Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bill Ferrante

I have been asked if Louis Ferrante is related to Bill “The Crusher” Ferrante.  The answer is No.

In the 1990’s I was hanging around Jerry Zimmerman, who was a close friend of both Bill Ferrante and Sonny Franzese.  Jerry was a huge man and one of the best con men that ever lived. I called him the gentle giant.  The name Sonny Franzese is thrown around by many people.  I never met him in person, only spoke to him on the phone.  Most of the people who drop his name have never laid eyes on the man.  

Back in the days I was hanging with Jerry, I was working as a criminal also and I was known as one of the people who could get x rated movies made.  Porn was an outlet we used to launder money from other crimes.

My “work” brought me to the right place at the right time, because Jerry and Bill decided to become partners in a wholesale porn warehouse. I was on parole at the time and my parole officer was on me about getting a job.  So when I was chosen to go to Fort Lauderdale by Jerry to meet his partner Bill, I was really happy.  It was a great way for me to get out of town and out of sight.

I met Bill and we hit it off immediately. Only a select few of us were allowed to call Bill “Billy,” including Jerry Zimmerman and Sonny and Michael Franzese. I also met Billy's younger sister Gina, who was the widow of Vinny Lynch.  Vinny was a bank robber and a suspect in over a dozen murders.

I would get to the porno warehouse early everyday before Bill or Gina arrived. I answered the phones a lot and more than a few times it was Sonny calling.  He often called not only to speak to Bill but to speak to Gina also.  Sonny and Gina were close and had been since the 1970s.  I quickly discovered Sonny and Gina had a long off-and-on relationship.  Bill never bragged or spoke about his criminal activity.  If anything, he played it down.  He is 30 years older than me and had quite a record.  Bill Ferrante, also known as “The Crusher” and his partner Vinny, aka “The Butcher” (not to be confused with Vinny Lynch the bank robber) were in Michael Franzese’s innermost circle. They were the two main enforcers for Michael during the gasoline scam. Bill had gas stations all the way from Long Island down to Florida.

Bill and Vinny (The Crusher and The Butcher) were partners involved with a multi million dollar counterfeit scheme that also included stolen bearer bonds. They were so slick that the agents from the secret service tried to infiltrate them. The undercover secret service guys went along on some of their deliveries. They met with the crusher and the butcher and gave them a downpayment of $10k on some paper and when they returned they were busted.  They were both given the maximum sentence that the judge could give them.  Immediately upon their release both men resumed their roles with Michael.

Soon Michael and his whole crew were in the gas business. To this day, the gasoline scam was the largest money maker in organized crime history. For years everyone was flying high.  The pressure became too much and a player in gas business, Larry Lorizzo, decided to flip in 1986. That was all the government needed, and they started falling like dominos. They started rolling up the whole operation and nobody was safe.  Most of the Russian criminals who had worked alongside them in the gas business also plead guilty.  

Bill was soon indicted by the state of Florida.  To make it worse, he was already out on $250k bond from the feds.  While in the Dade County jail he hired Jayne Weintraub and she represented him in his state RICO trial.  

One day during the trial everyone was asked to evacuate the courthouse. They all thought it was a bomb scare. When they all came back to the courtroom there was Larry Lorizzo in the witness box.  All 500 pounds of him.  He was sitting there surrounded by marshalls, ready to testify how Bill was part of the Colombo family, a collector for Sonny, and Michael’s enforcer.  A lot of guys testified against Bill in his state RICO trial in which he was facing 30 years.  Could it be a surprise that he got convicted? Bill was off to prison, once again, to do his time.  Bill hired Stanley Neustader to represent him on his appeal. 2 ½ years later  Neustader won Bill’s appeal. The Feds could not try him because the state found him guilty.

Michael Franzese never testified against Bill. Bill found out Michael became an informer while he was in prison.  One thing I must say about Billy, he is a stand up guy.  I miss him, his sister Gina and my late friend Jerry Zimmerman. Don’t ever think for a moment that Bill is related to that other Ferrante guy on TV who claims to be a former gangster (Louis Ferrante). I never met Sonny in person, only over the phone.

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