sam case in the mid-seventies. A serial killer had terrorized an entire city by sending demented notes to the police after shooting his victims with a .44-caliber handgun -- until Alba tracked down David Berkowitz.

"In that company, Steve Caracappa was known to be a connoisseur of organized crime -- the master of its history, politics, and culture. Caracappa had an appreciation of the Byzantine. He understood plots and subplots and vengeance and betrayal and all the good things that go into a Shakespearean drama. Caracappa had a gift for making the connections. He understood the language, the meaningful silences, the shrugs and gestures. In organized crime things often weren't what they appeared to be."

The party was filled with veteran detectives -- men worn out by long hours and bad diets and too much alcohol. Caracappa looked nothing like a detective. He was dressed in a black suit, with a black tie with a pearl tie tack. He had a mantello draped over his shoulders -- a black silk cape with a drawstring tied in the front. Light on his feet, he possessed a certain kind of Fred Astaire-like elegance and could have passed for a suit salesman in an upscale haberdashery or a professional ballroom dancer. "He was a watcher, a noticer, smoking a cigarette and surveying the room. Our eyes met. He was like me in a way, always watching, always looking around. His face was expressionless, unless he was whispering and sharing a private joke with another detective. He was surrounded by the small circle of organized crime detectives -- Jack Hart, Les Shanahan, Chuck Siriano, Richie Puntillo, all excellent guys. They were their own exclusive subuniverse in Major Case, the detectives who knew the mob's secrets."

On January 4, Rich Porter's dead body was found near a horse stable in Orchard Beach in the Bronx. He had been shot once in the head and once in the chest. His wallet contained $2,239 in cash, ruling out robbery as the motive. In an attempt to raise the ransom money, Porter had met with another drug dealer who owed Porter hundreds of thousands of dollars. The dealer, a hard case known as Alpo, recognized the opportunity to erase the debt. Rather than repaying Porter, he murdered him.

After Rich Porter's death, day after day passed with no further developments. No word was heard from the kidnappers for nearly a month. The slim chance the boy would be recovered alive was evaporating. Operation Thunderbird was downsized. Caracappa and his partner were the only detectives working the kidnapping full-time. Oldham was reassigned to catch cases. Still new to Major Case, Oldham struggled to find his place. Within a week he was deluged with a pile of the least desirable cases; his supervisors considered it a rite of initiation to inundate a newcomer. In quick succession he was given an armored car theft, a burglary at the Izod Lacoste showroom, and a series of ATM heists by a gang of young Albanians using tow trucks to literally yank the machines from the walls of banks and tow them to a safe haven to be cracked. That year there was also a spate of pre-Christmas bank robberies in Manhattan. Bank robberies, in particular, were considered grunt work by Oldham.

"In some popular movies, bank robbers were portrayed as daring and romantic. But they are mostly crackheads, psychotics, rank amateurs. Bank tellers are trained to offer no resistance. The robbers walked in off the street and wrote a note on the back of a deposit slip -- they didn't even have their own pen and paper. They were often illiterate. They handed over notes to the teller saying 'I have a gub,' like the line from the Woody Allen movie Take the Money and Run. They had no guns -- they couldn't afford them. They left fingerprints all over the place. They were plainly recognizable on videotape. The local television stations reported a rash of bank robberies as though Bonnie and Clyde were tearing across New York City, but actually it was some guy having a crack attack going from bank to bank as if he were making withdrawals from his own accounts. There wasn't much to working those cases."

The real action in Major Case was taking place on the far side of the squad room, opposite Oldham's desk, in a small office that was kept locked. The room housed the Organized Crime Homicide Unit (OCHU), a secretive group dedicated to collecting intelligence on mafia murders. Oldham, like other detectives not assigned to the OCHU, was not permitted access to this room, which contained the most sensitive information held by the NYPD. Inside the OCHU room stood five filing cabinets, each dedicated to one of the five New York mafia families. A single desk faced the door. Large metal Rolodexes with OCHU contact numbers were kept on the desk; they were locked as well. The room was Spartan-no paper or mug shots were in sight, the walls were bare, nothing to give away the purpose of the office as the collection point for intelligence from the entire NYPD. The drawers and filing cabinets contained information on active cases and mob homicides under investigation -- locations, cars, perps, telephones. All were under lock and key. A phone was also locked in one of the drawers. It was what was known in law enforcement as a "hello phone" -- to be answered by saying "hello," not "Major Case" or "NYPD."

Detective Caracappa had been instrumental in forming the OCHU in the mid-eighties. The unit was comprised of five or six detectives and a sergeant. It was designed to gather and disseminate sophisticated information on mob murders. Members of OCHU were assigned to assist local precinct detectives saddled with organized crime murders. OCHU detectives each concentrated on one of the five families of New York -- Genovese, Gambino, Colombo, Bonanno, Luchese. They were regularly detailed to other agencies -- U.S. Attorney's Offices, the district attorney's offices, FBI, DEA, Joint Organized Crime Task Force. Productivity wasn't measured by arrests. What mattered was knowing the inside story.

"Caracappa and the other detectives in OCHU were experienced. They knew better than the mobsters themselves who attended whose mob weddings, dinners, and funerals. They kept scrapbooks on their assigned families, clipping and pasting newspaper stories and adding snapshots as though they were preserving the history of organized crime for future generations. Nearly all the detectives in OCHU were Italian. Most had grown up in the same neighborhoods as the mobsters in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx. Detectives and mobsters often knew each other all their lives. They went to the same high schools, hung out in the same parks, chased the same girls. Some of the OCHU guys looked like mobsters once removed. Double-breasted suits, gold bracelets, street attitude. Understandings and boundaries and even mutual respect between certain wiseguys and the police made for a working relationship. Cops and mobsters came from working-class neighborhoods where there weren't many options in life. All it took was getting busted as a teenager out one night with your buddies, or falling in with the wrong crowd, and it could lead down the path to hooking up with a gang. A lot of gangsters had family who were cops and vice versa -- cousins, uncles, brothers. The choice for many Irish and Italian kids was the police department or organized crime."

On weekends and holidays, when the banks were closed and Oldham found himself alone in the office, he would borrow the keys to the OCHU room from the captain's desk drawer and pull old cases from the cabinets. "I came to New York to work on organized crime, not necessarily Italian or traditional OC, but sophisticated long-term cases. I hadn't gotten my chance yet. I was fascinated by the OCHU murder files. Detectives will tell you how much pleasure there is in going through a good murder file. They are written in a language the civilian reader wouldn't comprehend. It isn't technical, it is arcane. If you have worked cases, it is clear what the writer meant. 'The witness was offered a polygraph and declined' is meant to transmit that the guy they questioned is a fucking liar. 'The prisoner was subdued without unnecessary force' means they beat the hell out of the suspect. 'The facts were insufficient to support the evidence of guilt' means there is no case, but the suspect named did it. Closing a case under the designation 'all investigative leads exhausted' means it is the detective who is exhausted by the case, not the leads.

"The OCHU files had a narrative thread. The murders had more life to them than the usual homicides. Reports from outside agencies were included analyzing the particular mob family involved and what preceded the murder-rivalries, motives, intrigue. Speculation was common. The detectives reported what their snitches said. Many times detectives would know who did it but couldn't prove it. Sometimes you could see a rough sense of justice. How organized crime and law enforcement got tangled up in each other's affairs and interacted. Like the murder of Everett Hatcher. I knew the case. Every cop and federal agent in the city knew the case."

Just as criminals impersonated cops on the streets of New York, it was common for cops and federal agents to impersonate gangsters. Undercover work was one of the more effective tools available, as an FBI agent posing as a small-time hood named Donnie Brasco had proved in the early eighties by nearly destroying the Bonanno crime family. The success of undercovers made mobsters paranoid about law enforcement penetrating their organizations. Performances, Oldham knew, had to be perfect if an agent or detective was to survive. Hatcher was a DEA agent with seventeen years' experience who had taken an assignment as an undercover in a mafia-run cocaine-dealing operation. Hatcher had managed to infiltrate the crew of "Jerry" Chilli, a member of the Bonanno family. Late one night in February 1989, Hatcher and a team of five agents backing him up were on their way to buy drugs from a small-time gangster named Costabile "Gus" Farace at a diner on Staten Island. In a remote corner of the island, past the vast landfill called Fresh Kills, Hatcher lost radio contact. Panic ensued. The backup agents finally found Hatcher in his car, stopped on an overpass on a desolate stretch of highway. Hatcher had been shot four times through the driver-side window, once in the head.

The murder immediately brought national attention. Hatcher was the first DEA agent murdered in New York since the early seventies. President George H. W. Bush had just instituted a mandatory death penalty for the murder of federal agents. A reward of $250,000 was announced, at the time one of the largest ever offered. More than thirty DEA agents were put on the case, as well as scores of detectives from the NYPD. On the streets, law enforcement of every stripe came down hard on the mafia -- not just Bonannos but all five families. Through snitches and informants, it was learned that Farace was the killer and that he had acted without sanction from his bosses. Soon Farace was being hunted by both law enforcement and the mafia. It took a while, but in November 1989, Farace was found dead in a car in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He was unrecognizable from his mug shot. He had grown a beard and dyed his hair red. He had lost weight. Farace had been shot nine times. "There were no suspects in the Farace case. It wasn't clear why Farace killed Hatcher-if Hatcher's cover had been blown or if there was some other reason. But the mob didn't want their operations interrupted by constant surveillance and attention from law enforcement. Farace was killing business so he had to be killed. Everyone in law enforcement in the city knew we forced a result. And frankly, no one was unhappy. Gus Farace got what he deserved. There wasn't going to be a huge multi agency manhunt for the killer. Whoever did him did us a favor. The Hatcher case was closed."

Oldham understood that the most important truths in a homicide file were often not in the file. Reading between the lines was crucial to advanced detective work. Oldham found a copy of the OCHU handbook for organized crime homicides on the captain's bookshelf. Detective Caracappa had compiled the handbook. Oldham took a copy home to continue his education. The NYPD shield graced the cover of the 175- page compendium of all mafia murders known to the Major Case Squad. Typed in uppercase and written in terse police prose, the book contained the blunt tales of the lives and deaths of hundreds of mob murder investigations, arranged chronologically and divided into years and families. All known mob murders from the 1980s were included.

The book began on January 5, 1980, with the murder of a Genovese associate named Norman Brownstein in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The entry for Gus Farace used law enforcement shorthand for time and place of occurrence in 1989: "AT T/P/O THE VICTIM WAS SHOT TO DEATH WHILE SITTING IN A PARKED CAR ALONG WITH JOSEPH SCLAFANI WHO WAS WOUNDED. REMARKS: THE VICTIM WAS ASSOCIATED WITH BONANNO SOLDIER 'JERRY' CHILLI, AND AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH WAS WANTED FOR THE HOMICIDE OF SPECIAL AGENT EVERETT HATCHER OF THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY."

"Caracappa had literally written 'the book' on organized crime murders in New York. If a wiseguy was killed in Queens or the Bronx and the homicide detective who caught the case wanted to know how his victim fit in the mafia, he would look in Caracappa's book for connections. It wasn't a narrative in the conventional sense. There was an index in the front and then a brief synopsis of each murder. It was a reference work. It contained intimate knowledge of the mafia and how it functioned. In organized crime killings, motives were often obscure. Wiseguys routinely lured members of their own families to their deaths. The victim might be told he was going to kill another mobster or to a sit-down or a card game. 'Copping a sneak,' it was called. Plots were hatched over years, or in a moment of anger. Business reasons were disguised as personal grudges, and personal grudges were dressed up as matters of honor. The manner of death was meant as a message in many cases. A bird stuck in a dead man's mouth signified he was a stool pigeon. Body parts were sent to family members. The victim might be left in the street, for all to see, or chopped up and thrown into a landfill and the dead man listed forever as a 'missing person.'''

In January 1989, Oldham was in the office early one morning, going through rolls of stop-action videotape from a bank robbery, when Caracappa and a couple of other detectives came into the squad room. Caracappa was talking about the Porter kidnapping. He was planning a strategy for continuing the investigation: sending undercovers uptown to buy from Rich Porter's crew. Oldham was surprised the investigation was still in Major Case. Everyone knew Donnell Porter had to be dead. It was certain the kidnappers weren't getting any money from Richard Porter and there was no other way the Porters could pay. Oldham assumed the case had been reclassified as a murder and assigned to Bronx homicide.

"I was new to Major Case and low in the pecking order. Caracappa had made it plain he wasn't interested in hearing from me. I said to Caracappa's partner, Les Shanahan, that the kid was probably dead. I offered to search for the boy's body. It seemed to me that the body had likely been dumped near where his brother's body was found. Orchard Beach in the Bronx was deserted in winter. Caracappa looked at me and shook his head, like I was one sorry sack of shit. Shanahan said they were going to keep the case a kidnapping. On one level, I understood how the thinking went. The family lived in the ghetto, Rich Porter was a drug dealer, so fuck 'em. As lead detective you develop a proprietary claim to your cases. You don't want anyone touching your investigation. If Donnell's body was recovered, the case would be a homicide and Caracappa and Shanahan would no longer be the lead detectives. They would be assisting Bronx homicide detectives. As a kidnapping it stayed in the Major Case Squad. Caracappa and Shanahan kept control. If collars were going to be made, they had decided that they were the ones who were going to make them."

In late January, a homeless man out collecting cans found Donnell Porter's body stuffed inside two black garbage bags less than a mile from where his brother had been dumped. The boy had been dead for nearly a month. A search of the area would have uncovered his body weeks earlier. "I didn't feel any sense of vindication. The boy was dead. We had failed. The Preacher wasn't arrested until seven years later. The case was made by Detective Vinny Flynn, who was in a unit called Redrum that concentrated on drug murders."

Facing the death penalty, the Preacher made a deal with prosecutors to testify against the other members of his gang, including Cuff. The case became famous in black gangster culture. Rappers rapped about it and a movie was made called Preacher: The Black Hand of Death. The movie's poster proclaimed, "They terrorized Harlem and used it as their playground." But the story of Donnell Porter wasn't in the film -- the brutality was too much even for an ultraviolent movie. The Preacher did tell federal prosecutors about his role in the killing. Despite his confession, the Preacher was never convicted of the murder of Donnell Porter and no one was ever charged with his murder. The federal government wanted to use the Preacher as a witness.

"My belief is that prosecutors realized they couldn't put him on the stand if it was brought out in court that he was responsible for kidnapping, butchering, and murdering a twelve-year-old boy. Such a man could not be rehabilitated before a jury. The jury wouldn't care how true his testimony was if they knew about Donnell Porter. But the Preacher didn't lie about the murder. He told the government all of the grim details, they just chose not to charge him. It was one of the deals with the devil the government makes all the time, in the interest of the greater good. It was one of the paradoxes of law enforcement. The most despicable killers were often the most sagacious tellers."

Oldham had wanted to work on organized crime cases when he arrived at Major Case, but it was clear he wouldn't get the chance, at least not while Caracappa was around. Caracappa was a powerful influence inside Major Case. He was a leading candidate to be promoted to first-grade detective. First grade would be acknowledgment that Caracappa was the best of the best. He would receive lieutenant's pay. Only two hundred of the four thousand detectives in the police department made first grade. Caracappa's reputation remained very high in Major Case, and throughout the NYPD. It was a view Oldham did not share. "I didn't trust Caracappa. There was something wrong with him, something cold and calculating and evasive. I didn't consider it paranoia, at least not any more than usual for me. I didn't like him, and I assumed the feeling was mutual. Caracappa didn't want anyone in the OCHU room he didn't know and have the measure of. He wanted to control OCHU. He didn't want anyone looking at him -- and he surely knew I was watching."
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:38 am



Detective Stephen Caracappa may not have liked Oldham, and he may not have wanted him to be involved in organized crime cases, but that didn't mean Oldham couldn't look, listen, and learn. Before he came to Major Case he had observed OC -- organized crime -- investigations and been fascinated by the intricacy and complexity they presented, the power struggles and personalities and plots. Now he was a member of the premier law enforcement squads engaged in the war against the mafia. He was at the fulcrum, the place where the worlds of the police and the mob met, an ideal spot to observe the unfolding drama.

As Oldham surveyed the landscape of organized crime in New York, it was plain that no one family dominated any particular borough or section of the city. Genovese and Gambino and Luchese wiseguys planted themselves and their operations wherever the opportunity presented itself. The same was true for law enforcement, Oldham knew. Competition was a way of life for cops and federal agents and prosecutors. Jurisdictions overlapped, just as mob territories overlapped. Officially, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District covered Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District included Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and Long Island. There were also five district attorney's offices, one in each borough, in charge of state cases, as well as a citywide special narcotics prosecutor. In addition, the FBI, ATF, DEA, Customs, IRS, Labor Department, and Immigration all had major presences in New York. Jurisdictional boundaries had little practical importance -- bad guys didn't care about law enforcement power struggles.

"Offices all over the city were filled with young, ambitious prosecutors, agents, and detectives looking to make their reputations. The competition bred excellence. The appetite for cases was insatiable. In a lot of cities there were only one or two venues. In New York there were dozens. You had to be ready, willing, and able when a case came down the pike. If you didn't seize the moment, someone else would."

Oldham, at thirty-seven, began his own real-world, real-time immersion course in organized crime and its relationship to law enforcement. The story of the two had been entwined from the very beginnings of the mafia in New York, each side adapting to changes in the other for nearly a century. At the heart of the tale was greed. Information and deception were the instruments of power. The mafia had been restructured in the 1930s by Lucky Luciano to exploit a central tenet of criminal law: a man could only be charged, tried, and convicted for crimes he had personally committed. Historically, common law held a defendant responsible only for his own actions. If a mob boss did not pull the trigger -- if he could plausibly deny instructing a hit man to murder the victim -- it was hard to make a case against him. There were conspiracy laws, but they were extremely difficult to prove because of strict rules of evidence and hearsay. Omerta, the mafia pledge of silence, was more than a cultural imperative created by Sicilian landowners resisting foreign occupiers for centuries. It was a sophisticated means of circumventing criminal liability.

For decades the mafia operated as a state within a state, with a rigid hierarchy of boss, underboss, counselor (consigliere), captains (capos), and soldiers (soldatos) created by Luciano. Families referred to themselves as "administrations." The structure was designed to impose order and discipline. The "commission" was the name given to the secret body overseeing the five families of New York. Territorial and business disputes were settled by the commission. Murder contracts on made men were sanctioned, or not. Above all else, the commission was created by the bosses to mediate interfamily disputes to protect themselves from rivals and law enforcement. "We went after the usual mob rackets for generations -- loan-sharking, narcotics, gambling. For the most part we only nabbed low-level street gangsters. The war would never be won that way, no matter how many wiseguys we put away. The target had to be the guiding lights of the family. The executive branch. We needed a new tool. "

In 1970, the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. RICO, as the statute was known, did more than change the rules of the game. It attacked the mafia's code of silence with a new legal paradigm. RICO took its nickname from a mobster movie character named Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello played by Edward G. Robinson in the 1930 film Little Caesar. The movie was based on Al Capone, the Chicago gangster of the twenties, an era when urban outlaws were tabloid celebrities. The author of the law, a proselytizing Notre Dame professor named Robert Blakey, held seminars introducing RICO to federal agents and prosecutors, to little effect. Blakey tried to demonstrate how he had created an intricate system of rewards and punishments to entice wiseguys to turn into snitches. Prosecutions would then go all the way up the chain of command. But the practical advantages and opportunities presented by the law were not understood by his most important audience. Trapped inside an old way of thinking -- trying to tie mob bosses to specific crimes instead of going after the organization itself -- law enforcement was unable to see how it needed to reconceive the war against the mafia. The law sat unused for more than a decade.

The first time RICO was employed in a major prosecution was in 1986. A young U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York named Rudolph Giuliani aimed to convict and jail the bosses of all five New York crime families at once. The Commission Case, as the prosecution was known, was the beginning of the end for the modern mafia. In the hands of prosecutors from the Southern District, RICO's devastating implications were finally recognized. It was a law designed to allow the prosecutors to weave the disparate elements of a criminal enterprise together -- to tell the inside story. RICO wasn't about convicting a lone defendant. The purpose was to cripple the organization. Multiple charges could be brought against multiple defendants. Hearsay evidence became admissible. Associative evidence was allowed -- the demonstration of guilt by association. Previous convictions and charges were used to color the character of the defendant. "Mobsters despised RICO. The gloves were off. The deck was stacked in our favor. Organized criminals couldn't rely on the old dodges to disguise their activities. RICO revolutionized criminal law in fundamental ways. It reimagined the whole idea of crime and punishment."

Over the next five years, RICO was used to prosecute mafia corruption in a series of mob-controlled industries in the city: construction, garbage hauling, concrete. In the commercial painting industry, for example, the Luchese family ran a lucrative racket through a local union official named Jimmy Bishop. The Painters Union Case, as the prosecution came to be known, was a textbook example of mafia methods. To corner painting contracts, the Luchese family used the threat of wildcat strikes to rig bids for jobs and eliminate legitimate operators. With Bishop's backing, major painting contractors in New York and Long Island were forced to buy their paint from a mob-controlled company. For every gallon sold a dollar was paid to the mafia -0 netting millions over the years. Jimmy Bishop, in turn, promised and provided cheap labor to contractors by ensuring that a sweetheart deal disregarding union rules and rates was in place or else his union stayed away from the construction projects. In this way, cartels of mobbed-up outfits drove everyone else out of the business. The impact of organized crime on the union movement was ruinous. Wages and working conditions suffered, jobs were lost, pension funds were pillaged. Protecting skims and scams became Bishop's priority. Public and private jobs were subject to the racket, including contracts to paint many of the city's 460 subway stations, 1,500 public schools, and 150,000 public housing units.

"The mafia knew how to take their one percent and make it seem like they were doing you a favor. The so-called tax the mafia put on deals was enough to trim profit margins but not enough to kill business. The mob knew how to calibrate its take to the size of the deal. They were parasites. They latched on to a healthy organism and didn't let go. They contributed nothing to the survival of the organism. The 'black hand' had its fingers in all parts of the economy where the work was dirty and hard, where honest working people were breaking their backs to make a living. The money the mob took didn't look big. How much was there in a contract to pick up the trash from one restaurant? How much was a mafia markup on a truckload of concrete? It looked like nickel-and-dime stuff, but one percent of everything is fucking huge."

But under RICO, first dozens and then scores and finally hundreds of gangsters were found guilty of racketeering charges. The RICO convictions resulted in unprecedented penalties. In mafia lore, a stretch in an upstate prison was no big deal. The state prisons were so corrupt -- the booze and drugs and prostitutes so plentiful -- mobsters regarded it as little more than a rite of passage. A few years in jail was a way to prove your loyalty by remaining silent. Prison was a place to make friends, network with wiseguys, and study crime at an institution of higher learning. Under RICO, federal convictions had dire consequences. Assets were seized, turning mobster millionaires into penitent paupers. Sentences were meted out in decades not years. The prospect of life in jail was not enough under the guidelines. Life sentences multiplied for every murder count, lives mounted on lives unto eternity.

The biggest change brought about by the law was the sudden deluge of snitches. Supposed tough guys, sworn to an oath of omerta, now tried to make deals with the federal government en masse. If a mafioso cooperated he had a chance for a new life. The blend of punishment and incentive created by RICO and the Witness Protection Program was designed to render the logic of cooperation overwhelming. Time in federal prison would be hard and lonely, year after year staring at a wall in Marion, Illinois, or in super-max cells dug into the side of a mountain in Florence, Colorado. A wiseguy who got in trouble with the law had to decide: rat or rot. Betrayal begat betrayal, as the layers of secrecy enveloping the mafia were peeled away.

"Mobsters were supposed to be tough. A few old-timers actually lived by the code. They were the last of the hard cases. Some would do serious time in jail rather than talk to us. They respected the code of silence. You had to admire them for it. But most wiseguys were looking for a deal, and sometimes you had to stuff a sock in their mouth to shut them up. If you caught a mobster and you could string together a couple of RICO predicates -- extortion, loan-sharking, gambling, assault -- it meant he might be looking at life. If he cooperated, if he wore a wire and collected evidence and testified, he might do five years or he might do no time at all. By the mid-nineties, snitching was the rule, not the exception. The expectation that a guy would keep his mouth shut vanished. Mobsters assumed a busted wiseguy was a snitch."

Of the five New York families, none suffered more than the Lucheses. The entire leadership had been convicted in the Commission Case -- boss, underboss, consigliere. Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, the longtime Luchese don, had earned his nickname for his uncanny ability to "duck" indictments and convictions. After his RICO conviction in the Commission Case, he was sentenced to one hundred years in a federal penitentiary. Before he went in, Corallo elevated Vittorio "Vic" Amuso to acting boss of the Luchese family. This decision caused resentment in the ranks. Amuso and his partner Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso were brutal gangsters, but they were from Brooklyn and had no particular cachet with the outfit's remaining elders in the Bronx. The Bronx crews of the family, always dominant financial contributors, wanted to install their own captain as boss. The New Jersey crew, indicted on RICO charges and fighting their own internecine feuds, failed to pay their respects to Amuso and Casso after their ascension to leadership, and then suddenly moved to Florida without consulting the new bosses. But once Amuso and Casso were in charge, they were ruthless in protecting their power. Soon, factionalism was ripping the Lucheses apart.

In the late eighties, the mafia suffered a general failure of management as a new generation of leadership bickered and plotted to kill one another. Before it had been unthinkable that a captain would murder the head of a family, the way John Gotti killed Gambino boss "Big Paul" Castellano in front of Spark's Steakhouse in 1986. After Castellano was killed, the Luchese and Genovese families put out a contract to kill Gotti. Gotti, in turn, held a grudge against Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the Genovese boss. Gigante was facing multiple RICO indictments, as well as state prosecution, but to avoid trial -- and conviction -- he pretended he was mentally incompetent. Gigante maintained the act for years, walking the streets of lower Manhattan in a bathrobe, unshaven and muttering to himself.

"The mafia was becoming a public spectacle. The old mafioso knew better than to provoke or embarrass law enforcement. For generations, when a candidate for the mob was 'straightened out' -- when he was inducted into a family-he more or less subscribed to the rules. Loyalty and honor were the binding myths. 'The life' wasn't a regular nine-to-five job, but there was structure. Not with the new bosses like Gotti and Amuso and Casso. Most of them were second-string gangsters. They were put in charge of complicated commercial enterprises worth millions and they had no clue how to run a business. They failed to appreciate the usefulness of discretion. Chin Gigante urinated in the streets in Greenwich Village to prove he was crazy. John Gotti strolled around Little Italy in two-thousand-dollar suits as though he were a movie star. Gotti talked to his underboss, Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano, about 'his public.' He was a stone-cold idiot."

For the new Luchese administration, killing seemed the solution to every problem. The reason didn't matter-a suspicion, a grudge, a mood. It was no way to run an organization, not to mention that it was not going to breed loyalty or esprit de corps. Murder, however, was what Amuso and Casso knew. The pair had started in the mafia together in the seventies as hit men. The "work" they did for the family, contract murders, forged a tight bond. Known as tough and canny gangsters, Amuso and Casso were also rich. But they didn't flaunt their wealth like Gotti. Operating out of a social club called the 19th Hole near the golf course in Dyker Beach Park in Brooklyn, Amuso and Casso were major drug dealers. "Together, Amuso and Casso possessed a toxic combination of incompetence, violence, and paranoia. They were born connivers. They thought they were going to be the exception to the rule under RICO -- they weren't going to give anyone the chance to snitch on them. As law enforcement closed in on the Lucheses and their backs were pushed to the wall, Amuso and Casso gave up any vestige of mob ideals. They killed anyone they suspected of snitching, or having the potential to snitch. Simply being in a compromised position was justification. Amuso and Casso thought everyone was a rat -- and mostly they were right."


As the Lucheses and the other mob families tried to adapt to RICO, a new organized crime pattern emerged with bloody and brutal regularity: the murder of secret mob informants. Oldham was in the Major Case squad room on the day of May 17, 1990, when the problem reached another new low. That morning the painters union official named Jimmy Bishop had left his girlfriend's apartment building on Powell's Cove Boulevard in Queens and walked into a Luchese ambush. Bishop was sixty years old, a hard-drinking, loud-mouthed union leader. He had been the secretary-treasurer of the eight thousand-member New York chapter of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades for sixteen years. Bishop had also been an associate of the Luchese crime family since the late seventies, when he turned to the mob to run off a rival union official who had been appointed to clean up Bishop's notoriously corrupt district. [1] From then on Bishop was "on record" with "Fat Pete" Chiodo and the Lucheses, protected but also vulnerable to the whims and machinations of the family.

Bishop's troubles with the Lucheses dated back months before the May 1990 ambush. At the time, for reasons the mob felt no need to explain, the Lucheses had blocked Bishop's bid to be elected to the board of the International Brotherhood. Bishop was told to bow out of the race or face physical harm. The message came from the heads of the Luchese family: Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso. "Amuso and Casso wanted their own man. They liked the way their new man dressed and conducted himself. Bishop was a blowhard boozer whom they considered unreliable. It was as simple as that: leave or we will kill you. Bishop resigned from the union. Amuso and Casso didn't expect what happened next. Bishop went to the NYPD. He wanted protection -- and revenge."

When Bishop turned to the NYPD, the Organized Crime Investigation Division (aCID) and the Manhattan DA's Office were conducting an investigation of corruption in the painting business. Bishop became a confidential informant (CI) and gave them the insider account of the scam. In return, they promised to keep him alive. But confidential informants presented a serious challenge for state authorities. Because of RICO's effectiveness, the federal government had developed an elaborate Witness Protection Program to safeguard cooperators. The state had no equivalent. The NYPD had to improvise, with little money, support, or expertise. The department's procedure was to assign a team of detectives to take the CI to a cheap out-of-town motel and stay in hiding until the danger passed.

"Bishop was an exception because of his importance to the case and his ability to reveal how the mafia really functioned. Bishop was taken to Montreal. He sat in a room for a couple of weeks with some cops watching Hockey Night in Canada. A union thug with a reputation like Bishop was used to intimidating other people. Bishop was a swaggering ex- Marine. Hard men don't like to admit they're afraid. Bishop couldn't conduct his business. He couldn't see his girlfriend. There was no end to the threat in sight. He had to hide until Fat Pete Chiodo and Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso were put away. That could take years or it might never happen at all. The truth was that the idea of police protection was an illusion. In most cases, the state offered little more than a bus ticket out of town and a dream. There was no way to ensure a CI's safety. Bishop, like a lot of witnesses who flip and become cooperators, had to choose. He had to decide between fear and freedom, between living and having a life. Bishop took his chances and came back to New York."

The Jimmy Bishop murder file recites the known facts from that May day: "At approximately 1100 hours, the victim was operating his 1988 Lincoln automobile in the parking lot in the rear of 162-01 Powell's Cove Blvd. While driving out of the parking lot he was shot numerous times in the head and body. Thereat he expired from his wounds." Bishop was leaving his mistress's apartment that morning. Within half an hour of the murder, detectives from the 109th Precinct found and interviewed a schoolteacher who had been having an affair with Bishop. She told the detectives Bishop had been secretly cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in an investigation into organized crime. The teacher described a warning Bishop had just received from the mob. She knew that Bishop had spoken with a detective named "Eddie" the day before. Eddie was with OCID. Eddie had told Bishop that the police had intercepted phone calls with mobsters talking about killing Bishop.

Precinct detectives contacted OCID. Like detectives in Major Case, the members of OCID recognized that Bishop's murder suggested more than just another organized crime dispute. Bishop was, in fact, one of their CIs. Only days earlier Bishop had appeared before a grand jury inquiring into organized crime control of trade unions. This murder fit into a larger pattern. "Bishop's death was just the latest in a series of loosely linked mob-related intelligence failures. It was widely believed there was a leak in law enforcement that was proving fatal to snitches and cooperators. Cases were compromised with alarming regularity. The source, or sources, were unidentified. There were suspects, too many suspects. There was a pattern but it was extremely difficult to see its shape or size."

When Bishop turned up in the internal Major Case staff assignment log, Oldham called Chris Dowdell in the 109th Precinct, who was the catching detective for the murder. The assignment log showed that Major Case and OCHU were assisting the precinct detectives in the investigation. Helping investigations of OC homicides like Bishop was one of the reasons OCHU had been formed in the first place. But it was standard practice for OCHU to appear to aid a precinct cop and at the same time withhold information. Mafia investigations in different precincts often overlapped, with felonies and murders forming part of larger investigations. Citywide squads like OCHU and OCID pursued overarching cases, sometimes at the expense of the precinct cop working one murder.

In the Bishop case, the Major Case Squad homicide book kept by Detective Caracappa was opaque to the point of being positively misleading. In the "remarks" section of the page recording the homicide it said, "The victim was an official of the painters union. Confidential information disclosed that he had a conflict with Luchese underboss Anthony Casso." There was no mention of Bishop's status as an NYPD CI, although the information would be known to Detective Caracappa and OCHU and -- since Bishop was dead -- there was no further need for keeping his status as a CI confidential. It was clear to Oldham that Detective Dowdell was not going to get straight and comprehensive assistance.

"I had left the 109, where Bishop was killed, a year earlier. I knew Dowdell well. When I was in the 109 he had taught me plenty about being a detective. Simple stuff like how to stop a perp from slipping out of his jacket before you cuffed him. He also taught me to be careful about who I talked to in the precinct house. The 109 was a party house, which meant there was lots of drinking and little discipline. Dowdell was a first-grade detective and police union delegate. The union delegates were the guys cops went to when they were in trouble -- they were the intermediaries between the bosses and line officers. Dowdell steered me away from trouble -- the karaoke bars where girls were for rent, the restaurants where you could eat for free but maybe wind up on an Internal Affairs surveillance videotape. He wasn't my mentor but he had taken an interest in seeing that I didn't step on any land mines.

"I offered to help Dowdell in any way I could. Dowdell said the 'secret squirrels' in OCHU were driving him nuts. He wanted to know everything he could about Bishop but it was hard to come by information about a CI that was supposed to be kept secret. This was true even after the CI was dead, sometimes especially after he was dead. I told Dowdell that Caracappa and the OCHU guys didn't usually talk to me. I said I would keep my ears open. I would let him know if I heard anything around the squad room. I was trying to establish myself as someone with value to detectives in the precincts. I didn't want to do bank robberies anymore. I knew I wasn't going to be selected for OCHU, particularly with Caracappa around, so I was starting to figure a way to get myself into the game. I wasn't going to work on the Bishop homicide, but I was in the right place to gather intelligence. Dowdell wanted me to pass along whatever OCHU learned."

Twenty-three investigators were assigned to the murder of Jimmy Bishop, including precinct detectives, OCID, the Manhattan DA, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The obvious inference was that Bishop had been killed because he was cooperating with law enforcement. The difficulty was turning suspicion into evidence, indictments, and convictions, while keeping an open mind and allowing the facts to lead wherever they led.

The Bishop murder file contained dozens of "DD-5s" -- NYPD Detective Division Form 5, the record of detective activity and information received during an investigation. Major Case detective Larry Milanesi submitted the slugs recovered from Bishop's corpse to ballistics to check against other murders in which a .380 automatic had been used. Ballistics reported no matches, but OCHU found there had been six organized crime homicides in the city in the past year with that caliber handgun. A detective from the 109th Precinct interviewed Bishop's wife, Frances, but she appeared to know little of her husband's life outside their home. "Mrs. Bishop was too distraught to continue this interview," the DD-5 reported. Bishop's brother-in-law and son were brought to the morgue to identify the body. A friend of Bishop's told the police that Bishop was having problems with someone with the nickname "Gaspipe." The friend said Bishop had been advised to "disappear for a while."

Finally, in early June, nearly a month after her husband was killed, Bishop's widow presented the lead detective with a letter. Bishop had written the letter a year earlier, leaving instructions that it was to be opened in the event of his death. It described a meeting in a Staten Island motel with Fat Pete Chiodo. Chiodo had told Bishop he would be killed if he opposed the candidate of the Luchese family in the upcoming union election. The DD-5 read, "The said letter contained a declaration by Bishop that if he or any member of his family should be killed, it was because of his dealings with members of Organized Crime who infiltrated the union. Bishop wrote that he was forcibly removed from his position in the union and recounted the threats on his life. The letter listed names, dates, and places these threats were made and the individuals behind what he described as a 'conspiracy.'''

The Bishop murder provoked an enormous response from the NYPD. But the investigation was quickly entangled by the complexities and paradoxes of trying to catch killers and at the same time catch the leaker who had aided them. In truth, there were two investigations under way. The official investigation of Bishop's murder reported in the DD-5s showed detectives doing their duty and working the expected angles. The parallel investigation only existed between the lines of the murder file. The receipt of Bishop's letter was cited in the DD-5s but not the names it contained. There were records of meetings between detectives from OCID and the precinct detectives, but no record of what they discussed. The parallel investigation was not documented. It unfolded in the minds of the detectives working the case. The subject was not who had killed Bishop. The triggermen didn't much matter. They were pawns in a larger game. The crucial question was why Bishop had been killed. Was it because he was a CI? Bishop knew enough to do serious damage to the Luchese family bosses. It was a clear motive for murder. Did the Lucheses know about Bishop's cooperation? If so, how did they find out? There was no suggestion in the DD-5s as to who may have been suspected. For the detectives assigned to the Bishop homicide, in the 109th Precinct and in OCHU, playing it close to the vest was the smart move. They knew that creating a paper trail left the investigation open to compromise. If they committed a lead to paper, there was a good chance the Lucheses would learn of it.

"At the time, everything leaked in the police department. It was why the feds hated working with us. The NYPD had a command structure that required us to send information up the chain. Reports from a detective in the field passed through a sergeant, then a lieutenant, captain, all the way up to the chief of detectives. DD-5s were filed in triplicate. Two of the copies were distributed outside your precinct or command. It was a way of ensuring good communication, but it was terrible for maintaining confidentiality. To have accountability in the force, there was no real accountability. No detective wanted to be accused of withholding important information. No supervisor wanted to be out of the loop. The internal mail system was a joke. Reports were lost, mishandled, and misplaced. Cops assigned to do the mail were confused by poor handwriting and acronyms like OCID and OCHU. There was no effective means of tracing the movement of documents. Once the file left the office there was no way of knowing who had read it. Cooperators like Bishop were supposed to be known only to a few essential people, but controlling information was impossible. One Police Plaza was a sea of paperwork and rumors. Information was traded like currency. Cops kept track of each other. The most sensitive cases were the ones cops most wanted to know about. If a mobster flipped, or a cooperating informant like Bishop came forward, it was news inside headquarters. The result was that the 'puzzle palace' was a gold mine of information. Everyone knew everything, and everyone knew everyone knew everything.

"To make matters more complicated, gangsters and cops often came from the same neighborhoods. When they grew up, cops married women who were friends with the wives of wiseguys. They took their kids to buy clothes at the same places. They worked out at the same gyms. Their kids went to the same schools. The police and the mob were part of the fabric of society, like a reversible jacket. Even for the most honest cop in the world, the rules weren't always entirely clear. If a wiseguy got in trouble with a traffic violation or needed a pistol permit, he would turn to a precinct cop he knew. A cop might run a license plate in the DMV computer to get the registered owner of a car. If a made man had been arrested and not reported the collar to his bosses, the family would be interested in learning what the charges were -- the failure to inform his superiors about the pending case could support an inference that the man had become a cooperator. A detective could help find somebody by doing power company checks, looking through probation rolls, parking tickets. Favors started small and appeared meaningless.

"The kindnesses were often returned by mobsters. If there was a crime in the neighborhood -- if a girl got raped, or an old lady was injured in a hit and run -- the people who knew the most about crime were the professional criminals. Nothing happened in the streets without them knowing. If the incident didn't relate to organized crime, if it shocked the conscience or could win a little influence, a gangster would do his policeman friend, society, and himself a favor and point the NYPD in the right direction. Cops were also a great weapon for wiseguys. If they didn't like another guy, if they didn't like the competition, they would tell their cop contact the guy was dirty. Every wiseguy was half a snitch. The police could be used as a business tool, or a way of getting revenge, or protecting yourself. They would turn in a rival, borrowers behind on their vig payments, a guy who was threatening them. Detectives constantly had to balance what we were being told with who was doing the telling and why.

"If you were investigating the mafia, if you were any good at it, you adopted the culture. You were an anthropologist, after a fashion. If you couldn't figure out the motivations and weaknesses and strengths of your criminals, you weren't going to be able to predict or understand the things they did. It usually made sense to assign detectives from the same ethnic background as the gangsters to the squads doing the investigations. Italian cops chased Italian criminals, black cops chased black criminals, Dominicans chased Dominicans. They talked the same language. They laughed at the same jokes -- and at the stupidity of the other side. Over time, a lot of detectives started to empathize with their prey. Friendships formed, even as detectives were busting mobsters.

"Most goodfellas were likable, at least superficially. To get ahead they had to have a certain way with people. They were charmers -- until they whacked you. Wiseguys were sharks. They knew how to be fast friends, how to manipulate people, how to turn a tiny opening into a major opportunity. Once a cop did a little thing for a gangster, the unspoken threat that it might be revealed could lead the cop to do more favors - and more and more. It was a trap. Mobsters understood the shortcomings of life for a police officer. Wiseguys drove Mercedes sedans and had box seats at Yankee games. They carried wads of cash. They didn't have to operate by the rules. For cops, half our lives were spent doing paperwork and following bullshit regulations. Overtime was how most guys survived. Detectives took second jobs and saved money in jars to put their kids through college. They didn't go to the Caribbean for holidays. They didn't eat in fancy restaurants. There was a structural discrepancy between life in the mob and life in the law. Stay in it long enough as a cop, if you lacked character, there would be a problem.

"There was a lot of gray area but there were also bright lines - lines not to be crossed. Giving away a cooperator like Bishop was beyond any real cop's comprehension. Understanding the mind of a cop who would leak was not easy. Some wanted money. Others considered it a way to make friends and influence gangsters so they could make future cases. There was also the widespread belief, in the mafia and in law enforcement, that a different standard of justice applied to mobsters. None of us wept ourselves to sleep when a Gambino or Luchese took two in the back of the head. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Put Bishop into the equation, the dirty union official turned rat, and it was possible to see how a cop with a gangster mentality might convince himself Bishop got what he deserved. No one liked a snitch. Bishop's death wouldn't elicit much sympathy from any corner, apart from his immediate family.

"By the spring of 1990, it was clear we were in the middle of a new phenomenon. Talking shop about police work with other cops could be fatal. You never knew who the leak might be. It was becoming increasingly clear that there was a problem unprecedented in its complexity and implications. The NYPD, like the mafia, had the rites and rituals of a brotherhood. We had a sworn oath, a code of honor, a common interest. Giving up the existence and identity of a CI betrayed the beliefs that united us. It was also bad for business. Lose one CI and you lost a dozen potential cooperators. Word got around about what happened if you talked to the NYPD. Bishop's death was a deterrent to others who might come forward. There was an unspoken but agreed-upon line that no cop would cross. At least there had been. Identifying Bishop as a cooperator was tantamount to putting a gun to his head and letting someone else pull the trigger. It had to go deeper. The source of the leak had to believe, on some level, that Bishop deserved what he got. The source had to believe a primitive form of tribal justice was acceptable."



1. In that instance, Bishop had reached out to a friend with a wiseguy contact who knew a Brooklyn barber who knew "Fat Pete" Chiodo of the Luchese family. Bishop arranged to have Chiodo and Tommy "Irish" Carew beat down the rival official early one morning in the stairwell of the union headquarters on West 14th Street in lower Manhattan. Chiodo and Carew used pipes; the man ended up in the hospital in a coma. Within weeks, Bishop was restored to his position as secretary-treasurer and the attempt to reform the union was abandoned. Two Luchese associates were then given powerful positions in the union.
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:38 am



Oldham had been trained to work on criminal patterns. Like the other detectives in Major Case, he knew that seemingly unconnected homicides were adding up to more than a collection of security lapses. There were dozens of organized crime homicides every year in New York City, as illustrated by the homicide book maintained by Caracappa for OCHD. Every murder contained its own story, with its own matrix of motives and senselessness. But it was crucial to making OC cases to find the connections that reordered seemingly chaotic and unrelated events. Oldham knew the murder of Jimmy Bishop in the spring of 1990 was just the latest in a string of homicides and attempted homicides involving cooperating informants and witnesses.

The pattern appeared to have begun three years earlier with the murder of James "Otto" Heidel, a Luchese associate. Heidel was a master burglar who had pursued a long and varied career as a criminal. He had been a cooperator for the FBI since 1974, when he was busted for possession of stolen goods. A former prizefighter, he was a member of a truck hijacking outfit that stole whatever they could -- washing machines, liquor, tobacco. Within minutes of being arrested, when presented with the opportunity to gain leniency in return for information, Heidel snitched -- a fact the Bureau had managed to keep secret for more than a decade. After being dropped by the FBI in the summer of 1987, Heidel became a cooperator for the NYPD. Weeks later he was killed. The homicide occurred on the afternoon of October 8, 1987. Heidel was shot and killed near Avenue U and East 35th Street in the 63rd Precinct in Brooklyn.

Like the NYPD, the FBI had designations for categories of criminals cooperating with law enforcement. According to the FBI there were two kinds of cooperators. "CIs" were criminal informants, who, in return for money, provided agents with intelligence about ongoing conspiracies and planned crimes of the mafia. The amounts paid varied, at the discretion of the FBI Special Agent running the CI. Tips about an impending bank robbery might net Heidel $1,000, while a tidbit about a wiseguy plotting smaller offenses would fetch a couple of hundred dollars. The explicit agreement was that the CI would not be called to testify in court. All information provided by a CI had to be corroborated if it was to be used in a prosecution. Cooperating witnesses, or "CW s," were a separate class of criminal expected to testify in court. The difference was significant. CIs had freedom of movement, together with the belief that the betrayal of their friends and co-conspirators would never be revealed. CIs were usually not facing any charges, while CW s were hoping for future protection and "consideration" -- a lesser sentence, or no time at all. CW s understood that eventually they would have to take the stand against their compadres.

According to FBI policy, a CI was not allowed to commit crimes during their cooperation. If the FBI discovered a CI's complicity in a crime, the agreement would be "breached," the cooperation would cease, and charges followed. "That was the theory. The whole idea of CIs not committing crimes was a charade. CIs like Heidel were criminals -- after all, the c stood for criminal. They didn't have jobs. They spent all of their time consorting with criminals. The only difference was that they had figured a way to stay out of jail. Leopards don't change their spots, nor do burglars. Using CIs was one of the many necessities of investigating organized crime. Compromises had to be made. Heidel was an enforcer but he wasn't going to kill anyone, probably. He wasn't going to get other people to kill for him, probably. There was no way to know for sure if you were dealing with the devil or a lovable rogue. To catch bad guys you had to deal with bad guys. The FBI didn't really want to know what its cooperators were up to. As long as the CI didn't get out of hand and start shooting people, the agents weren't going to give up their prized possession. CIs had a pretty free hand as long as they didn't get caught. Get caught and all bets were off. Which was precisely what happened."

For more than a decade, Heidel was run by FBI Special Agent Patrick Colgan. Speaking regularly -- ten times a day when a bust was coming, a few times a month during lulls -- Colgan and Heidel built a productive relationship. As a criminal and informant, Heidel's specialties were bank burglaries, shylocking, and strong-arming. Connected to the Luchese and Colombo and Gambino crime families, he was used as muscle to collect money owed to loan sharks. Heidel also had a reputation as an electronics buff who monitored NYPD and FBI communication frequencies. He was an expert with radios and had a collection of minicassette recorders and wires he hid on his body to secretly record conversations. His surveillance interest made him good at the work of gathering intelligence. Over the years he made more than $100,000 as a CI, paid in cash, the amounts neatly and duly accounted for in FBI files. To protect his identity, the name Otto Heidel was not used. His name was known only to Colgan. Like hundreds of other informers, Heidel was referred to only by his CI number, "12872-0C."

Special Agent Colgan had run dozens of CIs over the years, but Heidel was one of the best. In 1986 a Gambino associate and tough kid named Jimmy Hydell had suddenly disappeared. There was talk on the street about his disappearance being connected to Gaspipe Casso of the Luchese family, but nothing that amounted to proof, or even evidence. Heidel told Colgan in graphic detail how Jimmy Hydell had been killed by Casso. Heidel's and Hydell's names were pronounced the same way and both had reputations for violence, but they were of different classes of criminal. "Otto Heidel was all bluster and swagger. He didn't have the guts to kill. Jimmy Hydell was a killer, plain and simple. Hydell had been behind an attempted murder of Gaspipe Casso in front of the Golden Ox restaurant in Bensonhurst in September of 1986. Trying to kill Casso and missing was worse than bad luck, it was a fatal mistake. Heidel told Colgan how Jimmy Hydell had been tortured by Casso. He said that Hydell's body would never be found. It turned out to be true. Hydell had gone out one afternoon in October 1986 and was never to be seen again. He was presumed dead. Colgan knew what had happened to Jimmy Hydell, but he couldn't prove it. As a CI Heidel wouldn't testify, and his account of events wasn't enough to indict Gaspipe Casso.

"We were always aware of a lot more crimes than we could charge. People do get away with murder. It was a hard thing to swallow as a detective. Part of what drove me to look at cases no one else had closed was knowing that everything had been done to catch bad guys who thought they had got away clean. When I arrived at Major Case, I was always on the lookout for cases like Jimmy Hydell -- cases where we knew something but couldn't prove it."

By the mid-eighties, Otto Heidel was operating as a member of a crew of burglars known as the Bypass gang, although he told the FBI that he had only a social connection with them. At the time, the gang was legendary for its cunning and success. Participants came from all five families, but few in the mafia knew the identities of the fifteen or so wiseguys who belonged to the crew. After Amuso and Casso were sworn into the Luchese family in the 1970s (after the team carried out their first hit and met one of the qualifications for membership) their first assignment was the Bypass gang. They were to make sure the Lucheses got their cut of the loot -- an estimated $100 million over a decade. The name "bypass" came from the gang's ability to override and disarm sophisticated security systems. The crew consisted of locksmiths and safecrackers and alarm men. They approached their work with precision. Jobs were cased and rehearsed for weeks. The gang often bribed employees of the security companies hired to install and run the alarm systems to disarm them before they went in. Break-ins were scheduled for three-day weekends, providing maximum time to get into safes and safe-deposit boxes with minimum risk. Sunday morning before dawn was their preferred moment to strike.

The Bypass gang was a loose affiliation, with members who cycled through as active and inactive participants on various jobs. A small core of criminals led the gang and recruited specialists for specific jobs. Some heists required safecracking ability, others expertise with alarm or communications systems. The part-time participants were kept from meeting one another in order to minimize the chance they might snitch. Vinny Zappola and his brother Anthony, a former NYPD officer, were two of the inner circle. Over the years, the Bypass gang made scores of scores: banks, department stores, supermarkets, a warehouse in Queens filled with Bulova watches. In the middle of their run, the gang burgled a branch of Citibank in Bensonhurst. A large number of Brooklyn wiseguys kept safe-deposit boxes in the subground floor of that particular Citibank. When the Bypass hit the bank they got away with a huge amount of cash and jewelry, much of the loot owned by the mob.

"Bypass was the Roadrunner to law enforcement's Wile E. Coyote. Detectives loved to tell war stories about them. Once the Staten Island District Attorney's Office set up a sting on the gang. Bypass had a source at a florist on Staten Island. Detectives reasoned that the source would tip off the gang if there was a large amount of money in the safe. Memorial Day weekend was coming up. The florist had a primitive security system. It was perfect, too tempting to pass up."

The Staten Island DA's detectives instructed the owner of the shop to let the source know he had a big win at the casinos in Atlantic City. It was Friday afternoon, too late to get to the bank, so he said he was going to leave $60,000 in the safe over the long weekend. The trap was laid. Fifteen detectives set up on the store and waited. Surveillance cameras with sound-sensitive devices were secreted in the ceilings. Police were stationed in vans outside. A command post was established in a nearby high school. The florist shop was surrounded and locked down. There was no way the Bypass gang could get in undetected.

"On Saturday night the fog rolled in. Sunday morning, before dawn, the building disappeared into the mist, like a ghost ship. Everyone on the police detail sat in silence and watched. Time passed slowly. The cops got edgy. A detective spotted Vinny Zappola drive by. The detectives outside couldn't stand the wait anymore. They moved in. They couldn't believe what they found -- or didn't find. A hole had been cut in the roof. The phone lines and alarm system were disabled. The safe was open and empty. The Bypass had done it again. The guys working the case had fun chasing them."

On February 14, 1987, St. Valentine's Day, Heidel met with Special Agent Colgan and reported that he'd recently had a conversation with Casso. Heidel said that Casso had told him that he had a detective in the 63rd Precinct who was working for him. Casso told Heidel he would contact the detective and solicit information on ongoing investigations, including cases outside the jurisdiction of the NYPD. Heidel didn't know the name of Casso's detective, and he didn't dare try to find out. Asking too many questions could get him in trouble. Part of Heidel's tradecraft as a CI was balancing the value of collecting information against the chance of getting himself killed. Heidel was extremely concerned that Casso's source in the Six-Three might learn of his cooperation and tell Casso. Colgan assured Heidel that his identity was confidential and could be kept that way.

Special Agent Colgan put in a report of Heidel's account. Colgan was assigned to white-collar crime at the time, so he couldn't investigate the allegation himself. The "memo," as reports were known in the FBI, was reviewed by the supervisor of the squad. The process of integrating intelligence in the FBI was hourglass-shaped, with information from agents passing through the supervisors before being assessed and disseminated to agents working in the field. In writing his memo, Special Agent Colgan had fulfilled his duty; he never heard if there was a resulting investigation of the detectives in the Six-Three to determine who was on the Luchese payroll, or if other agents had written memos on the subject. The hourglass could also be a black hole.

By the summer of 1987, the Bypass gang had spent months planning to burgle the Atlantic Liberty Bank on Avenue J in Bensonhurst. Information on the heist had come in to Special Agent Colgan from a number of sources. Heidel was one of the informants. Heidel told Colgan that Casso was the head of a group targeting the vault of the bank. Casso and Vic Amuso and Sal Fusco and Vinny, Anthony, and George "Neck" Zappola were going to break in over a three-day weekend. The gang had an insider working at the alarm company that monitored the bank. Their inside man would disarm the alarm, thus allowing Casso's crew to bust into the vault. But, Colgan wondered, how would Heidel know about the job in such detail if he wasn't involved? Heidel denied to Colgan he was in on it. Heidel said he had only "overheard," not participated in, these discussions, a claim Special Agent Colgan considered dubious.

"In August of '87 the Atlantic Liberty was hit. The FBI knew about Heidel's participation in the job through another snitch. There was no way Colgan could keep Heidel as a CI now -- Heidel was burgling banks, and worse yet he got caught at it and arrested. Predictably, just as he had in 1974, Heidel wanted to make a deal. He was known as a real tough guy on the street, but he was a wimp when it came to law enforcement. Heidel rolled over right away. He was terrified of jail. It was his personality. He couldn't do the time. He was going to prison, and he knew it, but he was postponing his reservation and hoping for a miracle.

After the bust, it was impossible for Heidel to remain a CI. Special Agent Colgan closed his CI file. But Heidel was desperate. He agreed to become a CW, cooperating witness. He would testify as a witness at the trial of anyone he implicated in return for the hope of a reduced sentence. More important, more perilously, Heidel forfeited the security of being a CI. Instead of working exclusively for Special Agent Colgan, Heidel became a CW for the FBI/NYPD Joint Bank Robbery Task Force. The system that had kept his identity confidential was no longer in place. A group of FBI agents had access to his name and pedigree, but so did OC detectives in the NYPD -- and the department leaked like a sieve. Within a month he would be dead.

In the hyperparanoid world of the mafia, it was not surprising that Heidel had raised the suspicions of more than one Brooklyn gangster. Burton Kaplan, a businessman in the clothing industry and a Luchese associate who was close friends with Casso, was at a high-end catering hall and cabana club in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn called EI Caribe shortly after Heidel was arrested. EI Caribe was a meeting place for wiseguys who wanted to stay in shape, with two racquetball courts and a swimming pool in back with chaise lounges where card games were played in the summer. Favored by Gambinos, it was also used by Lucheses for special events. EI Caribe in fact served as the location of the wedding of Gaspipe Casso's daughter.

Kaplan was a well-known organized crime figure. Referred to as "the Jewish guy" and "Downtown Burt," Kaplan was one of the most prolific and deft dealers in stolen goods in New York City. Most fences specialized in particular types of goods because they had customers to buy the swag. Tobacco, alcohol, clothing -- distribution channels paralleled legitimate businesses and it paid to concentrate in one area. Uniquely, Kaplan could handle everything. Designer watches, counterfeit Calvin Klein jeans, women's leisure suits, Peruvian passports, hot Treasury bills, tons of marijuana, every and any fungible item could be brought to Kaplan and a good price received.

One afternoon in the summer of 1987, Kaplan was having lunch at El Caribe when he ran into a vicious mobster named Tommy "Karate" Pitera. Otto Heidel walked over to the lunch stand to join them. Heidel had been playing racquetball. Kaplan knew Heidel from around. He also knew Heidel was close to Casso. He had the feeling there was something wrong with Heidel. A few weeks before, Kaplan had been the fence for the mother lode of Bulova watches the Bypass gang had stolen from a warehouse in Queens. Heidel had been given the job of delivering them to Kaplan. He had rented a truck and filled it with the Bulova watches and gone to a house on Staten Island that Kaplan used to stash swag. Heidel was accompanied by three other men. Kaplan felt uneasy after Heidel and the others left -- it didn't seem right to have so many people know about a deal like the watches and their whereabouts. There was something about Heidel that Kaplan didn't like, something unsettling. Nervous, Kaplan got his right-hand man, a hanger-on named Tommy Galpine, to wipe the watches for fingerprints and move them to another hiding place. The next day, federal agents turned up at Kaplan's stash house looking for the watches. A few days after that, Luchese wiseguys were busted for the Bulova watch heist. Suspicion of Heidel wasn't something Kaplan could prove, but his radar was up.

Tommy Karate Pitera was a member of the Bypass gang and felt the same way as Kaplan. As Heidel stood in El Caribe ordering lunch, Pitera accused him of cooperating with law enforcement. Pitera said he thought Heidel was a traitor. In mob circles it was the ultimate accusation of betrayal. Heidel denied the claim. Affecting outrage, Heidel demanded to know how Pitera could suggest he was a rat. The confrontation escalated. Heidel, the ex-boxer, was furious. Pitera didn't back down. He said that every time Heidel was involved in a heist it seemed like people were pinched, or the police knew the Bypass gang was coming before they arrived on the job. Something always went wrong. "Personally," Pitera repeated, "I think you're a stool pigeon."

"The exchange was extremely dangerous for Heidel. Pitera was what they called 'capable' in the mafia -- capable of murder, capable of anything. There were always euphemisms in the mob. Killing someone was 'doing a piece of work.' Pitera was the kind who liked that kind of work. Heidel was supposed to be a fighter, an enforcer. He depended on intimidation to make his name. But Kaplan was too smart for Heidel. That day at EI Caribe, standing at the lunch concession about to buy a sandwich, Kaplan saw fear in Heidel's eyes. Fear was one emotion you didn't show around a canny gangster like Kaplan. He could smell fear and weakness, no matter how faint the scent."

"To me it didn't look right," Kaplan told Casso when they met after the Heidel encounter. Casso was not convinced. He had known Heidel for many years.

"We never had no problems with him," Casso said to Kaplan. Casso knew that Kaplan had sources in law enforcement who might be able to confirm or deny that Heidel was a cooperator.

"Why don't you ask your friends to find out what they can about Otto?" Within days, Kaplan passed along word from his sources that Heidel was "hot" -- he was a rat.

"Are you sure?" Casso asked. "I've known this guy a long time. Do you think your friends are accurate?"

Kaplan was adamant. "They haven't told us anything that wasn't accurate yet," Kaplan said.

Armed with the tip from Kaplan's sources, everything about Heidel began to appear questionable. What might have gone unnoticed before suddenly attracted attention. The gang had just failed in an attempt to break into a jewelry store on Mill Avenue in Brooklyn. They had started to ax their way through the ceiling when the alarm tripped and they were forced to flee. After the attempt, the owner installed razor wire around the roof's perimeter. A few weeks later, Heidel suggested to Vinny Zappola that they try to burgle the store again. When they went to look the place over, Zappola noticed that the razor wire had been removed. He started asking questions about Heidel. Why go back to the same place when there were hundreds of places to hit? Why did the owners pull down razor wire they had strung up only weeks earlier? It looked to Zappola like the wire was removed to make the job easier to entice the Bypass gang back, to catch them red-handed. Zappola decided against attempting to break into the store. Zappola began to think that Heidel might be setting them up.

"That same day Heidel had lunch with Casso at a Chinese restaurant called Joy Teang. I never understood why, but Joy Teang was a Bensonhurst favorite of mobsters and detectives from the Six-Two and Six- Three. The chop suey was the chef's specialty- -- lop suey." Heidel talked about past and future jobs in a manner that made Casso wonder if he was trying to lure him into saying something incriminating. Casso thought Heidel might be wearing a wire. Casso put out a hit on Heidel.

The murder was set for a Thursday afternoon in October 1987. Heidel was known to be extremely fit, often lifting weights at a local gym frequented by cops and ex-cons. The men on Casso's crew were aware that Heidel played paddleball, a variation of handball popular in the public parks of Brooklyn. They would surprise him after he finished his game. On the day of the murder, one of the hit team was late, caught in traffic on the Staten Island Expressway. His associates located Heidel's car and let the air out of one of the tires. Leaving the paddleball court, Heidel discovered the flat. He opened the trunk, took out his jack, and started to change the tire. As he bent down, Heidel saw a man walking toward him with a gun drawn. He turned and ran against traffic on a one-way street. It was late afternoon and kids from the grammar school down the block had just been let out; the park was filled with playing children at that time of day. The hit men started to shoot. Heidel dodged cars while he fled. Struck in the buttocks and back, he kept running west on Avenue U and north on 35th Avenue as the attackers continued firing, hitting him in the back. Desperate, bleeding, and breathless, Heidel jumped on the back of a passing motorcycle and commandeered it. By then, his pursuers had caught up to him. Heidel was shot again and again, his back pierced with more than half a dozen slugs; amazingly, the motorcycle rider was missed. Finally succumbing, Heidel fell to the ground. Casso's hit man stood over him and finished him with a single bullet to his chest. At the time, the murder in broad daylight barely registered in the press. On page five of the Metro section the next day the New York Times reported: "Another Man Slain in Mob-Style Killing."

"Mob murders were happening all the time in those days. The Colombo family was at war. The Bonanno family was falling apart. Genoveses and Gambinos and Lucheses were whacking one another wholesale. After the Commission Case in 1986, the leadership was locked up and a new generation of unsophisticated thugs took over, and the streets were littered with dead wiseguys like Otto Heidel. He could have been killed for any number of reasons. He could have been killed for stealing some mobster's jewelry in the Citibank job. There were a lot of guys unhappy about having their safe-deposit boxes emptied. He might have been killed for welching on a bet, or a drug deal gone bad. For precinct detectives who caught mob homicides, there was often no way of knowing precisely why an organized crime figure got killed. They had substantial histories. There were lots of potential motives. If you were running with the mafia, your demise came as no surprise to anyone.

"Heidel was a high-profile homicide. All of the detectives from OCHU responded to the scene of the murder -- Steve Caracappa, Jack Hart, Chuck Siriano. If an OC figure like Heidel was killed, they went to have a look and help out the precinct. Looking at a crime scene was part of the job of an OCHU detective. They applied their experience as precinct detectives and combined it with their organized crime knowledge. OCHU guys might see something everyone else missed. In Heidel's case there were signs pointing in a specific direction. There was an FBI agent's card in his wallet when he was murdered-and that is not standard-issue equipment for a member of a burglary crew. FBI agents showed up at the scene and at the precinct house-and that nearly never happened. The FBI denied Heidel had been their snitch, but it was evident to everyone that he had to have been tied to the Bureau. Few people in the NYPD knew that Heidel was a CW for the Joint Bank Robbery Task Force. Only detectives working in OCHU with access to the most confidential information knew that Heidel was an NYPD cooperator."

Detective Edward Scott from the Six-Three was assigned to investigate the Heidel homicide. He went with an FBI agent to Heidel's apartment to search for evidence. Scott found Heidel's collection of audio- and videotapes and a receiver able to monitor NYPD radio frequencies -- one of the hallmarks of the Bypass gang. In the tangle of clothes at his bachelor pad, Heidel had a device to record telephone conversations and walkie-talkies and a Bulova watch. Under the floor in the bathroom they discovered a secret hidden compartment -- a "trap" -- containing a microcassette recorder and many tapes. Detective Scott played a few of the tapes. One contained a recording of Heidel in the process of committing a burglary, as if he was memorializing his crime as a souvenir. The rest of the tapes were placed in a large plastic bag and taken to the detective squad room in the Six-Three. The bag was placed in the supervisor's office, just off the squad room, instead of being individually tagged and vouchered as pieces of evidence. Scott wanted to listen to the tapes to see if any contained leads for his homicide investigation before they were officially entered into NYPD records.

"Within days, one of the microcassette tapes was in the possession of Burt Kaplan. His source in the Six-Three, the cop who had ratted on Heidel, gave it to Kaplan as evidence that Heidel was a cooperator. Vic Amuso's voice could be heard. Amuso was outside the bank, in a van with Otto Heidel monitoring police frequencies. The crew was inside the bank. The heist was February, in the middle of a cold snap in the city. Amuso could be heard cursing the weather and talking to Heidel about getting some hot soup. That was the tape-two cold hungry hoods talking about chicken noodle soup. But it showed that Heidel had been wearing a wire, which was more than enough to get yourself deceased in the Bypass gang. Kaplan gave the tape to Casso as proof that his cop friends were right about Heidel -- and proof of how connected they were inside law enforcement. "

In the aftermath of the Heidel homicide, the atmosphere in the Six-Three grew poisonous. Detective Scott was instructed to keep quiet about the case and not talk to fellow detectives. After ten days, as the implications of the homicide began to sink in, Scott was ordered to take the investigation out of the Six-Three and work from the offices of Brooklyn South Homicide. It was known that there were leaks in the precinct but it was maddeningly difficult to find the culprit, or culprits. It could be anyone with access to the offices -- telephone repairmen, secretaries, patrolmen. "Trust in a small and crowded squad room like the Six-Three was vital. Cops worked twelve-hour shifts and shared desks and phones-their lives. Everyone had access to everything. If you couldn't trust your brother detectives, who could you trust? Heidel had been shot in broad daylight on a busy street but the case remained unsolved. It was the kind of case that made the rumor rounds at One PP. It became widely believed in the department that Heidel had been killed because he was cooperating with law enforcement and the mafia had somehow discovered he was a rat."


"After the Heidel hit, the Bypass gang became inactive. They stopped pulling jobs altogether. The pressure from law enforcement was so intense it was impossible for the gang members to go near a bank without half a dozen detectives trailing them. They knew they were being watched, and they knew we knew they knew they were being watched. It was the stage of the investigation where head games were played as each side was trying to fake the other out."

By the fall of 1988, the NYPD had managed to get its own snitch inside the Bypass gang. The break came in the form of a tip. During the investigation of the gang, veteran detectives had become convinced that the gang's "box man" (the man in charge of cracking the safes) had to be older, in his seventies or eighties. The standard of the safecracking was so high, and the knowledge of the design and function of old and obscure safes so deep it had to have been the work of a true craftsman. At the time, Detective Chuck Siriano of OCHU was running a cooperating informant code-named "Chicky." Chicky told Siriano that law enforcement had it wrong about the box man. Chicky was a "pick" for the gang-an expert lock pick. Even though they were both freelancers, Chicky had met the box man. He was a young locksmith named "Dominic" who lived in Brooklyn. Chicky didn't know Dominic's last name, or where he lived, but he was definitely in his mid-twenties.

Detective Siriano doubted Chicky's account. But on the off chance Chicky was right, Siriano went to the Consumer Affairs Department and pulled the files on every "Dominic" in Brooklyn with a locksmithing license. Registering for a license required the applicant to submit a photograph. Siriano presented the pictures of all the Dominics to Chicky, who identified a young Bensonhurst locksmith named Dominic Costa. With the ID, Siriano believed he had a shot at getting an informant inside the Bypass gang. For the next year, Detective Siriano worked with Detectives Frank DeMarco and George Gundlach collecting evidence on the criminal activities of Costa. The aim was to accumulate enough evidence so that when Siriano snatched him from the street he could convince Costa that he would go to jail for a long time if he didn't flip. Leverage in negotiations with a gangster was critical.

Siriano learned that Costa was, in fact, twenty-six years old. A former Marine Corps sniper, Costa moved back to New York after he got out of the military in 1981 and went to work for a trade union in Manhattan -- the same painters union run by Jimmy Bishop. Costa had studied locksmithing at night school. Talented, he had been hired as a teacher at the National School of Locksmithing and Alarms on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Unknown to his employers, Costa moonlighted cracking safes for the Bypass gang. After a year of collecting evidence Siriano arrested Costa for gun possession. He presented the charges Costa was facing. "Siriano didn't have hard evidence. He had what Chicky said Costa was in on -- the Bulova watch job and a jewelry store in Nassau County. It wouldn't stand up in court, but Costa didn't know that, and all that mattered was what Costa believed. Cops could lie and lie and lie to get a guy to talk. Prosecutors had to tell the truth. We didn't. The psychology of getting a criminal to talk was dependent on the circumstances. In the fall of 1988, Costa agreed to become a cooperator. As a CI his identity would never be revealed. He would go about his business and no one in the Bypass gang would be the wiser. From that moment on, it was a matter of life or death to keep Costa's name secret. If the gang heard that Costa was a rat, he would be executed."

One week later, on the night of October 10, 1988, Costa backed into his garage on Bay Ridge Parkway in Bensonhurst. It was twenty minutes after midnight when shots rang out. Costa's distraught common-law wife, Anna Carannante, stood next to Costa's car, door ajar, screaming, "Dominic, Dominic!" Costa was not dead. Six slugs were lodged in his head. His breathing was labored, and his brain damaged, but he was alive.

Detective Al Guarneri of the Six-Two was assigned as lead detective. He inspected Costa's apartment and found a police radio tuned to an NYPD frequency-the same model as had been found in Heidel's home. Guarneri interviewed Costa's wife at the hospital where Costa was being treated. Anna Carannante said that Costa had recently started getting up in the middle of the night and going out. "Annie further states that Dominic is a home type person, he don't use drugs, drink or gamble. She can't imagine why anyone would shoot him like this." After Costa had recovered enough to talk, Detective Guarneri attempted to interview him, but his mother refused to let him speak to her son. The family was eager to check Costa out of the hospital and place him in a rehabilitation program. Guarneri insisted Costa remain under police protection. Costa's mother replied that the NYPD had nearly got her son killed in the first place. There was no record in the DD-5s that Costa was a cooperating informant. The sole hint was the record of what Costa's mother told Detective Guarneri: police protection had nearly got her son killed in the first place.

Only a handful of law enforcement officials were supposed to know about Costa. Frank DeMarco worked in SLATS -- the Safe, Loft and Trucks Squad, a sister squad to Major Case -- and Detective Gundlach, who was with the Nassau County DA's Office were two. Another was Chuck Siriano in OCHU. One or two detectives were assigned to specialize in each of the five families. All OCHU detectives had to report significant developments in their field to Sergeant Jack Hart. Computers were new to the NYPD and were mostly used as word processors. The human component was vital in keeping track of information and building up a database. In addition to intelligence developed by OCHU, the unit was a "clearinghouse" for organized crime information. Reports came in from the FBI, the DEA, district attorneys from the five boroughs, the Organized Crime Task Force, the Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB), the Intelligence Division, precinct detectives -- all points. Like the FBI, the NYPD had protocols for keeping the identities of CIs secret. The CI file was supposed to be accessible only to the detective who ran that CI. The documents were kept inside a locked cabinet inside the locked OCHU room. The file contained the CI's name, contact information, and criminal background, as well as information about family affiliations and known haunts and associates. OCHU detectives were required to tell Sergeant Hart if they had a CI. Caracappa was Hart's number two. As a practical matter, detectives gave their reports to Caracappa, who passed them to Hart. Everything that came into OCHU went through Caracappa and on to Hart.

"Detective Siriano was white-hot mad about Dominic Costa. Siriano was a hardworking cop who truly believed in the job -- he was what we called a 'buff.' He had spent a year working on Costa. Costa was an important CI. Hart and Caracappa both knew Siriano was running Costa as a CI in the Bypass investigation. Siriano didn't accuse Hart or Caracappa of deliberately giving Costa away. It would be impossible to accuse Jack Hart of selling out. Hart was a classic: a chain-smoking, hard-drinking sergeant who stood up for his guys. Hart was as honest as the day was long. He would never put anyone in harm's way. Everyone knew by then that there were serious, serious problems. Something somewhere was broken. I don't think it crossed anyone's mind that someone in Major Case was a snitch for the mob."

There were other ways Costa's name could have leaked. Siriano knew that the Brooklyn DA's Office knew about Costa's cooperation and identity. Siriano confronted Mark Feldman, who was then head of Brooklyn rackets prosecutions. Feldman said the rumor was that Siriano had given Costa up himself by mistake. The false story went that Siriano had slipped and dropped Costa's name with another CI and word had got back to the Bypass gang that Costa was a snitch. "Speculation was getting out of hand. Cops were turning on each other. Prosecutors were turning on cops. Cops were turning on prosecutors. Siriano was an impassioned detective. He was the kind of detective who didn't mind spending twelve hours a day sitting in a van sweating like a pig on a summer day because he couldn't use the air-conditioning on a stakeout-a running motor would give the operation away. Siriano was committed body and soul to the job. After Costa was nearly killed Siriano knew there was no way he could rely on the law enforcement establishment in New York to maintain its secrets. Siriano went to see his informant Chicky. He felt that Chicky could be next. He felt an obligation to keep him alive. Siriano gave Chicky $2,000 of his own money and told him to disappear. He knew if word of Chicky's cooperation got out he would be dead."


In the late eighties, information no longer just leaked from One PP. There was a flood of sensitive intelligence reaching the mafia. The investigation of Tiger Management, a Brooklyn garbage-hauling consulting company, was an example of how dire the situation had become. Solid waste removal was one of the main rackets of the Lucheses. The industry was worth hundreds of millions and growing rapidly, with the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island reaching capacity. A new business emerged trucking trash to rural areas in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Inevitably, gangsters infested the industry, fixing contracts, bribing local politicians, and strong-arming unions and legitimate operators -- the same operating procedure as in the painting industry. "Mobbed-up companies baled hazardous material, like needles and medical waste, with regular garbage to save money. Millions of tons were hauled every year. Profits were phenomenal. The Luchese end was run out of a storefront on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Fat Pete Chiodo was in charge. He was six-one, three hundred pounds. He was the wiseguy who had controlled the painters union and Jimmy Bishop. He had become a capo under Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso. Chiodo had been given the 19th Hole to operate, the social club Amuso and Casso used to run their affairs."

In the winter of 1989, a secret multi agency investigation of garbage hauling was launched. Tiger Management was one of the targets. Investigators from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office were engaged in surveilling a trailer that Tiger Management kept in the industrial wastelands of New Jersey. Listening devices had been placed inside the trailer on St. Patrick's Day, when no one from Tiger Management was on the site. "Bugs" picked up voices in the trailer conversations. "Taps" were able to detect and record telephone conversations. Investigators set up in a hotel room across the street and half a block away from the trailer to conduct video surveillance and take photographs of all vehicles and people coming and going.

On April 18, 1989, the hotel room was manned by Victoria Vreeland, a young investigator on the first assignment of her law enforcement career. As she stood in the window watching the Tiger Management trailer, a large mobile home drove onto the property. The driver got out and started to crawl on the ground outside of the trailer. Vreeland quickly became concerned. She knew technicians had also been under the trailer installing the listening devices and there was a chance the man would see exposed wires, thereby revealing the investigation.

The man was heavyset and hirsute. He conducted himself as if he had no idea he might be under observation. Vreeland recorded the scene on videotape. In the footage, the overweight man climbed out a hatch on top of the trailer. He inspected a telephone pole. The man clearly had some expertise in wiring. He got a ladder from the mobile home and climbed up the pole. Then he got back in the mobile home and drove to the next telephone pole and did the same thing at each pole all the way down the street. He was working diligently for forty-five minutes. "That day all the wiretaps went down. The next day the bugs went down. There was no point in continuing with the surveillance. The cover of the investigation had been blown. The case against Tiger Management was compromised. No one working the case had seen such a thing happen before. No charges were brought."

By the spring of 1990, there was no question in the Major Case Squad. The Luchese family had a source inside law enforcement. The pattern was clear. The murders of Jimmy Bishop and Otto Heidel pointed that way. The attempt on Dominic Costa one week after he had become a cooperator pointed that way. The compromised bugs and taps pointed that way. There was no other explanation for what was happening to OC investigations again and again. "The problem was figuring out what to do about it. When an institution suffered a breach in its security the way the NYPD had, everyone was operating in a fog. Who could you trust? Who was suspect? How do you begin an investigation? The difficulty was figuring out how to tie events together. What we really needed was someone inside the mafia to tell us what was going on. To find our rat, we needed a rat of our own."
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:40 am


In the spring of 1990, Oldham moved from his apartment in Harlem to a loft on Mott Street in downtown Manhattan to be closer to the organized crime action. Mott Street ran the length of Little Italy and Chinatown, neighborhoods that teemed with criminals. There was a Gambino gambling parlor next door to Oldham's place. Down the block stood a social club with a warning sign on the wall inside saying, "This place is bugged." A few blocks east, Asian gangsters from the Ghost Shadows and Flying Dragons strutted the streets on the lookout for interlopers. On Mulberry Street mobsters sat playing cards outside John Gotti's Ravenite Social Club. The mafiosi didn't even attempt to keep a low profile. They pulled up in Cadillacs with tinted windows and Landau rooves, greeting each other with elaborate hugs and two-cheek kisses. The mafia was kind of a tourist attraction, part of the thrill and legend of New York City.

"The neighborhood was swarming with criminal conspiracy. I would walk out of my apartment and literally run into John Gotti and Sammy the Bull Gravano on a 'walk-and-talk' to avoid electronic listening devices. They were always trailed by a mob bodyguard -- and an entourage of federal agents and NYPD cops trying to record their conversation. The proximity to organized crime got my juices flowing. A lot of cops lived in the suburbs. Guys would drive two hours each way every day to escape crime and the city. I wanted to be in the thick of it. I could walk to headquarters. I could go to Mare Chiaro or La Donna Rosa and listen to the wiseguys talking. I could go to New Jeannie's on Mulberry Street for the steamed sea bass and watch the Ghost Shadows enjoying their Tsingtao. What I was really doing was getting myself known in the community. I wanted the regular people running their businesses to know that I was a cop and that I lived in the neighborhood. I became friendly with the guy running the newsstand on my street. I got to know the deli owner where I bought milk and beer. Dry cleaning, shoeshine, even the beat cops from the precinct, I made it my business to get to know them. It was my version of setting up a Rotary Club. Local business owners were often the victims of organized crime. I wanted them to trust me. If they needed help, I wanted them to come to me."

Despite the omnipresence of law enforcement in lower Manhattan, the cops and federal agents working surveillance weren't apparent to the untrained eye. Oldham made a sport of spotting as many surreptitious surveillance operations as he could as he walked the streets of Little Italy and Chinatown. Easiest to see was the FBI agent in black oxfords trying to pretend he was a bum reading a newspaper in front of a flophouse at the corner of the Bowery and Grand Street. Helicopters circled overhead. Vans parked on corners had sophisticated listening instruments trained on tenement buildings and Italian restaurants. Curtained windows on apartments were set up to disguise surveillance. A mere thirty square blocks contained FBI organized crime and special operation squads, the New York state Joint Organized Crime Task Force, the DEA's Group 41, among others. There was the Jade Squad, a small unit that worked exclusively on Asian organized crime, as well as the Manhattan DA's rackets squad. The NYPD's Organized Crime Investigating Division competed with the Organized Crime Monitoring Unit of the Intelligence Division. Lower Manhattan was practically a law enforcement convention. FBI agents trailing a car outfitted with a "bird dog" -- a radio transmitter attached to the undercarriage -- would get their signal crossed with a detective bird-dogging a Luchese. The voice transmitters used for wiring an informant had three frequencies. Often a receiver tuned to Sicilian voices would be interrupted by a squawk of interference from another wire and the voices would be in English. Another squawk would follow and the voices would be speaking Cantonese.

"Territories overlapped in law enforcement the way they did in the mob. There were law enforcement families, each with their own history and camaraderie but also old scores to settle and divergent agendas. No one shared information. Everyone wanted to make the big busts. The FBI was the worst. They would let defendants walk on state charges to protect a federal prosecution. They weren't going to give up the glory."

In the spring of 1990, the modern age of the American gangster seemed to be at its peak. Popular culture and the mafia fed upon each other, a symbiotic relationship that conflated glamour and violence. John Gotti, celebrity killer and heroin dealer, had been acquitted of assault -- again. Charged with ordering the murder of the president of the New York Carpenters Union, Gotti's third not-guilty verdict in a row established him as an outlaw hero for some, and the nickname "Teflon Don" appeared regularly on the front pages of the tabloids. The Godfather, Part III had just been nominated for best picture in the Academy Awards. Francis Ford Coppola's conclusion to his trilogy romanticized the mafia as the embodiment of cavalleria rusticana ("rustic chivalry"). Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas was nominated for best picture and Joe Pesci won for best supporting actor. The characters in Goodfellas were composites but recognizable to those in the know as real Luchese made men and associates. Henry Hill, the main character, had been a two-bit cokehead drunk and Luchese hanger-on. "A stolen print of the film made the rounds of made guys before it was released. Inside the mob it was known Hill had given away Paul 'Paulie' Vario, a captain in the family, who died of a heart attack in prison. Hill was a rat. The boys were not entertained."


By May 1990, it seemed publicly that organized crime was rebounding from the convictions in the Commission Case. The opposite was the truth. Only days after painters union official Jimmy Bishop was murdered, the FBI was planning to arrest dozens of mafiosi in a prosecution that would come to be known as the Windows Case.

The investigation revolved around a mob scam to exploit a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development plan to finance the replacement of all the windows in New York City's public housing buildings. Heat consumption and the long-term cost of subsidized public housing for the poor would be reduced by using energy-efficient double-glazed thermal panes for 900,000 windows in government apartments throughout the city. The project would cost more than $150 million and take more than a decade to complete. It didn't take long for the mob to pounce. Peter Savino, a Genovese associate who controlled Local 580 of the Architectural and Ornamental Ironworkers Union, started a scheme of rigged bids and kickbacks. The collective bargaining agreements of the union were subverted, sweetheart deals were given out to keep labor costs down, and every window installed was "taxed" by the mafia to the tune of two dollars.

"It was common practice for law enforcement to exaggerate the sums of money involved in mafia corruption cases when arrests were made. Big bucks made the bust sound big and important. The same was true of drug cases. Millions of dollars' worth of pot or Quaaludes were seized, it was said, but using made-up prices. But the Windows Case really was a lucrative business for all five families. Millions truly were made. The proceeds bought a lot of Cadillacs and Brioni suits and thick gold bracelets."

In the Windows Case the disparate strands of the leak pattern started to come together. As indictments neared, the investigation had become an open secret in the organized crime industry of New York City -- both among mafia and law enforcement. In the mob, there was constant speculation about who was going to be indicted, and when. In the FBI, monthly reports on the investigation were written up tracking progress toward prosecution. FBI files were provided to the NYPD on a strictly confidential basis. Allegations, targets, action taken, and FBI actions planned were included in the comprehensive rundown of the investigation. But with so many co-conspirators it became difficult to keep intelligence confidential. The "takedown" date for arrests was set for the end of May 1990. More than a dozen wiseguys were to be arrested, including Gambino captain Peter Gotti, Genovese underboss Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano, and Luchese boss Vic Amuso and underboss Anthony Casso. Arrests were planned to occur simultaneously in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx. More than fifty NYPD detectives and federal agents were assigned to the takedown. It was going to be one of the biggest busts in the history of New York City. Timing was crucial.

Only days before they were to be arrested, Amuso and Casso vanished. Either they were clairvoyant, or they had been tipped off about the impending indictments. Detectives and agents working the Windows Case knew Amuso and Casso had to have been forewarned. In fact, Burt Kaplan's source in the Six-Three had told Kaplan the takedown was coming on the last Monday in May. Kaplan had passed word along to Casso, who then told Amuso. Going "on the lam" was a common tactic for mobsters fearing or facing indictment. It was learned that Amuso and Casso were not apprehensive about being charged with the murders of Jimmy Bishop and Otto Heidel or the attempted murder of Dominic Costa. All of those investigations were stalled and going nowhere. It was the pending RICO charges on the Windows Case that scattered them. Amuso disappeared first, leaving Casso to arrange for running the family in their absence. Casso spent the last weekend of May arranging continuity in the conduct of business for the Luchese crime family -- or what passed for continuity.

On the Sunday night before he went on the lam, Casso met with "Little AI" D'Arco at "the cannon" -- an antique cannon in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, a Revolutionary War historical site near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Casso told D'Arco about the coming indictments and instructed him on the method the bosses would use to communicate with him and the other Lucheses without revealing their location to their colleagues or eavesdropping law enforcement officials. Pay phones around the city were identified and given a designated number. When Casso or Amuso wanted to contact an underling, they would send a numeric message to that man's beeper with the designated number of the pay phone making up the last digits of the code. Thus summoned, the recipient would go to the specified pay phone and wait for a call. As he left town Casso took Georgie Neck Zappola with him, a young and proven killer who could provide muscle if Casso needed it. At dawn on May 30, the FBI arrested fifteen top-echelon racketeers in raids throughout the city, including Genovese boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. Only hours before the FBI was set to swoop down, Casso slipped away in the dark of night.


Gaspipe Casso had not shared his intelligence with his captain Fat Pete Chiodo. At dawn Chiodo was rousted and trucked off to jail, just like the others. Soon out on bail, Chiodo knew that in all likelihood he faced a long stretch in prison. With the Luchese bosses on the run, Fat Pete started to grow more and more nervous. "Going to trial was a crap shoot that was likely to turn into a turkey shoot. It was difficult to build a defense when you were guilty. But Chiodo didn't just have to calculate what the government might have on him. He had to worry about what his own brother gangsters might do to him. In the post-omerta age, the charges against Chiodo made him instantly suspect to his peers. What if he ratted, in return for a lesser sentence? The mafia was looking more and more like a sinking ship as the months passed in 1990, and rats were always the first to jump ship."

Chiodo became convinced Luchese bosses were out to get him. The signs of his peril were small but telling. Before he had been arrested, Chiodo had been promoted to capo and was supposed to be the personal representative for Casso. Yet Casso had grown distant. Chiodo had run the painters union for years but Amuso had given control to another Luchese without offering a reason why. Angered and resistant, Chiodo had argued with Amuso, a rash burst of insubordination. Soon after, Amuso had shouted at him in front of other people at a gathering at El Caribe, a sign of deep disrespect in the mafia. The past played over in Chiodo's memory. The previous Christmas, following their tradition, Casso and Chiodo had shared a lavish meal. Usually Casso picked up the tab but this year Casso had stiffed Chiodo for the bill. "Fat Pete was smart enough to put the pieces together. The language of the mob existed in gesture and implications. Measuring the mood of the bosses was a necessity. Falling out of favor could be fatal. The eye of suspicion, once cast, could not be taken away. Once a made guy started to feel like he was maybe being set up, his brain was always racing."

One thing Chiodo knew to a certitude was that Amuso and Casso would kill him if they suspected him of cooperating with the government. It didn't matter if he actually betrayed the family. A hunch was enough. The Luchese bosses would go to any length to protect themselves. He had seen firsthand their method of dealing with alleged snitches. The year before, Chiodo's crew had been given the hit on a Luchese associate named Sonny Morrissey, an Ornamental Ironworkers union official. Morrissey was good friends with Amuso and loyal to the family. But Morrissey had dealings with Peter Savino, the Genovese who had set up the Windows scam in the first place. The source Amuso and Casso had in law enforcement had told them Savino was a rat. Savino belonged to another family so the Luchese leaders couldn't kill him without starting a war. But as the Windows investigation closed in, the Luchese bosses had decided Morrissey had to go, along with three other mafia members, simply for their association with Savino. It didn't matter if Morrissey had gone bad. If Savino was a snitch it followed, in the minds of the Luchese bosses, that Morrissey had to be killed. Logical consistency, factual reality, personal history -- all were irrelevant.

Chiodo had chosen "Richie the Toupee" Pagliarulo, Tommy "Irish" Carew, and Michael "Mikey" DeSantis to help with the job. The crew lured Morrissey to a housing development in New Jersey, supposedly to meet with Amuso. Morrissey never figured he was in trouble himself; he had done nothing wrong. When Chiodo and his crew got to the development they took Morrissey to a half-constructed house. Chiodo went out the back door saying he was going to go find Amuso. The Toupee opened up on Morrissey. He had a silencer on his gun but it didn't work. He shot Morrissey twice but then his gun jammed. "The Lucheses weren't the gang who couldn't shoot straight -- they were the gang that couldn't clean a gun. Tommy Irish started firing. He had a six-shot but there were only four bullets in the thing. Chiodo heard the shots. He came back in to see what was going on. Morrissey was lying on the floor of the house, writhing in pain, begging to be killed. Morrissey's last words were that he wasn't a rat. In real life watching a man defend himself with his last breath is pretty goddamn convincing. Remembering this had to play on Chiodo. He had to know Morrissey wasn't a rat. Fat Pete had to know it didn't matter if he had ratted or not, he could just as easily be killed by Amuso and Casso."

After his arrest in 1990, Chiodo continued to follow the orders of Amuso and Casso. Told to report to a pay phone in Coney Island with documents related to the Windows Case prosecution, Chiodo did as he was told. But Chiodo trusted no one, not even the members of his own crew -- particularly members of his own crew. The pressure was unbearable. Chiodo faced years in prison but his fear of the Lucheses made him turn his own home into a prison. He wouldn't leave the house for any reason. His health was suffering. Chiodo was grossly overweight. Finally on Father's Day in 1990 -- June 18, only three weeks after he'd been arrested -- he suffered a heart attack. Chiodo was taken to a hospital on Staten Island. In the hospital, Chiodo was arrested again. This time, as had been predicted by Amuso and Casso's law enforcement source, Chiodo was charged with racketeering in the Painters Union Case -- the same investigation the late Jimmy Bishop had been cooperating with. The concentric circles of overlapping conspiracies were starting to tighten into nooses. The suspicions about Chiodo because of his indictment in the Windows Case were doubled by the new Painters prosecution. A short time later, released from the hospital and free on bail, Chiodo met with D'Arco, who told him other Lucheses were staying away from him because of Chiodo's legal jeopardy.

"Chiodo was caught in a squeeze play -- the mob was closing in on one side, and the law was closing in on the other. Every conversation was parsed by Fat Pete for hidden meanings or signs. The paranoia of Amuso and Casso was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your mind fixed on the idea someone was going to turn against you and rat, and you started to act like he was going to turn against you, chances were good that person was going to turn against you. Fear contained the seeds of the mob's destruction -- self- destruction. "

As Chiodo stewed, holed up in his house, Amuso and Casso continued to roam the tristate area during the summer of 1990, a pair of wolves looking for any signs of weakness in their men. They met regularly with D'Arco at safe houses in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn. The pair arrived in a black Jeep wearing baseball caps and sunglasses, both men growing beards. Through D'Arco they tried to exercise control over the affairs of the family, but dysfunction was turning into chaos.

A simple man, with only a grade school education, D'Arco was valued by Amuso and Casso for his unthinking loyalty and obedience. Short and violent, with a broad Brooklyn accent and a quick temper, for decades D'Arco had only been an associate of the Lucheses as he ran a modest hamburger stand in Manhattan and tried to scratch out extra money from low-level crime. Finally, at the age of fifty he was "made" as a member of the Lucheses. Nicknamed "the Professor," an ironic reference to the dissonance of his preference for tweed jackets and his street thug attitude, Little Al was a reliable and ruthless killer. He had, for example, arranged for the murder of Thomas "Red" Gilmore, a Luchese associate killed because he had been overly insistent on meeting with Amuso. D'Arco had also bludgeoned a wiseguy named Mike Pappadio in the back of a bagel bakery. He had arranged for the murder of John Petrocelli, a cocaine addict who had hidden Gus Farace when he was on the run for killing DEA Agent Everett Hatcher.

"The hit list went on and on. D'Arco was the family servant who had to do all the dirty work. Amuso and Casso thought they were clever but they were suicidally stupid. If the first tool you used for every problem was a hammer, soon every problem started to look like the head of a nail. Betrayal was their leitmotif. Friends were used to murder friends, to the extent there was anything like friendship in the mob. A made man would be lured out by his closest associates. Any pretext would do. When he least expected it, before the realization could take shape in his mind, a gun was put to the back of his head and he was dead. Every wiseguy had examples of mobsters they knew who had been betrayed by their so-called buddies. For the Lucheses getting set up was more than an occupational hazard -- it was how business was done."

During the summer of 1990, Casso repeatedly ordered Chiodo to report to designated pay phones to receive instructions. Chiodo refused to comply. Appearing at an appointed time at an appointed place was a good way to get oneself killed. "One of the rules of life in the mafia was that if the boss wanted to see you, you had to report immediately. Rules in the mafia were broken all the time. They lied to each other constantly. They lied to themselves. Half the time they didn't know what was true themselves. But some things about the life were known and agreed. Ignoring calls from the boss was a definite go-directly-to-the-grave move. Like laying hands on another made man -- that could get you killed. Wiseguys were supposed to ask for permission if they wanted to leave town for any reason - holiday, illness, business. Close tabs were kept on everyone. Watching each other was a way of making sure the other guy didn't waver in his loyalty or go soft. It was one of the reasons for the claustrophobic atmosphere. They spent all their waking hours with each other, sitting around in social clubs conniving and scheming. The only thing they exercised was their paranoid imaginations. In a way the mafia had its own primitive form of a surveillance system. When Chiodo blew off Casso he was taking a big risk, and he knew it. The alternative was to answer Casso's call and be ordered to meet with him -- and wind up dead."

In August 1990, another Luchese, Bruno Facciola, was murdered. Chiodo had known Facciola for years. He also knew that Amuso had never liked Facciola, a feud dating back to a street brawl in the seventies. The order had been given to D'Arco to kill Facciola. D'Arco was told to leave a bird in Facciola's mouth after he had been killed -- not overly complex mob symbology for a cooperator who "sang" for law enforcement. The code name given to the job of clipping Facciola was "the wing." The setup was a cliche mob murder. Facciola was brought to an auto body shop on Foster Avenue in Brooklyn by his associate "Louie Bagels" Daidone. Facciola hadn't made it through the door of the shop before he glimpsed two other Lucheses waiting inside. Facciola tried to run but the three set upon him on the sidewalk with knives, stabbing him repeatedly. His body was thrown in the back of his car and driven to a street where Facciola was soon discovered by the police. There was indeed a bird shoved in his mouth -- a canary.

After Facciola's homicide, Chiodo went to the Burger Palace on West Street, in lower Manhattan, to meet with D'Arco. By then Chiodo had no crew of his own and most of his money-earning illegal activities had been reassigned to other members of the Luchese. With two outstanding indictments in the Windows and Painters Union Cases, Chiodo was being ostracized by other Lucheses. He wanted to know where he stood in the family, he said. D'Arco told him that he was still a captain but that he should keep a low profile. Chiodo asked why Facciola had been killed. It went without saying that Facciola had been murdered by his supposed partners-in-crime; under Amuso and Casso every time a Luchese was killed it was virtually certain the hit had been ordered by the bosses. D'Arco said that Amuso and Casso suspected Facciola had" gone bad so he had to go."

As the weeks passed, Chiodo's terror that he would be murdered carried him to the edge of a nervous breakdown -- or another heart attack. Facing certain conviction, he pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in the Painters Union Case and the Windows Case. According to Luchese protocol, Chiodo should ~ave received approval from Amuso and Casso before pleading out. Pleading guilty without permission amounted to yet another offense to Amuso and Casso. It also increased their suspicion that he was cooperating with the FBI. Under RICO, given his poor health, Chiodo was likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Still free while awaiting sentencing, Chiodo was at the moment of maximum pressure to strike a bargain with federal prosecutors to flip and become a CW Whispers started to circulate in the Luchese and Genovese families that Fat Pete was cooperating. Casso beeped Chiodo night and day but Chiodo ignored him. AI D'Arco told Chiodo to report to Casso. If Chiodo didn't talk to Casso there was no doubt Chiodo would be murdered on Casso's orders, D'Arco said, and the contract would be given to him. D'Arco said he didn't want to be forced to murder Fat Pete. Chiodo would be doing them both a favor if he talked to Casso.

Finally, trapped and unable to stand the pressure, Fat Pete went on the lam himself -- running away from the Lucheses, not the law. Chiodo headed south to Huntington, West Virginia, to scout an area within driving distance of the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, where he had been told he would serve his time. Chiodo rented a house for his family and stored his white limousine -- which he reported stolen in New York to collect on the insurance. Chiodo checked into the local Radisson. He introduced himself as "Joey" and began to lay the foundations for a life after he had served his time. His fantasy of leaving the mafia forever was seductive and delusional. He would open a small chain of pawnshops, he decided, incorporating his venture as Quicksilver Pawnbrokers, Inc. Chiodo came up with a plan to purchase abandoned coal mines and use them for disposing garbage. Salvatore "Sally Paper" Buttaro, an acquaintance of Chiodo's who specialized in paper recycling in New York City, agreed to move south as well. Together they would open a paper plant and run motels through their company Lazy Boy Inns. Never one to miss an opportunity for a quick, illegal buck, Chiodo took along ten illegal Joker Poker machines to put in bowling alleys and bars. Rehabilitation and life on the straight and narrow, for Chiodo, didn't mean he shouldn't make a few dollars on the side with a harmless scam like poker machines. For more than six months, Chiodo disappeared from sight. It was a winter of deadly discontent in the mafia.


On January 9,1991, as reward for his fealty, Little Al D'Arco was made acting boss of the Lucheses by Vic Amuso and Anthony Casso. During the winter months the pair continued to duck and dodge around the city. The results were predictable. In February, Casso learned that wiseguy friends of Bruno Facciola in the Bronx faction were planning to take revenge against Amuso and Casso. The report of their plot had come from Burton Kaplan, who had been told by his source in the NYPD that there was a plan to kill the Luchese boss and underboss. Amuso and Casso immediately put out contracts on the plotters, Larry Taylor and Al "Flounderhead" Visconti.

On February 5, 1991, at ten-thirty at night, while sitting in his 1980 Oldsmobile on Third Street in Brooklyn, Larry Taylor was shot three times with a shotgun and once with a .38-caliber pistol. Unknown perpetrators fled on foot. On March 26,1991, Flounderhead Visconti walked into the lobby of his apartment building at 2020 East 41st Street in the Six- Three in Brooklyn. It was nearly seven in the evening. A young man of medium height and build wearing a baseball cap stepped in front of Visconti and shot him four times. The first two slugs shattered Visconti's face, breaking his eyeglasses. The third shot hit him in the left foot. The final shot struck Visconti's penis. There were no witnesses able to ID the shooter with any degree of specificity. Detectives in the Six-Three canvassed the area and interviewed Visconti's brother and surveilled the funeral at Guarino Funeral Home on Flatlands Avenue, noting the license plate numbers of the mourners. Otherwise, the investigation went nowhere.

In the imagination of Gaspipe Casso, it seemed reasonable that he could return to normal life after the Windows and Painters Union cases ended in acquittals. Once the dozens of mobsters indicted on RICO charges in those cases were found not guilty, he believed, there would be no case for the federal government to make against him. The multiple and multiplying murders were another matter; law enforcement had no idea of the role Casso had played in those crimes; the homicides were unsolved, and almost certainly unsolvable. Amuso and Casso had no reason to fear arrest on those counts.

During the early spring of 1991, Casso continued to meet with Al D'Arco, directing the business of the Lucheses. He told Al D'Arco that when it was safe for him to come out of hiding he was going to throw a party for himself. He was going to invite a big group of his associates -- Anthony "Curly" Russo, Ralph "Raffie" Cuomo, Danny "Squires" Latella, and Anthony "Bowat" Baratta, among others. They were the men who had taken advantage of him while he was on the lam, Casso told D'Arco. At his homecoming party, Casso said, he would kill all of them. In May of 1991, after months spent building the foundations for a new life in West Virginia, Fat Pete Chiodo came back to New York to make final arrangements to move his family south. Armed and moving around town with great caution, he set about ending what little remained of his affairs and interests in the city. On May 8, the day before he was supposed to drive south and leave New York forever, he and his elderly father went out to run errands -- a visit to the doctor, a stop at the bank, and last a drop by the local car repair shop to collect his father's car. At three-forty in the afternoon, Fat Pete pulled his Cadillac into a service bay of the Getty station at the corner of Fingerboard Road and Bay Street on Staten Island. Chiodo was having trouble with the fan belt on his Cadillac -- it was making a noise. Chiodo popped the hood. A large black sedan, four-door, followed Chiodo into the lot. A door swung open. An unknown male, white, mid-thirties, wearing a baseball cap and a black satin jacket, opened fire as he approached; the revolver had a silencer and the only sound was the ping of bullets on the pavement.

Chiodo turned and ran. The man entered the garage's office firing. Chiodo pulled a five-shot .22 from his belt holster. Before he could return fire, he was hit in the left arm and then the right leg by another shooter who had appeared on the other side of the room. Trying to flee and fire at the same time, Chiodo emptied his five-shot. He missed. The two gunmen moved to close range, riddling Chiodo's body. Chiodo was hit twelve times in total. Everyone else in the garage had taken cover. "We've been here too long!" the first shooter shouted. The gunmen began to panic -- surely Fat Pete had to be dead by now. "Let's get the fuck out of here!" he screamed. The two men ran to the waiting sedan and sped into the midday traffic on Fingerboard Road. Chiodo was barely breathing when the ambulance arrived -- but he was alive. The layers of fat on his corpulent body had saved his life.

"Chiodo was not a rat. Not yet. Their attempt to kill him understandably made him reconsider his position. When someone tries to murder you it tends to concentrate the mind. Chiodo was no exception. The more the demented duo tried to intimidate their people to stop them from talking, the more likely it was that their people would talk. Violence breeds violence. Violence also breeds fear. Fear was supposed to be a motivating factor. Amuso and Casso thought they could scare loyalty into their men. All they did was increase the speed at which events were spiraling out of control."

While he lay in the hospital Fat Pete agreed to become a cooperator with the federal government. Casso had achieved precisely the outcome he most dreaded. It was the first big break in the leak investigation. Chiodo was moved to the Veteran's Hospital in Brooklyn, under heavy protection, where he was interviewed by prosecutors and the FBI. Chiodo confessed to participating in four homicides, two attempted homicides, and two murder conspiracies.

As Chiodo talked to the authorities about the inner workings of the mafia, there was a concerted Luchese campaign to convince him to shut up. His elderly father was threatened with death by two white males unless his son "did the right thing." His grandmother's house in Gravesend, Brooklyn, was torched. Chiodo's sister, a mother of three and president of her local PTA in Bensonhurst, was shot in the head in broad daylight as she returned from driving her son to school. Terrified but stuck with the deal he had made, Chiodo cooperated.

In early July 1991, in debriefing sessions with FBI agents and federal prosecutors, Chiodo became the first mobster to explain to law enforcement how deeply the Lucheses had penetrated the NYPD. It wasn't just a matter of getting tips, or asking for an occasional favor, he told them. The Lucheses knew everything they wanted to know about law enforcement on the city, state, and federal levels. The inside source had given Amuso and Casso information that led to the demise of Otto Heidel in 1987 and the near-death experience of Dominic Costa in 1988. The source had given away the bugs and taps placed in Tiger Management's trailer in New Jersey. The instruction had come from Casso that Chiodo should be careful what he said when he was in the trailer. Removing the listening devices was not what Casso expected. Casso didn't want law enforcement to know that they knew about the operation. "Chiodo sending the gorilla in the fedora with the mobile home to look for the wires was beyond stupid. Casso was reluctant to tell Fat Pete anything after that. Using information from Casso's source required discretion."

Chiodo told the FBI that Amuso and Casso called their source the "crystal ball." The nickname came from the ability of their source to predict the future. The "crystal ball" was a running joke for the Luchese bosses, he said. "The 'crystal ball' is expensive," Amuso joked to Chiodo. Amuso told Chiodo the "crystal ball" had cost him the price of a Cadillac once.

The murder of Jimmy Bishop remained unsolved until Chiodo told FBI Special Agent John Flanagan and Task Force Detective Thomas Limberg the real story. The "crystal ball" had played a critical part in the homicide. A year earlier, in May 1990, Chiodo said, Casso had instructed him to clock Bishop's movements. Chiodo knew from past experience with Casso that this meant Bishop was going to be killed. Chiodo had gone to Bishop's home in a leafy well-to-do neighborhood in Queens with curving streets and cul-de-sacs. He decided it would be too difficult for a hit team to make a quick escape after killing Bishop. Chiodo had gone to Bishop's girlfriend's place in Whitestone -- an apartment building with a parking lot and nearby avenues where a car could easily blend in with traffic. Before the hit, Chiodo had met with Amuso and Casso in a room above a pizza parlor in Bensonhurst. Chiodo wanted to know why Bishop was being killed. Chiodo didn't think Bishop was the kind who would talk to law enforcement. He asked Amuso and Casso if they were certain Bishop had become a cooperator with law enforcement. "As sure as you're standing there," Amuso said. Chiodo told Flanagan and Limberg he knew what that meant. The "crystal ball" had told Amuso and Casso that Bishop had "gone bad." If the "crystal ball" said Bishop was a rat then as far as the Lucheses were concerned he was a rat. From Chiodo it was learned definitively that the NYPD had a cop -- or cops -- selling out the force.


The month that Chiodo was debriefed by the FBI about Bishop, Luchese boss Vie Amuso, still on the lam, was arrested in a shopping mall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, while talking on a pay phone. Amuso and Casso had recently been featured on an episode of the television show America's Most Wanted and a viewer recognized Amuso's face and tipped off the authorities. "But Amuso was not inclined to believe in the randomness of events in the universe. The reason he was caught was luck. Somebody in Scranton had seen him on TV and notified the police. But that wasn't a story Amuso could believe. He was sure he had been set up. Everything was a plot. Whoever had betrayed Amuso was in a world of woe-even though no one had betrayed him. Amuso decided he had been given away by Little Al D'Arco. There was no basis for the belief but that didn't take away from the fervor of the believer. It might have been Little Al became it had to be Little Al became kill Little AI. That was the mania of a murderer, the senseless sense of it."

The fate that befell Chiodo that summer and fall had not gone unnoticed by Al D'Arco -- he himself had been given the contract on Chiodo and knew the rationale. Like Chiodo, D'Arco knew how flimsy the pretext could be for the accusation that a mobster was a rat. During the summer of 1991, D'Arco started to become convinced Amuso and Casso were going to kill him next. Like Chiodo, D'Arco was reading between the lines. In early July, only weeks before Amuso's arrest, D'Arco had gone to a secret meeting with Amuso and Casso on Staten Island. At the meeting D'Arco was told he was no longer acting boss. The job of boss would be taken up by a "panel" of four Luchese captains. D'Arco was included in the group but the change was undeniably a demotion. The panel would convene every Wednesday, D'Arco was told. At the meeting, D'Arco was also told he no longer controlled the rackets at JFK Airport, one of the benefits bestowed on him by Amuso and Casso. D'Arco was angry. For years he had struggled financially but as acting boss he had started to earn as much as $10,000 a week. D'Arco took Amuso aside to complain. D'Arco said he had been loyal; he had faithfully passed on money to the bosses. During the exchange, D'Arco noticed that Amuso was averting his gaze and wouldn't look him in the eye. "Not looking at another wiseguy could be worse than looking at him the wrong way. The implication wasn't lost on D'Arco but there was nothing he could do about it then and there. He was supposedly still on the panel running the family. He went to the Wednesday meetings even after Amuso was arrested. But he was watchful. He couldn't trust Amuso and Casso, and he knew it."

By September of 1991, the luck of the Lucheses was nearing the end. On Friday, September 13, Chiodo testified in the Windows Case. The gangster, now weighing more than four hundred pounds, was rolled into court in an extra-wide wheelchair. To a riveted courtroom, he told how the mafia controlled $143 million worth of contracts to replace windows in New York public housing. It was the very treachery Amuso and Casso had desperately tried to avoid.

The next week, D'Arco killed on the orders of Casso for the last time. On Wednesday, September 18, a Luchese associate and professional architect named Anthony Fava was murdered. Fava was shot in the head, chest, and leg. He was also stabbed repeatedly in the heart, neck, and brain. The architect had a reputation as a swindler but he was the favored designer of many wiseguys. While Casso was on the lam, Fava had continued to construct a large house in Mill Basin for Casso. The project was being overseen by Casso's wife, Lillian. Before Fava was shot, Chiodo was the go-between for Casso, delivering more than $100,000 in cash to Fava against the cost of the construction.

D'Arco knew Anthony Fava. He had helped D'Arco with the construction of a sun porch. Casso said Fava had to be whacked because he knew about illegal transactions related to building Casso's house. Fava was also close to Chiodo and might cooperate. "Justifications for killing were getting dicier by the day. The killing was growing more frenetic and reckless. D'Arco was not a rocket scientist, and he wasn't a professor, as Casso jokingly called him, but he wasn't a complete idiot either. Casso was on his own, with Amuso now in jail. The way he was behaving it was as if he wanted to be caught and stopped. By threatening and conniving against and then killing the people closest to him, Casso was virtually ensuring the living ones would turn against him."

The day of Fava's murder, D'Arco attended the usual Wednesday meeting of the Luchese leadership panel in a midtown Manhattan hotel. The meeting was about dividing proceeds from gambling and bookmaking with a couple of Bonanno wiseguys. It was a seemingly routine day, the bureaucracy of crime grinding on. But after the meeting ended, D'Arco began to think he was being set up to be murdered right there, in the hotel room. As half a dozen wiseguys sat together, one gangster began to ramble on incoherently about taking lithium, a drug used to treat bipolar mental disorder. The conversation didn't make sense. It seemed like the other Lucheses were playing for time. D'Arco saw that Mikey DeSantis, a longtime member of Chiodo's crew, had a handgun tucked in the small of his back under his clothes. Carrying a gun in the presence of other wiseguys was a serious provocation. DeSantis went to the bathroom and returned. D'Arco noticed the gun was now missing. D'Arco knew Casso had been spreading a rumor that D'Arco was the" rat" responsible for Vic Amuso's arrest in Scranton. D'Arco also knew Amuso would want him dead if he believed the allegation. In the hotel room, D'Arco suddenly realized he would be killed if he didn't escape immediately. The lifelong gangster leapt to his feet and fled, bolting for the door and running out of the hotel and onto the street before he could be stopped, narrowly escaping with his life.

The next day, Thursday, September 19, Anthony Fava's body was found in the trunk of a white '83 Oldsmobile Cutlass in Bensonhurst. He was naked, apart from his boxer shorts. The discovery was reported in New York Newsday under the headline, "Mob Informant's Friend Stripped, Shot, Stabbed." The article reported on the mystery underlying the reasons for Fava's murder. Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Rose, prosecutor of the Windows Case, would not comment. Federal sources said Chiodo expressed surprise over the death of Fava. "The guy was like, straight," Newsday quoted Chiodo. Fava had angered Casso by becoming intimate with Casso's wife after her husband left town, Newsday reported, "'Why else would you strip a guy before you killed him?' said one investigator. 'Clearly, someone was trying to make a point.'''

On Friday, September 20th, D'Arco received a call from his parole officer, who told D'Arco he had been contacted by the FBI. The FBI said that there was a contract out on D'Arco's life. That night, D'Arco put his family on an airplane for Hawaii and he went into hiding on Long Island.

Oldham took notice. "I figured something had happened to D'Arco right away. Little Al owned a restaurant in Little Italy called La Donna Rosa -- 'the pink lady,' in Italian. My girlfriend at the time worked there waiting tables. The place was clearly mobbed-up. There were rarely any customers and the maitre d' was always whispering on the phone. I would go there for the red sauce. That Friday night, my girlfriend came home pissed off and said the restaurant had been shuttered overnight. No one had told her it was closing. On Monday morning, I overheard the OCHU guys saying D'Arco and his son Little Joe had become cooperators. Within days it was confirmed that the rumor was right. The OCHU detectives always had the inside stuff first."

On Saturday, September 21,1991, Little AI D'Arco voluntarily gave himself up to the FBI. There were no charges outstanding against D'Arco at the time and he was not the target of any specific investigation. Law enforcement quickly learned how little they knew about his activities, or what had been going on inside the Luchese family. After mobsters like D'Arco and Chiodo agreed to cooperate, they were required to sit through a long series of interviews with the FBI and federal prosecutors known as "proffers." In order to qualify for protection from the government, D'Arco had to proffer an account of all criminal activity he had engaged in during his entire life -- every criminal he knew, every crime he knew about, everything. The sessions stretched out over weeks and months as mobsters searched through their memories trying to fire synapses. An enormous number of cases were closed in this fashion. Robberies and assaults and arsons were solved in astonishing numbers.

D'Arco explained how the Luchese were extorting the Italian Bread Association, driving up the price of crusty bread in New York with a 2 percent "tax" on all sales in the city. He described how the family controlled the Fruit and Produce Union and "taxed" millions of dollars' worth of fresh fruit and vegetables coming into New York through the Hunt's Point Market. The scams the Luchese ran over the decades tumbled out: gasoline tax theft, bootleg designer blue jeans, Medicaid claims, olive oil importation, vending machines, racetrack betting, heroin ... The list was seemingly endless. Murders, attempted murders, conspiracies to murder, were recited in detail. Hundreds of wiseguys were implicated. Dozens of mafiosi would be indicted as a result of the information provided by Chiodo and D'Arco.

"If Chiodo and D'Arco told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, they would be immune from prosecution for those crimes. If they didn't -- if they shaded the truth, minimized their role, tried to leave out money they had hidden away somewhere -- the deal was off. They could then be prosecuted for everything. It was a huge incentive to be comprehensive -- and they were. In D'Arco's case the debriefing sessions resulted in more than a thousand pages of confessions. The professor's story made for great reading. It was longer than War and Peace and way more complicated. D'Arco confessed to his involvement in arranging the murder of Bruno Facciola. He confessed to conspiring in the Visconti and Taylor homicides. He explained why Fava the architect had been 'trunked' -- the mafia verb for leaving a body in a car. We had no idea, not one lousy clue, that D'Arco was involved in those killings. It was often the case during proffers that mobsters would confess to crimes we didn't know had occurred. People who had disappeared and were thought to have gone on the lam turned out to be homicide victims. Bodies buried in swamps in Canarsie were dug up. Seemingly unconnected events were connected. Proffers were an extremely powerful investigative tool."

The documents generated by the proffers were called "302s" because that was the number of the FBI form used to record the sessions. The 302s were internal documents, meant to convey the version of events a cooperator gave to agents and prosecutors during their proffer. Gangsters were rarely quoted. The language was stilted and bureaucratic. The 302s were for the official record, and needed to be intelligible to lawyers in offices in Washington with no understanding how life was actually lived in Brooklyn and Staten Island. There were no references to "motherfuckers" or "cocksuckers" or "rat fucks" -- the streams of expletives that were standard on the street.

Crucially, as Chiodo had done earlier, D'Arco explained during his debriefing sessions the variety of ways the Lucheses had developed sources inside law enforcement. Capo Sal Avellino paid $2,000 a month to "an agent" who provided him with FBI information, D'Arco said. They met on Long Island during the first week of every month. The money Avellino paid was on behalf of Amuso and Casso. According to D'Arco, a Luchese captain claimed he was tight with a detective in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. D'Arco also said that an associate had a girlfriend who worked in a District Attorney's Office who was able to get information.

"There was nothing earth-shattering in this news of low-level penetration. But D'Arco also referred to another source -- the one that Gaspipe Casso had, the' crystal ball' Chiodo had described. D'Arco said Casso had access to the most secret intelligence in the NYPD. It was common for Casso to warn D'Arco where he was being bugged -- La Donna Rosa, in alleyways, in his car. D'Arco's statement corroborated what Chiodo had told the FBI months earlier. The terminology was different but the substance was the same. D'Arco didn't call the cops the 'crystal ball.' He told the FBI that Casso was paying 'the bulls' for information -- street shorthand for NYPD detectives. D'Arco didn't know the names or assignments of the police officers involved. But he did confirm that Casso had a double agent inside the NYPD who was effective at collecting all kinds of intelligence on our activities."


The day in September 1991 that Al D'Arco became a cooperator, Gambino underboss Sammy "the Bull" Gravano sat in the Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting trial with his boss, John Gotti, on multiple RICO charges, including the murder of former Gambino boss Paul Castellano. The next day, September 22, Gravano's defense attorney came to the MDC on urgent business. Gossip ran rampant in the small world of mob lawyers in New York City as more mobsters began to betray their comrades. Speculation was rife about which wiseguy might be the next to flip. It was big news that a gangster like D'Arco had turned himself in and begun to cooperate. D'Arco could impact Gravano's case in many ways. D'Arco knew Gravano from the sit-downs at the 19th Hole when there were disputes between the Gambinos and Lucheses. D'Arco knew about Gravano's interests in the construction industry and trade unions. He knew about Gravano's extortion operations, on projects in Manhattan and Williamsburg, as well as his complicity in loan-sharking. Before Gravano and Gotti were arrested, D'Arco had carried a message from Casso that the two were about to be busted. The information, D'Arco told Gravano, came from Casso's source inside law enforcement -- "the bulls."

Despite this act of loyalty, D'Arco and Gravano had subsequently begun to feud over money and territory. They vied for control of the Concrete Workers Union and the Teamsters and the lucrative construction and cargo industry payoffs they brought in. While D'Arco had served as acting boss of the Lucheses, he was supposed to meet Gravano at Garguilio's, a Coney Island restaurant, to receive $30,000 due to the family as their end of an extortion payment from a company making prefabricated houses called Deluxe Homes. "D'Arco suspected Gravano was going to try to kill him so he went to the meet at Coney Island with a team of guys armed with Uzi sub machine guns. Gravano never turned up. D'Arco thought that Gravano had come for the meeting but he had seen the guns and men hiding and been scared off. There was no love lost between the two. The news that he was cooperating scared Gravano. There was an extremely good chance he would testify against Gravano."

As Gravano sat awaiting trial, he had begun bickering with Gotti, as the so-called Teflon Don instructed his underboss on how to conduct their defense. Gotti expected his underling to do as he was told. Gravano wanted to apply to have his racketeering charges "severed" from Gotti's so that the two men would be tried separately. In Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia, co-authored with Peter Maas, Gravano explained that he was certain he would be convicted if he was jointly tried with Gotti. Gravano believed, probably rightly, the boss would put the blame on the underboss and Gravano would carry the "weight" while Gotti walked again. Gotti's constant paranoia and bullying were also wearing on Gravano as he contemplated the prospect of a sentence of life without parole. For the first time, Gravano wrote, he considered the idea of cooperating with the government. In return for testifying against Gotti, he reasoned, he would go into the Witness Protection Program. He would have the chance for another life. He would be free of Gotti and the Gambinos. The logic of RICO was snaking through Gravano's mind, as it was intended to do.

On October 10, 1991, Gravano flipped. The process Gravano followed was well known to mob defense attorneys. First, a gangster client would suddenly become suspiciously unavailable. Second, the defense attorney would discover he had been fired. Third, inevitably, it would emerge that the client had made a deal with the federal government. The reason accused gangsters didn't confide in their own lawyers was to avoid word of their bargaining becoming known before they had come to terms with prosecutors. If Gravano's negotiations with the federal government leaked before he had been moved to safety he would almost certainly be killed by Gotti. Attorneys in the defense bar were notoriously loose-lipped. Gravano was not taking chances. The first thing Gravano said to federal agents was, "I want to change governments."

Flown to Quantico, the vast FBI training facility in Virginia, Gravano began to proffer. He was the highest-level mafia informant the government had ever had. Gravano had knowledge of the innermost secrets of organized crime. He described in detail John Gotti's plot to kill Paul Castellano, and how it was carried out in midtown Manhattan. He confessed to nineteen murders, most at the direction of Gotti. Gravano identified the juror that had been bribed during Gotti's acquittal on racketeering charges. Jury tampering had been suspected in Gotti's previous trials but the government had been unable to find hard proof. Gravano told the FBI that Gotti had an NYPD detective on his payroll. He told the FBI the detective had passed along information through a Gambino wiseguy who was his wife's cousin. The cop was known inside the Gambinos as "the baker."

"His real name was Detective William Peist from the Intelligence Division," Oldham recalled. "I knew Peist. I worked in the Intelligence Division in the mid-eighties with him. I was working on the Jewish desk. Peist was assigned to the mafia. He was an overweight white guy with one leg. He lost the leg in a car accident. Peist was a streetwise detective, with deep connections in organized crime from his time as a Brooklyn precinct cop. He was known as a hard worker. He was quiet, friendly. He had won medals. He had no history of disciplinary problems. No one had any idea Peist was working for John Gotti.

"Peist was making money from Gotti but that couldn't have been his true motivation. He'd gotten more than a million dollars from the insurance settlement for his injuries in the car accident, and he still sold information. Peist must have felt the NYPD didn't deserve his loyalty anymore. He didn't start as a criminal but he became one. An angry cop was a dangerous cop. He was punishing the police department. Peist denied it at first but in the end he pled guilty and was sentenced to seven years. John Gotti wasn't the Teflon Don because he had some supernatural power. He got away with defying law enforcement for as long as he did for the oldest reason in the book -- he had a crooked cop in his hip pocket."

By the end of 1991, the evidence of a leak inside NYPD had grown from a molehill to a mountain. Cops were going bad. Not just thieving or sticking up drug dealers, but actively undermining the business of law enforcement. "Detectives had gone over to the dark side. From that time forward, every mobster murder was inspected for the fingerprints of the involvement of law enforcement. Casso had murdered on the say-so of sworn police officers. Major investigations were being torn apart. Conspiracy theories abounded. Denial and disbelief had given way to suspicion and anger. Chiodo and D'Arco shed light on a more serious case than Peist's. The 'crystal ball' was fingering CIs like Bishop and Heidel and Costa. 'Bulls' were conspiring to murder. Members of the NYPD were getting people killed. Something had to be done."
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:40 am


As 1992 began, Oldham was still trapped in the catching order, the list of detectives required to report to the Major Case squad room and wait for cases to be assigned to them. He was swamped by bank robberies and working the operational aspects of other detectives' cases -- doing surveillance, manning wiretaps, pulling raps and mug shots. He had been at the Major Case Squad for two years and now he wanted to make his own cases-organized crime cases. But the OCHU detectives remained entrenched and sharp-elbowed. Detective Caracappa had been promoted to first grade, an exceptionally rare achievement in the NYPD. There was little, if any, chance for Oldham to start his own investigation into the mafia. He wanted to build a case from the ground up, instead of being an afterthought left to do the grunt work for other detectives.

"A roadblock had been placed in front of me. I wasn't going to be part of the inside club in OCHD. If I was going to go anywhere I had to do it on my own. I had no choice but it suited me fine. I liked working alone. I was aiming to be the best, like Caracappa was supposed to be -- the go-to guy. It was egotistical but that was what you needed to be to get ahead in Major Case. I wanted to do things. I didn't talk about it with other detectives. I didn't tell the bosses what I was doing. I kept to myself. I wasn't a popular guy but I wasn't trying to win a popularity contest. I was the skinny weird young guy in the Hugo Boss suits who lived like a yuppie in the city. They considered me a loose cannon -- and I was. The department needed loose cannons. There was plenty enough conformity at One PP."

Oldham needed first to learn how to use the underlying concepts involved in major organized crime investigations. That meant making federal cases, which meant knowing how to operate with the RICO statutes. Oldham had worked many successful state cases but he had never been part of a federal case. "I knew about the attractions of going federal. In federal prosecutions you could get under the skin of a conspiracy. You could really run an investigation, concentrating on one case for months at a time instead of drowning in dozens of open cases at the state level. You chose who your prosecutor would be. You didn't have to worry about crossing county or state lines. The offices were nicer and cleaner. There was more money. In state cases you were in the meat grinder. Trials lasted only a few days. They usually revolved around physical evidence, which wasn't very interesting if you were a detective. To make RICO cases, you needed to know how to investigate a conspiracy. By definition, conspiracies were secret and hard to crack. I needed to figure out how to make RICO cases if I was going to be the one who took the hardest cases and closed them."


While Oldham continued to study organized crime and the OCHU, he became interested in another form of organized crime that had seemed to have nothing to do with the Lucheses and the mafia, but was critical to his education as a detective. Organized crime was divided in two by law enforcement. Traditional OC was the mafia -- la cosa nostra, "LCN" in the bureaucratic acronym. There were hundreds of detectives and federal agents assigned to investigate and monitor LCN. In Major Case, Oldham decided to take a different course. Shut out of traditional OC, he turned to "nontraditional organized crime" -- NTOC, or "entoc," as it was called inside the NYPD. NTOC included Russians, Colombians, Israelis, Dominicans, Albanians, virtually every immigrant group of bad guys. Newcomers arriving in America brought with them their own culture and history-as well as their particular kind of criminal organizations. Asians held a special interest for Oldham. The retail heroin trade had been controlled by Sicilians for generations but by the late eighties it was heroin imported from the Golden Triangle and wholesaled by first-generation American Chinese gangsters that flooded the city. In the Asian community in the 5th Precinct, which covered Chinatown and Little Italy, extortion and robbery and kidnapping were rampant -- but commonly went unreported and therefore uninvestigated. The field was relatively open and it represented an opportunity for Oldham to find his niche.

"Everyone thought Asian gangs were inscrutable. There was the language barrier. The cultural barriers. What was intimidating about investigating Asian crime was enticing to me. Working Asian organized crime had been one of my interests since I'd come to New York to join the NYPD. When I worked in the Robbery Squad in Queens, I'd concentrated on Asian cases, mostly extortions and robberies. A few years earlier, I had applied to the Jade Squad and was turned down. I was disappointed but I knew it wasn't the end of the line. My father had been a doctor who worked in Vietnam for ten years during the war and came off the roof of the American Embassy in a helicopter in Saigon. After my parents divorced, my stepmother was Vietnamese. I went to high school in Taiwan and India and traveled around that part of the world as a teenager. The experience gave me an interest in the Orient. I had a decent understanding of Mandarin so I had a jump on a lot of white detectives when it came to Asian crime. They called me the Asian Caucasian."

Oldham's opening for an Asian case came on a Sunday in March 1991. That evening a Vietnamese immigrant merchant named Sen Van Ta decided to close his store early. Golden Star Jewelry was a booth-sized variety store at 302 Canal Street in Chinatown. It was one in a row of similar tiny stores run by Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants. Ta sold counterfeit watches, "I Love New York" T-shirts, novelty pens. He was uneasy that day. For weeks a Vietnamese street gang called Born to Kill had been attempting to extort money from him, demanding weekly payments in sums that were lucky numbers in Asian culture -- $88 and $108. Ta refused to pay. Half a dozen members of the Born to Kill came to the store and pistol-whipped and robbed Ta at gunpoint. When the police responded, Ta made a report and rode through Chinatown in a marked NYPD car searching for the robbers. It was a display of bravery and foolhardiness. Outside 271 Canal, Ta jumped from the car, ran across the street, and pointed to the individuals who had stuck him up. Two BTK members -- Little Cobra and Jungle Man -- were arrested on the spot. A few days later, Ta testified before a grand jury and the two were indicted on robbery in the first degree and held without bail. Days later Ta received an anonymous letter suggesting he recant his testimony. Ta refused. The leader of Born to Kill, a sly and lethal gangster named David Thai, personally came to Golden Star Jewelry to see Ta. The message could not have been more threatening but Ta still did not back down. His wife was furious and terrified. Sen Van Ta opened for business that Sunday with dread.

"BTK had resolved to kill the first Vietnamese who cooperated with the law. David Thai was going to demonstrate to the Vietnamese community the price of talking to the police. All along Canal Street, in the little booths selling counterfeit designer goods to tourists, businesspeople were being extorted by the BTK. The gang wasn't famous, like the mafia families or some of the Chinese gangs, but they were one of the deadliest in New York City. They operated below the radar. Few cops even knew of their existence and they were never reported in the press. Inside the Vietnamese community BTK was deeply feared. They aimed to keep it that way by making sure it was known that cooperating with the police meant death."

The Born to Kill gang was made up of refugees from postwar Vietnam. Many were the offspring of American GIs shunned in their homeland and sent to America by their mothers to live as orphans -- "dust of the earth" they were called in Vietnam. The name Born to Kill was inspired by the motto many American soldiers wore on their helmets in Vietnam. Thai built the gang by masquerading as a father figure leading a benevolent society designed to take care of lost and vulnerable boys, and to protect all Vietnamese from the much larger Chinese population. In fact it was a cultlike moneymaking business. BTK specialized in jewelry store stickups but they also worked home invasions and extortion. Young and reckless, considered crazy by many who came in contact with them, they stuck up Chinese weddings, a lucrative endeavor due to the tradition of large cash gifts. The BTK traveled up and down the East Coast and even into Canada robbing Asian-owned jewelry stores, a roving band of outlaws with a herd of beat-up Toyota Corollas, armed with .38s and cheap machine guns.

"Thai thought of himself as a community leader. But he was like Fagan in 'Oliver Twist.' He put the kids up to steal things. They would return with pillowcases full of jewelry. The boys were given a pittance to live on. Six or eight would be packed into a single room in a rough part of Brooklyn. Thai himself lived in a nice house on Long Island. He drove a Jaguar. The boys recognized Thai was a manipulator. But the boys were scared to death of him."

Even by the standards of gang-ridden New York City, the Born to Kill were brutal. They had no code of honor, or pretense of obeying any standards of decency. One murder a year earlier had displayed the mindless violent streak of the BTK. There had been an altercation in a park in Elmhurst, Queens, between the BTK and three members of the Green Dragons, a rival Chinese gang also distinguished for being vicious. BTK got the worst of the fight, and were chased out of the park by the Green Dragons. The next day, the BTK had returned with guns. They pulled up in a Corolla and stalked through the park looking for Green Dragons. They had approached an Asian kid dressed in black as the Green Dragons dressed -- black hat, black shirt, black pants -- sitting on a park bench. "They were too chickens hit to get close enough to actually determine the identity of the person or confront him. They were clearly afraid of the Green Dragons. A twelve-year-old girl was sitting there minding her own business. She had nothing to do with nothing. They shot her in the chest with a .38. Another shot went wild. She left a trail of blood as she ran along Queens Boulevard toward her mother's apartment. She died on her mother's living room floor."

As the months passed, the BTK acted with even more defiance of the norms of civilization. There were shootouts in the streets of Chinatown. When a tourist from Maryland -- an innocent bystander -- was killed in the crossfire, tourism in the neighborhood plummeted. A week later a senior BTK member named Amigo was gunned down coming out of a massage parlor on Canal Street. The gang held an elaborate funeral ceremony. They paraded through Chinatown following a hearse carrying a banner reading "Stand By BTK." Local precinct police stood on the street watching. A few of the cops started to taunt the members of the BTK and a brawl broke out. The same day hundreds of people attended Amigo's burial in New Jersey. In the middle of the ceremony, three members of the Ghost Shadows, dressed as mourners, approached the grave carrying wreaths. It had rained the night before and a sump pump was emptying a grave filled with water. The Ghost Shadows dropped the flowers and flung off their trench coats and opened up with submachine guns. The sound of the two-stroke pump engine -- pum-pum pum-pum- -- asked the sound of the shots fired. Eight people were shot. Home video of the incident aired on television. "Bullets Fly at Gangland Funeral as New York Goes Gun Crazy," the headline in the Times of London read. "Bouquet-Bearing Gunmen Fire on Mourners," the Associate Press reported.

On that Sunday evening in 1991, as the sky darkened, a gypsy cab pulled up in front of Sen Van Ta's modest store. A BTK member known as Uncle Lan, the gang's foremost shooter, got out of the taxi. Tiny and thin, with pockmarked skin, Lan had been tortured by the North Vietnamese when they took over the country after America's withdrawal. He was truly psychotic. Lan told the driver to wait. The inconspicuous car would be the perfect getaway in the bustle of Chinatown. Uncle Lan walked into the store and drew his gun. "Good afternoon, Mister Owner," Uncle Lan said. He calmly fired two slugs in the back of Sen Van Ta's head and walked out of the store. He got in the cab and disappeared into the downtown traffic.

The murder of Sen Van Ta sent a terrifying message to the Vietnamese population of the city. It also embarrassed the NYPD and the Manhattan DA's Office for not providing sufficient protection for a man in Ta's situation. CIs had been lost by law enforcement in New York City -- Bishop, Heidel, many others over the years. They were criminals who had decided to flip and cooperate. Ta was not a CI. He was an innocent. He had no criminal background. He was a complainant -- a citizen willing to defy organized crime. He had paid with his life. Law enforcement at all levels understood something had to be done. "The gang had never been the subject of a full-fledged investigation before. Nobody had a hook into this pack of deadly kids. The BTK were young, with no personal history or family in America - no one knew who they were. They were nomads. It looked like a tough nut to crack. It was irresistible."

Oldham took it upon himself to focus directly on the BTK. He started to meet and greet Vietnamese people in Chinatown. He ate every day in Vietnamese restaurants on Doyers Street, a dogleg block in Chinatown. He filed "wanted cards" on the BTK -- a computerized notification system that meant he would be alerted of any arrests of gang members. He talked to anyone who might someday drop a dime. Within weeks, George Slater, a detective in the Eight-Four, called Oldham and said a member of BTK had been arrested for a home invasion and robbery. The defendant was being held on Rikers Island. Oldham made it to Rikers within the hour. Tinh Ngo was eighteen years old, skinny, short, his face drawn from a crack addiction. Tinh faced five to fifteen, the standard sentence for armed robbery. As an alien, he faced further jeopardy: after he served his time, he would be deported to Vietnam.

"Tinh was fidgety and uncomfortable. I thought he looked worn-out from life in the Born to Kill and Rikers Island. There was a lot of pressure being a criminal. Gangsters always looked over their shoulder. Born to Kill members couldn't move around Chinatown freely. There were many streets they couldn't walk down without getting killed by the Flying Dragons or Ghost Shadows. They had to be alert to the presence of police. Cops were constantly jacking them up on the street, patting them down for weapons, shoving them around, trying to provoke them. On top of that was the pressure of actually committing crime. Robbery is not easy. It is an intense situation going into a stranger's home or business to rob them not knowing what to expect. Most criminals will tell you sticking up is no cakewalk. Living in a world of violence is no fucking fun, unless you're insensate or psychotic. If you're smart enough to think about what you're doing, about the risks of something going wrong, your nerves erode. There's never any peace."

Alone with Tinh in a windowless room on Rikers Island, Oldham adopted a neutral approach. He was neither the good cop nor the bad cop. He didn't yell or scream during interrogations, although he would raise his voice if he felt it might work to his advantage. He didn't hit prisoners, except in extreme situations. Oldham considered that method demeaning and ineffective. The point was to gain the confidence of the interviewee and get him to talk. Interrogation was a form of persuasion, not coercion. One method Oldham developed over the years was unusual. He told his prisoners the truth, an idea so odd it amounted to a successful technique.

"Police officers nearly never tell the truth when they are talking to a suspect. They aren't required to. There is no legal requirement. You can tell him he is going to get the chair if he doesn't talk. You can say you have five eyewitnesses. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to lie. It is useful. Lying is a tool and standard operating procedure. But my view was that if you're trying to convince someone to cooperate you have to convince them to believe in you. Criminals are expert lie detectors. If the perp catches you in a lie you're done. Telling the truth is disorienting to criminals. Cops have a hard time with the concept. I would say, 'We're going to let you go today because there's a hole in the case but we will fill the hole and then we will come and get you.' I would admit weakness in the evidence. I would explain why I needed their cooperation. I would tell people to run away if they didn't want to get tangled up with the law."

Tinh was going nowhere and he knew it. Oldham explained the options. Cooperate or you're on your own. Cooperate or you're back in a refugee camp in Thailand. No BTK, no police department, no friends in jail. Cooperate or your life as you know it is over. Oldham told Tinh to imagine he had cancer. The analogy was direct: his troubles were not going to go away. There were few Asians in Rikers at the time and Tinh was clearly at risk. After the first interview, Oldham moved him into protective custody, a dormitory atmosphere with better food and no violence. By doing so Oldham gave a practical demonstration of his power: Tinh's fate was in his hands. Tinh's situation could improve, or Oldham could also put him in a much worse situation. It seemed to Oldham than Tinh had a conscience. He was damaged but he hadn't been ruined. He had once stopped other members of the BTK from pistol-whipping a woman in Tennessee. He hadn't been directly responsible for violence. "It made a difference when I considered the prospect of succeeding in the case. Tinh had the makings of a decent witness on the stand. He wasn't a beater, shooter, or stabber. The jury could look at him and see a human being -- maybe not a kid they wanted to take home but a kid who might be redeemed. Tinh felt bad about many of the things he had done. But it wasn't as though he had come forward and confessed to his sins. His primary interest in snitching was selfish but I consider that the best motive. It makes sense. You know what you're dealing with. He grew up in refugee camps and group homes, completely untethered from family, home, any kind of normal childhood. His first instinct was always self-preservation."


The methods used to investigate organized crime were the same under federal law, whether the subject was the mafia or Born to Kill. The first priority was to construct an outline of the structure of the gang. Tinh was shown surveillance photographs to make a face book of the subjects under investigation. He also identified the cars BTK used.

Oldham had Tinh plead guilty in state court to thirteen counts of armed robbery. Tinh's sentence was deferred and he was put into Oldham's custody. As in any OC investigation, understanding the target was crucial. There was no better way to get to know the people you were looking at than to have someone on the inside tell you about them. Tinh was smart. He was able to describe the relationships and motives of the players. There were also significant gaps in his knowledge. In order to mount a case, Oldham decided it was necessary to put Tinh back on the street. Tinh would carry a tape recorder and capture David Thai and the leaders of BTK conspiring together. It was a high-stakes gamble for Tinh -- and Oldham too.

"We would never do this now. We took a kid who belonged to a violent gang who had no roots in the community, who could easily have disappeared, and we let him run with the most brutal street gang in Chinatown. Suppose he had gone out and killed someone, or ran away? Suppose he was completely cooperative but we were unable to short-circuit a crime that he told us was going to go down? Looking back, I'm shocked the Brooklyn DA let us do it. Born to Kill was clearly going to do more robberies and maybe kill someone. Knowing what I know now I wouldn't do it. Everyone was so eager to get the killer of Sen Van Ta that they were willing to stretch the idea of running an informant to the absolute limits."

Finally in charge of his own major case, Oldham embarked on a RICO prosecution, which meant he had to take the case federal. The NYPD had few resources, with little money to pay for the travel and overtime necessary for a complex real-time investigation. Most important, the NYPD did not have broad enough jurisdiction. BTK committed crimes in many places, not just New York City. "BTK stuck up a company in Orlando for a million dollars' worth of computer processors and sold them on Canal Street. They killed a man in North Carolina. They robbed Vietnamese jewelry stores in Toronto. To make a RICO case, to put the whole group out of business instead of knocking the gang out one guy at a time, we needed to be able to reach across multiple jurisdictions. It was a proactive case, moving all over the country. As a New York City detective I couldn't mount a rolling interstate surveillance operation. An expanded portfolio of resources and venue was essential."

The supply of federal agencies in New York was large. Oldham began by shopping for the right federal prosecutor. The offices of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) were located in lower Manhattan within walking distance of One PP, the FBI, and the DEA. The Southern District was like a large Wall Street law firm: there was floor upon floor of Ivy League-educated attorneys, a strictly supervised hierarchy, and an establishment atmosphere. The emphasis was on white-collar crime. The role of agents and detectives was limited. Oldham didn't think the mix would be good. He wasn't sure he would fit in. He wasn't willing to lose control of the case.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District was another story. The stepchild of federal justice in New York City, the Eastern District had one-third the staff of the SDNY and a fraction of its resources. It was housed across the river, on the far side of the Brooklyn Bridge, in a squat concrete building in a desolate area next to the off ramp of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The warren of offices was crammed with battered government-issue furniture and boxes filled with documents from ongoing cases and old convictions on appeal. But what the Eastern District lacked in support it made up for in brass and ingenuity. It was where the adventurous went -- people who wanted to work cases hands-on, down and dirty, with a large measure of autonomy. "I knew the Eastern District would jump on the case. The prosecutors in the Eastern District shared the background with the investigators they worked with. They were the kids of cops, not Park Avenue proctologists. They came in early and stayed late. They would pull all-nighters. They typed their own subpoenas. They weren't going to ask permission from other agencies. They were looking to get cases done. If you needed it, you got it, one way or the other. There were other agencies chasing the BTK case and I needed to move quickly. It was a race to the finish."

Oldham went to a prosecutor in the Eastern District he knew named Patricia Pileggi. Married to a cop, she had a realistic view of police work. She was young and pretty, with violet eyes, black hair, and an easy smile -- and she was as tough as nails. "I needed a prosecutor with balls and Pat Pileggi had them. She would find a way to make evidence work. In a pinch she could be relied upon and was available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week." Oldham played her the tape recording of the interrogation with Tinh. Tinh talked about what he knew about Born to Kill and their activities. He said he thought he could wear a wire. He described some of their robberies. Tinh had a photographic memory. He promised to be an excellent cooperator. Pileggi was interested.

With Pileggi attached, Oldham needed to find a federal investigative agency to work with. The rewards of bringing a federal agency in on the case were significant, but so were the risks. Oldham's first priority was to make sure he wasn't steamrolled out of the case. "That ruled out the FBI. The FBI was notorious with cops across the country for stealing cases and credit, and were known as Famous But Incompetent or just 'the feebs' because they were so feeble." [1]

Pileggi suggested a young agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms named Dan Kumor, who quickly agreed to join in the investigation. Kumor was Oldham's opposite. "I was the classic mess-of-a- cop. The feds defined themselves against the kind of officer I was. I drank beer on the job. I didn't take orders well. I didn't do paperwork. Kumor looked straight, a Polish all-American. He was tall, muscular, clean-cut, forthright, trained and professional, the model of a federal law enforcement agent. He had never worked as a street cop. His reports ran to hundreds of pages. Dan would do the drudge work but he wasn't an empty suit. He knew what was expected but he also knew what was required to make a case -- and those were two different things."

With his team set, Oldham and Kumor dropped Tinh off in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, near a BTK safe house, with twenty bucks and a cloned beeper in his pocket. Tinh was supposed to check in every day but he didn't call for two days and he didn't answer his beeper. By the third day, Oldham and Kumor were on the streets of Chinatown looking for Tinh. Finally, he called. Tinh proved to be an outstanding informant. "He was a gangster but he had the makeup of a detective."

For six months, Oldham and Kumor followed the gang as they traveled the city and eastern seaboard. They thwarted a dozen armed robberies. In order to avoid tipping the larger investigation, Oldham and Kumor used a variety of ploys: BTK's cars were towed, leaders were brought into the precinct house for questioning, Oldham put on an NYPD uniform and stood twirling a nightstick in front of a jewelry store on 6th Avenue and 21st Street in Manhattan that he knew the gang was about to stick up. Oldham and Kumor met with Tinh early mornings in a back room of a Vietnamese restaurant on Doyers Street. It was in a maze of underground vaults and tunnels housing whorehouses and gambling parlors for high-stakes mah-jongg games. Tinh would hand over his tape recordings and the scraps of paper with notes of BTK's addresses and license plate numbers.

By August 1991, Oldham and Kumor decided they had gathered sufficient evidence to make the arrests: murders, multiple shootings, stabbings, and armed robberies. Tinh was wearing out. Oldham and Kumor couldn't keep up with the gang. Events were threatening to spin out of control. The turning point came when the BTK took the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite, rolled it in glue and broken glass, and planted the improvised explosive device inside Pho Bang, a restaurant off Canal Street. The gang had eaten for free at the restaurant for years. The owner of Pho Bang had the temerity to suggest they start to pay for their meals. Tinh had told Oldham and Kumor about the plot. They had raced across town toward Pho Bang -- but got trapped in traffic on the Bowery on the way. Kumor had leapt from the car and run. He had made it as the BTK were crouched in the vestibule of the restaurant trying to light the bomb. Oldham arrived moments later, as Kumor ran up Centre Street looking for an unpopulated place to put the bomb in case it went off. It did not.

"At that point we decided to make the BTK history. It was only a matter of time before someone got hurt on our watch. Born to Kill needed to be stopped right away. Just before we were about to make our arrests, the FBI called Andy Maloney, the United States attorney for the Eastern District. The feebs begged Maloney to cancel the planned arrests. They said they had an undercover agent in with the BTK. They said their undercover would be exposed to danger if we made our bust. Word had circulated in law enforcement circles we were about to close the case. It was another example of how nothing was secret in the law enforcement community in New York City. If the FBI had a snitch in the gang we would have caught wind of it. We knew it wasn't true."

A meeting was arranged for the following day at the Justice Department in Washington between attorneys from the Eastern District and representatives of the FBI. The FBI were going to voice their concerns about the safety of their alleged undercover agent. "They never showed up. The undercover never surfaced. It was apparent that the Bureau had wanted to buy time to make their own case and steal ours. The next week we had teams of ATF agents and NYPD detectives fanned out over the city and Long Island to arrest more than twenty members of the Born to Kill."


The trial was held in the old federal courthouse near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on the third floor, before Judge Carol Amon. The docket in the Eastern District in the spring of 1992 read like the lineup to a mobland all-star team. John Gotti was appearing before Judge Leo Glasser on multiple RICO charges, including the murder of Paul Castellano, in a courtroom on another floor. In the same building, in another oak-paneled courtroom, the leaders of the Chinese gang Green Dragons were facing their own murder and robbery indictments. The Eastern District was the final destination for criminals of all kinds. Major crack dealers Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols and Howard "Pappy" Mason were up on murder charges for the killing of NYPD officer Eddie Byrne. Tommy Karate Pitera, the Bonanno who'd once branded Otto Heidel a snitch at the EI Caribe, was being prosecuted for six murders -- the first mobster convicted on federal charges to face the death penalty. Victor Orena, boss of one of the Colombo factions, was up on murder charges for whacking a member of his own family. Vincent Chin Gigante, Genovese boss, had been indicted in the Windows Case. His co-defendant was Vic Amuso, the Luchese boss who had gone on the lam with Gaspipe Casso.

"The courthouse was lousy with bad guys. They were the same faces I had seen on the streets of Little Italy and Chinatown a few years earlier. A guy named Cow Pussy from Born To Kill would be handcuffed and belted and walking behind Frank 'Lock' LoCascio, Gotti's co-defendant. Cow Pussy was a teenage kid with bad acne and a teardrop tattoo. They called him Cow Pussy because he'd go out with the ugliest women. LoCascio was a middle-aged millionaire mobster from Queens. The BTK kids had no family and no cash. The clothes they wore to trial were the ones they were arrested in. Wiseguys like Gotti wore a new suit every day -- they were tailored, manicured, preening. It was great going to work. For decades the city had been besieged by organized crime. The tide was turning. The golden era of RICO had arrived."

With four major OC trials going on at the same time, the atmosphere in the courthouse was both electric and dangerous. Groups gathered outside in support of Gotti. A twenty-foot-high inflatable rat with a purple nose and red eyes, normally used by unions during labor disputes, was put on display in the park opposite the courthouse with a sign saying "Gravano is a Rat" hung around its neck. Bomb threats were routine. The building had to be evacuated numerous times. Unprecedented demands were placed on security. United States marshals had to be brought to New York for temporary duty from distant states like Alabama and North Dakota. "These country boys were walking around in amazement at the scene. Gangsters were everywhere. There was an intricate systems of holding cells in the basement. Elevators led up to more cells behind the courtrooms. It was the marshals' job to keep the peace -- to keep them separate and keep them moving. It was an impressive collection of bad guys. The marshals would transfer our prisoners back and forth from the Metropolitan Correction Center to court every day. The vans were packed. My BTK guys were terrified of Gotti. When Gotti got in the van they would scamper off to the far seats. Gotti had 'his' seat in the van and no one else was supposed to sit in it. They were in awe of him. To me, Gotti looked like a slick car salesman -- a primper. When there was a brawl down in the cell block between the BTK and the Green Dragons the marshals jumped in like it was a rodeo. They were peeling gangsters off each other, like they were wrestling calves. The marshals were from the prairies but the real Wild West was to be found in downtown Brooklyn."

When not in the BTK courtroom, Oldham passed the time in the hallways and other courtrooms in the building. He rarely talked to the press "on the record" but he was friendly with the reporters who were an integral part of the scene in the Brooklyn courthouse. The Daily News had a journalist named Jerry Capeci who had a column called "Gang Land." "Capeci was the best. Everyone read his column. The cops got news from Capeci, and the mobsters caught up on the news about their friends and rivals." At the time, Junior Persico, the head of the Colombos, wrote to "Gang Land" when Capeci misreported his age in a column. "You made me 57 years old. I am only 55. Don't rush these years past me. I'll need my youth to finish this 100 years I have to do." John Gotti was furious when he thought one of his lawyers was leaking stories to Capeci. Gotti had his lead attorney, Bruce Cutler, reach out to Capeci to pass along a message. "This is not a threat now, just like a joke," Cutler said. "He'd like to kick you in the ass."

When Sammy Gravano testified against Gotti the headline in "Gang Land" read, "Give Sammy a Grammy for Song." Oldham went to the courtroom of Judge Leo Glasser to watch Gravano testify. The courtroom was packed and the air bristled with tension. The movie actor Mickey Rourke was in the gallery, claiming friendship with Gotti, and wiseguys and reporters and federal agents and NYPD detectives were packed shoulder to shoulder. "Gravano had not been rehabilitated. He pled guilty to nineteen murders. He also made an outstanding witness. I studied him carefully. He knew how Gotti operated -- little things that only a true insider can know -- things that make a witness completely believable. It was one of the paradoxes of RICO. The most dependable evidence was often given by the least reliable characters. More evidence was needed to corroborate what a man like Gravano said. There were extensive tape recordings of Gotti and Gravano. The two Gambino bosses were caught talking about Detective Peist, the dirty cop feeding them inside information. It was damning material. But there was no substitute for Gravano taking the stand and allowing the jury to hear the story from his mouth. In the Eastern District, it was the year of the rat."

When Gotti was convicted a chill ran through the courthouse. Hundreds of protestors from Gotti's neighborhood who had gathered in the park threatened to storm the building and free Gotti. A flatbed truck belonging to Gotti's son-in-Iaw's wrecking yard circled the court honking its horn. Oldham went outside to see what was happening. "The protestors were chanting 'Free John Gotti,' like he was Nelson Mandela. Gotti was a heroin dealer and a killer. They were throwing rocks, trying to overturn cars. Pushing and shoving started with the police and marshals. I joined in. Reporters ran for the phones. Vanloads of cops turned up. A few of the protestors got busted and a few cops were injured but mostly it was pathetic. Gotti's 'public' weren't tough guys. They were wannabes. Gotti didn't go out with a bang. He went out with a whimper."

Two days later the BTK verdicts were read out in court. Thai and various cohorts were convicted of multiple RICO counts. Oldham was relieved -- the outcome he had promised his victims and witnesses had come to pass. While Thai's conviction for conspiracy to assault was reversed on appeal, his remaining convictions were upheld. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and Sen Van Ta's death had been avenged. Some sense of order had been restored to Chinatown and the Vietnamese community. "We've crippled the BTK," Oldham was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "They don't have the leadership. They don't have the presence anymore." It was a moment of transformation in New York City. The mafia was being decisively defeated. Asian gangs were under siege. Criminal prosecutions of organized crime were at a zenith. The Southern District, led by future mayor Rudy Giuliani, got much of the glory in those years, but the Eastern District had succeeded where many had failed. "The common wisdom had been that Gotti couldn't be convicted, that the Born To Kill couldn't be brought down. RICO reconfigured the world of organized crime -- for both sides. Now it didn't matter how clever or ruthless or connected you were -- you were going to get got. I had made my first federal RICO case, and I loved the feeling of seeing justice done in the hardest cases."



1. As an NYPD detective working state cases Oldham had personal experience with the FBI's connivances trying to thieve prosecutions. Once, he had a witness in the hospital under police guard after she had jumped from a window in a housing development trying to avoid being returned to her pimp. She was one of the few people willing to testify against a major forced-prostitution ring. The FBI wanted the case badly. Oldham was determined to keep it. When the FBI tried to interview his witness, Oldham told the hospital administrator his witness was in danger and needed to be moved immediately. He registered her under a pseudonym and put her in the maternity ward. He wasn't going to take any chances.
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:42 am



Oldham's return to Major Case in the spring of 1992 after the Born to Kill prosecution did not go smoothly. Working on BTK he had learned to make a RICO case. He had pursued a high-profile OC investigation to its conclusion. He had helped destroy one of the most dangerous gangs in the city. But he had also been assigned outside the Major Case Squad and that did not sit well with his superior officers. They wanted to maintain control over their investigations. "If you're going to do another federal case, do it from here or don't bother to come back," Oldham was told by Lieutenant Joseph Pollini his first day back in the squad room after the trial was over. "Do your cases from here. Don't take them outside."

The acquisition of expertise and experience didn't necessarily mean Oldham's new skills would be put to use by the NYPD. The institution didn't operate that way. Instead of being assigned another organized crime investigation, Oldham was told to solve bank robberies and help other detectives with their cases. He would have to again find and fight for his own cases.

With the mafia on the run, law enforcement once again turned to the investigation of lower-level wiseguys -- small-time scammers, bookies, loan sharks. As part of his duties assisting Major Case detectives, Oldham was routinely assigned to perform apprehensions on other people's cases. Most of the detectives in Major Case were older and overweight, and many were in poor physical shape. That spring, one had suffered a heart attack as he opened the door of his car in a parking lot in Queens. By comparison, at the age of thirty-eight, Oldham was young and fit. One of the "designated runners" for Major Case, he was sent to make arrests in the event a suspect bolted and had to be chased by foot.

That spring something occurred -- seemingly out of the blue -- that caught Oldham's attention and pointed to the dangerous, deep connections between the mafia and the NYPD. The event was the publication of a book about the cultures of the police department and organized crime. Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob would change the path of Oldham's career and life. The author was a retired NYPD detective named Louis Eppolito. He was the best friend of OCHU member Detective Stephen Caracappa.

The memoir, co-authored by journalist Bob Drury, arrived in bookstores with little fanfare. Inside the Major Case squad room, however, it was widely read -- and even more widely reviewed. "Eppolito had retired a couple of years earlier but he was still well known by reputation as a detective who straddled the fence. He was a conspicuous cop -- he dressed like a wiseguy, he was brash and brazen. Eppolito imagined himself as the man in the middle caught between the mafia and the police department. But there was no middle. There were two sides, and you had to pick a side. The book caused a stir in headquarters."

Oldham was drawn to Mafia Cop because of Caracappa. He knew that Caracappa and Eppolito were not only good friends but had been partners. Oldham had met Eppolito in passing. Before Eppolito retired in 1990, Oldham had seen him visit Caracappa in the Major Case office a number of times. Oldham had also seen him in the Six-Three Precinct in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where Eppolito worked as a detective for many years. It seemed to Oldham the attention from the book made Caracappa uncomfortable. A first-grade detective like Caracappa was the insider's insider on the mafia. "If anyone should want to be insulated from the kind of associations Eppolito called attention to, it was Caracappa. It was curious to me that a sharp cop with a reputation like Caracappa's would hang out with a schmuck like Eppolito who not only boasted about his connections to organized crime -- he wrote a book about them.

"Eppolito was a 'name' in the force, like Caracappa, a detective who stood out from the pack. Eppolito was a former Mr. New York bodybuilder. He was heavyset, with a thick mustache and a taste for gold chains. He had a reputation for his love of snakes, the deadlier the better. For years he was the informal one-man Reptile Squad for the NYPD. If a call came in needing a response to snakes or crocodiles or lizards, any cold-blooded vertebrates, Eppolito got the call. Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito were inseparable but they were a study in contrasts. Caracappa was thin, quiet, watchful. Eppolito was fat, loud, foul-mouthed. Caracappa was the go-to guy in Major Case. Caracappa's discretion was his defining characteristic. It seemed he never gave anything up, or away. Eppolito didn't try to hide his mafia background. He was defiant. He strutted around like a goodfella cop."

One Sunday afternoon in June, Oldham went in search of the book. He found it in the Strand, the used bookstore at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street. In the dank and cramped basement there was a section marked "Crime," where books about cops and criminals were shelved together -- the two sides of the same story. He picked up the book and opened it. "There are no words to define my feelings for Detective Steve Caracappa, my closest and dearest friend," Eppolito wrote in his author's note. Oldham flipped to the photographs in the middle of the book, searching for one that he had been told infuriated Caracappa. The picture showed Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito as partners in the Brooklyn Robbery Squad in the late seventies. The two detectives were sitting in a squad room, Eppolito's tie undone, Caracappa dressed in a dark blazer and dark sweater. Both smiled broadly. The feeling of the photo was intimate, relaxed, confident. The caption read, "Steve saved Louie from a homicide rap by pulling him off a beaten 'perp.''' The heading of the photograph read, "The two Godfathers of the NYPD.

Oldham knew many of the lawyers and cops and reporters acknowledged and thanked by the authors -- Hugh Mo, deputy commissioner of trials for the NYPD; Mark Feldman from the Brooklyn DA's Office, Doug LeVien, a retired NYPD detective described in Mafia Cop as "the fixer"; the journalist Jerry Capeci; and Wiseguy author Nick Pileggi. In the relatively small world of organized crime and law enforcement in New York they were all well-known figures. The cover of Mafia Cop purported to be a photograph of Eppolito's medals. It showed the Combat Cross and two NYPD Medals of Valor -- two of the highest honors bestowed on police officers, often awarded posthumously. There was also a row of Meritorious Performance of Duty medals and Exceptional Performance of Duty medals displayed.

"On the face of it, the cover looked impressive. But if you understood NYPD honors it told a different story. The Meritorious and Exceptional awards had been given to him dozens of times - an extremely unusual number. Working cops were suspicious of a guy with a ton of medals. I never met a cop with as many as Eppolito. Eppolito claimed to be the eleventh most decorated cop in the history of the NYPD. It could have been true, but every cop knows what a meaningless claim that was. For a police officer to receive the medals and commendations of which Eppolito was so proud he had to spend a lot of time writing up his own Requests for Departmental Recognition. Other cops didn't recommend a cop for recognition. He had to do it himself. Eppolito had to spend hours sitting at a table documenting his heroism. There were some cops who couldn't help but write about themselves and their exploits on duty. Traditionally, they gave their supervisor a bottle of liquor to sign the request.

"The practice got so bad defense attorneys began to subpoena Departmental Recognition Requests to impeach police officers as witnesses. The stories the cops told were at such odds with the likely truth -- the accounts of police bravery so improbable -- during cross-examination the police officer on the stand would quickly look either like Superman or a self-aggrandizing prevaricator. It was great for defendants. In the end headquarters stopped allowing cops to write up their requests until the conclusion of the trial. Displaying your medals as proof of valor was the kind of thing any cop looking at the book cover would instantly question."


The week Oldham bought Mafia Cop, he was assigned to assist in the apprehension of a mobster named Giacomo "Fat Larry" Barnao. Oldham and his partner, Detective Kevin Butt, had been given the rap sheet and a black-and-white Polaroid ("a wet") of Barnao. Oldham and Butt parked under the elevated subway train in Bensonhurst at the corner of 86th Street and 18th Avenue opposite an off-track betting shop and waited for Fat Larry. Oldham read Mafia Cop as he sat. The neighborhood surrounding the stakeout was where much of Eppolito's book was set. The commercial strip, with low-rent storefronts, Italian bakeries, and nightclubs, seemed just another Brooklyn corner but the street was storied with mafia legends.

"I could look around and see the places Eppolito mentioned. I didn't have to work hard to imagine what he was writing about. A lot of wiseguys got killed on those streets over the years. It was the nerve center of the Brooklyn mafia. All five families were represented on 18th Avenue. At that corner, Johnny Gambino had a pastry shop where he dealt drugs. 'Baldo' Amato and Cesare Bonventre, both Bonanno associates, had a palatial marble and granite cafe where they held high-stakes games of baccarat. The Sicilian factions were there as well -- 'greaseballs' they were called, or 'zips.' The guy we wanted to arrest, Fat Larry, ran a car and limousine service, a front for his shylock and bookkeeping businesses. Fat Larry was up on a gambling charge. The collar wasn't ours. The two detectives working the case were in their own car a block away. It was just a matter of waiting for Fat Larry to turn up."

According to Mafia Cop, Oldham read, Eppolito's family wasn't "associated" with the mafia -- it was the mafia. His grandfather, Luigi "Diamond Louie" Eppolito, was an immigrant who had arrived in America in 1901. Finding his footing in New York, Diamond Louie quickly became a friend of Lucky Luciano, one of the founders of the American mafia. Diamond Louie set up a stall in a jewelry store on Canal Street. The legitimate business was a front. In reality, Diamond Louie stole jewelry from Hasidic Jews, fenced swag, and ran a string of pimps and whores. In time, three of his four sons went into the family business: the Gambino crime family. Freddy "the Sheik" Eppolito, the oldest and toughest of the boys, was a flashy Tyrone Power lookalike who rose to underboss of the Gambinos. Jimmy "the Clam" Eppolito was a wiseguy and noted hit man. Louis Eppolito's father, Ralph, was known as "Fat the Gangster" on the streets of the Pigtown section of Brooklyn. After Fat the Gangster married a girl named Tess Mandelino, Eppolito wrote, mafia boss Vito Genovese bought a round of champagne in his bar to celebrate.

As a mobster, Fat the Gangster's deepest contempt was reserved for mobsters who became rats. When Genovese soldier Joseph "Joe Cargo" Valachi testified before a Senate commission on organized crime in October 1963, Valachi became the first made man to acknowledge the existence of the mafia. At the time, the Italian underworld was unknown to mainstream America. Valachi's description of the rituals and the structure of cosa nostra were broadcast live nationwide and caused a sensation in the press. The "mafia" became a household word. "Valachi was everything my father hated in a man," Eppolito wrote. "Ralph would sit in front of the television and have apoplexy as Valachi named names, lots of them friends of my father's. My old man used the Valachi hearings as a kind of teaching tool on what not to do. Whatever was said in our home stayed in our home." Despite the code of secrecy, Eppolito's mother, Tess, was quoted extensively in Mafia Cop. She told the story of her husband murdering John "Johnny Roberts" Robilotto, a nightclub owner and fellow Gambino suspected of being a snitch. "Ralph never told me in so many words, but it was Jimmy and Ralph who did Johnny Roberts. That's what got him his button. They said Johnny Roberts was a rat, and if there was anything Ralph couldn't stand, it was a rat. They were all the same that way. I guess to them, that made murder okay."

Only the NYPD received a like share of Fat the Gangster's contempt. In the fifties and sixties, South Brooklyn was "a veritable sewer of police pads and payoffs," Eppolito wrote. Bribes could buy a mobster out of most trouble. As a boy, Eppolito recalled, he carried bribes to precinct cops, payoffs to ensure Fat the Gangster's dice and poker games were left alone. "The cops were crumbs, and that's why Ralph detested them so. I don't know who he hated more, cops or rats," Tess said. Eppolito added, "The mere sight of a police officer's uniform was enough to drive him into an uncontrollable rage."

Violence was ingrained in Eppolito's life -- first as victim and then as victimizer. As a child, he wrote, he was routinely beaten by his father. Eppolito described how he learned from his father how to handle himself on the streets of Brooklyn. On his way to grammar school as an eight-year-old he was attacked by a bully from the sixth grade. Eppolito said he was too afraid to defend himself. That evening, Fat the Gangster told his son to fight back. "Hit him one good shot, bloody his nose, take out a few teeth," the father advised. "A hard shot to the nose will break it all the time." When confronted by the bully the next day, Eppolito grabbed him by the throat and with his other hand broke his nose. "I kept smacking him until I thought he was going to pass out. His blood was all over the place. I had my hand on his belt and was about to punch him again when I heard a loud scream from behind me. 'Louie, Louie.' I turned around and saw my father. He looked at me for a split second before yelling, 'Fuck him up, Louie. Break his fucking face.' I couldn't believe it. So I kept on pummeling the kid, trying to break his fucking face."

Preparing for confirmation in the Catholic Church at the age of nine, Louie was slapped by his priest for making a commotion during instruction. Fat the Gangster went to the rectory to confront Father Pulio about hitting his son. At the church, Fat the Gangster sucker-punched the priest. "His jaw shattered. The teeth, everything, all over the sidewalk." Eppolito marveled at the incident and described how his father had lunged at the priest, screaming, "'You're nothing but a piece of shit priest. And if you ever, ever put your hands on my son again, I'll fucking kill you.''' Eppolito senior reportedly followed up on the bloody demonstration with some nuggets of wisdom on the fundamentals of mob semantics: "During the drive back to Midwood Street, Ralph explained to his son the difference between killing someone -- that is, beating them bad -- and killing someone dead. Which is exactly what it sounds like. It was another Mafia lesson for Louie."


According to Eppolito, his father paid great attention to "honor." Life, Fat the Gangster believed, was about maintaining the mafia's traditions of silence and respect. Eppolito's mother, Tess, was more ambivalent about the attractions of the mob than her husband and son. Murder, Tess understood, was not a matter of honor or respect. In Mafia Cop she recalled her husband disappearing in the middle of the night. The next day, with a sense of disbelief, she would pick up the newspaper and see a story about another mob murder. She explained how she couldn't imagine her husband being involved in any of the reported murders. ''I'd say to myself, 'It couldn't be my Ralph involved. He was here all afternoon. And so was his brother Jimmy.' But then I'd realize that these guys were night crawlers, and who knows what was going on while the kids and I were asleep." Tess didn't agree with Ralph's credo: "Nobody never gets killed for no reason." "But nobody has a right to take a life," Tess pointed out. ''I'd mention that to Ralph. He'd just shrug me off, or say it was a 'matter of honor.'''

At the age of eleven, Louie Eppolito took a job as a pizza delivery boy. Teenagers in a gang called the Pigtown Boys hung out at the pizzeria. The prepubescent Eppolito allowed them to conceal their weapons -- switchblades and zip guns -- in his pizza boxes to avoid detection by the police. Soon, Louie started to help his father at the Grand Mark Bar, located at the intersection of St. Mark's Avenue and Grand Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The bar catered to goodfellas and longshoremen. Next door the Eppolito brothers held all-night sessions playing a fast and furious Italian card game called ziginette. "It was here that Louie Eppolito's Mafia education began in earnest," Mafia Cop reported. Driving the rounds every week with his father in a black Chrysler New Yorker to collect debts and pay respects, Eppolito met the many made men of Bensonhurst. Joe Profaci, an olive oil importer and eminence in organized crime, advised Eppolito to emulate his father. "You got to grow up and have a lot of honor like your father," he said. "If you want to grow up right, grow up like your daddy." Eppolito's mother thought her son had the makings of an outstanding mobster. "Personally, I think he would have made a terrific member of the Mafia. He was fearless, and he loved to fight," she opined.

Eppolito agreed with his mother's assessment. In Mafia Cop, Eppolito imagined himself as a larger-than-life character. He described himself in high school as "a little fucking Casanova." At Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush, Eppolito described himself as "the biggest stud they ever had." On one occasion, a dalliance with a girl led to Eppolito's receiving a beating from a local gang. Eppolito claimed he took seventy stitches to the face, fifty in his hands, and that a quarter of his tongue had to be sewn together. Eppolito wrote he soon sought one of the attackers and took revenge, sucker-punching a boy from the rival gang. The fact that the kid was unconscious didn't stop the brutal assault. "I knew at the moment that I was punching out this kid that I was hurting him bad. I also knew that I was going to kill him. He was unconscious. I was holding him up and smashing his face. Suddenly a hand grabbed my fist in mid-flight." Fat the Gangster told his son to stop -- enough punishment had been exacted. The father was proud of his son. "You're no pussy," he said, "you blasted his face off and he never saw it coming."

Walking to high school, Eppolito was tailed by FBI agents investigating his father and his uncle Freddy and their connections to the heroin trafficking business. To young Louie Eppolito, FBI stood for Forever Bothering the Italians. When the agents accused Eppolito of withholding information he responded as he had been taught by Fat the Gangster. "I told Federal Agent Thompson to go fuck himself," Eppolito recalled. "Fucking feds. You can see how my father's irrational loathing of anyone with a badge could wear off on his son." Nonetheless, Eppolito displayed an early attraction to wielding authority himself. A sickly child, struck by rheumatic fever, he became a teenage bodybuilder who enjoyed throwing his weight around. On social occasions, Eppolito assigned himself the role of teenage party police. At a Sweet Sixteen party Eppolito said he caught a kid selling Seconals. Eppolito seized the drugs and beat the boy. The boy's older brother came to the party. Eppolito said he beat him, too. Finally Booty Romano, a twenty-three-year-old cousin, arrived and kicked Eppolito through a plate-glass window. "With typical aplomb," Mafia Cop reported, "Louie got to his feet, dusted the shards of glass from his clothes, and knocked every single tooth out of the front of the guy's mouth." Arrested and taken to the police station, Eppolito called home. His father answered and started to laugh as his son explained what had happened. "It turned out that, thirty years earlier, Booty Romano's old man had slugged my dad with a baseball bat, and my father had turned around and knocked the teeth out of his mouth. Like father, like son," Eppolito declared.

Sitting in stakeout for hours at a stretch waiting on Fat Larry, it was impossible for Oldham not to compare the books Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito had authored about the mafia -- Mafia Cop by Eppolito and the OCHU "homicide book" Caracappa compiled at Major Case. The former partners were both deeply steeped in mafia culture. But the two books were polar opposites, like the men. The OCHU homicide book Caracappa created at Major Case was distinguished by what it didn't include. It was a compendium of a decade's worth of mob homicides ranging from the death of Colombo member Ralph Spero in 1980 to the professional hit on a Gambino captain named Eddie Lino on the Belt Parkway in 1990. The recitation of events surrounding the murders was precise and spare. The facts, and only the most basic facts, were provided in staccato police language. Eddie Lino was a notorious gangster, for example, short and tough and involved in mafia politics at the highest level; he ran a scam on New York City school bus companies, "taxing" every child's ride to class every day; he had been brazenly murdered just off the Belt Parkway in the middle of heavy traffic. The intrigue surrounding Lino's murder was directly within Caracappa's knowledge -- how Lino was close to Gotti and one of the shooters in the murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano. Caracappa could trace Lino's lineage in the Gambinos, as well as his criminal pedigree as a large-scale heroin dealer. Instead of relating any detail, the OCHU homicide book said only, "At the stated T/P/O the victim was shot to death in his auto. The victim was known to the New York City Police Department under NYSID #0765414N and FBI#445409D. The victim was a Gambino Capo who was involved with narcotics."

Mafia Cop, by contrast, reveled in the inner workings of the mafia. Eppolito celebrated his education by Fat the Gangster and the wiseguys of Brooklyn. "Eppolito held an idealized version of cosa nostra. In his mind, the mafia was about honor and respect and family -- not money and betrayal and violence. It was a surprising point of view for a police officer to put forward."

Fat the Gangster, a chain smoker, died of a massive heart attack when Louie was twenty years old. The funeral was held at Vigilante's Funeral Parlor in Brooklyn. A fleet of black limousines filled with wiseguys came to pay respects -- and the FBI took surveillance pictures to record attendance as evidence of organized crime associations. Long before he became a policeman, Eppolito had learned to meet with mobsters secretly, to avoid detection by law enforcement. At midnight, after the FBI agents had left, Eppolito opened a side door to the funeral parlor and greeted the leadership of the Gambino family with two-cheek kisses. "Slips of paper with phone numbers were given to Eppolito," Oldham said, "names he could call for work. Construction, the garment district, the docks, whatever the mafia controlled, whatever Eppolito wanted. As the son of a made man Eppolito thought he would be taken care of by the family. He felt entitled to consideration for an entry-level wiseguy gig: a no-show job, numbers running, truck hijacking. It was how the mafia was supposed to take care of their own. It was Eppolito's birthright."

As expected, a Gambino relative named Johnny "Bath Beach" Oddo set Eppolito up in a union job. Eppolito said he hadn't given much thought to becoming a "junior wise guy" but understood and accepted the choice he was making by taking a job connected to organized crime -- he was setting out to be a mobster, like his father and his father before him. On his first day, the foreman smiled when Eppolito asked what kind of work he would be doing. No work was expected, and so he whiled away the morning doing nothing. His first task came at lunch, when the foreman gave Eppolito a quarter and told him to fetch coffee and the newspaper. The order outraged Eppolito. "Who the fuck you throwing a quarter at?" he growled at the foreman. "Ralph Eppolito's kid don't start out as no gofer. So why don't you take this quarter and shove it up your ass."

Eppolito's sister had married a man from the neighborhood named Al Guarneri -- the same detective in the Six-Three decades later assigned to investigate the attempted murder of Dominic Costa. Young men in their twenties, Eppolito and Guarneri lifted weights together and imagined how life would look from the point of view of a cop. They talked about how they had played cops and robbers as boys. Surprisingly, Eppolito and Guarneri both decided to join the NYPD, despite long family associations with organized crime. For Eppolito the attractions of being a cop were the same as those Fat the Gangster found as a mobster. "Men could be men in this fraternal order," Eppolito wrote. "If the occasion arose where it was necessary to 'beat the shit' out of someone -- a husband who battered his wife, a pimp who slashed his hooker, a purse snatcher who'd run down an old woman -- those opportunities availed themselves regularly." Eppolito wrote that Fat the Gangster "would have killed me himself," had he been alive. He knew the rest of his relatives -- wiseguys like Jimmy the Clam Eppolito and his son Jim-Jim -- might give him the cold shoulder at first. "Blood would eventually tell," Eppolito calculated.

The paths of Steven Caracappa and Louie Eppolito first crossed in the NYPD Police Academy in 1969, when the police force was in crisis. Crime rates had doubled in the previous five years. The murder rate had tripled in the previous three years. Major riots in 1964 and 1968 displayed the department's tenuous grip on order. A wave of criminality not seen since the Roaring Twenties, when Prohibition was in force and gangsters ran speakeasies in defiance of the law, swept over the city. In response, squads specializing in homicide, robbery, and burglary were established. The "911" emergency call system was instituted. The city was under siege. Discipline and order in the NYPD were falling apart at the same time.

"The 'broken window' theory of police work holds that law enforcement tolerating a kid throwing a rock through a window encourages the criminal element in society to believe they can get away with more serious crimes. It was true, as New York discovered during the nineties when the crime rate plummeted after we started prosecuting the little things. But more important, the 'broken window' theory worked inside the police force, too. Cops who got away with taking money from illegal gambling houses concluded they could also get away with more serious crimes. In the late sixties, Frank Serpico couldn't get corruption in the force acknowledged, let alone investigated. Things had reached the point where the heroin recovered in the famous French Connection investigation was being stolen by detectives in the Special Investigations Unit. The French Connection had been one of the greatest cases in the history of narcotics enforcement. By the end of the decade, the heroin seized had been surreptitiously replaced by rotting flour in the property clerk's room in Little Italy."

The NYPD class of 1969 was the biggest in the history of the department, then or since. Thousands of Vietnam War veterans were returning to a city in steep economic decline -- including Stephen Caracappa, who had served in the Army in Vietnam. Tables were set up along Broadway to entice young men walking the street to become cops. With a salary of nearly ten thousand dollars a year, the money was more than most entry-level jobs. Like all city jobs, NYPD benefits -- health care, holiday pay, uniform allowance -- were attractive to the children of first-generation immigrants who had worked blue-collar jobs with no social safety net. Many recruits had never considered becoming policemen, and had little aptitude for the job, but it was so easy to become a cop the offer was hard to turn down. The academy filled with veterans of a dirty foreign war -- not fresh young boys out of high school, as was usually the case. Recruits who were used to Army drill sergeants and the privations of military boot camp considered the NYPD's paramilitary imitation little more than a joke. An atmosphere of near chaos enveloped the class. Fistfights were common -- and more than once escalated into guns being drawn in the locker room and death threats exchanged.

"The city was desperate. If you could walk and talk, if you had two legs and two arms, you were in. Recruits with military experience were used to doing whatever they wanted even though they were in uniform. They weren't going to follow orders. The disorder of the military at the time was transferred to the NYPD and the force had a hard time coping with the culture. Authority was being questioned on every front, and that included inside the academy. As a result, more cops from the class of '69 were eventually thrown off the force or locked up than from any other year."

The NYPD application form was voluminous. It asked about family, immediate and extended, driving history, credit history, the applicant's arrest record, if any, names and addresses of neighbors, schools attended, character references. The formal interview that followed was conducted by the Applicant Investigation Unit. In Mafia Cop, Eppolito said he wrote a long essay explaining his family's history of association with the mafia. The recruiter was astonished at Eppolito's honesty. "Christ, you've got a lot of balls writing down this history," he said. "There isn't anybody in your family who hasn't been in jail." "Except for me," Eppolito said. He wrote, "I think the interviewer admired my audacity, because he passed me on with a recommendation."

The Police Academy was located on East 20th Street in Manhattan in those years. It was a large facility, with a swimming pool and gym, and four floors of classrooms. Recruits were taught law, social science, and police science. Fidelis ad mortem was the motto: Faithful unto death. The class was overwhelmingly male (female officers were known as "police matrons" at the time and carried a special caliber revolver with less recoil) and the building bristled with young men trying to outdo and impress each other. In Mafia Cop Eppolito described how, in one class, a diagram of the Gambino crime family (complete with mug shots) was used as a teaching aid. Eppolito recounted how another classmate called him over to the blackboard and pointed at one of the Gambino soldiers on the chart. "This cadet was a gung-ho hick from Long Island, and I could read the excitement in his face. 'Look, Lou, this guy has the same last name as you.' His mouth dropped open when I told him that he was pointing to my old man."

The class was arranged alphabetically by last name and divided into companies of approximately twenty recruits. With last names beginning with letters in proximity, Caracappa and Eppolito were trained side by side, from roll call at six-thirty in the morning to beers afterward at McSorley's Ale House. It was not hard to imagine how the two young men became friends. Caracappa also came from a working-class Italian-American quarter of the city. He had grown up on Staten Island, in the years before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was constructed and the only way to get to the city was by ferry. Isolated geographically, Staten Island had a high concentration of mafia. Growing up, Caracappa was known on the street as "Stevie Aces." He had dropped out of New Dorp High School at the age of sixteen and gone to work as a laborer with his father. In the summer of 1960, at the age of eighteen, Caracappa had been arrested for the burglary of a warehouse on Staten Island. Caracappa and an accomplice had rented a truck and broken into the warehouse to steal more than a thousand dollars' worth of lumber and construction materials. Caracappa was indicted on felony charges. Designated a youthful offender, Caracappa had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to probation.

After Caracappa was interviewed by an officer from the Applicant Investigation Unit, he was disqualified from serving as a police officer because of his criminal record. "There were excellent reasons to keep Caracappa out of the force," Oldham said. "He wasn't stealing the building materials the way a kid might be caught stealing change out of a neighbor's house. It was a commercial burglary, not a boy seeking a thrill. Caracappa was eighteen years old. He knew what he was doing. He wasn't going to use the lumber to build himself a house. He had to have connections to fence the material. The likelihood was that an adult had put him up to it, promising easy money. The burglary had all the hallmarks of a professional job. He pled out to misdemeanor charges, so it wasn't like he was denying he committed the crime. The investigator looked at Caracappa and dinged him -- he wasn't recommended. The decision was a strong indication of how poorly Caracappa explained his involvement in the felony. Even in the class of '69 he didn't make the cut -- not until the decision was overridden by a superior officer. The reasons the investigator was overruled have been lost. Maybe the force was so desperate it stopped using common sense."

Recruitment and Screening

The integrity of the Police Department is related to a large extent on standards that insure its new recruits are honest and able. Rigorous admission standards help accomplish that objective. They also send a message throughout the Department about the absolute sincerity of the Department's commitment to integrity and the special position police officers occupy in our society. Cops must know that not everyone can become a New York City police officer if we want them to have pride in their profession and their Department.

That is not always the case. There is a widespread perception among officers of many ranks that hiring standards have fallen dramatically over the years -- and that virtually anyone can become a New York City police officer.

To assess the adequacy of the Department's recruitment and screening standards and procedures -- and to determine whether we could identify profiles of corruption-prone recruits -- a team of Commission investigators conducted an extensive analysis of the personal backgrounds of approximately four hundred officers dismissed or suspended for corruption or serious misconduct over the past six years. [16] The analysis was based on information from the officers' personnel files, the Department's background investigations, and recommendations and evaluations at the time of application. We also examined for comparative reasons general demographic and background information of random samples of officers and conducted interviews with those responsible for various aspects of recruitment and screening. We are aware of no other analysis of this magnitude ever before conducted by the Department in this area.

Applying a degree of scrutiny absent from many background investigations done by the Department, we concluded that approximately 20 percent of the officers suspended or dismissed should never have been admitted into the Department. This is based merely on information available in these officers' personnel files at the time of hiring. Numerous others should never have been admitted until certain problem areas flagged in their application, which had been ignored, were investigated. For example, 24 percent of the officers dismissed or suspended had a prior criminal arrest record. In many of those cases, there was sufficient information from witnesses, victims, arresting officers, and other sources to call into question the character and ability of the officer -- but the officer was admitted without pursuing these leads. Many other officers were admitted despite youthful offender adjudications on charges as serious as robbery, narcotics and weapons possession, and assault. One officer, for example, had been arrested and indicted for three separate robberies and pleaded guilty to armed robbery in the first degree which was subsequently converted to a youthful offender adjudication. When asked in his application why he committed these crimes, he readily admitted that he committed the robberies for the "thrill" and "excitement" of robbing someone. Eleven years later, he was dismissed for theft.

Overly lax admission criteria are partly responsible for this problem. For example, an applicant with a youthful offender adjudication for a felony is eligible to become a New York City police officer. As a result, applicants with felony assault, weapons, robbery or narcotics charges resulting in either misdemeanor convictions or youthful offender adjudications became police officers despite the underlying gravity of their conduct, only to be dismissed or suspended years later for corruption. Since the Department admits applicants as young as twenty years old and therefore has only a two-year time span in which to evaluate an applicant's adult criminal history, it must take youthful wrongdoing into greater account in admission procedures.

The Commission also found that the Department has routinely admitted applicants to the Department -- and put them on the streets as sworn officers with guns and shields -- before their background checks are complete. Eighty-eight percent of the officers in our study, for example, entered the Police Academy before the completion of their background checks -- and thus prior to a reliable determination that they were fit to be police officers. Approximately one-third of all officers were placed on the streets, before completion of their background investigations. Thus, there is a wealth of vital information that is typically unknown when an officer is given a gun and shield. For example, investigations into an applicant's work history and behavior patterns, including interviews with relatives, neighbors, friends, employers and others, are often not completed until after the applicant becomes a sworn police officer. There is rarely an opportunity, therefore, to check prior job performance, attendance records, gaps in employment or unusual behavior patterns -- all important indicators of a person's fitness to become a police officer.

This is particularly troublesome because by the time recruits have graduated from the Police Academy and become sworn members of the Department, much time, energy and money has been invested in them. Consequently, the focus of the incomplete background investigations shifts from the question of whether the applicant is qualified to be a New York City police officer to how the Department could justify dismissing a sworn police officer which carries a heavier burden of proof.

-- The City of New York -- Commission Report: Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department, by Milton Mollen, Chair


After graduation from the police academy, newly minted Officers Caracappa and Eppolito were sent out on patrol. Eppolito's first assignment was the Six-Three, in Marine Park, Brooklyn -- an area thick with the same mobsters he used to meet with his gangster father on weekends. Fraternizing with members of organized crime was forbidden by NYPD regulations. The department designated certain locations -- bars, clubs, legitimate businesses known to give free goods or services to cops -- as "corruption-prone locations." The reasons for the strictures were obvious: mobsters were expert at corrupting others. "A cop could easily be placed in a compromised position and thus pressured by his mafia associates to start doing a few favors in return for a forgiven gambling debt, or a night in Atlantic City in a comp suite with a couple of hookers and a few bucks for the blackjack tables. It meant that if you were sent to that kind of place on a radio run you had to be accompanied by a supervisor. If you were caught there, you would be brought up on charges. There were places that cops just shouldn't frequent, on or off duty. There were people cops shouldn't hang out with because it gave the impression you were in collusion with them."

Even as a rookie policeman, Eppolito ignored these fundamental tenets of the NYPD. He continued to pay his respects to gangsters like Colombo captain James "Jimmy Brown" Clemenza as he drove by in his patrol car. "Hell, I figured, who was it going to hurt to stop and commiserate with an old Mustache Pete about his lumbago?" From the start of his career, Eppolito began to make appearances on FBI surveillance tapes, consorting with organized crime figures.

During the course of a law enforcement career, even one lasting decades, most policemen don't use their firearms even once. Discharging a weapon in an urban environment is a last resort. In his first six months in the NYPD, Eppolito was involved in two shootouts. His policy, Eppolito wrote, was direct: "Shoot first and ask questions later." As a patrolman, Eppolito claimed he had a "sixth sense." At a glance he could tell if something was wrong with a person or a situation. Seeing a man lope across a street once, catching sight of a bead of sweat on the nape of the man's neck, Eppolito decided to pull his pistol and call the man to a halt. According to Eppolito, the instant he 'nabbed' the man, a bank alarm sounded across the street. Eppolito bragged, "I was all over the television news that night explaining my 'sixth sense' to the tabloid and TV reporters. The newsmen in New York like to think of themselves as a cynical bunch, but, in truth, they eat that stuff up."

"Doing God's work" was a common way for police officers to describe their efforts -- dispensing rough justice, making sure the right thing was done, keeping the innocent safe. But in the NYPD every young cop quickly learned that sometimes the law didn't allow for justice to be done. The nature of human affairs and an imperfect legal system on occasion worked against fairness. In frustration, cops sometimes took the law into their own hands. Oldham had done it himself. But the vigilante justice portrayed by Eppolito in Mafia Cop was alien to Oldham. A young woman living in the Six-Three was assaulted by her spouse and Eppolito took the call. Rather than arrest the husband, Eppolito returned when he was off duty, snuck into the woman's yard, and rattled the garbage cans to lure the man out. Eppolito was wearing a ski mask to hide his face. When the man came outside, Eppolito hit him in the throat with a lead pipe. He hit the husband in the throat again and again and again, he wrote. Eppolito said he had invented a story to disguise the fact that it was a cop committing the assault. He had rehearsed his lines to make his performance convincing. "Look motherfucker," he said to the man. "My kid goes to school with your kid, and I hear you've been beating your wife. My father beat my mother to death, and any man who beats his wife has got to answer to me." Eppolito knocked the guy out and ran into the night.

"To me, that was ridiculous and insane," Oldham recalled. "Why not bust the guy? Why did Eppolito wear the disguise? Didn't he have anything better to do with his time off? Hitting a man in the throat with an iron pipe might kill him. Eppolito's story had nothing to do with police work. It had nothing to do with justice. It was about Eppolito."

When Eppolito encountered an abused wife in the course of his duties, he boasted, he immediately tried to bed her. "Every time we went on a call where a husband smacked his wife, I went back that night and smacked it to her, too. Battered wives were the most vulnerable. They needed a crutch to lean on, especially if that crutch just put the fear of God in their husbands." Once, when Eppolito was called to a domestic disturbance, the husband ripped the young cop's uniform shirt while trying to get at his wife. "I proceeded to show him what respect for the law was all about," Eppolito wrote. When the man sued, claiming Eppolito had threatened to kill him, Eppolito challenged the man to a fight in a nearby park. "He was a tough son of a bitch, I'll give him that," Eppolito reported. Eppolito claimed to have nearly choked the man to death. Incredibly, the incident offered Eppolito an opportunity to celebrate his exploits in a different area. He said he had an affair with the man's wife. "Kathy, who had a body she loved to show off, became a Playboy bunny. She was a cop's dream -- until she'd cry and tell me how much she loved me. I knew deep down there was no way in the world I'd consider throwing a ring on this one's finger. 1'd drop by her house on the way to a night shift for a quick bang, but that was as far as it got. That was as far as it got with scores of them."

Divorced early from his first wife, with whom he had a son, Louis Jr., Eppolito met his second wife, Fran, on vacation in Puerto Rico. "Louie came on to me with that 1'm-going-to-marry-you stuff and I said to myself, 'Oh yeah, just you,''' Fran was quoted saying in Mafia Cop. "From the moment I met him I had a feeling the guy wasn't being honest with me. Just intuition." Eppolito, for his part, described Fran as "the best built girl I had ever seen, a bod that just knocked my socks off." Doo-wop music was Eppolito's passion and he courted Fran by taking her to mobbed-up Bensonhurst nightclubs like El Dante and the Gambino-controlled Plaza Suite to see the Mellow Kings and the Platters. The couple were ushered to front-row tables by dapperly dressed doormen, Fran recalled, Eppolito stopping to exchange two-cheek kisses with mafia associates of his father and uncles. Eppolito told Fran they were wiseguys he had known all his life. "Deep down I saw the longing in Louie," Fran said. "He was trying to be a good cop, he was trying to stay away, but the pull was sometimes just too strong." Their wedding was held at the Pisa catering hall in Bensonhurst, the bill reduced to less than half the normal price thanks to Eppolito's Gambino connections. There was a table set aside for organized crime figures. Eppolito had the band play the theme from The Godfather during the reception.

On three different occasions during the late seventies Eppolito arranged for parties to celebrate his promotion to detective, and three times the parties were canceled as he was passed over. Teamed with a slight and short patrolman named Jimmy McCafferty, Eppolito claimed they acquired a violent reputation on the streets of the Six-Three. Known as Atlas and Little Jim, Eppolito claimed the partners were baseball superstars when it came to wielding their nightsticks. Called before the Civilian Complaint Review Board if a "citizen" had the temerity to register a grievance, Eppolito said he and his partner followed one rule: "We lied. Both our daddies had taught us that." Eppolito's view on the use of deadly force as a policeman was simple: "The only good perp is a dead perp." It wasn't long before Eppolito killed his first man -- "ventilated the perp," as he put it. "I learned something about myself in that gun fight. I not only had the capacity to kill, I have the capacity to forget about it, to not let it bother me."
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

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Finally promoted to detective and assigned to the Brooklyn Robbery Squad in the late seventies, Eppolito was teamed up with his former police academy classmate, Detective Steven Caracappa. It was with Caracappa, Eppolito wrote, that "I really made my bones" -- the mob term for becoming a made man. Detective Caracappa had come to Brooklyn Robbery from Narcotics, where he worked undercover for a number of years.

"What fascinated me about Mafia Cop were the stories involving Caracappa. I was surprised Caracappa allowed himself to be a character in a book like Mafia Cop. Caracappa's job in OCHU in the Major Case Squad was to monitor the Luchese family and the mafia. Caracappa was supposed to be the ace detective. Mafia Cop put Caracappa in bed with a cop proud of his mob connections. Eppolito seemed to exhibit remorse at not having taken up 'the life' of a gangster. For Caracappa to be close to a figure like that didn't jibe with the sly Caracappa I knew in the Major Case squad room."

The first case Caracappa and Eppolito worked together was the investigation of a crew of stickup artists hitting black dance clubs. Known as the "Disco Gang," according to Mafia Cop, they were noted for using shotguns and employing extreme violence. Five of the seven members of the gang were arrested after people in their neighborhood identified them to the police. Eppolito wrote that the two members of the gang still at large were David "Big T" McCleary and a hood named "Bugs." Caracappa and Eppolito soon received a tip that Bugs had a girlfriend who lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. They staked out the apartment and grabbed Bugs on the sidewalk outside. Caracappa disarmed Bugs, taking away his sawed-off shotgun as they wrestled him to the ground. Eppolito then stuck his service revolver in Bugs's mouth.

The two officers transported their prisoner to the precinct for questioning. Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito demanded to know the whereabouts of Big T. Bugs refused to talk, despite the threats of impending physical harm uttered by the two detectives. "Do what you gotta do, pig," Bugs said. Eppolito rained down dozens of blows on Bugs's head. Eppolito wrote that he considered himself a tough man, an able and experienced fighter, but his blows had no effect on Bugs -- he only sneered at Eppolito. This enraged Eppolito further. Detective Eppolito took Bugs to a room in the back of the precinct. There he filled a bucket with scalding hot water. He added half a jug of ammonia, a chemical that induces respiratory distress and can lead to blindness and heart failure when directly in contact with skin. Eppolito dunked Bugs's head into the water. He pulled him out. Bugs was screaming and his face was blotched and purple from the chemical exposure. "Fuck off," Bugs said. In Mafia Cop, Eppolito said that Bugs's refusal to give up Big T raised a grudging respect -- but not enough to stop him from forcing his head into the bucket again, and again, and again.

Big T called the precinct the next day, Eppolito wrote, and asked for him by name. The sequence of events that followed was portrayed by Eppolito in detail. Big T threatened to rape Eppolito's wife and young children. Eppolito told Big T he was going to hunt him down and murder him. Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito worked around the clock for the next six days looking for Big T. The two Robbery Squad police officers questioned every informant and chased down every possible lead. Finally, a prostitute who provided tips to the police on occasion told Caracappa and Eppolito that Big T was going to meet a girlfriend in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Eight detectives were dispatched in four cars. As always, Caracappa and Eppolito were together. ''I'm going to eat his heart," Eppolito swore to Caracappa.

Crown Heights was an area that mixed Hasidic Jews with a large black population living in fading grand houses abandoned decades earlier during the white flight to the suburbs of New York. Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito were the first to arrive at the building where Big T was hiding out. As they pulled up they saw Big T standing in the window of a building above laughing at them.

"You're a dead motherfucker," Eppolito screamed up.

Caracappa and Eppolito ran into the building before backup arrived, and went upstairs. The raging Eppolito kicked in the front door of Big T's apartment and then another interior door. When he reached the bedroom he found Big T lying on a bed, naked, grinning. Big T had no weapons. He said he would come peacefully. Detective Eppolito ignored the offer of surrender. He jumped Big T and started to beat him, he wrote, breaking his hand on Big T's head. Within seconds Eppolito was trying to strangle Big T. Detective Caracappa struggled to pull his partner and best friend off the man. Eppolito concluded the story of Big T this way: "The public will never understand the mentality of a cop -- a good cop, anyway. In a way, it's very similar to the mentality of Organized Crime. You do what you have to do and don't think twice about the consequences, because when you gotta go, you gotta go. A lot of guys couldn't hack it. Just like a lot of guys can't hack the mob."


More than a decade later, Oldham was sitting in an unmarked car in front of Stromboli Pizza reading about Big T in Mafia Cop when Fat Larry Barnao pulled up in a brown Cadillac Brougham. Fat Larry was in his late fifties, enormously obese, dressed in a suit that was two sizes too tight. Detectives Oldham and Butt crossed the traffic on Bensonhurst's 86th Street to make their arrest. Fat Larry saw the two NYPD detectives closing in on him. He tried to run. "He made it two, three steps and his knee gave out. He fell on the sidewalk. We couldn't cuff him because he was too fat and his wrists wouldn't meet. He was sprawled on the pavement cursing. He easily weighed four hundred pounds -- the result of a lifetime of baked ziti and half-baked crime. It took four of us to get him up from the pavement."

During the stakeout, Detectives Oldham and Butt had started to joke about Mafia Cop and Eppolito's adventures. "Frankly, I doubted a lot about the book," Oldham said. "The Big T story stunk. Telling a defendant you're going to hunt him down and kill him? I have never had my face stuck in ammonia but I assume it hurts and burns. Back in those days, prisoners took unmerciful beatings in precinct houses all over the city. But you still had to take your perp to the desk sergeant before you took him downtown. You didn't want to appear with a prisoner who had just lost his eyesight. I wouldn't want to take a prisoner in that condition through the system. When you got downtown you went to Central Booking -- where the guys didn't know you and had no allegiance to you. They would report a detective turning up with a prisoner in the shape Bugs was supposed to be in. After that, you have to take him to the city jailers. Prisons belonged to an agency outside the NYPD and they had actual enmity for the police. If a perp had a couple of broken ribs there would be no problem. It was common to see prisoners with their heads wrapped in gauze to stanch the bleeding from blows to the head. But dipping a perp's face in ammonia? Bugs's face was supposedly morphing into a giant purple blotch. It didn't ring true to me."

Missing from Mafia Cop was Eppolito's struggle to make ends meet. For most police officers, financial difficulties were par for the course. It was hard to make enough money to raise a family as a cop. Second and third jobs were common. Overtime was an obsession inside the force. There was also little in the book about the actual cases Eppolito worked, despite the fact he was supposed to be the eleventh most decorated detective in the 150 years of the NYPD. "If you were going to write a book, it seemed you would at least include the story of your best case. Eppolito didn't seem to have a best case. Clearly he was not a great detective. Smacking people around and closing a couple of robberies made thin support for a cop with more than thirty medals to his name. If the capture and beating of Big T was the summit of your career as a policeman, you should probably have turned in your detective shield."

Also missing from the book was an account of Eppolito's disciplinary record -- which was substantial. As partners, Detectives Eppolito and Caracappa quickly accumulated a large number of Internal Affairs complaints. The first was from a man who alleged he was riding in a taxi at the corner of Nostrand and Foster avenues in Brooklyn when two plainclothes detectives arrested him. The man was placed in handcuffs and $300 was taken from him by the detectives -- and never returned. Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito were investigated but the claim could not be proven. A short while later, jewelry went missing from the scene of a homicide. Eppolito was suspected. The charge could not be substantiated. At the same time, a confidential informant working for the DEA told the federal government Caracappa was involved in dealing drugs. The report was received by the department and inquiries were made but no action was taken. A man arrested by Caracappa in his office on Court Street alleged money and property were taken -- a claim found "unsubstantiated." Yet another confidential informant for the DEA said that Caracappa and another unnamed detective showed her a copy of a homicide report in return for $10,000. This, too, resulted in no disciplinary actions or censure.

Eppolito's CPI -- Central Personnel Index -- betrayed even more troubles for the detective and his partner. While they were paired, a woman complained that two males robbed her. The two were "M.O.F." -- members of the force -- and Eppolito and an unnamed detective were investigated but the charge deemed "unsubstantiated." When Eppolito was required to testify at a complainant's pistol permit hearing, the man said Eppolito demanded money in return for changing his evidence. In a civil action relating to a car accident it was alleged that Eppolito had perjured himself. "It was difficult to make a case against a cop, unless there were witnesses or photographs or tape recordings," Oldham said. "It was the complainant's word against the cop's word. But when it came to officers constantly in trouble, the feeling inside the force was simple. Where there's smoke, there's fire. If a cop got a lot of complaints it meant he was an active cop, out on the street taking risks and making collars. The busier you were, the more arrests you made, the more complaints you got. It was the nature of the business. The easiest way to fuck with a cop was to make complaints against him. But if the cop wasn't making many arrests and the complaints kept on coming then there was something wrong. The arrest records of Caracappa and Eppolito did not look like the pair were going gangbusters. The nature of the complaints sounded authentic. Why would a man make up a story about extortion for a pistol permit? Why would a DEA CI make up a tale about a specific NYPD detective dealing dope? Why would a guy lie about two cops stealing three hundred bucks? There was specificity to the complaints and complainants. There were stories about drugs, violence, and money."

Oldham had been taught in the police academy that Mutt and Jeff teams were not unusual. The characters Mutt and Jeff were the stars of the first daily cartoon strip in America, two seeming opposites who were the precursors of Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. "Mutt and Jeff referred to a certain kind of male relationship -- the fat guy teamed up with the skinny guy. One was a bodybuilder gone to pot, the other thin as a rake. The two were inseparable. It was a pairing that often occurred in organized crime. Carmine 'the Snake' Persico and his older brother 'Ally Boy' were the Mutt and Jeff of the Colombos. It happened with police partners frequently as well. Caracappa and Eppolito traded on each other's strengths and weaknesses. They complemented each other. They fed off each other. If they had never met, the characteristics they provoked in the other probably would have remained latent. Together, they brought out the worst in each other."


After just over a year as partners, Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito were separated and reassigned. Eppolito was sent to the Seven-Seven, a precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant known to be a dumping ground for suspect cops and malcontents. Eppolito was furious and demanded a different assignment. In the Seven-Seven Eppolito would be operating without Caracappa. He would be alone. He would be out of his element. He pleaded with the commanders to send him to the Six-Two, where his cousin Detective Al Guarneri was assigned.

Eppolito's request required the approval of a chief. Eppolito wrote that he barged into the chief of detectives' office and demanded to know why he was being sent to the Seven-Seven. "Deep down I knew what was on their minds. Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Freddy. Ralph. But I wanted to hear them admit it." To Eppolito's delight, and astonishment, the brass gave in to Eppolito's persistence and he was sent to the mobbed-up streets of the Six-Two. It was at the heart of mafia territory in Brooklyn. Near the precinct house where Gambino boss "Big Paul" Castellano, who was still alive at the time, owned a butcher shop. The streets were filled with wiseguys Eppolito had grown up with and knew well. "I felt like I was home," he wrote.

Once again Eppolito found himself tempted by the kindness of mobsters. The death of his grandfather, Diamond Louie, at the age of ninety-one, affected Eppolito deeply, putting him in close contact with his family as well as the Gambino family. At Diamond Louie's funeral, Jimmy the Clam Eppolito, Eppolito's uncle and a Gambino associate, gave his nephew Louie an envelope containing $3,000 cash to take his family on a vacation to Disney World. Taking money from a known organized criminal was against NYPD regulations, Eppolito knew, but he didn't care. The money would give his family a well-deserved holiday, he felt. The pay of an NYPD detective was too modest to partake of such luxuries. He felt entitled to the extra cash; the rules did not apply to him. When he returned to New York and his duties in the Six-Two, Eppolito began to routinely drink sambuca with Uncle Jimmy and his son Jim-Jim. "I didn't give a shit about the surveillance," Eppolito wrote. ''I'd played by the Department's rules long enough."

A month after Eppolito's Disney World holiday, Jimmy the Clam and Jim-Jim Eppolito were murdered. Lured to the Gemini Club in Brooklyn, headquarters of the lethal crew known as Murder Inc., the two were driven to a service road off the Belt Parkway and shot to death in cold blood. The reason for the double murder was political. Jim-Jim had been involved in an elaborate con run under the guise of a charitable organization called the International Children's Appeal. The fund was supposed to raise money for city schools during the International Year of the Child. It was in fact a money-laundering front for drug and weapons merchants. When the scam was exposed on the ABC News show 20/20, Gambino boss Big Paul Castellano grew concerned the story would bring unwanted attention to the Gambinos. President Jimmy Carter's wife, Rosalynn, had posed with Jim-Jim for a photograph taken at a gala reception in Washington. Senator Edward Kennedy had also been taken in by the con. Powerful people made to appear foolish would, in the mind of a mafioso, use their power to exact revenge. Castellano feared that President Carter would sic a thousand more FBI agents on the Gambinos in retribution. He ordered the double hit.

After the murder of the Clam and Jim-Jim, both the NYPD and the mafia were worried that Eppolito would seek revenge, he wrote. His claim about police department concern was curious: gangland reprisals by sworn officers were neither permitted nor expected, regardless of circumstances. The Gambinos were another matter, according to Eppolito. Another wiseguy relative, cousin Frank "Junior" Santora, told Eppolito that Gambino boss Castellano wanted a sit-down-the traditional means of settling mobster disputes. A few days later, Detective Eppolito stood at the corner of 18th Avenue and 86th Street in Brooklyn as a Chrysler New Yorker pulled up to ta~e him to a secret meeting with Castellano. It was after midnight, in order to ensure the rendezvous would not be observed. "Some monster gets out of the car," Eppolito recalled. "He's right out of Francis Ford Coppola's imagination. Ugly, but dapper." As an NYPD officer, Eppolito wrote that he understood the consequence of having a clandestine sit-down with the man known as "the boss of bosses." "As soon as I agreed to that meeting I stopped being a cop," Eppolito wrote. Castellano lived in a white mansion on Staten Island on a rise named Death Hill by Dutch settlers. Afraid he might meet the same fate as the Clam and Jim-Jim, Eppolito relaxed at the sight of the house. Eppolito knew there was no chance he would be killed at the house of Castellano -- the Gambino leader always kept himself insulated from violence.

Mafia Cop dramatized the encounter in a style meant to mimic famous cinema graphic moments. When Eppolito met Castellano, he addressed him as "Godfather." Castellano waved him off. ''I'm not Don Corleone," he said. Castellano explained that it was Jim-Jim, the son, who had been the principal reason for the murders. "The kid did a lot of bad things wrong," Castellano said. The Clam had been killed by necessity: if he was left alive he would have to avenge the murder of his son.

Eppolito adopted a grave attitude, speaking slowly, weighing his words. ''I'm tremendously honored that you've chosen to respect me by bringing me here tonight," he said. He went on to say that he understood the rules of "the life" his uncle and cousin lived. As for the murders, Detective Eppolito continued, "It's not for me to say what is right or what is wrong in this matter. But I can say that I am not looking to hurt anyone. I'm not looking to come after anyone. I'm not looking for revenge. I just want the dead to rest in peace."

"The story read to me like a fantasy bordering on a delusion," Oldham recalled. "It only made sense if Eppolito was telling a story his cousin Frank Santora told him. It added up that way. Santora was a well-known guy in Brooklyn. He was connected to a few families -- Luchese, Gambino, Genovese. Santora did a stretch in the early eighties in Allenwood, a federal prison. More wiseguys networked there than at any trade conference or political convention. If Castellano ordered the murder of Jimmy the Clam and Jim-Jim Eppolito it made a certain amount of sense that he would reach out to Santora and make sure the reasons were understood. No one with any sense wanted the mafia to attract the kind of attention Jim-Jim was getting. But the idea that Paul Castellano, the boss of bosses and the most discreet gangster around, would summon an NYPD detective to his house for a sit-down? Castellano would as much as confess to murder to Detective Eppolito of the Six-Two? You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know Eppolito's tale lacked the ring of truth."

After the supposed sit-down with Castellano, Eppolito's wife, Fran, noticed differences in her husband's personality. Suddenly he acquired Italian mannerisms he had not displayed before, she said in Mafia Cop, describing his interactions with Caracappa. "The talking with the hands. The drinking of the double espressos. Salud-ing each other to death after every sip. And now Louie was starting to kiss everybody on the cheek." Eppolito said in Mafia Cop he no longer attached much importance to his job as a police officer. The glances and suspicions of other cops were too insulting. He was a different person, he said, no longer a cop, at least not in spirit. Eppolito wrote that he had come to inhabit a "moral twilight zone."


Increasingly in the thrall of the mafia, Eppolito started to use mob methods in his police work in the Six-Two. When a wiseguy named Frankie Carbone, wanted for breaking his wife's jaw, insulted and threatened Eppolito, the detective reacted instinctively, Mafia Cop related. Eppolito wrote that he fetched his sawed-off shotgun from his locker -- the possession of which was itself a federal offense -- and hunted Carbone down. Eppolito found him in a mafia social club on 18th Avenue. He walked over to Carbone's table and stuck the barrels of the sawed-off shotgun in his mouth and ordered him to his feet. "Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be my father," Eppolito wrote. "I was walking like a wiseguy. I was talking like a wiseguy. The power surge was comparable to what I had felt, at times, as a cop, yet somehow different. As if the police worked on the AC current, and the Mafia on the DC."

Eppolito described with relish how he'd convincingly played the role of a professional hit man.

He wrote that he instructed Carbone to report to the precinct house the next day. He explained the consequences if Carbone failed to comply: "First I'm going to throw you in the trunk of a fucking car. And then I'm going to blow your fucking brains out." As brazen as ever, Eppolito described how he would leave the body in the car near the precinct, giving it enough time to "get ripe." He would come back two days later and anonymously report a foul odor emanating from the car, and assured Carbone, "When I get to work, guess whose job it's going to be to find out who killed you?"

Over the years Eppolito worked forty organized crime homicides, by his own estimate. He allowed -- "and this is a terrible knock on me" -- that he didn't work particularly hard when a mobster turned up dead. One example of this cavalier attitude that Eppolito did not include in Mafia Cop involved the murder of a drug dealer named Frank Fiala. At approximately 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 27, 1982, Fiala was shot on the street in front of the Plaza Suite, a popular discotheque in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. The Plaza Suite was owned by a corporation called Enjoy Yourself Inc., controlled by Sammy the Bull Gravano. The Plaza club was a large and thriving establishment, with five thousand square feet and a long bar lined with neighborhood wiseguys and party girls. On Saturday nights, Gravano featured live acts like Chubby Checker and the Four Tops. In the spring of that year, Gravano was approached by Fiala, a Czech who flaunted his wealth. Fiala said he wanted to throw himself a birthday party for three hundred guests. Fiala didn't know who Gravano "was." Fiala said he wanted no expense spared for his thirty-seventh birthday.

"Fiala thought he was a big shot, with mob connections. He was a coke dealer and a killer. He had murdered a couple of rival dealers -- not just them but their entire families. He wrote a check to Gravano for thirty grand. The day of the party his check bounced. The party was a fiasco. Only eighty people turned up. Fiala had two blondes shave his head on the dance floor. Everyone was snorting cocaine. Thousands of dollars' worth of Chinese food was delivered and the crowd made a mess of Gravano's place -- his pride and joy. When Fiala started dancing Gravano saw that he was packing a piece in his belt, another stupid move around a wiseguy. Gravano demanded Fiala leave. Words were exchanged and Fiala left. It seemed over."

In Underboss, Gravano's biography, Sammy the Bull told what happened next. First, Fiala offered Gravano $1 million to buy the Plaza Suite, $100,000 cash as a down payment, with $650,000 in gold bullion under the table, tax-free for Gravano. The price was preposterously high, and irresistible for Gravano. The deal was struck. As part of Fiala's pattern of conspicuous consumption -- Rolls- Royces, yachts, two private airplanes -- he owned a helicopter. Fiala started to fly over other nightclubs in Brooklyn at night hanging out the side with a bullhorn yelling at the people below to come to the Plaza Suite. The owners of the other clubs, also wiseguys, were not amused. Before the transaction was finalized, Fiala set up his headquarters in Gravano's office. Sammy the Bull stormed into the office to confront Fiala, who sat at Gravano's desk, flanked by snarling Doberman pinschers, Uzi in hand. "You fucking greaseballs, you do things my way," Fiala said to Gravano. "You think you're so tough. The Colombians are really tough. The Colombians fucked with me and I took them out. You greaseballs are nothing." Gravano was certain he was about to be killed -- but Fiala didn't fire. Gravano thought, "If somebody's going to shoot you, he don't talk about it."

Later that night, Fiala exited the Plaza Suite surrounded by his entourage. He walked along 86th Street, kitty-corner to the place where Oldham would wait to apprehend Fat Larry Barnao a decade later. That night, the sidewalks were filled with people out clubbing. Gravano appeared out of the darkness. "Hey, Frank, how you doing?" he asked. One of Gravano's button men shot Fiala once in the head. Pandemonium erupted as hundreds of night-lifers ran for cover. Gravano's man stood over Fiala, bent down, placed his gun to his left eye, and fired. Then he placed the gun to his right eye and pulled the trigger. Gravano walked up to Fiala's body and spat on him. In Underboss, Gravano wrote that there was no doubt the entire neighborhood knew he was behind the murder.

Detective Eppolito was assigned to investigate the homicide. Press reports quoted him. "It was a methodic execution," Eppolito said. "Admitting that they had no definitive leads," Gravano said in Underboss, "detectives were reduced to saying that Fiala's murder was carried out very professionally." But Gravano omitted the true reason he was never charged for Fiala's murder. As he told the FBI when he flipped in 1991, Gravano paid the NYPD detective investigating Fiala's murder five thousand dollars to make the case "go away."

Oldham said, "The name of that detective was Louie Eppolito. Eppolito had solicited the payment in return for burying the case. It would not have been particularly difficult to let a murder file like Fiala's slip. Fiala was a coke-dealing moron on a suicide mission. Dead criminals littered the streets of the Six-Two at the time. Eppolito and detectives of the Six-Two never made a collar in the murder of Frankie Fiala. In the early eighties, there were dozens of OC homicides slowly cooling, turning from open cases to cold cases."


Mafia Cop concluded with Eppolito's version of an event that had brought the contradictions inherent in Eppolito's worldviews to a head. According to his self-portrait, after he had become a police officer his loyalties had shifted back and forth between the two brotherhoods to which he belonged: the police and the mafia. But in the fall of 1984, while Eppolito was working in the Six-Two, an NYPD administrative trial decided the matter for good.

The trial stemmed from a discovery made during an FBI raid on a mobster's house in New Jersey in 1984. Rosario Gambino, nephew of boss Carlo Gambino, had been conspiring to sell forty kilograms of heroin. Unknown to Gambino, his customer was an FBI undercover agent. As agents searched the house, an NYPD Intelligence Division file was discovered -- a serious breach in security. The file had been created by the NYPD's Organized Crime Monitoring Unit. It related to the investigation of Rosario Gambino, intelligence that the mobster should never have possessed. The FBI took the file and processed the pages for fingerprints. "Fingerprints are the product of sweat on fingertips. They can't be lifted from paper -- they can only be revealed. At the time, the procedure was to place the document in a glass bell jar. It was then fumed with a chemical called ninhydrin. In this manner it became possible to observe or photograph the prints as they appeared on the paper. The upside of the process was you got to see the fingerprints. The downside was that it destroyed the original document."

When the FBI ran the latent prints from the documents, they matched Detective Eppolito's police department prints. FBI supervisors then met with NYPD Internal Affairs commanders to inform them of the identification of Eppolito's prints on the documents discovered in Rosario Gambino's house. No criminal charges were filed but Eppolito was brought up on departmental charges and suspended without pay. A trial date was set.

Within days, word of the case leaked from headquarters and then appeared in the news. Detective Caracappa was working in the Major Case Squad at the time. An early riser, always the first to work, Caracappa called Eppolito at seven o'clock on the morning the newspaper article ran. Eppolito had no idea that the story of his fingerprints on Gambino's police files had gotten out. "It's going to be a tough day, Louie, a tough weekend," Caracappa warned. "Just get the Daily News."

Eppolito fetched the paper. "Mob Big Got Data from Cop," the headline in the Daily News said. The article reported that a veteran NYPD detective had passed intelligence reports to Rosario Gambino. The detective in question was not named but Eppolito was convinced the rumor mill in the NYPD -- a "huge hen party," in Eppolito's words -- meant every cop in the city would soon know he was the suspect in question.

"I knew my life as I had known it was over," Eppolito wrote.

In Mafia Cop Eppolito wrote that a Greek proverb came to his mind as he read the story: "It is the sins we don't commit that we regret." Eppolito thought to himself that perhaps he should have joined the mafia, instead of the NYPD, as a young man.

Despite the irrefutable fingerprint evidence, Eppolito protested his innocence to department investigators. Detective Caracappa was no longer partnered with Eppolito but he visited him frequently. The way to beat the rap, Caracappa counseled his old partner, was to lie low and play it cool and see how things played out. Getting a guilty verdict was more difficult than many people understood. Predictably, the story of Eppolito's connivance with Rosario Gambino quickly spread through the force. Eppolito was isolated from his former comrades. With his pay suspended, he was running out of money -- a financial crisis that deepened his resentment of the force. Before long, Eppolito wrote, opportunities in organized crime began to present themselves. Eppolito's cousin Frank Santora ran a crew in Brooklyn. A wiseguy named Red Calder belonged to Santora's outfit. Calder offered Eppolito five hundred dollars a week, tax-free, to drive a dump truck for him in Long Island where Lucheses controlled a cartel of garbage companies. A former NYPD detective named Bart Rivieccio offered to help Eppolito make unimaginable sums of money, Eppolito claimed. Like Eppolito, Rivieccio was suspected by many fellow officers of being connected to the mafia -- suspicions borne out when Rivieccio was convicted of bank fraud months later.

Mafia Cop recited Eppolito's mounting indignities, from the insulting prospect of working at Toys 'R' Us to taking handouts from friends. On one occasion his son, Tony, found the former bodybuilder once nicknamed "Atlas" in his bathrobe sobbing uncontrollably. "Ten-thirteen" was the radio code for "officer down." It was also the term used inside the force for fund-raisers held to assist cops who found themselves in dire straits. Divorce and illness were often the cause, but occasionally 10-13s were held for a police officer who was the subject of an internal investigation and needed to pay for legal representation. Eppolito's 10-13 was held at Bay Ridge Manor, a Brooklyn catering hall in the Six-Two. Admission was ten dollars, with a cash bar and music from a doo-wop cop band called the Capris. Shunned by many in the force because of his deep roots in organized crime and the revelation of the Gambino connection, Eppolito expected a poor turnout. More than five hundred people attended, including lieutenants, captains, and fellow detectives. In one night, the "Louie Eppolito Defense Fund" netted nearly nine thousand dollars.

"Camaraderie among cops was strong, particularly when Internal Affairs got involved. The presumption of innocence had a different slant for police officers facing an investigation by other cops. Everyone hated cops who went after other cops. Every cop knew they could find themselves in trouble someday. We called it 'white socks-ing.' It meant that once Internal Affairs came after you, guilty or innocent, they were going to find something to charge you with -- even if it was wearing white socks with your uniform. In Eppolito's case, no one trusted the FBI, for good reason. Being a member of the force was about mutual support, financial and moral, and the sense that it was us against them."

The last chapters of Mafia Cop offered a detailed account of Eppolito's administrative trial before Deputy Commissioner for Trials Hugh Mo. In Eppolito's telling, he was exonerated of all charges. He admitted handling the file found in Gambino's house. With the fingerprint match there was no way to deny that fact. The reason he was found not guilty, Eppolito wrote, was that the document with his fingerprints on it was a photocopy, not the original. "Bingo," Eppolito wrote.

Oldham begged to differ. "The point was that the fingerprint was authentic and original, not the document. The only way to capture Eppolito's fingerprint on that document was for him to handle the document. Eppolito's argument didn't hold water to me. It was tricky to think about, the kind of thing detectives like rolling around in their head. How do you get latent fingerprints from a document? Does a photocopier capture fingerprints on the original and transfer them to the copy? Does it matter if the document was the original or not? Eppolito had a long, contorted explanation for how his fingerprints had magically appeared on a police department intelligence document found in a Gambino's house. I wasn't buying it."

Departmental trials were not sophisticated affairs, Oldham knew. A hearing in front of a deputy commissioner like Hugh Mo wasn't like the supreme court. In Eppolito's case all of the evidence had been stipulated to. In legal terms, it meant that both sides agreed to the facts in the case. There was no way to enter evidence -- or even question evidence. The only matter at issue was the interpretation of the facts. The difference between a photocopy and original had introduced confusion and doubt into the proceedings, it seemed to Oldham. The FBI was not present for the hearing to describe the effect of ninhydrin -- how the chemical had destroyed the original document found in the raid, so it was impossible to enter the original in evidence. There was no fingerprint expert called to testify about lifting latent prints. Once the facts were stipulated, nothing could be expanded upon or contradicted. "The charges against Eppolito were found to be unsubstantiated. Eppolito was 'not guilty,' which was not the same thing as innocent. The waters were muddied enough for Mo to refuse to dismiss Eppolito. Reading Mafia Cop I couldn't figure how Eppolito was not fired on the spot. He was either lucky or smart or connected -- or all three."

The day after the hearing, Eppolito wrote, he went to see Chief of Detectives Richard NiCastro. Eppolito was carrying his scrapbook, with newspaper clips of his exploits glued to the pages. He was determined to be restored to his previous assignment in the Six-Two, to clear his name and resume his work in the neighborhood he knew so well. Chief NiCastro was just as determined to keep Eppolito away from the Six-Two. Unimpressed by Eppolito's scrapbook and his claim to be the eleventh most decorated cop in the history of the NYPD, Chief NiCastro declared that Eppolito would never be sent back to the Six-Two. "I know all about you," NiCastro said to Eppolito, pushing his finger into his chest. "Your kind, and your family. I knew your father real well from Grand Avenue."

Filled with righteous indignation, Eppolito threatened to smash the chief's face flat. "I told him he didn't know my father. The only cops who knew my old man from Grand Avenue were the cops he was paying off." In sum, Eppolito offered the reason he had been persecuted by the police. "The main purpose of the entire affair was to shitcan me," Eppolito wrote. "Why? I guess the name Eppolito was enough."

Eppolito served nearly five more years in the NYPD. He never returned to the Six-Two but a compromise was struck. He was assigned to the Six-Three, the next precinct over and another mafia neighborhood. Eppolito described himself as a "bitter man." He filed a $5 million defamation suit against the NYPD, an action that went nowhere in court. Eppolito's remaining time in the NYPD was seemingly uneventful. He appeared to be waiting for the day he could retire, like many disgruntled cops have in the past. The only surprise occurred in 1988, when Eppolito was promoted to detective, second grade. "Eppolito averaged barely one arrest a year in the Six-Three -- a total that put him in the extreme low end of arrest rates in the city. It was a pitiful record. By his own admission, Eppolito wasn't a cop anymore. He had sworn to get revenge. The force had treated him badly. He wrote that he had taken out a blood vendetta against the NYPD. It was curious that he was promoted to second grade. Eppolito had to have a powerful hook somewhere in headquarters."

In 1989, while on a stakeout in Manhattan, Eppolito wrote, a Hollywood casting director spotted him and was struck by how precisely the cop looked like a stereotypical New York mobster. The casting director introduced Eppolito to Martin Scorsese, the movie director. "On the spot, Scorsese hired the son of Fat the Gangster to portray, ironically, the Gambino family capo Angelo Ruggiero in the movie Goodfellas," Mafia Cop reported. The part had no lines but Detective Eppolito played a mobster, dressed in an expensive suit, grinning as the camera panned the mob bosses assembled in a New York nightclub; Eppolito's wife, Fran, also appeared as an extra dressed as a mobster's wife. During the shoot, Eppolito wrote, he became friendly with the movie's star, Robert De Niro. On the set the actor invited Detective Eppolito to his trailer for meals in exchange for tips on how to act like a mobster. Eppolito said pretending to be a wiseguy was simple. Live your life according to a code: honor and loyalty. "As frightening as it may sound," Eppolito wrote, "I found more loyalty, more honor, in the wiseguy neighborhoods and hangouts than I did in police headquarters. The bad guys respected Louie Eppolito. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the good guys."

"Eppolito retired in 1990 and pursued a career in acting," said Oldham. "It made sense. He had been acting the entire time he was a cop. Soon after Mafia Cop was published, Caracappa retired from the police department. It had to be because of the book. His best friend had publicly cast his lot with the mafia. At that point Eppolito had retired and Internal Affairs only investigates active members of the service, so they wouldn't be setting up on Louie. Caracappa was a different story and he had to know it. Internal Affairs would almost certainly want to know more about a first-grade detective in the OCHU who'd had his picture featured prominently in a book celebrating organized crime. Caracappa had become a lightning rod. Once Internal Affairs launched an investigation, Caracappa would not be permitted to retire until the investigation was concluded and closed. This practice stopped cops caught under the microscope from taking their pensions and running before they got caught. Caracappa managed to get out before an investigation began. I watched his hasty exit with interest. There was a retirement party attended by most of the big-name guys in Major Case. I did not go. Soon after I took a pair of scissors and clipped the picture of Caracappa and Eppolito from Mafia Cop and slipped it into my desk drawer."
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:44 am



The publication of Mafia Cop in the spring of 1992 caused a commotion in the NYPD, but did not trigger an official investigation. Eppolito was retired from the force and Internal Affairs did not start cases against former officers who were no longer members of the service. But Oldham's curiosity was piqued. He found himself brooding on the book's bizarre mix of braggadoccio, fantasy, falsehood, and naked confession. Mafia Cop took as its subject the relationship between the NYPD and the mafia. Incredibly, Eppolito preferred the moral code of organized crime to that of law enforcement, a perspective that was not only perverse -- it suggested a deeper connection to the ways the mafia had infiltrated the police department. "As a detective in the Six-Two and Six-Three, Eppolito was on the frontlines of the war against organized crime," Oldham recalled. "As the best friend of Stephen Caracappa, Eppolito potentially had access to the most sensitive intelligence we possessed. It seemed to me that Eppolito had left the most interesting material out of Mafia Cop. What did a malcontent like Eppolito do for the last five years he was in the force? Those years weren't mentioned once. All the lies in the book made me wonder what the truth was about Eppolito and Caracappa and the 'Godfathers of the NYPD.'''

Early in 1993, the arrest of Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso began the process that revealed the secrets Eppolito had omitted from his memoir. On the morning of January 19, Casso rose late and had a shower. He was living in a spacious split-level house set back on a wooded parcel on Waterloo Road near Budd Lake in Mount Olive Township, New Jersey, a quiet suburb fifty miles from New York City. The sightlines of neighbors were obscured by shrubbery and landscaping. The house was owned by Rose Marie Billotti, Casso's high school sweetheart, purchased with a down payment of $100,000 in cash. Casso and his girlfriend lived reclusively. The house was lavishly appointed, with another $100,000 worth of renovations completed to ensure Casso was comfortable in his hideout: swimming pool, decks, hot tub.

Casso had been on the run for thirty-three months, acting with the same audacity as a fugitive as he had when he was free to roam the streets of Brooklyn. He was one of the country's most wanted outlaws, but he was little known to the general public. Inside the universe of organized crime -- both mafia and law enforcement -- he had a fearsome reputation. The Luchese underboss was rich, ruthless, and extremely dangerous. "Casso was Moby Dick for federal prosecutors -- the great white whale. Cops postponed their retirements to nab him. Mob killers like Fat Pete Chiodo and Little Al D'Arco and Sammy the Bull Gravano were terrified of Casso. When Gravano flipped the only person he said he wouldn't testify against was Casso. No one wanted to take the stand against Gaspipe Casso. No one in the mob knew the reach of his power. No one in law enforcement knew the reach of his power. The man was a force of nature."

For the FBI, Casso represented a profound embarrassment. For nearly three years he had stalked the tristate area, killing rivals, running Luchese rackets, and making hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials appear foolish. Back in New York City the mob was being destroyed in humiliating and public fashion. Luchese boss Vic Amuso had been found guilty of dozens of RICO counts. The convictions of John Gotti and Victor arena, leader of the one of the warring Colombo factions, had also been secured in the previous year. Casso was a particularly important piece of unfinished business. His orchestration of the attempt on the life of Fat Pete Chiodo and the shooting of Chiodo's sister made it clear that no Chiodo was safe while Casso eluded capture. "Turning yourself in had become a viable option for mobsters trapped between the homicidal paranoia of Casso's generation of mob bosses and other wiseguys ratting. The mafia was imploding. There was no escape for wiseguys -- no one to trust, nowhere to hide. Casso was the exception to the rule."

That January morning, a twenty-five-man SWAT team waited until Rose Marie Billotti drove away in her Jeep Cherokee. They surrounded the house and entered using a battering ram, prepared for the worst. Armed to the teeth and wearing black combat fatigues, they screamed "FBI" and spread to the four corners of the house, weapons drawn. Casso appeared in the stairway, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist and a pair of glasses. "Casso was taken completely by surprise. It was a situation he had not encountered before. For once his source inside the NYPD had let him down. Gaspipe Casso was no longer the omniscient gangster who anticipated every move we made. He was naked to the world -- another casualty in the war."

Agents searched the house and found a rifle, a machine gun, and briefcases containing more than $250,000 in cash. Casso had three sets of false identification. He had a stack of FBI files, including the proffers of wiseguys like Chiodo and D'Arco, which were extensive and, at the time, highly sensitive. This was a staggering discovery. Many of the people named in the statements were still on the street -- including Casso himself. In the wrong hands -- in Casso's hands -- the FBI files provided motive for murder. It seemed to the FBI that Casso had possessed an uncanny ability to obtain sensitive information. They didn't know how.

Inside the New York City law enforcement community, Casso's capture was met with jubilation. Casso had been caught as a result of good fortune and excellent detective work. The pay phone system he had utilized for maintaining contact with his underlings had worked well for many months. Tracking Casso was impossible because there was no way to know in advance which pay phone to watch. "Lady luck smiled on us when a sharp investigator in the Brooklyn DA's Office noticed a pattern in the calls received by a high-ranking Luchese, Frank Lastorino. Brooklyn DA investigators traced the calls to a cellular tower an hour north of the city -- Mount Olive Township, New Jersey. There was a good chance Lastorino was talking to Casso, Brooklyn DA investigators believed. It was a major breakthrough. The story took a typical twist in New York City law enforcement turf battles. The DA notified the FBI. The FBI rushed to make the bust and took the credit. Classic FBI."

The arrest of Gaspipe Casso captured the attention of the press. "Flushed-out Fugitive" was the headline of mob reporter Jerry Capeci's article the next day in the Daily News. "Another day, another don," James Fox, the head of the FBI in New York, was quoted saying. Recalled Oldham, "As Casso was cuffed and taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City to await trail, we had a laundry list of crimes with which to charge him. Murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder. Now we had Casso and Amuso and Chiodo and D'Arco. Everyone in Major Case knew it was a huge breakthrough."

Gaspipe Casso would be doomed, it appeared, to spend the rest of his life in a prison cell, replaying his life story over and over against the wall of his cell. It was a story that mirrored the rise and fall of the mafia in the second half of the twentieth century. In Casso, the traits of the archetypal Brooklyn mobster achieved a monstrous zenith. He was violent, amoral, deceptive -- the personification of evil. Casso was no rat but everyone knew if he were to cooperate he would bring down the house.


Where does such a man come from? At the time of Casso's arrest, much was known about him but much more was not known. He was born in 1942, the youngest of three children and the son of a longshoreman on the waterfront of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Casso's street nickname "Gaspipe" was said to have a number of possible origins. Some speculated his father worked for the gas company, others that Casso had murdered a man in a gas station. The true story was that it came from his father, an enforcer for the Genovese family on the docks of New York during the era in the fifties dramatized in the film On the Waterfront. The mob preyed on the immigrant working poor who loaded and unloaded ships in the vast yards along the Brooklyn shore. Gaspipe was the elder Casso's dockhand name because it was his preferred weapon to use against wayward or noncompliant union members. "Many mobsters spent their lives trying to keep their sons out of 'the life.' They knew too well the price paid for belonging to the mafia. But many others groomed their boys in the family business. In the Luchese family in the early nineties, virtually every crew had a kid apprenticing with the mob while his old man sat in a federal penitentiary doing time. In a lot of cases cautionary tales didn't take. Gaspipe Casso the elder wasn't a made guy but he knew the life and his legacy to his son was an aspiration to join the mob. Father to son, the mafia was passed along like a poisoned chalice.

"Psychology books are packed with studies of the personality traits of men like Gaspipe Casso. They often possess a superficial charm and above-average intelligence. They rise to the top of large organizations, even nations. They usually aren't obviously irrational, at least at the beginning. They are shameless liars, as long as the lie serves their purposes. Among their characteristics are glibness, lack of empathy, an inability to accept responsibility or recognize the impact of their behavior on others -- the things that make a narcissist. Casso had a short attention span. He couldn't make a long-term plan that had any realistic chance of actually happening."

As a young criminal, Casso showed great versatility, as if he had been genetically engineered to fit into the burgeoning enterprise of organized crime. He was reared near the Gowanus Canal, in an industrial area near the now gentrified neighborhoods of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. Brooklyn was one of the five boroughs of New York City but it was also a city unto itself. The borough had a largely immigrant population of nearly three million and enjoyed the self-image as the land of new beginnings. Prospect Park, a five-hundred-acre public park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the late nineteenth century after they had completed Central Park, was the heart of the borough for teenagers. "Brawls, drinking, sex, it all went on in Prospect Park. Cops were jumped by gangs. Women were raped. Teenagers ran wild in the fifties and sixties -- the original wilding."

Like young Louis Eppolito, who grew up on the other side of the park in Pigtown around the same time, Casso got caught up in gang violence from an early age. Like Eppolito, Casso's first job was working in a pizzeria. Like Eppolito, he conspired with teen gangsters to help move zip guns and switch blades around the area in pizza boxes when there were brawls coming up, or the police were trying to disarm the gangs. Eppolito and Casso were both the children of organized criminals who had to learn how to navigate the streets during a time when the mafia was making the choices they faced stark.

As a teenager Casso ran with a gang called the South Brooklyn Boys. He owned a .22 rifle, equipped with a silencer, which he used to shoot hawks that were hunting the homing pigeons housed and trained on the roofs of many apartment buildings at the time. Casso was such an expert shot he was hired to gun down birds preying on the prized pigeons. A high school dropout, Casso quickly graduated from street thug to organized criminal. Working as a longshoreman in Red Hook in the early sixties, Casso met Luchese capo Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari. Casso's father was "with" the Genovese, a term used on the street to indicate mob affiliation of people associated with a family. Despite such an association, it was not uncommon for the son of a mobster to take up with another crime family. Affiliations occurred through a combination of chance and circumstance and so it was with Casso.

In the summer of 1965, Casso was in his early twenties when he learned firsthand how entwined the worlds of crime and law enforcement were. As Casso was driving his car through the streets of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, he saw a man trying to wrestle a baby from the arms of a young woman. Casso pulled over and intervened on the woman's behalf. Casso recognized the man from the neighborhood as a local junkie. A fight ensued. The woman ran into a nearby house with the baby. Casso told the junkie he knew the woman, warning him off. The matter was over.

The next day Casso was at the 19th Hole when a friend told him two brothers were looking for him. The two men were carrying sawed-off shotguns in a bag. Casso grabbed a long-barreled .38 revolver he kept stashed in the kitchen of the 19th Hole and went in search of the two brothers, to no avail. The following day, Casso went to the junkie's house on Carroll Street just off Brooklyn's 5th Avenue. Casso held a tiny .25 handgun hidden in his palm. As he arrived, Casso heard a voice coming from above. An older man Casso recognized from card games at the local Democratic Party Club rooms was calling to Casso. The man said he was the father of the man Casso had fought. As they talked, the junkie approached along the sidewalk cursing at Casso. Casso spoke calmly and attempted to reason with the junkie. The junkie reached for a gun he had shoved in his belt. Casso started to wrestle with the junkie. Unable to disarm the man, Casso shot him with the .25.

Fearing arrest, Casso hid out for four months. In the fall of 1965 Christy Tick Furnari, the Luchese captain who had shown an interest in Casso's promise as a mobster, tried to reach a deal that would enable Casso to avoid prosecution. The junkie was hospitalized in critical condition but he was recovering and he and his father would be able to identify Casso. Trial and conviction would quickly follow. If Casso was to return to the streets of Brooklyn the shooting incident needed to be forgotten. Furnari contacted an NYPD precinct detective. The detective was known to Casso and his friends for a scam he ran: the detective confiscated burglary tools from Casso and the others and then sold the tools back to them. He was the kind of crooked cop who might find an accommodation. Furnari asked the detective what it would take to make Casso's problem disappear. The detective said he wanted $50,000 to "fix" the case.

"Fifty grand was a huge amount of money in those days. The annual salary for a detective was less than ten thousand dollars. Normally a low-level thug like Casso would have a hard time raising that kind of money. But Casso was a comer. The Genovese family offered to lend Casso the cash. The Lucheses were interested too. Christy Tick told Casso that would mean the Genovese would have a claim to Casso when he was 'made.' Furnari wanted Casso to be a Luchese in the 19th Hole Crew. Young Gaspipe was like a budding baseball prospect with a ninety-five-mile-an-hour fastball -- teams were bidding for his services. Furnari offered to provide the money Casso needed."

The detective arranged for Casso to come into the precinct for a lineup. As agreed, the junkie's father didn't ID Casso. But then the detective overplayed his hand. He started telling the father he could be charged for falsely naming Casso in the report of the shooting. He was showing off for the other detectives, making sure there was no suspicion he was brokering a deal between Casso and the junkie's family. The father wasn't amused. He changed his mind and fingered Casso. Gaspipe Casso was placed under arrest. The deal was falling apart, with Casso facing serious jail time, if something wasn't done quickly. "When Furnari found out what happened he sent word to a relative of the junkie's. The shooting should be forgotten, Furnari said. Casso was only trying to stop the junkie from stealing a baby. The junkie had it coming. Casso was willing to pay fifteen grand in restitution. The hatchet had to be buried -- but not in Casso's back. Casso appeared in court. The junkie said he didn't recognize him. The charges were dismissed. Casso had learned how pliant the law could be. Having someone inside the police department was invaluable. "


The fact that the 19th Hole was the setting for the beginning of Casso's troubles would not have surprised anyone who knew the neighborhood in the seventies. A small nondescript bar at a nondescript corner in Bensonhurst near the Dyker Heights golf course, it was on a block of low-rise commercial buildings including a Chinese restaurant and an American Legion hall. Across the street stood the Scarpaci Funeral Home. Joe Colombo sold Chevrolets a few blocks away along 86th Street as a front for his illegal activities. Inconspicuous to those not in the know, the 19th Hole was a major meeting spot. The neighborhood was busy, with a lot of foot traffic, making it difficult for an observer to keep track of the comings and goings of wiseguys. The area was 99 percent Italian. Lucheses were at the club every day, conducting business among themselves, receiving members of other families, and lubricating relations with food and drink.

Salvatore "Big Sal" Miciotta, once a Colombo capo and today living under an assumed identity in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Midwest, knew the 19th Hole and Gaspipe Casso well.

As a cooperator Big Sal had a mixed record. As an expert on the inner workings of the mafia, his knowledge was unparalleled. The 19th Hole was a regular stop for him. "In the front it was regular bar and grill," Miciotta said. "Wiseguys and knockaround guys and mob wannabes drank there. Real business was conducted out of sight. In the back there were tables and chairs laid out like a restaurant. It was where sit-downs were held. I went there with a beef a number of times. Usually it was about my shylock customers who weren't paying and claimed they were 'around' Christy, which meant I was supposed to leave them alone, violence-wise. A lot of decisions about the painters union were reached in the back of the 19th Hole. I had a spray painter who had a problem with Jimmy Bishop about using nonunion labor. Christy let us finish the jobs that we had open but then we had to stop because it was creating problems.

"I met Casso in the mid-seventies, when I got made," Miciotta said. "The bosses would talk in the back. I would sit in the front talking to Anthony. Casso was short, a little funny-looking. His nose was pointy, his hair was black and slicked back and greasy. He was afflicted with the Napoleon complex -- he had to portray himself as a tough guy. Casso was usually the first guy to resort to violence. He dressed well, shirt and tie, clean-shaven like everyone else. The 19th Hole was dingy with a couple of televisions blaring all the time. Casso smoked cigarettes, had a few drinks. He had an attitude, constantly demanding respect. He talked fast, like a con man. The bad thing about him -- his undoing -- was that he thought he was smarter than everyone else.

"Casso dropped out of high school at sixteen but that didn't mean he wasn't educated. The 19th Hole was the Yale University of crime. In the Colombo family, we had our own institution of higher learning in a bar called The Diplomat over at 3rd Avenue and Carroll Street. Our place was like Harvard meets the Wild West. If you walked in with a problem, chances were you weren't walking out. But if you knew how to handle yourself, and you were one of the lucky few who got in -- either on your own merit or because you were a legacy -- you learned a lot. The five families were like the Ivy League. There were many imitators -- guys who dressed like us, talked like us, acted like us. Brooklyn was filled with wannabes. Polacks, Jews, Italian guys who didn't get the tap. If you were the real thing you learned at the feet of master criminals. Casso's professors were guys with names like Benny 'Squint' Lombardo -- he was called that because he had one eye. Joe 'Porkhead' Monteleone had a head like a pig. Joe 'Black' Gorgone was an expert in the ways of 'the black hand.' Those guys really knew about 'this life.' Every day was a rolling seminar. But you had to be careful as you learned. You didn't get a second chance, and you couldn't make a mistake. A lot of guys never got out of their freshman year. Not many made the honor roll.

"Courses included History -- how and why Albert Anastasia got whacked in a barber shop in midtown Manhattan while he was getting a shave. Economics class gave an overview of techniques for extortion, shylocking, bankrolling a gambling business. Assessing a potential client's creditworthiness was important, but so was assessing his susceptibility to pressure if he was broke or tried to welch. In Social Studies we learned there were three branches of government. The executive was the boss. The judicial was the Commission. The legislative branch was enforcing the laws -- and that was done by enforcers like me and Casso. There was an anatomy lab in the room in the back of the 19th Hole where a candidate learned pain points and how to chop up a body. We were taught where to shoot him, where to stab him, how to stab a guy in the lungs so when you threw him in the water he didn't float.

"The only second language offered in cosa nostra was Sicilian. Amigo nostra was 'friend of ours,' which was what you said when you introduced a member to a member. Curse words were like a kind of punctuation, which most guys had down to a fine art. Gombata was the guy who stood up for you. He baptized your kid, was your best man, supposedly took care of your family if you went away. Gavoona was a slob, a dope, an idiot -- and there were a lot of them at the 19th Hole. Conooda was the worst thing you could call another guy. He was a disgrace, the kind whose wife was sleeping with another man and he did nothing about it. Malendrina was the best thing you could call another mobster. It meant tough guy. It meant bad man.

"Politics in the mafia was a deadly game. If you made a mistake you didn't lose an election -- you lost your life. Protocol had to be strictly followed. If you went around your captain you were in a lot of trouble. He might not kill you immediately but three months down the line you were dead. If you talked badly about another guy all it meant was that you were the kind of guy who talked about other people -- and couldn't be trusted. The guys who were going to make it to the finish line -- the guys who were going to make it to a ripe old age -- learned to watch for patterns of behavior. If a guy drank too much, used drugs, womanized, it was a character flaw. Everything had to be watched and then you set your course according to the observations you made. A lot of guys didn't have the cognizance to even think about things, but it was a very serious game.

"No subject received closer attention in the mafia than the inner workings of law enforcement. The ramifications of certain kinds of crime were studied. Federal crimes like counterfeit money and drugs were to be avoided. The rule was not to deal drugs, but pretty much everyone dealt drugs. There were a lot of contradictions. You weren't supposed to have dealings with the police but most wiseguys had connections inside the NYPD. Wiseguys would have a local precinct cop who could squash a bullshit charge like a traffic ticket or fireworks possession. It had to be within the 'reach.' It had to be at the level where they could rip up the paper and be done with it. They didn't have to talk to the DA, or the desk sergeant. As far as cops went, you never knew when you might need a favor. But if you were arrested you didn't say a word -- not even your name. The first thing you learned was omerta -- silence. Call your lawyer and we'll get you out of there. Learning the rules was a prerequisite for getting made. Before you were sponsored you had to learn what was expected in adverse situations.

"In them days there were a lot of dirty cops. Half of them seemed to have a price. But you treated them respectfully. You didn't want to create animosity. You wouldn't shoot a cop, same as you wouldn't shoot a newspaper reporter. Too much attention from the cops or the press was bad for business. Mob guys were tolerant of law enforcement, as long as the bosses weren't getting busted. At the street level the two societies coexisted. You didn't want to burn bridges. Most of us had family in the NYPD. I had a cousin who was a precinct detective in Brooklyn's Six-Three but I never asked him for anything. There was no reason to. Also I didn't trust him. I didn't believe in messing with cops because I figured it would get messy.

"Philosophy in the mafia amounted to an exploration of the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli. The mafia was formed by insubordinate Sicilian landowners, and the whole life -- the chain of command, the ethics, the ways of maintaining order -- came from the Italian monarchy. Man is greedy, cruel, deceitful -- so the belief went. Anthony Casso wasn't a book kind of wiseguy like I was, but he knew exactly what Machiavelli was talking about and conducted himself accordingly. In the mob, the ends justified the means -- and the end was money. That was the name of the game.

There is first to note that, whereas in other principalities the ambition of the nobles and the insolence of the people only have to be contended with, the Roman emperors had a third difficulty in having to put up with the cruelty and avarice of their soldiers, a matter so beset with difficulties that it was the ruin of many; for it was a hard thing to give satisfaction both to soldiers and people; because the people loved peace, and for this reason they loved the unaspiring prince, whilst the soldiers loved the warlike prince who was bold, cruel, and rapacious, which qualities they were quite willing he should exercise upon the people, so that they could get double pay and give vent to their own greed and cruelty. Hence it arose that those emperors were always overthrown who, either by birth or training, had no great authority, and most of them, especially those who came new to the principality, recognizing the difficulty of these two opposing humours, were inclined to give satisfaction to the soldiers, caring little about injuring the people. Which course was necessary, because, as princes cannot help being hated by someone, they ought, in the first place, to avoid being hated by every one, and when they cannot compass this, they ought to endeavour with the utmost diligence to avoid the hatred of the most powerful. Therefore, those emperors who through inexperience had need of special favour adhered more readily to the soldiers than to the people; a course which turned out advantageous to them or not, accordingly as the prince knew how to maintain authority over them.

-- The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli

Life is ESSENTIALLY appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of its own forms, incorporation and at least, putting it mildest, exploitation.

-- Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche

"But the most important thing about the 19th Hole wasn't what you learned. That wasn't as important as the people you met. Networks were established. Favors could be asked. Relationships were cemented. Hundreds of wannabes came through the doors of the 19th Hole every year hoping they would grab his attention. Casso got more than Christy Tick's attention. Christy Tick became his mentor. Gaspipe Casso was his prize pupil."


Seasoned mobsters in power needed to identify young talent. Membership in the five mafia families was closed in the fifties to protect against the dilution of the "purity" of the lineage of the mob, and to ensure that no one ratted on the organization. But over the years mobsters like Fat the Gangster Eppolito were killed or died of natural causes. The numbers became dangerously low by the early seventies. The Commission decided to "open the books" to a new generation of aspiring mobsters. The five families would be able to reward their young stars with a "button." It was at this time that Big Sal Miciotta was made by the Colombos, and Anthony Casso was made by the Lucheses.

With his understudy now officially in the mob, Christy Tick Furnari teamed Casso with Vic Amuso, a thug ten years older than Gaspipe. Amuso was taller than Casso and better looking but he too slicked back his dark hair and adopted a thuggish attitude. Together they looked like a formidable team. The pair ran a bookmaking operation and collected debts for Furnari. Casso was arrested numerous times but avoided conviction, apart from one $50 fine and five days in a city jail. The charges varied, reflecting the varied life of a gangster on the rise, including bookmaking and bribing a parole officer to secure the release of a friend. There was a lot of sitting around the 19th Hole trading gossip and trying to come up with angles. Anyone outside the organization was fair game, as in the ripoff of David Stein in the mid-seventies.

Oldham recalled, "Stein was a major drug dealer doing time. Stein was tight with the 19th Hole crew. He had a girlfriend who lived in Brooklyn. She was dealing drugs for Stein while he was away in prison. A canny Luchese found out she was holding a huge amount of money in a safe-deposit box for Stein. The girlfriend had an eighteen-year-old son who was dealing on the street. Casso decided to kidnap the kid and demand the cash from Stein's girlfriend as ransom.

"Casso was friendly with a drug dealer named Danny Miller. It happened that Miller had a connection inside the NYPD. The connection was relatively small-time." Miller's source was a cop in Chinatown. In return for money, the cop was willing to provide access to NYPD files. Miller obtained a police shield and handcuffs from the cop to use in the scheme the 19th Hole crew had cooked up. Impersonating a police officer, Miller pretended to arrest Stein's girlfriend's son as he was selling drugs in Brooklyn. "They forced the kid to call his mother and demand $2 million or he'd be killed. This was in the days before caller ID. She wasn't going to go to the cops. She wasn't going to protect Stein's money at the expense of her son. She was vulnerable.

"Desperate, she reached out to the most powerful people she knew -- Casso and his crew -- the ones who were ripping her off in the first place. Two Lucheses drove her to the bank where she took the money from a safe-deposit box. After coming out of the bank the kid's mother got another call from the supposedly mysterious kidnappers, who told her to drop the money in a suitcase at a hamburger joint. One of her escorts convinced Stein's girlfriend that he should spare her the danger of delivering the cash to her son's kidnappers. A real gentleman, he would take the money to the thugs himself. The distraught mother took the bait and she never saw the chivalrous Luchese pass the suitcase off to Casso. The boy was released. She was promised that the guys at the 19th Hole would do everything in their power to catch the low-down scoundrels who kidnapped her son. The circle was closed. The girlfriend got her son back. The 19th Hole crew got $2 million belonging to David Stein -- drug money he couldn't and wouldn't report stolen. No one was the wiser -- and Casso and the 19th Hole cut up two million bucks."

To be in "the life" Casso still had to prove he was willing to take a life. Once an aspirant like Casso had killed, not for personal reasons or as an act of passion but on the order of others, it was believed there was no way to turn back. "Murder was the point of no return. Killing forces a man to see himself in a new light -- morally and spiritually. No matter how much bullshit bravado there was about murder, taking a life has an impact on most people. You became a different person. They owned you."

In the mid-seventies Casso committed his first murder. The victim was a small-time drug dealer from Brighton Beach named Lee Schleifer, who was suspected of cooperating in the investigation of a large cocaine distribution network the Lucheses were running in Brooklyn. The hit was ordered by Christy Tick. Still in his early twenties, Schleifer had been kicked out of medical school for cheating. He was studying to be a pharmacist and worked on the side cutting cocaine. Schleifer was short and loudmouthed. Word got out that Schleifer was cooperating with the DEA. His death warrant had been signed.

To make sure the kill was clean, Casso needed to get Schleifer someplace safe and quiet. Casso had the kid brought to a Bonanno social club on 15th Avenue. On the day of the hit, Casso's fellow Lucheses went to the International House of Pancakes to wait while Casso "broke his cherry" with his first murder. The social club was simple -- a bar and a card table in a basement. It was snowing outside but Schleifer arrived dressed like a cowboy. "Probably stoned out of his mind. He had no idea about what was about to happen. He was forced to the ground and handcuffed. Casso pulled out a .22 handgun with a silencer and shot Schleifer. He was rolled up in a tarpaulin and lugged to the trunk of a car and dumped in a dead-end street near Avenue U -- by chance in front of the house of the mother of a Gambino capo."

Once Casso and Amuso were made, they were assigned to oversee the Bypass gang. Their job was to ensure that the Lucheses got their end of the millions that the burglary outfit was bringing in during the seventies and eighties. As a made member of the Lucheses, Casso quickly started making serious money from the various rackets and scams the family ran. But from the beginning, despite his newfound wealth, he lived a modest life in a working-class area in the Flatlands in Brooklyn. His wife, Lillian, opened a lingerie store. Casso portrayed himself as a sales representative for a construction company. The Cassos had two children. "From the outside the Cassos looked like any other Italian-American family trying to get ahead. Smart mobsters were discreet. To avoid attention from the Internal Revenue Service they didn't spend their money on property but on fixtures -- they bought modest houses befitting the blue-collar work they supposedly did and appointed them with marble floors, gold-plated faucets, the flashiest television on the market. They couldn't buy nice cars for tax reasons so they leased Cadillacs or Mercedes- Benzes, new, loaded with the extras. They ate at the best Italian restaurants and went gambling. It took imagination to spend all the money they made."

Open secrets about organized crime were commonplace in certain sections of Brooklyn and Staten Island. Everyone "knew" who was connected. Everyone "knew" who was a wiseguy, but no one talked to outsiders about it, if they knew what was good for them. No one talked to the police. No one testified in court. It was understood that cosa nostra was "our thing," as the Italian translated. "Justice was supposed to be available to the little guy. Traditions were supposed to be upheld. Honor protected. But the truth was that the so-called mafia 'code' was about money and control and ego. Regular people shook hands with the devil when they dealt with the mafia. The 'favors' they did for people always came with strings attached."

In the neighborhood Anthony Casso was "known" to be a man who could dispense such favors. When Casso's neighbor's daughter got date-raped by a controlling and jealous ex-boyfriend, the parents told Lillian Casso. Rejected by the girl, the boyfriend had then come to the house and menaced the family. They asked Lillian Casso if there was anything her husband could do about it. They knew who Casso was, without having to say it. Lillian told her husband. He went to see the neighbors and asked for a photograph of the guy. Casso could have had the kid beaten, or scared him away. That wasn't his style. Casso put a hit out on the kid. He gave the job to Fat Pete Chiodo. Two weeks later the kid was discovered shot in the back of the head sitting in his Camaro in Park Slope, Brooklyn. "The matter was never discussed between the Cassos and their neighbors. The problem was solved. The case was never closed by the NYPD. The family was now beholden to Casso."

In 1980, Christy Tick Furnari moved up the family hierarchy to become consigliere, counselor. Casso was offered Furnari's place as captain. The promotion was an honor in the mafia. As a capo he would be entitled to a piece of all the money brought in by the members of his crew. He would have increased authority. He would be on his way to bigger things inside the Lucheses. But Casso turned it down. He put Vic Amuso forward to be captain. "Casso wasn't interested in titles or rank. He was smart enough to know that it would only attract unwanted attention, from law enforcement and rival mobsters. Casso wanted power. He wanted money. But he didn't want to call attention to himself. He appeared to be an average guy. He sold construction materials. For law enforcement Casso was barely a blip on the radar screen, some flunkie hanging on the coattails of Christy Tick and Vic Amuso. But he was a major mafia mover, without question."

Big Sal Miciotta remembered Casso well from the early eighties. They saw each other often at the 19th Hole. Casso was happy and easy to get along with, Miciotta recalled. "At the time, Casso was a traditional kind of gangster. We all operated under the same rules -- even if they were broken half the time. The tradition went that murder in the mob was for honor, never for money or paranoid insecurities about suspected snitches or power plays. By the early eighties, I had killed a few guys. The first man I killed was named Scotty. He was just a street kid, nobody. I was ordered to whack him because he slapped a goodfella's brother. I thought maybe we should just break his legs, but it wasn't my call."

Like Anthony Casso, Big Sal Miciotta was part of the new generation. By 1983, he was beginning to thrive in "the life." He owned a pet store and newspaper stand on 86th Street to front for his shylocking business. Business was good for both men. Shortly after Miciotta had moved to Mill Basin, one of the best addresses for a wiseguy in Brooklyn, Casso moved in a few blocks away. "It was still a golden moment for the mafia. It was an era of opportunity. Once you were made you could move around and do almost anything you wanted. In the twenties, there was gold in the streets for the original gangsters: bootleg liquor, unions, drugs. No one had brought organized crime to America before. When me and Casso came up a lot of businesses were already taken and the openings were few. We did pretty good, but we didn't become millionaires. Casso was the exception. He was running drugs in huge volumes. He was tight with Christy Tick. He was rolling in cash."

During this time Miciotta was beginning to realize that life in the mob was filled with treachery. The contract to kill Colombo associate Larry "Champagne" Carrozza in 1983 was a case in point. "Larry was a nice young guy. Twenty-nine years old, two kids, not made yet but proposed as a member. He drank champagne everywhere he went. Then one day, out of nowhere, I'm told he's got to go. I was told he was sleeping with the sister of a wiseguy. Supposedly he was seen coming out of a motel on Long Island with her. Larry should have known better, if it was true. But what if the allegation was bullshit? I thought he should at least get the chance to defend himself. Put him in a basement, beat him, see what he said. Did anyone even ask the kid? I had no say in the matter. My wife was in labor at the time. They came and found me in the hospital waiting room. I was told the job had to be done immediately. I said, 'What it can't wait? Nobody else in this family can kill somebody no more?'

"Once I was given the piece of work, I wanted to do the shooting. If you're the shooter you got a gun so at least you know you're not going to get shot yourself. That was a real possibility in a job like this. Your own crew would cop a sneak on you. I had a .38 revolver. I cleaned the weapon and dry-fired it twice to make sure it didn't misfire. Most wiseguys didn't have a fucking clue what to do with a gun. I went to the shooting range and practiced. I became an accomplished shooter that way. It's like being a ballplayer. You better take batting practice."

To get Larry Carrozza to come with them, Big Sal and the crew told him he was going to be tested to see if he deserved to be "made" by the family. Another Colombo was owed money and they wanted Carrozza to collect the dues, they told him. Carrozza was too green and trusting to realize what was about to happen. The crew of three met him at the candy store he owned. They told him his car would be best for the job. It happened to be Carrozza's mother's Cadillac. Miciotta sat in the backseat. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves he had in his pocket and he put his gun in his lap as they drove through Brooklyn. Off the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, they pulled over opposite a block of low-rent apartments. Miciotta's partner, Jimmy Angellino, said he would fetch the guy who owed money and bring him to the car. "I waited about two minutes. Then I took the gun and I shot him twice in the back of the head. His head exploded all over me. I was covered in blood. We left Larry Champagne right there, in his mother's car. The guns went in the sewer. I went back to my house and took off my clothes and put them in a garbage bag and buried them. I took a shower and cleaned up. The next morning I picked my wife and new baby girl up from the hospital."

Two weeks later, an NYPD detective from the Six-Two left a business card for Miciotta with a note on the back asking him to contact him at the precinct house. Miciotta had never heard of Detective Louis Eppolito. But Big Sal knew a local woman had seen the flashes from the gun when he shot Carrozza. Miciotta asked around about Eppolito, to see if there was any dangerous evidence in the investigation, and he was told he had nothing to worry about. With trepidation, Miciotta went to see Detective Eppolito. The NYPD officer with a large gut and dark mustache was in the detective squad room. "Up on the wall there were photographs of all 'KG's,' known gamblers, and there I was looking at myself. There was a clipboard up on the wall saying 'Unsolved Homicides.' There was dozens of names on the list. Larry Champagne was one of them. I says, 'Wow, you're getting busy around here.' Eppolito started laughing. He says, 'I just need to talk to you. It's my job. I got to go through the motions.'

"I knew him from before. I had seen him at Ruggerio's, the Italian restaurant next door to my pet store on 86th Street. Wiseguys ate at Ruggerio's all the time. Detectives from the Six-Two went there once a week to eat in a back room. Eppolito had come in to my store a couple of times and looked at my boa constrictor. He was always shaking hands with everyone like he was running for fucking mayor. I knew he was a knockaround-type detective. He was a detective who could help if it wasn't something major or out of his control. We sat and talked for twenty minutes. How the neighborhood was changing -- drugs on 25th Avenue, drugs all over the place. Then he asks what I know about Larry Carrozza. 'You know what happened to him?' he asks. I says, 'Yeah, I know. It was in the newspapers.' He says, 'I got a signed statement from Benny 'the Sic' -- that's short for Sicilian -- saying that you were the last guy to see Larry Champagne alive. The statement says he told his wife he was going out to get bagels and then he was going to see you.' I says, 'I really don't know anything about it. He didn't go and meet me. I don't know what the fuck he was talking about.' I could see the letter 'B' in the signature on the statement across the desk. Benny the Sic was a fucking idiot. It was a stool-pigeon move to give my name over. He should have kept his mouth shut. 'Don't worry about it,' Eppolito says to me. I was paranoid for a long time, but I never heard another word about Larry Champagne. The case wasn't solved until '93, when I flipped and told the FBI everything -- including about Louis Eppolito's so-called investigation.

"Years later, I find out the real reason Larry Champagne got killed. He had hooked up with some Russian gangsters in a scam to rip off gasoline taxes. When Larry told other guys about the deal, they wanted it all for themselves. The gas tax scam brought in more than forty-five million bucks. I should have had a big piece of that, for killing Larry, but I didn't get a dime. Casso got paid. He made millions out of the partnership with the Russians. Wiseguys like Casso never missed out on a big payday. Guys like me and Larry Champagne were on the outside. Casso was an insider."

By 1984, Casso had become a major force in the mafia. He had his hands in all varieties of illegal conduct in addition to the gas tax-extortion, loan-sharking, and union scams. A measure of Casso's increasing influence could be seen in the way other gangsters treated him. When Gotti, Gravano, and a wiseguy named Frank DeCicco plotted to murder Gambino boss Paul Castellano they first went to Casso to ask if he had any objections. Riling Gaspipe was a risk the rebel Gambinos weren't willing to take. "I don't give a fuck," Casso said. But his stated indifference only lasted as long as it suited him. A month after Castellano was killed, Casso was sent to pick up Genovese boss Vincent Chin Gigante in front of Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn. For decades Gigante had been pretending to be mentally incompetent in order to avoid trial. Casso took Gigante to Christy Tick's house in Staten Island. At the meeting of Genovese and Luchese leaders it was agreed that Gotti and his suspected co-conspirator DeCicco had killed Castellano without the permission of the Commission. At the time, Gotti was trying to convince other mobsters that he had nothing to do with Castellano's murder.

"Gotti wasn't fooling anyone with his crocodile tears," said Oldham. "Gotti was shocked, shocked at the untimely demise of Castellano. He was crestfallen. He was going to see the killer was caught. It was like O. J. Simpson pretending he was going to hire private detectives to find out who killed his wife, Nicole. No wiseguy was going to buy that load of crapola. Gotti whacked Castellano so he could take over the Gambino family and deal heroin without having to bother pretending to Castellano that he wasn't."

Revenge was plotted by the Lucheses and the Genoveses. The Lucheses assigned their best team, Gaspipe Casso and Vic Amuso. Both knew Gotti and his crew well. But it would be difficult for them to clock the movements of Gotti and DeCicco without being noticed. A Genovese associate trained in the military as a munitions expert was seconded to the Luchese for the hit. Casso and the associate had frequently helped each other with work. He set up on DeCicco's house trying to learn his routine. He couldn't find a place to kill the pair. Gotti was always surrounded by his own unique entourage: a mob security detail, law enforcement officials - hidden in vans and working undercover surveillance -- and not infrequently paparazzi and local news cameras.

In April 1986, Amuso and Casso discovered that Gotti and DeCicco were planning to meet on the following Sunday with some "zips" (native Italians) on 18th Avenue. Casso dispatched a junior crew member to Florida to collect a load of C-4 explosives buried in the yard of a house once owned by a Luchese wiseguy. The Genovese army vet took the C-4 upstate to his place in the Catskill Mountains to build a bomb designed to detonate by remote control. He was a machinist and knew how to manipulate the rubbery, high-yield plastic explosive. The next day, Casso and Amuso drove up to the Catskills bearing a MAC-10 machine gun as a house gift. The three spent their afternoon in the country improvising explosive devices and firing 9mm handguns and the MAC-10 in the bucolic surroundings.

The day of the hit, Casso and Amuso parked on 86th Street in Bensonhurst across from a lumberyard near the 19th Hole. The Genovese drove up in a gray Oldsmobile Toronado and parked near Scarpaci's Funeral Home. He got out of the car carrying grocery bags and Italian bread -- or what appeared to be food and bread. DeCicco arrived at the social club, parked, and went inside for his meeting. The Genovese wiseguy walked by, and pretended to drop something. Bending over, he slid the bag containing the explosives under DeCicco's car. An hour later, DeCicco came out of the social club on 86th Street with another made man, Luchese soldier Frankie "Heart" Bellino. The two got into the car. Mistaking Bellino for Gotti, the munitions expert drove alongside the car and pushed the detonator. DeCicco was killed instantly; Bellino was seriously injured. Casso and Amuso monitored the police response over a scanner. They all met up shortly thereafter at Caesar's Bay Bazaar, a store on the Belt Parkway. The Genovese man's ear was bleeding. His car was damaged from the blast. He said he might have been seen by locals but he wasn't worried; no one from that neighborhood knew him or would recognize him.

By the end of 1986, Amuso and Casso were no longer rising stars in the Luchese family. They were proven killers, big earners, and a potent force in both intra- and inter-family mafia politics. The verdicts in the Commission Case were drawing near. The prosecution was moving toward a conclusion that everyone knew to be inevitable: multiple convictions and massive prison sentences for the defendants. The outcome presented the Lucheses with the problem of resolving succession to the present leadership. The family was divided into three factions. Amuso and Casso belonged to the Brooklyn faction, the home territory of boss Tony Ducks Corallo and the traditional base for the family. The Bronx faction was led by Tom "Mix" Santoro, his street name derived from his resemblance to the original Wild West Hollywood movie star Tom Mix. The third faction in New Jersey was run by Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo, who also took his nickname from the cinema -- in his case, the lead character in the 1940 caveman classic One Million B. C.

As boss, Tony Ducks Corallo decided who would take over the family. In November 1986 Amuso and Casso were summoned to a meeting in Staten Island with the leaders of the Luchese family. Casso was still recovering from the Gambino-backed attempt on his life. Verdicts in the Commission trial were imminent. Arrangements needed to be made to ensure continuity and order. There were more than half a dozen caporegimes, or captains, in the family, and more than a hundred made men. But one pair stood head and shoulders above the rest in the ways that mattered: moneymaking, imagination, intimidation. The choice was obvious to Corallo. Gaspipe Casso and Vic Amuso. They had repeatedly shown themselves to be "capable" in every sense of the word. At the meeting Tony Ducks asked Christy Tick Furnari to decide between Casso and Amuso. The three members of the 19th Hole Crew retired to another room to discuss the matter privately. Once again, Casso turned down the chance to be promoted. But with the Luchese bosses all facing life in jail, Casso had no choice about taking on a greater level of responsibility. Amuso was named boss. Casso was his number two.

"The meeting was supposed to lead to a peaceful transition. It had the opposite effect. Casso didn't want to take on the title of boss, but that didn't mean he didn't want power -- or understand how to use it. The first step the pair took as bosses was to decide what to do about their main rivals -- the Bronx and New Jersey factions. Underboss Tom Mix Santoro was from the Bronx. He and Tony Ducks weren't getting along. Tom Mix had his own ideas for the Luchese leadership. He wanted Buddy Luongo, one of the captains from his Bronx crew, to take over. It was decided by Amuso and Casso that Luongo had to go. Adhering to an effective if demented mafia protocol, it was Tom Mix who was given the job of luring Luongo, his right-hand man, in to be killed."

Santoro told Luongo to come to a meeting at the house of "Swaggy" Carlucci, a friend of Casso and Amuso. Greetings were exchanged when Luongo arrived, unaccompanied, and they all sat at the kitchen table. Amuso excused himself and went to a bedroom. Casso had placed a gun with a silencer under a pillow. Amuso retrieved the gun, came back to the kitchen, and shot Luongo three times in the face. "The new boss murdering his rival in front of the outgoing bosses was a strong message, if lacking in subtlety. There was a new sheriff in town -- a pair of them in Amuso and Casso. Luongo's body was dumped in the wastelands of Canarsie. His car was taken to JFK Airport and dropped in the long-term parking area where it wouldn't be discovered for weeks."

As the leaders of a new administration, Amuso and Casso quickly asserted control over Luchese interests. The family had a strong presence in the Garment District, using its sway over the Ladies Garment Workers Union to extort manufacturers and auction off trucking contracts to the highest bidder. Fat Pete Chiodo was put in charge of running a large scam in the concrete industry controlled by a group of Greeks. Amuso and Casso inherited union insiders at JFK and Newark airports, a large garbage collection concern on Long Island run by Luchese capo Sal Avellino, and a scheme to rip off laborers in the asbestos removal business. The gasoline business, run primarily by Russian gangsters, was netting millions and the new Luchese leaders took a slice for their family. As the pair grew richer they continued to consolidate power and ensure their rule remained unquestioned.
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Re: The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdere

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:44 am



The ascension to power of Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso was not met with jubilation inside the other factions of the Luchese crime family. By overlooking Luongo, who was older and respected across the Luchese factions, as the heir apparent, Ducks and Furnari had put the future of the family at risk. The New Jersey faction, centered in Newark and known as "the boys from Jersey," had grown increasingly independent from the Brooklyn leadership over the years.

The New Jersey faction was caught in the middle of its own debilitating racketeering prosecution. The captain of the faction was Tumac Accetturo. A sixth-grade dropout, street thug, and ferocious fighter as a young man, Accetturo was a highly respected and successful mobster. The usual procedure when a new boss was appointed in any of the five families was for the captains to visit and pay homage to him and swear fealty. Accetturo didn't want to make a gift to prosecutors of surveillance footage of him associating with known mob figures like Amuso and Casso during his trial. He suggested they meet clandestinely at the Sheraton hotel near the Newark Airport. The New Jersey faction gave the new bosses five to six thousand dollars a month of their earnings from scams at the airport. The amount was chump change, Amuso and Casso believed, compared to the money the New Jersey faction was really making.

At the Sheraton, Accetturo said that he wanted to move to Florida. He asked for permission. Casso said he would talk to Amuso and get back to him; it was against mob rules to move away without the agreement of the bosses. A short while later, Casso learned from Accetturo's son that Tumac had moved to Florida without waiting for approval. The son said his father feared another prosecution. The younger Accetturo said his father was "in the bag," adapting Vincent Chin Gigante's tactic of acting crazy and thus mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Casso made his own inquiries. He learned that Accetturo's faction was involved in its own internecine feud. Serious problems had developed. Accetturo had left to avoid the fight. The reason didn't matter. The New Jersey faction of the Lucheses was known to be wealthy. Cocaine from South America was a main source of revenue, including sales to many coke-addicted celebrities, but the New Jersey Lucheses were also involved in labor racketeering, Joker Poker machines, bookmaking, loan-sharking, extortion, and theft. A more significant piece of the New Jersey money was part of their due as bosses, Amuso and Casso believed. Eyeing the profits, Amuso and Casso adopted the strategy of dreaming up reasons to kill Accetturo. Accetturo's disobedience was said to reflect ancient familial grudges. A twenty-year-old pot deal gone sour was recalled by the new Luchese bosses. There were rumors circulating that Accetturo was inducting members into his "family," usurping one of the most exclusive and sanctified rights of a boss according to mafia tenets. If the New Jersey faction considered itself a stand-alone "family," Amuso and Casso would have no claim on them. "Breaking away," as such a move was called, was an offense justifying death.

"The complaints were tenuous and unproven but valuable as cumulative justifications for the radical step Amuso and Casso proposed. Accetturo and the Jersey crew were widely respected in the underworld. There had to be a relatively good reason for killing a captain of Accetturo's stature. Accetturo was a rat, they said. It was the same ploy Amuso and Casso later used with Fat Pete Chiodo and Al D'Arco. Proving a negative -- Accetturo showing that he wasn't cooperating -- was difficult if not impossible. But he wasn't going to get a chance to prove anything. Rats were dealt with the predictable way -- extermination."

In December 1988 Casso planned to lure Accetturo and his son to Staten Island on the pretense of having a sit-down at the house of Tommy Irish Carew. Accetturo's son was added as a target in the murder plot to forestall the possibility that he would try to retaliate for his father's murder. Arrangements were made. It was ensured that Tommy Irish's wife would be out of the house that day. Fat Pete Chiodo was sent to pick up the father and son at Newark Airport. Casso was waiting in Carew's house. Casso's plan was to shoot them as they were eating a salami sandwich; Casso told his crew he wanted to kill them between bites. But the Accetturos were too wary to fall for such a trap. They didn't fly north from Florida for the meeting. Accetturo sent word through his son that he was "back in my bag," meaning he was acting crazy again to avoid prosecution. "He's got that right," Casso said to Chiodo. "He'll be in a real bag soon."

But Casso was impatient and sought out backup. Just before Christmas, Casso dispatched Chiodo to Florida with a package wrapped to look like a Christmas present and an envelope with a card inside. Casso strictly forbade Chiodo from opening the present. Fat Pete was to give it to a man named "Junior" who would meet him in the lobby of the Coconut Grove Hotel in Miami. Chiodo couldn't resist opening the Christmas "present." Inside he found $50,000 in cash. There was no writing on the card but the envelope contained a newspaper clipping with a photograph of Tumac Accetturo. Chiodo carefully rewrapped the package and traveled to Florida. Chiodo beeped Junior and they met. Junior was in his early forties, Cuban, well dressed, and distinguished in appearance. He didn't open the package when Chiodo handed it to him.

Days before Christmas, Amuso and Casso attempted to arrange a meeting to reconcile with three other members of the New Jersey faction. A meeting was set for the Walnut Bar, on Flatlands Avenue in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, with a closed-door session at a private house around the corner. They never showed up. "The three wiseguys weren't stupid. They weren't going anywhere to be alone with Amuso and Gaspipe. This infuriated the Luchese bosses. Now they weren't just going to kill the two Accetturos. They were going to whack the entire New Jersey faction the first chance they got. In the mob, just like the police department, Christmas parties were a big deal. Old grudges were put aside. A feast was held. Camaraderie was restored. But that year the Lucheses had two separate Christmas parties. The Bronx faction had a party. The Brooklyn faction, which Amuso and Casso ran, had their own Christmas party. No one from the Jersey faction turned up for either one."

After the turn of the New Year, Chiodo was sent down to Florida again. Casso was frustrated that Junior had not been able to find the Accetturos. The only leads Junior had were the long-distance telephone records of calls made by the elder Accetturo, which Junior had obtained from a contact with the local phone company. He had only seen Accetturo once, driving a gray Lincoln by Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel.

In January 1989, Chiodo set out to do his own detective work in finding the Accetturos. He purchased a Panasonic camcorder for video surveillance. He got cameras with high-powered lenses. He bought a car and rented an apartment in the Galahad, a building diagonally opposite the Diplomat Hotel, a seaside resort in Hollywood, Florida, half an hour north of Miami. Accetturo was known to frequent the hotel. Chiodo had a crew with him, including George Neck Zappola and Richie the Toupee Pagliarulo. "They set up on the Diplomat Hotel like they were FBI agents on a stakeout. It went on for weeks. Guys from New York cycled in and out of the apartment. It was a great assignment. New York was going through a cruel winter that year. January was brutal. Chiodo brought his wife down so she could have a vacation while he attended to business."

Chiodo tried everything to find his quarry. He purchased a house three doors down from Tumac Accetturo's, paying $60,000 as a down payment, and using a local air-conditioning contractor as a front. The Accetturos were nowhere to be found. They failed to come to the Diplomat in Hollywood. They didn't go to the house they owned and had once lived in. The operation was costing a fortune. Finally Chiodo flew up to New York himself and met with Amuso and Casso at Le Park Lounge, their preferred watering hole in Manhattan. Chiodo described the failed attempts to find either Accetturo. "This guy is never going to surface," Amuso said. "He's got to be on to us by now." The manhunt was called off.

But in the summer of 1989 there was a sighting of Anthony Accetturo Jr. On the orders of Amuso and Casso, Chiodo immediately flew to Florida with various cohorts, including Richie the Toupee. They rented a red van from Budget and patrolled the streets of Hollywood, Florida. As they drove around they spotted Accetturo junior in a car with his girlfriend. Chiodo tried to follow but he lost them in traffic. "As they continued to search that night they realized they were now being followed themselves -- by a police car. To shake the cops, they turned into a movie theater parking lot. The cruiser pulled in behind them. Dead Poets Society was playing. The theater was nearly empty. The four hoods, all of them packing guns, sat and enjoyed half an hour of upper-middle-class boarding school ennui.

"As they sat in the theater watching Robin Williams emote, Fat Pete and Richie the Toupee saw two men enter. One of them was none other than Anthony Accetturo Jr. Two of Fat Pete's thugs were sitting a couple of rows back. All of their eyes met in the dark. Accetturo immediately got to his feet and walked out of the theater. His friend came over to Chiodo and said Accetturo wanted to talk to him. Chiodo went out to the lobby. The cop in uniform who had been tailing Chiodo was using a pay phone in the lobby. Accetturo wanted to know what Fat Pete was doing. Chiodo lied. Accetturo knew he was lying. Accetturo told Chiodo he was 'loaded' -- and that didn't mean drunk, it meant Accetturo and his friend were armed and willing to shoot it out."

A plan for Accetturo to call Casso was discussed but it was little more than a formality. Reconciliation was talked about but all parties involved understood what was really going on. Tumac Accetturo and his son Anthony vanished again, for good it seemed.

At the same time, the Lucheses from the New Jersey faction who had relocated to Florida had been contacted to see if they were loyal to Amuso and Casso or to the Accetturos. A lone New Jersey partisan flew to New York and pledged allegiance. He was told to return to Florida and send Joseph "Uncle Joe" LaMorte up next. LaMorte booked a flight but failed to report. "To Amuso and Casso that meant LaMorte had decided to remain loyal to the Accetturos. It was probable, the Lucheses reasoned, that Uncle Joe was in touch with the Accetturos. Finding Uncle Joe and following him would lead them to Tumac and his son. At least that was the hope. Persistence was a hallmark of Casso when it came to killing."

In the fall of 1989, Burton Kaplan approached Casso with a lead on the whereabouts of the Accetturos from "the cops." Kaplan said father and son had left Florida and set up in North Carolina. Casso ordered Chiodo to Sugar Mountain, North Carolina. Accetturo and his son were running a pizzeria, according to "the cops." Chiodo drove to North Carolina, and found the pizzeria, which was under construction. There was no sign of either Accetturo.

Chiodo continued south to Florida. Once more, he set up his surveillance operation with his crew of gangsters who had flown to Miami to soak up the sun and kill the Accetturos. Casso had instructed Chiodo to purchase additional supplies: a propane torch, handguns, stun guns, handcuffs, and phony police identification. Chiodo and his crew found Uncle Joe's house. Casso instructed Chiodo to kidnap Uncle Joe and torture him until he gave up the location of the Accetturos. Kill him if necessary, Casso told Chiodo. They tailed Uncle Joe to a junkyard run by a guy named Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli. They went to UndeJoe's workplace and recorded his usual stops. "But he didn't lead them to either Accetturo. The orders were changed. Months had passed. Casso was frustrated, his patience pushed to the limit. Someone in Florida had to die already."

On November 11, 1989, Chiodo and his crew drove to the entrance to the housing development where Uncle Joe lived, and waited. They rehearsed the plan, practiced their escape route, and tested their walkie-talkies. At twilight, Chiodo was stationed at the entrance to the housing development to act as the "crash car" if there was any pursuit of the shooters. A pair of Lucheses were assigned to murder Uncle Joe. They followed Uncle Joe as he arrived home from work. Ninety seconds later, the two thugs came speeding out of the development. No one was chasing them. A mile and a half to the west they pulled over and threw their guns in a stream. Their car was abandoned in a bank parking lot. They got into Chiodo's rental car. "We got him real good," Chiodo's crew member said. They said they had hit Uncle Joe multiple times. Uncle Joe's leg was shaking and then it stopped moving. They were sure they had killed him.

Two weeks later word reached Casso in New York. Uncle Joe LaMorte was alive and well. He had been hit once, in the stomach. "The failure was another mark against Chiodo as far as Casso was concerned. The reason Chiodo's crew wasn't assigned to kill Jimmy Bishop was their failure in Florida with LaMorte. Casso wanted reliable shooters."

There was no time to worry about the Accetturos after that.


By the start of 1990, the Luchese family was in disarray but still a potent force on the streets of New York's five boroughs and New Jersey. The "Prince Street Regime," headed by Anthony Tortorello, was active. "Big" Frank Lastorino had taken over Fat Pete Chiodo's crew, and Steven Crea was running "Sammy Bones" Castaldi's unit after Castaldi's health deteriorated. Anthony "Bowat" Baratta was active on the street, along with Sal Avellino, who still managed to rake in money from his garbage collection operation on Long Island.

At the time, Little Al D'Arco was captain of a crew that included his son. Like his father, Joseph "Little Joe" was diminutive but filled with large ambitions. In Little Joe's case his heart's desire was to "make his bones," as his father before him had, and become a full-fledged member of the Lucheses. He had achieved his goal but there was something keeping him from truly living up to his father's accomplishments: Little Joe had yet to kill a man. Sometime early in 1990, the opportunity presented itself. "Waiting around for a murder contract to come up wasn't a problem under Amuso and Casso. Little Joe could have had his choice. The Lucheses were plotting multiple murders at the time. Multitasking was no problem to Gaspipe Casso. While he was pursuing the Accetturos and the New Jersey faction, he was still settling the score with the Bronx faction. Tom Mix Santoro was in prison. Buddy Luongo had been shot in the face by Vic Amuso as his first act as boss of the Lucheses. But there was still one Bronx Luchese wiseguy out there hiding who had allegedly plotted to whack Amuso and Casso."

"Fat" Anthony DiLapi was the nephew of Tom Mix. A well-liked mobster from the old school, DiLapi handled a Teamsters union local for the Lucheses, a bookmaking business, and had a percentage of a Brooklyn vending machine company that owned jukeboxes, cigarette machines, and Joker Poker machines. Hugely overweight, he was known to be sharp and calculating. After the murder of Buddy Luongo in 1986, DiLapi had been ordered to report to Amuso and Casso. The new leaders wanted to know the nature of his businesses so they could figure out how much they could demand from him. Sensing danger, DiLapi wasn't willing to report as commanded. He told Amuso and Casso he would see them the following week. He sold as many of his holdings as he could and vanished. "DiLapi had rapidly added up the possibilities and understood that he would be next to go. Like Chiodo would later do, DiLapi went on the lam. For years Amuso and Casso waged a campaign to find him.

"Years went by and there were no sightings of DiLapi. But Casso didn't give up. The ace up his sleeve was Burton Kaplan. DiLapi had done time in Allenwood Federal Prison Camp with Kaplan in the early eighties. They played pinochle together. From Allenwood 'Camp,' they invested in Commodore 64 computer stocks, following the tip of a Wall Street convict, and made millions. Kaplan knew DiLapi, and he probably liked him. Most people did. It was how DiLapi had managed to stay alive for nearly four years during the reign of terror of Amuso and Casso. But liking and respecting a guy didn't mean Kaplan wouldn't help Casso. Kaplan wanted to stay alive himself, and that meant keeping Casso happy -- or at least not in a murderous rage when it came to the well-being of one Burton Kaplan. When Casso asked him to see if 'the cops' could help find DiLapi that was precisely what Kaplan was going to do.

"Finding someone is extremely difficult. If a man wants to disappear he can disappear. If a man needs to be disappeared he can be disappeared. Finding people is a big part of what law enforcement specializes in. In 1990 the digital age had barely begun. The NYPD had constructed an enormous bureaucracy, with vast basements filled with filing cabinets dedicated to locating people. There were various methodologies open to a detective looking to find someone. One was putting out an All Points Bulletin, or APB. Such a bulletin meant that all law enforcement officials throughout the country were to notify the NYPD if the person in question came to their attention. A traffic stop was enough. Anthony Casso didn't have an APB. But he had Burt Kaplan and the 'crystal ball.'"

Kaplan said he had an idea. Kaplan was still on parole so he reasoned DiLapi would be on parole too. If a former prisoner on parole with the federal government moved to a different jurisdiction he was assigned to a local parole officer. Perhaps "the cops" could contact DiLapi's parole officer and find his address that way. The reply came back quickly: DiLapi was in Reseda, California, a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley and known as the heart of the area's porn industry.

Little Joe D'Arco was called to the Walnut Bar by Amuso and Casso. The meeting took place in a room in the back of the bar. Little Joe was told that Fat Anthony DiLapi was to be killed. Amuso said he "wanted this one bad." The junior D'Arco was handed a slip of paper. The word "adeser" was written on it, Reseda spelled backward, it was explained, in case the paper got into the hands of law enforcement officials. An address on Saticoy Street was provided. A day later, Al D'Arco drove his son Joe to the house of Vic Amuso. The older wiseguys knew Little Joe had never killed before so they took special interest in his well-being. They told him to be careful. Amuso asked if Little Joe had enough "crackers" -- money -- to make the trip. The younger D'Arco said yes. Little Al D'Arco gave his son a photograph of DiLapi. Little Joe embraced and kissed Vic Amuso. "Vic Amuso was avuncular in his care for the young man about to take his first life. Little Al D'Arco drove Little Joe D'Arco to the airport. In mafia terms, it was a fatherly touch."

In L.A., Little Joe rendezvoused with an associate. Little Joe and his associate went to Saticoy Street, a main thoroughfare in the middle-class suburb. They soon realized they had the wrong address. Little Joe D'Arco staked out a used-car lot on Saticoy Street on a hunch. He knew DiLapi had relatives who lived on the street so it seemed plausible they might be involved in that business. In order to remain unobtrusive, D'Arco dressed as a Mexican. Blending in with his surroundings, he hoped, D'Arco sat in a laundromat across the street from the car lot for a week. He was carrying a knife. The plan, to the extent that he had formulated one, was to stab DiLapi to death. But he failed to sight DiLapi and, at the end of the week, had to return to New York to report to his own parole officer.

Little Joe D'Arco owned a coffee shop at the corner of West and Laight streets in Tribeca in Manhattan, a few neighborhoods south of his father's restaurant La Donna Rosa in Little Italy. The day after he got back to New York Amuso and Casso went to see him. Little Joe told them he hadn't spotted DiLapi but that he had planned to stab him. The Luchese leaders weren't discouraged. Weeks later, Casso gave Little Joe another address on Saticoy Street in Reseda. Little Joe was instructed to meet with another auditioning wiseguy at the Nathan's hot dog stand on 86th Street near 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Little Joe and his cohort flew back to California, this time under assumed names.

In Reseda, D'Arco and his collaborator used bicycles and a car to surveil the new address on Saticoy Street. Once again, they discovered they had the wrong location. Down the street, however, there was a large house with wrought-iron gates and floodlights. The security suited someone who was hiding, or living in fear. They realized that, if they transposed the numbers of the address they had been given, it matched the address of this house. A Volvo station wagon was parked in the driveway. The car matched one parked in the used-car lot that D'Arco had observed on his prior trip. After a week, they had not seen a sign of DiLapi. Little Joe returned once again to New York to see his parole officer. He returned to L.A. immediately. The surveillance resumed. This time there was a red pickup truck parked in front of the house. Another week went by without a sighting. D'Arco flew back to New York. When he returned to L.A. the third time he discovered that the house he'd had been watching was deserted. "DiLapi had made them. Riding bikes and dressing up as Mexicans may have seemed like a way to avoid attention, but it had the opposite outcome. DiLapi knew Amuso and Casso were looking for him and made himself scarce."

When Little Joe D'Arco returned to New York yet again, he met with Casso at the Castle Harbor, a surf-and-turf restaurant in Sheepshead Bay decorated with mounted animal heads and a large stuffed lion. Casso told Little Joe he had a new lead on DiLapi. During the time D'Arco was flying back and forth, Casso had continued his inquiries into DiLapi. During that time as it happened, Kaplan told Casso one of "the cops" had to travel to L.A. on business. While he was there he had inquired about DiLapi's whereabouts with the federal probation authorities. "Kaplan's 'cops' gave Casso a bead on DiLapi. Casso told Little Joe that DiLapi was the manager of a nightclub called La Cage Aux Folles on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles. Back in L.A., Little Joe and his cohorts set up on the place. The Volvo was parked outside. Soon they spotted DiLapi. For the first time, Little Joe laid eyes on DiLapi. He tried to set up an ambush. He sent his associate to be the lookout and he went to hide. Little Joe had a .380 Beretta his father had given him. DiLapi walked by but Little Joe's lookout panicked. DiLapi got away without a shot being fired."

Colombo capo Big Sal Miciotta was a close friend of DiLapi's. During the time DiLapi was on the lam, Miciotta kept track of him through DiLapi's brother. "Anthony was a genuine tough guy," Miciotta recalled. "He was goodhearted. He had good morals, good backbone, good character. He was lethal, if pushed, or ordered. We met in Allenwood Federal Prison Camp. I was in there with Burt and all them guys. Al D'Arco was there at the same time. D'Arco and DiLapi were like oil and water. D'Arco played the tough guy in the can. He slapped around stupid whitecollar kids in on bullshit beefs like marijuana or bank fraud. They weren't made guys. They couldn't defend themselves. Beating on them was like beating on nine-year-old children but D'Arco would beat on them anyway. DiLapi would tell him to leave them alone. Little Al was tiny. He was always trying to prove how tough he was. A bona fide tough guy doesn't have to do that. DiLapi and D'Arco had screaming arguments. They were in the same family but there was a serious feud -- and as a made guy you should never do that in public. DiLapi made D'Arco look like an asshole and D'Arco knew it. D'Arco developed a severe grudge against DiLapi. He hated Anthony because Anthony saw him for what he was -- a bully. That was why he had arranged for his son to be the one to kill DiLapi. He wanted to make sure his son did it. You have to wonder. What kind of person would send his son on a piece of work like that?"

Once again back in New York to report to his probation officer and the exasperated Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso, Little Joe D'Arco was told that he would have to take along an experienced and reliable shooter the next time. Georgie Neck Zappola was in Florida at the time, part of Chiodo's crew looking for Tumac Accetturo and his son. It was arranged for Little Joe to meet Zappola in L.A. Little Joe and Georgie Neck staked out the bar where DiLapi worked once again. Zappola told Little Joe he was going "to do the hit." "Little Joe hadn't come this far to give up his chance to kill DiLapi. He had logged a lot of miles trying to make his bones. No way he was going to be denied. He told Zappola that Casso had specified that only he, Little Joe, was to kill DiLapi. It was a lie -- a little white lie, maybe, although telling any untruth about Gaspipe Casso was a potential hazard to one's health. Under no circumstances was D'Arco going to disappoint his father."

Another week passed and they failed to find DiLapi. Little Joe flew a car thief he knew and used in New York out to L.A. to steal a car for them. Yet another week passed. D'Arco had to go back to New York for yet another probation meeting. While D'Arco was back in New York reporting to his probation officer that he was conforming with the terms of his probation -- which did not include flying back and forth across the country to try to take a guy out -- Zappola spotted DiLapi and tailed him back to an apartment complex in Hollywood. Little Joe flew back to L.A. at once. Finally, with Little Joe in town and everything set, they drove to DiLapi's apartment building and into the underground parking garage. D'Arco and Zappola were dressed in hooded sweatshirts. Little Joe had the .380 Beretta and a .357 Magnum. Zappola remained hidden, supervising Little Joe and ensuring that DiLapi was actually, finally, murdered. It was five o'clock in the afternoon on February 9,1990. DiLapi came into the garage carrying a garment bag. Little Joe stepped out of the shadows. DiLapi screamed. Little Joe shot him. As DiLapi collapsed, D'Arco walked over to DiLapi and delivered the coup de grace, firing a shot directly to his head.

"Little Joe D'Arco had finally killed. He was now a man, in his father's eyes. The hit squad burned their clothes and made their way back to New York. The next day Little Joe's father and Amuso and Casso came to Little Joe's coffee shop in Tribeca to congratulate him. He told them about his daring deed. The vending machine percentage DiLapi had was passed on to Little Joe and Georgie Neck Zappola. By doing a made guy like DiLapi the killers were entitled to his money. Casso made a fortune that way. Vic Amuso told Little Joe he had done a good job. Buona fatiga -- good work -- he said. Little Joe didn't understand Sicilian, not even the smattering most wiseguys did. His father translated for him."


Casso was on the lam, but that did not mean he couldn't throw his daughter, JoLynn, a lavish wedding -- as lavish as a wiseguy on the run could afford. As a Colombo captain, Big Sal Miciotta was invited. Miciotta went to the wedding with fellow Colombos William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, Joseph Scopo, and Vinny Aloi. The reception was held at El Caribe in Mill Basin -- the place where Otto Heidel had been confronted by Tommy Karate a few years earlier. "Casso was on the lam so he couldn't come," Miciotta recalled. "I thought the wedding was going to be a little more extravagant than it was. Casso was a big earner. All the guys he killed, he scooped up everything they had. He killed a couple of big shylocks in the Bronx and grabbed their money. We all knew he was renovating a house in Mill Basin. I was looking forward to a real topnotch wedding but it looked like Casso was feeling the financial strain of being on the lam.

"The big-time mob defense lawyers were there. There were Gambinos, Colombos, all the Lucheses, all of us brought envelopes. Five hundred bucks in cash was the right amount for a guy of Casso's stature. The smorgasbord had the routine stuff. Calamari, clams, oysters, shrimp. The dinner was prime rib, cornish hen, grouper fish. Regular table wine was served. For the toast Casso had a bottle of 'DP' at every table -- Dom Perignon champagne. I thought that was a nice touch. There were cigars for the guys -- Cuban Macanudos. I sat in the mob section, the tables where it was all wiseguys, no women. We could talk business. We were in the middle of the Colombo war. The Lucheses were on the fence -- playing both sides against each other. Gaspipe wanted to side with us. There was talk at the time about merging our faction of the Colombos with the Lucheses. But none of the wiseguys missed Casso, as far I could tell. Casso wasn't a beloved figure. He made enemies on his way up. People were there because they were afraid of him. Everyone associated with Casso was petrified of him."

Fear was the underlying motivation for dealing with Casso as he continued to hide. One associate he maintained steady contact with was Burton Kaplan. Casso went to Kaplan's house in Bensonhurst on two occasions while a fugitive, a rare risk for Casso. Kaplan was one of his closest and most trusted associates. He also owed Casso a huge amount of money and thus provided a steady source of funds. While Casso was on the lam, Kaplan had repaid Casso tens of thousands in cash as partial satisfaction of his debts. Kaplan had helped supervise the construction of the house in Mill Basin. Casso was pouring his fortune into the house -- twenty thousand dollars for the front door alone. When Casso decided to upgrade his lifestyle and move to the grander house, he had come to Kaplan and suggested he buy the place Casso owned at the time. He said he needed the money for construction costs. He sold the house for $250,000, what Casso claimed was a discounted price. Kaplan became the owner of record but Casso had continued to live there. When he went on the lam, Lillian Casso stayed on -- for free.

"As always with Casso, there was an implied term in the proposition," Oldham recalled. ''It was an offer Kaplan couldn't refuse. The house deal was the kind of thing wiseguys did to and for each other all the time. Kaplan paid the mortgage year after year. He 'owned' the house but there was no way he was going to ask Gaspipe Casso to vacate -- or turn up with the sheriff to evict Lillian Casso. Their economy was fluid. Generally speaking, wiseguys had wads of cash but no assets, or savings, or safety net. A lot of those guys gambled, snorted coke, kept a girlfriend in a condo and still had to maintain the lifestyle of 'the life' with their wives and kids. Money poured through their fingers but most of them were incapable of accumulating real wealth. The sums they were supposed to be making sounded astronomical. Millions upon millions. But for the average guy the take was chopped up into so many pieces, with the bosses reserving the biggest slice of cake, they were always scrambling to make a buck."

In January 1993, Casso rendezvoused with his wife, Lillian. She was brought to him by Burt Kaplan. They had a routine for such encounters. Kaplan booked a room in the Parsippany Tara hotel in New Jersey under his own name using a credit card. When he arrived Kaplan paid cash. He would bring Lillian Casso to the hotel and leave the married couple alone for the afternoon. This time Kaplan and Casso had arranged to meet in another place -- a parking lot in a shopping mall. Kaplan had already booked the hotel room. As Kaplan and Lillian Casso were driving through New Jersey they passed the hotel. Kaplan had to go to the bathroom. He asked if Lillian Casso would mind if he stopped. She agreed. Kaplan entered the hotel. On the way he spotted two men who resembled FBI agents: sunglasses, unmarked car with the telltale law enforcement antenna, the stereotypical trappings of federal agents.

Kaplan got back in the car and told Lillian Casso he thought there were FBI agents set up on the Tara. The hotel was no longer usable for the Casso trysts. There was now also a danger that they were being followed. Kaplan and Lillian Casso drove around for half an hour, Kaplan checking for a tail. Satisfied he was in the clear, Kaplan took Lillian Casso to a parking lot in a suburban shopping mall. He let her out of the car and told her to tell her husband what had happened. Kaplan said he wasn't going to go with her to the meeting place with Casso. He was going to drive away and leave her to go meet her husband. If they were being followed, the tail would go after Kaplan, not her.

"On Monday Kaplan went to collect Lillian Casso at the prearranged place. She was supposed to be on her own, but this time Gaspipe Casso was there. Kaplan told Casso about the FBI agents. Kaplan said he had spotted the agents at the hotel. He told Casso that he should be careful because it definitely had appeared to him that the FBI was closing in on Casso. In fact, the FBI was closing in.

"Casso was incapable of really going on the lam. If he had run to Tijuana or Timbuktu there was a decent chance he would get away. But that wasn't in Casso's DNA. He'd continued to run the family while he was on the run. He was incessantly calling Luchese captains, micromanaging every move the family made. Instead of using the pay phone system, which was time-consuming and awkward, Casso got sloppy. He called Frank Lastorino's cell phone one too many times. Gaspipe Casso was the author of his own fate."

By the next day, Tuesday, January 19, 1993, Casso had returned to his "safe house" on Waterloo Road in the woods of New Jersey. That cold winter morning, after his girlfriend left for work in her Jeep Cherokee, Casso took a shower. The FBI came through the doors with battering rams. The Luchese boss stood at the top of his stairs as the FBI stormed the house. Life, as Gaspipe Casso had known it, was over.
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