Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Birth of WitSec

The first known Cosa Nostra turn coat was Joseph Valachi and the US Government ended up building him his own suite after he flipped in FCI La Tuna in Texas. The fact that he lived helped the Government, but they need to be able to dangle an even greater reward for cooperation.  That reward would be Witness Protection. Also known as Witness Security or WitSec and like any Government program there must be that first person to go through and see if it works.  That person happened to be a man named Pasquale "Paddy" Calabrese, a criminal in Buffalo, New York. Paddy was an up and coming armed robber who knew the guys in the Buffalo Cosa Nostra family.  Paddy wanted to impress Frederico "Freddie Lupo" Randaccio, the feared Underboss of the family headed by Boss Stefano Maggadino.

On December 29, 1964 Paddy and two men walked into the Buffalo City Hall and held up the Treasurer’s office.  They fled (after stealing $16,245 in cash and $284,000 in checks) to a waiting stolen car that they would abandon a couple of miles away. The Buffalo police put out an APB but the men got away. Paddy was hiding out when Steve Cino showed up and told him that Soldiers Pat Natarelli and Freddie Lupo wanted to see him. Paddy had gotten their attention and he was to meet them at Pat’s home the following night.  Paddy arrived the next night and Steve and Pat were already there.  They started telling him that the family had some big scores lined up out of town if he was interested. Freddie Lupo arrived and they started laying them out for him.

A man who used to be with the Buffalo Family but was now living in Los Angeles, had started working with the Family there.  The man was Charles Caci but went by his stage name Bobby Milano.  Bobby Milano was a talented singer who had bad timing because it was now the 1960's and he sang ballads much like Frank Sinatra.  Bobby was close to another former Buffalo Crime Family Associate named Louis Sorgi who just happened to be head of security at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Louis Sorgi had two scores set up at the hotel for Paddy. One he was to rob the wife of Penzoil oil Millionaire Walker Mccune of her jewelry worth over $400,000; the other the Armoured Car Service that picked up the cash at the hotel weekly.  They gave Paddy expense money and he hopped a plane for Los Angeles where Bobby picked him up.  A few days later Steve Cino flew into town. They met Louis Sorgi at the hotel where he showed them the suite that Mrs. Mccune always occupied, and then he showed him a tunnel that the armoured car guard used to pick up the days’ cash receipts.  Paddy wondered how he could get inside the suite and a smiling Bobby Milano showed him a pass key that would open every door in the hotel.

The plan was set, but like all things criminal, something big came up. The Buffalo Police had identified Paddy as one of the City Hall robbers and he was wanted. The Underboss ordered Steve Cino back to Buffalo so he would not be found with Paddy. Paddy waited five days and then he surrendered to the Buffalo Police.

Everything seemed to be fine at this point because there was never a robbery and the Buffalo family went on its business. Paddy sat in lock up facing a lot of time but he thought Randaccio would take care of bail and get him a lawyer.  He sat and he went through a number of interrogations by the Buffalo Police and at that time I am sure they were brutal.  No lawyer and no bail came, so he finally gave up the robbery and the planned robberies.  Once Paddy started talking, the FBI and the US Attorney stepped in and decided to move him, his girlfriend and her two children from a previous marriage.

Paddy and his family became the first to be moved in what would morph into the Wittiness Protection Program.  Once they were away safe they arrested Freddie Lupo, Pat Natarelli, Steve Cino and in Los Angeles they arrested Louis Sorgi and Bobby Milano.  One of the things Bobby had on him at his arrest was the passkey to the Beverly Hills Hotel.

They went to trial and Freddie Lupo, Pat Natarelli, Steve Cino got 20 years for violations of the Hobbs Act and other charges,  Bobby Milano and Louis Sorgi both received 10 years from the judge. Paddy was whisked away into the void that would become WitSec.  The story did not end there because the two children that belonged to Paddy’s now wife had a father who wanted to see them.  He tried everything, going to the police, the FBI everyone but he all he got was stone-walled. He finally retained a lawyer and sued the Government.  He tried for many years with the Buffalo family keeping a watchful eye on his progress.

This would become the basis for the book Hide in Plain Sight and later a movie directed by James Caan by the same name.  Years later Jimmy Caci would tell me the story because he hated James Caan because he used the Caci name as the informant in the film.  They were so pissed that Bobby went and spoke to Gene Gotti about it because James Caan supposedly was connected to Andrew Russo in the Colombo Family.  The Mob had many problems at this time and this one fell by the wayside.

Jimmy, Bobby and Stevie are all gone.  The Buffalo guys Freddie Lupo, Pat Natarelli are gone.   Paddy Calabrese the first man in WitSec passed away on October 13 2005 where he had been a Private Investigator.

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