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 1:40 am

CHAPTER FIVE: MOBLAND

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."

BORN TO KILL

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."

LEARNING RICO

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 WILD WEST

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."

_______________

Notes:

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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

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

PART 1 OF 2

CHAPTER SIX: "GODFATHERS OF THE NYPD"

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."

A BOY'S LIFE

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."

CLASS OF '69

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


THE ROOKIES

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."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

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

PART 2 OF 2

BROOKLYN ROBBERY

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."

INTERNAL AFFAIRS

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."

FRANKIE JUNIOR

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."

MOB JUSTICE

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."

LEAVING FINGERPRINTS

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."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

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

PART 1 OF 2

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE AMAZING LIFE AND TIMES OF "GASPIPE" CASSO

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.

THE PROSPECT

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 19TH HOLE

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."

GAS AND VIC

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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

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

PART 2 OF 2

ON THE RUN IN HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA

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.

ON THE RUN IN HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA

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."

CAPTURE

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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:47 am

PART 1 OF 3

CHAPTER EIGHT: QUEEN FOR A DAY

In custody in the austere high-rise Metropolitan Correctional Center awaiting trial and faced with the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars, Casso was consumed by two thoughts: figuring out who was responsible for his capture, and coming up with a means of escaping. Prosecutors in the Eastern District had charged Casso with sixty-seven counts, encompassing his orchestration of fourteen murders, racketeering, and extortion. The case was similar to the one against Vic Amuso, who had been convicted in 1992. Casso knew the deal. He would be tried, convicted, sentenced to an eternity in prison, and shipped to a maximum security concrete hell in Leavenworth, Kansas, or Marion, Illinois, or Terre Haute, Indiana, where Amuso was rotting away. His wife wouldn't come to see him. She had a phobia about prisons. Casso would be another forgotten former tough guy shuffling down a prison hallway. He had to find a way out.

Soon after Casso arrived in the MCC he caught a whiff of marijuana wafting through the cells. Applying his investigative skills, Casso discovered that there were some black inmates who came from the same neighborhood as one of the guards. FBI agents would later learn that the guard smuggled pot and heroin into the MCC for the men, who were facing drug charges. The guard was paid to bring food and alcohol in from a nearby Italian restaurant. He would carry the food into the MCC in an "I Love New York" plastic shopping bag. He placed it in a garbage can, where it would be retrieved and the liquor and food would be gratefully consumed.

Casso became friendly with the guard. While they were talking one day, Casso asked jokingly if the guard knew of a way to escape. The guard said he did. The garage of the MCC, from which prisoners were transported to and from court hearings, had weak security, he said. On the far side of the gates, there was the bustle of Wall Street. Casso could easily disappear into foot traffic if he were able to make it to the street.

A plan was hatched over the weeks and months that followed. Guards in the MCC were rotated through the jobs in the institution every three months to avoid any close relationships developing with prisoners. Shifts also rotated, ensuring no routine would set in that could be tracked and prodded for holes by inmates. Casso would wait until the guard was taking his turn working the midnight shift in the control room.

In the meantime, Casso's guard smuggled in a set of civilian clothing, which Casso stashed in his cell. Casso would impersonate a police officer as he made his way out of the MCC. He would be given a neck chain with an NYPD detective badge to wear along with his civilian clothes. Clay impressions of keys were made for the series of locks Casso would have to open to gain access to the garage area -- his cell, the Counselor's Room, and finally the visitor's room. Once Casso got there, the guard could buzz him out using the remote control in his post in the control room. There was only one guard assigned to patrol outside the garage, and Casso's man said he could make sure that the guard was on the other side of the building when Casso came out. Handcuff keys were obtained from a locksmith for the escape, so Casso could free his hands. Casso hid the handcuff keys in the light above the mirror in his cell.

Payments for the preparations were made through a florist in Brooklyn. The guard would pick up a dozen long-stem red roses, wrapped in floral paper, together with a package waiting under the name "Mr. Anthony." In the same way, Casso arranged to have two guns smuggled in for his use -- a .380 Colt Mustang, and a 9mm. Casso's guy complained that the pistols were too large to be safely smuggled into the MCC. A .25 Beretta was in the roses the next time. The guard told Casso he had succeeded in getting the gun into his locker.

Despite the intricate preparations, external events forced Casso to abandon his approach. After the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the ringleader, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, was held in the MCC awaiting trial and security was greatly increased. A cage door was installed in the garage area that could only be opened with a key. It was no longer possible for the guard to buzz Casso out from the control room.

Casso turned to a second plan. The proposal was to have two people posing as FBI agents come to collect and transport Casso to an attorney meeting. The first Saturday morning of the next calendar quarter of 1993 was selected as the date. The rotation of guards began on that day so it was reasoned the guard would not be familiar with procedures.

"Casso gave the guard a sizable down payment and waited. George Neck Zappola was still on the lam so he arranged for payment. One Saturday morning, Casso was sleeping in his cell when a guard came and let him out of his cell. He told Casso he had an attorney conference and handed him a pass to the third floor. Casso had no such meeting with his lawyer planned. He knew it was his chance -- the corrupt guard had set up the breakout. But Casso had not got the note telling him it was on. Casso wasn't ready with an answer when another guard coming off the elevator asked him what he was doing roaming the halls with no escort. He hadn't even made it off the floor. Furious, Casso asked his guy why he hadn't been warned. The guard said he'd left a note at the florist shop, but the girl working that day put the note in the cash register. She was supposed to give the note to a guy who would get word to Casso through another inmate. Casso's guard was caught taking bribes and put on probation before they got another opportunity."

Talk of escape was constant among the dozens of wiseguys awaiting trial. Prisoners were shuttled by bus between the courthouses in New York City and a medium-security federal prison in Otisville, a small village an hour north of the city set in the rolling horse country in the foothills of the Catskills. Mikey DeSantis, another Luchese detainee, said he had a friend who owned property in the area. DeSantis said that the guy kept horses on his land. The plan DeSantis conveyed to Casso involved a trustee, an inmate allowed to work with less supervision. The Otisville trustee was on a work detail that labored outside the prison every day. On an agreed-upon day, the trustee would substitute DeSantis for a member of his work crew. Once outside the jailhouse walls, DeSantis would cut away from the group and meet up with his contact -- who would be waiting with an extra horse. Together they would ride into the dense woods surrounding the prison. DeSantis said that Casso could join in. "When Casso was sent to Otisville for the Labor Day weekend he checked out the plan -- the lay of the land, the trustee, the chances of success. It was going to be Catskill Cowboys, a real old-time bust-out. But there was one problem. Gaspipe Casso was from Gowanus in Brooklyn. He knew how to shoot pigeons but he didn't know how to ride a horse. In fact he had never ridden a horse in his life and they weren't offering lessons in prison. With great regret, Casso was forced to turn down DeSantis's offer."

As winter of 1993-1994 set in and Casso's March trial date neared, he grew even more desperate. Casso dreamt up the idea of ambushing the bus that transported prisoners from the MCC in lower Manhattan to the Brooklyn federal courthouse. Casso instructed George Neck Zappola to surveil the area. Recently promoted to captain, Zappola had hidden out in California and Florida for a time before returning to New York City to assist Casso and oversee his various business enterprises -- a bagel bakery that supplied McDonald's restaurants, numbers rackets, slot machines. Zappola was a restless fugitive, frequently watching baseball games and fights in bars around Brooklyn and going to Bruno's Hair Salon on 86th Street in Bensonhurst to get a massage and pedicure. Fastidious about his appearance, obsessed with his weight, Zappola walked six miles every day. The gold watch he wore was a gift from Casso and it was inscribed, "To George, a true friend, from Anthony." Zappola carried a cell phone, and only Casso had the number. Zappola was Casso's favored killer, now entrusted with coordinating his breakout.

After studying the path the bus followed, Zappola decided the optimal place for an assault was opposite the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower building a few blocks from Brookyln's federal courthouse. The area was mostly industrial, with a warren of streets linked to a series of local avenues and express ramps. Multiple escape routes were available. Casso's crew on the outside would overtake the bus, cut the locks on its doors, and shoot their way in, to free Casso, paramilitary style. The plan for the assault on the bus caused divisions among the Lucheses incarcerated in MCC. Casso was determined to go, and so was Frank Lastorino. But Sal Avellino, another wiseguy facing RICO charges, was going to stay on the bus when the others ran. Mike DeSantis was also going to stay on the bus. DeSantis had the horseback plan in Otisville to fall back on.

The plan had a certain savage elegance but presented enormous difficulties. First, the plotters had to be sure Casso was actually on the bus on the day they struck, a difficult thing to accomplish due to tightly restricted communications with prisoners. An acting Luchese capo visited Casso in the MCC often. In preparation for the escape, Casso and his capo surreptitiously swapped running shoes during one visit. The shoes worn by prisoners were standard-issue rubber-soled laceless sneakers. There were two electronic signal devices hidden in the soles of the pair Casso kept. The crew on the outside would be able to detect the signal and know that Casso was on the bus when they hit it. Planning continued into the New Year as Casso's collaborators monitored his hearing dates.

Finally, their chance came. Early in 1994, on a cold winter day, Casso was in court by dawn. At ten in the morning the capo took up his position at the corner of Cadman Plaza and Tillary Street, outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse, waiting for the prisoner bus to emerge from the gated sally port. As soon as he received the signal from Casso's sneaker, the capo would contact one of the crew by radio. The attack would begin. But hours passed and the bus failed to emerge from the courthouse. The capo remained on his watch until two-thirty in the afternoon when he abandoned his post due to the cold. He hadn't received Casso's signal. The bus was delayed that day due to the extreme weather. Casso didn't return to the MCC until five-thirty.

There was another matter preying on Casso's mind. Sitting in the MCC, Casso replayed the sequence of events that had led to his arrest. To a mobster like Casso, there were no coincidences. The proximity in time of Kaplan's warning about FBI surveillance and Casso's arrest was nearly conclusive to Casso. Only a matter of days had passed before the FBI smashed their way into the house on Waterloo Road in rural New Jersey. There were reasons Kaplan might turn Casso in. Kaplan owed Casso a huge amount of money, a powerful motive for him to give away his longtime collaborator and thus erase the debt. Kaplan had also recently been caught up in an allegation involving the sale of Peruvian passports to Hong Kong businessmen looking to acquire an alternative nationality before the Chinese took over the legendary port city. While others had been convicted in the scam, Kaplan escaped unscathed.

"Kaplan skating on the Peruvian passport case was too much for Casso. The only way to explain Kaplan's not being in prison was that he was a rat. Casso decided to get rid of Burt Kaplan. He gave the hit to George Neck Zappola. Word was passed along the Luchese hierarchy about the Jewish businessman who had been Casso's partner for nearly a decade. Kaplan wore thick glasses and was known to have bad vision. 'Get the one-eyed guy,' Casso said."

In the MCC Casso had been able to rely upon assistance from the Lucheses still on the street. The family gave him the slim but real possibility of escape. But in February 1994 Casso was abandoned by the Lucheses, on the orders of Vic Amuso. The reasons were Byzantine but perfectly matched the logic Casso applied in ordering the murder of Kaplan. After Amuso's conviction, he had written to Casso from prison asking him to ask Kaplan to ask "the cops" how Amuso came to be arrested making calls at a pay phone in a Pennsylvania mall. The note was found when Casso was arrested. "I am still very puzzled how they nailed me on Black Sunday," Amuso wrote to Casso. "I'm surprised you never got the true story. That was my last call there that day. I had a new number for you. Too late now but I'm still looking for the correct story!" The import of the letter was plain. Casso, through Kaplan and "the cops," could access the intelligence files of the FBI and NYPD to discover who was behind the plot to reveal Amuso's location. Casso's failure to ask "the cops" raised the implication that Casso had something to hide. There was only a small leap from there to Casso's complicity in Amuso's capture. "Amuso gave the order that no Lucheses were to cooperate with Casso in his escape plans. Zappola was told to call off the plan for the assault on the prison bus. It was the prison equivalent of the Puccini aria. Sola, perduta, abandonata. Starring in his own soap opera, Casso was alone, lost, abandoned."

By the beginning of March, with Casso's trial only weeks away, his situation then grew even more dire. On March 2, an article appeared in the New York Times that offered the first public interview of a major mafia figure who had become a cooperator. Tumac Accetturo, the man Casso had so desperately wished to kill, had just been convicted of racketeering and extortion charges. He faced a sentence of thirty to sixty years. He was also still the subject of an outstanding murder contract ordered by Casso. Like so many other mobsters at the time, Accetturo decided to cooperate. Accetturo, Casso knew, would pile still more intelligence about Luchese operations atop what D'Arco and Chiodo had already given to the FBI. The case against Casso only became stronger as time passed. "Accetturo talking to the press was a new wrinkle. Law enforcement was winning on all fronts and at all levels. There was a propagandistic purpose to parsing out information from cooperators to newspapers. Gangsters like Casso felt a lot uneasier. Everyone was caving, it seemed at the time. The perception was bad for mob morale."

Interviewed by New York Times mafia specialist Selwyn Raab, Accetturo recited the reasons he had decided to become a cooperating witness for the government. First and foremost was the degradation of the "values" of the mafia. He said he had grown up in the old mafia tradition, when becoming a made man was "an honorable and respectable thing, like a dream, like some people want to become a doctor," he said. "In them days, we were disciplined and coordinated."

Accetturo said he had tried to avoid resorting to violence in running the affairs of his faction of the Lucheses. By contrast, Amuso and Casso were addicted to murder. "They had no training, no honor. All they want to do is kill, kill, kill, get what you can, even if you didn't earn it," the Jersey capo told the New York Times. When he decided to cooperate, Accetturo had turned to a New Jersey organized crime police officer who had pursued him for years -- a man he'd known since childhood in Orange, New Jersey. Accetturo and Bobby Buccino had opted for brotherhoods on the opposite sides of the law. Accetturo had gone into crime; Buccino had become a policeman. "The mafia is no longer an honorable secret society," the New York Times quoted Accetturo saying. "There is no glamour like in the movies and most of the families are becoming street gangs. Either you wind up in the can, your life finished like me, or dead."

Prosecutors now had a mountain of evidence on Casso. His former comrades would take the stand, raise their right hand, and exact revenge on the man who had tried to kill them. The walls were closing in on him. Once he was convicted he would be shipped to some distant federal penitentiary, where he had no contacts. There would be no way to bust out. He would be finished and forgotten.

"Casso did what he always did best -- he calculated. There were a lot of ways he could help the government if he became a cooperator himself. He could close the DeCicco murder for them. He could solve the murders of Jimmy Bishop and Otto Heidel and Anthony DiLapi. Casso could testify against Vincent Chin Gigante, the Genovese boss pretending to be mentally incompetent, who was about to stand trial. The chances of getting a deal were decent. Casso might get a sentence reduction. He might do twenty years, which wasn't bad considering we'd charged him with fourteen murders. But if he wanted the real deal, the Sammy the Bull Gravano deal, he would have to give up more than a bunch of mob murders. Gravano gave the federal government their number one target -- John Gotti. To get what Gravano got, Casso had to give prosecutors in the Eastern District something they couldn't resist. Casso needed a bombshell -- and he had one."

THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME

Arranging to become a cooperator was not a straightforward matter. In order to betray his brother mobsters Casso first had to deceive them. Casso had to engineer a way to contact the government without tipping off his co-accused. If the government didn't agree to Casso's cooperating, or if a deal couldn't be struck, he needed to be able to return to custody and trial without it emerging that he had tried to flip. Of all people, Casso understood the consequences for a made man if he ratted, or tried to rat. Casso had a trusted blood relative approach the FBI Special Agent in charge of Casso's case, Richard Rudolph. If a deal could be struck, the relative told Rudolph, Casso might be interested in becoming a cooperator.

"The offer was intriguing and revolting at the same time. Everyone in law enforcement knew about Gaspipe Casso. He was the kind of man cops become cops to catch. The government had a strong case against Casso. Amuso had just been convicted. But the first Windows Case had gone poorly. Chiodo wasn't the greatest witness. D'Arco was loud and abrasive on the stand. Prosecutors have to weigh intangibles like credibility in making decisions. Strip away all the science of organized crime cases -- photographs, wire taps, physical evidence -- the human component is at the heart of the law. Would Gaspipe Casso be convicted? Probably. Was there a chance he would walk and return to the streets of Brooklyn to throw a homecoming party and kill his many enemies? Maybe.

"And then there was the information Casso might give us. Casso promised he had more than even Sammy the Bull Gravano had. Gotti had been the icon of organized crime for half a decade. His conviction changed the whole tone of life in New York City. The message was incredibly powerful, to real gangsters and to wannabes. How could Casso top that?

"Casso had the answer. Casso had the 'crystal ball.' With killer cops on offer, there was no way Assistant United States Attorneys Charles Rose and Gregory O'Connell could turn down the offer. With the right structure, prosecutors could have their cake and eat it too. Casso would give them everything he had. He would plead guilty to multiple racketeering crimes. Casso might even think he was going to get five years in a special housing unit for snitches and then a new identity and life in a suburb of a distant Sun belt city.

"Gravano's deal was an attractive fantasy for Casso -- one we didn't discourage when we were dealing with cooperators. Every pitch I ever made to gangsters trying to get them to flip included mentioning the deal Sammy Gravano got. I did it with killers of many ethnicities and proclivities. I told them I couldn't promise, but I wanted them to think that if he had managed to walk then maybe they could too. It wasn't precisely a bait and switch but dealing with a man like Casso involved psychological manipulation. Some criminals respond to carrots, some respond to sticks. All the government can do, Casso was told, was promise to write a letter to his sentencing judge detailing the nature and value of his cooperation. Only the judge could decide if a lesser sentence was justified. Casso was trapped and desperate. He was eager to make a deal, and there was no point in pricking his hopes about how good it might be. The minute he became a cooperator we had him."

"'Queen for a Day' was prosecutor slang for the agreement Casso signed. In the fifties a television game show offered the winning contestant -- the one who had the saddest and hardest life -- the grand prize of one day with no responsibilities. She was showered with gifts -- new dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, her favorite cleaning products. The same was true for criminals like Casso looking to make a deal. Casso came in for one day and told us everything he would tell us, under oath and for the record, if he became a cooperator. He pitched us. We needed to know what we were going to get before we agreed. If there was no deal, and the accused took the stand in his own defense at trial, we could use his statements as evidence to impeach him. Otherwise, he had no legal exposure for what he confessed. The arrangement allowed each side to figure out if Gaspipe Casso was the unlikely queen of the borough of Brooklyn."

On the last day of his life as a mobster, Casso telephoned his wife, Lillian. She ran a lingerie shop in Brooklyn. "Sell the store," he told her, "take the money, take the kids, and go to Florida. I'll never see you again." A sale was duly announced. "Buy 2, Get 1 Free," a sign said. "Limited Time Offer." Next a story had to be invented to provide Casso the excuse to leave the MCC without his co-defendants, Richard the Toupee Pagliarulo and Frank Lastorino. In normal circumstances, with wiseguys warily watching each other for any sign of betrayal, co-defendants moved in unison. Early on the morning of Tuesday, March 1, 1994, Casso boarded the van leaving for the Brooklyn courthouse. Five Colombos up on RICO charges themselves were in the van with Casso. "I go to trial next week," Casso said to the Colombos. "Can you believe it, I gotta give handwriting samples today." "You're kidding," one of the Colombos said. "I ain't kidding," Casso replied.

Appearing before Judge Eugene Nickerson, Casso pled guilty to fourteen counts of murder conspiracy. Then he was flown to a military base outside EI Paso, Texas. La Tuna was the correctional facility where Joe Cargo Valachi had been taken three decades earlier when he became the first made man to break the mafia's code of silence.

As New York Times mafia reporter Selwyn Raab wrote in his magisterial history Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, Casso was housed in the "Valachi Suite." Kept in a six-by-nine cell at night, by day he had access to his own television, refrigerator, and hot plate. The temperature in the rooms in the arid desert heat was regulated by a "swamp cooler," which circulated cool water through the piping. Federal prosecutor Charlie Rose, son of an NYPD motorcycle cop and a legendary federal prosecutor from Brooklyn, conducted the debriefing along with his colleague Greg O'Connell. The lawyers were entertained by Casso's obsessive cleaning of his suite; he continuously wiped up crumbs from the cakes he enjoyed serving with tea. For reading material, Casso asked for the Robb Report, a magazine dedicated to the "luxury lifestyle."

Sitting with Rose and O'Connell, and a procession of FBI agents, Casso spent months recounting his life of crime. Over the years, it emerged, Casso had participated in or ordered not fourteen but thirty-six murders. Law enforcement knew that Gaspipe Casso was a dangerous man -- one of the worst criminals in the history of Brooklyn -- but the scale of his depravity was breathtaking. "I have done proffers with all kinds of killers," Oldham said. "I once debriefed a Cuban hit man who had murdered forty people. Casso was like that. Killing was a way of life."

Casso began by telling Rose that he had been plotting to murder him. It wasn't because Rose was trying to put him in prison; that was just his job. Casso had a personal grudge against Rose. Casso thought that Rose had been the source of the Newsday article that speculated that Casso's wife was having an affair with Anthony Fava, the architect whose murder Casso had ordered. As a lawman, in Casso's view, Rose should have known better than to publicly dishonor another man like that. Casso also explained to Rose that he knew Rose was a prosecutor in the Windows Case and that Rose had debriefed Fat Pete Chiodo when he flipped. Casso figured Chiodo was responsible for starting the rumor of his wife's infidelity as a way of getting at Casso.

Casso then upped the stakes. He told Rose he had employed two NYPD detectives to assist in finding out where Rose lived. Casso's "cops" had supplied him with a post office box in the Hamptons and an address on Park Avenue South. Casso said he had sent George Neck Zappola to search for Rose, with orders to kill. Zappola had set up surveillance outside the federal courthouse in the Eastern District. To Rose's colleague, O'Connell, Casso had gone too far. The government dealt with all kinds of killers but O'Connell felt plotting to kill a federal official was beyond the pale. To do a deal with Casso, to help him get a lesser sentence, put federal officials in jeopardy. Morally, ethically, politically, Casso was unusable. Rose disagreed. Using Casso was worth the risk. Casso was too valuable not to use. Casso could destroy the Luchese family. Casso could unravel the last great mafia conspiracy.

"I forgive you, Anthony," Rose said. "Let's continue."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:48 am

PART 2 OF 3

"THE CRYSTAL BALL"

Scattered through Casso's story was the recurring, evolving, blood-soaked conspiracy involving the two NYPD detectives he called "the crystal ball." The tale didn't emerge in chronological order. Casso's story was chaotic, bouncing erratically from scheme to scam to murder conspiracy. Debriefings were done by a number of FBI Special Agents, some with little knowledge of the overarching cases. Events were recorded as Casso recalled them, or as needed to assist with ongoing prosecutions. The litany of Casso's crimes included virtually every imaginable form of criminality. Kidnapping, drug running, extortion, bid rigging, murder, murder, and murder.

Nonetheless, the conspiracy that had been hidden for nearly a decade was now revealed in all its complexity. Casso told Rose and O'Connell that he had been paying off two NYPD detectives. The officers in question were senior figures inside the force. One detective worked in the Major Case Squad, he said. The other was assigned to the Six-Three Detective Squad. "The sickening sense we had for years -- the gut-wrenching feeling that something was deeply wrong inside the force -- was confirmed by Casso. The tale sprawled over years, shifting from Brooklyn to L.A. and Florida, with timelines crisscrossing and conspiracies compounding in a bewildering but believable manner. Inside all the insanity, Casso's narration was devastatingly credible."

Word by word, day by day, the prosecutors and detectives assembled the chilling legacy of the "crystal ball." The beginning of the story of the "crystal ball" had been the turning point in Casso's life -- the moment that divided everything that happened to him into "before" and "after." Before, Casso had been a rising power in the 19th Hole Crew in the Luchese family. Later, Casso had two members of the New York City Police Department working as informants for him. Before, he was just another mobster, albeit an unusually cunning and cruel one. After, he was one of the most connected made men in the history of the mafia. Before, he was a killer and thug. After, he was a clairvoyant, able to foresee events as if granted supernatural powers.

The tale began on the evening of September 14, 1986. It was pleasant in Brooklyn, a warm autumn breeze stirring under a clear sky. Casso had an appointment to meet his nephew Vincent "Fat Vinny" DiPierro at a strip mall in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn. Earlier that day Fat Vinny had called Casso with a business proposition. DiPierro had been approached by a Gambino associate named Jimmy Hydell, who claimed he had a "huge" number of stolen checks he wanted to sell. One of Casso's many criminal pursuits was fencing stolen financial instruments. Through Burt Kaplan, who had connections in New York's Hasidic Jewish community, Casso was able to quickly move hot negotiables like blank checks.

A rendezvous was set for eight o'clock at a mall at the corner of Veteran's Avenue and East 71st Street in Brooklyn, not far from Casso's house. Casso arrived early, purchased an ice-cream cone at Carvel, and sat in his gold Lincoln Town Car waiting for Hydell to meet with DiPierro. "Casso knew Hydell. They were friendly. But he wouldn't deal directly with him. Always cautious, Casso used Fat Vinny as his front for the transaction so Hydell wouldn't know he was dealing with Casso. Casso was not going to give away information that could be used against him if Hydell got in trouble and became an informant. But Hydell knew Casso too. Hydell knew how Casso operated. He knew Fat Vinny would go to Casso with the deal. Hydell didn't have any blank checks to sell."

That evening, Fat Vinny waited for Hydell inside a Chinese restaurant called the Golden Ox. At seven-thirty a blue Plymouth Fury circled the intersection. Three men were inside the Fury. Bob Bering, the driver, was a former New York City transit policeman who had turned to a life of crime. A big and fierce-looking OC associate named Nicky Guido was in the passenger seat armed with a 9mm automatic and a .38 revolver. Jimmy Hydell, the Gambino associate, was in the backseat with two shotguns. "Hydell had been hired to kill Casso by a Gambino gangster named Michael 'Mickey Boy' Paradiso. Paradiso told Hydell the contract came from the Gambino family. Gotti was supposed to want revenge for the murder of Frank DeCicco. The hit was supposedly retribution. But the real reason was simple. Paradiso and Casso were fighting over money from a heroin deal."

The Hydell crew had been clocking Casso for weeks but he was far too smart and paranoid for them. He didn't follow any routine. He was expert at "watching his mirrors" -- to make sure he wasn't being tailed by cops or gangsters. A few nights earlier, Casso had spotted Nicky Guido set up on him outside a Brooklyn restaurant. Casso was eating dinner when a waiter came up to him and said there was a suspicious-looking man sitting in front of the restaurant. Casso went to the window and saw Guido in a small red sports car looking like the poster child for armed thugs.

The three hunters constituted a particularly sinister trio. Nicky Guido was a standard-issue criminal: a day laborer when he had to work, a thief and hired muscle the rest of the time. Bering, the ex-cop, was a drug dealer with a bus company who'd managed to finagle a city contract to transport handicapped school kids -- one of the most corrupt businesses in the city. Hydell and Bering had met on Rikers Island in the early eighties, where they were both serving time. "Bering was in his forties, Hydell was twenty-six, but they teamed up. By 1986 they were killers. Earlier that year, Hydell and Bering murdered a made man named Jack D'Angelo. A little while later, Hydell shot the manager of a school bus company, in front of his house in Great Kills on Staten Island. Joe Trinetto was caught in the middle of a disagreement with Bob Bering. Hydell had used the same trick a Luchese team used with Otto Heidel -- he let the air out of Trinetto's tires and killed him as he was jacking up the car.

In April of that year Hydell discovered that his girlfriend, Annette DiBiasi, was having an affair with a married man. Hydell and Bering snatched her as she walked out the door of her house. DiBiasi was a nice girl from all reports, caught up with the wrong guy. Hydell raped her in the van. Then he and Bering wrapped her body in a tarp, naked and alive, and drove to a wooded area near the Richmond Parkway on Staten Island. Hydell had already dug a grave in the woods. As they were carrying her into the forest Bering slipped and she rolled out of the tarpaulin. Hydell sent Bering back to the car and dumped her in the grave, where he shot her five times with a .22. Hydell cut up her clothes and credit cards and wallet with scissors and tossed them out of the window of the van as they drove along the Jersey Turnpike.

As the trio circled that September evening waiting for the moment to kill Casso, Hydell and Guido were both wearing hunting camouflage, their faces covered with masks. The Fury looked like a police detective's vehicle: there was a siren and Bering had placed a "teardrop," the revolving red light used by the NYPD, on the dashboard. "The combined IQ in that Fury didn't break double digits. Hydell had purloined a set of stolen license plates to put on the car. But there was a mix-up. Bering had taken his own plates from the car and put them on top of the refrigerator at his place. Guido was staying with Bering at the time. One of the two masterminds took the plates from the top of the fridge and put them back on the Fury. As a result, Bering's own plates were on the Fury."

At eight o'clock they came upon Casso parked in the bus stop in front of the mall eating his ice-cream cone. A bus pulled into the stop. Bering didn't stop; he knew the bus was equipped with a radio. If they opened up on Casso, the bus driver would call in and police would descend with potentially risky dispatch. Minutes later they returned to the intersection. Casso was still sitting in his car licking his ice-cream cone but there was no bus in sight. The Fury pulled alongside Casso's Town Car. "There was less than a foot between the vehicles. Hydell raised his 12-gauge and opened fire. Nicky Guido, sitting on the passenger side, started to fire his 9 millimeter -- but of course the gun jammed. It should have been a shooting gallery. Hydell was letting rip with a 12-gauge but he was either a terrible shot or too afraid to take aim. He nailed the Town Car. The windows were shattered. The doors were pocked with slug holes. But Bering and Hydell managed the nearly impossible -- from point-blank range they didn't kill Casso."

Casso was struck by pellets in the shoulder and neck from the shotgun blasts. He rolled to the floor of the passenger side and opened the door to the Town Car and crawled to the sidewalk while the shooting continued. Once on his feet, he made for the door of the Golden Ox. He stumbled through the restaurant, grabbing a tablecloth to stanch the bleeding as he went. Casso proceeded through the restaurant, descended into the basement, and entered the walk-in freezer. No one told the police Casso was hiding in the freezer. The employees and customers were too scared. At first Casso was hiding in case the shooters came after him. After a while he was hiding from the police. He didn't want to talk to the NYPD. His wounds were painful but not life-threatening. When he was certain it was safe, he left the freezer and called Amuso and told him to come pick him up.

Fat Vinny, Casso's obese young cousin, was inspecting the damage to Casso's car as the police arrived on the scene. Investigators quickly determined that the victim of the shooting was Gaspipe Casso. The car was registered to Progressive Distributors Inc., a Staten Island clothing company controlled by Burt Kaplan. Later that night detectives found Casso in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds. Casso didn't want to talk to the police about the attempted murder. "There's nobody who doesn't like me," he told the police. "I don't know nothing about organized crime."

But of course there were dozens of people who might want to kill Casso. Even the short list was long. Brooklyn South Homicide caught the case. Fortunately for the police, and unfortunately for the Hydell hit squad, the intersection of Veteran's Avenue and East 71st Street was teeming with eyewitnesses. Detective Thomas Kenney, a retired member of the NYPD who worked as a security guard, told investigators he heard the gunfire and then watched the blue Fury careen away from the strip mall, make a U-turn, and speed toward him. Kenney had reached for his gun but said the Fury appeared to be a police car so he didn't shoot or display his gun. He took down the license plate number: 2778TCG. The plate was registered to Bob Bering. Within days the Fury was found abandoned on Daffodil Lane on Staten Island. The fingerprints of Bob Bering and Nicky Guido were found on the interior of the car. Detective Powell was making excellent progress.

Unknown to the NYPD, there was another investigation racing toward its conclusion. Convalescing in the hospital, Anthony Casso didn't cooperate with the NYPD investigation. He wasn't interested in having the case closed by arrests. Casso wanted to close the case himself -- his way. He didn't just want the lowly soldiers who had pulled the trigger. Casso wanted the man behind the man. "As a detective, Casso was resourceful and determined. He had leads. He knew better than anyone who might want him dead. The order had to come from the upper level of one of the other families. No one tried to whack a made man without approval from a boss. Casso was going to find out who came after him and why."

Jimmy Hydell, Bob Bering, and Nicky Guido were under no illusion about the magnitude of the mistake they had made. They each figured Casso would be able to find their houses and have them killed. But that was only one of their many problems. Missing Casso meant that the plot to kill him would be revealed if the three shooters weren't killed first. It followed that Mickey Boy Paradiso himself would want to make sure they remained silent. Put together, they had the Lucheses, Gambinos, and NYPD chasing them all at once. "The first night they hid out at a Holiday Inn. Guido slept with his gun. The next day, Bering packed up his belongings and moved to Long Island. Guido took to carrying a .380 automatic. Hydell grew paranoid -- an attack could come from anywhere, at any time. He already had reason to be afraid of the law because of the murder of Annette DiBiasi. He was a tough, tough kid. No one was going to take him down without a fight."

After a few days Casso was released from the hospital. The Luchese underboss quickly gathered his own leads. First he was approached by a close associate named Anthony Senter, a member of the Roy DeMeo crew, which was earning the richly deserved moniker Murder Inc. at the time. Senter told Casso that a guy named Bob Bering had been asking questions about Casso's car at a bus company near Casso's home a few days before the attempt. The next day, Casso was approached by Colombo wiseguy Jimmy Angellino, who said he had information for Casso. Angellino was Big Sal Miciotta's partner, but Sal was doing a stretch in Allenwood. Angellino said he had a lead for Casso. They met at Christy Tick Furnari's mother's house. One of the Colombo family's Saponaro brothers was there, along with James "Jimmy Brown" Failla and Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone from the Gambino family. Angellino told the assembled group that the son of one of the Saponaros learned that Jimmy Hydell had been overheard talking about trying to murder Casso.

Hydell was a big muscular kid with curly blond hair, a crooked smile, and connections on his father's side to Corrado "Dino" Marino of the Gambino family. Still in his early twenties, he was already acquiring a name for being violent and dangerous -- qualities that gave him cachet with Casso. "Casso liked Hydell. He had helped him get a job with a union, and they saw each other around wiseguy haunts. Keeping tabs on young guys like Hydell was part of the job description for Casso. He needed to know about kids with potential -- kids who were 'capable.' With all five families operating in the same geographic space, with territories overlapping along with business interests and disputes, it was crucial to know the range of potential associates -- and threats." [1]

The tip about Hydell was good intelligence but not evidence. Wheels moved within wheels in the mafia. The Colombos could be collaborating in a fake story to mislead Casso and start a war with the Gambinos. The possibilities baffled Casso as much as they did the investigators. Disputes were one way of measuring the range of people who might want to kill Casso. On that score, Mickey Boy Paradiso was another leading candidate. The foul-mouthed Gambino soldier had just been released from prison after serving eight years on a hijacking conviction. "Paradiso was nearly Casso's equal when it came to crazy. In the seventies he had slapped John Gotti in the face, and lived to tell the story. At the time, Casso and Paradiso were brawling over chopping up the proceeds of a heroin deal. Historically, interfamily arguments were resolved through official channels. Normally, Paradiso and the Gambinos and Casso and the Lucheses would submit their disagreement to the Commission. But the members of the Commission were on trial in federal court. They didn't have time to resolve disputes."

As soon as Casso was released from the hospital, Burton Kaplan contacted him and suggested he had a way of getting information that might help Casso find out who tried to kill him. Kaplan was not a "made" member of the Lucheses but he was a highly valued collaborator of Casso's. Kaplan operated by doing favors for Casso. Kaplan didn't ask for money in return. Casso's gratitude was expressed by the protection the association provided. Kaplan was "with" Casso and that meant he was not to be touched.

For the first time, Anthony Casso heard of the connection Kaplan had inside law enforcement. Kaplan said he knew two NYPD detectives who could assist Casso with his investigation. The two cops were good guys, Kaplan said to Casso. Reliable. Trustworthy. Efficient. Kaplan told Casso how he had used the pair earlier that year. Kaplan had been involved in a stolen Treasury bill scam. The deal went bad, sparking an Interpol investigation. Kaplan decided he needed to find and kill two jewelry dealers who had failed to keep up their end of the deal -- and might snitch on Kaplan. Kaplan went to a local hood named Frank Santora Jr., whom he knew from Allenwood Federal Prison. When they were inmates together, Santora had told Kaplan he had a cousin who was in the NYPD. His cousin was willing to do "things," if Kaplan ever needed help.

Kaplan told Casso he had hired Santora and his detective cousin and his partner, also an NYPD detective, to find the jeweler who had kept money he was supposed to have passed along. The jeweler knew he was in trouble with Kaplan so he would be wary and difficult to apprehend. Kaplan gave Santora and the two cops the jeweler's name, address, car make, and license plate number. The three men tailed the jeweler onto the New York State Thruway and pulled him over using lights. The two NYPD detectives flashed their shields and told the jeweler he was a suspect in a hit-and-run accident. He was told to accompany them for a lineup. The jeweler complied, and vanished. Kaplan told Casso that he was impressed by the level of service provided.

"They done a piece of work for me," Kaplan said to Casso. "I can vouch for them. We can trust them."

In the normal course of business, Casso would be unlikely to agree to any dealings with NYPD officers on the take. The risks outstripped the rewards, at least potentially. There was no need to have cops working for him in the first place. He didn't need to hire hit men. Unlike Kaplan, Casso had a handy supply of killers who would carry out his orders. Less important, there was an ethic in the mafia that made men should not associate with law enforcement. The possibility of contamination was too great. The less a mobster like Casso had to do with cops, dirty or straight, the better. "But Casso was in peril. No one would have tried to kill him without the backing of some major players. Casso needed to find the people who had given the order, before they tried again. The tip about Hydell from the Colombos was a solid lead. But it didn't amount to proof, not the kind Casso needed. Gaspipe wanted rock-solid evidence that Hydell was acting on behalf of someone. Then Casso could go after his real target."

The attack on Casso occurred within the jurisdiction of the Six-Three, the precinct where Santora's cousin, the detective, worked. He would have access to information about the progress of the investigation. Kaplan suggested it was worth asking his "friends" to get it. Casso agreed. "In those days Casso trusted Kaplan as much as he trusted anyone in the underworld. If Kaplan believed the two detectives could help, Casso was willing to try. Kaplan was cautious. He didn't want to reveal to Casso the identities of his sources in the NYPD. When he told Casso the story about the jeweler, Kaplan didn't use names. Kaplan was interested in ingratiating himself with Casso, for a variety of reasons. But the less Casso knew about Kaplan's 'friends' the less risk everyone was taking."

Kaplan contacted Santora. Within days, Santora gave Kaplan a manila NYPD folder. Kaplan opened the folder and was amazed at what was inside. The crime scene reports detailed the investigation into the attempted murder of Anthony Casso. The DD-Ss were comprehensive, detailing all the investigative leads chased down by NYPD detectives. There were photographs of the crime scene showing Casso's car. The license plate on the blue Fury -- the plate registered in Bering's name -- was recorded: "2778TCG." A list of suspects was included in the file. The names of Jimmy Hydell, Bob Bering, and Nicky Guido were on the list. The file included Hydell's criminal record, his address, and a photograph. The folder was precisely what Casso was desperate to get. Kaplan immediately went to Swaggy Carlucci's social club on 13th Avenue. He found Casso there with Amuso. Kaplan risked toying with Casso for a moment, a rare liberty.

"Gas, you know who shot you?" Kaplan asked cockily.

Casso was indignant.

"No," he snapped. "And you don't either."

Casso was already aware that Jimmy Hydell was the leader of the crew that came after him. But letting Kaplan know that he knew was a different matter for a number of reasons. Casso didn't want word out that he was after Hydell. If and when Hydell disappeared, or turned up dead in the trunk of a car in Canarsie, the fewer people who knew about Casso's involvement the better.

"It was Jimmy Hydell," Kaplan said.

Casso feigned surprise and skepticism. "You're crazy," he said. "I just got him a union job. We made friends. We been close for the last year."

"Here," Kaplan said, handing Casso the manila folder. "See for yourself."

Casso opened the folder and found the NYPD reports on his attempted murder. He flicked through the documents that Kaplan believed provided new and vital information for Casso -- priceless information. Casso pulled out the photographs of Hydell and Bob Bering. He saw the name Nicky Guido. From Casso's point of view, the NYPD file was impressive. It confirmed the version of events given to him by the Colombos. Kaplan's "guys" had done an excellent piece of work.

"What do I owe them for this?" Casso asked.

"They wouldn't take no money," Kaplan said. "They wouldn't take no money because someone was looking to hurt you and they don't want money under these circumstances. This is just to show you the kind of thing they would do."

Casso shook his head.

"Boy, that's really nice," he said. "They must be really good guys."

Dozens of mobsters now trolled the streets of Brooklyn and Staten Island looking for Jimmy Hydell. The Gambinos wanted Hydell dead before he could talk. Casso wanted him taken alive so he could talk. If Hydell was alive Casso could definitively say who had ordered him to kill Casso. If Hydell confessed -- and Casso had no moral compunction about using torture to extract information -- Casso could prove to other mobsters who was behind the attempt.

Weeks passed as the hunt continued, with Hydell eluding Casso's capture. Kaplan came to his associate with a startling suggestion. He said "his guys" knew "the kid Hydell." If Casso was interested they would "take care" of him. Casso recognized it was an opportunity not to be ignored. Hydell would fight to the death if any gangsters tried to take him. But if Hydell thought he was being questioned by two cops, if he thought it was a routine roust, he would have no reason to resist.

"They could attempt to arrest Hydell," Casso suggested to Kaplan. "He would go willingly with them."

"What do you want to pay?" Kaplan asked.

"What do you think they'll take?" Casso asked.

Kaplan told Casso he had paid $30,000 for grabbing the jeweler. Kaplan suggested $35,000 would be sufficient. Casso approved the offer. Kaplan called Frank Santora Jr. and they discussed the job and the price. Kaplan emphasized that Hydell was to be taken alive at all costs. Casso wanted the chance to interrogate him. Santora agreed to the job. He asked Kaplan to have Casso supply a car -- one that looked like a police detective's unmarked car.

To get "the cops" a vehicle, Casso contacted Luchese soldier Patty Testa, who was in the used-car business. A nondescript four-door sedan was purchased. Kaplan sent his assistant, Tommy Galpine, to collect the car from Testa; Kaplan was on parole and had to be careful not to be seen associating with known mobsters like Testa. Casso, by contrast, had no recent criminal record and posed no risk to Kaplan's parole. Galpine delivered the car to a lot to be collected by Kaplan's "cops" and the search began.

"As if he didn't have enough to be concerned about, Hydell still had the added trouble of being the target of the investigation of the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Annette DiBiasi. DiBiasi was not just another gangland casualty. She was an innocent young woman with a concerned family. She had been missing for six months and finding her killer had become an obsession for investigators. Detective Al Guarneri of Brooklyn's Six-Two, Louis Eppolito's brother-in-law, was working the case. Guarneri was in regular contact with Hydell but Guarneri was terrified of him -- for good reason. Hydell was volatile. Guarneri had begun to take a police radio home with him, in case he was attacked by Hydell."

Without a confession or solid evidence there was no way to arrest Hydell. At the same time, Mickey Boy Paradiso's brother, Philly, agreed to wear a wire and try to get Hydell to implicate himself in the murder of Annette DiBiasi. George Terra, an investigator from the Brooklyn DA, and an FBI Special Agent named George Hanna made it clear to Philly Paradiso that if he wanted to avoid a long stretch in prison he'd better catch Hydell on tape and bring them DiBiasi's body.

With all the forces moving against Hydell, it was a miracle he was still at large and alive. He could be arrested or killed at any moment. After a few weeks Casso came to Kaplan's house on a Saturday afternoon. He was agitated. Casso wanted Hydell nabbed as soon as possible. Casso wanted to know if Kaplan's "guys" were out looking for Hydell.

Kaplan called Santora. "We gotta get this kid," he said. "Someone is going to kill him and we want him alive," he said.

"They're out looking for him right now," Santora said. He reported that the cops were in Staten Island at that moment.

The date was Saturday, October 18, 1986. Hydell's mother, Betty, was at home doing housework. Jimmy had left the house that morning. His friend Bob Bering had picked him up. Jimmy Hydell didn't tell his mother where he was going or why. He only said Brooklyn. That afternoon, her eighteen-year-old son Frank left home to go to work. Frank returned to the house after a couple of minutes. He told his mother a car had pulled up beside him after slowly passing along Bridgetown Street near the intersection with Bangor Street. Two men in what appeared to be an unmarked police car stopped Frank Hydell. They "tinned" Frank Hydell -- flashed their badges to identify themselves as police officers -- and said they were looking for Jimmy Hydell. Frankie told them they had the wrong Hydell.

Betty Hydell was used to dealing with the police after Annette DiBiasi disappeared and her son Jimmy became a prime suspect. If the police had questions for Jimmy, she believed, they should follow protocol, not prowl and creep along the street outside their house. "Betty Hydell was a nurse by profession but she was also street smart and tough. She wasn't going to let the cops harass her boy without an arrest warrant. She got in her car and went looking for the cops. She pulled up next to them going the opposite direction. She rolled down her window. There was a big man with black hair driving. He was wearing a white shirt and gold necklaces. The small man riding shotgun was dressed in a dark suit. Both were Italian in appearance. The driver flashed his badge."

"You should let people know who you are and what you're doing," Betty Hydell said angrily. "If you're a cop why are you hiding?"

The two NYPD detectives drove away. Betty went home and wrote down the license plate number. Something was wrong, she sensed. At two-forty Jimmy Hydell made a collect call home from a pay phone in Brooklyn. It was the last time Betty Hydell heard her son's voice. He was supposed to meet with Mickey Boy Paradiso in Bensonhurst. The rendezvous was in Dyker Beach Park at 86th Street and 14th Avenue. Hydell's suspicions were running so high, he called Detective Guarneri of the Six-Two to tell him of his whereabouts. Hydell said he was going to see Mickey Boy Paradiso. Telling a cop was a form of insurance for Hydell. If Mickey Boy was setting him up, Hydell could say the police knew where he was and who he was with.

When Hydell reached Dyker Beach Park, "the cops" working for Casso were waiting for him. They arrested Hydell. After they frisked, disarmed, and handcuffed him, they put Hydell in their car. Instead of driving him to a precinct house, the cops took Hydell to a parking lot at 2232 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn.

That afternoon Kaplan received a beep from Frank Santora Jr. Kaplan left his house. The two had a system of using beepers and public phones to make sure no numbers were captured by law enforcement; Kaplan threw away his cell phones and got new numbers every month or two for security purposes. Kaplan beeped Santora with a number from a public phone. The pay phone rang moments later.

"We got him," Santora said.

"You got to be kidding," Kaplan said. "I only called you half an hour ago."

"What do you want us to do with him?"

"Frankie, I'm going to have to call you back."

Kaplan beeped Casso.

"Do you remember that toy store where we used to meet?" Casso asked Kaplan.

It was a Toys 'R' Us on Flatbush Avenue. "Yes, I remember."

"Can you bring him there? In about an hour."

In the meantime, the cops met with Santora at the parking shed one of them rented in the lot on Nostrand Avenue. The lot had a row of two dozen enclosed parking spots in a fenced area in the rear. They drove up to the door of the shed, opened it, and drove in and closed the door. The area was cramped but large enough for Santora Jr. and the cops to pull Hydell out of the car. Hydell's hands were already handcuffed from the arrest in the park. As he started to struggle, Santora and the two police officers bound his feet with duct tape. They stuffed a handkerchief in his mouth and wound duct tape around his head. Hydell was then shoved into the trunk of the car.

With Hydell thus trussed and hidden, Santora drove the car with Hydell in the trunk. The police officers trailed him in another car they'd left on Nostrand. Hydell was kicking and screaming inside the trunk. The cops followed closely to make sure Hydell didn't draw the attention of a citizen or cop on the drive to the Toys 'R' Us. Put another way, Jimmy Hydell and Frank Santora Jr. had a police escort as they made their way to their meeting place with Burt Kaplan and Gaspipe Casso.

The Toys 'R' Us was a well-known landmark in the outer reaches of Brooklyn, popular with families shopping for their kids because of the ample parking. The large store stood at the farthest end of Flatbush Avenue, where one of the borough's main boulevards meets the Belt Parkway and beyond it the Atlantic Ocean. Mobsters liked it too, for its inconspicuousness and multiple exits. Notified by Kaplan of Hydell's capture, Casso and Amuso proceeded to the rear of the store, near a small canal. Kaplan arrived shortly afterward and parked next to Casso and Amuso. It was late in the day and the store was closed; there were no other cars parked in the back. The Plymouth Fury Santora was driving arrived next. Santora got out of the car. Kaplan got out of his car. They walked toward each other. Santora stopped fifteen feet away from Casso -- keeping a respectful distance. There was no reason for them to interact; Kaplan was the broker of the deal.

"What's up, Frank?" Kaplan asked.

"He was kicking and yelling back there," Santora said. "I had to stop and pull over and punch him out to keep him quiet. You got to be careful he don't start screaming and yelling."

Kaplan took the car keys from Santora and walked back toward Casso. The arrangement was that Casso would take possession of both the Fury and Hydell.

"Who are those two guys?" Casso asked.

Kaplan turned. Two hundred feet away, standing next to their car near the entrance off Flatbush Avenue to the Toys 'R' Us parking lot, were two men. One was big and overweight, the other thin. Kaplan had not been introduced to the two NYPD detectives by Santora, but he had seen them twice and knew who they were. Kaplan walked back to Santora. "What are they doing here?" he asked.

"They followed me to back me up," Santora said.

Kaplan thought it was an excellent gesture -- seeing the job through. Professional. Commendable. Beyond the call of duty.

"That's Frankie's cousin and his partner," Kaplan told Casso.

"They're backing him up."

"Okay," Casso said. "Tell them to get out of here. You get out of here."

The exchange in the Toys 'R' Us parking lot was the only time Gaspipe Casso saw "the cops" in person.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:48 am

PART 3 OF 3

IN THE BASEMENT

Behind the wheel of the Plymouth, Casso transported his cargo to the house of an associate in Bergen Beach, who lived close to the Toys 'R' Us, reducing the possibility of being stopped with Hydell in the trunk. Casso had not forewarned his associate but he didn't need to. The guy did the smart thing when Casso commandeered his house -- he left town with his family.

Hydell was bleeding badly when Casso took him from the car. He could easily have choked to death on the blood, Casso thought, curled in the trunk with his arms handcuffed behind him. Hydell was dragged down to the basement. The duct tape was removed from his head and the handkerchief taken from his mouth. The handcuffs were removed. His feet remained bound. The questioning began.

"Torture was a better word for it. Casso had a cruel streak that ran to sadistic. It was the kind of man he was. In the late seventies he was involved in smuggling tons of marijuana and Quaaludes into New York aboard a ship called Terry's Dream. When the boat was seized, Casso and Amuso and their posse decided the son of the captain had to be killed. His name was Dave, he was a kid, but he had been involved in bringing the drugs up from Florida and there was a chance he might talk to law enforcement. They lured Dave to a shooting range near 'alligator alley' in Florida. They shot him a bunch of times with a .22. They hadn't finished digging his grave so they cleaned up the blood at the scene and kept digging the kid's grave but the ground was rocky and hard. They only got a foot or eighteen inches deep. They dragged Dave into the hole and started filling it with dirt. But Dave was still alive. He raised his head. Casso hit him in the head with a shovel and they continued to bury him alive."

As the questioning continued through the night and into the following morning, a procession of wiseguys passed through the basement to hear Hydell recount the sequence of events. Joe "Butch" Corrao and John "Handsome Jack" Giordano of the Gambino family were brought to the basement, as were members of the Lucheses representing Tom Mix Santoro. Casso wanted them all to hear the story. He wanted permission to kill Hydell, an associate of the Gambinos and a prized young man because of his violent propensities. Hydell recited the facts of the attempt on Casso, relating details that could only be known to a participant. Hydell said he had two accomplices: Nicky Guido and Bob Bering. Fat Vinny didn't know he was being used to set up Casso, Hydell said. Hydell's statement confirmed what Casso already knew. Casso wanted the names of the men who had ordered the hit. Hydell gave Casso three names: Mickey Boy Paradiso, Bobby Boriello, and Eddie Lino, all three senior Gambino figures.

Everyone was amazed that Casso had managed to find and then nab Hydell without firing a shot. It was the question on the mind of all the mobsters who came to the basement. How, precisely, had Casso managed to not only find Hydell but take him alive? When Sammy the Bull Gravano came to hear Hydell's confession he wasn't interested in the details of the conspiracy to kill Casso. Gravano wanted to know how Casso nabbed Hydell. The feat was the beginning of the legend of Gaspipe Casso. From that time onward, he was able to do things that appeared impossible. He knew who was a rat. He knew where bugs and taps were hidden. He knew who was about to be pinched. Casso was a soothsayer. There was no telling where his reach began or ended. He was a man to be deeply feared.

Gravano, a stocky, musclebound man at the time, had the temerity to ask how Casso had caught Hydell. Casso put his hand on Gravano's knee -- in the mafia a gesture of contempt. "Don't worry about how we got him," Casso said to Gravano, "worry about who ordered it."

Tied up in the basement, beaten to within an inch of his life, Hydell waited to die. The Gambinos and Casso and his fellow Lucheses stepped outside for a discussion. There was no doubt Hydell was telling the truth, nor was there any doubt about what Casso was going to do. The Gambinos agreed to Casso's proposed solution. After a few minutes, Casso and Amuso went back to the basement.

"I know you're going to kill me," Hydell told Casso. "Just do one thing for me. I have a life insurance policy. It isn't much but it's all I got. Will you put my body in the street so it can be found and my mother can collect the life insurance?"

"Don't worry about it," Casso said. "I'll do that."

Casso took out a .22 automatic pistol, equipped with a silencer, and began shooting. He emptied the pistol into Hydell. He reloaded and fired again. Casso shot Hydell fifteen times. The body was put in the trunk of the Plymouth. Casso tossed in the gun. He drove to a parking lot near a boatyard. Casso gave the keys to the Plymouth to Patty Testa. He instructed Testa to get rid of the body. "Casso promised Hydell he would leave his body where it could be found so his mother could collect on his life insurance policy. Casso didn't keep his word. He found a way to punish Hydell and his family even after death. To this day, the body of Jimmy Hydell remains missing."

THE WRONG NICKY GUIDO

Casso's investigation was complete, but the punishment phase was just beginning. Casso started with the two other shooters -- Bob Bering and Nicky Guido, whose names were in the manila NYPD folder Kaplan had given Casso. The file contained a photograph of Bering and his address on Daffodil Lane on Staten Island. Casso drove by Bering's house and parked outside and waited. Bering didn't turn up. Casso gave George Neck Zappola orders to continue surveillance. Zappola drove by from time to time but weeks passed and there was no sign of him. Bering had run to Long Island, displaying the good sense to make himself permanently scarce.

Nicky Guido was another matter. Information on him was thin and contradictory. Guido appeared to be a low-level newcomer to the underworld, a hanger-on used strictly for muscle. He had no criminal record so Casso didn't have a photograph of Guido nor his pedigree from the NYPD files. But Casso did have leads. The manila folder had an address for Guido near Court Street in Carroll Gardens. Casso and Amuso went by the address several times but didn't see anyone who lived there. Casso gave the contract to kill Guido to three Luchese foot soldiers. They went and watched Guido's address intermittently. While surveilling the Guido address they observed a small red sports car parked on the block. They noted the license plate number and gave it to Casso. The presence of a red sports car rang a bell for Casso. Days before he was shot he had seen a man who looked like a hood sitting in a red sports car in the street outside a restaurant where Casso was dining. The red sports car needed to be investigated.

"There was now a standard operating procedure in place. Casso gave the license number to Kaplan and asked him to have 'the cops' run a check on it. If the car was registered to Nicky Guido, Casso would have his man. Kaplan came back to him and said that 'the cops' had the details Casso was after. He said they wanted to be paid four thousand dollars for the address of Nicky Guido. This struck Casso as pure greed. The agreed price for the Hydell kidnapping had been thirty-five thousand. Casso had given Santora and the two cops an extra five grand as a bonus for a job well done. Gaspipe complained to Kaplan that the cops were asking for too much. Casso decided to take a pass. He knew the name of his target was Nicky Guido. Guido lived in Brooklyn. How hard could it be to find him? There were other contacts Casso had. Casso turned to a guy he had in the gas company. Finding Nicky Guido should be as simple as running the name through the gas company's list of subscribers. An address in Windsor Terrace came back -- an area of Brooklyn nowhere near Court Street."

Casso's foot soldiers set up on the house in Windsor Terrace anyway. While watching they saw a man who vaguely fit the description Casso had given them -- big, Italian-looking, young. There was a red car in the area, a Nissan Maxima. Not exactly a sports car, but it was new and had a fairly sporty design for a sedan. But the ID was weak. They didn't get much of a look at the man. The whole neighborhood was Italian-American. One of the soldiers reported back to Casso that they needed a better identification before they made a move. "Casso's crew had nothing better to do on Christmas Day 1986, than sit double-parked in a car and wait for the guy to come out of his house. That was life in the 'life' -- losers wasting their lives taking lives. Late in the afternoon, they see two men emerge from the house -- one older, one younger, dressed in a new white winter coat. The two men crossed 17th Street and approached the red Nissan. Two of Casso's soldiers get out of the car. They run up on the car and open fire on the driver's side. Four shots go off in rapid succession, echoing along the silent street. The kid threw himself in front of the older man, catching the hit team's gunfire. The Lucheses ran back to the car and took off. Nicky Guido was lying in the driver's seat with his eyes open and barely breathing, his white winter coat covered with blood."

The Christmas Day murder of Nicky Guido caught the attention of the press in New York City. Senseless violence on one of the holy days of the year was appalling enough to penetrate the consciousness of a city with a soaring murder rate. The investigation quickly revealed the apparent lack of a motive to murder Nicky Guido. Detective William Powell of the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad caught the case. Within hours a portrait of the victim emerged as an unlikely target of a gangland-style homicide. Nicky Guido was known in the neighborhood as a nice quiet shy kid with no affiliations with the mafia or any criminals. He worked for a telephone company on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. He liked to bowl and listen to police scanners. Joe Guido, an uncle, was a detective in the Crimes Against Property Unit in the 120th Precinct. At midnight on Christmas Day he came to the Seven-Two to ask if they knew why his nephew had been killed. "All that Nicky did was work hard and live for his car," Detective Powell recorded Guido's uncle Joe saying. "Before Detective Guido came to the 72nd Precinct he talked to the Nicky Guido family and there was nothing they could tell him about why anyone would want Nicky killed. Nicky Guido's father Gabe is Joe Guido's brother and he would not hide information from Joe Guido. Joe Guido also states that Nicky looked up to Joe Guido because he was a New York City detective and Nicky wanted to be a New York City cop."

There was no evidence to suggest any organized crime connection. There was nothing pointing to another family member being behind the murder. No grudges, or disputes, or debts. Guido loved to drive his car. Local girls would go clubbing, to places like Funhouse and Players, and he would drop them at the door but not go inside. Guido claimed he wasn't dressed well enough for a nightclub but it was obvious to the girls he was too shy. He never asked the girls to go out with him. He was insecure about his appearance. Girls had "a brother-sister relationship" with him. Guido was considered a "nice kid." He didn't drink or smoke or do drugs. Lizabeth Lynott, a twenty-year-old NYPD probationary police officer Guido often gave rides to, said she had given him a white jacket for Christmas that year. None had any idea why Nicky Guido would be murdered.

Detective Powell reported in the murder file that Christmas Day had passed quietly in the Guido residence. Dinner was served at three-fifteen, with a brood of uncles and aunts and cousins in attendance. Nicky was eager to show his uncle Anthony his new red Maxima. The uncle recalled the scene, as documented by Detective Powell: "They crossed the street and Nicky opened the car door and got in behind the wheel and reached over and opened the passenger door for his uncle. The uncle got into the passenger seat and the doors were closed. Nicky started the car and was showing off the fancy dashboard. Nicky suddenly reached over, grabbed his uncle, and pulled him down in the seat. Nicky said, 'GET DOWN, STAY DOWN, STAY DOWN UNCLE TONY.' After the uncle was pulled down onto the seat, he states that he heard four shots. Nicky kept holding him down. He tried to get a look at the shooter but Nicky wouldn't let him up.

The DD-S continued, "Uncle Anthony had only seen a white male (he could see the back of his neck) in a light-colored cap leap into a light blue car and speed away. He tried to catch the license plate but couldn't see it. He had no further details to offer on the incident -- he had been engaged in admiring Nicky's dashboard. He is upset and the interview was terminated after the uncle stated he had checked Nicky for a pulse and couldn't find one. He ran into the house and told the family what had happened and they called the police. The uncle believes that Nicky saved his life by pulling him down onto the seat."

Detective Powell's leads were not promising. The only eyewitnesses were two young boys who had been outside playing that day. Neither of them wanted to get involved. They were having nightmares about the shooting. Their parents wouldn't let them assist the investigation. A neighbor across the street was a retired detective from the Eight-One. He approached investigators and told them that Nicky had no reputation for trouble -- he was "well liked."

The day after the murder, Detective Powell was contacted by George Terra from the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. Terra was investigating the attempted murder of Gaspipe Casso and had one Nicky Guido listed as a suspect. Terra didn't give Powell the context. He simply asked for the basic facts regarding the Nicky Guido killed on 17th Street -- date of birth, address, criminal history. "Powell was no fool. The Brooklyn DA wasn't cooperating with his investigation. Powell continued working leads. He ran the license plates of cars parked on the street that day. He interviewed Nicky Guido's extended family. But the longer the case went the more it seemed obvious there was some kind of mistake involved in shooting an unconnected and harmless kid. There had to be something going on. Powell did his homework. He figured out there was another Nicky Guido out there -- a little older, lived in Carroll Gardens, had brushes with the law. Powell decided it would be worthwhile talking to the intended victim -- the other Nicky Guido."

The Guido file contained a DD-5 recording that on January 14, 1986, Detectives Powell, Semioli, and DeFranco from Brooklyn South Homicide went to see a woman named Mrs. Guido who lived in a basement apartment on Nelson Street, just off Smith Street, in a working-class Italian area where the elevated subway rattles by overhead. She was the mother of Nicky Guido -- the one involved in the attempt on Casso. The detectives told her that they had heard rumors that her son was the intended victim. "Mrs. Guido informed Detectives that she had also heard the same rumors," the report said. "She further related that on 12-25-86 she learned of the murder on 17th Street on a television news show. She says she was shocked to hear the name of Nicholas Guido on the television. Her son was asleep on the couch. She woke him up and told him of the story and that the dead man was named Nicholas Guido. She stated that her son seemed shaken by the news."

The DD-5 continued, "During the course of the conversation about the rumors she had heard, it was disclosed that the trouble all comes from a friend of her son. She called this friend Jimmy. She stated that she had only met him once. He was in the house when she came home from work. She recalled that she didn't like his looks. She said that she doesn't know Jimmy's last name but that he had blond hair. She said that Nicky and Jimmy used to do small plumbing and construction jobs. She had heard that Jimmy had disappeared. She asked her son what the rumors were about and Nicky denied any wrongdoing. She was shaken by the news that the Detectives had also heard these rumors."

The three detectives told her that she should advise her son to turn himself in to the police for protection. They gave her the phone number for the Homicide Squad office. The next day, Detective Powell received a call from an attorney named Gino Singer. He said he represented a client by the name of Nicky Guido. He said Guido had called an hour before asking him to call the NYPD to see if the men who had come to his mother's house earlier that day were in fact policemen, not impersonators. "The undersigned confirmed that I was one of the Detectives that had spoken to Mrs. Guido," Detective Powell wrote. "Mr. Singer then asked what was going on. The undersigned replied that I was assigned to the murder case of a Nicholas Guido that was shot on 12-25-86. I informed the attorney that after a few days it was my belief that the 17th Street murder was a mistake. I started asking around and I was informed that there was a contract out on another Nicky Guido. Mr. Singer asked if this was coming from people who would be in the know about such things. Mr. Singer was informed that in the opinion of the undersigned his client had a problem. Mr. Singer said that Nicky had been offered police protection in the past, but he didn't like the idea. The undersigned stated that Nicky was the one to decide if he was in danger. Mr. Singer then asked if it was true that a retired cop had been found dead this morning. I confirmed this but stated that I had no particulars on the case. Mr. Singer asked if the dead man was Robert Bering. I said no. Mr. Singer said that he would convey the gist of our conversation to his client."

Detective Powell had no way of knowing it at the time, but Bob Bering had also heard the news of Guido's murder on the television broadcast. There was no photograph of the victim so Bering had no way of determining if it was the Nicky Guido he knew. Bering had called the Guido home on Nelson Street repeatedly. Guido's mother hung up on him and then Guido's cousin picked up the phone and told Bering to never call again. Bering was living on Long Island. He carried a .38 with him everywhere, including to bed. Every step he took was fraught with fear. Casso was coming after him, he was sure. On January 3, just over a week after the wrong Nicky Guido was killed, Bering met George Terra of the Brooklyn DA and George Hanna of the Joint Auto Larceny Task Force at a diner. Bering had been a New York City transit cop for seven and a half years. He knew what was required of him, if he hoped to escape with his life. He would have to snitch.

"Bering was the kind of cop who gave cops a bad name -- a career criminal who almost certainly was committing crimes while he was one of us. He described his involvement in the school bus rackets. He implicated himself in tax evasion and labor union shakedowns. He told Terra and Hanna how he had been convicted of dealing Quaaludes and spent six months on Rikers Island, where he'd met Hydell. They had gone on a murder spree in 1986. He told them they could find Annette DiBiasi's body buried in the woods not far from Al Guarneri's home. Like Hydell, who killed his former girlfriend in a jealous rage, Bering had discovered that his ex-wife was living with a friend of his -- Joe Trinetto. Hydell and Bering plotted his murder, and Trinetto turned up dead in October of that year, while Bering was in Chicago -- on an alibi trip."

Bering provided the inside story on the Casso attempt. The hit team -- Hydell, Bering, Guido -- had tried to clock Casso for weeks. But Casso, in Bering's words, "passed being paranoid." He never followed the same routine and his every movement was designed to throw off any surveillance -- law enforcement or mob. Bering described the license plate screwup. The blue Plymouth Fury. The bus stop in front of the Golden Ox. Nicky Guido's gun jamming not once but twice. Bering had lent Hydell a rented car one Saturday in October -- the day he disappeared. Hydell was supposed to be meeting with Mickey Boy Paradiso. Bering said he had never heard from Hydell again.

Nicky Guido had gone into hiding, Bering told Terra and Hanna. As a cooperating witness for the Brooklyn DA, Bering agreed to wear a wire to implicate Guido. In April 1987, Nicky Guido was found living in Tampa, Florida. The NYPD sent Bering down to meet with him, accompanied by NYPD detectives. Detective Bernice Luhrs was assigned to pose as Bering's girlfriend. "The operation was borderline farcical. Detective Luhrs was going by the name 'Irene' but Bering kept referring to her as 'Bea' -- her real first name. Bering told Guido there was a rumor going around Brooklyn that Bering was 'under' -- that he was cooperating or under arrest -- but he said it wasn't true. Bering and Guido talked about newspaper articles on the Casso attempt. The murder of the wrong Nicky Guido had scared the right Nicky Guido out of town. Bering suggested they go back to New York and go after Casso -- 'take the head off of the snake,' Bering called it. The suggestion was preposterous. The right Nicky Guido wasn't biting."

On November 11, 1987, Robert Bering pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Casso. Bering was given fifteen to life. As a sop for his inept cooperation, and acknowledgment by the authorities of Casso's power, Bering was granted the stipulation that he would not serve his time in a New York state prison. If he were housed in a state facility he would be in far greater danger of being killed by Casso. Bering was put into the federal system.

"Nicky Guido's resolve to stay away from New York proved to be transitory. Drawn to crime like a moth to a flame, Guido came back to Brooklyn and got involved in a huge cocaine distribution network. The outfit he attached himself to was importing thousands of tons of coke from Colombia. The mafia end in New York City was run by the Genoveses and Lucheses. Four tons were seized in a container ship traveling between Honduras and the Everglades. The container was filled with wooden patio furniture and cocaine. It was the largest cocaine bust ever at the time. The operation used a civilian police administrative assistant in the 60th Precinct in Brooklyn as its own inside source -- a pale version of Casso's insiders. Guido was carrying a concealed handgun at the time of his arrest. He claimed he was able to legally carry a pistol because he was a member of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children of Sullivan County -- a mob front designed to let gangsters carry guns."

In 1989, the right Nicky Guido was charged in state court in Brooklyn with the attempted murder of Anthony Casso. Guido's defense attorney ridiculed Assistant District Attorney Mark Feldman's references to organized crime and the conspiracy to murder Casso as "cute," paranoid, and irrelevant. Bob Bering testified in detail about the plot and Guido's role in it. "Casso was called as a witness for the prosecution. He took the Fifth on every question. He refused to answer any questions on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate him. Casso refused to admit to his name. He was the hardest of hard cases. Guido was convicted of second-degree assault.

"Even after Guido's conviction, Casso did not give up on finding and killing him. He had Kaplan consult with 'the cops' about finding the correctional institution where Guido was housed. Kaplan came back with the location. Before Casso could make a move, Guido got himself moved. By then Casso had turned his attention to getting the senior Gambinos behind the shooting."

EDDIE LINO

According to Jimmy Hydell there were three men who had ordered the hit on Casso -- Mickey Boy Paradiso, Bobby Boriello, and Eddie Lino. Mickey Boy Paradiso proved to be elusive. There was no doubt about his guilt. Through Kaplan, "the cops" provided Casso with a tape recording of an interrogation of Philly Paradiso in which Mickey Boy's role in the plot against Casso was discussed. "In the aftermath of the failed attempt, Mickey Boy stopped going to his usual haunts. Casso was told by Sammy the Bull Gravano that the Gambinos were after Paradiso themselves. John Gotti assured Casso that Mickey Boy Paradiso was no longer a member of the Gambinos. But when federal prosecutors learned of Gotti's contract on Paradiso, his bail was revoked. Mickey Boy Paradiso was sent to Lompoc, a maximum-security facility in California. Casso got word of Paradiso's location to a Lompoc inmate named Anthony Senter. Paradiso was too quick for Casso. Sensing he was in danger, Paradiso requested and received a transfer to another facility."

Not all the Gambinos were so lucky, or cagey. Bobby Boriello was Gotti's driver and bodyguard, the wiseguy assigned to clean Gotti's car and escort him on his walk-and-talks through Little Italy. Using mafia logic, Casso reasoned the boss must have been in on the plot. "Casso hatched a series of harebrained schemes to kill John Gotti. Why not park a van on Mulberry Street, just like the government did for their operations, and open up on Gotti as he walked along the sidewalk? There was the problem of escape, and the inconvenient fact that a van packed with Luchese wiseguys wouldn't exactly be inconspicuous on Mulberry Street.

When Gotti was spotted eating with his girlfriend in an uptown Italian restaurant on 116th Street, Casso went to the place to see if it was possible to get Gotti there. The restaurant was on the top floor of the building. Casso told George Neck Zappola to rent an apartment across the street. Zappola tried to find a place but Gotti wasn't spotted at the restaurant again and the scheme drifted away. Casso then came up with the idea of breaking into the dentist's office across the street from Gotti's house in Howard Beach, Queens. As Gotti came out of his home in the morning they would start shooting like an old-time gangster movie -- a moment that would be memorialized forever on the FBI cameras recording Gotti's every movement. Celebrity had made Gotti untouchable, to everyone but us."

Stymied on Gotti, Casso was ready to act on Boriello and Lino. Casso told Kaplan to ask "the cops" for Boriello's address. A house near 28th and Cropsey avenues in Brooklyn was provided, along with a description of the Lincoln Town Car Boriello drove. For several weeks Amuso and Casso went to the address repeatedly to look for Boriello. May of that year was a busy month for Casso. He was planning the murder of Jimmy Bishop. An indictment in the Windows Case was looming. But Casso found the spare time to plan another murder. Within weeks Boriello was dead. Newsday reported that he "was shot twice in the head and six times in the body" in the driveway of his home.

Eddie Lino presented yet another degree of difficulty for Casso. In the mafia and law enforcement, Eddie Lino was known as an exceptionally tough and dangerous character. A Gambino captain, Lino was short and stocky and swarthy. He was a major league heroin dealer. He was close to John Gotti. He had been one of the shooters in the Paul Castellano hit in front of Spark's Steakhouse in Manhattan. Getting close enough to kill Lino was virtually impossible. Lino wouldn't go down easily.

For more than two years Casso had a contract out on Lino. No progress was made. Like Casso, Lino was paranoid to the point of parody. A purveyor of violence himself, Lino understood the inner workings of murder plots and proceeded with appropriate caution. He never followed a pattern or routine, varying his schedule every day, watching his rearview mirrors. Frustrated, Casso came up with an idea. "The cops" might be able to take Lino by surprise. The scam had worked with Jimmy Hydell. The scam had worked for the Orthodox jeweler "the cops" had kidnapped and killed for Kaplan.

Kaplan took Casso's offer of $75,000 for the Lino hit to "the cops." Kaplan reported that "the cops" were willing to take on the murder. It was "no problem." But Kaplan said "the cops" needed two handguns and a car that resembled an unmarked police car, just as they had used in the Hydell kidnapping. Casso obtained a four-door Plymouth that had been used as a highway patrol car. The car was registered in a false name, two guns were placed in a brown paper bag in the trunk, and Kaplan had his sidekick Tommy Galpine deliver it to "the cops." For months, the two detectives tried to clock Lino. They went to his luxurious house in a wealthy area of Long Island, the rewards of Lino's success in organized crime. The pair considered taking Lino by surprise in his home but decided against it. The car they had was a junker. Casso offered to have it repaired. When the Plymouth was left at a prearranged site in Brooklyn, Casso found that the car was a wreck. A fastidious gangster, as the FBI agents later witnessed with his incessant tidying up in the Valachi suite in La Tuna prison, Casso was appalled by filthy interior and poor running condition of the vehicle. Kaplan told Casso not to worry about getting another car, or fixing that one. "The cops" would get their own vehicle.

The next time Casso heard about Eddie Lino was on the evening television news on November 6, 1990. The Gambino wiseguy had been shot and killed on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. Casso described the murder to federal prosecutors Rose and O'Connell as it had been related to him by Burt Kaplan. Lino was driving along the service road next to the Belt Parkway in his new Mercedes sedan. "The cops" were tailing Lino when they pulled alongside and indicated they wanted to talk to him. Lino must have recognized one or both of "the cops," otherwise he wouldn't have stopped. Seconds later Eddie Lino was dead.

"The murder of Eddie Lino caused a sensation inside the Major Case squad room," Oldham recalled. "It had all the earmarks of a gangland hit. But there were a couple of big clues that something else was at work. Lino's window was rolled down. He wouldn't have pulled over and rolled down his window for wiseguys out on a hit."

The night of the homicide, Detective Mary Dugan from the NYPD Crime Scene Unit responded. A stretch of the Belt Parkway service road was taped off. Lino's vehicle had run off the pavement and into a fence. Instead of putting the car into "park" when he pulled over Lino had kept it in "drive." There was one eyewitness to the homicide. The witness said he had seen a man running away from Lino's car carrying a gun. The man was thin, the witness said. The witness said the shooter got into a car that had a police light on the dashboard and looked like an unmarked cop car. "The report didn't necessarily mean the killer was a cop. Impersonating police officers was a common practice for gangsters. So common, in fact, that it wasn't unheard of for a wiseguy to refuse to pull over for plainclothes police if he was in a remote or unpopulated area."

The night of the homicide, Detective Dugan found and vouchered a watch in the middle of the street, sixty-six feet, nine inches from Lino's car. The watch had a broken band and the clasp was still closed. It appeared to have been ripped from the wrist of the shooter as Lino struggled to turn the gun away. The watch was a square-faced Pulsar quartz with a black face and yellow numerals. It was stopped at 6:45, the same time Eddie Lino was murdered.

"Lino's murder was a big deal on both sides of the law. The shooting was on the Belt Parkway, under streetlights, with cars driving along the freeway. The killers clearly considered themselves above the law. They thought they could get away with murder -- which was what happened. There were no meaningful leads in the Lino case. The identity of the skinny shooter and his accomplice -- the two men in the cop car with the teardrop light flashing -- remained a mystery."

BURT'S "GUYS"

Sitting in the Valachi suite in La Tuna, New Mexico, in March 1994, Casso solved the Eddie Lino murder. After "the cops" opened fire on Lino, and his Mercedes lurched forward and hit a fence, Casso said, "Steve" had to get out of their car and run to Lino's car to make sure he was dead. Casso also said he had been delighted with the "piece of work" done by "the cops." The agreed fee was $75,000, but Casso wanted to pay $100,000, the extra a bonus for a job well done.

Over the years, Kaplan had been careful to ensure that Casso didn't learn the names or identities of "the cops," always referring to them as his "friends" or "guys." Casso, in turn, had referred to "the crystal ball" and "the cops" when describing his law enforcement sources to Vic Amuso.

But Casso had tried to figure out who "the cops" were over the years. Casso was by nature inquisitive. He wanted to know everything, despite Kaplan's instinct to compartmentalize and control information. In his own sly way, Casso had tried to solve the puzzle of the "crystal ball." Hints had accumulated over the years. According to Casso, not long after the Hydell kidnapping, Casso's son and his friends had their bicycle helmets seized by a police officer in the Six-Three, the precinct where Casso lived. He had managed to retrieve the helmets. Kaplan wanted Casso to know that his "friend" in the precinct had assisted in the effort. Kaplan used the name "Lou" for the cop. Around the same time, Kaplan told Casso that "Lou's" reach wasn't limited to the Six-Three. "Lou's" partner was assigned to the Major Case Squad. Kaplan explained to Casso what Major Case did, operating citywide with access to all manner of organized crime intelligence.

Even with these slips, Kaplan had tried hard to keep the identity of his "friends" secret. But keeping a secret from someone as observant as Casso was difficult, perhaps impossible. After the Lino hit, Kaplan described to Casso what had happened to Lino on the Belt Parkway. As he spoke, Kaplan let slip that the shooter in the murder was named "Steve." While Casso was on the run from indictment in the Windows Case in the early nineties, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. Casso happened upon a copy of Mafia Cop. Casso examined its contents. On the back there was a large photograph of an NYPD officer in standard-issue warm weather patrol attire: blue slacks, short-sleeved blue shirt, silver police badge worn on his chest, holstered handgun. The man was in his twenties, muscular but running to fat, his stomach drawn in and chest puffed out for the portrait. In the background stood a row of clapboard Brooklyn houses, unmistakably Bensonhurst. The cop was leaning against an NYPD cruiser with "63 PCT" painted on the side. The picture was taken on August 22, 1969, the first day on the job for the young officer.

In the middle of the book there was an eight-page photo insert. Casso recognized some of the faces. Fat the Gangster Eppolito was in a photograph next to "Uncle Jimmy 'The Clam' Eppolito." In the bottom right-hand corner of one page was a snapshot of two NYPD detectives sitting in a squad room. One detective was large and overweight with his tie undone, the other skinny and nattily dressed in the style of the late seventies. The detectives were grinning. The names underneath were Steve Caracappa and Lou Eppolito. The caption read, "The two Godfathers of the NYPD."

"In Major Case we all knew Caracappa was furious at Eppolito for including the photograph in the book -- but we didn't know why. Now it was clear. Caracappa didn't want Casso to know his name. Eppolito was the weak link in the chain in every sense -- intellectually, emotionally, egotistically. The book proved that."

While he was on the lam, Casso had shown Kaplan his copy of Mafia Cop, he told the prosecutors. Casso had opened the book and pointed to the photograph of Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito.

"This looks like the two guys who were at Toys 'R' Us," Casso said to Kaplan. "That's really them, isn't it?"

"Anthony, I'm not going to tell you their names," Kaplan said. "You can surmise anything you want."

But Casso didn't need to surmise. He knew their names, and when he told them to the prosecutors who were listening to his life and crimes, they knew them, too.

Eppolito.

Caracappa.

The cops they had been looking for.

_______________

Notes:

1. A year earlier, Casso had had a run-in with Hydell. The disagreement was over a dog. On the day of the incident with Hydell, Casso had been at the 19th Hole when the owner of a Chinese restaurant on 86th Street ran into the club and complained to Christy Tick that he was having trouble. Hydell was in the man's restaurant with a Doberman pinscher. Hydell was drunk and menacing the customers with his dog. "All of the Lucheses in the 19th Hole spilled onto the street to help the man. Maintaining order was a big deal to mobsters. If someone was going to intimidate the locals it was the Lucheses, no one else. Christy Tick took control. He told a wiseguy named Angelo Defendis to talk to Hydell. Defendis had already been instructed to make sure Hydell didn't cause trouble in the neighborhood. Defendis got Hydell out of the restaurant and started yelling at him. He was pointing his finger at Hydell. But every time he gestured at Hydell the Doberman snapped at Defendis. Threatening a made man was an extremely dangerous thing to do -- even for a dog. Gaspipe Casso joined the argument. He told Hydell to control the dog. Hydell ignored him. Defendis started yelling at Hydell again. The dog tried to bite him again. This outraged Casso. Casso could be counted on to escalate virtually any situation. Casso went inside the 19th Hole and came out with a pistol, screwing on a silencer. He walked up to the dog and put two slugs into its head. 'Now pick up the dog and put him in the trunk of your car and get out of here,' Casso said to Hydell."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:51 am

PART 1 OF 3

CHAPTER NINE: DOWNTOWN BURT

Until Anthony Casso identified Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito, law enforcement had only had a vague notion of the crimes that "the crystal ball" had participated in with the Lucheses. Now Casso connected many seemingly unconnected events. The disappearance of Jimmy Hydell was directly related to the murder of Eddie Lino four years later. The shootings of Jimmy Bishop, Otto Heidel, and Dominic Costa were part of an ongoing conspiracy designed to silence cooperators informing on Gaspipe Casso and Vic Amuso. More than simply leaking intelligence on investigations, Detectives Caracappa and Eppolito had been conducting secret investigations for the Lucheses, surveilling NYPD detectives and other law enforcement agents, and proactively seeking information that would protect Casso and enhance his underworld reputation. The bugs and wires in Tiger Management's trailer in New Jersey, Anthony DiLapi's murder in L.A., dodging the Windows Case indictments -- the crimes were tied together in a complex knot that law enforcement would now have to untangle.

"In major organized criminal investigations there is not an obviously straightforward cause and effect. Conspiracies occur in parallel universes and timelines. What is the chronology of the crimes that are investigated? What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? An order has to be given to events. Multifaceted criminal conspiracies don't work in a predictable fashion. In this case, the facts were incredibly unwieldy. Casso conspired with 'the cops' to kill snitches, Bronx guys, Jersey guys, Gambinos. Add the component of secrecy inside the mob and inside the network of Casso, Kaplan, Santora, Caracappa, and Eppolito, and the complications were compounded by an order of magnitude.

"As soon as Casso began to proffer it was a race against time. Starting an investigation quickly is supremely desirable. Over time evidence disappears, witnesses die, forget things, or are intimidated. Promising leads turn into dead ends. In this case, the events were already years old and the cases cold. There were statute of limitations issues under federal law. In RICO prosecutions, investigators and attorneys collaborate from the beginning, deciding strategy and tactics. A substantial reason that the federal government had succeeded against the mob was the realization that they needed to bring NYPD detectives into their cases. When FBI special agents ran cases on their own they had little or no street knowledge, from either side of the street. They didn't know how law enforcement operated in the real world -- pulling strings, doing favors, being nimble. Most FBI agents didn't know how the mob really worked either -- separating fact from fiction. In the NYPD there were plenty of problems. We didn't do paperwork like the FBI guys. We didn't follow orders or adhere to dress codes. But the force had detectives who could get inside the minds of the gangsters they were chasing -- and that is critical to a successful investigation.

"Putting a RICO case together is telling a true crime story. You need to know who your characters are -- their history, their motives, their connections. A case needs a beginning, middle, and an end. Pieces of evidence have to be put in context. Corroboration is sought. One danger is getting stuck on one theory and being unable to see other possibilities. An idee fixe can be a killer for investigators, the robotic bureaucratic lurch toward one conclusion no matter what the truth may be. The beauty of working a case like Caracappa and Eppolito is the promise that there is a truth to be found. If you do your job, everything may not be discoverable, but everything that is discovered will add up."

"GET YOUR HUSBAND OUT OF THE BATH"

Within hours of Casso's disappearance from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in March 1994, news that the Luchese underboss was cooperating shot like a bullet through the corridors of the Eastern District courthouse in downtown Brooklyn to mob defense attorneys' offices in midtown Manhattan and opposite City Hall. The government didn't announce that Casso had become a cooperator, and in fact the news was closely guarded. But in cases like Casso's the pattern was well known. When Casso decided to confess to his crimes in the hope of gaining leniency, he had no choice but to fire his current lawyer, Mike Rosen. "When a wiseguy cooperated, the wiseguy world turned its back on him, and that often included his attorneys. There were a number of reasons. Defense lawyers didn't represent mobster informants if they knew what was good for business. Testifying against former mafia comrades was considered dishonorable. Other mob clients would be alienated and mistrustful of an attorney who acted for 'rats.' Finally, there was Casso's concern for his own safety. If word got out that he was cooperating with the government before he was moved to a safe location, Casso's life wouldn't be worth a plug nickle."

On the advice of prosecutors, Casso had hired a lawyer recommended to him by the government. Matthew Brief was a former prosecutor himself and was considered trustworthy. As soon as Casso had gotten rid of his defense attorney everyone in the New York defense bar knew what had happened. There was only one explanation for Casso suddenly disappearing. He had gone "bad." The implications for dozens, maybe hundreds, of mobsters were obvious. "Casso wasn't just another hood. He was a true insider. Gaspipe Casso was the equal of Sammy the Bull Gravano. Gravano knew secrets. Casso knew secrets. Casso literally knew where the bodies were buried. Casso was a player in the mafia, at the highest levels. An earthquake had struck."

Judd Burstein was the longtime defense attorney for Burt Kaplan. Burstein had worked with Mike Rosen over the years on criminal appeals. Within hours of Casso's firing Rosen, Burstein knew Casso had changed counsel. As soon as the news reached Burstein, he called Kaplan. He knew Kaplan and Casso were close. When Casso had gone on the lam in May 1990, fleeing indictments in the Windows Case, Kaplan had told his attorney that he was in touch with Casso. Burstein had told Kaplan that he was an "idiot" for associating with Casso while he was a fugitive. Burstein also knew that Casso had lived in a house that Kaplan owned. For years Burstein had implored Kaplan to cease his flirtation, as Burstein saw it, with organized crime and men like Gaspipe Casso, a known killer. Now the fact that Casso was a cooperator loomed ominously for Kaplan.

"Burstein thought he knew his client. Kaplan was one of those rare clients who was perfectly frank about his wrongdoings. If he was charged with a crime and he was guilty, he told Burstein. If he was innocent, he insisted upon his innocence. The characteristic is attractive in a criminal. But Burstein didn't know Kaplan had omitted huge parts of his criminal life. As far as Burstein knew, Kaplan was a talented and successful legitimate businessman who dabbled in the underworld. He didn't know that news of Casso becoming a cooperator was more than important to Kaplan -- it was a matter of life and death."

At six o'clock on the evening of the day Casso flipped, Burt Kaplan was taking a bath. The telephone rang. His wife, Eleanor, answered. She called out that it was Kaplan's lawyer Judd calling. Kaplan asked her to tell him to call back in half an hour. A minute later the phone rang again. It was Burstein calling back. This time he insisted that Eleanor Kaplan get her husband out of the bath. He had to talk to Kaplan immediately. Eleanor conveyed the message to her husband. The sixty-year-old millionaire Brooklyn businessman and Luchese associate got out of the bath and wrapped himself in a towel. He picked up a telephone installed in the bathroom, irritated at having his bath interrupted.

"What seems to be the problem, Judd?" Kaplan asked. "You were going to call back in half an hour."

"It's very important," Burstein said. "Are you sitting down?"

Standing dripping wet in his bathroom, Kaplan grew impatient. "Don't fool around," he said to Burstein. "Just tell me what you want to tell me."

"Anthony went bad," Burstein said.

There was a pause.

"Anthony who?" Kaplan asked. "Anthony Russo?" Kaplan thought it had to be a Colombo wiseguy named Russo.

"No, Anthony Casso."

Kaplan was incredulous -- and terrified. "Are you crazy?" he asked. "Are you trying to get us both killed? Why would you say something like that?"

"He fired his attorney," Burstein said. "He definitely went bad."

Kaplan sat down. He felt sick. If anyone in the world was a stand-up guy, Kaplan thought, it was Casso. Kaplan knew he was in a sea of trouble. He and Casso had collaborated in crime for years. There were dozens, perhaps many more, criminal acts they had committed together. Drugs. Money laundering. Fraud. Murder. All of that didn't matter. Kaplan knew the stakes. The government wouldn't do a deal with Casso, with the blood of his victims soaked into every pore of his being, unless Casso was able to give them something even larger than his own criminal confession.

"Thank you very much for calling, Judd," Kaplan said.

Kaplan hung up. He needed to act quickly. He dried himself off and dressed and went out to a pay phone on the street. No calls would be made from his home phones. They could be tapped by now, his house bugged. Kaplan called his second in command, longtime associate Tommy Galpine, and told him what had happened with Casso. Kaplan said he was going on the run that night. Kaplan and Galpine were in the marijuana distribution business together, grossing more than $1 million a week. To sustain himself on the run, Kaplan would need money -- a lot of it. He asked Galpine if he had any cash. Galpine said he did. Kaplan told him to give all that he had to Kaplan's wife, Eleanor. Kaplan next called one of his partners in pot dealing, who also did errands for Kaplan. He repeated the story to his partner. Kaplan told him to take three thousand dollars to the wife of Tommy Irish Carew. Carew was in prison and Kaplan was taking care of her and he wanted to be sure she continued to receive at least a thousand dollars a month to survive on while he was on the lam.

"Kaplan was looking after the fundamentals," Oldham said, "the little things that have to be seen to that can make the difference between getting caught, or not. Caring for spouses when an associate was in jail was also a point of pride with a man like Kaplan. He was old-school. He believed in keeping his word -- if you belonged to his inner circle. But it was also a matter of self-preservation. Keeping Carew on his side, and preventing him from snitching, was smart. One reason the mafia was falling apart at the time was the way wives and children were treated when a made man was sent to jail. Instead of seeing that they were provided for, they were abandoned and left to their own devices. A wiseguy in jail had no way to provide while inside. Their families fell into poverty. For men with an inflated sense of pride, it was demeaning to have your wife and sons and daughters penniless. It made the father and husband look inadequate -- because he was inadequate. The people who paid the most for the crimes of tough guys were often their children. Kids were raised in violent households with fathers frequently absent. The veneer of being 'connected' had a certain luster in certain neighborhoods, but that wore off quickly when the old man went away and the family went broke. Kaplan wasn't going to let that happen to him."

Next, Kaplan called an associate named Michael Gordon, another partner in his drug business. He told Gordon that Casso had become a cooperator. He asked Gordon if he could stay at his place in New Jersey that night. Kaplan intended to fly from Newark International first thing in the morning and he wanted to be near the airport. He asked Gordon to collect him from his Bensonhurst home. Kaplan was going to put his car into storage. He returned home, packed a bag, and collected all the cash he had stashed in the house, along with the money his wife had saved up over the years. Kaplan would take it all as emergency money. Galpine would replenish the funds and make sure that Eleanor Kaplan received money during the time Kaplan was on the run.

Gordon soon arrived at the Kaplan residence. Kaplan and his wife got in the car and drove along the Belt Parkway toward Manhattan. He had received Burstein's call at six o'clock. It was now nine-thirty. Kaplan told him he had one stop to make. The stop was essential. Kaplan had to warn, assure, and neutralize his most important criminal collaborator.

Detective Stephen Caracappa lived with his fourth wife, Monica, in an upscale apartment building at 12 East 22nd Street in Manhattan. Caracappa had retired from the NYPD in 1992 and gone to work for the Fourteenth Street Business Improvement District, an organization dedicated to improving the "quality of life" in the area around Union Square and the commercial strip along 14th Street in lower Manhattan. Public safety, graffiti removal, and street sanitation were some of the ways BIDs throughout the city tried to rejuvenate New York. Caracappa's building was a narrow ten-story structure with a glass front and a marble lobby. Centrally located, near Gramercy Park and within walking distance of many restaurants and luxury shopping districts, the building was out of the financial reach of most NYPD officers.

Late on the night of March 1, Michael Gordon pulled up in front of the building on East 22nd Street. Kaplan left his wife and Gordon in the car while he went inside to talk to Caracappa, who lived one floor from the top. Kaplan knew Caracappa went to bed at a very early hour. Kaplan buzzed Caracappa's apartment. Monica answered the intercom. Kaplan asked for Steve.

"He's sleeping," she said.

"It's Burt," Kaplan said. "It's very important. It's an emergency. You have to wake him up. I need to speak to him."

Monica Singleton buzzed Kaplan in. He took the elevator to the ninth floor. Kaplan was embarrassed as he entered the apartment and greeted the groggy Caracappa. "Steve, we got a real problem," Kaplan said. "Anthony Casso went bad. I'm going on the lam. I'm coming here to tell you because I think there is going to be a lot of publicity in the next couple of weeks. I have come to see you because I want you to know that I'm going on the lam. I am not going bad. You can rely on me."

Oldham recalled, "The moment of truth had arrived for Caracappa -- the moment he had dreaded for years. Like Kaplan, Caracappa understood the implications. With Kaplan's forewarning Caracappa could run. He had a head start. A detective with his training and know-how could make himself vanish. But unless he stared down the accusations, life as he knew it was over. He had to know his wife, a sophisticated garment district executive he'd met in the building, wasn't going on the lam with him. Monica Singleton was a successful businesswoman in her own right. She wasn't going to take a job washing dishes in Peoria. Nor was Caracappa.

"Calm was the answer. Caracappa would stay put and see what happened. There was no way to know for sure what Casso knew about Caracappa and Eppolito. If the news broke, Caracappa would hang tough. Deny everything. He would tell his wife and mother and brother that Casso had invented the entire story. Caracappa had a sterling reputation. He had friends in all areas of law enforcement. No one would believe the word of a psychopath like Casso over the word of a first-grade detective from the Major Case Squad. Guys in OCHU wouldn't be able to comprehend a betrayal of the kind Casso was alleging. Eppolito, however, was a different story. Louie was well known in the force. Louie had written the execrable Mafia Cop. But Caracappa had been in Major Case. For most detectives, the wound would be too deep if Casso was believed. Cops stick with cops, through thick and thin, guilty and innocent. When a cop was accused, the instinct inside the NYPD was to rally to his side. As long as Eppolito and Kaplan remained silent, there was an excellent chance Caracappa could ride out the coming storm."

"Do you need any money?" Caracappa asked Kaplan. "Do you need me to take care of your wife?"

"No, thank you very much," Kaplan said. "I have money."

"If you ever do need money in the future, just let me know," Caracappa said, "like a good friend would, and I'll take care of your wife."

"There is someone else involved in this," Kaplan said. "There's Louie. Can you control Louie? Can you take care of the situation with him?"

Eppolito was the subject that concerned Kaplan the most. Eppolito was flamboyant and potentially unreliable. Through the years Kaplan had seen how Eppolito operated. The former Mr. New York bodybuilder whined about money. He had nagged Kaplan about meeting Casso. It was an idea that Kaplan considered not only stupid but dangerous. For all Eppolito's bluster and big-belly bully-boy behavior, in Kaplan's estimation he was soft. Men who are tough don't need to brag about it, or show off. Kaplan knew Caracappa wouldn't break. Kaplan and Caracappa were self-contained men. They didn't pity themselves or make spectacles of themselves. No amount of pressure was going to get them to talk, unless they wanted to talk. Eppolito was a different story. Both knew Eppolito had to be kept in line, kept from caving under pressure. Watching Eppolito would be Caracappa's responsibility.

"Louie's been my partner and I trust him," Caracappa said. "Don't worry about it."

Caracappa and Kaplan hugged and kissed. Kaplan left. Kaplan went back downstairs and drove with his wife to Michael Gordon's house in Edison, New Jersey. As he had prepared to leave, Kaplan told people that he was going to hide in China. He had conducted extensive business dealings in Hong Kong and China over the years, importing millions of dollars' worth of clothing from the Orient. Kaplan wanted word to circulate that he had vanished into China. If the rumor made the rounds in the mafia it was only a matter of time before it reached the FBI. Kaplan calculated that the FBI would be reluctant to commit the resources to chase him in the cantons of southern China. On Tuesday morning, less than twelve hours after Judd Burstein got Kaplan to cut short his bath, Kaplan flew to San Diego intending to vanish.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

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

Postby admin » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:52 am

PART 2 OF 3

A BOY WHO LIKED TO GAMBLE

Kaplan's need to run resulted from decades of illegal behavior. But he had seemingly not been destined for a life of crime. Born in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn in 1933, Kaplan moved with his family when he was four years old to Vanderbilt Avenue on the edge of Crown Heights. The broad avenue was a commercial strip with merchants and restaurants and tradesmen offering their goods and services along half a dozen blocks leading up to Prospect Park. Kaplan's father was an electrician and the family ran an appliance store out of the ground floor of the five-story building. The business sold, repaired, and installed washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and air conditioners. At a time of mass immigration in the wake of World War II, Kaplan belonged to the burgeoning working class finding prosperity in Brooklyn.

As a young man, Kaplan attended Brooklyn Tech High School, a prestigious institution with admission determined by competitive examination. Kaplan lasted only a year and a half before he transferred to Brooklyn Manual High. Promise, in Kaplan, always went unfulfilled. Weekends and evenings he worked for his father installing television antennas. By the age of thirteen Kaplan had a gambling problem. He enjoyed it -- far too much. It began with trips to the racetrack with his father. In short order, Kaplan started playing cards for money. Kaplan spent his time playing in poker games around the neighborhood, running with the fast group of kids. It was the heyday for Brooklyn -- the golden age after the war. Organized crime formed part of the legend of the borough. Cosa nostra was still an Italian secret society operating in the shadows. "Meyer Lansky was the archetype of the smart Jewish tough guy who was close to both Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Seigel. During the war, Meyer Lansky had worked with the Office of Naval Intelligence, rounding up gangsters on the docks to watch for German infiltrators, saboteurs, and submarines -- a real threat in New York at the time. To a kid with Kaplan's talents, Meyer Lansky was a major league star. Lansky made hundreds of millions over the years investing in casinos in Cuba and Las Vegas. Lansky was too smart to get caught. Kaplan had as his inspiration a Jewish legend in the underworld."

The drug plague is an area in which the national interest requires results. Illegal narcotics are one of the most important causes of the dissolution of American society at the present time. To interdict the drug flows and to prosecute the drug money launderers at the top of the banking community would have represented a real public service. But Bush had no intention of seriously pursuing such goals. For him, the war on drugs was a cruel hoax, a cynical exercise in demagogic self-promotion, designed in large part to camouflage activities by himself and his networks that promoted drug trafficking. A further shocking episode that has come to light in this regard involves Bush's 14-year friendship with a member of Meyer Lansky's Miami circles who sold Bush his prized trophy, the Cigarette boat Fidelity.

Bush's war on drugs was a rhetorical and public relations success for a time. On February 16, 1982, in a speech on his own turf in Miami, Florida, Bush promised to use sophisticated military aircraft to track the airplanes used by smugglers. Several days later, Bush ordered the US Navy to send in its E2C surveillance aircraft for this purpose. If these were not available in sufficient numbers, said Bush, he was determined to bring in the larger and more sophisticated AWACS early warning aircraft to do the job. But Bush's skills as an interagency expediter left something to be desired: by May, two of the four E2C aircraft that originally had been in Florida were transferred out of the state. By June, airborne surveillance time was running a mere 40 hours per month, not the 360 hours promised by Bush, prompting Rep. Glenn English to call hearings on this topic. By October, 1982 the General Accounting Office issued an opinion in which it found "it is doubtful whether the [south Florida] task force can have any substantial long-term impact on drug availability." But the headlines were grabbed by Bush, who stated in 1984 that the efforts of his task force had eliminated the marijuana trade in south Florida. That was an absurd claim, but it sounded very good. When Francis Mullen. Jr., the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) criticized Bush for making this wildly inaccurate statement, he was soon ousted from his post at the DEA.

In 1988, Democratic Congressman Glenn English concluded that Bush's "war on drugs" had been fought with "little more than lip service and press releases." English wrote: "There has been very little substance behind the rhetoric, and some of the major interdiction problems have yet to be resolved. The President assigned...Bush to coordinate and direct federal antidrug-abuse programs among the various law enforcement agencies. However, eight years later it is apparent that the task has not been accomplished." [fn 1] No observer still stationed in reality could dispute this very pessimistic assessment.

But the whole truth is much uglier. We have documented in detail how the Iran-contra drug-running and gun-running operations run out of Bush's own office played their role in increasing the heroin, crack, cocaine, and marijuana brought into this country. We have reviewed Bush's relations with his close supporters in the Wall Street LBO gang, much of whose liquidity is derived from narcotics payments which the banking system is eager to recycle and launder. We recall Bush's 1990 meeting with Syrian President Hafez Assad, who is personally one of the most prolific drug pushers on the planet, and whom Bush embraced as an ally during the Gulf crisis.

Bush's "soft on drugs" profile went further. In the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre, for example, it was apparent that certain pro-Khomeini formations among the Afghan guerillas were, like the contras, more interested in trafficking in drugs and guns than in fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and the Red Army forces that maintained it in power. There were reports that such activities on the part of such guerilla groups were seconded by parts of the Pakistani secret intelligence services, the Inter-Service Intelligence, and the National Logistics Cell. According to these reports, Bush's visit to Pakistan's President Gen. Zia ul-Haq in May, 1984 was conducted in full awareness of these phenomena. Nevertheless, Bush chose to praise the alleged successes of the Zia government's anti-narcotics program which, Bush intoned, was a matter of great "personal interest" to him. Among those present at the banquet where Bush made these remarks were, reportedly, several of the officials most responsible for the narcotics trafficking in Pakistan. [fn 2] But there is an even more flagrant aspect of Bush's conduct which can be said to demolish once and for all the myth of the "war on drugs" and replace it with a reality so sinister that it goes beyond the imagination of most citizens.

Those who follow Bush's frenetic sports activities on television are doubtless familiar with Bush's speedboat, in which he is accustomed to cavort in the waters off his estate at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. [fn 3] The craft in question is the Fidelity, a powerboat capable of operating on the high seas. Fidelity is a class of boat marketed under the brand name of "Cigarette," a high-priced speedboat dubbed "the Ferrari of the high seas." This detail should awaken our interest, since Bush's profile as an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat would normally include a genteel predilection for sailing, rather than a preference for a vulgar hatrod like Fidelity, which evokes the ethos of rum-runners and smugglers.

The Cigarette boat Fidelity was purchased by George Bush from a certain Don Aronow. Bush reportedly met Aronow at a boat show in 1974, and decided to buy one of the Cigarette boats Aronow manufactured. Aronow was one of the most celebrated and successful powerboat racers of the 1960's, and had then turned his hand to designing and building these boats. But according to at least one published account, there is compelling evidence to conclude that Aronow was a drug smuggler and suspected drug-money launderer linked to the Genovese Purple Gang of New York City within the more general framework of the Meyer Lansky organized crime syndicate. Aronow's role in marijuana smuggling was reportedly confirmed by Bill Norris, head of the Major Narcotics Unit at the Miami US Attorney's office and thus the top federal drug prosecution official in south Florida. [fn 4]

Aronow numbered among his friends and acquaintances not just Bush, but many international public figures and celebrities, many of whom had purchased the boats he built. Aronow's wife was said to be a former girlfriend of King Hussein of Jordan. Aronow was in touch with King Juan Carlos of Spain, Lord Lucan (Billy Shand-Kydd, a relative of Princess Diana's mother), Sir Max Aitken (the son of British press baron Lord Beaverbrook), Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Eastern Airlines chairman and former astronaut Frank Bormann, Kimberly-Clark heir Jim Kimberley, Alvin Malnik (one of the reputed heirs to Meyer Lansky) and Charles Keating, later the protagonist of the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. Some of these exalted acquaintances are suggestive of strong intelligence connections as well.

In May of 1986, Aronmow received a letter from Nicolas Iliopoulos, the royal boat captain to King Hussein of Jordan expressing on behalf of the King the latter's satisfaction with a powerboat purchased from Aronow, and conveying the compliments of King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who had recently been the Jordanian sovereign's guests on board. Aronow sent a copy of this letter to Bush, from whom he received a reply dated June 6, 1986 in which Bush thanked him "with warm regards" for forwarding the royal note and added: "I can repeat that my old Cigarette, the "Fidelity" is running well too. I've had her out a couple of weekends and the engines have been humming. I hope our paths cross soon, my friend." [fn 5]

Aronow was reportedly a close friend of George Bush. In his book-length account of the life and death of Aronow which is the basis for the following analysis, Thomas Burdick quotes an unnamed Justice Department official relating the comments of one of his friends on the Bush-Aronow relation: "My friend said, 'I guarantee you I know what the connection was between him and Bush. It's the boats. The guy loves fucking boats." A Secret Service agent also referred to Bush as a "boat groupie." [fn 6] But does this exhaust the topic?

Over the years, Bush had apparently consulted with Aronow concerning the servicing and upkeep of his Cigarette boat. During 1983, Bush began to seek out Aronow's company for fishing trips. The original engines on Bush's Cigarette boat needed replacement, and this was the ostensible occasion for renewing contact with Aronow. Aronow told Bush of a new model of boat that he had designed, supposedly a high-performance catamaran. Bush planned to come to Florida during the New Year's holiday for a short vacation during which he would go bonefishing with his crony Nick Brady. During this time he would also arrange to deliver an antidrug pep-talk.

On January 4, 1984, George Bush rendezvoused with Don Aronow at Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Earlier in the day, Bush had delivered one of his "war on drugs" speeches at the Omni International Hotel in Miami. Bush and Brady then proceeded by motorcade to Islamorada, where Aronow was waiting with his catamaran. Accompanied by a flotilla of Secret Service and Customs agents in Cigarette boats that had been seized from drug smugglers, Bush, Brady, Aronow, and one of the latter's retainers, the catamaran proceeded through moderate swells to Miami, with White House photographers eternalizing the photo opportunity at every moment. Bush, who had donned designer racing goggles for the occasion, was allowed to take the wheel of the catamaran and seemed very thrilled and very happy. Nick Brady, sporting his own wrap-around shades, found the seas too rough for his taste.

After the trip was over, Bush personally typed the following letter to Don Aronow on his vice presidential staionery, which he sent accompanied by some photographs of Bush, Aronow, Brady and the others on board the catamaran:

January 14, 1984

Dear Don,

Here are some pretty good shots which I hope will bring back some pretty good memories. I included one signed shot in your packet for [Aronow's pilot] Randy [Riggs]. Also am enclosing a set of picture [sic] for Willie not having his address or knowing how he spells Myers? Will you please give them to him and thank him for his part in our wonderful outing. He is quite a guy and I learned a lot from him on the way up to Miami from the Keys.

Again Don this day was one of the greatest of my life. I love boats, always have. But ever since knowing you that private side of my life has become ever more exciting and fulfilling. Incidentally, I didn't get to tell you but my reliable 28 footer Cigarette that is, still doing just fine...no trouble at all and the new last year engines.

All the best to you and all your exciting ventures. May all your boats bee [sic] number one and may the horses [sic] be not far behind.

At the end of this message, before his signature, Bush wrote in by hand, "My typing stinks." [fn 7]

As a result of this outing, Bush is said to have used his influence to see to it that Aronow received a lucrative contract to build the Blue Thunder catamarans at $150,000 apiece for the US Customs Service. This contract was announced with great fanfare in Miami on February 4, 1985, and was celebrated a week later in a public ceremony in which Florida Senator Paula Hawkins and US Customs Commissioner William von Raab mugged for photographers together with Aronow. The government purchase was hyped as the first time that the Customs would receive boats especially designed and built to intercept drug runners on the high seas, a big step forward in the war on drugs.

This was the same George Bush who in March, 1988 had stated: "I will never bargain with drug dealers on US or foreign soil."

As one local resident recalled of that time, "everyone in Miami knew that if you needed a favor from Bush, you spoke to Aronow." [fn 8] It was proverbial among Florida pols and powerbrokers that Aronow had the vice president's ear.

The Customs soon found that the Blue Thunder catamarans were highly unseaworthy and highly unsuitable for the task of chasing down other speedboats, including above all Aronow's earlier model Cigarette boats, which were now produced by a company not controlled by Aronow. Blue Thunder was relatively slow class, capable of a top speed of only 56 miles per hour, despite the presence of twin 440-horsepower marine engines. The design of the catamaran hulls lacked any hydrodynamic advantages, and the boats were too heavy to attain sufficient lift. The stern drives were too weak for the powerful engines, leading to the problem of "grenading" : when the drive shafts severed, which was often, the engines began to rev far beyond their red line, leading to the explosion or disintegration of the engines and the shrapnel-like scattering of red-hot steel fragments through the boat. This meant that the boats had to be kept well below their maximum speed. Most Blue Thunders spent more time undergoing repairs than chasing drug runners in the coastal waters of Florida. Blue Thunder was in boating parlance "wet," a complete lemon, useful only for photo opportunities and publicity shots.

Documents found by Burdick in the Dade County land records office show that USA Racing, the company operated by Aronow which built the Blue Thunder catamarans for the Customs service was not owned by Aronow, but rather by a one Jack J. Kramer in his capacity of president of Super Chief South Corporation. Jack Kramer had married a niece of Meyer Lansky. Jack Kramer's son Ben Kramer was thus the great nephew and one of the putative heirs of the top boss of the US crime syndicate, Meyer Lansky. Ben Kramer was also a notorious organized crime figure in his own right. On March 28, 1990 Jack Kramer and Ben Kramer were both found guilty of 23 and 28 counts (respectively) of federal money laundering charges. In the previous year, Ben Kramer had also been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for having imported half a million pounds of marijuana. Bush had thus given a prime contract in waging the war on drugs to one of the leading drug-smuggling and money-laundering crime families in the US.

Don Aronow was murdered by Mafia-style professional killers on February 3, 1987. During the last days of his life, Aronow is reported to have made numerous personal telephone calls to Bush. Aronow had been aware that his life was in danger, and he had left a list of instructions to tell his wife what to do if anything should happen to him. The first point on the list was "#1. CALL GEORGE BUSH." [fn 9] Lillian Aronow did call Bush, who reportedly responded by placing a personal call to the MetroDade Police Department homicide division to express his concern and to request an expeditious handling of the case. Bush did not attend Aronow's funeral, but a month later he sent a letter to Aronow's son Gavin in which he called the late Don Aronow "a hero."

When Lillian Aronow suspected that her telephone was being tapped, she called Bush, who urged her to be calm and promised to order an investigation of the matter. Shortly after that, the suspicious noises in Mrs. Aronow's telephone ceased. When Lilian Aronow received reports that her husband might have been murdered by rogue CIA operatives or other wayward federal agents and that she herself and her children were still in danger, she shared her fears in a telephone call to Bush. Bush reportedly later called Mrs. Aronow and, as she recalled, "He said to me, 'Lillian, you're fine.' He said that 'ex-CIA people are really off.' That's the truth." [fn 10] Later, Mrs. Aronow heard that Gen. Noriega of Panama was interested in buying some of her boats, and she began to prepare a trip to Panama in the hope of generating some orders. Before her departure, she says she called Bush who advised her against making the trip because of Noriega's involvement in "bad things." Mrs. Aronow cancelled her reservations for Panama City. But in the summer of 1987, Bush snubbed Mrs. Aronow by pointedly avoiding her at a Miami dinner party. But during this same period, Bush frequently went fishing with former Aronow employee Willie Meyers, whom he had mentioned in the letter cited above. According to Thomas Burdick's sources, Willie Meyers was also a friend of Secretary of State George Shultz, and often expressed concern about damaging publicity for Bush and Shultz that might derive from the Aronow case.

According to Thomas Burdick, Meyers says that Bush talked to him about how the vice president's staff was monitoring the Aronow investigation. Bush lamented that he did not have grounds to get federal agencies involved. "I just wish," said Bush to Meyers, "that there was some federal aspect to the murder. If the killers crossed state lines. Then I could get the FBI involved." [fn 11] The form of the argument is reminiscent of the views expressed by Bush and Tony Lapham during the Letelier case.

In May or June of 1987, several months after Aronow had been killed, Mike Brittain, who owned a company called Aluminum Marine Products, located on "Thunderboat Alley" in the northern part of Miami (the same street where Aronow had worked), was approached by two FBI special agents, Joseph Usher and John Donovan, both of the Miami FBI field office. They were accompanied by a third FBI man, whom they presented as a member of George Bush's staff at the National Drug Task Force in Washington DC. The third agent, reportedly named William Temple, had, according to the other two, come to Miami on a special mission ordered by the Vice President of the United States.

As Brittain told his story to Burdick, Special Agent Temple "didn't ask about the murder or anything like that. All he wanted to know about was the merger." [fn 12] The merger in question was the assumption of control over Aronow's company, USA Racing, by the Kramers' Super Chief South, which meant that a key contract in the Bush "war on drugs" had been awarded to a company controlled by persons who would later be convicted for marijuana smuggling and money laundering. Many of the FBI questions focused on this connection between Aronow and Kramer. Later, after Bush's victory in the 1988 presidential election, the FBI again questioned Brittain, and again the central issue was the Aronow-Kramer connection, plus additional questions of whether Brittain had divulged any of his knowledge of these matters to other persons. A possible conclusion was that a damage control operation in favor of Bush was in progress.

Tommy Teagle, an ex-convict interviewed by Burdick, said he feared that George Bush would have him killed because information in his possession would implicate Jeb Bush in cocaine smuggling. Teagle's story was that Aronow and Jeb Bush had been partners in cocaine trafficking and were $2.5 million in debt to their Columbian suppliers. Dr. Robert Magoon, a friend of Aronow, is quoted in the same location as having heard a similar report. But Teagle rapidly changed his story. [fn 3] Ultimately, an imprisoned convict was indicted for the murder of Aronow.

But the circumstances of the murder remain highly suspect. Starting in 1985, and with special intensity during 1987-88, more than two dozen persons involved in various aspects of the Iran-contra gun-running and drug-running operation met their deaths. At the same time, other persons knowledgeable about Iran-contra, but one or more steps removed from eyewitness knowledge of these operations, have been subjected to campaigns of discrediting and slander, often associated with indictments on a variety of charges, charges which often stemmed from the Iran-contra operations themselves. Above and beyond the details of each particular case, the overall pattern of these deaths strongly suggests that they are coherent with a damage control operation by the networks involved, a damage control operation that has concentrated on liquidating those individuals whose testimony might prove to be most damning to the leading personalities of these networks. The death of Don Aronow occurred within the time frame of this general process of amputation and cauterization of the Iran-contra and related networks. Many aspects of Aronow's life suggest that his assassination may have been a product of the same "damage control" logic.

-- George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin


In 1952, after graduating from high school, Kaplan joined the Navy. A quick study with a steel-trap memory and a penchant for subterfuge, Kaplan was trained in cryptology and cryptoanalysis. Sent to Japan, his job was to copy secret Russian codes encrypted to make them unreadable without a cipher. Cryptology ("secret writing," from the Greek) appealed to Kaplan's nature and he excelled at his work. His last year in the Navy was spent at Fort Meade, Maryland, deciphering highly classified material. The talent he displayed led to the offer of a job at the National Security Agency, the top secret governmental organization engaged in waging the decades-long Cold War with surveillance, disinformation, intelligence, and counterintelligence.

Kaplan chose to return to Brooklyn. He continued the appliance business in partnership with his mother and brother. He married his wife, Eleanor, in 1957. But the young father, veteran, and legitimate businessman was also an addicted gambler. By the late fifties he had blown through his legal ways of borrowing money to gamble. "The pattern that followed was as predictable as it was awful. The gambler starts to borrow from finance companies, with higher interest rates than banks. After those institutions reach their limits or get wise, or the gambler starts to go into default on loans, he turns to the street -- to loan sharks. At first the 'vig,' the interest, isn't excessive. Maybe one percent a week, payable every week. If you borrowed ten grand you had to pay a hundred bucks in interest each week. It seems manageable but it's not over the long haul, when your credit has no limit. Once they give you the money, they don't want you to pay it back. Not the principal. No lender does, legit or illegit. Repaying money means the shylock or financial institution has to go out and find another borrower. The difference was that the mafia had the muscle to make a borrower do what he was told. Matters only got worse the more you borrowed. The bigger the loan, the less reliable the guy getting the money became, the bigger the vig. The cycle was vicious."

A local wiseguy and businessman ran a Luchese social club in the neighborhood where Kaplan plied his trade. During this time Kaplan was called to give a quote for air-conditioning for the wiseguy's club. The elder mobster was impressed with the job Kaplan did -- and the price. He introduced Kaplan to the owner of a Gambino social club at the corner of Grand Avenue and St. Mark's Place, only a few blocks from Kaplan's store on Vanderbilt. It was the place where Detective Eppolito's father, Fat the Gangster, had tended bar for years before he died of a heart attack. Kaplan went and measured the place and was introduced to the man in charge, Jimmy Eppolito -- Louis Eppolito's uncle known as the Clam. Kaplan installed the air conditioners and he started to play cards in a room upstairs.

By the early sixties Kaplan was borrowing from half a dozen different loan sharks. One of them was a former New York City Police Department detective named Wes Daley. Kaplan began to borrow heavily from Daley -- too heavily. When you were in debt to a gangster you were in debt in every sense of the word. When Daley came to Kaplan and said he wanted a favor there was nothing Kaplan could say, no matter what the favor might be. Kaplan was trapped. One day Daley told Kaplan there was a body in the trunk of his car. He wanted Kaplan to dispose of the body. Daley didn't say he had killed the man but Kaplan understood that he had -- and that he could quickly follow in the man's footsteps if he didn't oblige the retired police officer.

"Kaplan collected the car, as instructed, and drove to Connecticut where he was to meet with another associate of Daley. The other guy was supposed to have dug a grave. It was winter. Kaplan shook all the way as he drove north. He was scared beyond belief. Kaplan was now guilty of being an accomplice after the fact to murder. He was only a gambler but that was not how things worked in the mob -- events got out of hand quickly, unpredictably, permanently. When he got to Connecticut he discovered the guy hadn't dug the grave. He couldn't pierce the surface of the ground, which was frozen solid. The man told Kaplan to help him throw the body into the water. Kaplan did. He didn't know who the dead man was, or why he was made dead. But Kaplan had graduated to a new level in 'the life.'"

Kaplan was now in his early thirties. The appliance business was prospering but it didn't generate nearly enough money to repay the outstanding debts he owed. Keeping up with the interest was crushing. Kaplan approached his father-in-law, an NYPD beat cop, and asked if he could help. Kaplan wanted to consolidate his loans into a single amount to one loan shark, instead of the half dozen he owed. He wanted to repay the principal, not just keep up with the exorbitant interest payments. In order to pull off the deal he needed someone with connections to organized crime. His cop father-in-law took him to meet the gangster Kaplan had installed air-conditioning for to have a sit-down.

At the sit-down, Kaplan met Luchese captain Christy Tick Furnari at the 19th Hole in Bensonhurst. Furnari agreed to let Kaplan consolidate all his debt into one large loan. Kaplan would be able to begin paying down the principal. Furnari made it a rule not to associate himself with addicted gamblers, particularly not degenerates. He told Kaplan that if he managed to quit gambling they could become "friends."

"Furnari wasn't just doing a favor for a friend, he was also trolling for talent. To be a made guy you had to be Italian -- preferably with Sicilian blood. But every gangster associated with Irish and Jewish criminal elements. It was obvious that Kaplan was a bright young man. Addicted gamblers are just as unreliable as heroin junkies -- they lie, cheat, and steal to feed their need. But Furnari didn't want to let the favor go without the possibility of a kindness being repaid, with interest, someday."

By then, Kaplan's life had cleaved in two. The legitimate businessman was a husband and loving father to his daughter, Deborah. The illegitimate mafia associate was drifting further into trouble. Kaplan began fencing stolen appliances, the same ones he was selling legitimately at the store. Kaplan was a reliable contact for a wiseguy looking to unload goods he had nabbed in a truck hijacking, or a warehouse break-in. Kaplan soon branched out. He fenced a load of flash cubes for cameras -- and was caught.

As a first time offender, Kaplan sought and received leniency from Judge Jack Weinstein, who had just been appointed to the federal bench by President Lyndon Johnson. Kaplan's sentence was probation, avoiding prison. His next arrest was for fencing stolen hair dryers, a case that was dismissed. "Kaplan hardly seemed like he had the makings of a menace to society. He was fencing two-bit items. But he was insinuating himself in the culture of organized crime in Brooklyn. He was learning how to move all kinds of product. In a certain sense wiseguys were just businessmen. They just didn't pay taxes, or keep accurate books. Deals were done in cash -- wads of cash. Most mafiosi struggled like any other small-time operator running a newsstand or pet store. But a talented few made fortunes. A smart wiseguy like Kaplan understood profit margins, the importance of diversification, and how to beat the competition by associating with mob muscle."

Five years after his first conviction, Kaplan again appeared in federal court before Judge Weinstein, charged with possessing a truckload of stolen pants. Before sentencing in December 1972, Kaplan wrote a letter to Weinstein. The trend in the country at the time was toward ever more severe sentences. Nonviolent drug offenders received particularly lengthy sentences. Weinstein earned a national reputation when he refused to enforce them and then recused himself from such cases. In Kaplan's situation, with two federal convictions, a significant prison term was certain, despite Weinstein's reputation for leniency. "This arrest taught me a lesson," Kaplan wrote to Weinstein. "I started spending all my nights at home. I went to work and became successful at my marriage, and I'm home every night at 7 o'clock, and I spend all my spare time with my family." Kaplan claimed he had given up betting on horses and overcome his gambling addiction. He had developed a protective love for his mother, wife, and young daughter -- and he had become fearful he would lose them due to his criminal tendencies. Kaplan told Judge Weinstein he had taken a straight job selling hosiery, earning $100 a week, a substantial sum at the time for a high school graduate with a criminal record. "I think I have a good future in this business, your honor," Kaplan wrote. ''I'm not doing anything criminal."

Weinstein was unimpressed and sentenced Kaplan to four years. But Weinstein did grant Kaplan two months to continue working during the Christmas rush in order to provide for his family. When he reported to serve his sentence, Kaplan was sent to Lewisburg Penitentiary, a federal institution in Pennsylvania. The number of wiseguys housed there was so high that G Block was nicknamed "Mafia Row." Two days into his four-year term, chastened by his predicament as most convicts are when they face the reality of years behind bars, Kaplan wrote to Weinstein to plead for a reduction in sentence. Kaplan wrote that his father-in-law, a veteran NYPD police officer, had passed away. Kaplan's mother was mortified and heartbroken by her son's behavior. His wife and twelve-year-old daughter were suffering terribly. During the two-month grace period Weinstein had granted, Kaplan wrote, "I finally realized that with the proper attitude and lots of hard work it is just as easy to sell legitimate merchandise as stolen. Also a lot more morally and socially rewarding." Kaplan said he had never been involved in violent crime, or any violent acts, in deed or in word. He detested violence, Kaplan said, "and all it stands for." Kaplan concluded: "I promise you that the name of Burton Kaplan will never again come before you or the court or any court again in regard to anything that is against the law."

The wheedling letter succeeded, to a limited extent. The judge did not reduce Kaplan's sentence. But Weinstein did write to the Bureau of Prisons recommending that the promising young Brooklyn hosiery salesman with a checkered present be considered for parole at the earliest possible moment. On January 16, 1974, less than a year after he entered Lewisburg, Kaplan was released from custody.

For thirteen years, Kaplan managed to keep his promise to Weinstein to quit gambling. His promise to stay away from organized crime and violence didn't fare as well. Upon his return to Brooklyn, Kaplan went to work as an air conditioner installer for a company called Ciro Sales. As a contractor Kaplan owned his own van. Shortly after he started, Kaplan met a sixteen-year-old kid named Tommy Galpine, a stockman in the warehouse. Kaplan slipped him extra money to make sure his runs went smoothly. Galpine quickly became Kaplan's errand boy. He did chores around Kaplan's house, drove his mother to the doctor, sent messages -- whatever Kaplan needed done.

In 1975, Kaplan stumbled into the clothing business. A friend from prison in Lewisburg was released and Kaplan took him to another friend's flea market warehouse to get him cheap street clothes. The friend with the flea market showed Kaplan a polyester leisure suit and asked how much he thought it was worth. Kaplan asked if the suit was legitimate or "swag" -- stolen. Stolen, the man said. "Saying the leisure suit was stolen increased its value," Oldham noted. "If people were buying stolen property they thought they were getting a steal literally -- a great price for a great product. Closeout or remainder goods didn't have the aura of bargain that stolen goods radiated. Kaplan guessed twenty bucks. The guy said Kaplan could have three thousand of them for twelve dollars each but he had to get them out of the warehouse within twenty-four hours. Kaplan saw an opportunity. He made a few calls and found a man in Connecticut with a discount clothing store who would take the suits. Kaplan needed to transport the suits first thing the next day. At two-thirty in the morning his telephone rang. A snowstorm had descended on the Northeast. The man in Connecticut said the roof of his warehouse had collapsed under the weight of the snow. He couldn't take the suits."

Forced to improvise, Kaplan rented an empty fruit store on New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn and constructed makeshift racks from plumbing piping. He and Tommy Galpine loaded a truck the next morning and took the suits there and started making calls. Kaplan told his friends he had a truckload of stolen leisure suits. By one o'clock that day he had sold a thousand for twenty dollars each. In three days, he sold three thousand stolen leisure suits. "But the joke was the suits weren't stolen. They'd been bought in a factory closeout sale legitimately. Kaplan marketed them as swag to spike sales and made nearly twenty-five thousand dollars in three days."

By chance, Kaplan was now in the clothing distribution business. Soon he was a successful and rapidly expanding dealer. His warehouse at 8509 Bay 16th Street in Bensonhurst became a destination for people who wanted to buy discount designer jeans and sweat suits wholesale -- particularly Kaplan's friends in the mafia. It was a warehouse but also operated as a store, with the industrial appearance and whiff of swag creating the sense that bargains could be had. He sold Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, Disco, the leading designer brands at the time. He expanded to a large warehouse on Richmond Avenue on Staten Island and started selling to huge chains like Macy's, Kmart, Nordstrom's, and discount chains across the country. He was prospering as never before, with the potential to live the life of a prosperous merchant running a multimillion-dollar operation.

But the siren call of crime was a constant for Kaplan, the devilish voice inside his head luring him toward easy cash and catastrophe. He started dealing in knockoff clothes. Imitation designer wear was manufactured in China to the specifications of Kaplan's legitimate partners, a fake label was stitched on, and the products were shipped to stores across America and into the hands of customers thinking they were buying authentic Champion and Jordache and Sergio Valente clothes. "From there the slope got slippery. The attractions of Kaplan's kind of criminal life aren't hard to see. The big payday is always just around the corner. There is the game of it. The whispering and plotting. Strategic and logistical obstacles have to be overcome, all the while playing cat-and-mouse with law enforcement. High-level criminality is three-dimensional chess combined with Russian roulette. For a gambler like Kaplan it was the best game in town."

During these years, Kaplan's ties to the Luchese crime family were renewed. Through Christy Tick Furnari at the 19th Hole Kaplan was introduced to a rising star in his mid-thirties named Anthony Gaspipe Casso. The two hit it off. They started dealing marijuana together. Casso would supply the pot and Kaplan would distribute it. The relationship played to each of their strengths. Casso was connected to a variety of suppliers of drugs. Kaplan, in turn, was a gifted wholesaler. Wiseguys all over knew Downtown Burt could move anything.

Over the years, the fine line between legal and illegal became a complete blur to Kaplan. He chased deals wherever they were to be found, no matter how improbable they sounded. By chance, he became friendly with the nephew of an African politician. Mamadou Kwaitu's uncle was a powerful official in the government of Upper Volta. The tiny landlocked nation now known as Burkina Faso, neighbored by Mali, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, was plagued by coups and desperately poor. But there were lucrative gold and diamond mines upland, containing the promise of fabulous wealth. Mamadou Kwaitu had the concession to sell the diamonds from a mine called Bangi in central Africa. He was willing to sell them to Kaplan at a deeply discounted rate, if Kaplan could find a way to fence the dodgy diamonds himself.

"Kaplan went to Christy Tick, who put him in touch with a wiseguy who was in the diamond market on Canal Street -- the former stomping ground of Louis Eppolito's grandfather, Diamond Louie Eppolito. The wiseguy introduced Kaplan to a Hasidic guy named Joe Banda who was a member of the Diamond Dealers Club. Kaplan and Banda and Mamadou formed a partnership with a three-way split. The diamonds weren't 'stolen' in the usual sense. Africa was being raped by foreign companies, and it was being raped by its own government. Kaplan was just getting in on the action."

Along the way, always looking for any angle or opportunity no matter how unlikely, Kaplan came to believe he could make money selling hair cream specifically created for the African market. Kaplan found a factory in Brooklyn and hired a chemist named Kenneth Gibbs to manufacture the hair cream. But when the product was shipped to Africa, it was discovered that the chemical composition was unstable. The cream had not been homogenized and turned brown and rotted en route. The product was unsalable. "The failed hair cream chemist then hatched another equally lame scheme. If they couldn't make African hair cream, Kenneth Gibbs reasoned, why not recoup their losses by making Quaaludes? He would reconfigure the equipment in the factory Kaplan had rented. They could make their money back. He was eager to please Kaplan -- and not get whacked for his stupidity."

Kaplan was already dealing Quaaludes, along with his growing marijuana business, so it made sense to manufacture the drug himself. From a personal point of view, Kaplan had no interest in drugs, and the only time he tried an illicit drug was one toke on a joint while in prison. But Quaaludes could be big money. The drug, made from the sedative methaqualone, had the effect of a barbituate, simultaneously inducing relaxation and euphoria. Gibbs began to attempt to make the chemical formula -- C16H14N20. Before he succeeded, Kaplan and his co-conspirators were arrested. Gibbs cooperated with the DEA. At Kaplan's trial, Gibbs took the stand and testified against Kaplan. In 1981 Kaplan was convicted on federal drug charges of conspiracy to manufacture Quaaludes -- without making or selling a single tablet. It was Kaplan's first experience of the wages and risks of betrayal.

Allenwood Federal Prison Camp in the foothills of Pennsylvania's northern Allegheny Mountains was a minimum-security facility. At the time it had a well-earned reputation as a "country club" jail. The facility had no fences, there were tennis and basketball courts, and conjugal visits with spouses were permitted. Kaplan's stretch there turned out to be highly educational.

"If the streets of Brooklyn were the prep school of hard knocks for a life in crime, and the 19th Hole was the mafia's Yale, then Allenwood was the Harvard Business School for postgraduate studies leading to a master's degree in criminality. Kaplan spent his days with an array of wiseguys and associates who formed a fine faculty. They had different tenures -- three years for fraud, eight for heroin, eighteen months for assault. Little Al D'Arco and Anthony DiLapi from the Lucheses were serving time in Allenwood. Big Sal Miciotta from the Colombos was in for hijacking a trailerload of cigarettes. Inmates put on weight in Allenwood. They were eating salami and cheese. They had wine. On New Year's Eve scotch was smuggled in."

Kaplan belonged to the "smart" set in Allenwood. There were marathon pinochle games involving the other "businessmen" doing time, and the mobsters and tough guys they associated with for protection. Kaplan became particularly good friends with an organized crime figure named Frank Santora Jr. Strongly built, with a broad face and broad shoulders, Santora was an independent operator loosely affiliated with the Bonannos. Known to be violent, if required or desired, he had been caught extorting money from Frederick Lundy, the owner of a Sheepshead Bay seafood restaurant called Lundy's, a place as much a part of Brooklyn history as the Dodgers and the mafia. Kaplan and Santora slept three beds away from each other in the same dormitory. They saw each other four or five times a day and then were assigned to work in Allenwood's powerhouse together.

"Turned out they lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, only six blocks apart. They had a lot in common, including old mob acquaintances. Kaplan, they discovered, was friendly with Santora's cousin, Jimmy the Clam Eppolito, the Gambino captain murdered with his son because of the scandal they caused with a scam preying on the International Year of the Child. Jimmy the Clam was Santora's cousin, as well as Detective Louis Eppolito's uncle. Santora told Kaplan how the Gambinos had approached him after they murdered Jimmy the Clam Eppolito and his son Jim-Jim. The Gambinos asked if he was going to retaliate and Santora said he wouldn't. This was the same story Louis Eppolito told in Mafia Cop -- only as a fantasy starring himself as the cop summoned to a secret midnight meeting with Big Paul Castellano. Santora was big and charismatic. Kaplan was drawn to men prone to violence, provided it was aimed at others."

Kaplan was released from Allenwood in 1983. He returned home determined once again to stay on the straight and narrow. While he was serving time, his clothing business had been being managed by Tommy Irish Carew -- or mismanaged. There was a lock on the door of All City Distributors when Kaplan returned to his warehouse. Eviction proceedings were under way. Kaplan was justly furious. Tommy Galpine, Kaplan's young assistant, had developed a serious cocaine problem without Kaplan around to employ him. Galpine was like a son to Kaplan, even though he had led the kid into a life of crime.

Kaplan got Galpine back on track but Downtown Burt's resolve to stay away from crime again didn't last long. Kaplan needed money fast so he went after fast money. The same year he was released, Kaplan was arrested for heroin trafficking. Kaplan was outraged. He was innocent, he insisted to Burstein, who believed him. Burstein arranged for Kaplan to talk to prosecutors and explain in detail why he shouldn't be charged. A "limited proffer" was the name of the procedure. Kaplan insisted he would not implicate anyone else. He went on record and explained to prosecutors and investigators precisely how he was not involved in the conspiracy. No rat, he would only talk about his own acts, not anyone else who might be involved. It worked. The heroin charges were dropped.

In 1984 Frank Santora Jr. was released from Allenwood. Kaplan's warehouse in Brooklyn had become a kind of reunion hall for Allenwood wiseguys newly out of prison, and so Santora went there to see Kaplan, to get clothes, and to establish a connection to the outside. Santora approached Kaplan with a proposition: He could provide him help with law enforcement issues that might arise. Santora said he had a cousin who was a detective in the New York Police Department and who was willing to offer his services to Kaplan for hire, if and when the need arose. Kaplan learned Santora's cousin had a partner who was also an NYPD detective. The partner had a "prestigious" job in the NYPD. The two had access to all kinds of intelligence in police files. For the right price, Santora said, they would sell Kaplan information on law enforcement activities. Santora also said "the cops" were willing to do any "physical" work Kaplan wanted done -- an underworld euphemism for violence.

"At first, Kaplan turned Santora down. He had quit gambling. He was supposedly legitimate. Kaplan didn't want to deal with cops. There were too many risks to getting involved with police officers. There was too much of a chance for the cop connection to come back in the form of an indictment -- or death. Cops took an oath to uphold the law. If they turned their back on that oath, what was to stop them from turning their back on the mobsters they worked for?

"Corruption was a serious problem in precincts like the Six-Two and Six-Three. There were honest cops but there were too many cops who would take money to look the other way. Human weakness was what the mob preyed upon so they understood exactly why cops were like that. But cops who would kill for money? If Santora's cousin and his partner were capable of that they were capable of turning on him too."

According to the protocol of the mafia, Kaplan was "with" Christy Tick. The tag meant his primary association and loyalty lay with the Luchese consigliere. But with the Commission Case pending and Furnari facing the near certainty that he would be spending the rest of his life in jail, Furnari had to decide how to distribute his assets. Not only could Kaplan move large quantities of drugs -- "weight," in the language of the street -- but he was perhaps the single best fence of stolen property in the city or the country. An associate like Kaplan was an asset of immeasurable value.

As Furnari dealt with business matters before going to prison, appointing Vic Amuso and Gaspipe Casso to run the family, Kaplan was "given" to a younger Luchese on the rise. Kaplan was offended. He was fifty-two years old, and his new patron too young, unpolished, and unaccomplished for him. Kaplan wanted and needed to "belong" to a much more ambitious and sophisticated member of the Lucheses. He agitated for a new arrangement and was soon rewarded with a different assignment. Kaplan was given to Gaspipe Casso. The two had known each other for years. Both were regulars at the 19th Hole social club. Over the years, they had moved tons of marijuana together. The relationship they had forged was nothing compared to the deep bonds the two would build over the years ahead. Being "with" Casso offered the chance for great rewards for Kaplan, but the opportunity came with big risks.

"The first thing Kaplan did was take out a life insurance policy. In the mafia, it was known that the best way to ensure you stayed alive was to borrow money from the people most likely to kill you. If you owed enough money you became too expensive to kill. There was a running joke among wiseguys about borrowing four hundred grand from the boss as a way to make sure the boss knew your name. Kaplan took the protection provided by debt to another level. He tripled the amount of insurance most wiseguys contented themselves with. As soon as he was 'with' Casso he borrowed $1.2 million from him. Even for a wealthy mobster like Casso, more than a million bucks was serious money. Casso wasn't going to kill Kaplan with that kind of money on the line. He wasn't going to let anyone else near Kaplan, either. Casso wasn't going to let a hair on Kaplan's rapidly balding head get mussed."

The business opportunity Kaplan borrowed heavily from Casso for was a real estate venture in Scottsdale, Arizona. Kaplan formed a corporation to develop more than eight hundred acres he had acquired for $15 million, with Casso's money serving as a down payment. Kaplan bought the property with his close friend and partner, a Hong Kong businessman who had extensive dealings with Kaplan in the clothing industry. As the first outsider to represent a Chinese province under communist rule, the businessman was able to provide Kaplan access to cheap labor and materials for his clothing business. Hubei, a south-central province with a population of 60 million and the Yangtze flowing through it, was the heartland of China and an early player in the economic boom about to transform the nation. Kaplan, the canny Brooklyn gangster, was in the vanguard. The businessman and Kaplan were equal partners, with Casso the secret partner holding half of Kaplan's interest.

"Land values in Arizona tanked. But Burt and the businessman kept up payments on the mortgage for years. Kaplan had Joe Banda pledge jewels to keep the deal afloat by refinancing the bank loans. Kaplan lost four million on the deal. Along the way, he borrowed incessantly from Casso. He appeared to be digging himself a deeper and deeper hole, but on the upside Kaplan was making himself more and more valuable to Casso alive than dead. During these years, Casso and Amuso were murdering people wholesale. No one was safe with them, but Kaplan was never harmed."

In turn Kaplan was always looking for ways to enrich Casso, or at least make Casso believe he might make massive amounts of money through Kaplan. One scheme with which Kaplan whetted Casso's insatiable appetite for effortless money was a marriage of the legitimate, illegitimate, and the absurd. After the Arizona deal went bad, Kaplan told Casso he had found a way to recoup his losses. The Chinese government was going to build a "free trade zone" on the outskirts of Scottsdale near the Phoenix Airport, Kaplan said. Eighty-seven factories were going to be constructed for the manufacture of goods with workers imported from China.

"The deal was fantastical. Kaplan had Casso believing that he was meeting with the governor of Arizona all the time. Chinese officials were involved, Casso thought. All the money was being put up by the People's Republic of China. Kaplan was being allowed to take the ride because of the huge amount of money he had lost on the earlier real estate deal. Casso had no legal role in the company, but he would participate in the guaranteed windfall profits. Still obliged to repay every penny he borrowed, Kaplan was going to make Casso untold sums of money. That was the trifecta for Kaplan -- insurance piled on insurance piled on insurance, Kaplan had more hedges than the Hamptons."

If Kaplan was Casso's window on the world of big business, no matter how farfetched the scheme, Casso was Kaplan's window on the world of big-time crime. Their destinies tied, they started to have dinner two or three times a week and talked to each other daily. Making money was the primary subject of conversation. Before long, Casso came to Kaplan with a proposal for an enormous score. Casso said he had found a man who worked for a company that acted as a depository for Treasury bills, or "T-bills," as they were known. T-bills were interest-paying certificates of debt issued by the federal government and marked as payable to bearer. Identification had to be provided to cash the bills but simple possession was considered legal proof of ownership, making them extraordinarily liquid. (This was before the shift to electronic handling of such securities.) Casso's contact had observed that the depository company took inventory of its stock of T-bills according to a routine. He said that there was an interval of time between scheduled inventories when he could steal the T-bills unnoticed. "The bills wouldn't be reported until they took inventory again. The plan was to cash the bills in the interim. They would be stolen but they wouldn't be reported as stolen. In other words, they wouldn't be 'hot.' If a security was hot its value plummeted."

The amount of money involved could run to millions, if Kaplan could find a method of turning the financial instruments into money before the depository noticed the T-bills were missing. Kaplan called Joe Banda and asked to meet with him. Kaplan explained the problem and opportunity and suggested that he give Banda the serial numbers and photocopies of a couple of the bonds. Banda lived in the Hasidic section of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, a densely populated area where many observant Jews dress in traditional garb. Within a few days Banda came to Kaplan and said he had found a jeweler in his neighborhood who thought he would be able to cash a stolen T-bill. The jeweler had a contact who would take the stolen bill and sell it overseas.

In the Hasidic community there was a paperless but highly structured method of transferring money similar to the "hawala" remittance system used in South Asia for centuries. The funds were transferred by a trusted third party so there were no wire records or other evidence showing large sums had been moved. Payment to the third party came in the form of percentage points of the sum transferred. Once the T-bill was sold in London, a phone call would be made to New York and the proceeds would be paid out locally, less the fee charged. There would be no way of tracing the money back to the jeweler, or Banda, or Kaplan, or Casso and the Lucheses. In theory. Kaplan wanted to test the system before he committed to attempting a large score. Kaplan told Banda he would get one T-bill worth half a million dollars and see if the method worked. Banda and the jeweler and his third party would take half the proceeds. Kaplan and Casso would get the other half -- if the scam came off.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29985
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Next

Return to Mumia Abu-Jamal

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests