Sunday, February 22, 2015

The last of the Old Time Gambinos

Arnold “Zeke” Squitieri and Alphonse “Funzi” Sisca go way back to the days before John Gotti was made in the Gambino Family.  They worked with Gene Gotti, Sal Ruggiero and Angelo Ruggiero selling heroin.  They were given long sentences just like Gene Gotti, so they missed most of the John Gotti mess.   Zeke was made Underboss in 1999 by John Gotti and in 2002 when Peter Gotti went away he was bumped up to Acting Boss.  Zeke was still on parole for his 1989 heroin conviction so he relied heavily on Funzi to be his eyes and ears on the street.  He would use him to pass orders to the lower ranks.  

They committed all the usual crimes that gangsters commit, like extortion of construction companies, restaurants and nightclubs.  One that I had not heard about in a long time was the illegal numbers business.  Numbers or Policy games are an illegal lottery that used to be played in poor or immigrant neighborhoods.  In Florida the Cuban version was called Bolita.

The other term policy came from old time cheap life insurance policy that was seen as a long term gamble.  To play the game a bettor would pick a three digit number and at the end of the day the operator would take the last three digits of the “Handle” the amount of the total bets at a racetrack that was published in the racing form everyday.  These Gambinos ran a numbers game up to 2005 where they took in 2k a day in bets.  

The Sportsbook they ran made them 155k just on the Superbowl one year.  This goes back to what I've written in the past about gambling being the lifeblood of the Mafia.  

They didn't stop there either.  They were stealing money from the Union and extorting trucking companies.  

Shylocking was a huge earner for them as it always made money.  It is very similar to the way today’s payday loan places operate.  As long as shylockers who call themselves payday loan businesses give the government their cut, they are free to operate.

Things were moving along and the family seemed to be recovering from the succession of Gottis that held the top spot.  Junior Gotti had not yet gone in for his proffer session. The session that he now claims he lied during.  He wants us to forget that he broke Omerta the number one rule of Cosa Nostra.  He needs to accept that he is the same as John Alite, Mikey Scars and all the rest of us.  The only problem?  All those guys built their success in the mafia themselves and were not born with a Mafia silver spoon in their mouths.

Enter Joaquin “Jack” Garcia or as he was known on the street: Jack Falcone.   In the FBI it was known as Operation Jack Falcone.  Jack was an undercover FBI Agent who posed as Sicilian drug dealer and jewel thief from Miami. It seems a bit close to the Donnie Brasco Operation but if it isn’t broken, why fix it.  Jack hooked up with Greg DePalma a long time Gambino Soldier who was a sometime Capo.  DePalma became famous in the 1970s when he and the Gambinos infiltrate the Westchester Premier Theater.  There is a famous picture that includes DePalma, Carlo Gambino, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Fratianno and others.  

DePalma liked to talk and that was good for Jack because he was a good listener.  The operation would end in 2005 when FBI supervisors shut it down.  This was after DePalma wanted to make Jack Falcone a Gambino.  

Today Alphonse Sisca is the Boss of the New Jersey Faction of the Gambino Family.  

The family is run by the Sicilians and most of the Gotti Era guys are locked up or laying low.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Priest, The Violin and the Mobster

Frank Calabrese Sr was such a good manipulator that he was able to convince a Roman Catholic priest to help him continue his criminal activity.  If you know Frank’s background then this will come as no surprise.

Frank spent his whole life manipulating others for his own gain.  Frank brought his brother Nicholas into his juice loan business. Nicholas had served in the Navy for two years during the Vietnam conflict, and he worked as an Ironworker after he returned home.  Nicholas had then worked as a court security officer for 11 years in Maywood, Illinois. Nicholas was not afraid to hold a real job and work hard.  In the mid 1970s he also joined his brother Frank in his loan business and worked a double life.  He had no idea it was a lifetime commitment.  Frank was not above using money and threats to keep his brother in the business.   Nicholas would end up taking part in over 14 murders for the Chicago Outfit during his time working with his brother.

Frank was not content to just use his brother in the family business.  Frank would break an unwritten rule in the Chicago Outfit and bring his sons into the family business.  Frank would control every aspect of his son Frank Jr’s life as he grew up. He would alternate between using physical threats and generosity to keep Frank Jr under his control.  He would parcel out cash to Frank Jr so he could control what he did.   He would push him so far that one day Frank Jr would have to turn on his father to stop the evil cycle.

Frank Sr would be found guilty in the Family Secrets trial in Chicago that took down the administration of the Outfit. He was given a life sentence for his part in 13 murders.  Frank Sr would mouth “You are a fucking dead man” to AUSA  T.Markus Funk after he was sentenced.  This earned Frank Sr Special Administrative Measures or SAMs which meant he would have no contact with anyone but his lawyer and certain family members under strict supervision of Federal authorities.  Each year Frank Sr was given a copy of the SAMs that would be implemented and he was informed of their continuation for the year.   In March 2009 Frank was transported to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri where he would serve his life sentence.  Eugene Klein was a Roman Catholic Priest who had served the Bureau of Prisons for over 20 years.  He would provide religious services to the worst that the Federal System had to offer and Frank Calabrese Sr was one of them.   Before he started speaking to Frank Sr he was given the SAMs package on Frank Sr.  He also read about his crimes in the Electronic Posted Picture System, a database that the Bureau of Prison uses. Klein was fully aware of the crimes that Frank Sr had committed.  Klein started giving Frank Sr Communion and other religious instructions soon after he took in all the information.   Frank Sr was locked in a cell with a small slot in which Klein was able to pass material to Frank Sr.  While talking with Frank Sr Klein learned of a hidden violin that Frank Sr claimed was an 18th-century Stradivarius that was likely worth millions of dollars.  

The real story of the violin was this: it was used as collateral for a juice loan by a guy named Corky.  Before Frank Sr took it he found out it was worth around 100k.  It was actually a violin made in 1764 by Giuseppe Artalli.  Frank Sr would claim that it was once owned by Liberace.  He was able to suck Klein into his plot by putting him in touch with associates who were still on the street.
During some of the visits Frank Sr passed notes containing instructions to Klein in the religious material.  Klein then gave it to the associates on the outside and they came up with a plan.
The Violin was hidden in a summer house near Williams Bay, Wisconsin that was being sold by the Government to satisfy the judgement they had against him.  They had already found 800k in cash and another 300k in diamonds hidden in another house.  Klein and his confederates would pose as buyers shopping for a house and one of them would distract the real estate agent while the others would recover the Violin.  The main problem is that Frank Sr may have been losing his mind, because the Violin and everything else had been moved long before.  The other problem was the house had already been sold.  The FBI soon found out about the plot but they never recovered the violin.  The Bureau of Prisons changed the rules when it came to Frank Sr after this last incident.  Nobody was allowed to deal with Frank Sr alone, they had to work in pairs because he was so manipulative.  They did arrest Klein and charged both him and Frank Sr.  Frank Sr would die on December 25, 2012 escaping those charges.  Klein would fight the case until the second of week of February 2015 when he would change his plea to guilty.

One of my mentors, a dirty cop, used to say all you have to do is plant the greed seed and you can get anyone to do anything.  Another guy, Jerry Zimmerman, used to tell me that I had to find out what somebody needed or wanted, what was missing in their life, and then fill it - that is how you turn someone.  Why did Klein disgrace himself? Only Klein can tell us that.  Where is the violin now?  Someone out there is taking violin lessons I am sure.